Born in Milan and grown up between Italy and London, Cristina started playing the piano when she was six, grew up composing music, worked in the music industry and currently works for Google.
Hello Cristina. Welcome to Parkett. How are you and how did it go this summer season that saw you perform alongside Damian Lazarus at Hi in Ibiza?
Hi, thanks for the invitation. I’m doing very well, a good season full of events and gigs around the world has just ended, so I can’t complain. Hï, in particular, was an incredible experience because I got to experience firsthand what it means to play in the best club in the world, opening for some of the most respected DJs.
I’d like to start with your story. You started playing the piano at the age of six. Have you always breathed in your family atmosphere a certain type of musical education and what were the moments that you consider fundamental for your artistic training?
My grandmother was a piano teacher and I grew up spending a lot of time with my paternal grandparents while my parents worked. When I was six, my parents had just opened an advertising production house (we are all very creative in the family!) And so I found myself spending hours next to my grandmother who played. She tried to teach me to solfize several times, but I just didn’t want to: I just wanted to play and transpose the melodies, I had a lot of fun. I played everything by ear or by memorizing, since my grandmother sang all the notes … My grandmother was without a doubt the one who, more than anyone else in the family, passed on to me the love for music and the piano.
Over the years I have continued to take piano lessons, first with my grandmother and then with other teachers. With one of these, at 14 I started studying harmony and musical composition, and between the ages of 14 and 17 I wrote and composed three songs, with a more pop slant, which remained there without ever having been sent to any label. but I have recorded them on some CD that some friends still have, every now and then they re-emerge from various removals and we laugh about it! In retrospect, in fact, I smile; in the end I was just a little girl but the love for music was already well rooted! And certainly this too was an experience that helped me train my ear and learn the skills of harmony and musical composition that are now helping me a lot in production, but also in DJ sets.
You have lived in London, Barcelona, ââMiami and Milan. What do you bring with you from each of these cities and how do you plan to translate the multiculturalism you have absorbed musically?
Despite being from Milan and loving my city very much, I have always considered myself a “citizen of the world”. I left for London and Barcelona, ââwith a gap year of study and work, at the age of 18. I have friends all over the world, I speak six languages, my husband is Serbian and, in addition to music, my other great passion is traveling. I have traveled to more than 50 countries, and I can’t wait to see the next 50. When I travel I usually love being with locals, avoiding tourist experiences, absorbing as much as possible the culture of the place I am visiting .. because I think this can be very enriching.
My favorite artist has always been Franco Battiato, also a great traveler and lover of different cultures, which was certainly reflected in his music. Even in music I must say that, right from the start, my profile was categorized more as “international” than Italian; perhaps due to the various cultural influences that I have collected during my life, my style is relatively eclectic and cannot be categorized into a single vein; in fact, I’m halfway between deep, minimal and melodic, but I have my own style.
Undoubtedly, having lived in London has influenced me a lot because the minimal trend is what I have known deeply living in London .. and also the experience in Barcelona has marked me a lot, I remember that when I lived there I went to Sonar for the first time, and at the time there was no Off Sonar either. This cosmopolitan aspect of mine is certainly reflected in my sets, which are always different, varied and sought after … in fact I spend hours and hours researching new music and I love to be tested with new opportunities, such as creating experimental sets or with different moods, but always with a certain identity. I think this is a characteristic that I have developed precisely by traveling since I was relatively young, and being confronted with people and situations totally different from my Milanese “comfort zone”.
In your productions the main element is essentiality. Always try not to add too much and keep a rather elegant, but redundant balance. How does your production process take place and what are the key elements?
First of all, thank you, because these words represent exactly what my intention is; create redundant and almost hypnotic productions, but with a touch of class and without ever exaggerate. I usually produce from synths, which I repeat as an atmosphere in the track to set a background key. Then I add the drum rack, percussion and all the elements of the groove. I then take care of the key melodies, such as bass, various pads and finishing the effects, risers and elements to create a crescendo before the drops.
In several tracks I use vocals, usually very minimal and spoken. I try, in fact, to be essential; I don’t use too many elements, because I am convinced that “less is more” and that this must also be reflected in the music. I draw a parallel with Apple, a company from which I learned an obsession for perfection and detail: it is better to do a few things, but very well .. and be proud of it.
Your bond with Crosstown Rebels is very strong, even the latest record is a clear demonstration of this. How was it born and what point does it represent in your sound evolution?
Again, a parallelism with Apple: exactly how I applied in Apple through the generic job portal and entered the company without connections or referrals, the same way it happened with Crosstown. Thanks to the advice of Leme of Dirty Channels, a dear friend who had listened to my demos, I sent my tracks to the generic address in Crosstown. After a couple of months, Damian followed me on IG and the rest is history. I think it was fate that allowed me to be heard by A&R in Crosstown and to follow by Damian, who knows how many demos they don’t get every day .. even for Apple, it happened the same way: when they called me to arrange the first interview, I was incredulous. But everything happens for a reason, right?
