The London gay scene regularly plays host to some of the most exciting DJs around and Pagano is up there with the best of them. He’s no shirker, either. Name a club and chances are he’s span tunes there – Fabric, TRADE, Egg, XXL, Ministry of Sound, they’re all on his glittering CV. So what happens when one of the busiest names in dance music is told his day-job, or night-job rather, is now completely off-limits? Let’s just say he hasn’t been twiddling his thumbs. He tells Gay London Life a little more about his past year.
Hey Pagano, how has the last year been for you?
It has been quite challenging, as for many of us I guess. I lost a close relative to Covid during the first wave, obviously lost all my gigs and my source of income, I was diagnosed with a heart infection which led to reduced cardiac functions and I am only recovering now. More has happened but I would rather keep it private. Nevertheless I have tried to remain optimistic, use the time off to learn new skills and keep producing music. This led me to release 3 original tracks on Mark Knight’s labels Toolroom and Toolroom Trax, plus I debuted on Christian Smith’s acclaimed label Tronic with a single that hit the TOP 10 on a Beatport Techno chart.
We hear you’re lined up for a return to the decks soon – how does it feel to have events happening again?
I really hope they can all go ahead safely. From one point of view it feels great, I can finally go back to do what I love and earn my living. From another point of view, the news coming from countries like India and Brazil is worrying. But we can certainly see the light at the end of the tunnel. I’ve just accepted my first gig overseas since the beginning of the pandemic, which is booked for September. During the last year I received a few offers for gigs abroad, but I did not feel it was safe nor morally right to fly to third world countries with high rates of infections among the locals, to play music at a party. I saw many colleagues working at these so called ‘plague raves’, and as much as I can understand the financial pressure, I still do not believe that it was, ethically or morally, the right thing to do.
That’s completely understandable. Tell us where you will be playing soon.
I have a series of gigs lined up all around London. For my first DJ set, I’m playing a guest slot at Fire on Friday 25th of June for the “As One” Festival. According to the UK government, this should be the reopening weekend and I’m looking forward to joining the team and seeing all the familiar faces again.
Then, I’m particularly excited for the return of OFF at The Steel Yard. We just want to have fun with this one, continuing with the inclusive ethos and cutting-edge music policy that pushed us to start this event in the first place. The first two parties had such an interesting mix of people and the vibe was so cool.
I’m also looking forward to a series of gigs at Ministry of Sound for the German brands Revolver / B:east. I have been playing for Oliver and his team for so many years now, in London first and then in its very successful second incarnation in Berlin. So let’s hope Mr Mohns can duplicate that special Berlin vibe in London.
You’ve been working on music during lockdown, what can you tell us about that?
Even with the clubs being shut during the pandemic, I’ve never stopped releasing music and the results have kept me motivated. For instance, my track ‘Peace & Unity’ on Toolroom was the result of my frustration over the political turmoil and troubling times we witnessed in 2020. This release was so well received, with multiple plays on KISS FM, support across the board from mainstream artists like David Guetta to cooler names from the Defected camp. It also reached the Top 10 position both in the UK Club Chart and the UK Cool Cutz.
With such good feedback and a lot of free time on my hands, I now have so many new tracks ready that I actually have an album in the pipeline. This will be released on my label KISM and will include around 11 new tracks, ranging from house to techno. I want it to be a journey similar to my DJ sets, so each track will be available both individually and as part of a continuous DJ Mix. This should please my fellow DJs but also music lovers who just enjoy a seamless DJ set.
Do you think the gay scene will bounce back to normal once all restrictions are lifted?
Absolutely. We are very resilient creatures. Many members of the community have dealt with negativity in the past and we always find the strength to bounce back. People are going to have so much energy to unleash and when it’s safe to do so, everybody will want to go out, mingle, dance and celebrate life again. I believe that it could be just like the “Roaring Twenties” of the twentieth century. What I really hope for though is that the events will become more inclusive and for the industry to be less cut-throat. I hope that some old habits I witnessed of discrimination and bullying will not restart. There should be room for everybody. I long for a sense of community that I feel has been lost for way too long.
Finally, where are you most looking forward to having a beer indoors when you can?
I think we have been indoors for way too long – let’s hope for a warm summer and plenty of beers al fresco! Jokes aside, I would love a good night out at EGG or Fabric, they always have inspiring line-ups.
soundcloud.com/pagano / @djpagano