‘Tribal music… has the particular character of being true, because it was born spontaneously’
From the dancefloors of Napoli to the biggest festivals and superclubs in the world, the rise and rise of Riva Starr, aka Stefano Miele, has been unmistakable. Honing his craft in his native Italy on breakbeat and ‘bass folk’, it’s really since relocating to London and turning his attention to house that Stef’s career has reached top speed.
Seemingly walking the tightrope of mainstream affection and underground respect with ease, the last ten years have seen him release his productions on house mainstays Hot Creations, Dirtybird, and Cajual; remixing British artists such as London Grammar and Groove Armada, and collaborating with Fatboy Slim on crossover smash ‘Eat Sleep Rave Repeat’; all while nurturing his own label Snatch! Records and jetting around the world to play Elrow, the Warehouse Project, Glastonbury, and many more.
We caught up with the powerhouse DJ and artist ahead of his upcoming EP, to talk partnerships, politics, and pizza…
First off, huge congratulations are in order on Snatch! Records’ 100th release – ‘Keep Pushin’ (Harder)’ EP. This must be a really important milestone for you. How do you feel about what your label has achieved?
Thank you 🙂 It has been a great thing indeed. I even managed to do a collab with my good friend Caj. Super stoked about everything that has happened over the last 7 years but rest assured that I have got much more in the pipeline for the next years!
Your relationship with Green Velvet has been a hugely productive; your third album and your ‘Housepital’ EP were both released on his Cajual label. How has working with him influenced you?
Caj has been a great influence for me – even before I got to know him. We got in touch when he asked me to remix Percolator in 2010/11, and since then we became friends. He is such a humble and talented character. I’ve learnt a lot from him also in terms of how to deal with this industry; always keep an open and humble ear on what’s going on, and always be prepared for a change. We did a few collabs and hopefully more to come, as I totally love to be part of the Chicago fam!
You’re linking up with Crosstown Rebels for your upcoming EP ‘ADVENTURES IN DRUMS’, and it’s their first release of 2018! What drew you to Crosstown Rebels for this one?
I’ve got mad respect for Damian’s work through the years and I still think that Crosstown is one of the more consistent and respected labels out there. It just made sense to me to send those tribal/trippy sounding tunes to him because I think the sound works well on his label. Luckily he liked the tracks and I’m now super excited to release them.
It’s been almost ten years since your ‘War Drums’ EP, and this feels like a spiritual successor, brought bang up to date. Have you taken any new inspirations for this EP?
It’s definitely a second and more mature chapter on the saga 🙂 I’ve been studying tribal/roots music since the University days. I also did a project for my degree called ‘GLOCALIZM’ under my Stefano Miele name, where I went to the south of Italy with a mobile studio, recording the old musicians still alive and keeping the music tradition alive; then I went back to the studio and put some electronic in it. That was early 2000s. So yeah, it’s in my blood. This time I went for a more trippy kinda sound… hope you’ll enjoy it!
Each track on this EP has a really distinctive and different vibe, from vocal house to dark, wonky, and percussive beats; and a joyful Latin vibe on the last one. What made you choose these sounds? Is there a particular ‘adventure in drums’ you wanted to explore?
In a time where lots of countries are claiming their own selfish independence, I just wanted to express the concept that for me there are no barriers in terms of territories. Tribal music comes from the roots… it’s ancestral, and has the particular character of being true because it was born spontaneously; people need to express their feelings through music. So, even if the African one is different from the Latin one for example, they all share the same “true” vibe. That’s why I wanted to fish from different areas of the world, and try and unite the sounds under the same EP and (possibly) the same album in the future. UNITED IN THE GROOVE! 🙂
We rarely see you perform without a trusty Roland TR-8. What do you love about this piece of equipment?
I think it’s a nice technical addition to my DJ sets and widen the quality of my live performance. I’m also thinking about producing a proper live set in the near future, possibly with no laptop… let’s see!
It’s hard to ignore that ‘tech-house’ has taken a bit of a bashing in recent months from various high profile DJs and publications. In your opinion, why the backlash against this sound? And is any of it justified?
I think people should talk more about music rather than what’s hype and what’s off trend. I think that when a style becomes popular (see the rise and fall of deep house way back) it becomes almost natural that a lot of the more mainstream acts, that have nothing to do with that sound, dive into it lowering the quality of the genre.
From my point of view a good ‘tech house’ tune is like heaven if you think about it, because it reflects the right balance between house and techno… and in all honesty if you hate tech house then you got to hate house and techno as well.
There’s good and crap music in all genres. Some of the stuff that people label as tech house is just formulaic garbage with no ideas. Easy like that.
You have a really strong relationship with Elrow, playing with them in Ibiza, London and Bristol. What is it that attracts you to this particularly bonkers party?
I’ve been playing with them since the Barcelona Sunday morning parties back in the day, so I really feel attached to the project. I love all the people involved in this and I also love the attitude of the party. So yes, it’s my kinda thing 🙂
You’ve been based in East London for over ten years now. What is it about London that makes you call it home?
Well, it doesn’t have to be me to explain why London is still one of the main capitals of music (and not only), in the world. Here you can find everything you need and also bump into the next fresh thing. Not mentioning that the quality standard of the pizza places is so high now that I almost don’t miss Naples when I want to eat one! (almost!) LOL
Adventures In Drums is out now on Crosstown Rebels. Get it here.