Born in Scampia (Naples) and saved by music

A talk with Deborah de Luca.

From dancer to DJ, Deborah De Luca talks with us about the night she fell in love with the decks. Growing up in a tough area of Naples, Italy, music is what saved her and gave her shelter while growing up. Now, she tours around the world from South America to Australia and manages her own record label “Solamente” a name which clearly reflects that she has come all this way on her own. Here also presenting a selection of her personal highlights outside the techno sphere for our latest Soundscapes release.

Listen to Soundscapes vol.124, curated by Deborah de Luca.

Current state of mind?
I feel extremely grateful for everything that I have, and in small steps I’m rebuilding a part of me that I have neglected for too much time, I feel serene!

What inspired you to become a DJ? Was there a situation that became a turning point for you to start dedicating your life to DJing and making music?
I was in Riccione, Italy. I was working as a dancer at a really beautiful party during Easter, and I saw Scarlett Etienne on set. I saw her so strong, sure of herself, but at the same time simple, like she was born for that. I spent the next two hours staring at her, she literally hypnotized me. I came back home and I thought I wanted to feel like her, and I asked a friend to help me, teach me, explain to me a little about the world that for me was so new and totally different from everything that I had been doing so far.

You grew up in the periphery of Naples. What kind of music were you exposed to during your childhood, do you think you still bring something of these inspirations to your sets in any way?
I was born in Naples, grew up in Scampia, a tough area of Naples where, at the time, it was very easy to give up and choose the wrong way. Music has always saved me and still saves the young people who live there. Music is an island to take shelter every time you want to and dream of doing big things, waiting for the real occasion for actually doing them. I was spending the afternoons with my father listening to his vinyls; and all that music from the 60s, 70s, 80s, and 90s can be found in my productions full of melodies, never straight, never anonymous… for sure you remember that.

Do you think being a dancer before playing and making music has influenced your sound?
I was hoping yes, but then, when I started DJing, I was shivering anyways, like it was my first time in a club. It was a completely different job, a different task. When I used to dance, my only thought was which bikini colour I had to wear.

Also you were trained as a fashion designer but then you went into music, does your relationship with fashion continue somehow?
The truth is that I like fashion but only when it’s the other people who are doing it, and sometimes not even [that]. I became that type of person that buys 5 identical trousers, because they are comfortable and doesn’t want to change that. I couldn’t become a designer with these prerequisites for sure!

What was the first rave you attended? Were there raves back in Scampia or around the area?
I have never been to a rave. When I was 19, I started to work as a waitress in clubs, therefore I have never really been a clubber. I went from being a waitress to a barista, from a barista to a dancer, from a dancer to a dj, without ever really hanging out in the clubs.

What is a typical day like for Deborah De Luca?
I am a creature of habit: when I don’t travel, I wake up around 10am (not really later but not really early either), I spend a lot of time with my dogs and those from the shelter that I help, then I go in the studio if I have a project to finish; I like cooking, being at the beach with the dogs ( I live by the sea); I love laying for hours on the couch watching Netflix, all this because I spend whole weeks where resting is a miracle, so when I’m at home I act like a bear, I go in hibernation, and I go out rarely!

How is your process to make a song? Do you think about the audience, how you will mix it with other songs, or do you start from scratch and see where the track takes you?
I never think about the audience when I choose a song to construct, just because I think about what I like and about the emotions that I feel. I think of the audience just when I decide to test [the song] and realize if there are some things to change; but usually we have the same tastes, in the sense that, who comes to listen to me loves everything that I do, because it has a logic sense; I have never done something that is completely opposite to who I am, I wouldn’t feel comfortable with myself.

What about the process of putting together a set?
Actually I only prepare the first 4 tracks of the set, those that I need to get me focused on the audience and not on looking for what to play for the first 20 minutes of the set. In those 20 minutes I understand where I am and what public is in front of me and, then, I find the right way for them to have fun.

What’s the wildest/funny thing that has happened during one of your sets?
The funniest thing… maybe when they tried to give me money (tips) to ask me if I could play a song of mine that I had already played 5 minutes before. They wanted to listen to it again, or maybe they were just drunk and didn’t realize that I had already passed it.

It makes sense that you started your own record label, since you have always worked on your own, managing your own time and gigs without an agent. What inspired the name “Solamente”? Does it refer to the fact that you have been managing your own career all by yourself? Is your label a place to give a spotlight for upcoming artists?
Around 12 years ago when I was looking for a word that was both Italian and Spanish, then, yes, I wanted [something] that would link with the fact that I have basically always done everything by myself, including the bookings; then ‘solamente’ came up. I funded it in order to publish every song of mine without having to wait for the confirmation of another label or to change some things to make the song right for a specific genre, forcing me to ask another label to get [the song] published. I founded it to feel free, and, at the same time, I give space to emerging young artists that struggle to find someone who gives them a possibility

You’ve been in the DJ scene for a long time and being a woman it must not have been easy at first. How has the scene changed since you started playing?
The world of techno has been ruled by men for several decades. The few included women were anyways women that were hiding their femininity a little bit, almost for fear of not being considered at the same level because aesthetically pleasing. Fortunately, today for women is less difficult than when I started. Today there’s more attention to women, in fact, there’s an inclination towards women rather than men on set. And it’s something really beautiful… a hard-earned and deserved goal; but when I started, we were the right people in the wrong place. Closed doors everywhere, like it was a job and a world exclusively masculine. It took us years, silent battles but parallel to our careers to overthrow those closed doors and to demonstrate that we could be the same as the male Djs, in fact, let me say this, in most of the cases, even better!

Is there any place you would like to play that you haven’t played yet?
I am very lucky. I played in the most beautiful and important places in the world; there’s nothing that I miss. I would like to have an event in a more wild place, some place uncontaminated, where people dance without shoes or under the rain without looking at their watch.

Tell us a secret.
I have revealed it some questions ago, I have never been to a rave, unfortunately, not even to an after party in Ibiza

Upcoming gigs, where can we party with you next?
all the dates of the calendar of 2023 completed! Ibiza, South America, Australia, America, all Europe…I just miss the moon. The next event that I am really looking forward to is the one on the 5th of January at Cromie, Castallaneta (Italy), one of the most beautiful clubs in my opinion!

You may also like

Tresor31 Festival

Art&Culture | Spotlight
2 month long festival celebrating their 31 year history from July 8th – August 27, Berlin.

“Dero” by Heith

Art&Culture | Spotlight
Daniele Guerini aka Heith is the co-founder of highly acclaimed Haunter Records and ex-curator of Milan’s notorious venue Macao. He will soon release his first album and debut on Bill Kouligas’ PAN imprint, ‘X, Wheel’ on October 7th but ahead of that today he releases a surrealist music video for the track ‘Dero.’

Soundscapes vol.5 / Parma Ham

Art&Culture | Soundscapes
Parma Ham is London based gallery producer (collaborating with the Serpentine Galleries), designer and DJ at Torture Garden & Slimelight. Here guiding your day time through a wide minimal/electro-to-techno playlist.