As for the sound evolution, certainly since the first release with Rebellion, which took place with a track included in a VA, there has been a notable evolution and I myself as a producer have set my own style, which I now think is recognizable. in my tracks. I also started working with other artists in a more structured way, for example with Shar who is the voice of 3 of the tracks on the “Personal” EP. In fact, the requests I get to do remixes or co-productions with other artists are more and more frequent .. it is something that makes me very happy! I really think my style is quite recognizable in my music now, and I hope to grow and learn more and more as time goes by.
One thing that I have read and that I really liked is how you talk about your being a mother and how you represent for you a push to improve yourself and not a limit. Have you ever received work discrimination or in any case a different treatment for your being a mother or have you always found situations that have always included your parental role?
For me it is very important to share my story, both to motivate other women who throw themselves into the world of djing, and to help those who are already established but are afraid of having children. Unfortunately, we think that ours is a career that is absolutely incompatible with the family, and in fact there is a lot to do to help parents and offer them support (practical and psychological) in music. But, for me, being a mother and a DJ can coexist. In my specific case, becoming a mother allowed me to temporarily disconnect from the working life of the corporate world and start a hobby which then turned into a job; and I must say that, although I have happened to feel treated in a “different” way because I was a woman, I have never felt discriminated against for being a mother.
For me, being a mom and a DJ has never been a problem, and I’ve always set myself as a mom who cares about working and is available to work; I think this has contributed to the fact that I have never received disrespectful comments or treatments that I am a mom.
Indeed, paradoxically I happened to feel more judged by people not in the sector, who think that the world of nightlife is a real danger for the family. But I want to prove the opposite. If you think about it, there are many types of professions that require exhausting hours and travel, but where it is possible to combine it all with the family.
I often think of my mother-in-law, who is a pulmonologist and I respect a lot; she has spent her entire career working night shifts often, working a lot and traveling to many conferences around the world, but managing to combine working life with being a mother in an excellent way. Another great example of mine is Samanta Cristoforetti, who a few months ago left for space for several months and who gets help from her husband with her children. Work and motherhood are possible, you just need to create awareness and lead by example, where possible.
Milan is a city that is gradually forming its own clubbing scene, trying to look and be inspired by the great European capitals. How do you see the state of health of the Milanese scene and what are the ideas on which would you focus on improving it?
Absolutely, events related to the world of electronics are popping up like mushrooms and it is wonderful to see that Milan is advancing on this front. I left Milan at the age of 18, at the time the electronic culture was really very underground, and now things have certainly changed. There are several interesting realities such as Ufeel, Picnic feel the music, Modvlar, Take it easy, The cannibals that deserve .. and that are trying to educate people to appreciate sophisticated electronic music. Milan is a city very focused on fashion, and consequently on appearance.
I do not deny that in the past I happened to be a little disappointed by situations in which I felt like I was surrounded by people who were at the event more for the people and appearance than for the music or the DJ. But the city is evolving a lot, and with it also people’s taste for a stronger musical culture. I am happy to be back in Milan and to be experiencing this change firsthand.
You were born as a DJ, later approaching production. How do you manage to balance the two, especially in periods with many dates?
It takes a lot of organization. I am currently working full time at Google, and my husband recently moved to London for work. When he announced that he was going to move, it was a shock for me, because he helped me a lot, especially playing in the evenings with Sofia while I, at the end of the working day, devoted myself to music. Now I am alone with my daughter and therefore I have even less time, but every single moment of free time (usually the night) I dedicate to music. In fact, I’m quite embarrassed when people ask me if I’ve seen “the latest Netflix series so-and-so”, because I never have time to watch Netflix or sit on the couch!
The free time I have is dedicated to researching music, production or any kind of music related activity (how to answer this interview). Personally I love traveling for gigs, because they are moments for me in which, usually, I organize myself with my husband or my aunt to get help with Sofia, and I have time to disconnect from the thousands of everyday responsibilities, and I see that I also become more productive and creative on production. In fact, I usually jot down production ideas when I travel, and then complete them from home or in the studio when I’m in Milan.
Last question. How does Cristina Lazic see herself in ten years?
I started playing on maternity leave, at 30, now I’m 36 so in 10 years I will certainly be a relatively advanced age .. However I see myself working full time in music, possibly with my own label and with a community of people with similar taste in music, with whom to potentially start a collective or something similar. In addition, I would also like to take care of the sound for clubs, hotels, restaurants etc, because I think I am inclined to create the right musical situation, depending on the situation.
I certainly see myself living in a place by the sea, with my husband and my daughter. I also see a lot of potential in the world of Web3, so this could be a way to give vent to my creativity in ways that may seem unthinkable at the moment, but that maybe, in 10 years, will be normal. On the other hand, as a lover and professional of technology, I cannot overlook this change.