Asked the most musical part of his childhood, DJ/producer Stefano "Riva Starr" Miele replies, "My mum's slaps on my face." It's an appropriately flip answer, for Miele is nothing if not cheeky. A similarly fresh approach even pervades his boozy take on house music.
This winking production aesthetic has helped tracks such as the seeming Balkan beer hall anthem "I Was Drunk" (featuring Nôze) to find a home on creatively wonky labels including Claude VonStroke's Dirtybird and Jesse Rose's Made to Play. And it's the latter, Berlin-based label that has released the Riva Starr debut full-length, If Life Gives You Lemons, Make Lemonade.
An Italian operating out of London, Naples-bred Miele claims to have been "born as a DJ first then eventually started to make productions a few years later." Indeed, Miele had been active under several aliases for much of the new millennium prior to his blog-borne emergence as Riva Starr.
At the Defected in the House and Strictly Rhythm party, with Michael Canitrot, Eddie Thoneick, Chocolate Puma, and others. 10 p.m. Tuesday, March 23. Cameo, 1445 Washington Ave., Miami Beach. Tickets cost $30 and up in advance from wantickets.com; ages 21 and up; 305-532-2667; cameomiami.com. At the SCI+TEC presents Dubfire party, with Dubfire, Santos, Nadastrom, and others. 10 p.m. Wednesday, March 24. Set, 320 Lincoln Rd., Miami Beach. Tickets cost $30 and up from wantickets.com; ages 21 and up; 305-531-2008; setmiami.com. At the Juicy Beach party, with Robbie Rivera, Joachim Garraud, Funkagenda, Oscar G, and others. Thursday, March 25. Nikki Beach, 1 Ocean Dr., Miami Beach. Tickets cost $60 in advance from wantickets.com; ages 21 and up; 786-515-5530; nikkibeach.com. At the Blue Collar Entertainment and Mixcloud showcase, with Konrad Black, Justin Martin, Jesse Rose, and others. 10 p.m. Thursday, March 25. Electric Pickle, 2826 N. Miami Ave., Miami. Tickets cost $15 in advance from residentadvisor.net; ages 21 and up; 305-456-5613; electricpicklemiami.com. At the Annie Mac Presents party, with Annie Mac, DJ Mehdi, Jack Beats, and others. 10 p.m. Friday, March 26. White Room, 1306 N. Miami Ave., Miami. Tickets cost $15 in advance from wantickets.com; ages 18 and up; 305-995-5050; whiteroommiami.com. At Sasha's exclusive-appearance WMC party, with Sasha, Timo Maas, Santos, and Michel Cleis. Saturday, March 27. Shine at the Shelborne, 1801 Collins Ave., Miami Beach. Tickets cost $30 in advance; ages 21 and up; 305-341-1445; shelborne.com.
Whereas much of his previous output had been bootleg remixes and breakbeat-tinged sets, on a cusp that attracted attention from camps such as Fatboy Slim's label, Miele's current success falls more in the vicinity of house music. Still, that label might mean something different on any given day.
"House is a nasty word, indeed," Miele says. "But the good thing about house is that it is such an open field that everything can contribute to make it fresh and innovative even after a few decades from the start." Asked where house is headed, having had its minimal, deep, and fidgety phases in the past decade, Miele responds that it's "coming back minimal, then going deep, then getting fidgety... only with different names."
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This exchange highlights Miele's focus on remaining unfocused on any one specific interpretation of form. Indeed, the 11 tracks on the Riva Starr album cycle through tech-funk, ethno-electro bangers, wonky squelches, and throwback Chicago-style jackin', along with tossing gypsy fiddle samples and bass bombs.
The overreaching goal, he says, was "to make a club album, something made by a DJ for the DJs, but with a strong musical element that could also involve a different audience."
There's a reasonable chance that other audience Miele is courting is a mix of inebriated girls and guys drawn to the front of the DJ booth by the sunny composite strut of insistent vocal edits and slinky instrumental cuts. (It's also showcased on Riva Starr's 2010 edition of the Defected in the House mix series.) He even has his own label on the horizon, named SNATCH! for the way Miele enthusiastically handles seemingly divergent samples, genres, and, um, other things. It seems like Riva Starr's got plenty more juice to squeeze.