For fans of deeper, more esoteric house sounds, Black Loops has been one of the most consistently interesting new names to emerge over the last decade or so. While staying true to a warm, underground sound which has historically always lived on the fringes of the scene, Black Loops has carved out the kind of following usually reserved for far less nuanced producers. His slightly eerie and definitely off-kilter bonus track “Sex” for example, has garnered over four million streams on Spotify and counting.
Having recorded seven EPs for Berlin label Toy Tonics and issuing releases on countless other respected imprints, it was only a matter of time before Black Loops would end up jumping into bed with Jimpster’s Freerange label. Frankly, a more perfect musical fit is hard to imagine. New three track gem of an EP These Changes is his third outing on Freerange, featuring friend and Toy Tonics labelmate Cody Currie, who lays down golden-era soulful vocals on the title track, over shuffling drums and an outstanding melodic, percussive bassline.
I was keen to discover more about Riccardo Paffetti, the man behind the Black Loops moniker, and was delighted to discover a highly accomplished musician, former session drummer and eclectic musical magpie, humble and willing to share both his refreshingly unfussy production setup and his creative process with us.
So let’s start at the beginning. Where did you grow up? I think I’m correct in thinking you’re Italian? Small town or big city?
Correct! I grew up in a small town called Arezzo, in the heart of Tuscany.
Was there much of a music scene around you growing up? Do you remember your first exposure to house and electronic music?
Arezzo hosted, for more than 20 years, the biggest free music festival in Europe called “AREZZO WAVE.” Artists like Moby, Chemical Brothers, St. Germain, Cypress Hill, Aphex Twin, LCD Soundsystem, Soulwax and an infinite amount of great live and electronic acts passed through my town and I saw them all for free (I know, it’s mental right?) Luckily, I got the chance to work at the festival when it was still active, and this is definitely what shaped my music tastes.
Who were the key mentors and musical inspirations early on?
I remember hearing the Metro Area album for the first time in a club near my hometown, particularly the track “MIURA” (this was in 2000-2001 if I’m not mistaken) and I was literally blown away. That moment drove me to dig deeper in the deep house and house music world.
What came first for you, DJing, or producing? Can you describe your first setup?
Drums and bands are what came first for me. I used to play in bands and at one point I was doing it professionally as a session drummer as well. From 2006 to 2012 I was with one of my latest bands, and the one I did the most touring with (“Thank You For The Drum Machine“), and there I had my first encounter with gear like the Roland Juno 106, the Drumtrax, the TB-303 and some other circuit bending stuff. There was also the necessity of learning how to use a DAW (digital audio workstation) in order to lay down ideas on my own as well, so I started messing around with Fruity Loops, Reason and Cubase (which I abandoned pretty quick as it was too complicated), then Ableton came shortly after…
When did you move to Berlin? Was music the reason for the move?
I moved to Berlin early in 2013, and yes, music was definitely the reason, as at the time I was working closely with Gomma Records (now Toy Tonics) as a session drummer and occasionally as studio engineer.
How do you feel living in Berlin has affected your sound, and do you think just being in the city helped your career?
I do think moving to Berlin helped, in a way, to shape my sound. Being able to see so many key artists performing on any day of the week definitely got the inspiration rolling.
I do not think Berlin is the only reason why I get booked, but it definitely helped a little giving me the chance to do my first proper performances there as a DJ, no doubt about that. I do think that the music I’ve produced over the years got me the chance of visiting and performing in many countries, and I feel very blessed about that.
What setup do you use for producing now? Are you more outboard or in-the-box?
Let’s say 60% outboard and 40% in the box. Most of my sounds come from machines, in a small part of the production process I use samples too — it always helps when you get stuck on something. And of course, the mixing process is done in the box.
My current set up: Speakers: EVE SC 307, TR-8S, MPC 1000, Boss DR Groove 202, Roland MC 909, Yamaha DX7 II, Prophet 6, Matrix 1000, Korg Electribe MX.
Your tracks always have a real fuzzy analog, human warmth to them. How do you achieve that aesthetic?
I think this fuzzy analogue feeling mostly comes from the fact that I record my machines when I jam, and tend to tweak the sound right away and do the least possible on the post-production processing, through EQing from the mixer which is an analog Soundcraft unit, that has a natural saturation in it too. But to be honest with you, I’m not quite sure on that…
Tell me a little about “These Changes” — how did you hook up with Cody, and how did these tracks come about?
Me and Cody hang around often when we both in Berlin, we actually have a decent bunch of tracks ready that we produced together during the last three years, and “These Changes” is one of the many…
Releasing on Freerange is a great achievement, as they’re such a benchmark for quality. Can you tell me about some of your other favorite labels?
Indeed, it is a great achievement, I always looked up on Freerange for many years, and I feel very honored be able to already have three records released with them.
Recently I’m keen on some of the ’90s Italian key labels such as Irma Records, UMM, MBG… So much incredible music that was released more than 20 years ago, that still sounds fresh nowadays.
DJing has taken you all over the world at this point. Describe a memorable club or festival you’ve played, and what made it so special?
I will always remember my first gig in Capetown, South Africa at a party called “We House Sundays”. The energy and the love that the crowd transmitted to me, it was so intense (in a good way) that I think I nearly cried…
Which artists should we be checking for?
Here are some names that caught my attention the last few months: Emanuele Barilli, Data Memory Access, Jacopo Latini, Clive From Accounts, Idan Hana…
What’s next for you? I hear you’re working on an album. Is that near completion? How has that process been for you?
At the moment I’m exploring new sounds in a wide range of BPMs, let’s say from 100 to 130, and eventually that is the vibe I want to give to my album, but it’s a loooong way to go!
Finally, if you could give your younger self (or any young artist) one piece of music industry / life advice, what would it be?
I’m gonna go for the most obvious advice and yet the most effective: DO YOUR THING and BE ORIGINAL.
Thanks so much for your time!
Thanks for having me!
There’s more inside 5 Mag’s member’s section — get first access to each issue for a few bucks a month.