I first made contact with Matteo Ruzzon aka Madteo on the dawn of a 600 mile carpool from NYC to the Detroit Electronic Music Festival two years ago. I had no prior knowledge of the artist known as Madteo, but it soon became apparent that the guy was a total head, and a polymath (if you will) when it came to music and beyond.
Originating from Padova, Northern Italy, he soon made his way to the US and now resides in the cultural melting pot of Jackson Heights, where you’re as likely to hear Colombian Salsa blaring from passing cars, as you are the latest Drake hit.
Having previously dropped EPs on Workshop and a highly recommended LP on Ra.H/Morphosis’ imprint Morphine, Madteo, more recently, released on Belgian imprint Meakusma, exhibiting some pretty deep, cerebral house music. He is also purveyor of the fine $treetwax mix series online, mixing up records sourced locally for…a dollar apiece.
His mix is a good indication of what to expect from a Madteo DJ set, blending the warped and lo-fi with various upbeat jams.
MADTEO – TAKING THE E-TRAIN UPTOWN EXPRESS
1. The O’Jays – Intro
2. Queen – Show Must Go On (Outro)
3. Madteo – Mad See Scrolls (M. Pittman Mix)
4. Madteo – Untitled (DJ Sotofett Mix #4.5)
5. Adriano Celentano – Maledetta Televisione
6. DJ Sotofett – E2
7. LTJ – The party (Super Value Special Edits #15)
8. Kassem Mosse – Untitled
9. Arto Mwambe – E Midi Vice (Moss Mix by 411 ft. Don Papa)
10. M.C. Hammer – Let’s Go Deeper
11. Techfunkers – Moonlight
12. Indoor Life – Hot & Cold
13. Joyride – Sgt. Rain
14. SW – Track 1
15. Tony McKenze – House Party
16. Bjorn Torske – Hard Traffikk (And The Lefthanded Very Heavy Traffik Re-Work)
17. Coati Mundi – He Only Wants To Make Love To Himself
18. Don’t – 28.02.09 1
19. Madteo – Quantitative Malfeasance
20. Madteo – Untitled
Now in NY, originally from Northern Italy – how did you end up in NYC?
I had been spending time in the US in high school, at those English language summer programs in Universities, then in ’93, I did the senior year in a public high school in the DFW Metroplex.. I never graduated as I got banned from the Republic of Texas and so I returned to Italia late April ’93 with no intention of staying.. In the 2+ months I spent there I was going to Jesolo, one of Venice’s resort town known for clubs and given I was by then quite fluent in Texan language I became friendly with one of those statuesque Scandinavian dancers in this discoteque called Papaya (check the Papaya 12” on Superradio Records, class Italo recorded in ’83 expressely for the opening of that club 10yrs before lol ).. many of those dancers in the club scene were model types who’d first made their way to Milan then to the Adriatic riviera, either Jesolo in Veneto or Riccione, Rimini one in the Romagna region where many clubs are. So I went down to Riccione a lot after meeting this girl and her friends, I hung out at the Pensione where a lot of the niteclub staff, dancers and people like Dean & Dan (now well known for their DSquared2 brand) lived. On one of these weekends I met this dude from Long Island who invited me to go to NY and offered to put me up. Less than two months later I was on a plane to JFK. After 3 years of visiting and living in the US I still hadn’t been to NYC. By the time we were on the LIE (Long Island Expressway) and came close to the Midtown Tunnel and saw the monster of Madhattan I felt a super rush which I hadn’t felt in places like LA or Dallas where I’d lived.
What was it like to party in NYC in the 90s?
