Beatport Hype: Apparel Music

Specializing in soul, funk and groove, Apparel Music has built a rock-solid reputation in the decade since its birth, counting Delano Smith, John Tejada, and SCSI-9 amongst its roster. We speak to founder Giuseppe D’Alessandro (AKA Kisk) to learn more.

12 min
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Apr 16, 2020
Cameron Holbrook

Since first setting up shop in the Italian city of Milan in 2009, Apparel Music has become a crucial meeting point for deep house heads and new-school jazz enthusiasts. Established by DJ-producer Giuseppe D’Alessandro (AKA Kisk), he says the label was born out of a desire to create “a fertile ground for versatile musicians to express themselves and their sound.”

In addition to providing us with a mellow, love-struck mix featuring tracks from artists like Delano Smith, George G, and Huxley, Kisk dives into the history of his imprint, its “no rules” approach, and lines up his plans for the new decade.

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What was happening in 2009 that made you decide you wanted to start a music label?

In 2006 I had a project with my wife and writer Tatiana where we were making live readings accompanied by my DJ sets. Slowly I started to invite some jazz musicians to join us on stage and that’s how Oneboy, my first true band, started. I was the turntablist alongside some great musicians that slowly became friends. One evening in Sicily, while touring, we improvised “Caravan” by Duke Ellington, mashing it up with a minimal techno instrumental and somehow I got the idea of replaying it in the studio once we came back to Milan. Then, I gathered all the samples we recorded and sent them to some electronic music producers that I loved, asking them to create their own tracks with the stems. Eventually I got nine versions, and that’s how the first Apparel Music’s release, “Jazzy Caravan,” came together. That’s when I decided to start the label, wanting to put all the artists I loved under one roof, the “Jazzy” roof.

Tell us about how the two dogs in Apparel Music’s logo represent yin and yang. How did you come up with this imagery and what are you to communicate with it?

The concept of the label is embodied by the word “Jazzy,” which for me is an attitude more than a genre. The dogs, designed by the artist Luca Beolchi, represent the good and the bad, yin & yang, the complementary opposites. Apparel Music was born by the urgency of breaking the genre barriers and my dream was to put every musical culture in communication creating an artistic contamination. That’s why, since day one, I encouraged my artists to connect each other and share their visions, making them play on the same track or just remixing one another. From Delano Smith to Gavin Herlihy to Tom Clark or Pablo Bolivar, to quote some of the first guys who helped me out to develop my idea, so many talented artists assisted me in my mission and that’s a blessing for me.

What kind of sounds and artist characteristics are you looking out for when deciding to sign a new artist? Who are some of Apparel Music’s recent signings you are most excited about?

There’s no rules. We receive hundreds of demos weekly and we listen to ‘em all. Of course I got a team of artists I collaborate with since a long time who take precedence, but we’re really open to launching new talents too, and this is one of the things I pride myself on. We’re happy to have guys like Loure, Mangabey, T.U.R.F., Kerem Akdag, Leon Revol, Goddard and icons like SCSI-9, Ivano Tetelepta, Sarp Yilmaz in our catalogues. One requisite I need in order to establish a good working relationship is humility and respect, not towards me but towards the music and more specifically, towards our sound. I got such a long list of artists I’d love to collaborate with that I’m sure a lifetime wouldn’t be enough, but at the same time I want to keep the label’s reputation clean. So every step I take is really important, and must be taken with due patience also, because once you sign an artist, he/she starts to have tons of expectations and you must be sure everything is really clear to proceed. Me and our team find it really important to create the ideal habitat for an artist — and for us too — to work in, and that’s where art helps: with the right graphics, artworks, covers. It’s no easy thing to imagine that virtual world and associate it to the release and to the artist; it’s literally a work of tailoring. So for us, it’s about joining the right dots that make a release special. Some dots are solid, like our mastering engineer, Stefan Eichinger (aka Lopazz), but some others are exchangeable.

Anyway, lately we slowed down the number of releases to concentrate more on the single projects, and the results are tangible because you get to craft everything perfectly and the people understand it. At the end of the day, you got to talk to people through understandable concepts — by things that they can relate to or just touch their instincts in some way — and that’s what we’re trying to do, by also pleasing ourselves and our sense of aesthetics.

Tell us about Apparel Tronic and Apparel Wax. What purpose do the two sub-labels serve?

Let’s make a first distinction: Apparel Tronic is a proper label, a so called sub-label if you want, founded in 2016/17 with Ludovico Schilling (aka SCHiLLiNG), born by our need to give space to some different musical waves that influenced us massively and that we like to group under the term “Bliss-Beat,” which we invented. The requirement we demand of the artists we produce is essentially to be able to play live sets instead of only being a DJ, as we want to shape the label up as a fertile ground for versatile musicians to express themselves and their sound.

This experimental approach, then, rotates around some musical guidelines of course, which are, as said earlier, influences we have like trip hop, jungle, breakbeat, nu jazz, leftfield bass music, d&b, downtempo etc. Apparel Tronic is the youngest brother of Apparel Music but we got so many upcoming news and releases on it. Apparel Wax is not a label at all. Instead, it is a ghost-collective of artists that are willing to sacrifice their creations in order to shift the attention only to music, not on their names.

Back in 2017, after a year I spent helping Nachtbraker to launch Quartet Series, I somehow started to feel like the DJ/producer figure has saturated itself a bit. I came to this thought after realising how much this job changed over the years since I started in the ‘90s. I remember how, back in the days, being a DJ perfectly reflected my way of being: a bit shy, nerdy, but with a great will to share music with the people, spending hours locked up in my room choosing carefully all the tunes I would play at the next party as I knew that music would speak for me. Nobody cared who he was, what he said, where he came from because his message was the only important thing. Apparel Wax is trying to bring back this concept, without any distinction of name, appearance, race, or background of the producer behind a certain track. I’m really impressed by how much the artists I contacted first embraced the philosophy. Now the collective counts 15 members but it’s constantly expanding.

What are some of Apparel Music’s most essential releases?

That’s a difficult question that forces me to be banal, how could I ever choose between my sons? Jazzy Tourism EP, the first one, is the beginning of the journey, so surely is one of the milestones. The encounter with artists like Lopazz & Zarook, SCSI-9 & Yapacc made me realise how I would have shaped up Apparel Music’s sound in the future years. Then Delano Smith’s release surely represents an important moment for me and for the label because it made me comprehend how, even if you think some artists are difficult to reach, if you have the right idea and work hard everything is possible. Also “Sunny Side Up” by SCSI-9 is one close to my heart, with John Tejada and Pablo Bolivar’s remixes, such a multiculti work, which I love! Then of course every release it’s a different emotion. Apparel Wax’s and Apparel Tronic’s ones give me so much joy, but I always try to highlight the above mentioned as they perfectly embody the philosophy of breaking the walls of distance and diversity in music.

Finally, what are your plans for the future of the imprint?

Currently we’re busy working on a V/A for our 10th Birthday, the Apparel B-Day 10, with great names that is too early to reveal. We got an imminent debut EP on Apparel Music for the French Chevals with a remix of his compatriot Madcat. Apparel Wax will be back with its eighth release, Apparel Tronic will be back too with some tasty news and we will also present Apparel Book, our brand new publishing house which will allow us to create even more transversal contents adding the paper to the vinyl. The first book will be celebratory of our past, including all the releases, events, showcases, stories and more about the ten past years. We needed to pinpoint it down on the map and that will also be used as a master key for us to approach new opportunities.

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