Joseph Capriati is the rapidly-rising Italian techno star who's broadened his sound out for Ibiza to inject more groove into it. Leaving behind the Music On night with Marco Carola at Amnesia on the White Isle, he's teamed up with Jamie Jones for some dates at Paradise at DC10 this summer — playing some back-to-back sets with the Hot Creations man in the process — and has been busy setting up his own new label and touring the world. Ahead of a special b2b set with Jamie Jones at London's SW4 festival, DJ Mag joins JC in his home city of Barcelona and finds a man deliberately taking his time to fulfil his destiny...
It’s July 2015, and Joseph Capriati is in the middle of his first four-hour back-to-back set with Paradise boss Jamie Jones at DC10. The fusion between the pair’s sounds — blending everything from tech-house through minimal, techno and classic house — lights up the dancefloor. The intimate space is a far cry from Amnesia’s main room, where Capriati established himself as one of the White Isle’s brightest lights over the preceding four years, but the bond between the pair ignites a relationship that goes on to forge the next step in the Italian’s blossoming career.
After being taken under Marco Carola’s wing at Ibiza’s Music On in 2012, where Capriati built a cult following as the driving force behind the party’s indoor space, he made the decision to break away from the Amnesia night this summer. The tie he formed with Jones last year meant a move to the Hot Creations boss’ DC10 party, Paradise — representing a new challenge musically for Capriati, and the beginning of the next part of his legacy. He also launched his own Redimension label earlier this year, as he starts to build an empire around him. It’s clear that at just 28-years-old, the Caserta-born DJ/producer is coming of age.
“It was a legendary moment,” Capriati says of his first b2b with Jones. “Whenever I think about it I have goosebumps, and everybody on the dancefloor was visibly excited too.”
It was such a success that the pair performed for a second time together just two weeks later.
And, whilst Capriati has made rare appearances at Paradise for four years now, this summer he’s almost omnipresent there. “DC10 is the Ibizan church,” he continues. “People don’t go there for the VIP, or champagne, it’s all about the music. I feel blessed to have the opportunity, and feel I’m going to grow more as an artist from it.”
Capriati also explains that despite being happy about his decision to move to Paradise, he was worried about the reaction he’d get at the start of the summer, but says it couldn’t have gone better. “I really didn’t expect to be getting as much love there,” he smiles.
Capriati also says that he can learn a lot from the way Jones runs things. “I really respect Jamie,” he continues. “He’s not worried if somebody in his party is growing fast, he doesn’t stop them, as many other people do. It’s a completely different crew, and they don’t do politics. I’m still learning from him, so it’s a big experience for me.”
Capriati is speaking to DJ Mag at his flat in Barcelona just a matter of hours before going on stage for the fourth edition of his 100% JC night in the city for Off Sónar. Step outside his front door, which is set in the network of roads just behind the beach near Parc de Diagonal-Mar — where locals hang out washing in the street and children dash about on bikes — and it feels an unassuming location as the home of one of Ibiza’s fastest rising DJs.
Despite his meteoric ascent at the centre of Music On, arguably the White Isle’s biggest party in recent years, Capriati says he didn’t feel like he’d made an impact on the island until last summer.
His first major opportunity was born from another’s misfortune, as an ear infection meant Carola wasn’t able to perform there for two weeks last August. He drafted in Capriati to take his headline slot, moving from the Main Room and onto the hallowed Terrace. “Marco gave me a big opportunity and I will never forget that,” he explains. “It changed my career in Ibiza.”
He says the opportunity had both a positive and negative impact on him, though. “Ibiza can destroy you,” Capriati continues. “Many people living on the island will suck your blood. I started to be worried about losing control of my career as I was young, and it was sex, drugs, rock and roll — partying, then after-parties.
Eventually, my team made me realise my love is for the music, and not to be distracted by the things that appear as you start to get more popular. You always have to think about who was around you when you were nobody. But I’m happy it happened, as it made me grow up.”
After the Terrace, though, big money propositions started rolling in. “I started to get huge offers from other clubs on the island,” he explains. But, as his move to Paradise shows, he isn’t going for a route one approach, instead planning for longevity over instant success and the pitfalls that can bring. “I said no,” he continues. “I want to be on the island for many years, so I don’t want to go somewhere that doesn’t feel right. I don’t need to rush, as I don’t need a big car right now, or a big house to show people I’m rich. I have time, and I’m more than happy with what I have.”
Despite being in the middle of one of the most crucial parts of his burgeoning career, Capriati is clearly relaxed as he reclines on the sofa in his living room. But despite that fact, he says the decision to leave Music On didn’t come lightly.
“It’s something very special that happened there,” he explains. “What I did, without expecting to, was return the Main Room to what it was like with Cocoon in the past. I was so proud — it was like my baby. So it was hard to leave after years of work.”
Capriati’s also keen to stress that the shift to Paradise was nothing personal. “It’s part of a process,” he explains. “I still have a lot of respect for Marco. He’s a legend, one of the best DJs in the world, and a gentleman.”