How I feel when I think of the 90s, can only be seen from the perspective of my age back then. I was 17-18-19 and just felt a world different about things. We could go into into the much covered subject of the demise of the once great nitelife of NY but hey, I wasn’t around for the Garage, the Mudd Club, the Peppermint Lounge, the Funhouse, Danceteria, the Gallery, Better Days, the Saint etc etc ! One thing seems to be clear : the end of the 90s’ represent the end of a few other things. Coincidentally, I first saw an iPod about ’99 or ’00. It feels like it was cooler, more special, and it was easier to socialize even (hard to get some attention when people are constantly hooked on a device, even in bars, clubs etc..) Always loved hanging out in the bathrooms at the Tunnel (Patrick Bateman hangout).. pretty sure they were many a patron’s highlight of that discoteque. Everytime you’d went up there and came back down, you had a smile on your face, felt suddenly energized and wanted to dance to La La Land….. Did check out the old Sound Factory before it closed not long after (somewhere in ’94 or ’95) I remember big bowls of fruit punch and smelling something real nasty on the floor (aka first whiff of angel dust ?)
Jackie 60 on tue nites was nice, small subterranean place, salacious. Remember the winged dude Angel doin his thing there (before he was forced to guzzle down a big Drano cocktail that disintegrated his guts his body was dismembered, stuffed in a suitcase to be found on the shores of the Island of Staten! What I also liked about Jackie 60 is they had dancers and MCs on stage, the lasciviously delivered house music type of MCing, something not too common in NY clubs and reminded me of the Adriatic riviera clubs. This when the meat-packing district was still full of working girls, the streetwalking divas. Gentrification, Over-saturation, homogenization, the destruction of music sales, banks taking over pretty much every street-corner. Everything different. The thought that we are 12yrs post-millennium is abs. freaky to me in so many ways. In the post-innernet era, society’s changes are a global process while earlier you had more of an authentic, localized form of cultural development which took different shapes in whatever idiomatic mode of expression they’d manifested . Easy access of info = less differential traits ? Hmmm maybe, in cases , yes. Not a NY problem, shit is shit, the world over, and it stinks !!! If All the World’s a Village, then it dont matter which Vill, the East Vill, West Vill. it’s World Wide Shit Vill ! But it tastes good. That’s what it comes down to : Eating Shit , if you can’t eat shit , you aren’t fit enough.. Not that I’m good at it or that I like it but I need to say it : 1: we (must) like shit and 2: we are all presstitutes…. Imagine how sweet sweet would be after you gotten used to the shit tang ?. Let’s not get into the subject of what if people got used to really liking the shit tang thang but just saying that it could help in learning to appreciate sweet again.
By the way I can hate on globalization, gentrification etc. but every time I take a walk-on-the-mild-side (aka the long gentrified parts of NYC = All of Manhattan except a few still ethnic pockets in the upper portion of the island), I see hot women !! Good looks knows where the money’s at. Going from Queens to like, downtown it’s like eye-candy all-you-can-eat bouffet, seriously painful. Shit tang is the hurting, pain, rejection, misplaceness, loss, distance, inability to relate and/or communicate that most ppl go through, More OR Less, Everywhere. It is in my opinion accentuated here like everything else is. After 9-11 the saying ‘only in NY kids, only in NY’ takes a whole nu-meaning as far as I’m concerned. The hip hop thing was that by the mid to late 90s hiphop became the most commercial/mainstream/popular music genre in the US so you couldn’t expect corporations like Clear Channel owning 99.9% of all radio stations to be ok with eloquence, wisdom, truth and consciousness being leveraged by the many luminaries of the earlier part of the 90s when rap was still a niche, urban market music. Can you imagine corporate America being OK with a hundred million + ppl studying the lyrics of PE’s Chuck D, KRS-1 The Teacher , RZA the Abbot, or Ol’ Dirty Dirt McDirt Baby Jesus ? A categoric Hell’s tha fuck NO ! Sarcasm is a must or I’m in trouble 🙂
How have these experiences (both in NY and Italia) inspired your current material, both in DJing and production?
