“For Me, It Was Always About The Music And The Dancing”: Piu Piu Talks
"The first time I played was at a friends birthday…..I was so nervous I got shit drunk and played one record and passed out. I thought it was pretty funny," Giulietta Canzani giggles as she recalls her first experience of Djing. The DJ and radio host known as Piu Piu has made a name for herself as an electic selector and tastemaker. She's come a long way since that first experience and now has a regular show on Rinse France, played on Boiler Room and heads up her own night 'Grooveboxx' where she can count Vakula amongst her guest DJs.
For as long as she can remember, music has been a passion that has burned within her. Growing up in a household whose day to day lives revolved around music, it's not hard to see why. Her mother was a contemporary dancer and her father, a musician, would take a young Giulietta along to his rehearsals with him, even housing his recording studio in her room when she was very small and then in her brother's room- the DJ and producer French Fries, aka Valentino Canzani Mora. "For me, it was always about the music and the dancing," she enthuses. "I was always amazed by music and radio shows. I would do fake radio shows. My father had given me a recording machine or something and I would just pretend I was having this show and I would even do fake ads."
It's rather surprising then that Canzani's path went in a different direction to begin with. Choosing to pursue a career in fashion editorial initially after studying at art school, thinking she would have creative freedom. She soon became disheartened with the industry and realised it was not the life that she wanted for herself. Every evening after work she would come home and sit up until the small hours looking for music- "I would never sleep!" The reason it took her so long to build up the courage to pursue music as a career was, she thinks, perhaps to do with the fact that she is a woman.
Photo credit: Bettina Pittaluga
"For a very long time I thought I’m not legitimate enough to do it. But it seems like every woman I talk to at some point has those questions. Whatever it is that they’re doing there’s always a point where they feel they’re not good enough or they’re not legitimate enough. And actually to talk about it with other women made me realise it’s not a me thing."
We turn to the subject of gender in the music industry. I'm curious to know what Giulietta thinks about nights that promote an all-female line-up, nights that court divisive opinions.
"I've been asked to play many times at [women only nights]. A lot of the time the line up doesn't make sense. Just because they're all women doesn't mean they play the same….A couple of months ago I played a party and it was an all female line up. The girl before me played super hard techno and finished at 1:30am on 140BPM techno…..You see all male line ups all the time. I think it’s a promotor issue. Not enough women are promoted. People don’t talk enough about women who are DJs and who are producers. Because there are many, many amazing [female] DJs."
Recently on her Rinse France show, Giulietta curated a day of music in celebration of International Women's Day. The show was a mammoth 16 hours long and featured guest mixes, interviews and talks with a plethora of talented female artists, journalists and the like. For me, being a DJ is being a curator of an hour of music [and bringing] people together," she comments. She used to be a part of the Girls Girls Girls collective- a group of female DJs who ran club nights at the Social Club in Paris, inviting guests such as Mykki Blanco, Eclair Fifi and Louisahhh! along to play. When I ask her about the collective that she was a part of for two years, I get the impression that because they were all women, people assumed they would all play the same genre and style. "I think people realise now that we aren't interchangable. We all have our own style and belong to a different scene," she says.
I take the converstion back to a comment she made on a recent Rinse show where she remarked that she has been sober for three and a half years and ask tentatively what it was that made her choose to quit drinking. "I had to quit drinking because I was struggling with alcohol," she informs me. "The last time I drank was at a hip hop party. It was mad fun and I just got pissed, you know? I had a massive black out and the night before I'd drunk and had a massive blackout. I woke up and the guy I was going out with at the time….told me that I had wanted to drink soap because I wanted to wash myself. I was like "Oh my god! If he hadn't have been there, I could've died." It was a wake up call."
Going sober in an industry which is accustomed to long and hazy nights and days fuelled by drugs and alcohol isn't easy. In an environment where you start going out from a young age, partying and the somewhat inevitable substance and alcohol overindulgence, becomes normalised. Giulietta tells me that at first she found going out to clubs a struggle. "I was not an alcoholic," she stresses. "I wasn't craving alcohol….I just didn't know when to stop, which is a problem for a lot of people." She found herself unable to have fun for the initial six months, for a while finding herself "just so bored". It wasn't until she went to a Sonos party where the legenary Theo Parrish was playing that she realised you can have fun without the booze. "It was AMAZING," she excitedly recalls. "It just flipped my mind and opened up a new part of my brain. Like, ok, you can have mad fun and dance and be with your friends and just forget [your cares]….but you remember everything."
As well as this new perspective on music and clubbing, Canzani still dabbles in the fashion world collaborating with brands such as Monki, Nike and Moschino as well as creating an immersive show at Palais de Tokyo last December. She's been working alongside other artists to develop more projects around sound and the way we listen to music and the feelings it evokes.
She's recently been asked to curate a project for the Musée du quai Branly in Paris, who archive the art of indigenous cultures from Africa, Asia, Oceania and the Americas. Canzani's family were originally from Uruguay, the smallest country in South America. The indigenous people from there were known as the Charrúa's, a tribe that her grandmother was a part of. The project is for their 'Les Siestes Électronique' festival in June and July where she'll be working with the archives from the museum. "There was a genocide in the 1830s and the last four people of the tribe [were brought] over to France in a boat and were exhibited in Jardin des Plantes, which is actually where I live now."
I wonder, does her heritage play a part in influencing her musical selections? "I think when you're an immigrant or the son of an immigrant, your approach to culture is very different," Canzani explains. "Growing up I always felt like I was French, but not totally and I was from Uruguay, but not totally." She tells me that the UK Djing culture heavily influenced her, admiring the way UK radio DJs mixed house together with RnB, hip hop and drum and bass on their shows. "Somehow it made sense," she says with conviction. "For me, I was just craving that openness."
Now, Giulietta is about to embark on a tour, taking her diverse record collection to Asia in June starting in Seoul and putting on one of her Grooveboxx parties in Tokyo which she's "really excited about". She also hopes to collaborate with more artists on projects. She concludes: "I'm doing what makes me feel good."
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Check out her Rinse France show over on her SOUNDCLOUD.