For some time now, Leon has been making huge waves in the house music scene. With support from the likes of Carl Cox, Marco Carola, and Loco Dice, and gigs at some of the best clubs in the world like Amnesia Ibiza, Pacha NYC, and Ministry of Sound, there is no doubt that Leon is hitting all the right notes.
Born and raised in Italy, Leon’s obsession with house music started at a young age after discovering the music of Danny Tenaglia, Todd Terry, and Laurent Garnier, something he still regards as a major influence on his sound to this day. DJing in Italy from a young age would inevitably lead to production for someone of Leon’s ability. At the age of 23, he took his first steps in the production world. However, rather than rush things he knew he needed to hone his talents. Many years of hard work and he is starting to bear the fruits of this work, and starting to show the world that he means business!
Many of you who love your house music will no doubt come across Leon’s work or even had the fortune of checking out the man’s DJing ability. I was lucky enough to grab some time with the Italian tech house maestro earlier this week to talk all things music…
After exchanging pleasantries we soon got onto the subject of how Leon got into music and discussed his early musical influences…. “I approached electronic music 20 years ago when I was 15 and listening to music by Depeche Mode, Talk Talk, Duran Duran and many more from the 80’s… consequently, I started to buy vinyl. A range of artists, including; MAW, Todd Terry, Danny Tenaglia, Laurent Garnier, Carl Cox, Ricardo Villalobos, Marco Carola, and so on”
In my mind, Leon approached the world of dance music and production the right way by becoming a DJ first and then moving into production. I asked Leon if being a DJ first helped him with his productions…
“Exactly, I’m a DJ first… but the production side of things helped me a lot for sure, they helped me to make myself known all over the world, and especially among great artists who then invited me to play with them! I enjoy making tracks but I prefer to concentrate a lot more on DJing.”
Leon’s music gets support from many a big name including Steve Lawler, Luciano, Loco Dice, Ricardo Villalobos, Tiefschwarz, and Matthias Tanzmann. I wanted to know how long it took him to feel really comfortable with his own production sound… “It took many years in the studio to find the right sound, a lot of research in my vinyl collection, many samples, and vocal samples reconstructed by me…”
“I always try to be very original, something that is not easy! Not very easy about house music I mean! Always try to be yourself and not copy anyone, and to have a strong personality.”
I asked Leon about his production methods and what he tries to lay down first in the studio? Whether or not he had some kind of formula? “Nothing special, I go to the studio only when I’m inspired, many times I listen to a vocal and I build a track, or listen to a melody and try to put it on a groove maybe something old and I rebuild it.” We went on to talk about his studio setup so I asked Leon to talk through some of his favourite studio gadgets… “I use a lot of VSTs from Ableton to Ozone, Waves pack, Rob Papen pack, Battery for drums and percussion, and Maschine for 909, Nord Lead, M1, Juno.”
Leon’s new ‘Faking Fingers’ EP has just been released on Moan and I know the Decoded family are big fans. I asked him to tell me a little more about the release… “The EP on Moan is a collaboration with my friend Oscar L, and it’s a track that is perfect for the big dance floor… tech house pumpin’!!! The feedback from a number of great artists has been super, I’m really happy!
I asked Leon what else can we expect from him in terms of releases in 2018? “I have releases coming up on Crosstown Rebels, Moan, Under Not Illusion, and Deserts.”
Since 2012 Leon has been part of Marco Carola’s highly successful Music On events. I asked Leon how the relationship with Marco came about…
“Marco (Carola) and I have been friends for several years, I started playing with him on tour eight years ago and we never separated !!! I will never forget each time that I have played opening and closing parties… they’re amazing”
Whilst talking about gigs I went on to speak with Leon about what he had planned over autumn and winter… “I’m full of dates until New Year Eve and I’m very happy. I’m not an artist who travels a lot, I try to make fewer but longer trips if possible. I’m a DJ with an average of 7/8 dates a month, in places and cities that I love. I’m not a plane DJ who the day before plays in New York and the day after, in Tokyo, it becomes too stressful! For me music comes first, then money.”
A topic that often pops up in many chats about dance music and gigs is the use of mobile phones at gigs. I asked Leon his thoughts on this… “It’s a good question but I will answer in two parts! We have become a tribe of madmen all focused on social media and no longer on music! That is the truth… but now it’s part of this business so I’m in it too.”
As an experienced DJ/Producer, I was keen to know what Leon has had to overcome whilst growing as an artist; what had been come of the toughest things he has had to learn. Also, I wanted to know about his personal highlights in the scene… Leon was very clear and said that you should “be yourself and no one else” like a great Tenaglia once preached! Leon went on to talk about his highlights… “Highlights of my career… wow!!! A lot believe me!!! That’s not easy to answer, in case I forget something!!! Music On and DC10 Ibiza, Sunwaves, Music On London, New York, Space Miami, Cocoric, and Amnesia Italy, Kappa Festival Italy, Sonus and many many more…”
Knowing Italian’s love their food and wine I was keen to know that Leon loves to eat and drink when kicking back and relaxing… “I love pasta and steak but I live close to the beach so fish like every day with a perfect Italian white wine.”
We both thanked each other for the time spent talking and we headed off in our sperate ways. It was great to chat to Leon and he really is a great example of an artist that has truly forged a career in this industry through hard work, persistence, and a love for the music he plays and produces.
01. Leon & Dennis Cruz – My Hood
02. Cajmere – Perculator (Aaran D Edit)
03. Marco Strous – Dnmn
04. Archie Hamilton – Lip Service
05. Unknown – Demo Unknown
06. Leonardo Gonnelli – About Us
07. Luca M & Just 2 – Acid
08. David Aurel – Genie In The Bottle
09. Lorenzo de Blank – Stand
10. Escuche – Activator
11. Nic Fanciulli & Mark Fanciulli – Stars
12. Unknown – Unknown
13. Vanilla Ace – Girls Sit Down