Interview with Gianfranco Bortolotti
The revolution started as revolutions usually do – quietly and unspectacularly. In the annals of music production in Italy, Gianfranco Bortolotti stands alone. Starting from scratch, simply by creating his first project named Cappella in 1987, releasing artists such as Gigi D’Agostino, 49ers (“Touch Me” reached number 1 at US Billboard Hot Dance Club Play chart), Mauro Picotto, Fargetta, Club House Feat. Carl, East Side Beat, Anticappella, Mario Più, Antico, Clock, RAF, and many others, he amassed phenomenal success and changed the Italian music industry.
While many consider Gianfranco Bortolotti the godfather and guru of Italian dance music, this titles only partially cover what the man has achieved. He´s one of the pioneers of electronic dance music. Over a period of three decades Gianfranco Bortolotti outperformed the international music market, by a stunning hit after hit. This is a feat that music executives, A+R people, and even critics had long proclaimed to be impossible, especially if you are coming from Italy. It is always dangerous to generalize about a country as diverse as Italy, but by virtue of this steady, superior compounding, Gianfranco Bortolotti acquired a mysterious aura.
This interview with Gianfranco Bortolotti attempts to clarify the mystery of one of the world´s most successful music producers and label owners, and Gianfranco Bortolotti is doubtlessly Italy´s most successful and most powerful music producer. Not just that he is the founder of Media Records and Media Studios, but he is also developer of international well known labels such as Heartbeat, BXR, UMM, Noise Maker, EDMedia and Italo. His project Cappella become one of Europe’s most successful music acts of their generation after selling millions of records in the first years of their career with several superhit singles. Cappella had a promising track record of early success. Riding the coattails of their hit “U Got 2 Know“, the group released “U Got 2 Let the Music” in 1993 to international acclaim. The song had a great success in many countries including the UK, where it reached number 2 on the singles chart. It was one of the best-selling tracks of that year in the United Kingdom.
Gianfranco Bortolotti´s fingerprints are all over the music culture today. He´s in your ears daily on the radio with “L’Amour Toujours (I’ll Fly with You)” by Gigi D’Agostino, whose remake of the Nik Kershaw song “The Riddle” sold 1,000,000 copies in Germany and 200,000 copies in France alone. The uniqueness of this achievement is more significant in that it was driven out of passion for club music. Bortolotti´s genius was largely a genius of character-of passion, and discipline.
Gianfranco Bortolotti is the man everyone talks about but no one knows. He is everywhere, a larger-than-life music titan who has spent decades building his empire, from a small label business in Italy into an international music and media powerhouse.
This is the saga of the man who has influenced the global music industry for over three decades, and who´s music productions have shaped and reshaped the international music landscape.
We sat down with Gianfranco Bortolotti to discuss in this interview his global vision of Media Records, his numerous collaborations and his thoughts on the new electronic dance music scene. Gianfranco Bortolotti supports Pravda Za Davida, and Davor Dragičević in his fight for truth.
How did you get started in the music industry?
Gianfranco Bortolotti: I was an university student and I was late with my exams, I was constantly broke. I met a DJ and he asked me to contribute with some money (a few hundreds dollar) for an Italo Disco. It was 1985, and with another group of DJs, I had already produced a couple of tracks in 1983 and in 1984. Two fails. But my passion was burning inside. And I did not have any opportunity to assert my skills, as I was involved for my public relations skills, not for my artistic talent. Obviously, I was not a DJ and I was not a musician, just a student of economics. In 1985 it was another failure. I was exploited because I was good at talking; but in the studio, nobody would listen to me. So I decided to go alone, and my friends would make fun of me. However, with my own very first product (everybody were more skilled than me in any studio, everybody were trying to put me in a corner, but I was popular for my PR skills, and so I succeeded to get what I wanted). I was even able to buy my first car. I kept producing until I had my first recording studio; I had design skills so I designed it entirely. Later, it became a work-station model; with house music, it was adopted all over the world by new DJ producers, new professionals in a new approach to music: with samplers.
What was your first introduction to club music?
