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Bubblin Up

Bubblin' Up: Lizz

First conversations with a rising Romanian.

Not much is known about Lizz, one of the latest additions to Bucharest's Sunrise Booking Agency, where he joins the likes of Rhadoo, Raresh, Cezar, and more. Lizz, real name Petre Ionut Valentin, often shortened to Petre Vali, has been a known producer in this Bucharest-centric Romanian scene for some time, a much-tapped source for the groovy, minimal(ist) productions with which the country has long been associated. Yet, as with many of his peers, he's much unknown outside of domestic territories, in part due to an absence of self-promotion and insistence on keeping his music almost exclusive to those around him. In line with this, Lizz doesn't even have a Resident Advisor page. "I like this mystery," he explains, smiling.

Lizz was born in Buzau, a small city in the south-east of Romania, before moving to Iasi to study sculpture in 2011, aged 19. It was around this time that he first discovered the musical works of those he now plays alongside, and quickly began digging to discover more. "This kind of music was very hard to find because it was at the beginning and no track was released, so that made you look even further," he recalls. No sooner was he experimenting with music production and DJing, with a clear sonic aesthetic in mind. By 2014, upon graduation, he had his first release, a two-track EP on Music is Art, while his other unreleased works were being put to good use by the likes of Petre Inspirescu and more.

Fast forward to today, and Lizz has established himself as a resident of Club Midi in Cluj, where he moved in 2015 to pursue a career in music. He's also a regular on the  Eastenderz label alongside Priku, East End Dubs, Cosmjn, and others. His sound, though comfortable within this familiar Romanian aesthetic, is recognisable for being dark and brooding, with heavy, rolling basslines. As his profile continues to rise, both inside Romanian and across Europe, we caught up with Lizz to learn more about his work.

In addition to this first interview, Lizz has shared "Over Side," an unreleased cut offered for free download via the WeTransfer button at the bottom of the page.

Your first release landed in 2014 with Sunset Introspect, but when did you start experimenting with music production?

Yes, my first release was in 2014, but with the production I started in 2011, driven by pure curiosity, love, and passion for the music.

What music was it that inspired you to begin producing? Were you attending Romanian parties?

Regarding musical genres, I started with electro or commercial music coming from outside the country, like Erik Morillo, Swedish House Mafia, Green Velvet—all this in 2006. After that, two years later, I slowly began listening to Radio Deea and One FM night shows, where they broadcast tech-house with minimal influences, especially on One Fm. From there, I "drowned" more and more, and started to listen to dub-techno for a while, and then discovered the "Romanian sound," and finally in that moment I felt inspired and the desire to produce that kind of sound because it was something new and different from all I'd heard until then.

Who were your favourite DJs growing up?

I could tell you the DJs that have inspired me before and after I started to produce music. For me, "the model" is Ricardo Villalobos; he’s inspired me the most in my journey through music. I've always liked Petre Inspirescu, especially from the production point of view. Rhadoo is an extraordinary DJ and producer at the same time. There’s also Praslea, a great DJ, and Cristi Cons, Vlad Caia, and many others. I like the DJs that have a variety of sound and they take you through all states of mind in a four- or five-hour set, maybe more, because you can't do this performance in only two hours.

How did you learn to produce?

I learned to produce music by experimenting, and just trying all kinds of crazy stuff. I initially didn’t have much direction but I soon began to master a sound, and if you master a little the sound then you can make everything you want. Practice is all you really need.

What did your earliest musical experiments sound like? Did you have a clear sound aesthetic in mind?

My first productions sounded very bad, as I think it is for everybody when they start to produce music. I didn't have anything in mind, it was all an experiment, and if I think about it, even now everything is an experiment, just that now it's more organized. I don't have a particular sound in mind when a start a track; I just let myself "go with the flow" and see what happens. I like the diversity.

So how did you come to produce the “groovy minimal house” that Romania has become known for?

I no longer think that the Romanian sound translates as just "groovy minimal house,” because lately, every Romanian producer is putting his or her "signature" on. It can be dark and danceable, with high energy, or it can be melodic and warm, with not so much energy. Every producer sounds different. As I already said, I like to vary between these two styles: dark and melodic. The difficulty is that these two are the most different to each other. I began producing this kind of music because I like it, it's simple, I just grew up with it and I really think it represents me; it represents us all as Romanians in the electronic music scene.

At what point did you begin DJing? How do you find this compares to producing?

My first contact with music tools was about three or four years ago, when I was at my friend's house, Cosmin Nastasa (a.k.a Cosmjn), and we rented some players and mixed all night. Regarding the comparison between DJing and producing music, I love them both, it's great when you can play your own tracks, and it's even greater when you receive good feedback from the audience mixing your tracks. It's basically all your work and that's great.

