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With over 20 years under his belt behind the decks and in the studio, Wally Callerio is no stranger to the world of house music. Part DJ, producer, and label mainstay, Wally Callerio’s list of accolades include over 250 original tracks and remixes released on over 40 labels internationally. With each release his global following continues to grow organically along with him.
Callerio’s musical journey began in the early 90‘s on the West Coast. He explains, “…I just loved music and listening to it. Djing was a way for me not only to listen but manipulate what I was hearing.” A man of music above all, Callerio hasn’t forgotten his underground roots. Melodic vocals and chunky basslines are still the cornerstone behind his sound; and if you’ve had the opportunity to listen live, you know that each of his sets tells a unique story of their own.
In 1997, Callerio launched Dufflebag records with the simple goal of allowing it’s artists full discretion and creative disposition over their music. Since then, the label has experienced it’s share of successes with releases from artists such as: Demarkus Lewis, Manjane, Alysha kid, Corduroy Mavericks, Jt Donaldson, Natural Rhythm, Ryan Truman as well as numerous releases with R&B legend Jon B. under his moniker Jah Ques. 2014 marks the label’s 17-year anniversary.
What’s next? To name just a few recent studio works in the pipeline include upcoming projects and releases with Gene Farris on Cajual (Chi), Remix of Josh One Contemplation for Defected (U.K.), an Ep on Phonetic (U.K.), A collaboration with MK and Sonny Fodera as well as projects on Color Deaf, Sampled and his own imprint Dufflebag.
2013 held a number of milestones for Callerio. His continued success and collaborative efforts caught the attention of UK’s iconic Defected Music. He was personally solicited by Defected’s A&R Luke Soloman and label headman Simon Dunmore. Wally’s alter ego moniker Poncho Warwick also took the honor of #1 chill out artist of 2014 after being the runner up in 2013 and 2012 on the #1 dance music site Beatport.
With music as his driving catalyst, this year Callerio looks to grow his repertoire and expand his endeavors even further. 2014 marks the official release of the critically acclaimed Unconscious Therapy House Music documentary. One of the more recent attempts to explain one storyline of the debated history of House, Callerio served as Musical Supervisor as well as a featured artist for the film which also featured a who’s who shortlist of the genre’s legends such as: Frankie Knuckles, Masters at Work, Derrick Carter, and Mark Farina.
With upward momentum on his side and a heavy musical arsenal ready for release, Callerio is ready to lead with his musical vision. Simply put, “I don’t try to predict the future of house, I just try to give it my imagination and push with my music. I try to inspire people into making and playing the right stuff…”
Where are you from and how has your upbringing shaped you into the artist you are today?
I was born in Boston but moved to Huntington Beach in Southern California when I was 6 years old. My Parents are both from Buenos Aires Argentina so I am first generation American. I think my upbringing had a huge impact on how I think in general. Growing up in an environment that was the best of both worlds via Argentine household and a California beach environment was always an interesting mix. I def had a different perspective from a music standpoint. At home I would get my cultured music from the Argentine tango playing Saturday mornings while we cleaned the house as well as a shit load of Brat Pack. At school I was influenced by everything around me as far as music. I learned a lot about the music my parents could never teach me thru the kids I grew up with. I somehow was introduced to hip hop and took to it like a dolphin to water even though I lived in a city that had punk playing in every backyard party. I remember being at house parties and seeing Black Flag, Dead Kennedys, The Vandals and Social Distortion. I remember watching sublime a ton when they were just a cover band. Even though I was immersed locally in the punk scene thru backyard parties I didn’t ever connect to it emotionally. Hip hop to me was way more musical and dynamic and it was love from first listen and house music to me was the extension to that. My first house party I went to was in 89’ and from then on I was hooked. I think my upbringing gave me an open mind to music in general having such a diverse environment.
Has music always played a major roll in your life, and if so, can you elaborate?
Music has been on the front of my mind since I was a kid. I was always the kid dancing at the weddings. I would stay up late every night turning thru radio stations under my covers when I was a kid. I started djing when I was 14 years old. I installed car stereos when I was 16. I also started Dufflebag when I was 23 years old which was a much larger thing back then because you actually needed money to press vinyl as well as dealing with distribution and shipping not to mention the risk of losing a good amount of money if you were not on your game. So I would say my whole life revolved around it. Anytime I was sad it was my go to pick me up. It has saved my life more times than I would like to admit. If I am ever sad I go in my studio and it all goes away. It is my church… The only religion I can wrap my head around. The only thing that brings people of all races and backgrounds together is music. And that’s the only religion I would put my life behind.
Who were some of your biggest musical influences?
My musical influences are very wide and high. I love everything from Jazz, Blues, Motown, Disco, 80’s, reggae, Hip Hop and pretty much all music in general. I think one of my biggest influences as a producer has been Quincy Jones. I love that he was so diverse in his productions. The man has had an amazing life and produced some of the best music in the last 100 years. As far as dance music I attribute a lot of who I am to Derrick Carter, Mark Farina and Doc Martin. I learned a lot growing up watching these guys and their attitudes and demeanors have always been the same. They love what they do and have not changed who they are even with the success they have today they are still some of the most approachable people in the business. They are real as it gets and that’s what I appreciate the most. They do not act like asshole rockstars they do this because they genuinely love the music. I have framed my attitude around the fact that I am the same guy you would have spoke to on my living room couch 20 years ago than I am in the club today because of them. There is no need for a 3rd person persona when in public. That’s a problem I see with a lot of big name Djs these days. They are not real.
When did music production become a serious part of your life?
