“If I went back I would be Antonio Ferrari”
by Agnese Priorelli
«I’m an entertainer who offers dance music, I do not like being tied to a single genre. I love Umbria for its culture and for the ability to maintain its own peculiarities».
I send a message to DJ Ralf to plan the interview with a bit of apprehension – something that rarely happens to me – but we are talking about Ralf. As a teenager I watched him many times (from a certain distance and in the dark) stood behind the console like a sort of untouchable deity of music. So I was quite excited. He answeres immediately to my text: “You can call me now, if you want, I have just came back from the spa”. We begins to chat, and I discover a Ralf, or rather an Antonio or Antonello Ferrari (all his names), unexpected and very close to Umbria. Born in Bastia Umbra and grown up in Sant’Egidio, dj Ralf does not need any introduction, he “made” dance – and he still does – millions of people allover the world, a true icon of night clubbing since 1987.
The first question is customary: what is your link with Umbria?
It is a very intense link, in fact, I have always remained here, despite Umbria has not a well organized trasportation system and I usually travel a lot due to work. I live near Lake Trasimeno and I have never thought about changing, even when it would have been more useful to live in a city with much more opportunities. Perugia and Umbria are very lively places from a cultural and musical point of view. So beyond the love that I have for my land, there is a real pleasure in living in a place with a strong presence of artistic expressions.
Why are you called Ralf?
It comes from the animated cartoon Sam Sheepdog and Ralph Wolf that I used to watch with my friend Laura, at that time, I attended the first year of the middle school. I looked like the dog Sam, because of my long hair in front of the eyes were exactly like its. This dog used to greet the wolf saying: “Hello Ralph!”. I was very fond of this animated cartoon and everyone started to call me “Ralf”. I became Ralf before being dj Ralf.
Why did you decide to use it also in your profession?
It’s not something that I really decided: I started playing and everyone already knew me as Ralf. This nickname has brought me luck, my wife – we got married last year after over 30 years of engagement – has always called me Ralf, but if I came back I would use my real name: Antonio Ferrari.
How much Antonio is similar to Ralf?
It’s not an alter ego even if I’ve often thought of doing something using my real name, but I’ve never done, but who knows … I’m still young! Antonio is a nice name, but the last person who called me like that was my elementary school teacher because everyone always called me Antonello. I had an uncle priest and since there isn’t a saint called Antonello, I was registered as Antonio, but at that point my family always called me Antonello. From the first year of middle school I have become Ralf.
Many names mean many personalities?
I have many names but I am only one, even if each of us has different personalities.
From your console, how did you consider changes in Umbria during these these years, both on a social and musical level?
There have been changes to the same extent that there have been in other places. For example, as far as music is concerned, Umbria has very special events, which have become a real Italian heritage and not only. I talk of Umbria Jazz, of the “Festival dei Due Mondi” of Spoleto, of the Music Festival of Todi, of the Festival of Nations in Città di Castello and of the last UniverseAssisi, all very interesting realities. Not to mention the classical music by the “Amici della musica” of Perugia. Umbria has both cultural and musical excellences it is certainly a rich region. Even from the religious point of view it offers so much, even for an unbeliever like me: there are places of encounter, social and cultural exchange that go beyond religion itself.
Is there the lack of something in Umbria compared to other realities?
The first thing that comes to my mind is what I said at the beginning: the lack of infrastructures. But this is also its charm: who wants to visit Umbria, is someone who really wants to do it. The region has a niche tourism and it is no less beautiful than other regions. Surely it is no less beautiful than Tuscany: our villages have retained their typicality and their character much more. All this makes me love Umbria even more.
Have you ever thought about a concert in Perugia like the one in which you performed years ago on the occasion of Umbria Jazz?
I often think about it. I would be gladly to do it again, but it does not depend only on me, someone has to ask me. I am very lively and willing to organiza these events. I like them because I have the opportunity to experience different musical types compared to the genre that distinguishes me. I’ve never had a specific musical direction: I’m an entertainer who proposes dance music, I do not like being tied to an unique genre.
Has your audience changed in these years?
Yes and no. The ritual that we organize and which we participate in over the years has not changed much. The music has changed, but the sense of going dancing has remained unchanged. The style to dance can be changed, but that style could go back in fashion: people love to dance and this will never change. Everyone loves a certain rhythm and a certain style of music, but every music has its own dignity.
When do you think of turning off the console permanently?
I never thought of it. The artists never stop, they continue until they want and until results are obtained: I still have both desire and results. Obviously things change over the years, but, I work as if it was the very first day.
Confess to the public something that nobody knows about you.
On some respects, I’m very compulsive, like as regarding food. An aspect that I should solve in some way (laughs). I like eating, as you can see looking at me.
What is your favourite food?
The bruschetta. It is a food linked to childhood: bread and olive oil with bruscato bread and nothing else. When I’m hungry, however, I prefer pasta.
I read that you use some kind of “supertitious spell” before your performances: are they always the same or have they changed during the time?
They have always been the same for years. In the console the suitcase of the new discs goes to the left while that of the older discs to the right: this is a ritual that I have never changed in my life. Then, if I drop my headphones, I beat them three times on the mix; without my battery I feel lost: even if there is enough light I have to use my flashlight to look for things and discs.
Inevitable is the black t-shirt…
Yes. Sometimes I try to get out of this routine and I wear T-shirts with some writing but I can not stand them more than an hour. In truth, I use black T-shirts because they make me look thinner, if I had another body I would also wear colorful T-shirts (he jokes).
How would you describe Umbria in three words?
Vertical, shady, loyal.
The first thing that comes to your mind thinking of this region…
The cake called torcolo.