Deborah De Luca: “I Go From One Groove To Another, Showing My Character”

Having just released her She Sleeps LP, we catch up with Italian dance music superstar Deborah De Luca about her first gigs, her Sola_mente imprint, mood swings, her dogs, and the sounds of her childhood.

For Italian DJ-producer and tastemaker Deborah De Luca, 2020 has not been a year to sit idle and let time pass her by. Despite the lack of live gigs and travel — a COVID fact of life that has greatly affected her jetsetting routine and income — De Luca has kept a strong and level-headed approach to fueling the buoyant and continuous climb of her prominent career behind the decks.

Born and raised in the rough Italian neighborhood of Scampia — a sprawling housing estate on the outskirts of Naples that’s been made famous through the Italian crime film and TV series Gomorrah — De Luca was afforded no legs up in life. Eventually moving to Northern Italy to study fashion, her spirit found its calling in her ever-growing enthusiasm for nightlife and club culture. First working in clubs as a waitress and then as a dancer for several years, she eventually moved back to Naples where she connected with famed Neapolitan DJ-producer Giuseppe Cennamo who took her under his wing and taught her the ropes in mixing and production. Right out of the gate, De Luca exhibited a lethal combination of natural talent and unshakeable motivation to become one of the most prominent flag bearers for techno music on a global level.

Since founding her Sola_mente imprint in 2013, she’s performed in over 40 countries, headlined major festivals, and sold out numerous showcases at some of the most prestigious clubs in the world, including fabric London, Privilege Ibiza, Uberhaus, Cocoricò and more. She is a sizable presence in the DJ elite, and the lack of late-night adventures in 2020 has not deterred her 2 million-plus social media following from seeking her music out; case in point, De Luca’s performance for Beatport’s ReConnect livestream back in May has racked up over 500,000 views on YouTube so far.  

Now De Luca has released her sophomore album, She Sleeps. We caught up with this techno lionheart to learn more about her production process during the COVID-19 lockdown in Italy, the simple aesthetic behind the LP, where her musical motivations come from, her pets, her label, and her victory over insomnia.

What was it like growing up in the neighborhood of Scampia, right outside of Naples? 

When you are a kid, you often don’t understand the difference between one place and another, because you have friends, family, and your whole life there. You begin to understand that you lack opportunities when you grow up, shortly after adolescence, when you feel the need for more avenues, more information, more answers, and I’m gone. 

What are some of the records that your father had in his collection that caught your attention early in life? How did this music lead you into a love of techno?

The first record that brought me closer to techno, indeed, to disco, was surely Madonna’s “Like A Prayer“. For the first time, I was hearing sounds that were different from other records. I felt a very precise rhythm, and that curiosity for those sounds brought me to where I am now.

Who are some of the techno DJs that first inspired you to step up to the decks and try your hand at DJing? Can you tell us about the first time you performed as Deborah De Luca in front of an audience?

The first DJ that made me want to get behind the decks was Scarlett Etienne. I saw her in 2007 in Riccione, and I fell in love with her. The first time I performed in front of an audience, though, it was a disaster. I was not ready, I was nervous, and people were perhaps expecting someone much more confident, more involved in the track while I had my eyes locked on the turntables.

Did you ever play an instrument before you began producing techno? Tell us a little bit about your initial journey into the studio and how your production processes evolution since then.

I have never played an instrument before, as I have never gone dancing classes or have done any sport. My parents couldn’t afford it, there were five of us with only my father’s salary, and life was very expensive in the north!

My first-ever production was created in 2013 with the help of Giuseppe Cennamo — an outstanding producer who’s released on Desolat and other important labels. Six Months was my first EP, and very different from the sounds I use today. I have evolved a lot, and so many things have changed in seven years!

During the height of the pandemic in Italy, what was your daily routine like? What were some of the things you found most frustrating during your time in quarantine? 

I have not lived through quarantine badly because I have a house on the beach and a pleasant space to move. I spent a lot of time with my family, my dog, and I quickly finished my new album. I ate a lot, played party games, and did the things I never had the time to do because of work. The only frustrating thing was that being used to traveling every weekend for 12 years, I missed getting on a plane and touching the sky.

You’ve been building up an incredibly loyal fanbase for over ten years, and now you have millions of followers on social media. What would you say is the essential component to building a strong following and making your fans love you?

For each job or character, I think it’s different, but there must be normality at the base of it. I have always shown off my life like any other, more or less. Love for dogs, food, sunsets, everyday things that everyone can access. Then on top of that, my music does not have one specific genre; it really ranges. It contains so many influences, and practically anyone can find at least one record interesting, and hate another one so much.

Tell us more about your record label, Sola_mente Records

I started the imprint in 2013 with the help of the Giuseppe Cennamo. He helped me open this label and first taught me the DAW that I use to produce. I’m someone who learns quickly. I have a lot of emerging artists that I follow and often publish, such as Sopik, F-Rontal, Shadym, Nostromos, Volodia Rizak, and many others.

How long have you been working on your debut album? And how are you feeling now that it’s finally coming out?

I started the album just before the lockdown, so I finished it in the four months I had off. I had a lot of time! It’s an album that tells you about me and my mood swings. I go from one groove to another, showing my character (which is never easy). It tells of my growth, but also of my bond to the sounds of my childhood.

Can you tell us about the name behind the LP and what influenced your aesthetic choice for the album art?

I like simple things where essential elements stand out: Artist’s name, title, and photos. I wouldn’t say I like abstract things or complicated ones that maybe have a more underground aspect but don’t reflect the person.

The name of the album is a tribute to my past problems with sleep. It’s a problem I’ve had ever since I was a child. I’ve always had horrible nightmares, and my relationship with sleeping has been one of love and hate. Then a year ago, something changed. I found an unexpected balance that I never imagined I could ever feel. Now, She Sleeps.

We’ve recently seen a ton of new artist apparel pop up on your social media profiles. Can you tell us more about the new clothing project?

The clothing project is new, even though I have been thinking about it for some time. There are t-shirts, sweatshirts, trousers, and even male and female costumes that are very simple but impactful, at affordable prices. I want everyone to have the opportunity to buy one of my sweatshirts, if they wish, without paying for the brand. In September, I will start selling online all over the world!

Tell us more about your dog!

My dog Filippo is like a son, but in reality, I have more than one dog. Some stay with my mother, some with my brother, some that I entrust to friends. I collect many rescue dogs from the street throughout the year. I found Filippo tied to a pole in a town in the province of Naples, he was a puppy and injured, I took him home even though I couldn’t afford it and I couldn’t part with him. Now he is my green-eyed prince.

You performed your first post-COVID party in Cagliari back in July, and you’ve played a handful of others since. What was it like being able to perform in front of a crowd once again?

It was on July, 11. Playing again was like never having stopped, I felt as always, thrilled, even if the conditions were not normal, with distance and masks!

Cameron Holbrook is a staff writer for Beatportal. Find him on Twitter.



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