On the day I’m due to speak with Chevel, the Wi-Fi connection is bad. When we finally manage to get through to one another, it's difficult to hear what he's saying. Calling me from his home in Italy ahead of the release of his new LP which drops this Friday on Different Circles, the Italian producer, DJ and Enklav label boss obligingly places his mouth right next to the mic on his laptop – an awkward position which he holds cheerfully for half an hour – to run me through his story.
Chevel’s musical pedigree comes from a deep grounding in house and techno. With a constellation of releases under his belt, his upcoming record – a crackling nine-track weightless LP titled Always Yours and delivered through his own prism of house and techno – is his fifth full-length release. But before making the music he’s best known for today, Chevel started out making drumless music that was, in his own words, “atmospheric ambient” and listening to the likes of early James Holden and progressive house. It's something that the Treviso native looks back on almost incredulously. Originally introduced to the idea of making music at a very young age, Chevel remembers the exact ‘lightbulb’ moment well. At the house of his parent’s friends for dinner, the kids living there were making music and DJing in their bedroom – seeing their setup opened the then 11-year-old Chevel’s mind to a new world. “I was shocked because it was the first time I was seeing a computer, a mixer, records – everything. Psychologically, it was interesting. I was still a kid and I was still playing with toys and video games. I mean my first idea was, ‘Okay these are fun things to do – like playing Lego, you know?” he recalls with a laugh. From there, Chevel was hooked. He started to explore the world of electronic music and, at the age of 12, his father got him his first DJ mixer. From there, he didn't look back. Initially playing school parties in the small city he called home, the aspiring DJ became bored quickly with the lack of a club scene in his home city. He naturally progressed to making beats on Logic, finding the studio a place he could escape to and find solitude in as a teenager. At the age of 18, he uprooted himself and moved to Berlin. the mecca of techno, and started to play clubs and release his music before making the leap, in 2012, to set up his own Enclav label. Since then, he's been pretty prolific. Now, with a record on the way that nods towards those very first forays of his into making music without drums, there's a sense that weightless music has always been waiting for Chevel to arrive. Ahead of the release, we caught up the Italian polymath to find out how he stays on top of running his label alongside all his other responsibilities, how the new record was born and what weightless means to him.
How did you find the experience of being in Berlin after leaving Italy?
Chevel: For me personally, it was a big shock. I would say it was the second major shock I had musically, because, coming from this little town in Italy where you don't have the same kind of clubs and you can't really experience that same club situation. It was great because when I was 18 or 19, all I wanted to do was explore as much as I could and experience as many things as I could. And, of course, I met new friends, new colleagues – it was all really, really exciting. I don't think it directly affected my music – the change that came with my music was more of a natural progression, to be honest. I personally lived the whole Berlin situation and experienced it as a tough city, but in a good way. Again, because when I went there I was really kind of... it makes me laugh now remembering it, but I was kind of a romantic, 18-year-old Italian guy and I discovered all these new situations. To me, Berlin was like a temple of techno music. Berlin being such a cold and tough city kind of changed me as a personality – but not the music, so much. I think it was a good thing – I quite like being kind of cold and minimal when it comes to making music and playing music. I don't want too much cheese on top – does that makes sense?
Why did you decide to start your own label?
Chevel: It was after I had done a few releases with Berlin label called Stroboscopic Artefacts, I did some techno EPs with them but they were really, really busy and, in 2012, I thought, ‘I have so much music to put out’, so I decided to start this label. At the beginning, it really was that label where you just get stuff for free but, after a while, I met other friends who were making music, so I decided to make the label a bit more professional and we started releasing vinyl. I'm still running the whole thing myself so things are a bit slower now because I have other things to do, whereas, at the beginning, I was just immersed completely in the label. Now it's a bit different and it sucks because I would love to give more attention to it than I do but yeah, fuck it. It is what it is.
How do you juggle all of these different obligations?
Chevel: That's a question I need to start asking myself more. In retrospect, I've done so many things. Like, I was saying this the other day, but this album I have coming out on Mumdance and Logos' label is my fifth album and I have so many singles as well. On top of that, I run the label and I play gigs and I have other day jobs, as well. So, really, I don't have an answer to that! I would say that being really passionate about it all, like waking up and my only thought is, ‘How can I improve my music making?‘ or ‘How can I get better in this music thing?’ is important. It's not a competition, it's more like a small challenge. Having this kind of obsession – maybe that's the key to the answer and that's the key to finding balance for myself and time to do all this stuff. It's also a cyclical thing. I personally have moments where I really want to make music and I really want to produce. And then I have moments where I really want to be somewhere else and play and DJ. So, it's a balance of moments.
So you work as the mood takes you?
Chevel: Yeah, I think one thing fits the other. Like, if I stay away for a week of DJing I might have some really good memories and have been around some good energies but I want to be in the studio as well. For example – maybe I meet a girl or a boy who's making great music and that might give me the inspiration to make another release on my label or to sign them. I think it's all connected somehow.
You just mentioned the forthcoming release on Different Circles – how did the relationship with Logos and Mumdance come about?
Chevel: It's kind of a long story. I think it all started three years ago when I was staying in London for a month. Mumdance and Logos were running their Different Circles party at this pub in Dalston – I had my last record with me and I took it to them just to introduce myself because I'm a big fan of their music. I think that was the beginning because they were really supportive of that record. Jack (Mumdance) started playing it on the radio and we got in touch by email and then I met him last year in New York because we played together at this party and he was like, ‘Oh. I'm a big fan of your music – why don't we do something together?’ I was already working on finishing this album and I was like maybe we should do a single? I mean, I sent them 50 or 60 tracks and we just decided to do this album. It was all very natural and built on a real mutual respect between us all
The album is a weightless record – were you already working on making weightless tracks?
Chevel: Yeah. I had no label in mind when I was recording it but it was funny because on the album there's a track called “The Call” and I remember that I did that track exactly after those Different Circles nights in London – that was kind of the trigger and inspiration for that track. But after that – I mean, I wasn't interested in thinking about a label when was I was making the record. I was just doing a lot of stuff and recording a lot of sessions and it felt like the right place to be but before finishing the record I didn't know where I was releasing it. I think that's actually a good thing, because if you have a label in mind or if you're already signed to a label and you need to produce the record for them, that might suck because you have a lot of pressures and maybe expectations for how the music should sound and the music suffers from expectation, I would say. So, yeah. It was just a happy coincidence that I ended up with Different Circles.
To finish off, how would you describe a weightless track?
Chevel: I've always been interested in the club environment and not just playing the same kind of music all the time – like one-hour of straight techno. My personal definition, of course, it's kind of related to Mumdance and Logos' definition, but for me weightless means kind of pushing the boundaries of the club and the dancefloor to the maximum and seeing where it can take the audience in terms of experimentation. That's it.
‘Always Yours’ will be released this Friday, March 30 on Different Circles.
You can listen to Chevel's monthly show on Radar here. Next show April 1.