An Interview with Tony Lionni
Tony Lionni has endured a somewhat hard-earned ascendancy to his music career, and while he has now established himself as a reputable artist, it was never an overnight success for the Liverpool-born artist. After solidly writing music for the best part of 20 years and yearning for a career in an industry he was determined to crack, Lionni finally made his first real breakthrough in 2008 with a flurry of successful releases on the likes of Wave Records and Versatile Records. Since arriving on the scene he’s enjoyed releases on the likes of Aesthetic Audio, Freerange and Ostgut Ton, with a number of Detroit techno inspired, deep house patterned and soul-embroiled tracks that have given Lionni an identifiable sound. Having since cemented his status on the scene with various remixes and releases, as well as holding down regular spots at the likes of Panorama Bar, Lionni continues along the path of music experimentation with his latest project.
“Before the internet revolution you had to be 100% hungry and dedicated to root out good Black or Dance music as its commonly refereed to today. Too many people are making it for the wrong reasons or simply shouldn’t be making it at all as what they are making simply isn’t what I would consider to be music.”
Finishing off 2013 with his second full LP – Just A Little More – Lionni’s sound thrives on the same lifeblood of his previous music, with a continuation of his polished productions filled with more soul while pertaining to his knack for beautiful house melodies and penchant for rhythm. It’s a more complete piece of work for Lionni, who says he’s “matured” a lot as a producer since his last LP release back in 2010, and it’s clear to see that evolution in his music.
Individually, tracks remain organic and characterised by commanding groove; in its entirety, there is a great sense of progression and evolution. With 3 different vocalists on the album – including Chicago House legend Robert Owens – Lionni’s deeply rooted black music influence is there to see, and his close affinity with Jazz transcends across his productions excellently. It’s an album that is musically and carefully thought out, with the sum of its parts resulting in a very satisfying and complete whole, offering great sit down and stand up value.
Lionni can be considered a musical purest, an artist who evidently goes about writing and releasing music the right way and realising the true worth of creating a piece of work that it is virtuously representative of oneself, as opposed to making music for music making sake. In light of his latest LP on Kerri Chandler’s Madhouse Recordings, we caught up with Tony to talk about the album, the Manchester club scene back in the day and his take on the music industry nowadays.
1) Firstly, massive well done on the LP; we’ve been big fans of your music for a while now and have followed your movements pretty closely as an artist throughout your career. The album is notably more soulful than your previous work and your collaboration’s with Robert Owens, Rachel Fraser and Maria Marcial certainly heighten that – how do you think your musical style has evolved from your As One release on Freerange back in 2010?
Many thanks for your support always appreciated. I’ve matured a lot more as a producer, the more you listen to music the more self critical and experienced you become.
2) It can often be difficult for ‘dance albums’ to maintain a balance of consistency and direction but with this album there’s a real sense of journey and progression throughout the record – what kind of mind-set do you put yourself in when making music? Do you find it difficult to maintain that level of coherence in an album?
When undertaking the project of writing an album you have to keep constantly making adjustments, especially in this case as I wanted it to have a progressional effect whereby the album starts off at a transient level and later develops into a more uptempo late night affair. In this case you have to look at the whole project with an “Overview Aerial Approach” examining the start, middle and ending of the whole album.
3) You’ve previously cited Kerri Chandler as a prominent influence on you, so there must have been a great sense of achievement for you to have a release on his Madhouse label. How did this come about?
Of course – I have a massive sense of satisfaction, never would I have thought 20 years or so ago when I first heard Kerri Chandlers music that I would have developed to a level of such musical production that I would be invited to record a full length album for such a talented individual as himself.
4) Its quite rare to find an artist in today’s music circles who has experienced and witnessed the Hacienda. In your RA interview you mention how Manchester got a little bit boring after the loss of the Hacienda – what did the Hacienda represent for you? (Any particular stand-out memories?)
For me the Manchester club scene was more important before I started going to the Hacienda, even though it was always an important venue for other types of black music from its start, from the days of electro and breakdancing right throughout the 80s hip scene to its last dying days of house music.
The best thing for me about the Hacienda was a Jazz fusion crew called Footpatrol who were legendary club icons, watching them dance to the best house tunes at the time and take over the right hand corner of the Hacienda dance floor was incredible to watch in terms of fashion, dance moves, ego and energy.
I actually worked at Dry bar which was owned by The hacienda management and I preferred to work there instead of the Hac as it was a little less maddening. My Philosophy was better off to work at Dry bar which was good fun, get my Hacienda staff pass and go party after work without having to deal with all of the Mad-heads and gangsters at the bar!
5) What impact did leaving Manchester for Spain have on your musical path?
I left Manchester as I had achieved everything that I was “allowed to” by the new people who entered the city after the Hacienda days who were then running things that I wasn’t a part of and, didn’t feel a part of. I felt I had to leave to achieve the rest of my desires musically. Spain always had a good electronic music scene and a high appreciation of good black music, so my decision was made for me.
6) You’ve been involved in the electronic music industry for over 20 years now, properly making your breakthrough around 2008. On a personal level, what would you say about your time in the industry and what’s your take on the electronic music industry nowadays?
Ive had my moments of self doubt like everyone. Today the market is saturated and people are lazy.
Before the internet revolution you had to be 100% hungry and dedicated to root out good Black or Dance music as its commonly refereed to today. Too many people are making it for the wrong reasons or simply shouldn’t be making it at all as what they are making simply isn’t what I would consider to be music.
Anyone can make something which is considered to be music as it has musical notes and a rhythmic pattern but has absolutely no soul, harmony or intention. Simply because you make something in Ableton, put it on vinyl and get it released on a record label because you are a promoter and have booked a record label owner and in return they put out your record, does not make it good music.
The current house music market is too much centered around this exchange of Club promoter is a wannabe Producer with high hopes of being a superstar Dj so they book their favourite record label Head Honcho, in return the Head honcho can’t refuse them as they fear losing the Dj gigs from the said promoter in that territory. This is the problem that has weakened the whole House music scene with the recent collapse of the music industry due to the lack of revenue from record sales due to the digital age.
7) We know of your involvement and love for hip hop, which artist(s) had the biggest influence and impression on you?
My god so many – I followed Hip Hop right from its early days from hearing Sugar Hill Gang and the like played on the black music radio stations my dad used to listen to in the late 70s. The golden decade was the latter half of the 80s with the whole resurgence of Black power integrated into the Hip Hop movement scene with the likes of P.E etc.
8) What music are you listening to at the moment?
Modern contemporary Jazz music as I’ve listened to obsessionally for more than the last 20 years all day everyday. Soul music as always and Hip Hop though my mind has always been wide open to all music – I was one of those kids who always had a portable transistor radio pressed against my ear underneath the blankets in bed late at night and would listen to anything, classical music included.
9) If you could collaborate with 1 producer who would it be and why?
That’s a difficult one though definitely not another house producer, possibly someone like Robert Glasper who is a wicked Jazz Pianist.
10) Finally, what have you got lined-up for 2014?
I’m working on completing an EP for Aesthetic Audio from Detroit and possibly a couple of remixes for people. Most of all, simply continuing to keep writing music as I’ve always done, keeping it varied depending the label “I choose” to work with based on my own musical merit.
Big thanks to Tony Lionni for taking the time out to speak to us. The album is available to buy both digitally from here: http://smarturl.it/JALM-