He also says that he isn’t ruling out ever playing Music On again. “The only thing I’ve decided not to do is the residency,” he adds.
When Capriati’s name was missing from the Music On line-up when it was released in Spring, many felt that he would be branching out to do his own night. But he insists, although it will happen one day, he still isn’t ready, and says he’s happy to have had the opportunity to learn from the likes of Carola, and continue learning now through Jones. “I’m still young,” he explains. “I want to have a long career, and be on the road for 30 more years if I can. And the key to being around for many years is to not rush things.”
Having built a huge following across Europe and South America, and with almost a decade of releases under his belt on some of the world’s biggest labels, it is easy to forget that Capriati’s still only 28-years-old. “I need to wait and do a party on the island when things feel ready,” he explains. “Right now my team is incredible, but it’s not prepared to do a party in Ibiza. Anyway, if I do one now, and it lasts for 15 years, then what do I do? I’d be 43, and it’s all over.”
Away from all the changes in Capriati’s career, though, lies an incredibly accomplished DJ, who’s currently going through as many changes in terms of sound as his summer calendar. At the time of writing, Capriati’s Twitter bio reads “Techno is the door, groove is the key”.
And, having established himself as a techno selector in Naples, his journey to the top of the White Isle has slowly shifted what he spins. This has culminated with his genre-bending collaborations with Jones, whilst Capriati’s individual sets now often blur the line between techno and tech-house.
“Techno made me big,” he explains. “But when I arrived in Ibiza I felt I needed to use groove for it to work, so I started to open my mind. Working with Jamie really started me on a new path again, too. He really researches the music and goes into the smallest avenues of what he plays, which inspired me to search for more music in that style.”
But even before Jones inspired a change, Capriati had started to push the new sound he was playing in Ibiza outside the island, surprising many with his set at Argentina’s Time Warp in 2013. “Before then I was playing two hours of banging techno at festivals,” he explains. “I was only playing with groove in Ibiza. But I decided to do something different for that set, and it was an incredible night. The response was great, and I realised this really could be something. I still play techno, but when you add groove, you open a door. It gives you something different, and always makes people dance.”
All this has happened at a time that techno line-ups have steadily been taking over Ibiza. Established nights like Cocoon, Music On and Carl Cox’s Space residency have been joined by Tale Of Us’ Afterlife at Space, which welcomes the likes of Rødhåd, Marcel Dettmann and Nina Kraviz, HYTE at Amnesia, with techno dons Chris Liebing, Pan-Pot and Loco Dice, whilst Marco Bailey brings a plethora of underground talent to Privilege’s Vista Club with Materia.
However, Capriati slightly fears for the new wave of techno on the White Isle. “This is something I want to speak very honestly about,” he says, leaning forward whilst maintaining firm eye contact. “Ibiza is not techno.
Today, it can never be like when Carl Cox and Richie Hawtin were doing it in the past, as there is such a huge scene. People go to Ibiza to enjoy the island for lightness in a club, rather than it being so dark and hard. I play techno outside Ibiza, I’m not saying, ‘I play tech-house, so techno is shit’. No. I love techno. It’s my life. But in Ibiza, it doesn’t work. And there are so many parties now that the techno crowd won’t fill the clubs. I hope they’re good, of course, and I’ll step back and say, ‘Unbelievable, much respect’. But Ibiza isn’t Berlin.”
Capriati first made his way onto the island as a techno DJ when Mauro Picotto invited him to play Privilege’s old Coco Loco room at his Meganite in 2008, the same party that took the likes of Carola, Adam Beyer and Chris Liebing to the Balearics for the first time. And for someone whose career has roots so deeply planted in Ibiza, it’s a huge surprise that Capriati had never been to the island before that point.
Eight years later though, he’s doing everything he can to follow in the footsteps of his heroes in Ibiza — and none more so than Carl Cox. He now counts the veteran as a close friend, something he says has been invaluable.
“We first met five years ago, but in the last 18 months he’s really become someone that’s helped me,” Capriati explains. “And that’s a real gift. What my team is thinking about is my legacy — Carl is the biggest example of that, and I want to follow him. He recently told me, ‘Everything you do, every decision you make, I’m there for you’. I hugged him, and was almost crying. He brings only good energy and positive vibes, and I’ll fight to continue everything he’s taught me.”
It isn’t just Ibiza where Capriati has made waves, with the young Italian establishing himself as a global phenomenon. He’s currently in the middle of his biggest year yet, having already been on deck at Detroit’s Movement, Time Warp in Germany and Awakenings Festival in Amsterdam.
Looking forward, as well as his Paradise duties and joining Cox for The Final Chapter at Space, Capriati’s non-stop summer calendar sees him take his 100% JC night to Cavo Paradiso in Greece, spin a marathon 12-hour homecoming set at Cocoricò in Riccioni, host a boat party as part of three performances at Croatia’s Sonus Festival, and hit Clapham Common for another b2b with Jamie Jones on the Paradise stage at SW4 in late August.
