Vietnamese House Label Goes LIVE
An interview with the founder of Stargazing Records, Florian Ferruzza.
An interview with the founder of Stargazing Records, Florian Ferruzza.
In an interview with Music Press Asia, founder of Stargazing Records Florian Ferruzza shares the works of his debut album, starting his label in Vietnam and collaborating with local talent.
PART I: INTRO
Q1: Hello, Florian. Congratulations on releasing your very first album ‘Bang Bang’ under your very own label, Stargazing Records. Why have you chosen to start a label instead of working with an existing one in Vietnam?
My very first step into the music industry happened when I released my first EP with Hot Elephant Music, Alexander Robotnick’s label. I salute Mauricio, Animesh, and my brother Josselin for giving me this chance then in 2019 and for helping me start my music career. That same year, I also released an EP titled Feline on Holy Grail Music in 2019, a local label created by B.A.X. Later, it became a very successful, and high-quality label in progressive, organic house, and ambient music.
I believe it is important to work with other labels depending on the release strategy and the artist, I believe in collaboration and mutual respect for others’ artistic vision. However, I felt like I wanted to have more artistic freedom and I wanted to create a brand for my music – to have more control over the creation, over how much would be invested in promotion and where, and also be able to keep full ownership of my music.
Creating Stargazing Records was the best way for me to create a structure for the next 10 years, a long-term investment that can grow jointly with my music and be able to help the talented producer around me grow alongside me at the same time.
Q2: Does it have to do with a burgeoning ‘house’ scene that would only do justice through a label’s consistent dedication to distributing and promoting ‘house music’?
House music is still very small in Vietnam where most of the music industry is driven by hip hop, EDM, pop music, and Vietnamese electro (vina house). But yes, in the past 10 years, promoters, labels, and artists have been driving a more underground, techno, house, and nu-disco music community and culture in both south and north Vietnam. The very first techno event I went to, after arriving in Vietnam 5 years ago, was promoted by Heartbeat Label founded by Chris Wolter and Paul Tonkes, who became friends. B.A.X was also involved in the label and I believe Heartbeat among others brought this new wave to Vietnam 9 years ago. Since then, the community has been effectively growing with the years and more venues, bars, and young ravers have joined the movement.
Today, I see house and techno becoming more and more popular. As the scene becomes more diverse, covering a larger spectrum of genres including funky, disco, Latin, afro-beat, and groove house. At the same time, the audience is not only craving happy, party-vibe, rooftop, and beach club music. But also darker, stronger, and minimalist techno-driven nights.
Q3: Specifically, why is a house label important for Vietnam or regionally?
Firstly, it helps the scene to grow as well as helps promote the local artist, especially for accessing gigs in clubs where local artists have to prove themselves and differentiate from others. In addition, it is so that we can play alongside international acts.
Releasing a good track on a local label definitely opens doors, it happened to me. And so, after releasing Feline EP, I got a gig in The Lighthouse for the label party. In time, I was noticed by the booking manager and then introduced to Paul Jove, a label owner in La Paz.
We have now a couple of labels that cover the spectrum of underground electronic music. The few that are doing amazing work include Haustek Agency. They have recently celebrated 5 years of successful music promotion and have crafted a techno-driven identity; releasing artists like Konkrete, Tien, Ro-tune, and Elek — Vietnamese artists that are driving the techno scene, alongside Pink Room Label and Arcan Club Residents.
There is of course Holy Grail Music from my friend B.A.X. His vision to reach a global audience saw him release artists including Steffen Sonnenschein (Berlin, Germany), Paul Jove (La Paz, Bolivia), Phuc Long (Germany), and Joe Miller from the progressive house genre.
We also have many passionate communities and promoters like Bassgasm for the Drum & Bass music and Nocturnal Animals, who are driving the nightlife with quality events and projects
For sure, there may be other labels and communities out there that I might not be aware of yet.
So, it was interesting for me to create a house label that would open the doors for classic, old-school, funky. And perhaps, even to break house music that could be played in the city and put Vietnam on the house culture radar!
“I believe it is important to work with other labels depending on the release strategy and the artist, I believe in collaboration and mutual respect for others’ artistic vision.”
— Florian Ferruzza, founder of Stargazing Records.
Q4: Does Ho Chi Minh city have its very own unique house culture, different from everywhere else?
I think that every city has its own identity, vibe, and community that makes it special. Although I cannot specifically describe what makes Saigon or Vietnam’s scene special, I could only invite every reader to come and discover it. And ultimately, take the initiative to get in touch with local labels for collaboration and projects.
I’d also like to invite everyone to discover the Hanoi scene, especially this amazing community called the Hanoiundergroundmovement HUM. Their amazing 4-floor studio “HUM Studios” is founded by Italian producer and DJ Marco Yane.
Q5: For many of us, House Music are widely known as a subgenre within the electronic dance music culture. Over the years, how have you come to learn more about house and how it is a distinct genre all on its own?
