I'm impressed that Tronchin has found such a direct connection to his roots amidst Berlin's sea of döner shops. He hails from Treviso, a small city near Venice. It's where he keeps his studio, and at least half of the time it's still the place he calls home. As it happens, the day we picked to meet is his last in Berlin for the foreseeable future—I've caught him on a break from packing up his satellite studio, an enviable collection of vintage Roland gear and Eurorack modules. I realize that finding a piece of one home in the other is a pretty big part of his life these days: mortadella and mozzarella sandwiches might be light on the ground in Berlin, but techno—his life's work so far—is undoubtedly foreign where he's headed now. Given how good Berlin has been to him this time around, I'm curious if he's having trouble taking the move in stride. "I am realizing that I need both in my life," he says, "which is escaping from that town and seeing the world for six months and then going back, recording, being with my girlfriend and friends, talking shit. I think it is now that I am realizing this."
Tronchin, who is 24, projects a good-natured seriousness, and there's an obvious depth to his personality. English isn't his first language, but when he takes a moment to consider a sentence, he doesn't appear to be struggling with vocabulary so much as he's wrapping his mind around big ideas and emotions. That side of his personality was clear as a high school student in Treviso, where Tronchin wasn't a stellar pupil by the usual measures—he was the third worst student in his class, and the two below him had to repeat a year. But no one accused him of lacking character or drive. "It was so evident that I wasn't stupid, but I just wasn't spending time in the books," he says. He found out recently that his teacher contacted his parents in his last year of school to tell them that he was basically failing, but the school decided to give him the benefit of the doubt. "They knew that I was into music and that I was still the most mature person in the classroom. I was clear-minded and knew what I wanted to do compared to other people that were really good at grades."
Family friends, who had a room full of synthesizers, decks and records from the likes of Jeff Mills and Carl Craig, planted the seeds of this obsession. "They had this quote on the wall, 'Techno is my religion and this is my church.'" The gear was immediately appealing to Tronchin—he knew on sight that whatever you did with that stuff, he wanted to do it. "They looked like toys for adult people," he says. "So I thought in my mind, if I do this, I can play with toys for all of my life, without getting older or something like this."
Northern Italy, though, wasn't the place where a young man with an interest in techno could really flourish. It would take another mentor, Lucy from Stroboscopic Artefacts, to get him out. The two made contact and started sharing music while Tronchin was finishing high school. Lucy was living in Paris at the time, and Tronchin made a number of visits and planned to move there once he wrapped up his studies. "Then all of a sudden, he told me that living there is becoming more difficult and prices are rising, saying that we couldn't make a living out of doing music and spending our time doing what we want," Tronchin remembers, "so let's move to Berlin and see what happens."
Tronchin spent much of 2009 in Berlin, treating himself to the kind of musical experiences he couldn't get in Treviso. He logged countless hours in Berghain and Panorama Bar, and broadened his tastes in the city's record stores, adding Hessle Audio, Flying Lotus and Martyn to his techno repertoire. Tronchin was also producing, and after years of making music solely on a computer, he had his first brush with hardware. "That was a big change in my approach to recording music—it was much more human," he says. The first machine he bought in Berlin was a Roland TR-606, and it instilled in him a preference for simple gear without a lot of layers. "That creates for me, personally, a writer's block, because you can recall things whenever you want, and you have too many things you can do. You lose yourself and the focus and emotion of the track."
Tronchin returned to Treviso to throw himself into composition studies, but after his experience getting to the heart of techno in Berlin, he found himself in a rut. "From that period I have a really—I don't know how to say it in English—not a clear memory of that period, and that means that I wasn't doing so much for myself," he says. "And I wasn't doing a lot of music. I think I probably lost interest."
I couldn't get Tronchin to tell me much about that time in his life. He remembers the exact moment when he pulled himself out of it, though. In the mountains with friends celebrating the New Year in 2011, he awoke sweaty and racing from a strange dream. "I was floating in space, and it was kind of scary at the beginning. At the same time, I felt like there was a presence with me, and from these sounds we were creating planets in this total darkness." He says he managed to keep the sounds in his head until he got back to Treviso. With a sense of purpose unlike any he'd had in ages, he set to work in his studio. "It was kind of a continuation, when I was in the studio recording it. It wasn't even me doing the tracks. I remember turning the knobs and the sequencer and SH-101, but it was like a dream."
It's not hard to hear the germination in the Reset EP, which houses the material from this session—despite their heft, Tronchin's drum machines and atonal synths work overtime to push through copious tape hiss. It's the sound of concrete ideas winning out over confusion and noise. He'd already released a few EPs—one of thickly melodic techno for Meerestief Records in 2008 and another of experimental thumpers on Stroboscopic Artefacts—but this is where Chevel really took shape.
Tronchin was sitting on a stockpile of tracks during this period, but he'd take another crack at Berlin in 2011 before releasing them. Where going out had been a huge part of his previous Berlin experience, this time he spent most nights at home. For three months of the trip, he worked as an intern at Resident Advisor, which, he says, gave him a sense of how the industry fit together. When a relationship in Berlin soured and he subsequently plotted his retreat to Treviso, Tronchin had a better sense of how to fight through the haze that set in last time. He worked at McDonald's for a spell to help fund the studio he was piecing together in a commercial property that sat empty in the wake of the recession. He could make as much noise as he wanted there, and on Monday nights he'd have a few dozen friends by the studio for listening parties. (These eventually formed the basis for Monday Night Records, Tronchin's dusty house project.)
With Meo, he set up Enklav, his main label and a hub for Italian associates similarly obsessed with electronic music. Taken from the Swedish word for "enclave," the label's name references a childhood fascination with Italian statelets. "They were [inhabited by] Italian people, but they had different coins in San Marino and different license plates and things. I wanted to express this with the music, like having our own world, our own country and our own rules, inside a bigger musical world."
Tronchin returned to Berlin this year with his musical life finally coming together. He'd tune into Hessle Audio's Rinse FM show and hear Ben UFO and Pearson Sound mixing his tracks, and his suddenly prolific output caught the ears of the bookers at Berghain. They offered him a peaktime slot on a Sunday morning back in June—a gig DJs spend years angling for that happened to be Tronchin's first in Berlin. If he was intimidated, he didn't show it—standing tall with his head nodding confidently, he had the look of a guy who knew his way around techno's most iconic dance floor. "To be honest," he says, "I expected to be more nervous than I was. After playing there, you have no more fear of playing out anywhere else."
Even though he's heading back to Treviso, Tronchin hardly seems to be backing away from techno. Labels he once idolized are now approaching him about releases, and he seems excited to retreat into his studio and commit to tape all the creative energy he's stored up in Berlin these last few months. "I know I can be connected with myself," he says when I ask about the best part of going home. Considering how he's found his creative drive so far, cultivating that connection is the best thing he could do.