“When I caress vinyl records, consumed by so many evenings spent making people dance, the sensation is that of caressing a woman. And when I experience new passages from one song to another I say to myself: it’s amazing what I’ve managed to do”. It’s been fifty years since Agostino Prestawhich we all – young and ‘differently young’ – know as Dj Ago, began his career in the music field. And yet, the passion and enthusiasm for making and experimenting have not changed one iota. So much so that, after a break that lasted a few years, the artist who made entire generations dance returns with a series of projects: a brand new album but, above all, a evening programme around Italy, who will see him do the thing he loves most in the world: being around people and making them dance.
However, maturity added something new and important to his activity: a message addressed to the young people who follow him and are still passionate about his Funky Dance style, but also and above all to their parents, who danced twenty years ago at the disco to the rhythm of his records. “Don’t leave your children alone. Listen to them, dedicate time to them. Don’t think that since they are of age they no longer need your attention, because that’s not the case. Now more than ever our boys live delicate moments and take risks“. To the young people, directly, who are the same age as his children he says: “Stay away from drugs and narcotics. Don’t fall for it, I know people who have blown their brains out for trying them and never being able to stop.” The message is loud and clear, and during our telephone interview Agostino repeats it several times, recommending that he not be overshadowed in any way. “For me this is what matters. I’ve seen so many kids ruined by those cursed substances, we have to prevent them from feeling the need to get close and we have to try to stay as close to them as possible”.
In the video of his new song, “Your fire“, you can see very young and unknown dancers who they freely interpret emotions evoked by his music “I didn’t want professionals. I showed up one day at an amateur dance school and asked the students if they wanted to dance to the tune of my song. What came out of it is a beautiful example of commitment and youthful talent “. Even during the evenings that Dj Ago is carrying around Italy, the protagonists are and remain the young (of all ages) who take advantage of the opportunity to dive into the magical world of 80s vinyl. “Because I have always and only used plastic discs, black or colored, with that strong scent as it overheats while spinning on my plates. A perfume I can’t do without”. The next date will beAgo Live Showat the Backdoors of Poggio a Caiano, Saturday 3 December starting at 20.30, with the dinner show to present the new video “Your Fire” and the presence of special guests such as DJ Lord.
Mr. Presta, you have achieved great dreams throughout your long career. Would you like to tell us how you started it?
“I’ve always loved singing, but when you come from a large, very poor family in Southern Italy, dreams aren’t easy to come true. We are talking about several years ago when things were different from now. We still lived with my parents in Calabria, work for my father was scarce and my brothers and I suffered from hunger: it’s something you can’t understand if you don’t try it. Eating meat was a luxury, I didn’t know what the joy of receiving a gift was. But my father was a hard worker, a bricklayer of the kind who used his bare hands and arm muscles to build things, and he managed to find a job in Prato, in Tuscany. First he moved, then his mother followed him with us children. Life here improved for us, my father worked twelve hours a day and later my mother also found a job. At the age of seven I had my first singing competition, the first of many provincial and regional competitions and festivals. I won several cups and medals over the years, but the only prizes I keep are those that reproduce three mini golden microphones, made by very good craftsmen. I remember when I received them it was like winning a song Oscar for me. Then came the first rock bands, I sang songs in English too, although school wasn’t my forte, but I learned the language on my own to sing them. Growing up I became a sound engineer, and I had the opportunity to follow many historical figures of Italian music”.
Can you tell us some examples?
“The Poohs, Ivano Fossati, the Deliriums, the Banco del Mutuo Soccorso. I was their Road manager. But the strongest memory is linked to Mia Martini. It was she who wanted me with her, when I still didn’t have much experience. Also in this case I hadn’t studied anything, I was learning by myself in the field, by observing others, with all the passion in the world. I stayed with Mimì for three years and I can say that no one has ever experienced it the way I experienced it. She was an introverted and emotional woman, I in my small way encouraged her not to be discouraged by the obstacles that her life reserved for her ”.
