Let me confess something, I absolutely LOVE the Meet the Locals feature of this blog. Over the years I’ve interviewed to some really interesting residents of São Paulo – including a bucket-playing street performer, one of the city’s biggest names in drag, an influential fashion blogger, a deliciously-eccentric bar owner, an LGBT YouTuber, a candy-selling comedian and also a woman who had her leg amputated…by an alligator
I really appreciate that people are willing to give up their time to talk to me, offering me an insight into their world – and in doing so – allowing me to give you all a glimpse of city life from their unique perspectives. Now it is the turn of one of my favourite DJs in São Paulo, Thiago Guiselini (also known as the guy behind the popular Soul.Set party). I was very curious to learn more about him, his DJ work and how he would describe the city’s nightlife scene to someone from outside Brazil.
Well, my first contact with a club – with DJs, with nightlife – was when I was 10 years old. I went to a party with my friends and as soon as I entered, I saw that the DJ was making everyone happy with the music he was playing. I had never considered being a DJ before this moment, but I remember thinking, “Wow! Who is this guy? I want to do this too!”
Wait! You were going out from the age of 10?
Yes, I was 10 years old when I had my first contact with the night life in São Paulo. I know that this was young – I went with a group that was much older than me, and this group included my brother.
Imagine Brazil’s nightlife in the 90s. If nowadays there doesn’t seem to be much control, imagine Brazil at that time! But it wasn’t until the age of 14 that I started going out regularly to the clubs here in São Paulo…and I haven’t stopped! Music has been a big part of my life ever since
When did you decide that you wanted a career in music?
I consider the start of my DJing life to be at the age of sixteen, when I took a course at Fields Records here in São Paulo. From there I got my first residency in a club where I played every Saturday, for a year. But for many years, DJing was simply a hobby. I worked, I studied (Thiago has a degree in radio and television and a post-graduation in business administration) and I was also DJing – but this was not my career at this stage. Eventually I dived into a life of music, to work on music projects, to work as a DJ and to give these projects 100%.
Outside of Soul.Set, are you working on any other projects right now?
Oh yes! As well as DJing I produce music for places, for parties and other projects. Actually, I have a new project – the party Tônica – together with Benjamin Ferreira and Renato Cohen. I’m also a part of the project Trafe that takes place every Thursday in the city centre; it involves art, cinema, fashion and gastronomy. There have already been some great parties there, some great art exhibitions and various independent films. So I divide my time between Trafe, Tônica and Soul.Set. I also spend my time researching music and, of course, looking after my baby boy! In my free time I love going to the beach and practicing yoga.
I didn’t come from a musical household, so I didn’t have the same sort of references that other people had growing up. But when I was 13 the Internet became popular in Brazil. For me, this meant that I could search for music, clubs, parties, and more. I was always researching by myself and when I started playing in the clubs, I’d play a little house, a little electronic, a little techno. Then at home I’d play around with house and hip hop.
I don’t really like categorising music styles. Sure, my base is house music, but I also play the influences of house music too; disco, soul, funk, jazz. I would say that I like to play music from the heart, rather than music labelled as belonging to a specific genre.
How would you describe Soul.Set to someone who has never been before?
Soul.Set was created in 2011, six years ago, with five strong values – music, essence, love, diversity and respect. It is a party for dancing. It has a laid back party for friends and everyone is welcome, even children! It is always on a Sunday but this weekend will be the first Saturday edition. I am very excited about this. The energy at the party is always great, and that is the added ingredient that really connects people. The music we play is always of a high quality too, and I have invited great DJs to play, sometimes from abroad. We play soul, disco, funk and R&B, Latin, jazz, techno – ‘feel good’ music like this.
How would you describe the nightlife scene in São Paulo to someone who isn’t from the city?
Actually…it is not easy to answer! São Paulo is very complex with so many things going on, it is diverse and complicated. Many foreigners visit the city with no clue about how big the movement really is! There are so many electronic music scenes here; there really is something for everyone. Speaking from experience (Thiago has already played shows in Australia, Portugal and Italy, as well as experiencing the nightlife in Berlin and London), for a rough comparison you could compare São Paulo to Berlin, New York or London.
I say this because in São Paulo there is space for everyone, there are so many things going on. You could go to 4/5 parties a day and they’re all going to be full. There is a lot of life, our culture is very strong – not just the culture of music – but also at the parties. They often have expositions, performances and artistic interests. São Paulo’s nightlife scene is very rich in this respect.
In the last 4 years the nightlife scene has grown so much too. Andrew, I’ve been playing for 16, almost 17 years. When I started playing in 2001 the scene was already strong; there were so many conceptual underground and mainstream clubs. Today most of these big clubs have closed and the biggest change has been the move away from them. These days, São Paulo is all about parties on the streets, in new places, abandoned factories and about people exploring spaces as much as possible to liberate the city. Plus, now we can connect to people more easily when producing events. We needed mailing, word of mouth and flyers before the Internet but social media has really opened the door to the current nightlife scene.
What would you say to somebody who is thinking of visiting Brazil, but isn’t thinking of visiting São Paulo?
I think everybody should have an experience in São Paulo. It is unique and different to the rest of Brazil. Does it have gastronomy? Yes! Does it have great nightlife? Yes! Does it have culture? Yes! Does it have diversity? Yes! The city is 24 hours, it never stops or sleeps.
São Paulo is unexplainable; you have to live here to really know it! There are experiences that only exist here. I think whoever comes to Brazil needs to spend a minimum of three days in São Paulo to understand it. It is a city for everyone. It is a city of contrasts; it is both chaotic and marvelous at the same time. I think that everyone who lives on this planet should come to São Paulo to experience it’s uniqueness for a while.