Sao Paulo native Fabrizio Zerlini has a long history as a DJ after consistently playing for several years in the city’s diverse and competitive underground scene. These experiences took him to hold a residency at the legendary D-Edge club, where he built a strong following in his Brazilian home town.
With more than a decade of DJ’ing experience, his absolute dedication and passion for electronic music has helped him develop his unique style, seamlessly blending house and techno’s multiple subgenres, allowing him to crate highly dynamic sets that bring different emotions with various levels of intensity, taking the listener on a musical journey.
We caught up with Fabrizio Zerlini to talk his latest projects.
Electronic Groove: Hi Fabrizio, thanks for the time to chat with us. Tell us a bit about your history. What are some of your first memories of music?
Fabrizio Zerlini: Thank you EG for the invite. My early musical memories date back to when I was 8 years old. I was totally into Michael Jackson and Madonna which are electronic pop icons that were heavily influenced by dance, disco, funk, and soul, which are precursors of today’s house and techno. After that, around 12 years old I was into italo dance, euro house, garage house and 90’s dance music. In Sao Paulo, there were many clubs that had Sunday day-time events for young kids and I used to hit the dancefloor with my friends almost every weekend. I also had a phase in which I really enjoyed hip-hop when I was living in the United States for a year during high-school.
EG: When did you discover Electronic music and can you name some of the artists and tracks that were pivotal in your development as an artist?
Fabrizio Zerlini: In 2001, when I was 16 and had just returned to Brazil a friend introduced me to the Dave Clarke’s ‘World Service’ compilation, which is a true milestone in underground electronic music. That was the point of no return for me and it really shaped my taste as it was basically a summary of everything that was at the forefront of techno and electro back then. As a kid, I used to always obsess about what would be like to live in the future (and I still do) so I immediately felt a strong connection to the futuristic and dystopian vibe of that mix.
Initially I liked more the intense and obscure side of techno, so some of the names that influenced me then were Surgeon, James Ruskin, Mark Broom, Oscar Mulero, Ben Sims, Steve Rachmad, Mark Broom, The Hacker, Suburban Knight, Christian Vogel, Adam X, Neil Landstrum, Al Ferox and Cari Lekebusch. After that, I dove deep into the Detroit sounds of the likes of the Belleville Three (Kevin Saunderson, Juan Atkins, and Derrick May), Carl Craig, Underground Resistance, Octave One, Moodyman, Robert Hood, Kenny Larkin, among many others. I have the utmost respect and gratitude for the birthplace of techno.
“It feels very exciting to finally be able to share my artistic vision in Miami”
EG: You recently moved to Miami from your hometown São Paulo. What can you tell us about the scene there and how does it compare to the Florida city?
Fabrizio Zerlini: That is a great question because it is interesting to see how the scene in these cities are highly reflective of their environments, culture, and history which are quite different. São Paulo has 15 million inhabitants so naturally, it has a highly diversified scene. Techno has become increasingly popular lately though with many warehouse parties for 1000-3000 people happening every weekend. The music taste there has been highly integrated to Europe’s since we have a mature scene that dates back from the 90’s, so it has been following the same trends that happen there. São Paulo is comparable to New York in its size and feel. It is inland and has a strong cosmopolitan and urban feeling. Most of the people work long hours and are always under a good amount of stress, so it is no surprise to me that techno is predominant there today.
Miami, on the other hand, is a beautiful mid-sized city with great weather all year round where people are generally more relaxed and looking to have a great time outdoors, so it is natural that tech house, deep house, and progressive resonate a lot. This city continues to become a hotspot for arts in general and that naturally includes music, so it is nice to see we have some solid club nights and independent events every weekend and that are playing anything ranging from Detroit sounds, European techno or Romanian minimal to musically mature crowds.
EG: What was the reason you moved to Miami?
Fabrizio Zerlini: I work for a multinational company and received an offer to relocate. It was a difficult decision to move from a stable life and a solid DJ career in São Paulo, but after deep consideration of all aspects of the place and what it has to offer, I concluded that Miami would be a great place to further develop my artistic career. The city and the scene are growing tremendously so there are many opportunities available. These days I also play more house than techno so I think that my music is a great fit here.
EG: Moving into music, how would you define your style?
Fabrizio Zerlini: I play anything between house and techno. My sound is very influenced by Detroit as I am completely obsessed with the history, musicality and beautiful moods that it offers, but I also do play intense, hypnotic, minimalistic and darker tracks. My goal is to take the crowd on a journey through different moods, intensities, and emotions and in order to do that, you need to have a broad musical selection. On top of that, my love and appreciation for electronic music is simply too immense to restrain myself and play only a certain kind of music and I get really bored when some DJs play the same sound for 2 hours. When I come across a track that I love I always find the right time and place to play it during my sets.
I also stay away from the trendy genres, hot releases and the classic tracks that everyone is playing as I strongly believe one of the primary roles of a DJ is to surprise the crowd with unique sounds whether they have just been released or instead, produced 20 years ago.
EG: Djing has different environments, from intimate clubs to festivals, day sets to boat parties and after hours. What would be the perfect location and time for you to play at?
Fabrizio Zerlini: My preferred atmospheres are the more intimate ones. When you play for small to mid-sized crowds you can connect with them at a much deeper level and conduct them to different musical places more easily. In Sao Paulo, most of my gigs I ended up playing later in the night or in after hours and I think that is no coincidence given my style that is neither too soft nor too hard. I am also a big proponent of outdoor events at unique locations as they can completely change the atmosphere. Music to me is about sharing, about communion and being connected to your neighbors on the dancefloor and I believe that being outdoors completely favors these aspects.
EG: Do you have any new plans for the coming months?
Fabrizio Zerlini: I am starting an independent project on July 19th called ‘Shifting Tones’, alongside Atom Yard and Gustavo Miranda which will have Roy Davis Jr, the Chicago house legend, as a headliner. I’ve been waiting for a long time to connect with the right individuals and to create the right moment for this to happen. Putting together an awesome team of creative people that can diligently work multiple aspects of an event is incredibly difficult. It feels very exciting to finally be able to share my artistic vision in Miami as an event producer as well.
On July 5th I also begin my residency at ‘Summer Sessions’ that takes place monthly at the Treehouse front room. Don Davis who is producing the event has been one of the best promoters in town and he has been able to pack his nights with a lot of high-energy music enthusiasts, so I am expecting intense and enjoyable gigs.
EG: Tell us about your set programming. Do you go with the flow or are you more methodical on set planning?
Fabrizio Zerlini: I think planning is an essential part of any task, job or function and with music is no different. You need to plan ahead, be mindful of the venue, the crowd, day of the week and line up so pre-selecting some of your music in advance is important. It is paramount though to leave room for flexibility, creativity, and improvisation since every dancefloor at a given night is an entity of its own and you never really know for sure how things are going to go until you are actually performing.
EG: What do you think makes a great DJ?
Fabrizio Zerlini: The role of a DJ is to be a track selector, playing the right music at the right time, so musical maturity, musical research, set construction and having the ability to properly read a crowd are the key aspects. I think some artists wrongfully put a lot of value on different mixing techniques and other gimmicks which can be fun and add value but are not what separate artists that are good from the ones who are truly great.
EG: Aside from music, what do you like to do in your free time?
Fabrizio Zerlini: Since I have a day job all my free time currently goes towards music. Whether it is playing, in the studio, producing events or supporting and enjoying the scene in Miami. Music to me is a lifestyle.