Italian dance-punker Rocco Rampino, better known as Congorock, brings a different groove to the EDM genre. Rising up in the world with EDM anthems such as "Ivory" and "Babylon", Congorock has made his own mark on the elctronic genre.
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We discussed starting a solo career, touring with Benny Benassi (the two are scheduled to stop at the Marquee Theatre in Tempe on Thursday, October 25), craftiness, and why some remixes exceed the original track.
Up On The Sun: I'm looking forward to this upcoming show with you opening up for Benny Benassi. Y'all are associated acts with one another and work together a lot, so it seems like this show should be filled with great vibes.
Congorock: This is finally a chance to [have] our longest [tour] together. We're both always played single shows and we shared so many experiences together in the studio or in the club. This is the first time its not [as structured]. I think it's a good thing because it's like a sign that [there's] room for a mixture of this freshness-of-the-club ratio that's been going the last four or five years.
It would have been sad not to say I've never been on tour with Benny, because we don't physically share some kind of show or studio light. But it was supposed to happen at some point and I'm really glad to be a part of it.
You're known for collaboration; I believe you got your start by working with The Bloody Beetroots and then you progressed into your solo career.
Yeah, that's how I started my career. I met The Bloody Beetroots while working in the record label they were signed to at the time [Dim Mak]. I was just an employee. At this time they were just getting started. I was working friends with Bob Rifo, a member of The Bloody Beetroots at the time. I was working tracks with Bob and listening to music together and talking about this new wave of music on the verge of 2007, dance music and such.
Eventually, when Beetroots got started, I really wanted to try something on my own. Bob helped me by showing me some production tips. I started producing my own music and eventually he wanted to do a track together. [The resulting track was Congorock's breakthrough, "Rombo."] Before you knew it, I was creating tracks on my own and that was the beginning of my solo career.
This all started in Italy and then in 2007 you then moved to Los Angeles if I'm not mistaken?
Yeah, Bob and I are both from Italy. I was living in Milan at the moment[that's where we met]. It was the place where all the new waves of music and the different stuff took off [from]. So it was very obvious to meet in that environment.
That's where I started DJing. Even if I wasn't working the music business, I still wanted to have my thing -- DJing and producing. But suddenly everything started working so fast [and quickly found ourselves] on the other side of the world. We ended up in L.A. together and it was very shocking for me, but in a good way.
Before interviews, I'll typically sit my friends down and try to play music for all of my friends and see they recognize any of it, regardless if they listen to that genre of music. And it was pretty entertaining this time, because this time your track, "Ivory" was one everyone recognized.
I'm just amazed that this song has just become an anthem from every sub-genre of EDM to even those outside of the EDM culture.
[Laughs.] Yeah, you mention that track and I'm really proud of it. I thought I was going to do a kind of experimental or weird sound. I think most of the time I'm blending the music and I like to think what effects the song would have on a live performance, from a big system and a big crowd, and it works.
Even if it's strange or not really much of a classic EDM track, it became a classic over the last year due to everyone spinning it. I don't know, for me it's just a sign that everything is working. What I'm doing is right. The biggest drive for me is trying to make something that is unique and doesn't sound like anything else. So if my tracks can stand out like that and people love it because it doesn't sound like anything else; that's pretty good from me. What do you think separates you from other DJs?
I think my rock background has an effect on me. Going from both scenes you learn that people have their own styles. A lot of people take styles from others. I try to inspire others to find their own style. I find myself saying to some, "It just sounds like something else. I've already heard it." But it's really easy with dance music, because for some if it works in club, then so be it. But I feel that you can tell when something is new or not. So I think what it comes down to is making something that is unique to me. And there are a few artist I really respect in the EDM scene, because the created their own style. Even Skrillex has with the dubstep scene. I still don't think his real skills have been shown. I've been in the studios with him before and I feel like he could write any style of music. That's what makes a great artist. I have respect for these types of DJs as compared to those how would just rip off anyone else.
It's interesting you say that since Skrillex and you both took your own takes on "Cinema" by Benny Benassi. A lot of people don't realize Benasi created the original, because Skrillex brought many newbies into the EDM world So how do you feel about remixes of songs?
I loved working on some remixes and I've hated working on others. I have to be honest. I remixed "Cinema," because I was inspired. Some I am inspired by and want to do a good job so I take the remix offer. Some others I've taken just because I didn't want to be seen as unprofessional for me to say no. As DJ's we get offered to do remixes and we can either say yes or no.
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But there are definitely some remixes like "Cinema" you were talking about, as to where is one of those cases where the remix becomes bigger than the original track. I'm sorry Benny, but no, it's just that something else can be added to the track and be inspirational. I can listen to a song one time and tell if I want to make a remix of it. It's a piece of art. As long as I'm making what I want, I am happy.
Congorock is scheduled to perform with Benny Benassi on Thursday, October 25, at the Marquee Theatre in Tempe.