In conversation with Pierpaolo Di Gioia, founder of the Apulian techno collective Ways. For its 10th birthday, we offer you an exclusive interview (the collective’s first ever) to discover the origins and the growth of Ways; and above all passion for music, dedication for the people who compose it and strength in being different. So far the recent events to celebrate this intense journey of 10 years have seen the presence of Donato Dozzy and Surgeon, to name just a few. Now it’s the turn of the master DVS1 at the Aphelion Club in Trani this Saturday, June 17th.
How did the idea of Ways Collective come about?
It is a phenomenon that unfolded organically, without imposing itself forcefully. If we were to trace its origins, I have always had the impression that this idea took shape during one of my journeys to London. Perhaps because witnessing a clubbing culture that was far more advanced than our own, especially considering our context in Puglia, the London scene had already reached its pinnacle many years prior. There was a particular event that taught me to embrace such environments, and I remember it vividly: Graziano, one of Ways co-founders and I attended the Sandwell District label night, featuring the most influential artists of that time—Regis, Function, Rrose, Silent Servant—artists whom we have invited over the years and had the pleasure and privilege of hosting at Ways. In fact, on that evening, my question was, “Imagine if one day I could bring all of this to Puglia, to my homeland.” Upon returning to Andria and meeting with my friends, including the future co-founders of Ways, we playfully asked ourselves, “Why not? Why not bring all of this to Puglia and shape our own music scene, create culture?” We had no inkling at that time that it could turn into a business (and in some ways, it still isn’t). From there, the first parties took place between Andria and Trani, featuring our future residents and our first international artist, Svreca. The rest, as they say, is history… As we solidified this scene, we were able to present the premieres of numerous artists, without any external guidance, but simply by doing what we loved and sticking to our musical ideology. Our satisfaction lies in witnessing how many other entities have imitated us, and continue to do so, taking our model elsewhere throughout Italy.
What is your concept of clubbing?
Clubbing, as I have learned over time through our experiences at Ways, is for me a point of convergence, a metaphysical space where people come together to share the same emotions and a profound love for music and culturally akin genres. What we have been able to create is a flow of individuals who believe in the project, and I dare say that our skill lies in being able to attract and catalyse this stream of ideas, allowing it to grow. Our strength lies in not being tied to a specific location; we have ventured everywhere, filling numerous diverse venues. It’s like a home that is dismantled and rebuilt each time, paradoxically. To me, clubbing is a space where one can feel free, where a shared cultural and musical heritage is embraced down to the smallest detail. It embodies the desire to partake in the same moment of listening and dancing. It is incredibly challenging to find true clubbing experiences in Italy.
How many people work at Ways? What are the everyday challenges or the difficulties of a techno collective like yours?
The project was initially born from a specific group of individuals, some of whom have departed while others have joined. Currently, the project consists of four partners: myself, Andrea Di Bari, Michele Bianchino, and Massimo Rizzi. Naturally, we are surrounded by a team of 40 individuals, each hailing from and representing a nearby city in relation to the main urban centers of Andria and Trani, from where most of our collaborators originate. What is so stimulating is that the social structure underlying and supporting Ways is constantly evolving, open to all those who wish to contribute to the project. Back to the question, I think there’s a particular challenge in the realm of techno: the genre has a very rapid evolution, music takes on different forms, and many clubs are forced to host various types of events, prioritising certain trends of the moment over others, making it nearly impossible to maintain a consistent artistic philosophy. Unfortunately, they often face significant financial burdens and clashes with institutions. Consequently, clubs frequently find themselves compelled to accommodate other musical realities that compromise the standard of quality. Then, the main trouble in organising events of this nature in Puglia, and in Italy as a whole, is finding suitable locations that allow us to present our musical content and cultural product at their best. Many times, we have found ourselves creating our own venues to ensure continuity and, above all, to establish a meeting point for our community. For instance, I can mention the experience of “Il Pastore”, where we built an entire venue, driven by our desire to have our own space. However, the real difficulty lies in the lack of constancy, often requiring us to start from scratch. For us, it was somewhat a deliberate choice not to have a fixed home because venues come and go, but the essence of the project remains forever. What sets us apart is precisely this: all these ideas, the eagerness to learn and grow, we carry them with us wherever we go, even beyond Puglia.
