(Photo: Tina Linser)
Following a good twenty years clocking up a sack load of music and life experience, Tony Lionni burst onto the House and Techno scene in a monumentous 2008. A dab hand at tracking the latest music trends, the man who once emersed himself in the legendary days of Manchester’s music scene, now finds himself in another influential city, Berlin, as an influencer himself. Instead of joining the dots behind the decks, Tony takes us through the times and tales that have seen him become an accomplished producer and tastemaker…
Tell us a little about your time in Manchester? How was it? You worked at the Hacienda right?
Manchester in its heyday was great for me, the best years were between 1986-2000, Manchester during this time was a hotbed of creative independence, full of people who were ready to take chances to be different and be outsiders, whether you were an Indie kid, a Soulboy, a Hip-Hop head. Fashion also during this period was great, with shops like Geese for the baggy tailored trousers, Richard Cremes shop full of Commes de Garcon and Gaultier, Wardrobe for Armani and Ralph Lauren, Graphic for its shoes and of course, Afflecks Palace for Rod’s records, searching for old Rare Grooves and Breaks etc, I could go on. I worked at Dry Bar, which was the Hacienda’s bar as I didn´t want to work in such a mad place. Drybar was a better place for me to work then afterwards go to the Hac with our VIP passes and carry on partying for the next day or two. I later went on to DJ regularly at Dry Bar playing a mixture of Rare Groove/Soul, Hip-Hop, Salsa and some House.
Did Manchester shape the kind of music you make today? Seems to have a habit of producing talent…
Yes of course, Manchester and the time going to clubs during the late 80s onwards certainly influenced where I am at right now. House records back in the past used a lot of vocals, big pianos and stabs, my music at times is an echo of a past generation of House music.
You’re now residing in Berlin right? Via Spain, do you like to try out different cultures from time to time?
Yes, I’ve been fortunate through my musical career to see a lot of this planet and meet people from a lot of different cultures I probably would have never experienced if it wasn’t for the music. life’s long but short and I want to experience what life has to offer, I am a restless soul and have the constant urge to keep on moving.
2008 was a big year for you, culminating in 2009’s ‘Found a Place’ - did you ever expect the track to take off like it did? You’d managed to build up a good pedigree with releases on Mule Electronic, Versatile and Francois K’s Wave…
Lets hope this year will also end equally as good with the album release out in October. ‘Found a Place’ was a little surprising in today’s unpredictable market but without sounding conceited, I always try to aim to write big energetic records of some kind and go one better than what’s out there. After that it’s down to the record companies and press and waiting to see if it has the ‘Lemmings effect’ - where everyone jumps on it.
You’ve had a number of releases on Wave Music now, how did you come about hooking up with Francois K?
I was sending demos to quite a few labels, anyone I thought was a quality label. I had the luck of making contact with Brendon Moeller, aka Beatpharmacy/Echologist, who was then the A&R man at Wave. He digged what I was doing; for me it was great to release on such a legendary guy’s label like Francois, because as a child growing up I now remember my Dad playing his records at home, tracks like The Strikers ‘Body Music’, FK on the mix. Within the space of a few days I had an offer from Gilbert R, aka Chateau flight, from Versatile records who wanted to release ‘Papaya.’ Then the week after Toshiya Kawasaki at Mulemusiq Japan wanted to release an EP of mine called ‘Better Change’, which was my tribute to Larry Heard. Although I’ve been experimenting with music for the last 20 years, it happened all at once.
Tell us a little about your B-boy days and your crew The Rebels In Effect, what made you go from Hip-Hop to House and Techno?
I grew up during the most exciting clubbing period, which were the days that B-boying Breakin evolved and entered the clubs, the days of wearing expensive sportswear and designer wear in a B-boy fashion, all of which has influenced today’s music and fashion tastes. The Rebels in Effect were formed through a collaboration of two friends of mine from the breakdance days, who later hooked up with a human beatbox called Moey and 2 Mcees from Old Trafford, Patrick Williams and Devon Wallace, Ricky Burton was the manager. It was these guys who introduced me to the Manchester black music club scene back then, the Friday nights at the Gallery were where beatboxing and what we called ‘shelling’ competitions were at, which were basically friendly type insults. The Rebels in Effect supported Soul 2 Soul, when they had their first big underground club hit called ‘Fairplay’, at the Manchester International for Stu Allen’s Bus Diss monthly night. They also went on to win a national talent competition for Sky magazine to record a track for Island Records; the deal fell through i think they signed to E17 instead or someone shit - and the R.I.E seperated. I was simply an affiliate, a sometimes beatboxer and dancer, kid ‘n’ play style. Back then in the clubs, the music was all integrated, you have Hip-Hop from a set time, then some House, then later Soul. Everyone was dedicated to their set music and there was also some friction whether or not it was acceptable to listen to anything other than Hip-Hop. I personally liked all types of black music, I used to love seeing the Jazz Fusion dancers dance to early House/Acid records in the clubs and youthclubs in the Old Trafford area late 80s. Dance crews like Footpatrol from the Moss Side area, and The Fusion Fanatics from Old Trafford.
What’s up next for you?
Going to keep on doing what i’ve always done, write music. Next releases are a pre-album EP for Freerange Records, with a remix from Deetron. Then My second EP for Aesthetic Audio records and my album in October - possibly a remix for DJ Hell off his album and whatever comes along in between. Also thinking it’s about time I started my own label or perhaps work a little more closely in the Fashion/Art world again.
Finally, any records you’re particularly feeling at the moment?
Yes, my unsigned, unreleased track called ‘Loving You’, you can hear it on my Soundcloud page, which I update regularly. Akabu’s ‘Raw Soul’, Joey Negro mix is dope, soulful and impacting. Must admit I am a little lazy at times, keeping track of what’s out there, sounding fresh, as most of it is garbage. Something house music has always suffered from, right from its early days, that’s my reason for listening more to other types of music like Hip-Hop. When I DJ, I play probably 70% of tracks released and unreleased of my own.