SYSTEM OLYMPIA

INTERVIEW BY SAMUEL ENI & BALINT MARJAI
PHOTOS BY BALINT MARJAI

System Olympia was born and raised in Calabria, then she spent her teen years Djing clubs in Rome, then moved to the US to follow her music dream to then reallocate in London. Since we’re big fans of her productions, we decided to have a chat with her.

Tell us a bit more about yourself. Firstly, I was thinking about this: System Olympia It sounds like a bands name, but you're a solo artist. What are the origins of this name? And where did it come from?

“Yeah, you had a really good guess! When I was picking a name before, I was in a band called ‘Royalty’, and then I wanted to do a solo project. And I was thinking of a new name for myself.  At first, I thought the name I wanted should sound like a band. Because I didn’t want to reveal who I was. You know, some people don’t say who they are. Especially, as I didn’t want people to know that I was a girl. I was in a band before and it was produced by me and a guy. And I always felt like people assumed that all the music was done by the guy because you know, girls do not usually [produce] and there are not as many female music producers. There’s a bit of a stigma around it. I don’t want people to know that I’m a woman producing. Just a one-woman band, which it is. Which is actually extreme, because I do everything myself. I record, I am in a studio, I write myself, I mix my songs. I do everything by myself. So it actually sounds like a band, but it’s an extremely personal project.”

Thanks for clearing that up for us. You grew up in Italy and you started DJing. Tell us about the early stages of your career. What got you into performing? How did it feel to be a DJ from such a young age? And just you know, what gave you the confidence to start performing?

“I just started buying records. I had a lot of friends that were DJs and music collectors. So when I was in my late teens I started buying records, and then when I was at uni, the first year of uni, I was working in a bar, and I was like, I can do this. I’d love to DJ. So I tried and I just loved it right away. So I just bought turntables, and I started buying more records. And then I just kept going, I never stopped really. I started playing Hip Hop instrumentals in the club. And everybody was like why are you playing instrumental music in the club, especially the ones going slow, no one wants to hear that. But then I went to LA and I realized that there was a whole scene around that, the instrumental hip hop that eventually became a whole thing with a flying lotus, all the death scenes just basically started from playing instrumental music at the time.”

You lived in the USA for quite some time. How long were you there for? What sparked the inspiration to move to London? I feel like the USA is very music-oriented. They’ve influenced us as well over here, especially in the 80s and 90s. What was it like in the USA?  

“When I first moved to LA, I didn’t speak good English. It was such a massive change coming from Italy. I grew up with the myth of America and you know this fascination for so long when I was there, I was so excited to just be in Hollywood. And at the time being I was being paid for the music that I was making. It was the best place to be. I was just so inspired and I met the right people at the right time, I was really lucky. I never fully lived there because I never had a visa. So I would travel back and forth. I would stay at my mum’s and then head to LA for a few months. At some point, I realised that I could never settle there because I didn’t have a visa and I was in a relationship that wasn’t working. So I decided to just go back to Italy. But the actual story is that my flight to Italy had a layover in London for like a couple of hours. And from the airport, I called a friend of mine and asked if I could stay with her as I didn’t want to go back to Italy. It’s been many years now. When I came to London, I just walked into Shoreditch and it felt like New York City. I thought: Can I actually get a job here? She was like: Yeah, you’re legal here, you can get a job tomorrow. I couldn’t believe it. So I just got a job right away. I still love it so much.”

You have a very consistent discography and you tap into many different sounds. Earlier on in your career, what were some of your influences, and how do you feel like your sound has evolved over the years?

“I think generally I just got better. Technically my sound has evolved. It makes a lot of difference. But other than that, I feel like my sound has always been pretty consistent. The only difference is in the actual quality of it because of skills and technical stuff and upgrades with gear. I just developed it over the years, but I wouldn’t say there’s a massive difference in what I was doing 10 years ago to now, my taste is pretty much the same. I just expanded my sound. The core of it, I think, is always pretty much the same.”

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