The material may come and go, but the soul remains.
From the first day you had as guests local DJs like Z.I.P.P.O., Hiver, Dj Plant Texture, Cem33440 and Kaiser. They started playing at Ways then afterwards gigs in international clubs of the calibre of Berghain, Tresor and Circoloco followed. How is their relationship with the collective each time they return? Was it satisfying to see them growing and their music careers?
It’s just as we were born together, and step by step, we grew together. Our resident DJs, who have now become great artists, were there from the very beginning. Among the first were Dj Plant Texture, Hiver, Kaiser, Cem3340, and later Zippo. I initially knew them as friends, we came from the same place and sharing the same cultural heritage that our beloved Puglia offers us. After all, we began working together. This collaboration has only served to enhance both parties involved to such an extent that they have now become truly international DJs, traveling the world. This fills me with joy and makes me proud of the path they have undertaken. When I finalize the lineups, I always include one of them alongside an external guest. This brings me immense happiness because, in addition to the professional aspect, it becomes an opportunity for us to reunite and engage in what we have always loved since the beginning. I sincerely wish for all of them to continue growing in this industry, fully aware of how complex and challenging this world can be.
After a period of pause between 2020 and 2021, you came back on social media by stating “We know where we are from and where we want to go”. Do you think is it possible to evolve by not overturning your own roots? Is that what you have done since Ways took shape?
The truth is that we are still here after 10 years because we have taught our audience to truly perceive everything that we offer. The customer is the one who provides us with feedback, both regarding the genre and the musical quality, but we always remain steadfast in our musical philosophy. It’s for this reason that, in our 10th-anniversary session, we have chosen to showcase the fundamental pillars of the music scene and true cultural landscape. Ways, as long as I will be its art director, will undoubtedly maintain its musical identity. The artistic direction will never change, as our philosophy is distinctive. It consists of the continuous discovery of new talents and bringing back the great artists who have made a concrete, tangible mark in the techno music culture. At Ways, we have been fortunate to have such artists, and each time they return, they further enhance our reputation. We are well aware of our origins, and we have always held utmost respect for our future visions while maintaining coherence.
We will never conform to artistic promotions that simply follow trends. Instead, we explore new genres and within each genre, we seek out new talents, selecting those whom we consider key figures in the panorama. However, we always stay true to our fundamental musical philosophy and ideology. We choose names that will leave an indelible mark, deeply etched in the hearts of those who follow us and those who choose culture over ephemeral trends.
In March 2023 Surgeon released his latest album Crash Recoil. When he announced the namesake tour to present that, desirable cities such as Rome, Milan, Turin and Bologna didn’t appear on it. The exclusive Italian date was on 8th April at Aphelion Club in Trani, organised by Ways Collective for its tenth birthday. How did you feel about that?
First and foremost, I must say that it was a great honor for me to personally meet Antony Child. It was my first time, and he was one of the few artists I had yet to encounter among the many I have met over the years. I must confess that the greatest joy for me lies in meeting these musical legends in person, as it is an incredible and captivating experience that has opened my eyes to the world in ways I could never have imagined. I have learned so much from their way of speaking, thinking, and their overall vision. Regarding the leg of the Crash Recoil tour, to be honest, I somewhat expected it: we have created a cultural background that is fertile ground for all the great artists of the past and present. I believe that, in a sense, anyone could take pleasure in leaving a part of themselves in this decade-long project.
Best memorable party of the past years?
Simply impossible, to mention just one or even select a few. There have been countless parties that have embodied our philosophy to the fullest. I could mention Freddy K, DJ Pete, Mike Parker, Donato Dozzy, who have been our esteemed guests on numerous occasions. Arpanet (Gerald Donald), Lil Louis, and of course, the incomparable DVS1. More recently, we’ve had the pleasure of hosting Skee Mask. But truly, there are far too many to count, spanning over the course of 10 years of our endeavors.
An international DJ you can’t wait to host? And why?
I don’t want to spoil anything, but we’re already hard at work on the programming for 2024. It promises to bring forth and welcome once again some of the greatest artists in history. If I have to mention just one, it would be Special Request or Luke Slater, whom we have already hosted in Apulia in collaboration with another crew, performing under his act Planetary Assault System—an unforgettable live experience. There are also other artists in the pipeline, but I cannot reveal their names just yet. Rest assured, they will capture the world’s spotlight and shine it upon Ways.
