Hanging out with Carlo Lio and then seeing him play back-to-back sets at Bijou and RISE After-hours made last Friday pretty stellar. We’ve seen Carlo play at RISE in the past, but he’s the type of artist we can see again and again.
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One of the first tracks we heard from him was “Chapter 2,” a few years ago.
If you’re unfamiliar, the house and techno DJ/producer is a Toronto native and, aside from his solo work, is teamed up with studio partner Nathan Barato to create the Rawthentic Music label. Check out our interview to find out his favorite synth, where he would take you in Toronto, and the advice he received from Dubfire.
Describe your sound with three words.
►Chunky, hypnotic, groovy.
Who gave you your first chance playing out? How did it go?
►In Toronto, my first real gig was a Sunday beach-type outdoor patio thing. It was Craig Pettigrew – he’s part of BPM. It was amazing. I was super nervous. [Craig] gave me that residency so I was playing every weekend on Sunday for a few hours. It kickstarted me nicely.
What gear did you use when you first started?
►Vinyl. Then I switched to CDs, and now I’m using Traktor.
Do you remember the point in time you realized this would be your career?
►I think it was when I became a steady-working Toronto DJ and was able to quit my bank job and make enough money to support myself.
You had a bank job… is that what you’d still be doing if you didn’t pursue music?
►Hell no. Whether I did this or not, I would have quit that bank job to do anything else.
In that scenario, what would you want to be doing?
►Something in the media or something to do with graphic design or art. I used to love to draw.
Between working in the studio and playing out, is there one setting you’re more comfortable in?
►I love them both equally. There’s nothing better than having thousands of people in front of you, losing it. There’s nothing better than making one of those tracks you know people are going to lose it to. I get the same feeling in the studio as I do in a club.
Do you master your own tracks?
►For the most part, yes. Some of the bigger labels will always want to do the mastering, but I like doing it myself.
You’ve been to a lot of places. To where would you take a vacation if you had a week off?
►When I do have a vacation, I stay home [in Toronto] because I’m never there. My parents are like, “Go take a vacation,” and I’m like, “This is my vacation.” I have my cats and my boys I grew up with who I never get to see. It’s literally the stuff I used to do before I started traveling.
It must be nice to hang with them.
►Yeah. You know, my friends aren’t in the scene anymore or have grown out of it, so it’s nice to do nothing with them.
If somebody came to Toronto and asked you to be their music scene tour guide, where would you bring them?
►If they want to see the dark, nitty-gritty, real underground, definitely Comfort Zone. It’s open Friday to Monday morning pretty much nonstop. Also Coda, which is the new club since Footwork closed.
If you could collab with any artist, who would it be?
►One guy I’ve always wanted to collab with because he’s such a legend is Sneak. We actually started something last year but we’ve been on the road so much and haven’t gotten to finish, so this winter when we’re both home, I’m sure we’re going to finish something.
When you collab, is it most common to work physically together, or remotely?
►Given the nature of everyone traveling all of the time, there are the flop back-and-forth projects. But there’s nothing better than being together and vibing together, though.
What’s your best advice for artists working on a collaboration remotely?
►Open up Skype.
What piece of advice do you wish you had received back when you started, but instead figured out the hard way?
►This is actually a piece of advice Dubfire gave me when I first started touring with him – that’s when I started getting a lot of attention with productions and he told me a lot of people would come at me for tracks and remixes: “Just learn how to say no.” If I go back to my catalog on Beatport and look at half the stuff I released, I probably would not have released 70 percent of the older stuff. For me, at the time, I didn’t know better and it was quantity over quality. I thought the more I released, the more I would get my name out there, instead of releasing one good track on one good label that was 10times better.
Are there any festivals you haven’t played yet that you want to play?
►There’s a big one in Hungary called B my Lake Festival; it’s a newer one blowing up. The Electric Daisy stuff in America looks cool, and I have the chance to play the Mexico one next year. Another one I did this year for the first time that I always wanted to do was Balaton Sound in Hungary. That was 80,000 people which is not normal. I was nervous. Another I did this year that I always wanted to do was Barakud in Croatia. That was nuts.
What’s the smallest crowd you’ve played to as an established artist?
►I’ll still do 100-200 person rooms. I enjoy that just as much as playing to a huge crowd of people. It’s a different type of connection where you have that in-your-face connection versus the first person being like a mile away. I love playing small rooms. I feel like I can tell more of a story.