I always felt a strong urge to wrap my head, body and soul around music but I thought that’s just the thing most kids go through with no serious consideration of being in it for life. The experiences I’ve had inspire and depress me alternately, it all depends how I look at them and at which one !. Everything a person/artist does and goes through, serves as either a natural inspiration or at least doubtlessly conditions what he does, the style (a regurgitation of some sort) how and why he does it. Everything is a direct consequence of the experiences you have. Whether you admit it or not. It’s a constant battle to achieve a balance that’s always out of reach. I dunno much about production, At all. I don’t like to think of the technical aspects as I know that there many things WRONG with my recordings, I am not happy about it, I would like to have a studio with SOME gear, an engineer to help me out with some basic science, but, Gear, I just can’t afford, Engineers have been producers since the 50’s when they realized they were so getting ripped off by the con-men getting production credits when they ain’t produced shit !! ahah So until then what am I gon do ? NOT make sounds ? That’s the conundrum. I still dont’ know what I’m doing and if at any time I think I do, I must obviously be illuding myself. And it does happen often. Shame. What I’ve been trying to, is break it down to the essentials. Digging old records is like going to school. You have to dig one way or another. For better (actually getting-to-know) or worse (actually being-broke-ass !) , the quest of an ever expanding knowledge in everything having to do with ‘records’ , its makers, the environments, locales and diverse cultural backgrounds in which they thrived, flourished or whence they came out of, has always been an insatiable thirst of mine. It’s also another typical route of someone with no classic training to get to know the music. Trying to know more and more about this or that. You’re obviously not getting the info straight (formal training), but in practical form (listening) . I say ”records” cuz admittedely I’m still not interested in music theory, classic compostional methods etc (my production styles is prove ! lol) .. Frankfully, I’m too caught up reading about the typically naive but passionate know-nothing with the required chutzpah to pull some unique shit out of his ass while simultaneously making a big mess but leaving some sort of impression. I’m still immensely fascinated by the idea that some of the most refreshing things happening in contemporary music come from ppl who could not play an instrument !
Music was one of the big motivating factors that brought me to the US when I was 15 in ’91 and into heavy-metal as much as electronic sounds (although then not buying rcds). That magic that happens when the dilettante gets into it and the mistery is one of the main reasons why I’m still enamored by it after 30yrs of buying music, reading books etc. Healthy competitiveness. Doing research is so easy nowadays though. The mixing is a whole other ball game. Rawng !! I listen to my mixes and I can’t believe I thought that blend sounded smooth when it dont ! All my mixes have obvious mistakes. if I’m playing a 70-30 ratio of old-to-modern I would make a mistake every few records . But mistakes is relative as if it felt/sounded ‘good enough’ at the time, it’s not so perfect but also many of the songs arent perfect… With old records you can never be sure of reaching a synced up point so Im always anxiously trying to focus on the tempos of both songs then one of them (old records) skips !! . A long learning curve. I don’t think I’ll ever be as good as the best but I can only try my best. On account of my tastes and approach I do have to say I get bored mixing too much house and techno as it creates ”a sound” instead of giving you a more dynamic listening experience. Also that’s when you realize mixing house and techno is more a walk in the park. I try to make ppl get up and move, even if my tastes in dance music can be a bit left-field to have quick mass-appeal. Generally it’s got to rock but then again it’s ALL A MATTER OF TASTE…. Of course you can be the non-mixing selector, I love that, but basically the modern dj was born to rock-the-party. (Kool Herc) .
Songs from the classic decades are more alive, dare more. It’s more daring to have five dudes playing at the same time and recording one-takes on two-track and that’s a wrap… They are also more fun to (attempt a) blend BECAUSE are more challenging. Since I’m clumsy, I cant see myself learning new turntable tricks, so I go for selection + blending. You take risks, some work, most dont, ones that do make a very nice effect, the other ones might not work but I think it’s still better than being predictable by playing just ‘tracks’ that You Know Is Gon Lock-It-In Smooth so You Look Good. So you can avoid the feeling-to-have-to-look-good by taking chances LoL.
Really enjoyed the most recent collab w/Sensational – (Bangin’ On The Ceiling) – How did that come about?
He just happened to walk in while I had that one playing and told him about the lady in fifth floor who’s often banging on her ceiling/my floor late at night when I’m being inconsiderate. She must really have enough of me.
Tell us a little about the mix you’ve sent us.
