by Sara Simms

Carlo Lio on track management, effects, and DJing

Leading DJ Carlo Lio runs through his TRAKTOR setup, detailing how he approaches track management, beatgridding, mapping, and more.

Globe-trotting DJ and producer Carlo Lio has built his reputation on pulsating tech-house and techno. Lio’s remix of Dubfire and Oliver Huntemann’s ‘Diablo’ on Cocoon Recordings propelled his career into the spotlight and he has since become an international superstar DJ with productions released on acclaimed labels SCI+TEC, Bedrock, MOOD, Desolat, Suara, and more. Based in Toronto, Lio balances his career as an in-demand artist running two of own labels, On Edge Society and Rawthentic Music.


As a producer, DJ, remixer and label owner, you wear a lot of hats. How do you balance production and DJing?

I’ve never really had any issue balancing the two things. I DJ weekends and make music during the week, and run the labels. Luckily for me, I make music pretty quickly so it’s easy for me to get a lot done in short period of time. I’ve also become a pro at making music on the road which I wasn’t a fan of before.


What’s a typical day in the life of Carlo Lio like?

As of today, my day pretty much goes like this: Wake up, do a morning shift with the baby, work on a loop. Back to the baby till his next nap, then work on music another hour or two. I’ll usually do another couple hours at night and finalize a tune the next day if all goes well. In the mix of this is also admin, emails and label stuff. My days are pretty slammed, but I enjoy them deeply.


How long have you been using TRAKTOR, and what inspired you to use the software?

I’ve been using Traktor since 2010. I really started touring also in 2010; I was the new guy and in a position where I felt I needed to really take my sound and DJing to a new level. I’ve played CDs and USBs, but at this point in my career I needed something fresh. I was bored of mixing two tracks together; I wanted to create and have more freedom. After trying Traktor for the first time I was immediately hooked. It’s almost like finding a new love for DJing. I also started touring with Dubfire in 2010 where I got a front row perspective of the power Traktor has and how Ali utilizes the software. In my eyes many boundaries and restrictions of DJing were broken down.


Can you tell us about your current DJ setup? What equipment do you use in your performances?

I’ve basically been playing the same way as when I first started with Traktor. Internal with Audio 8 (or now these days direct USB connection) with two X1s.


Describe your mixing style in TRAKTOR: How many decks do you use? Do you have any favourite effects, or FX chains that you use?

My mixing is basically always on the go, there’s always about two to three tracks playing. It’s a constant groove and I’m trying to create a new track within a few tracks. I use all four of Traktor’s channels. As for effects, I am a big fan of the Tape Delay which I have the extended chain on to manipulate it to its fullest. I use the Reverb, Delay T3, Filter and a few other effects I rotate in.


If you use controllers, do you use any mappings for the controllers? 

I actually just use Mike Henderson’s (MIDI Monsters) mapping. I’ve always loved how he lays his stuff out and it worked for me. I used to use two X1 controllers to control all four decks but being on the road so much I wanted to minimize the gear to make room for my other travel necessities. I’ve mapped the one X1 to have full control over all four decks using MIDI mode. I have my beat jump mode to jump two bars in case a track is accidentally started on the wrong beat, which happens often.

In terms of my FX chain, my left side of the X1 is normal using three different effects and my right side is setup to use the Tape Delay. I use all three parameters to control the Tape Delay so I can really go deep into that effect creating unique builds and having pitch and speed control of the Delay.


How do you prep your sets for an upcoming gig and organize your files and playlists?

My whole library is categorized in to monthly folders as well as genre folders ranging from techno, to deep house, disco to after-hours, house to minimal, open to close, acapella to layering grooves. I’ve really tried to make it as easy for me to find music. When you have 10k+ tunes in your library, breaking your organization down is a must.

When prepping sets, I usually create a club playlist for the night. I tend to forget about a lot of tracks so I thought it would be better to have them in multiple places so I can stumble on them more. One track is always in the “monthly folder”, the “genre folder” and the “club playlist folder”. It’s a simple system that’s always worked for me.


Where do you find your music for DJing?

Beatport is my go to. I still enjoy/miss the art of digging. I can’t do it in a vinyl stpre weekly like I used to, so now I do it on Beatport. Since I’ve started buying on Beatport, I never miss a day. I try to shop weekly but will go as far back as to the last date I bought music to avoid missing anything. However, over time the clutter has gotten out of control. After all these years I basically shop in “My Favorites”, going through the artists and labels I follow. That still takes time, considering how many artists and labels I follow after twelve years shopping on the site. Beatport’s DJ charts are also a must to me. I always want to see what other artists I like are playing. At the end of the day, someone else will always come across a track you won’t.

DJ promos are also a huge income to my weekly music. I would say I get about 300-400 emails a week but it’s obviously a full-time job on its own to go through that many emails and listening to everything. So I have to filter as best as I can. The clutter in promos is crazy, so I really have to follow artists and labels I like, or to recognize certain PR companies that are known to send good stuff.

Staying on top of the vinyl game is really important. I still buy a lot of vinyl from time to time and rip it to digital format. I usually shop on pretty frequently. It keeps me on my toes. Not to mention the whole other world of vinyl-only music. This is where you can stand out ahead in your DJ sets. Knowing you have a track other guys won’t. So having that vinyl- only track already rules out a lot of other acts on the bill.

For me I’m big believer in “if everyone’s playing it, why should I?” There’s an endless amount of amazing music out there, so there’s no reason why you can’t stand out and be unique in your sets if you do your part as a DJ and hunt for music versus sticking to the general outlets and shopping on the Top 100.  But hey, that’s just me.

How do you approach prepping sets in Traktor? 

Nothing complex. Simple mapping has made the process much faster for me. I set my starting point and usually a few cue points throughout the track, and a loop marker towards the end or where I decide is the best part to mix and voila!


I read that you’re a MASCHINE user. Have you ever considered incorporating MASCHINE into your DJ sets, or is more of a studio tool for you?

Yes I love Maschine. I have considered incorporating it my sets, but haven’t just yet. For now it’s just a studio tool.


What was the most memorable gig for you?

I would have to say first ever gig in Ibiza for Carl Cox at Space. This was a huge bucket list gig and of course it came with a lot of pressure to do well. I can say that TRAKTOR didn’t let me down, and I delivered a heavy set for the night. I woke up a happy guy.


Are there any upcoming projects or events in 2018 that you’re really excited about?

Yes of course. 2018 is focused on the re-launch of my label Rawthentic Music. I’m extra excited because the label will be run alongside Nathan Barato, just like old times. We will be going hard with releases and label events worldwide. It’s definitely an exciting time for us. I’m also focusing on my other label On Edge Society, and we’ve got some amazing releases up ahead and label events.


photo credits: Phil Kim – ICON Motion 


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