I bought my first piece of equipment when I was 21 in 95’ but it was always a thought on my mind since I started djing when I was 14. Only problem was back then it cost A LOT of money to produce music. You couldn’t just steal some software and produce and distribute a track within 3 months of starting. It’s not the way it worked back then. So between my first piece and acquiring everything I needed in my studio to produce back then it took me another couple years to actually release something and I never looked back.
What is your preferred method of music production?
I was using Cubase from 95’ to about 2013 when I switched over to Ableton live 9. I felt that they actually finally got their audio engine up to par and I also have been looking to use it for a Live Show I am putting together for my Poncho Warwick Alias.
Being in the scene for so long, watching it grow and change, how would you compare and contrast now from back in the day?
To me there is no good or bad to change it just is. The differences I see have to do with the ease of entry for Djs and Producers that use software for producing and djing. This has flooded a market with a bunch of inexperienced people. By this I mean people that didn’t learn the craft from the ground up which to me is an important method. When I started Djing you really needed to work your way up the ladder you could not create hype thru SoundCloud and facebook. You had to make mixtapes and get them directly in peoples hands. You had to prove yourself as an opening dj for years before you moved up. Opening a party is the most important craft any dj out there will learn. If you can properly open a party and make people dance before they are intoxicated than you are a real dj and you earned your wings. I think this is an A.D.D. environment now where kids want to start djing and be a headliner before they learn their craft. I see production the same way. It took me 3 years before I released music because I had to learn and make sure what I was putting out there was special and unique and not just releasing to say I released something. And I think you can see it in most the releases on the sites. On the other hand I also think it lends a hand to a lot of talented producers that never would have had a chance back in the day because of costs and because of this we get a lot of really inspiring tunes. So good and bad that’s life right!
Can you tell us a little about your alter ego Poncho Warwick, and can we expect more from this other moniker?
My alter ego Poncho Warwick came about after a down period in my career. I really used him as a means to do what I wanted with music again. I used it to get back to the basics of why I started producing in the first place. It was my porn name aka first pet first street. I’ve done over 125 tracks under this name and I am def not finished with Poncho. I have been working for the last year on putting together a live show for Poncho. I want him to be my live side and then “Wally” can handle the Djing.
Since releasing on big labels like Cajual, Defected, Ministry Of Sound… Have you noticed an increase in demand for your music?
My Career has def had ups and downs. In late 90’s early 2000’s I had my first big boost and was doing very well for myself. It seemed like right around 9/11/2001 the whole world changed and music trends changed overnight. The music turned electro and cheesy and I could not conform to it. I can’t make music I don’t believe in so I got pushed way back down the list. With this new love for the deeper side of house it has definitely gave me hope again. Getting released on these labels that I have always respected in the past def gave my name an increased awareness with the younger generation which I definitely needed. I have a lot of history and work that I feel just about got wiped off the face of the earth. Years of sweat and tears literally gone. Now with just a few releases kids are starting to notice again and it feels great to get some recognition again after 20 years in the industry. Music is my life and anything that helps me continue doing what I love is welcomed.
What can we expect from you in the coming year? Anything exciting planned for the summer musically or gig wise?
This summer is already pretty booked up which is great! June and July is mostly U.S. touring D.C., Phoenix, Denver, Dallas, Detroit, Portland, Seattle to name a few then August I will be in the UK for 2 weeks as well as Ibiza the last week of august so I am excited to just get out there and share my interpretation of this thing we all love so much.
You have a record label, Dufflebag records, can you tell us a little about it and what you want to achieve with the label?
Dufflebag was started in 1997 as a way for me to put music out that I enjoy. I don’t necessarily put music out that I would play out just music I enjoy listening to. Dufflebag is my way of supporting some good people around me. I don’t care how good your music is, if you’re an asshole or have your intensions backwards I don’t want your music. Dufflebag has never been a serious thing for me just an extension of what I believe in. I am not trying to be a Defected or Cajual. I am just trying to support some good tunes that touch me personally.
What other labels are you a big fan of and hope to work with?
As far as labels it’s always good to work with labels that can actually promote you and your music to a larger audience. So my answer would be anyone that has their business together and has the promotion behind it. I would rather just release my music on my label rather than have to put it out on a label that has no promotion or business ethic built. There are actually a few soundcloud labels that I would definitely be interested in working with because of their reach. French Express being one of them. If you are listening hit me up!
Is there any new music out there that you really cant stop listening to?
There is a ton of good music by so many different producers out there it takes a huge effort to find most the time. I literally have to dig thru 1000’s of songs to find 15 I really like. But to name a few producers that been grabbing my ear. Doorly, Route 94, Cajmere, Soledrifter, Oliver $, Demarkus Lewis, Cristoph, David Harness and the list goes on and on and on.. I could fill your page with great producers.
Any advice to aspiring DJs/producers trying to make it into the scene?
Do what you love. Be original. Be Unique. Believe in yourself when nobody else will. Perseverance is the key to the music business in most cases. Be the turtle in the race and learn your craft. It is not a sprint it’s a marathon. Never stop learning. And most importantly enjoy every moment.
Can you tell us a little about this mix ?
I usually try to touch on a few different genres while keeping the flow steady. I don’t mix just deep house. I tend to sprinkle deep, soulful, disco, funk and tech in my sets. That’s the way it was done back in the day. We used to be housemusic Djs not subgenre djs. Good music shouldn’t put you in a box. You can’t tell a story with just one character in a book and the same goes with music. Tell a story when you play don’t just talk about one character. I just hope the people that listen enjoy what I enjoy and we connect on that level. That’s what it’s all about in the end.