In discussion with Flemming Dalum on “Mr. Game” by Klapto (1983).
Of all the options in that field, why did you choose „Mr. Game“ for this interview? Was it the record that had the most impact on you? And is it maybe genre-defining as well?
It was very hard for me to choose one single record for this interview. I have approximately 100 personal Italo top favourites which all did it for me back then, and now over 30 years later they still mean so much to me. I guess I chose „Mr. Game“ because it‘s really so Italo all the way. To me it contains all the classic Italo elements and I really thinks it captures the essence and pure vibe of Italo. At the same time I also think this record defines the genre very well. Personally I love the early sound of Italo the most, particularly the sound around 1983. Another record could have been Koto’s „Chinese Revenge“, which also blew me away back then. Pure synths all the way.
Did your instant love for Italo Disco connect with a taste in music you had before, like electronic Post Punk, Disco and later Synthpop?
Yes. I actually discovered synth music from UK around 1980. Artists like Depeche Mode, Yazoo, Human League, Soft Cell etc. I was simply very fascinated by the new sound universe of synths becoming a bigger part of dance music. I even bought some synths and played in a band for some years. Digging deeper into this synth music led me to discovering Italo, which had an even bolder and more spacey attitude. I was instantly totally blown away. It seems to me that they somehow tweaked the synths a bit more, maybe due to shorter production time and maybe less producer experience, I don’t know. But I think they came up with a very unique result. A sound and style never heard before, or even since. Later the Italo became more well produced, MIDI controlled and so on. Italo actually ended up too well produced and became more commercial. By then the magic was gone for me, around 1986.
There were Disco productions in Italy from the late 70’s on, but usually Italo Disco is associated with a sound that surfaced in the early 80’s. Why do you think it could be so unique and popular at the same time? Was it a novelty effect, or just good Pop merits?
I think the Italians where outstanding in capturing the vibe of the music trends in electronic dance music in the early 80s. They where clearly inspired by the UK scene and of course other musical subcultures around. But they added that charming unique Italian twist to it, which made it so very special. Actually I can hear if a track is Italian or not in a split second. Over 30 years of listening experience has had a huge impact on me. I’m sure other lifelong Italo freaks are also able to instantly tell if a track is from Italy or not.
In my youth in Northern Germany, Italo Disco was mostly cherished by people who would else rather listen to Hard Rock and charts music. The clubs it was being played at usually had a program that tried to cater to low and common denominators. It was certainly not hip. Was it the same in Denmark at that time?
Only few Italo records were played in the Danish clubs in the early 80s. US and UK music was clearly dominating, no doubt. But some clubs played the most commercial and popular Italo records like Gazebo’s „I Like Chopin“, Ryan Paris’ „Dolce Vita“, Fun Fun’s „Happy Station“, and Raff’s „Self Control“.
Instead of browsing local record shops for Italo Disco, you went straight to the source on trips to Italy, visiting distributors and labels. Which is quite similar to the efforts European Rare Soul collectors in the 70s made on US soil. Did you purchase the core of your collection that way, at that time?
Yes, it was impossible to get all the Italo records here in Denmark with no internet back then, so I had to get them by travelling all the way to Italy. So mainly I got them from the famous distributors and labels like Il Discotto, Disco Magic, Non-Stop, and famous shops like Merak and Disco Service. I took eleven trips in the years from 1983 and 1986, and inbetween the trips I was in close contact with Il Discotto and Disco Magic and also a great record shop in Firenze, called Disco Mastelloni. Basically I managed to find all the records I wanted and got a 100 % complete collection back then.
For a while Italo Disco went totally out of fashion, but as House and Techno emerged it soon became apparent that the sound had a profound impact on the producers and DJs in Chicago and Detroit for example. Did you follow that?
Yes, after Italo faded away for me I went on with other styles. New styles such as Acid, New Beat and House, Rave, Techno and Hardcore etc. And yes, I noticed the impact on producers and DJs in Chicago and Detroit. Actually I was very happy to see them adapt Italo and somehow implement it. Especially after being in Italy several times and seeing that the Italians didn’t really go into it completely by themselves.
Italian producers always were notorious for making current musical developments their own. Did you like how they took on House and Techno? Was it the same scheme, just with different sounds?
Well, with House and Techno the Italians also had some nice releases. Personally, I kept focus on Italy after my Italo heydays, and I have lots of great Italian House and Techno records with that Italian twist. But I think other countries did make more successful House and Techno records.
Did you feel that in its commercial heyday, a lot of uncommercial and unusual records stayed underneath the radar, and that they should be preserved and hopefully shared once there were more likeminded people as yourself?
Yes, I was instantly deep into the Italo underground, which always has been my biggest focus. And that’s also what I typically presented in a lot of my mixes. I like to share them with today’s generation of Italo freaks.
You are regarded as one of the world’s leading experts on the subject of Italo Disco. Were people aware of your knowledge before networks like the Cybernetic Broadcasting System and its surrounding scene existed? And how did you connect?
Well, in the early 80s I was already regarded as an Italo expert, but only here in Denmark. I think the internet would have made a difference. My passion for Italo has always been there, but in the background for a period during the 90s. And to my big surprise I discovered that Italo once again was popular. This was in the early 00s. And in 2004 I discovered the Cybernetic Broadcasting System, today called Intergalactic FM. It was a perfect platform for Italo freaks. People from all over the world with interest in Italo gathered there. I also started to share my passion to the whole planet from there. I connected to I-F very quickly, who ran CBS. He had a lot of nice activities going around Cybernetic Broadcasting System, as a megamix contest for example. I’ve always been very much into mixing, so I entered, and won. So over the years I provided CBS with mixes and more, and I have to say the response was impressive and very motivating for me. It felt so good to see younger people having the same kind of passion for Italo.
Did it come as a surprise to you that at one point the music suddenly became a connaisseur’s choice, celebrated and collected by trendy people? Or was it an retro phenomenon that inevitably had to come back to life?
Well, fashion and music seems to be moving in circles. And I did see other retro phenomena over the years. But still I was pleasantly surprised and happy to see Italo getting back in the spotlight.
It is quite surprising that Italo Disco just refuses to go away again. There is a popular according edit and reissue culture as well. What do you think constitutes its lasting appeal?
I think a part of the lasting appeal is the huge unknown back catalogue which has slowly been displayed in recent years. A lot of people are on the hunt to get those unknown records before everybody else, and especially before the records are getting famous and expensive. It’s surely a true joy for collectors to discover and find new forgotten holy grails of Italo. And surely the edit and reissure culture made it last longer.
As the internet makes buying used record much easier, do you still have gaps in your collection you are trying to fill, or are you even venturing into other musical territories, with a similar passion as with Italo Disco?
As mentioned my passion for Italo faded away back in 1986 when the style changed into a more commercial style sound. But many years later I got into contact with other collectors that continued collecting after 1986, and via them I discovered some great late Italo records. Which I of course had to get in my collection. Apart Italo I also have an almost complete collection of New Beat. But my passion for Italo is without doubt the greatest.