Besides organising events in your beloved Apulia, Ways has also become a costant presence in the Milan nightlife. Djs like Schacke, SPFDJ and Courtesy have burnt the Milanese dance floors in recent years. Have you always felt appreciated by the local people?
In Milan, we sought to create a reflection of our Ways programming in Apulia. We curated a series of events featuring artists with whom we had previously collaborated in Apulia, presenting them within the vibrant context of Milan, embracing the local community and yielding exceptional results. Each artist we brought forth was embraced wholeheartedly by the dancefloor, both in terms of their talent and in terms of attendance. It was a testament to the efficacy of our project, as it thrived even within a distant setting, thanks to the invaluable support and promotion from the local community. However, it must be acknowledged that also in Milan the challenging aspect of finding suitable venues hindered our ability to maintain a consistent presence and expand within the city’s scene. Regrettably, there is a lack of venues in Milan that align with the visionary concepts we aspire to, and this poses a significant hurdle to collaboration and growth in this regard.
Your upcoming event for the ten years of Ways is on 17th June at Aphelion Club in Trani with the master DVS1. It’s not his first time being hosted by the collective and, as far as I’m concerned, not so many realities like yours had this privilege. What kind of bond the Minneapolis-originated DJ has with you?
We’re talking about one of the true masters of his genre, a musician who not only creates music but shapes and elevates it to perfection. He brings incredible nuances, imbuing the sound with depth and three-dimensionality through his distinctive and recognisable selection. His style resonates and is unmistakably unique. I have immense admiration for him. From the moment DVS1 first performed at Ways, more than 5 years ago, it happened to be an open-air event, it was love at first sight—for both him and us. This strong bond was established right from the start. As a result, all his gigs in Apulia have been with us, fuelled by this profound connection. Whenever we collaborate on an event featuring him, we manage to bring forth the true essence of Ways, which embodies the essence of a DJ like Zak, thanks to his skilful hands and immense musical knowledge. The audience’s response is a reflection of this bond. This year, we will be at a new and stunning location, the Aphelion Club, where Zak will inaugurate the summer season in this magnificent venue by the sea in Apulia. Everything will be set against the backdrop of the sea and the rising sun. Even now, we perceive the growing hype, as people can barely contain their excitement. It’ll be memorable.
Since 2013 Ways Collective has shared this journey with more than 100 DJs not only from Italy but also from all over the world: Ancient Methods, Dj Nobu, Fade Mohem, Hadone, Regis, Dj Stringay 313, Rene Wise, Function (just to name a few). By taking some steps back, would you have ever guessed to achieve this goal? Is there anything you regret?
When we first embarked on this incredible journey, we had no inkling of where it would lead us. Day by day, we explored our vision of sharing music with the world. Now, as I look back on all these years and see the faces of the countless individuals who have grown alongside us, entire generations who continue to evolve together with Ways, carrying the love and mindset of this project wherever they go, I am overcome with emotion. It sends shivers down my spine. We have achieved something extraordinary, and I wouldn’t change a single thing about the path we’ve taken. The serendipity and the challenges we encountered along the way have shaped us into who we are today. They have propelled our growth and extended our reach beyond our homeland. We have nurtured entire generations, and to me, that is priceless.
Since in the current year Ways have blown ten candles out, how do you see the collective in other ten years? Any long-term plans you can reveal in advance?
What we’ll do is continue following the same path we have been on thus far, and in fact, with the expertise we gathered, we can only strive to do better. Our ideology, the love for music, respect for others, artists, collaborators, locations, and the dancefloor, will never change. There will always be the same passion in curating our lineups. Now that the artists know us, the opportunity to bring certain names or discover emerging talents becomes somewhat easier. Ways have created a precious cultural heritage, and the next ten years will be a journey of exploration, delving into the best that music has to offer. It will be a continuous growth, a perpetual discovery, an ongoing process of mutual education and improvement. The love for music will last forever.
Ways / Techno Collective
Collective: Ways / @wayscollective
Artist: Pierpaolo di Gioia / @pierpaolodigioia
Copywriter: Riccardo Di Renzo / @_roberspierre
Interview: Gianmaria Garofalo / @gianmaria.garofalo