It’s mainly the records I bought while diggin in Padova, my hometown at this old shop nobody goes to buy wax at. Been avidly going there for the past 5yrs everytime Im back in Padova I would go about every other day and start pulling stuff. He has to play the wax for me as it’s not a DJ shop..With repeated visits I’d make a pile then before leaving I’d go in one last time and make a final selection from the stack. Always very happy of what I find there as it’s a more Italo-European flavor than my usual NY finds.. some cool Italo rcds come from Luca Trevisi’s discogs stock. I spent two hours checking some of the lowest priced wax. Lots of great stuff ! Check experiencerecords on Discogs for some great records or http://www.hotgroovyrecords.it/ for his more complete inventory… A few new ones from ACIDO, SEX TAGS, SUED and ATELIER, WORKSHOP, the Joyride LP on MILLIONS OF BRILLIANT IDIOTS given to me by Eevn Tuell, a great LTJ Super Value Special Edit + a RONG Music release I got upon my return in the NY ; COATI MUNDI’s nu LP “Coati Mundi is Dancing for the Cabana Code in the Land of Boo-Hoo” , that track is one of the super bombs off the LP .. Also a couple remixes and some of my smothered-take house trax 🙂
Could you describe your process of buying vinyl? How have you honed your skills over the years to get the most bump for your buck?
That’s just gotta be a natural process of adding pieces to the puzzle in your relentless quest to know-more….Ever looking back and continuing to investigate the history, my DJing has been totally guided by the music I’m finding at a flea market in Manhattan. In the past 5years I brought home about 5000pcs, considering it ALL comes from 1 stall tended by 1 (very) funny, good man, I think that’s pretty cool. A few cohorts hang around him, selling their wares or helping him out (Henry’s in great shape but in his late 60s) . A few ppl come by just to sit and chat with him. After years of doing it I enjoy going to this place just to see him. God does work misterious ways as I discovered the spot just when my income nosedived. A blessing in disguise. You lose some then win some, the ways of natural law are irreducible. Defintely inspiring to keep on discovering great old stuff. It also helps put a lot into perspective when I make my sounds. My music digging attitude has always been inspired by the unpredictable, adventurous style of DJin, general eclecticism, and through discerning CD compilations which I was buying in the 90’s.
Tell us about the recent European Tour and some of the gigs played there, and some of the people you met for future collabs.
It was not really a tour in that I played a few gigs spread out in 2+ mos.. I stayed in Padova at my parents place and traveled to Germany and Belgium a few times in that space of time. The party up in Bielefeld set up by Pedram Pajou and his buddies in the old anarcho squat building was great, lovely people, open minded and hard at work setting up, then partying all nite then cleaning !. The Meakusma event the following day was also pretty nice , in a raw, large space they called Katakomben.. Thing was, that on the train from Bielefeld, I was passed out and arrived at my stop I realized some punk had jacked my trolley with my gear so I was f.u.c.k.e.d. Ended up improvising something with a bunch of things stored at Meakusma boss’s hard drive. It went good after all, I was just BUMMED. But All’s Well That Ends Well as I ended up recouping ALL OF THE SAID STOLEN GOODS. About 5 days after making lost-found report with German authorities I was saved !!!. Someone saw the young hoods taking my trolley and called on the police who promptly arrived at the scene and caught the teenaged hoods redhanded. I still can’t believe it. Marcellus Pittman had uttered some encouragin “Don’t worry , they gon find your shit, trus’me..” words…. They did !! Spoke to him after and he couldn even believe it !! In Berlin these Irish kids are doing some cool parties in a non-club-like locale with a charming vintage character and warmth that fit my mostly un-technofied set that nite. Even Tuell of Workshop was responsible for us DJing together at this party in Heidelberg called Steady Work on Summer Vacation.. Crowd got down and embraced the different music styles…. tempos ranged from 111 to 121 Bumps.per.minute …
