Ever since electronic dance music reached a degree of chart-topping popularity nearly a decade ago, a defined line has existed between the independent, techier, and minimalist underground and the melody-driven mainstream.
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Artists, by their own accord, fall into two camps. Of course, some traverse the line, earning respect from producers and listeners no matter which genre or style they prefer.
As of recent, Purple Disco Machine has achieved this state of dance music transcendence. A look at his numbers – 1 billion streams across platforms, plus 10 million monthly Spotify listeners – supports his status as the No. 2 Beatport Artist of All Time.
Yet, producing since the mid-1990s, Purple Disco Machine’s success is a years-long process that has reached its next chapter with Exotica, his sophomore album that dropped on October 15.
Exotica follows his 2017 debut, the aptly named Soulmatic. Exotica bridges classic and modern dance music sensibilities: A Giorgio Moroder-esque tribute to the ‘80s that heavily wears its Prince influences on its sleeve comes to life with collaborations from Elderbrook, House Gospel Choir, Bloom Twins, and Sophie and the Giants.
Furthermore, the release serves as a testament to his disco-inflected remixing skills that have added new and highly sought-after interpretations of tracks by Dua Lipa, Mark Ronson, Foals, Calvin Harris, Fatboy Slim, Sir Elton John, Royal Blood, Lady Gaga and Ariana Grande, Duke Dumont, and Diplo.
Propelling the success of Exotica is “Hypnotize,” considered Purple Disco Machine’s first truly mainstream release.
To date, the track has reached triple platinum status in Italy, gold status in other European countries, and No. 9 on the Global Shazam Chart. As the follow-up to “Hypnotized,” “Fireworks” – also present on this album – has garnered over 70 million streams to date.
With Purple Disco Machine receiving significant support and visibility from these efforts, we had a chance to speak about Exotica and his career to date.
You began producing in the mid-‘90s. How did you get started, and how have you refined your skills as a producer over the years?
As a teenager, I collected records and went clubbing, so I knew about the idea of being a record producer and a DJ. I started to work in my local vinyl record shop and became my own best customer, as I bought lots of records with my wages!
I thought, “Hey I’m spending all my money on music, so why don’t I try to earn all my money through music?” So, to supplement the record shop work, I became a DJ, and very soon after, I taught myself how to produce music.
It was when I was DJ-ing enough to pay my rent and getting my records signed to labels that I thought I could finally go full-time professional with this music career.
I’ve been producing records for 20 years now, so my skills have evolved mostly through experience. I very much trust my own instincts in the studio, but as my career has expanded, I have more people around me to offer their thoughts, which helps.
You’ve been bubbling under the mainstream for about a decade now, but broke through over the past two years. How does that feel?
As an artist, one always hopes that the music you make is appreciated by a wide audience, so on that level it feels great.
I’m proud of the records, so it’s wonderful so many people seem to like them and I can play them in my DJ shows to bigger audiences. At the same time, I realise that as an artist you have to strive to evolve and that success brings its own pressures. Hopefully, I’m up to the job!
“Hypnotized” is your biggest track to date. How did it come together, including working with Sophie and the Giants?
Because of the pandemic, it was all produced remotely. Until this summer, we only ever met in person once during the whole process. But hopefully, we can spend some time hanging out as the world goes back to normal.
How it started was I produced a demo in a mid-tempo Italo disco meets synthpop style, and the label A&R team sent it out to writers and vocalists to work on. Thankfully, Sophie and the Giants got it, and the rest is history! Within one minute of hearing their song, I knew it would be special.
What has changed about your career since you released “Hypnotized”?
On a day-to-day work level, I’m so much busier with promotion and marketing activities organized by my label as “Hypnotized” and the follow-up singles “Fireworks” and “Dopamine” are leading up to my album release on October 15th. And, there seems to be many more requests for shows and remixes.
I also get to hear my records a lot more on the radio – especially in Germany, Italy, and France where I’m sometimes recognized in the streets now – and I’m going to need more walls at my studio for all the discs the label sends me!
You’ve also made a strong mark as a remixer. What’s your approach for remixing an artist’s track, and how do you leave your mark?
There’s really only two criteria for me when taking on a remix. Firstly, do I like the original track enough to want to try, and secondly can I succeed with a Purple Disco Machine version of it that I would happily play in my DJ sets.
You’ve remixed a range of artists from Dua Lipa and Lady Gaga to Diplo. Who would you like to remix in the future?
I would like to try something with The Weeknd and Bruno Mars, as I love these artists’ work, but I would still have to apply my criteria above. And of course, there are still classics from the past that I’d like to put my stamp on.
Your second album Exotica drops on October 15. What should listeners expect?
There is definitely a theme, as all the tracks on are inspired by my own twist on the ‘80s music that inspired me growing up.
From electro funk , disco, Italo disco , club soul, house and pop, the álbum is divided between songs and my typical club tracks so that the two sides of Purple Disco Machine are represented.
How has Exotica evolved from Soulmatic?
Soulmatic was probably more connected to my DJ sets at that time, whereas with Exotica, I have moved more out of my DJ comfort zone and deliberately produced songs that could hopefully work on the radio, and others with different tempos and vibe to pure dancefloor tracks – though of course, there are still plenty of those on the album!
But hopefully, all evolutions are still within the Purple Disco Machine style.
Exotica features multiple collaborations. How did you select the artists you’d work with for this release?
It is really based on the song they wrote and their vocal performance. There was no thought of whether they were already a big name or that we’d been put together by the record company, etc.
The amazing vocalists on the radio singles are all artists at the start of their journey, and we have cool and quirky collaborators on the album tracks, too.
Clubs and other venues are starting to schedule dance music events again. Do you plan to start DJing before the end of the year, and if so, what should listeners expect?
I’ve actually been touring quite extensively since late July, as more and more markets opened up for shows. They have been going great, and my sets now mostly consist of my own tracks and remixes, plus some well-known classics that fit the mood!