“I don't want to just explore important figures but also different themes which are prevalent in the LGBTQ+ community.”
Matteo Bellani is the name and face behind ‘Bellini’, an electronic music producer from South West London (and Leeds during term time). Through effortlessly combining Lo-Fi house and disco beats with clever sample choices, Bellini showcases not only a good ear but a clear love and appreciation for this scene, making him one to watch within it. He chats to Fuzzy about making the decision to produce music earlier this year, his breadth of musical influences and an upcoming project to highlight the queer origins of dance music.
FUZZY: Hey! I understand you have been listening to and engaging with dance music for quite some time, and have been flirting with the idea of making music for a while. Did lockdown give you the push you needed to start?
Yeah, it was definitely a lockdown push…I’d been thinking about it for a while though. It was a bit of a toss-up between learning how to mix and produce music of my own, which I’d been debating for about a year and a half and not really got anywhere. When lockdown happened I kind of figured…ok...I gotta stop being torn and pick one [because doing both would be expensive given the cost of equipment, software and music] so I just thought I could get other people to show me how to DJ, so I would rather produce. Lockdown was a big factor in finally making a decision, finding something to pass the time is always good. I’ve been looking for a creative outlet for a while too; I played saxophone for a year when I was 13, but I didn’t try hard enough…Looking back, I’m kicking myself because I could have been a musical prodigy by now! I suppose this is me making up for that. A friend of mine gave me some good advice once: you should learn a new skill every year so your life passes by more slowly and you remember it more. I figured why not take up that advice.
FUZZY: What was the first dance music night you ever attended and what impact did that have on you?
My first dance music night was a squat rave in London in 2015, almost 5 years ago, with a few friends. That night was mainly Drum n Bass music. I wouldn’t necessarily say it had a big impact as such, but it introduced me to and helped me learn to enjoy, nights out. DnB was the first dance music genre I liked, especially Liquid, which I listened to a lot in my early uni days, and then I graduated onto other things which I connected with more, as a lot of people in our generation do. Now I would tend to go to more House/Disco and Garage nights.
FUZZY: Who would you classify as your favourite artists/musical influences?
I’ve got a lot of musical inspirations that span a lot of genres…I have quite a random, quite eclectic music taste that’s too broad to cover here but I’m easy with non-Chart Music. Growing up I definitely listened to a lot of Lauryn Hill, Beyoncé, Britney, Cher, and other female voices, I still do. Disco is very driven by black female voices like Chaka Khan, Diana Ross and Donna Summer. In terms of other musical influences more dance music-related, Pet Shop Boys is definitely up there…80s sounds and the flamboyant, over-the-topness, it sounds like people had such a good time back then… Italo disco, early house as well. Contemporarily speaking, I take inspiration from Palms Trax, Four Tet, Floating Points, Honey Dijon and Todd Terje as I feel like these are some names that make fairly pioneering music or play really good sets.
FUZZY: The first track you have released is called 'Bourgeois Society', and is inspired by Trans Latinx figure Sylvia Rivera. Can you talk us through the name and sample choices, as well as why you chose to centre the track around Rivera?
In the introduction, she says “I as a person don’t believe that a transvestite or a woman should do all the washing or all the cooking and do everything that’s forced upon you by the Bourgeois society”. I liked the way she said it…it was angry, I too hate the bourgeois society! I like the idea of giving songs quite random names, it’s quite mysterious and might intrigue people to find out more. When I picked that particular sample, I had the concept for the project and I was looking at interviews and found this one she did with activist Marsha P. Johnson and liked the bits where she is talking about smashing the patriarchy, transvestites (what they generally called trans people back then) and the idea of gender roles resonated with me as I’m not necessarily the traditional ‘male’, I like to be free to do what I want. Life’s more fun when you don’t put yourself in a box. I mean, it wasn’t intentional…I stumbled across it [whilst looking into Johnson] but that part of the interview resonated with me more. It was actually a really good learning opportunity for me to find out more about Rivera as she was one of the people who started Stonewall, was involved in helping homeless LGBTQ+ people in New York and was involved in loads of other activism through the years, in the second half of 20th century, such as STAR and GLAAD. If I could learn something then other people can learn something from this and find out more about her, look her up, find out about people of colour in the LGBT movement.
FUZZY: It’s Pride Month (yay!) and you have an exciting project coming up which encapsulates themes within the LGBTQ+ community and its role in the dance music scene. How is that coming along?
I guess the idea kind of stemmed whilst I was working on the first track. I haven’t fully fleshed it out yet, it’s still an outline and I’m still trying to figure out where I wanna go with it. I want to ensure it doesn’t become formulaic, I don’t want each song to repeat the same structure that Bourgeois Society does, and I’m looking for something fresh each time. I don't want to just explore important figures but also different themes which are prevalent in the LGBTQ+ community – gender roles, drug use, discrimination and sex to name a few.
Dance music has always been heavily influenced by those marginalised in society like queer people and people of colour. It’s surprising how much influence queer people had, especially now as you don’t hear too much about it and, as you might notice, it’s quite cis, straight and male-centric. RnB and soul music were heavily influenced by black culture and club nights would be full of queer people of colour. There were prominent queer DJs who dominated the NYC disco scene called Larry Levan and Frankie Knuckles.
Disco then fell out of fashion in the late 70s as a result of homophobic and racist backlash culminating in the Disco Demolition Night, which was when a radio DJ basically got loads of disco records and blew them up in the middle of a baseball game. Larry Levan began to play his style of disco at the Paradise Garage, which later became known as Garage House, the precursor to UK Garage and Knuckles helped to develop House music, and those genres became more mainstream. I feel like the history behind them has been forgotten and the audience and listeners have become more straight and white, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing but now with conversations around BLM and appropriation we are having today, it is important to understand where the music you enjoy came from. A lot of the prominent early people in this scene were both people of colour and LGBTQ+.
You can listen to 'Bourgeois Society', Bellini's latest track, on Soundcloud here.
Words by Freya Elgood Curtis.
28th June 2020.