Did you learn to beat match quite quickly?

Yes, quite quickly, in that night when we rented the players, after 30-40 minutes I figured out how it's done. I knew the theory already from before, but it's a little hard at the beginning until you get used to the sensitivity of the jog; basically, that's what I had to learn more, and on vinyl, it's even harder. That took me a lot longer to learn.

Where did you pick up your first DJ bookings?

My first DJ booking was in October 2015, at Midi Club. I was still in Iasi when I received the great news, Mihigh invited me to play along Sepp, Crihan, and Zezeed.

And how did it go for you? Did you play well?

It was a great night. I did the warmup. In my opinion, I did good, though I was very nervous, obviously.

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You’ve since become a resident DJ at Cluj Midi. How did the residency come about?

Yes, I moved to Cluj at the end of 2015 and became a resident at the beginning of 2016. I’m still a resident even now, and this was possible with the help of my good friend Mihigh, who is also resident, from that time. I was in contact with him for like a year and a half (while I was in Iasi), and I decided to move to Cluj-Napoca because I knew it was a better environment to grow as an artist. Mihigh gave me the opportunity to be resident at Midi and I accepted, of course.

Has the residency been very important to your growth as an artist?

Definitely, I think that this was the most important thing in my growth as an artist, I really do know that I made the best decision moving to Cluj. I was in contact with many artists that I wanted to know because I admired their work and that helped me a lot. I think it depends on you to evolve as an artist, but you also need to have luck on your side.

When did you first come across likes of Rhadoo, Raresh, Pedro, and the others?

The first person I sent music to was Pedro, and then after to Rhadoo and Raresh. I saw a video on Youtube from Sunwaves 18 where Pedro played a track of mine and Mihigh. I was surprised because in that time I knew, from what I'd heard (We didn’t know each other then.) that he is a highly selective person regarding the music, and I didn't expect him to play my track from the first sent mail with some tracks. I was very proud when I heard the track, and after that, I emailed him even more tracks; basically, I sent him all that I had done until that moment! Since then I send him everything I make. That was my first time, and after that were Rhadoo and Raresh, with good feedback from them, also.

Have these guys been supportive of you?

Yes, they helped me very much by playing my tracks. I've had the opportunity to be listened to by many people because they've played my tracks and that was a big thing. After a while, it all exploded.

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Looking back, talk to me about your journey into music. What are your earliest musical memories growing up? Do you come from a musical family?

No, I'm not from a family with musical interest, but I remember even when I was a child MTV was my favourite TV channel. I think my cousin Catalin has had a big contribution to my musical education. He was into breakdance for a while, when I was around eight or nine years old, and while he was doing his rehearsals, I was listening to Mr President, Snow, Bomfunk MCs, and many others. I remember that he was putting the speakers in the backyard, and rehearsing. I tried many times to learn his moves, but I was just not good at that! In that time, everything was different, we didn't find music everywhere; only a few people had access to music. He was among the first who owned a PC and had the opportunity to make CDs with music. After that was the MTV "era,” where I was listening to Prince. Note: I'm a big fan of Prince, by the way. "If I Was Your Girlfriend" is one of my favourites. I was also listening to Michael Jackson, Sade, Kool and the Gang, Earth Wind and Fire, and others.

You originate from Buzau, but when did you first become familiar with the Bucharest minimal scene, led by Rhadoo, Catalin, and Sunrise?

Yes, I am from Buzau, that's my birthplace, but the contact with the Romanian sound was when I moved to Iasi to study. I think the first kind of set I listened was from TC Studio, the set at Vibecast sessions. I loved the set, it was on repeat for like 50 times. Not joking!

What age were you?

I think that was in 2011, when I was 19. Then I applied to university, at the faculty of visual arts George Enescu in Iasi. In that summer I went to Iasi and stayed for six days in their student dorm. I stayed there with my colleague and friend, Alex. We shared six great days where we listened to two hours of Romanian electronic music, and two hours of Romanian hip-hop (hahaha!), cause he wasn’t a fan of electronic music. It was a great experience that will remain in my mind all my life. So that's how it started, my journey to really know about electronic music and having contact with these kinds of parties, because in Buzau neither before nor even nowadays no such parties are organized.

What did you study at university?

I studied Sculpture for three beautiful years, before graduating. It was nice because I could make music and sculpture at the same time.

Were you producing a lot at university? 

Yes, I used to produce a lot of music when I was at the university, just like I do now, I guess.