The out there music experience was to go and spend a few days with a Doctor of musicology, one of those hard-core mavericks of the Berlin scene, quite ahead of the curve I think.. actually NOT even ahead of ANY curve, just living in his own musical space, which I not only respect but captivates me. Original styles often translate in original intellects, personalites etc… Sometime crazy, often archaic, hazy. Once known as 100Rcds, very few releases out, now doing a project called Passive Musik, where, as he says it, he likes to ‘receive sounds’ .. He’d program the synths and the 808, but with very sparse and strictly motif-less writing, then fills the space with field recordings. In the case of our collaboration, since he’d heard of my train diss-adventure, it became all about Trains & Stations so he’d prepared about 40 diff. videos of trains from diff parts of the world.. That was our non-musical theme. Any attempt at actual melody by playin whatever there was in his bedroom studio was demoted, sidelined, discarded outright or I was told that he would cut it all off as soon as Id leave !!! LoL.. Passive Musik man, Dr Dirk Budde is not your typical, hmm….producer.. For starters our typical producers arent’ PhDs in musicology who turn down a music teaching position at a university as it would distract them from their more important all-day passive music recording sessions.. I became fan of 100Rcds music from the 2 tx released on ACIDO Rcds. The one tk which got me curious to know more was ”Gesicht aus diamant” and another one of which I loved the title , “Murks is Dead” (always took that to mean : Murk is Dead buddy, like “Dudes, Deep House ? It was done by them Murks ppl in Miami 20yrs ago or over, it’s Over so Get Over It !” .. The Doc aka Muellie Messiah edited and put together a CDR titled “Trains & Stations” with our collaboration/recordings .. It’s def. growing on me after a few listens.. I can see his point in ‘receiving’ when all these train videos were just playing in the background, unsynched, untreated with slight 808 beats, bass station , 404 and Evolver sounds acting as a decoration of the railway auras
Do you play or go out dancing in NY much these days? How has it changed over the years?
I played 10yrs in the same restaurant then that closed and haven’t played anywhere regularly since. I’m not a gigging DJ in NY but I will hopefully soon get a place where Ill be able to just play, for days, I dont care where or what it’ll be as long as I get to play…I played at a few other places through the yrs but whatever I got I’ve always gotten on my own and outside of any club scene and I am pretty sure that to be a club DJ or gigging DJ you’d have to build a following, or be in some sort of clique, circle, scene-not-scene, have friends who do parties, run labels etc… something ! In my experience, when opportunities presented themselves, I know I did get a few good music men gigs at the restaurant. I’ve naturally looked at sharing music with others an organic thing. I’ve always dreamed of having a music partner and attempted a couple times but the reality is that it’s something you end up doing mostly on your own, because most mofos you thought were with you, behind you or on the case either give up on you or on it, turn mad, nasty or both, or are simply your competition. This is only my own experience as there are many long standing, prolific units, groups of friends doing great stuff together. Going out dancing I dont do much as I’ve no disposable income whatsoever……Am living off iceberg lettuce and goya beans, renting out my bedroom, scraping by.. 2+ mos in Europe was a post-ponement of the day of reckoning..That day is Here and Now. I’m also sorry to say I’ve become mostly too self-conscious to feel uninhibited and loosen up dancing. I’m more of a back against the wall, head-nodder-cheking-out-the-spectacle(in my head)-with-eyes-closed type… Now I should take that sharing-the-music, build-a-community, lovey-dovey thing back, it’s all selfishness actually !!! Maybe it’s a selfish egotistical selflessness 🙂
Do you notice a difference between the EU and US underground ‘scenes’ – is it important for you to release on EU labels, or is it coincidence?