You know, it has always started with an encounter. Through a group of friends, I met DJ Dani Maya, whose name over the many years, has become synonymous with the scene in Ibiza. We began having gigs in Saigon together. Later on, he introduced labels that I had never heard before, including Defected and Glitterbox. Others include “E-Samba, the classic house tracks that really caught me by surprise.
We started this residence in the highest lounge bar in South East Asia. On the 75th-floor terrace of the Blank Lounge and against an incredible view of the city, we were performing our set. It is working! And I could see the potential of this Ibiza house music in the local scene if I continue to make prolific digging to craft groovy sets.
There are labels that continue working for my DJ gigs: “Whore house”, “Altra Moda”, “ Milk & Sugar”, “ Toolroom” or “Tribal kitchen”, and “CRMS Records” among many others. As for the present, I believe house music is now a genre celebrated worldwide. That it has beautiful values and lifestyle too; one that I’m grateful to have discovered and make a humble contribution for.
PART II: ABOUT THE ALBUM
Q6: How did this album come into existence?
The album was completely produced during a 5-month lockdown; when Ho Chi Ming city was hit by the second wave of Covid-19. For 5 months, I was stuck at home with a studio set up.
There were 3 objectives:
- Achieving consistency,
- Defining sound signature,
- Have only original content, and lastly,
- Reach a level of final delivery that is as professional as an established label
Yeah, just that! There is still a lot to improve because each release must have achieved some important milestones. The long-term goal is to objectively see artists and label progress.
I use notes on my phone to write down the objectives, keywords for my sounds signatures, deadlines, track ideas, corrections, to-do-list, and everything that pops up in my mind. The methodology that serves as the cornerstone of my workflow and achievement would be to write the idea down right away. Therefore, I can assess the evolution by going through my old notes and seeing where I am now, where I need to be, and finally, what needs to be done.
I believe I started to do that after watching a Ted X show called The Discipline of Finishing by Conor Neill, one which I’d recommend to every music producer out there.
Q7: Tell us more about your collaboration with Vietnamese rapper Lonie for the track ‘In the Club’?
Amazing! This collab is part of my strategy to attract young Vietnamese to house music: Hip Hop is big here and I love combining rap phrases with house music. It works very well together and we really clicked with Lonie. I never met Lonie before. I posted a job request on a social group on Facebook and he answered.
After, we met at the coffee in Nguyen Hue and sat for coffee like how thousands of other Vietnamese do every day. Within a short time, he had a couple of lines ready. After inserting my track on his mobile phone, he began to freestyle just like that!
I was impressed and was vibing with his flow. And so we shake hands. A couple of weeks later, we recorded the vocals. He came to the release party to freestyle again and we became friends. I love the vibe this project exudes and can honestly say that I’m gonna work on many other projects like this.
Q8: How has Nina Simone’s song ‘No Fear’ been an influential and creative piece for you? How do you deal with freedom and its influencing element in your life in general today?
I was watching a documentary about her life. The film revealed Simone as this kind of inspirational soul and character that is very unique. Her life, the things that she fight for, and her music all revealed a period of history filled with suffering.
I sampled the part where she talks about love and decided to add some parts of an old interview where she talks about her fight for the Black communities. The melody was a complete improvisation and was produced over one night. Everything seems to come naturally and I did not have to change or add anything. These are the best, simple but original and creative. It was very inspiring when she said that there are only a couple of times when she felt free. That those moments were when she was on stage, performing, a feeling I can relate to. That it is a very unique moment, almost impossible to explain or describe. A moment when you let yourself go and just become your music. A feeling of complete freedom. It happened to me when I was playing LIVE at a hard Tekno rave in the South of France. It was my very first live performance on an amplified sound system. That day, I felt it.
PART III: THE PRESENT
Q9: What are you working on now? And what are the creative plans lined up for Stargazing Records for 2022?
The label is gonna grow with more releases and we want to keep being consistent in the quality, improve the release process and grow the network. I have been doing this only in my free time because I have a full-time office job. But my objective is to find more time so that I can dedicate more resources to the label. We are also a growing team: I have my friends Hoang Duc and Tran Le who are actively supporting the development of the label.
I wanna get closer to the training center and academy like Beat Barons or MCMA academy to propose tutorship and help the young graduated students to make their way on the stage and release their first banger.
Working closely with others labels to do cross-promotion and developing sponsoring and events as well.
Q10: Vietnam is just beginning to see increasing creative participation in music, especially for house music? What are the potentials to work with local talents and who would you like to work with in the future?
I have at least 10 artists on my radar for upcoming releases. But, you know, most of them have full-time jobs and very little time to produce. So, we have to be patient and help them as much as we can. I made this Soundcloud playlist for all the amazing producers that would make terrific releases in the upcoming years. And with the hope that the playlist will continue to expand. Thanks for these amazing questions!
Listen to Florian Ferruzza’s latest album on Soundcloud, here.
Last month, Stargazing Record welcomed its first local talent, SKULZ, with a remix from one of Florian’s bonus tracks from the latest album. Lars Moston played “No Fear, Tribute To Nina Simone” at Claptone’s opening set at the legendary Pacha Ibiza in May 2022.