In Search of Lost Time

A talk with System Olympia.

In conversation with System Olympia before she releases her LP “Racing Heart”. We talked about romanticism, sensuality and the importance of telling a story. Through her music, her radio shows at NTS and her private monthly parties “Love Language, she lets us get into her universe. A universe where mystery and pleasure are always present, and everyone is invited.

What is your first memory with music: the first song you remember, the first instrument you played, the first concert you went to?

My first memory with music is my mom playing a Lucio Battisti cassette tape at home. The song I remember the most from that tape is “La Collina Dei Ciliegi”. Then my grandad gifted us a stereo system, so I was able to buy CDs and records. I think the first CD I bought was Prince’s “Purple Rain”.

How do you keep the music fresh and exciting, but still resonate with you?

It’s an honest, visceral desire to create that drives me daily. As long as I have this urge to get into the studio, I know I still have something to give.

What is your process of creating a song like?

I usually start with playing around on my synths and getting into the zone. Then maybe looping a bassline, or a melody, then build on top, layer after layer. I don’t sample much anymore, but sometimes I still do if I run into something that blows my mind.

You’re a resident at NTS, have your own “Okay Nature” label and make your own music. When is music a job and when is it just a pleasure? Can you draw a line or is it both?

Making music, writing songs, recording, mixing and playing songs on NTS are always a pleasure for me. Unfortunately the dream comes with some elements that I personally find less amusing: negotiating contracts, meetings with lawyers, business planning. All the admin sides of my career that are not creative bring me back to earth and remind me that this can very much be just a job like many others.

There is a constant romanticism in your music and in your playlists which also generates an atmosphere of mystery and sensuality. I imagine that your influences don’t only come from music. What movies, directors and artists from other disciplines inspire you?

My influences come from everywhere but the romanticism and sensuality in my music comes from my own emotions. There really is not much of a filter between what I experience emotionally and what transpires in my songs. My radio shows contain so much of my personal life, they are almost like a journal I write via subliminal messages. Maybe one day all my material will make sense together and my body of work will tell my life story, like Jack Kerouac and Marcel Proust.

What do you do when you’re not making music and where do you go to relax and let off steam?

Music takes the majority of my time: I’m either writing it, or recording it, or listening to it. When my ears get tired, I usually go for a walk in my local park and make it a point not to bring my headphones. I also enjoy reading and watching documentaries.

Can you share with us an insight into the private monthly party ‘Love Language’ that you organise in London?

I’ve been wanting to have my monthly party for a long time so when The Standard Hotel came to me with the proposal I was very excited. My idea was always to create a space that would feel like a dip into System Olympia’s Universe. So many people often come to me describing how my songs and the music I play make them feel, so I wanted to host some events where people can come and experience all of that in real time.

You grew up in Italy, but you’ve moved all over the world. That shows in your tracks; there is a variety of sounds that combine to create a very particular atmosphere. How did you form that sound that can sometimes be Italo Disco reminiscence, to synth pop? What kind of music have you been exposed to throughout your life?

My first ever musical influence was MJ. I think Thriller is probably still my favourite record of all time. Once my hormones kicked in around 12 year old or so, I started staying up at night to watch Italian soft porn movies – most of them had sensual Italo soundtracks. That already formed big chunks of my general creative frame and aesthetic sense. High School was a mixture of grunge and hip hop. By the time I was in Uni I got into record digging and I started DJing in clubs. In LA I met some of the people that would hugely influence my music taste, and when I moved to London I was very lucky to become part of the incredible Plastic People’s family.

I understand that in the musical and album processes there is a combination of things that happen and lead to a result. But, was there anything in particular that inspired you to produce your latest LP “Racing Heart”?

I wanted to write a record that told a story. The story starts with a woman in a car, thinking her life is over, but then changing her mind. She then begins a journey made of psychedelic cab rides, imaginary lovers and vivid visions pulsing out of her cervix . The story is told through mesmerising layers of pads and romantic lyrics.

What does it mean to be a producer? And more importantly, a female producer, knowing how difficult it is in the music industry, and still managing to make a career and be recognised.

Being a female producer means nothing to me. I understand the white/male/straight world dominance has to be stopped and I’m all for it. I work mostly with women, I am inspired mainly by women and my love for them is vast and expands from the metaphysical to the physical. Having said that, I hope I never get booked anywhere because I am a woman.
Play my music cause my music is good – as good, or better, way better -than a lot of dudes out there. Music and art are not limited by biological features like physical strength and endurance. If being female had an actual impact on my ability to create, we would have a music WNMA, but we don’t. If there is a Lebron of beats out there, let me play with him, cause I can, not cause there is an empty space in the team to be filled with whoever has a female pronoun.

What are your plans for the future? Will you be presenting your new mini LP? Will you be releasing more music soon after?

My plans for the future are to sell out this new record as fast as the last one, to expand my label, to produce some of Dua Lipa’s next album and to buy a beach house in Malibu.

Listen to Soundscapes vol.112 curated by System Olympia.

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