Stiv Hey: 'Our job is not a game'

Italian producer talks about his mentor, Dubfire, and what sets him apart

Italian producer Stiv Hey may be young, but he has already released multiple EP’s on Grammy Award winning artist Dubfire’s Sci+Tec label. The 25 year old has also earned support from minimal legends such as Richie Hawtin and Adam Beyer.

After his five-city China tour he will be moving to Barcelona, but ahead of his travels we Skyped with him from his current studio in Italy to discuss Dubfire’s influence, why he loves minimal and what sets him apart from other techno DJs.

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How did you get started making music?
I was doing a completely different thing with my life until seven years ago. I was studying to be a lawyer and then when I was on a holiday I met this guy who was from Italy as well and was a DJ. He started to explain to me what he was doing and I got passionate and excited and thought, ‘I want to have this life too!’ So when I went back home I started to learn how to mix and I tried to play at parties but the promoters in the beginning wanted me to bring people and I was really good at that. So at first I was really a promoter and I got to a good level in the area I was working in, but I wanted more than that.

So then I discovered music production and got really deep into it. After two years as a DJ and promoter, I spent the first year of university doing music production classes at night. At the end of the year I didn’t pass any of my exams at my university, but I got the full degree at the production school. By this time some big DJs were playing my tracks starting with Dubfire. In a really sort time they were playing my records. That put me in a cycle where I couldn’t stop anymore. From that point in 2012 till now it’s been a run.

What draws you to minimal music as opposed to other electronic styles?
I was always attracted to this music. The best feelings I had at clubs were at these kinds of parties. I was touched by this music. I still remember specific moments and I was so young, but it was so strong to me.

Then the first time I was to Ibiza I was still attending the commercial parties and the underground ones but I was having much more fun at the underground. When I started producing I understood why. It makes your brain busy. With techno you have a few elements but they are really powerful. There is a lot of thought behind it. There are some people that feel that and that is why we all like it so much.

Do you have something you do to clear your head before you work on music?
I would love to be able to meditate, but I haven’t gotten to that point yet [laughs]. I do stretches because they are very important for your body. I am in my studio 15 hours a day and I take breaks to move around.

Also, listening to other music is very important. Before I begin writing music, I always listen to music and not just techno but different styles as well. It depends on the environment that I want to set. The music I listen to affects the music I make, so I listen to melodic when I want to do melodic tracks.No one every really makes anything new these days. You are making things that have been done before. It’s important what you expose yourself to before you work.

Where do you pull your samples from?
I record a lot of my own samples and use online libraries such as Splice. A lot of producers struggle with looking for some crazy sounds, but they have everything they need on their computer. You can make unlimited things.

Do you have a favourite of your releases?
My favourite is always the last one because I am at a stage of rapid improvement. I am studying a lot and I am never satisfied with any of my tracks. I could spend another year working on them. There is always something to learn and things to improve. But if I had to pick a track, I would say ‘Stoned to the Bone’, which was my first release on Dubfire’s label.

Listen to 'Stoned to the Bone' here [VPNs on].

What artist has had the greatest influence on you?
Dubfire has always been my main point of reference. It really all started with him playing my track. As soon as I saw that Dubfire had played my track, I flew to meet him. We have spent a lot of time together as friends. He opened a lot of doors for me like a kind of father. He helped me understand how the music works, what it’s like to tour and what this DJ life will be like. I was very young at the time and he saw my passion and decided to show me how it really was.

Aside from minimal what is your favourite type of music?
There are other styles I like, ones with a good grove, but I don’t like the ‘ney ney ney’ noise in your head all the time that most commercial tracks have.

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Your music has definitely grown in complexity over the past few years. Is there something you've learned along the way you would suggest to other producers?
Stop looking for some special sound and start working on your mind and creating the right environment for you to be inspired. Without a strong idea the track is not going to work. Don’t follow the industry; find your own path.

I think there is something very important about me to know. People tend to play one track at a time. When one finished then they just pull up another one. To me that is really boring. I spend a lot of time building my sets. I use two controllers to play four tracks at time and then I use another one to pull samples from Ableton. My main goal is to get everyone dancing like crazy. I keep my style but of course you have to be open to different people’s taste.

When I DJ I am really busy. I am always doing something trying to create a crazy mix. A lot of people come and ask me what song I am playing and that is actually a quite complicated question. It is three tracks at once and a sample from another.

Do you have to rehearse a lot?
I always prepare a lot but then mess it up the way I want [laughs]. Our job is not a game. People are paying for a ticket so my mission is to give them the best time possible. People feel the work you put in it. Sometimes I spend one month preparing for a set since I am often playing 8-hour sets.

Why have you decided to move?
It’s more jealousy than support back home. There have been economic troubles for years. After my China tour I will move to Barcelona. Where I am now they want to control you. It’s not about how good you are. It’s going to be really different for me in Barcelona. Dubfire lives there half of the year as well. He is always there during summer time.

Plans for the near future?
I have six or seven releases planned for the summer of this year. I want to work towards being more selective with what I publish.

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