Grasso Brothers know how to boogie, and show it on new compilation
by Will Sumsuch
A pair of siblings for whom crate digging has grown from a shared obsession to a family business, Gino and Federico Grasso hail from Bologna, Italy. Inspired by and heavily involved in Italy’s disco and boogie explosion during the ’80s, the pair have traveled the globe searching for the perfect beat. While elder brother Gino DJs regularly and dabbles in production under the moniker “G&D Edits” alongside house producer Dino Angioletti, Federico prefers to concentrate his energies fully on crate digging, emerging occasionally to play very special sets for discerning, like-minded vinyl junkies. Over the years, the Grasso Brothers have supplied rare records to disco DJ luminaries Dimitri From Paris and Sadar Bahar, among others, so the announcement of their first compilation album caused quite a stir among the record collecting cognoscenti. Out now on BBE, We Know How to Boogie is an entertaining romp through the brothers’ expansive record collection, one obscure treat at a time. We caught up with Gino to find out more about the record:
Tell us a little about your musical history.
I began to listen to funk in the ’70s when my uncle was director of an Italian independent radio station. Then, Federico, who is six years younger than I, immediately started to listen to Black music non-stop.
Every weekend we were going to clubs to listen to the DJs who were playing funk, trying to score titles to buy the following week: the beginning of our digging.
We were very lucky because one of the best Italian record shops for soul and funk in the ’90s, Black Power [which later became Hot Groovy Records] was only 10 kilometers from our house, and the owner [DJ] Luca Trevisi was our great friend, so he always gave us tips about the records to play.
Subsequently we began to travel first to London, then to the States to buy records and to search for independent labels in particular.
Our best experience DJing together was the period at the Garage Paradise, it was a fantastic time with a fantastic crew. Garage Paradise was a party born in Verona around 2005 and that a year later was held also in Bologna. I cannot forget my first gig with all the guys… people dancing everywhere, it was amazing! Nowadays [Gino] is always on the road while Federico’s DJ outings are rarer: he likes to play his records on special occasions [in front of real diggers and collectors].
The only rule we have is play what you like… always !!!
Italy has a long association with disco music. What is it about the genre that you think resonates so strongly with the Italian people?
We can tell you our own experience: In the ’70s in Italy, disco was hitting the young generation like a tsunami. In that period the big dance clubs played rock and roll and boogie woogie, which was the sound of our parents. But there was often a little private party for teenagers with this new sound [disco]. The teens loved it and some club owners started to believe that the way forward was to give space to young people. Every weekend a lot of people used to travels many miles by train or car to dance to this incredible sound and in the ’80s producers like Malavasi [founder of the group Change] put in the first brick for Italo Disco.
By the mid-’80s, Italo boogie and disco was played in clubs all around the country.
You’ve supplied records to a lot of other DJs and producers over the years. What’s the secret to finding those rare, forgotten treats in dusty record bins?
[laughs] Federico can speak for both of us. In that period in Italy, if a DJ played one song everybody wanted to get it, so we thought the secret was to search and listen to more independent labels and bands and to find our groove inside these obscure tracks. That’s why we got all our P&Ps [the New York independent label run by Patrick Adams and Peter Brown] and associated labels for cheap. To be honest, Federico is a killer digger.
How did you go about choosing the tracks for We Know How to Boogie?
It wasn’t easy, as there are so many reissues nowadays. We started with around 34 titles and we ended up whittling the selection down to the final fourteen songs.
We have tried to find in our collection tracks that were rarely seen, never repressed or included in other compilations, but that were especially in line with our sound and hopefully that could make sense musically as a whole. I think the promo mix we did proves it.
Do any of the tracks on the record have a personal story for you?
We were in NYC, to dig for records in a dealer’s flat. We were already at the end of the trip and all the records we’d found were at cheap or medium prices. Then we found an independent twelve-inch unknown to us. I asked how much it was, and the dealer looked at the vinyl and answered $200. Immediately we replied, “hey man, are you crazy?” We had a small turntable with us so he said, “listen to it.” The track was one of the best tracks we have ever heard: Sherman Hunter’s “Dance To Freedom.”
What are your favorite places in the world to play?
For sure, in the U.K. Small clubs with a great soundsystem are always the best for disco and boogie.
Tell us about the edits on the album. What was your motivation to edit certain records?
When you play a record, especially if it’s a 7-inch, a lot of times you think, “oh there’s a killer part but it’s too short,” or, “there’s a great groove going on but afterwards the track loses the feeling,” so you want to extend certain parts. When we decided to put [Living Color’s] “Plastic People” and [T.B. Funk’s] “Free Blow” onto the compilation, immediately we thought about doing one long version and one dub. I called Dino [Angioletti] and we did it. “Free Blow” is the only Italo track on the compilation, but I never heard this tune in the ’80s, as the track is very obscure. Until Sadar Bahar played it, the record was relatively easy to find. Now it’s almost impossible, so we thought to include our edit.
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