Italian artist Enrico Mantini’s contribution to house music has been well documented but perhaps his staunch support of hardware in both his production and mastering process is not. Enrico explains more regarding his DDA Mastering business: “With a solid background built as a technician in various recording studios since 1993, by the time I graduated as a Sound Engineer I had a strong interest in everything related to music. Moving to Audio Mastering was the missing step, so I recently decided to get deep into it and I attended a course and eventually moved further with it.” This all happened around late 2017 and as a result, Enrico decided to put his skills to good use and so he launched the DDA Mastering project.
Like most artists, the thirst for knowledge in sound design is never quenched and Enrico explains his reasons for setting up DDA Mastering, “There was no particular reason for it other than pure interest and the willing of achieving a new target in life, maybe offering something different from the average. In fact, the idea behind the project was to create an affordable online service for labels and artists yet offering a distinctive sound, forged by a professional who’s swimming the ‘electronic sea’ since 1990.” With Enrico working in a vastly analogue setup he was keen to discuss the mastering side of his studio. “It is purely analogue and that’s what makes a difference. Don’t get me wrong, hardware or software are nothing without knowledge but, if you have skills and you’re able to achieve great results with digital hardware, then you can make a difference with analogue equipment. That’s why I set up a pre-mastering chain completely in the analogue domain.”
When dealing in purely analogue equipment the results can sometimes be hard fought and require a great deal of research in to what kit is required, “It was something funny and challenging at the same, mostly because I didn’t invest that much money in it, but a lot of time instead, digging into old late 80s and early 90s hardware, something that I already knew and used, and even something that I just recently discovered because was too expensive at the time.” The limitations experienced with hardware has also been well documented and hurdles are something that he learnt to live with but in the process helped to expanded his skills as an engineer.
Enrico’s extensive studio has produced many highlights throughout his career and without revealing too much in terms of kit he explains more about his chosen tools, “I consider the environment as the most important aspect of my DDA Mastering, then the analogue hardware and last but not least, my skills. Talking about my setup, yet keeping it secret, this is basically made of an analogue three-band parametric equaliser from ‘88, an analogue tube compressor from ’91 and a newer tube opto-compressor which I use depending on the source material. I also employ an analogue three band limiter from ’94, an analogue expander/harmonics exciter from ‘92 and an analogue de-noiser from ’90 that I rarely use, only if needed. That’s all.”
Mixing and mastering is undeniably two completely different processes, and so it Enrico was able to explain how the 2 processes meet in his studio, “Mastering my babies is always harder for me because they’re made the old school way, with hardware gear, mixed with a traditional analogue desk and most of the time with no dynamic intervention at all. Every track is quite unpredictable in terms of volume excursion, because of the electric analogue nature so, both mastering compressor and limiter need heavier settings. Also, the mastering process always slightly alters sounds contained in the source, it depends on your engineer ability to contain these changes at the minimum but, when all this is affecting the song you wrote, the one you heard thousand times, well… is never pleasant to make decisions about the route to follow.” It is clear from speaking to Enrico that this process is clearly best left in his capable hands when it comes to mixing and mastering his own tracks, “I’m so happy with the results I’m getting with my current know-how and setup that I would harder go for something different… Of course, there are plenty of great mastering engineers out there that could do a better job, but I’m actually satisfied by what I got.”
No discussion with Enrico Mantini would be complete without discussing what is happening on his own labels, “Both PURISM and Veniceberg Records have recently landed on Bandcamp and now getting decent results. Veniceberg is still remaining a vinyl lovers’ affair, and only part of the catalogue is currently available on Bandcamp. With Veniceberg we currently have out a 4 tracks EP from talented Italian artist Mattia Lapucci, while on PURISM vinyl there are new releases scheduled for 2020 from guys like Romanian Dirty Culture, Spaniard Carlo and Argentinian Trentz.” Enrico is very much a vinyl guy but he also appreciates the need for a digital presence, “PURISM has its own digital alter-ego (PURISM Wave) which is available almost everywhere on the internet, including Spotify and some minor streaming services where artists like Chris Stussy, Djoko, Nudge, DJ Cream and Jackie already made their appearances while upcoming Leon, Nacho Bolognani, REda daRE, Deep Choice and many others are ready to join during 2020.”
Over the years Enrico has been responsible for many aliases which have helped him explore the many facets of house music, so it was great to hear of some of them making a return, “In 2018 I released on the Italian label Black Box a new personal remix of the Hypnotizer and also a new Transitive Elements track went out on my Bandcamp. No plans for the Nuclear Child alias, where I got a repress offer by Rawax but I honestly prefer to wait a little bit and eventually consider for the next year. Other than that, Deep Choice will soon make a new appearance in the scene! That’s the alias I love the most out of mine because is focus on pure deep house.” As well as the material that has already been released there is also more good news that there is more music from Enrico’s vaults that would soon be released, “I’m progressively releasing them on my Bandcamp page, kind of gems for my supporters. I would never have imagined that one day I would have been able to make them heard, I’m so happy for that.”
This brings us nicely onto the subject of Enrico’s upcoming release on Steppin’ Motion and how this release from the nineties came to be, “I hooked up with DJ Swoop back in 2017 and he spoke me about his Steppin’ Motion project. I liked it, so I offered him to listen some of my private unreleased stuff. It was him to choose the tracks and put the EP together and, I was so glad to have finally picked up for release tunes like ‘Prejection’ and ‘Be One’. We then decided to split the vinyl by years, putting the two from ’93 on a side and the ones from ’95 on the other.” Enrico strikes us as a very different type of artist where he tends not to give too much away with his upcoming releases, “I never liked to talk about my personal upcoming music, nor playing in advance my demos or test my music out. It happened in the past that Raresh and Zip tested some of my tracks but I never did it personally. I know I’m kind of atypical guy, considering I’m a deejay too but, I’d rather surprising the audience when release is about to launch than creating too much waiting for it. I love to keep everything low key and underground.”
Finally, all that remained to discuss was Enrico’s upcoming gigs and it was clear that he couldn’t wait to get back to business, “Sure and I really look forward to it! Something is finally moving, I’m currently dealing with a few requests. Nothing confirmed at the moment, other than my next gig in Amsterdam on next 26th of April 2021 with the VBX and SlapFunk guys.” then smiles, before inviting us to follow his Facebook page updates to stay in the loop with his schedule.
You now can register for the pre-order of Enrico Mantini ‘1993 v 1995’ EP at deejay.de ahead of the full release on Thursday, August 6th.