What’s in a name? Some musicians agonise over their first big decision in the biz like it’s going to make or break them, but not Italoboyz. They didn’t even come up with their equal parts catchy and kitsch moniker. 'It was given to us by a promoter we were distributing flyers for,’ explains Marco. ‘We asked to play, gave them our demo.'
‘They kept getting our names wrong,’ adds partner Frederico Marton. ‘They kept calling us Mark or Ferry or Fred, and so they wrote “Italoboyz” on the flyer.’
'So when we went to collect the flyers, we looked to see who we were on with and we saw this “Italoboyz” and we thought “Who are they?” So that's how our name came about. And we decided to keep it, because it's so horrible that it's cool, you know?'
The London-based duo are, you guessed it, Italian. They’re both from Mogliano Veneto, just outside Venice in Italy, but they’re quick to distance their hometown from that Disney-esque fairyland, lest we get the wrong impression. 'It’s nothing to do with the Venice lagoon,’ protests Marco. ‘It’s a proper downtown little city.'
With Italy in the 1990s dominated – or overwhelmed - by mainstream house, a second best guess would be that the Italoboyz play house. Nope. But unsurprisingly, they have roots in the genre. ‘I started out playing house,’ says Marco. ‘Because where we're from in Italy there's always been a very big house music culture. We went through all the possible evolutions of house music – tribal house, progressive house, hard house, funky house, experimental – and then also twisting around techno, because even though it wasn’t very popular we were interested because it was new and different.'
Amid the immovable status quo of house, perhaps it was inevitable that Marco and Frederico, both wading through mountains of records in search of interesting sounds, would meet. It was one odd record in particular which led to their chance meeting. 'We met maybe fifteen years ago at a house party,’ says Marco. ‘He was playing a record I really liked, and I was like, “Wow, you have this record?” So we started talking.’ What was the record? ‘Spastik by Plastikman.'
'I remember the early Plastikman because it was so different to what we were listening to, especially in Italy,’ says Frederico. ‘Because the major scene has always been made by these same big Italian names.’
'The same names at every party, at every club,” Marco laments. “North, South, always the same names.'
Frustrated with the scene in Italy, Marco resolved to pick up sticks and try his luck in the greener pastures of...London. ‘I started working in restaurants and bars part time, studying English too because I never studied English at school. I studied German! I thought why not? I want to try one year in London and see what happens. Then, slowly, things started to happen. The first party I was offered, I rang Frederico.'
‘I was in Italy working in a mobile phone shop. It was horrible,’ says Frederico. ‘He rang me and said, “Do you want to come and play this party?” I said, “Of course!” So after the summer I quit my job and came here.'
Off to London to seek fame and fortune, except that in true Italoboyz style, they didn’t plan it that way at all. ‘The fact that we are playing together as a duo is not something we ever planned to happen,’ explains Marco. ‘At the very first party we played, we had the DJ booth and the lineup there, but we didn't want to wait an hour - you play an hour, I play an hour - so we thought “One record each.”’
But what were they spinning? Call yourself “boyz” and punters are likely to think of Boyz II Men or Nu Shooz. Do Italoboyz play new jack swing? Well, no. Here’s a hint: These days Italoboyz are producing, too, with releases on Treibstoff, Einmaleins Musik and Safari Electronique – the kind of labels that remind you just how much fun regimented drums, tones and clicks can be. Was getting into production unplanned, too?
'There were some ideas we wanted to put on vinyl,’ says Marco. ‘Also the fact that these days if you’re not producing, you’re not going anywhere. The actual DJ who just DJs has disappeared.'
So who does what? In production it can't be just 'one record each', can it? 'We work either together or separately,’ explains Marco. ‘But we've got a bunch of people we collaborate with too.'
'We've worked with people like James What, Ed Davenport, Gummihz, Alban Hi Dini,’ adds Frederico. ‘But it’s always Italoboyz.'
Okay, the cat’s out of the bag – Italoboyz make minimal techno. Whatever that means. Hasn’t the current domination of the sound led to anything and everything being called minimal? Well, however one wishes to label it, Italoboyz create a lot of noise from limited resources. They’ve done three releases very close to each other this year. Are they planning to continue at the same vein?
‘Well, there’s already been a bit of a change in our music. We'd like to take a little bit of time and come out with something more thoughtful. We’re working towards a few projects, more housey, more groovy, and others more technoy. It’s not going to be clicky and glitchy.'
They say that like it’s a bad thing. Maybe it’s the glut of bad minimal being released these days, or maybe it’s the uberhipness, but producers who are proud to click and whir are becoming as rare as hen’s teeth. So is the London minimal thing totally different from what’s happening in Italy?
'Well, if you asked me this question three years ago it would have been different,’ says Marco. ‘I would have said there was a massive, massive difference. Now there is a moment in music where most of Europe - Italy, Spain, Germany - are so into this new wave, what's called minimal house and techno music, and everybody is producing and playing the same kind of music.’
‘I remember in Italy we were playing more that kind of sound, but it was weird because there were so few situations open to it,’ adds Frederico. ‘Italy was always far more funky house oriented, but now since minimal 'arrived' it took off immediately. Immediately.'
I ask if they find this situation depressing. Do Italoboyz feel like they’ve come full circle, escaping the stranglehold of house music in Italy only to find a new set of rules in London?
'At the end of the day what this minimal wave did was just to bring back what has been done in music over the last fifteen years,’ says Marco. ‘The minimal house thing now is a fusion of electronic, house, tribal, techno – a bit of this, a bit of that. It’s a reunion of a lot of different influences. So that is why I think today it so popular because it's suitable and understandable for most people,’ He leans forward, as if to spill a secret. ‘But this sound for us is a bit tired. It’s not explaining what we really feel right now. We want to transmit more emotions, more groove, more energy.'
Aside from producing and DJing, Marco is also keeping busy with Minimallondon, a collective of like-minded artists who have banded together to get their music out there. ‘The idea was putting all these people together under the name and see how to present this product together internationally. One of our biggest aims is for us to take part in festivals, because if you look at the lineups at festivals there’s always the same names. And these new people in Minimallondon - Dub Kult, Mark Henning, Mark Ashken, Gummihz - all these people in the near future will be the people who will make the international scene. So the idea is put us together, present it as a package, and see if we can export it.'
Product, exports, packages – for a project that came about by a series of accidents, it sounds like Italoboyz are getting down to business. Suddenly Marco turns serious. ‘We are very, very motivated by DJing and producing. For us there is no difference between a one million people gig, which has never happened so far, or a three people gig because there’s always the vibe, the excitement of playing for someone. I notice how some DJs in clubs, you can see they are lazy – they don't really look into the situation. DJing is emotional. It's a feeling you create with the crowd. It comes into being when you’re playing. The best is when you play long sets, when you can create a music journey and you are completely in control of what's going on. That's the best feeling ever.'
Frederico is laughing. ‘We just love to play.’