When did you decide to become a DJ?
“It was my true vocation, so at a certain point I left the technical activity and started making art. As a DJ, success was immediately great. I have participated in the opening of many clubs, still today I have been playing exclusively vinyl for fifty years. There were so many pieces that made me ‘angry’, because they had a difficult attack and every time learning and mixing that beginning of a song was a challenge. Anyone who holds a vinyl in their hands doesn’t realize they own a ‘Lady’, a delicate lady who must be respected”.
His record production, instead?
“I made 15 records. Then, after the second tour in California in 2013, I stopped. Starting from the beginning, in 1981 ‘You make me do it‘, a single that was a gamble. Then I went on to several more hit records and titles: Greatest Album’For You‘, as far as ‘Computer in my mind‘, to whom I owe my consecration in Latin America, and many others to follow. In my records I always sang, some were super successful, some very little. Four years ago I underwent a liver transplant and this spurred me to regain strength and enthusiasm. In 2021 I made a new record, ‘Opera Fourty‘, a fortieth anniversary of my music. I have to thank my executive producer Joe Vinyl and my artistic producer Joe Mangione for pulling it off.”
Yet initially the record did not have the success he hoped for…
“Exactly. After its release, very little had moved around the record, I don’t know if due to the post-pandemic, the closure of many shops, etc. However, the album is a unique example in the Funky Dance genre, and the critics were quite baffled by the fact that a similar record, in Italy, did not work properly. Five months after its release, it was taken over by the world-famous ZYXmusic record label from Germany. It was Linda Jo Rizzo who offered me the worldwide exclusive collaboration for the digital platformthe launch of a single (‘Your fire‘) and for the making of a CD – as well as a vinyl – which has now been launched worldwide”.
Let’s go back to his commitment to young people. Why do you feel the urgency of having to mobilize to defend them?
“Because certain environments are sick. Obviously, they cannot be locked up at home, children must be free, but what can and must be done for their good is to teach them the awareness of staying away from certain stories. The only way they can do it is to feel their family close. It’s not true that kids aren’t curious and don’t want to learn a healthy lifestyle. Music can also help them with this, I see it with my children. Unfortunately in my life I have seen boys whose brains have been blown out of pills. I have friends who have lost children, others who see them in psychiatric clinic conditions, just because of cursed pills. I’m not saying that the responsibility lies entirely with the parents, but it is certain that our children need to be looked after, loved and protected. We have to stand behind them, even when they come of age.”
Have you tried drugs in your life?
“Yes, I ‘tasted’ them. When you’re in the art world, opportunities happen to you and practically everyone takes them. But I was able to stop myself in time, because I’ve always been terrified of hurting my mother. She placed unconditional trust in me, she didn’t let a moment go by without telling me that I had to cultivate my dreams. That’s why I say a parent can make a difference in a child’s life. Today, I would like to suggest to young people to follow their dreams. Dream and have the courage to make your wishes come true, regardless of the money you will be able to earn. Also stay away from alcohol, which is becoming the main cause of liver transplants”.
Was it also the reason for his transplant?
“Actually not. I had the misfortune of contracting hepatitis C from a dentist, at a time when the regulations concerning the sterilization of instruments were not like today”.
Among the various solidarity initiatives that he has undertaken to support over the years there is also the new #IOCISONO project, promoted by the Stella Maris Foundation to raise awareness and raise funds for the new children’s hospital…
“Exactly. The president of the Foundation, Giuliano Maffei, contacted me to ask me to participate with my video in the #IOCISONO campaign, which brings together the contributions of various artists on a special online platform. But I intend to support Stella Maris also by participating – when possible – in the various events, because the construction of a hospital that will be able to change and improve the lives of many very young people suffering from neurological pathologies is a priority. Due to the pandemic crisis and the outbreak of war, the cost of building materials has risen so much that the cost estimate has almost doubled. Now we need everyone’s contribution and I’m certainly there”.