IN CONVERSATION WITH NOCUI
Italian born and Berlin based Leonardo Di Fiore, aka NOCUI, is bringing a fresh and exciting sound with his new single ‘Higher Energy’, from the forth coming EP ‘Starlight Delight’. This project draws inspiration from various musical genres, including 80s Japanese records, Italo Disco and Classic House creating a unique blend of sounds and influences, with the ability to create seductive and memorable club music. Founder and creative director of Shapeless Culture, it seems like NOCUI is on a promising trajectory in the music industry. Here are some words about the DJ set he mixed exclusively for us:
This set encapsulates a multitude of my musical influences, ranging from timeless classic House tracks to more contemporary tunes. It also features unreleased tracks of my own, blending various moods, colors, and emotions into a distinctive sonic journey. This compilation serves as an authentic representation of my live performances, where I take pleasure in orchestrating shifts in moods and emotions on the dancefloor. I view DJ sets as a form of storytelling, guiding dancers on a genuine voyage through music.
Born in Italy (Rome), and now living in Berlin, the best hub for music producers and DJs. How was NOCUI born, and what are his past and present musical influences?
NOCUI was like a complete switch-up from all my previous projects. I’ve always had this strong artistic curiosity that’s been both my blessing and my curse. In the past, I’d jump around from punk to ambient, techno, jazz; you name it—no real thought about creating a solid “artistic persona,” or at least no successful attempt until now.
But with “NOCUI”, I decided it was time to bring some order, or at least give it a try. I wanted my various projects to make some kind of sense together and become cohesive between one another in a complementary fashion. That meant dialling back a bit on my wild urge to explore everything like a child. I felt that this process, even though it helped me grow “professionally,” always took away a small part of my creative innocence. The price to pay was a small part of myself, the one that is completely careless and childlike. The word “nocui” sums it up perfectly; it’s an old Italian term that’s not in use anymore which means exactly “lack of innocence.”
Now, as for my musical influences, they’re all over the map. I can’t really single out specific artists in the dance music scene that I’m totally into. I’m just constantly soaking up tunes—guest mixes, hunting down old vinyl, tuning in to online radio, and bingeing on podcasts. My brain’s always picking up those details that inspire me here and there, even if I don’t always know who’s behind them. Still, there are a few artists and crews I’ve got mad respect for right now—folks like Mystic Jungle, Parbleu, and Periodica Records/Futuribile… Just to name a few; the list is long.
How did you get into music, and when did you decide to start your musical project?
I began learning to play the piano at the age of 6. After many years of training, I discovered electronic music thanks to a family friend who used to be a DJ. I was 12 at the time, and we would go out for dinner at his place with my family. While the old folks were having dinner all together, I would always go to check out the “DJ Friend” record collection. It was massive! Among those records, there were countless promos from independent record labels such as Ninja Tune, XL Recordings, R&S, and more… Needless to say, he also had a pair of Pioneer CDJs 100 which he would occasionally use in front of us. I was hooked. I bought my first super cheap console shortly after with some money my grandma gifted me. I was DJing at friends’ parties at the age of 13. Still, my best shows to date. After that, I fully immersed myself in my own musical project around the age of 16, after experimenting with Ableton for two years. Interestingly, my piano teacher at the time encouraged me to pursue music creation and advised me to stop formal lessons. He emphasised the importance of focusing on my creative journey and discovering my unique voice. Shortly after that conversation, I quit my piano lessons and have been continuously creating new music ever since. It’s hard to believe, but it’s been 10 years now.
Congratulations on your new release, ‘Starlight Delight’ ! It brings you to a summer gathering with plenty of good vibes and love. This three-track EP is a fusion of disco elements with squelchy, psychedelic sounds of acid house, which creates a vibrant, otherworldly club environment. Can you tell us a bit about the creation of this EP?
Thank you! I’m thrilled that you enjoyed it. Connecting with people through my music brings immense joy to my heart.
The past two years have been a profoundly cathartic journey for me. During this time, I’ve gradually sharpened specific musical elements, sound design choices, and arrangement techniques that deeply resonated with me. A distinct musical “style” organically emerged, and I began to feel that a clear vision of how I wanted to sound was taking shape. This EP is essentially the culmination of this period of artistic exploration and discovery. It represents a sincere effort to capture the emotions I wish to evoke on the dancefloor and translate into my music. A pivotal transformation occurred over these past two years: I transitioned towards creating “happy” and uplifting music, particularly in the realms of House, Disco, and Italo-Disco. This shift in mindset lies at the heart of this EP. The mantra “It’s perfectly fine to feel serene” has quietly guided me throughout the creation of Starlight Delight. I realise it might sound unconventional, but I used to be among those who believed that only melancholic music had authenticity. Looking back, it all seems rather dreary; I perpetually wore a gloomy expression during that period.
