What was the plan when you made If Life Gives You Lemons, Make Lemonade?

I just wanted to make a fun club album with some cool ideas in terms of collaborations. Up till then I’d just been doing instrumental tracks so I did some tracks with Nôze and Trim and they worked really well. ‘I Was Drunk’ [the collaboration with Nôze] is my best track to date and I really have that to thank for being able to play 200 gigs a year for the last two years.

When you made it did you know it was something special?

We made it in half an hour. The beat’s so simple, then I just chopped the sample and sent it to them. They sent it back in half an hour like, ‘We’re just having fun.’ It’s like a reality track for them because they really get drunk all the time when they play. It’s not that we’re telling lies or pretending to be the super-drunk DJs! When I played the album to Jesse [Rose, whose Made To Play Records released the album] he said, ‘Every time I listen to this track it’s like I’m with a bunch of Scottish people in a stadium, singing and supporting a football team. It has to be the first single.’

I made the video in Ableton in a couple of hours. I had to wait for the bus to leave to go back on holiday to Italy so I had some time to waste. Someone had told me you can do videos in Ableton so I took Black Cat, White Cat – a movie I really like from Kusturica, who’s one of my favourite directors – and I did a funny edit. We got one million views on YouTube in two months.

Everyone all of a sudden started producing this Balkan thing, then there were a few other tracks like the Gramophonedzie one and the Yolanda Be Cool track which brought the sound to an even more commercial limit. We licensed it to a major label and they made the video with the baby with the moustache. One of the links on YouTube has something like seven million views, which is just crazy. To me ‘I Was Drunk’ is still an underground track; it doesn’t have any song structure, it’s just a crazy song talking about people getting messy and hanging out with chicks.

Other than your eclectic approach to sounds and samples, do you think there’s a defining characteristic of your production style?

If a track has a good groove with credible sounds that’s half the job done. A lot of people just don’t understand the slight difference between a well-produced tech house track with credible sounds and a cheap one. They might have the same drum pattern but for me the sounds are way different.

Most people just don’t understand it. Even a crap snare or clap sound makes the difference to a track. It’s hard now that people release stuff daily; you need to stand out from the masses. For me it’s even a good thing because it pushes me to do something different. That’s part of the reason why I’m doing a double album now.

You mentioned that you’ve restarted the new album three times already in the last 18 months?

Yeah, it’s not easy because I’ve been traveling so much. My initial plan was to try and make something in between club music and more electronic home listening but I just realised it wasn’t working properly. I decided to split it into two and make a dance CD which is going to be electronic and housey with some breakbeats, then a songs CD where I can explore some different sounds and collaborations, try to push myself into song arrangements and work with singers. But then I’ll have a club version of the dance CD because there’s no way you can release a CD with one minute intros, one minute outros and longer edits. Does that make sense? I’m still trying to figure out how to make it work properly.

And this is coming out on your own label, Snatch? Tell us about the name of the label and the concept behind it.

It makes sense with the concept of snatching and taking influences from each kind of music, no boundaries. OK, we like house music but I’ll probably put some hip hop beats on my album or there could be a B-side which is more electronic or breakbeat. I just liked the word, then I found out it was another name for pussy!

What kind of stuff are you listening to at the moment?

I listen to a lot of new music, unsigned bands, new indie bands as well. I listen to a lot of rootsy music. Actually, lately I’m listening to a lot of old-school ska and rocksteady. I just did a remix of ‘Let Your Yeah Be Yeah’ by the Pioneers for Trojan Records. It’s for a project with Clarks, the shoe company. Me, Toddla T and a couple of other producers from LA and Japan are doing four different versions of the track.

I listen to a lot of old rock too, like the early Genesis stuff before Phil Collins took over, early Yes, the Yardbirds… I’m obsessed with Nursery Cryme, the Genesis album with ‘Musical Box’. It’s amazing, a ten minute track with some incredible effects and vocals. I’m getting inspired by that sound at the moment.

Of his ADT summing mixer, Stefano says: “This is the cheapest mixer ADT make and it’s not cheap! It’s totally analogue and made the old-school way. I don’t make stems, I just mix everything in analogue through this. I use the first 16 channels for synths and FX, then eight channels for drums. I use four sub busses: one for synths, one for drums, one for bass – which is always separate – and one for FX. Then I’ve got the mastering section with an EQ and a massive limiter.”


Riva Starr’s Freedom EP is out now on Snatch! Records. Check him out on Facebook, Twitter and SoundCloud.

Author Greg Scarth. Photos: Jerome Slesinski
24th June, 2012


  • Good questions. Riva is the man!

  • Some serious sick kit there, damn,


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