No, it’s not important and I would love to be in US labels.. I have something that should be released on Seattle based Nu Earth Kitchen. That will be 1st US release. Since music in the US is one of the most important things with a global resonance, and huge motive of me moving here (others would be people like Malcolm X and shows like Different Strokes, the Jeffersons etc..) wanting to be on a US label is a given. As for scene, US doesn’t (really) have a dance music scene. There are valiant efforts being made, I see it and don’t want to disrespect the people who put the work in but the way I see it only US dance music scene is the festivals, and (ironically) the trade-marked, Euro megaclubs with their US outposts. Think Pacha, where wunder-kidz like the Martinez Bros are packing thousands while saving up for their future kids college funds. I hear they have skillz so not knocking them but not very underground if 2000 ppl are paying 50$ entrance fees 🙂 Whatever kinda underground you get in America is still coming from the indie, rock crowd.. Which generally means ppl who’ve caught on to the dance music vibe a lil-late-if-I-may-say. In the past decade getting into classic dance music has become a trend of the indie-rock music buyer type. I’m generalizing to make a point as there are exceptions where rockers have dug disco, techno, house and bought those kind of records but America is still a rock/country/urban music nation at heart. It’s obvious that a lot of these young art school kids buying wax today were not listening to house music 20yrs ago mainly cuz they weren’t even born but if 50% or more of vinyl purchases are from that generation, so be it, I am willing to share what I know ! I do think that if you are not a live-act, it’s harder to come off as o.g these days… Djs used to be seen as culprits who took work off the bands but now since you can be a one man band with a computer set up…. what Im saying is that considering the changes in technology ppl assume that if you play off Serato you r just playing MP3s ripped off the web !!! Digital music turned millions into instant DJs and that pushed many into hardware and that’s great! However, I’d have to re-iterate by paraphrasing Waking Life that ”..it’s all in what you do with the crayons that you’re given” .. I love the sound of machines too but what I love LESS is that if it sounds LIKE shit I have on wax that was released in 1980 and of which I have already dozens, if not hundreds of records in my collection then, you know what I’m saying ? I make music on a laptop BUT as far as Buying The Music I think that digital distribution of music is a goddamn scam to destroy the industry, certainly a divide & conquer type of scheme if ya ask me, and all in the name of helping-the-artists ?!! Traditional DJing is still cool for the Euro-set (I only saw one person DJing with time-code in Europe) rubbing elbows with Holyhood hipster types populating NYC and hanging on the rooftops of boutique hotels w/ swimming pools and house club nites in the re-zoned gritty-chic L.E.S. (where Tatum O’neal was busted by undercover police tryna buy crack right around her luxury condo in ’08 …!!) ..What the US does have is a bunch of awesome artists doing their thing no matter what, and often being innovative…
What’s up next for Madteo – releases and collabs?
First, there will be a new Meakusma 12” with some remixes by some of my fave producers… Then Joy O and his designer/partner Will Bankhead are doing a nu label, Hinge Finger. They’ve been working on a release from me for the most part of this year so it should happen in the not very distant future.. That will also be 1st UK release ! Then in no particular order, not sure which will be first but the Seattle N.E.K. thing, something on ACIDO Rcds run by the good Dynamo Dreseen who does superb music with Berlin head SVN and often collabs and releases with DJ Sotofett on his labels. Then I will be featuring on an upcoming 12” with a long track prod. by Sotofett which will be relased on a Sex Tags Mania related label. I did improv vox and I hope I’m gon be able to cut some off cuz I was just making it up as I went and it does getz a lil corny in a couple parts. I understand there is something about the voice ppl like him dig as it’s not what you say more what voice sounds like but still ! The way it came about, I was staying at Sotofett’s, was in his living room while he’s in the office/studio then he showed up and was like “Yo man, ready for some vox ?” So I sat down, mic in hand, track going and looked at a Maria Carey LP. Sotofett and his group of related labels, collaborators etc have been a major inspiration for me the past couple yrs. Dynamo was my introduction with a lot of these ppl and I met Acido boss through RaH, Morphine Rcds man. ACIDO man told me about SEX TAGS MANIA, Sven, Daniel Pflumm, the General Elektro and Atelier Rcds ppl , Sotofett and his bro Fettburger etc… He gave me some 12”’s and I was hooked . I heard the rawness, references, passion and depth but in a quirky, leftfield way while maintaining a self-effacing and sarcastic attitude…. I can see some of those guys getting-somewhere !!
Interview by Tom Breslin
*** BONUS ***
Matteo sent us another mix which represents his $treetwax series a bit more. He described it as “not a dance floor mix but a wild ride through a myriad musical lands”. Reminiscent of the 6 hour sets he played in a NY restaurant, it’s eclectic cut and paste at it’s best. Enjoy!
MADTEO – PHILLYS TEEN MIX
(Right Click & Save)