Gianfranco Bortolotti: I was in New York for a vacation in the U.S.: New York, Miami and of course Las Vegas and down to Los Angeles by car until San Francisco and Hawaii. I popped in to Tower Records in the 4th & Broadway, and I heard “Pump up the Volume”. It was a revelation, a platonic recognition, this sound was already in my DNA. I loved it from within, it was what I wanted, I had to do that to feel well. It was not a business opportunity. It became so much later. At that time, that music was the foundation of my happiness. This was talent, it was my mother. When I was a child, she would send me out to buy records of the Festival di Sanremo (most famous Italian festival) in a huge shop near our house. There were thousands of colorful records on the shelves. I was totally free to choose the best records of the Festival for mum who would sing them happily. We were not rich, but we were happy because of her. I was 6 and unaware of being an A&R. Listening to that track in Tower Records was like going back in good and happy times. I got in, I bought it and I said to the girl who was with me: “I’m going back to Italy, I cannot continue the trip, I want to make this music”. The day after, I was in a studio in Brescia town with a friend DJ and a musician. Media Records was founded and a couple of months later, my first real club record, Bauhaus by Cappella, was released.
I was fascinated by Stock, Aitken and Waterman. Especially, their production continuity, their quality. Gianfranco Bortolotti – Italian producer and manager of Media Records and Media Studios, 2018. Interview with Gianfranco Bortolotti for RichTVX.com
Was there anyone in particular who really influenced you?
Gianfranco Bortolotti: Yes. I was fascinated by Stock, Aitken and Waterman. Especially, their production continuity, their quality. It was a saga and the magic around their names, their 3 studios (if I remember well), the artists they produced. This was my inescapable influence. In the ‘80s any producer was influenced by them. They created a wonderful success-machine. When I heard house music I thought this could be the right opportunity to lay the foundation of a new venture, inspired by them. I imagined that new emerging genre would blow them over, and not only them, but the whole dance world. A few knew or produced it. There were many doubts on house music production for the “illegal” way to sample old tracks from the ‘70s. Most people thought it was a short-lived genre.I was inspired by those three legends, I was almost reckless. I invested all my money to build 3 studios, as they did. I also had to watch my money, using the first 8-bit Akai sampler machines, instead of the expensive Studer and Revox instruments, and mixing live. Some accessories and the studios were ready. I felt I was Pete Waterman, I felt invincible, I was selling records at an impressive pace at the time in Italy, but nobody would even try it. For years, we were the only ones, and not only in Italy. In Europe, nobody would believe in house music, there was an unexpected space in the charts and nobody would fill it in (I had up to 5 records in the same week in the UK top 75, and at the time this was the top chart in Europe). Record companies were paying huge amounts of money to have licenses of my records and, this was a surprise: one day, Chris Blackwell called me, asking for the license of “Touch Me” by 49ers. He published it on 4th Broadway, and it was my first no. 1 in the U.S. This how life goes.
You’re considered as one of the biggest producers of the European dance music scene. What was the club scene like in Italy when you started?
Gianfranco Bortolotti: The club scene in Italy was not very good. Huge discos were trendy, up to 10.000 people each. DJs were just starting. Nobody was talking about productions, let alone labels for Djs. I remember when I started, it was surprising to be involved by a DJ to create a first record. Things did not start out well, but with the explosion of house music, everything became very clear. As I said, I was probably one of the first at world level to invest in new generation studios and on DJ producers. House music had pushed up clubs, they became the place to share a new life style, not just a place to dance. We set up the first label for DJ productions only, the DJ was the artist. It was 1990, we started out with a group of friends who were house DJs: Heartbeat. Claudio Coccoluto, Ralf, Gemolotto are the most popular, but all of them were playing house music, they were all professionals, they still work and they made a reputation for their music style for their life style. We still share major projects with them, like the re-launch of Heartbeat. Clubs were crowed, records were selling like soap. Thanks to our artistic and industrial work, we had 16 studios in Italy and 2 in London (these for the artists who found this location more convenient), house music and later techno-trance were so popular, it was the best time of my life, or maybe not? Was I to have an even better time some years later?
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