Nonetheless, this project signifies my journey into positive music with a mature perspective, aimed at uplifting spirits through meticulously crafted arrangements, musically enriching compositions, and an overall uplifting essence. The world is already burdened with enough pessimism; I won’t contribute to it any further through my music, I’ll try to balance it out instead.
What does this EP represent, and what are your hopes for it?
I wanted to dance, possibly with a genuine smile on my face. For this reason, I created an EP that evokes precisely that emotion. It’s as simple as that. Starlight Delight embodies an intense desire to dance in a positive atmosphere. My hope for this release is straightforward—to witness others be positively impacted by it. Even more fulfilling would be if someone out there forms a beautiful memory with it and feels invigorated by the positive and vibrant energy it evokes when recalled. That, for me, would be life’s most precious gift.
And who did you collaborate with for the artwork?
The artwork was a collaborative effort with Okuyama Taiki, an incredible graphic designer from Japan. I genuinely believe that his style harmonises beautifully with my music, and I’m deeply honoured to feature his creations as my album covers.
What values and messages would you like to transmit with your music?
Expressing the idea that embracing a positive mindset signifies maturity, inspiration, and resilience, dispelling any misconceptions of it being mere naivety.
“I absolutely loved making this track. During the making of ‘Higher Energy’ I was devouring 80s Japanese records, obscure Italo Disco, and Classic House tracks. I really think that these musical languages leaked into this track in a new and confident way. The aesthetics evolving across my releases feels more and more my own, and this is all I really wanted during my music journey. It’s the second single from an EP that I believe will set my style, or at least the foundation of it.NOCUI
In your perspective, how did the underground Berlin scene evolve since you moved there initially? Especially the italo-disco and house scene.
Berlin is undergoing a rapid transformation, with various forces competing for control of the city. Witnessing this process unfold before my eyes is nothing short of captivating. The underground scene, in Berlin but also worldwide, is evolving into something more “accessible,” and it’s intriguing to see how it’s gradually intermingling with the Pop scene in unexpected ways. I find this phenomenon fascinating. I’m curious to see where it will lead us in a couple of years and how it will impact music on a broader level. The Italo-disco and house music scene is surely making its mark in this techno-heavy city. There are tons of little crews and events popping up all over the place, and some of them are getting famous internationally, like Toytonics. The contrast between Berlin’s usual gloomy vibe and these super upbeat, positive communities is just mind-blowing. Being part of it all is like a breath of fresh air.
Top three favourite vinyl stores to buy house music in Berlin?
– OYE Records
– Melting Point
What are the top three records/songs that are truly dear to you now?
– Parbleu: Elios
– Dea: Zaria Sto Chaos
– Sault: Glory
Can you share with us some of your upcoming performing dates? In Amsterdam soon?
Absolutely! I’ve got a few dates lined up in Berlin. Catch me at Bulbul on 19/10, M01 on 04/11, Orangerie on 24/11, and back at M01 on 16/12! Unfortunately, I don’t have anything scheduled in Amsterdam at the moment. Hopefully 2024 will bring me to that beautiful city more often.
What are you working on at the moment?
I’m in the final stages of preparing my releases for 2024, and I couldn’t be more thrilled about these projects. Among them, you’ll find some of my finest works to date. There’s another EP on the horizon, and it looks like my debut album is also in the works. Stay tuned for some exciting music ahead!
The topic of our latest issue is “Resonance.” What sparks in your mind when you read this word? What does it represent to you?
The inner nerd in me immediately gravitates towards synthesisers! However, beyond that, the concept of resonance holds a deep fascination for me. I like to envision the world as a symphony of vibrations.
Depending on how attuned we are to the world, and how we resonate with our environment, we can truly embrace the present moment unfolding before us, engaging both our mind and body. When something resonates, it tends to move swiftly, brimming with energy and dynamism. This is what resonance means to me: the ability to engage in a profound dialogue with the world, becoming invigorated by it, and replenishing our life force.
PHOTO’S BY LORENZO SERAFINO