Hailing from Italy but based in London for the last decade or so, Pagano initially broke through in the LGTB+ scene in the late noughties, playing house and techno at various venues across the capital and picking up a loyal following. He turned his hand to production just a few years ago and has released on Toolroom, Stereo, Deeperfect, 1650, Nervous and various others.
Last month his single Desire came out on Christian Smith’s highly respected Tronic, and his new track Peace & Unity will land on Toolroom this month.
Hey Francesco – thanks for talking to us. In a difficult year, could you let us know a few of your highlights?
Indeed even in such a difficult year I actually had a few highlights and they have helped me to keep positive during these past 7 months. Obviously one of them has been my recent debut release on Christian Smith’s label Tronic. Receiving the stamp of approval from such a credible artist and label has given me the right kick I needed to stick to my gun. I was also very excited to being asked by Beatport to produce a livestream for their ReConnect series. Definitely another highlight has been to see my 2 singles on Mark Knight’s label Toolroom Trax ‘Latin Tales’ and ‘Naxos’ receiving so many plays: from big House names like Tensnake to mainstream DJs like Dash Berlin the support has been across the board.
Aside from the obvious professional impact of the pandemic, has it had any negative effect on your personal life? And if so how have you tried to mitigate those effects?
Like for many of us, it has been pretty hard. A close relative died of Covid19 induced pneumonia earlier in the pandemic. My last paid gig has been on Saturday February 29th and this has meant my income dropped about 90% to only the revenues from my music sales and streamings. London is a very expensive place, so in September I decided to move back to my hometown in Sicily for the winter. A much better place to face this second wave: way cheaper and better weather than in the UK. Since I’ve been here it has been 22/23 Celsius and sunny nearly every day.
You’ve been busy with releases on some great labels, Toolroom, Tronic etc. Do you think it’s important for artists to have aspirations of the kind of labels they want to release with?
Yes, absolutely. When Mark Knight and Christian Smith, two artists I followed and respected for many years, get excited by my productions to the point of wanting to release them on their labels, this is first of all a big moral boost and means I’m going in the right direction. On a practical level, releasing on these labels means great exposure and helps give credibility to your name as a producer. These days there are many ways to make it in our industry: you either are a social media and marketing wizard with the right looks or edge, or you can try to make it the old-school way through solid releases and playing memorable DJ sets. Both ways are difficult and not easy to navigate. I personally prefer the latter because for me is about passion and not fame, but to each their own.
Your label KISM has enjoyed some important support so far, what are your plans for its future?
With only 25 releases so far, I’ve been really amazed by the amount of support the label has quickly gained. We’ve had legends like Carl Cox, Adam Beyer, Eats Everything, Paco Osuna and Roger Sanchez all playing our material. Alongside my productions we’ve had some great artists appearing with original tracks or remixes: Paride Saraceni, Mihalis Safras, Agent Orange, Paolo Martini, Filterheadz, Dale Howard, Skober, Tuff London have all contributed with great productions. And to see some of these being played at big festivals such as ULTRA in Miami or in Ibiza during the last season of Space and at Resistance has really been incredible. I didn’t expect it because there was no real aim or focus with the label releases. I was simply putting out a variety of groovy tracks of various genres from Tech House to Techno with my philosophy being: if I’d play it in my sets I will release it. For the future I definitely want to focus more on solidifying the direction of the label’s sound.
Has the music you play and produced changed over the years? For example Trade was famous for pushing quite a tough style of music – did you used to play harder and faster back then?
It certainly has. Trade is famous for being cutting-edge and forward thinking more than anything, but the music is always uplifting and groovy. In the nineties up a certain point there was a lot of cross contamination between various styles. I’m not a music snob when it comes to genres. I was a DJ for several years before becoming a producer, so my releases have alway tried to fit my DJ sets depending on where I was DJing at the time. After so many years I think my production style is starting to come into focus and it’s a mixture of House and Techno with electronic melodies and old school influences. It sits between Tech House and Techno but for the purists it is neither.
Originally coming from Italy, how quickly did you feel you’d found your place in the UK club scene? Did you always know it was something you wanted to do when you were growing up?
Yes, I definitely moved to London for the clubbing scene and to further my DJing career. I was lucky to have worked as head of A&R for Nukleuz Italy and some of my remixes where released on the mothership UK label, most notably the inclusion of my remix on the official release of BK’s anthem ‘Revolution’. BK’s original is now a classic: it was played on BBC Radio 1 even during daytime shows, entered the official UK singles chart in 2002 and it has recently become very popular among Techno DJs with Charlotte De Witte often dropping it in her DJ sets in 2019. Having my name associated with Nukleuz and with this record helped me to quickly find DJ gigs in London. After cutting my teeth with various one-off gigs around town, I became a resident DJ at Heaven and Trade where I started to play early slots. This meant I had to reinvent my sound, slowed down the BPM and started to release music on Chus & Ceballos labels Stereo and Iberican which at the time were incredibly cutting-edge and credible in continental Europe. This propelled my DJ career in the rest of Europe. Everything happened very organically while I simply played and produced music I enjoyed.
What else do you have coming up over the next few months that we should be looking out for?
I have a new track coming out soon on Toolroom Records titled ‘Peace & Unity’. I produced it during the first lockdown and the rise of the Black Lives Matter movement. I was really moved by the many issues in 2020 and very annoyed by the dangerously divisive rhetoric on social media. Then in real life the uncertainty caused by the pandemic, so I wanted to create something with a positive message and an old-school Chicago House vibe.
Finally, what one album or record has brought you the most joy over the last few months?
It has to be Cut Copy’s new album ‘Freeze, Melt’. I’ve been a big fan of this Australian band for years and they always manage to surprise me and impress me while keeping true to their style. With their latest effort they clearly add new layers and inspirations. At times the album’s vibe brought me back to Ibiza and happy memories of Amnesia and Cafe Del Mar in the 90s. A good place to be reminded of during the difficult times of the last few months.