An interview with Riva Starr

© Ed Marshall
Posted: Wed Jan 5 2011

Fresh from opening Pacha'a Ibiza season, quirky house maestro Riva Starr tells us how he's going to wow Londoners at Time Out Live's next Nite Session in July

As I'm interviewing one of the most exciting names in house music, Italy are being battered by Slovakia in a dramatic World Cup match. They eventually lose, and fail to qualify from their group for the first time in more than 30 years. But for Italian-born DJ, producer and - naturally - football fan Riva Starr, life is on a winning streak.

Starr (real name Stefano Miele) is a former breakbeat DJ and, after emigrating to London from Naples, spent last year impressing the blog circuit. But since releasing his debut record, 'If Life Gives You Lemons, Make Lemonade', on Jesse Rose's Made To Play label at the start of 2010, he has been catapulted across continents with his quirky breed of percussive and globetrotting tech-house.

The fruits of his labour are obvious in his zany tour schedule: he gave Miami's Winter Music Conference a huge wakeup toot at the Dirtybird party in March and recently fired up Pacha Ibiza's first rave-up of the season. His infectious brass vibe is everywhere and his Balkan-inspired single 'I Was Drunk' is about to be re-released on a major label in August.

Starr may not be the most striking man in dance music but this is going to be his summer. No, his year. Which is why we're delighted he's headlining our next Nite Sessions club night, on July 2 2010 at 'intimate' venue East Village alongside Hannah Holland, SBTRKT and the Peanut Butter Jelly Time gang.

It's his only London club date before he flies back out to Ibiza and around the world to win over more thirsty dance fans looking for someone fresh. But first he chats to us about becoming a father and not being a Balkan DJ.

Are you watching the World Cup?

'I was just watching Italy play, but I'm not expecting much from them. I like England too because I live here and because their manager is Italian, even though they're not doing any good either. My last hope is Argentina because their manager [Diego Maradona] played for Napoli.'

Isn't your name footie related too?
'Yeah. Gigi Riva was a very famous Italian football player in the '60s. I've always been a big football fan.'

What has life been like since you released your album?
'It has completely changed. I don't have time for anything at the moment! I'm constantly on the road or in the studio remixing. And then I launched my label Snatch! Records with a party at T Bar. Everyone is talking about us and we've got some really good things planned. Plus “I Was Drunk” is getting daytime plays on the radio and Positiva/Virgin is re-releasing it for the summer. My life has changed on the private side too because I had a baby in the middle of the chaos. That's keeping me even busier - but it's good energy.'

How do you manage to strike a successful balance between being underground and being accessible?
'My music has to be danceable and it has to keep that underground feel. Since “I Was Drunk”, I've received hundreds of tracks with Gypsy samples. I've been listening to folk music since I was a child so I tried to make that track in a very respectful way of the originals. Some people try to do it for money or for trends, but you have to make music with taste.'

People wrongly call you a Balkan house DJ off the back of “I Was Drunk”. What do you say to that?
'I'm a house DJ. My house style is like a magician's hat: you can put your hand in there and you won't know what will come out of it. I get a lot of emails from Balkan beat DJs saying that I've refreshed their scene because of the tune, and that makes me happy because I like that music, but I play house all the way.'

You've played in both Miami and Ibiza so far this year. Do they still make and break DJs?
'Yes, I think so. I just did the opening party for Defected at Pacha with Bob Sinclar. I did the last set and I was quite worried because I thought Pacha was mainstream for my style, but I had a lot of fun. They were loving Bob
Sinclar, but jumping to my set too, which was really unexpected for me because it was quite underground and
housey. But I guess that house is a universal language - and I proved that.'

What can we expect from your set on Friday?

'A lot of fun! It's an intimate venue so I can play more house and groovier stuff. My sets are not monotonous; it won't be just techno or just minimal, and I'll be playing lots of new tracks.'

Your album title is quite aphoristic. Do you have any more nuggets of wisdom for us?
'At this exact moment, Italy are losing 3-1, which is quite shit, so I won't give you any advice about soccer! But other than that, don't get too drunk before I start playing and then you can do whatever you want while I'm on.'