by Whitney Weiss
The first edition of brand new queer dance party Les Poppeurs also happens to be the London debut of Italian DJ Protopapa. Perennially sweet and often bearded; Protopapa is known for being a resident at Milan’s infamous party La Cannibale (and for his own legendary underground parties). Ahead of his first time at Superstore, we caught up with him to chat about Italian nightlife, Patricia Pellegrino, and releasing owls into the world (seriously).
Where and how did you get your start DJing?
I was still living in my hometown in the south of Italy, studying fine arts, when a crazy female friend of mine called "Fatina del rutto" (literally The Burping Fairy) decided we were going to start DJing with another girl, Gaia. Our sound was totally electroclash and every time we had a gig, we wore strange and colourful clothes (like flippers and diver's masks) and fluorescent make-up.Our first name was Electrogroupies 'cause we were able to get into every backstage possible.
You DJ a lot for fashion-related things, but also throw underground parties. How is your approach different in each situation, and do you prefer one over the other?
I'm still so lucky to work with some big names in the fashion industry and every time, I feel like a fish out of water because I like fashion, but I'm not so into it personally. What I'm good at is changing shape to adapt myself to different situations. What I like the most is when I see big fashion names at my underground parties.
How did you get involved with Le Cannibale?
During the first three seasons of Le Cannibale, we were competitors because I was throwing a Friday party and Le Cannibale was on the Friday too. And I was kicking myself since they always had the best guests ever, like Peaches and Hercules & Love Affair. For the third season, they switched to Saturday, so I was invited to DJ there once every few months. Now they're on their fourth season and I'm proud to be their resident DJ! I feel lucky when I play after or before Miss Kittin, Siriusmo, Pional, Azari & III and many more of my fave producers!
Take me on the best debauchery date ever in Milan, please. Where are we having dinner and drinks? What clubs/parties will we visit? Where are we going to after-hours? What time will we eventually stagger home?
If it's going to be a hard night, I would not have dinner, but a typical Milanese Aperitivo on Navigli, then two or three house cocktails at LeccoMilano, where the best drinks and weirdest people are. Then, if it’s a Friday, we will find some secret party in an unexpected location. Then, of course, we'll end up at an after-party full of fun trannies and techno music, or just some after party at someone’s house, maybe mine! No matter what, don't forget your sunglasses, cause we're going home late (or early, it depends on your point of view…)
Please explain your love for Patrizia Pellegrino (and describe who she is for readers who are sadly, until this moment, unaware of her existence).
First and foremost I love disco, and sometimes I even feel a bit obsessed by it, and I love everything from the 70s/80s. That was a time when every hot chick social climber, like Patrizia Pellegrino or Sabrina Salerno, was able to sing great disco songs and act in visionary videos. At that time in Italy, there were a lot of super fancy TV shows and their themes were my inspiration: sequins, glitter, sparkling lights and clothes, fantasy worlds and ambiguous lyrics. Yes, I'm definitely the gayest gay alive, thanks to Patrizia.
In addition to your work at LeccoMilano and Le Cannibale in Milan, you throw ridiculously sexy house/disco pool parties during the summer in Puglia. I hear there was a particularly good one with Alixander from Azari & III. How did that come to be?
I’ve thrown parties since I moved to Bologna some years ago, then in Milan for the last four years, but doing it in Puglia is not easy at all, even if is my home. Every summer I go there, enjoying holidays and my family, saying ‘this summer I'm going to do something big here,” but dreaming is not like reality and there are a lot of problems with locations there (and some mafia stuff too). Last year I was in Puglia, posting photos of my holidays, and Alixander III wrote me (we met each other DJing together at Le Cannibale and had fun later at an after party) saying he was willing to come to Puglia to play. So I called a good friend who organized a festival there, found a nice villa with a pool, called some friends to help and voila, there were 500 people—boys, girls, gay, straight—inflatable dolphins, good music, and my mother cooking for everyone.
What is the most ridiculous thing you have witnessed from the DJ booth?
Aside from some blowjobs, couples fighting for jealousy, threesomes, a guy who threw a cocktail on my computer and then come back with "SORRY" written on his hand, every kind of drug (even under my feet in the DJ booth), girls falling off the podium, blood and wounds, and naked guys... nothing.
Who are a few current Italian DJs or producers you think are doing really great things/making cool music/should be getting more attention?
Above all I can definitely say Populous, Clap! Clap! and Go Dugong. They're working so hard and so good, experimenting and putting themselves on the line. Take a listen to their latest productions and you'll say "I agree!".
Others I really like and hold in high esteem are: Bottin, Rodion, Brioski and Marcello Giordani.
If we had a time machine ready to take you to any dance floor, past present or future, where would you like to go and why?
Paradise Garage to dance like no one is watching while Larry Levan plays some new unknown house or disco track. Or, I’d go visit a Soul Train episode and do the catwalk dancing with Raffaella Carrà. I'm really obsessed with that period cause everything seems like it was easier, with less problems, full of cosmic universal love, full of freedom in its deepest meaning.
What was the first record/CD/tape you bought on your own, and do you still listen to it?
Okay, this is embarrassing. I think I bought Aerosmith and Beach Boys CDs the first time I had money on my own. Also when I was 11/12, I used to listen crappy ska, reggae and Rage Against the Machine music with my friends while secretly listening to Madonna's records and some '70s disco greatest hits on my own.
Have you ever released an owl into the wild before a DJ set? If yes, elaborate.
AHAHAHAH LOL. Yes, it really happened once, during a weird festival in Puglia. I was DJing in between live shows and the festival name was "The night of the barn-owl,” located in a far and isolated vineyard in the countryside. Every year during this festival, they release some owls found and treated by a local animal hospital,and the promoters asked me to release a owl puppy from my hands before the show began. It was so exciting, feeling that little heart beating in my hands and then knowing a charming night bird like that was free again. I think I felt some kind of empathy with that night creature...
Join Protopapa this Friday 20th February for Les Poppeurs at Dalston Superstore from 9pm - 3am.