And that’s something Capriati says he’s particularly looking forward to. “We’re bringing the Ibiza special to London, so we’re very excited,” he enthuses. “This is the second time I’ve been to SW4, and there’s something really special about it. It’s impressive that a festival of that size is in the middle of London — I got a really good vibe there last year.”
Despite still being relatively young, his meteoric rise has been many years in the making. He discovered dance music when he was just 11-years-old, through a DJ playing a summer party in his home town of Caserta. “I’d never heard it before, so I didn’t know what the sound was,” Capriati explains. “But I loved it. It was incredible to see someone make people dance for hours and hours, so I hung around behind the square with my friends listening and watching.”
He went straight home to his parents and asked them to buy him a mixer and turntables. As his father, a policeman, was the sole worker, they simply couldn’t afford it. So, after finishing school for summer, he got a job to save for his first decks. “I lied about my age,” he continues. “So I wasn’t working legally, but you can do that in Italy,” he laughs. “It’s a good and bad thing, but it helped me, as otherwise I wouldn’t be where I am today.”
At the end of the summer he had enough money to buy a small two-channel mixer and a single turntable with a belt. To complete the package, his grandmother gave him a turntable without a pitch-shift, so he learned how to DJ on a crude home-made system, playing Chicago house and artists like Masters At Work at parties in friends garages and basements.
He later went on to get his first residency of sorts in order to earn money to buy vinyl, playing at a venue in Caserta called Subway that hosted weddings and birthday parties. There, spinning anything from pop to Latin American music, Capriati says he honed his ability to read a dancefloor. “At that kind of party, if you don’t play music that makes the kids and the grannies dance, you lose the job,” he explains. “Even though it wasn’t something I wanted to do, as I wasn’t playing electronic music, it made me stronger as a DJ.”
Shortly after, Capriati attended a rave at Naples’ Old River Park in 2003, where Dave Clarke was on the decks. It was the first time he’d heard techno, and it was a discovery that would define his future. It inspired him to move into production, and he’d spend the next few years working on music in his bedroom. The result was ‘Microbiotik’, which was signed to Globox Recordings in 2007, and made it into the box of Napoli veteran Markantonio. Shortly after, Capriati would land a residency with Italy’s International Talent, warming up at larger parties as well as hosting his own monthly night.
Two years later, he would make his Drumcode debut with ‘Sidechains/Kontrol Room’, with Adam Beyer’s label catapulting him to an international audience. He would go on to forge a strong bond with the Swedish label, releasing countless EPs, as well as his second full-length album, ‘Self Portrait’. “Adam opened the door for me when nobody else was going to,” Capriati explains. “So I’ll forever be thankful for that.”
Seven years on, in June this year, Capriati launched his own Redimension label. And the first release couldn’t have been much bigger, with the Italian teaming up with Beyer for a collaboration. “That first record is a thank you,” Capriati says. “And a demonstration of respect for what he did for me. He’s been a big mentor in terms of production, as — at the time I discovered techno — it was the Drumcode sound that I wanted to do.”
Capriati has also set up his own studio in Barcelona now, after years of producing at home. He says that the launch of the label, which he aims to use “to support close friends and emerging talent”, signals the start of a more prolific period of production for him. In a recurring theme though, Capriati says he won’t rush things and plans to keep his feet firmly on the ground. “I don’t want to become surrounded by hype,” he explains. “As everything that gets hyped finishes. It can take you high, but it always comes to an end.”
At dinner later that evening, before he goes on deck at INPUT High Fidelity Dance Club for his all-night set at Off Sónar, he’s surrounded by his team, as well as fellow Neapolitan artists Markantonio and Flavio Folco, who Capriati has been working with in the studio.
Despite what he says about wanting to avoid hype — with a label releasing artists the size of Beyer, the continued global success of his 100% JC nights, and a sound that’s as suited to Amnesia’s cavernous space as it is the intimacy of DC10 — seeing him away from his couch at home in his secluded corner of Barcelona and in this setting, it’s clear that as much as he might try to refute it, Capriati is building a world brand.
“I started very young,” he says. “That’s why, although I’m only 28-years-old, I think more like I’m 40. But I still can’t believe what I am doing already,” he concludes, with a smile on his face. “This is incredible.”
Just a few hours later he’s at the controls in front of an adoring audience. But as he navigates the CDJs and his Pioneer RMX-1000, dishing out rolling tech-house with flourishes of his own percussion before working into slamming techno, he’s visibly as excited as anyone on the dancefloor as his name rotates on projectors that engulf the stage area.
The crowd bounces, and during every track that gets a huge response, Capriati points to the sky. Having spent time with him though, it’s clear that his continued success is down to hard work, deep consideration of career decisions, and a desire to focus on long-term objectives, rather than the contribution of a higher being. That's what’s sending Capriati to the top.
Words: Rob McCallum
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