After hearing this Romanian music for the first time did this inspire you to begin digging further into this music?

Yes, certainly. This kind of music was very hard to find because it was at the beginning and no track was released, so that made you look even further. You had satisfaction when you found what you wanted!

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Looking back, how do you feel your sound and style has evolved a lot over the years?

Yes, surely this has happened. If you compare my first release Sunset Introspect with my last one, there's a big difference. I guess it's normal to happen this way, but as I already said, I still like to make music with dark influences, both minimal and experimental.

What is it that draws you to this dark style of music?

I don’t know, sometimes this dark music can initiate certain states (like a tunnel) from which you don't want to escape. This is one of the things that the main Romanian music doesn't have, I think. This is a reason why I prefer to play like this sometimes, or produce.

"One of the things that makes the Romanian music so special is the exclusivity. If everyone had it, they wouldn't come anymore to listen to you, as a DJ."

What’s the story behind the name “Lizz” and when did you begin using it?

Oh, the story! Yes, Lizz comes from "Lizard." This was my nickname in high school, my sculpture teacher told me once that I resemble a Galapagos lizard, and that was it. Lizz is just an abbreviation of lizard.

How did your first release come about, in 2014? Did you send out demos?

No, I didn't send any demos. I was in contact on Skype with the guy who runs the label and I sent him some tracks. After that, he wanted to make a release and that was all.

How did you become involved with the Eastenderz label, for your 2016 debut?

Thanks to Adrian Niculae, Priku, who put me in contact with Chase from the label. He proposed me a release, and I was happy because it's a good label, a very known one, and now we already have three releases and one more to come.

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You keep a very low profile, with no interviews or media activity, and no Resident Advisor page. Do you like the mystery?

No, I don't have a Resident Advisor page, and I do like the mystery.

But do you not think this hinders your growth?

Not necessarily. If the music is great and people are really interested in you, then they will keep an eye on you; in my case, they're gonna find my Facebook page and they'll push the "follow" button. For me, that’s enough. That's where I post the most about everything. You don't have to be everywhere to become a success; it’s the same thinking with Romanian music, coming on vinyl only. One of the things that makes the Romanian music so special is the exclusivity. If everyone had it, they wouldn't come anymore to listen to you, as a DJ. If it was on the radio then people wouldn’t come to parties; rather they would listen in the car or at home. I like to believe that the main reason why people come to parties is to hear the music itself.

Your tracks are played out by some of the leading Romanian DJs, including Barac, Priku, Rhadoo, and the others. Do you have a list of DJ that you send your releases to for support?

Yes, I have a list of DJs, some are my friends. I try to have a balance from this point of view. Usually, I send my stuff to Romanian guys.

Who is on this list?

Of course, Rhadoo, Pedro, Raresh, Mihigh, Barac, Priku, Gescu, Cezar, Arapu. There are only a few, and last but not least, my very good friend Cosmjn.

You recently signed with the Sunrise booking agency. How did this come about? Did Catalin invite you?

After a while after my first set at Sunwaves, Gescu (George Bornaci) proposed me to become part of the Sunrise team. Of course, I gladly accepted, it was one of my dreams come true since I started to produce.

You’re beginning to tour as a DJ a lot more nowadays. How are you finding the travel and touring?

To travel it's an amazing experience, I love to see new places, but it's also very tiring at the same time. In the end, it's worth the effort, without any doubt.

Where is your favourite place to play? 

Oh, good question! If I think about it, if it's for the sound and audience, the best for me it's GuestHouse, from Bucharest, after that it's The Block from Tel-Aviv and then Midi Club in Cluj-Napoca. In all these places, the people are very welcoming, and the sound system is incredible.

Where is your studio today?

The studio is in my own home, it's a home studio. It's not very big, I recently built a special pc for music production, because you need a very good CPU and RAM memory for all the emulators you want to use. I have a few controllers, a sampler, a synth, mixers, and many VSTs. I try to improve my setup at the moment, but first, I want to know for sure what I need.

How much time do you spend in the studio?

I think maybe sometimes even six to eight hours on the days when I'm inspired but in general three hours a day minimum. I like to create a lot.

What’s next on the release front? Can we expect more material soon?

Regarding the releases, there will be some VA and a couple double EPs. I'm sure there will be great tracks, carefully chosen.

Can you expect an album at some point?

Actually, I have one scheduled this year, but we will see if things will materialize. For now, I can't give you more details.


Lizz will be playing at London's 93 Feet East this coming weekend, on Sunday, March 18, alongside East End Dubs and Cosmjn, as part of the Belong series. More information can be found here.


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