Art Director, Florence (IT)
When it comes to the clubbing scene Leandro Bisenzi is definitely one of the highest profiles and one of the most respected long-time professionals in Italy and beyond.
Yet Owner and Art Director of several well-known clubs he started to work in the industry back in 1985 and achieved incredible results thanks to his professionalism and his vision. We talked with him about his past, present and future, his passions, emotions and experiences in the attempt to draw the traits of such an interesting character.
LEANDRO BISENZI Q&A
-Hi Leo! Before starting: how are you doing?
Hi guys, I’m alright. Trying my best to cope with this Tsunami of negativity caused by the pandemic and working hard to be ready when it will be over and I’ll return to the job I love, which is entertaining people. I’m also trying to travel as much as I’m allowed to, respecting all the restrictions etc. But traveling is what gets me inspired so my mind can’t really afford to get locked down at home all the time. So to sum it up in three words I resist, work and dream!
-How did you passion for music start? Was it love at first sight??
Weirdly enough I’m not a big music connoisseur and I envy the ones who understand music, recognising all its nuances and who are able to label it properly. On the other hand, I have a talent to sense when people are having fun which, quite honestly, is the thing I love and I care about the most. Music is ‘only’ one aspect, certainly crucial, of my way of organising parties. By the way: do you guys wanna know what’s my favorite song? Weird isn’t it?
-How did you start to work in the Club scene and, in general, in the field of night’s entertainment?I owe it all to the people who trusted me and believed in my weird ideas. People like Nazzareno Bruni, Massimo Jacomelli, Claudio Bertini and Massimo Gramigni and then of course all my business partners who have put up with me all these years. The first little things I did as a ‘promoter’ were illegal high-school rave parties, then after some time I got hired by the same club owner who shut us down by calling the police one night! The place was called ‘Zero6’, in Prato which is near Firenze, and along many other unusual ideas I had one of the boldest ones was bringing Classical music to the club. Proudly, it was a successful experience and for three consecutive years the place was sold-out every night with our very diverse schedule made of Rock n’ Roll, Cabaret etc. From that moment on I grew a lot and, helped by a fair dose of recklessness, today I can say I’ve managed to bring all these artists on stage.
-Your work is about organisation, seriousness and extreme attention to detail but -having to deal with human beings- is also about allowing people to express their inner feelings as freely as they could. How difficult is to reconcile these two sides?
That’s not a problem for me because as I’ve never submitted to ‘normality’ in life and in my job, at no time I could ever ask anybody to adapt to what is my ‘normality’.
When working with someone I never look for professionalism, instead, I want them to be creative and audacious. What I ask them is to be, as Jim Morrison once said, ‘good at nothing but capable of anything’. That quote epitomises my vision as I want them to be humans before artists and I want them to think they’re capable of anything. To me there’s nothing more charming than being ‘good at nothing’ but still managing to enchant the whole crowd. You know, sometimes that same crowd is where the artists look for their certainties. It’s a give and take.
-Talk us through the importance of communication in your job. How decisive is to connect the people and the artists to your vision? Which are the difficulties you usually face when organising an event?
I’m no good communicator and I don’t want to be considered one. Instead, I think of myself as a ‘crook’ which, at the end of the day, is the same thing. I’m fascinated by characters like Lupin or Totò (the Italian actor, comedian) and their power to trick anybody with their art. When you allow yourself to get tricked is because you decide to, it charms you, therefore you accept to come across like a fool and looking like a fool at one of my parties it means discovering that you allowed yourself to make things you weren’t expecting. Communication nowadays also goes through social media, which I use, but I’m not hooked to it, as I think that emotions, like magic tricks, can’t work unless you got your ‘victim’ in front of you.
Lastly, when you love your job you transform difficulties in challenges, so for me there’s no struggle in organising an event.
-What is, for you, a successful Club night? Is it just about seeing people having fun or there’s more?Making people feel like they’re part of a family is the success of a club; at Tenax in Florence the people coming to our parties were showing us at the door that they got our logo tattooed! People used to come to Tenax to party after their weddings the very same day, still dressed-up, to celebrate with their ‘second family’ in their ‘second home’. This still happens nowadays with ‘Circo Nero’ because my main goal is to always bring unusual ideas to the table; like my latest party concept ‘Guapa Muerte’ which, amongst other things, also tries to deal with the issue of death.
-‘Circo Nero’ is surely one of the biggest achievement in your career and one of the things you’re most proud of. Tell us how did the formula come up and why it became such a great thing.
I love Circo Nero like all my projects but this is, compared to the others, closely linked to my childhood. It is born from my love for the circus as my grandma used to take me there all the time and I cannot forget my surprise watching all those ‘weirdos’ and the feeling that the contrast between the smell of cotton candy and elephant shit gave me. That same contrast is what, from then on, I tried to bring in all my activities, also being inspired by ‘Freaks’ by Todd Browning (1932): a theatrical hymn to tolerance, set in the America of the crisis where the the ‘Freaks’ were exposed and mocked for their physical monstrosities. The contrast is also about putting together under one roof youngsters with people of age, which is just one of our peculiarities. One of the best descriptions of Circo Nero was given by Lorenzo, one of the most famous ‘character’ of our party.
"The Circo Nero for me is freedom, anarchy, poetry, happiness, joy. Giving to many people the little or that much of joy we have inside. Seeing happy people. To see people of all ages, all ethnicities, all colours coming to throw peanuts at an old elephant like me. This for me is the Circo Nero! A big family, A big bandwagon of madmen, A bit of a Brancaleone Army but with a red nose"
Circo Nero is about joy and tolerance, revisiting the world of circus in style, dressing each of its characters with clothes designed by local stylists, Florentines, like the party! Honestly it couldn't be in any other way since Florence is a city of fashion, style and creativity! Finally, to make you understand even more what we’re about, let me post here our manifesto:
"This is not the sad type of circus with animals in cages whose claws have been removed; it is neither the astonishing circus that leaves kids of all over the world open-mouthed with surprise, nor the poignant one with dwarf clowns stumbling into life in their oversized shoes. This is the circus of Music and Passion screaming out from within, it's the Circus of the Night, The CIRCO NERO"
-The Corona virus has had a massive impact on the entertainment industry. How do you and you profession relate to the age of the pandemic and which are the things you think will change forever in the world of Clubbing when people will come back to fill the clubs?
I’m sceptical about the possibility that something will change in a positive way because even before the pandemic our industry was living a deep crisis. But that’s what I think: I see the pandemic as a furrow, a revolution. Likewise, in the clubbing scene, nobody would accept again the same old things and that’s why I hope to witness a big change. A change that (focusing on our country) should start by giving value to Italian artists, the young ones who are extremely talented but too often shadowed by the big names. PR agencies and party promoters, then, should go back to the old, healthy habit of bringing their good friends to parties, the true fans, the music lovers, not the masses because that’s what gives identity to the club! Unfortunately the trend is to run clubs like ‘corporates’ rather than ‘artisan workshops’ and most of the industry people see fake followers and influencers as the resolution to empty clubs. I’m really afraid that, in order to remain faithful to the ‘king cash’, club owners will keep on formulating nonsense line-ups, mixing different musical genres with no planning whatsoever. I think we should all learn from natural phenomena like Tsunamis where smaller waves generate bigger ones; in the same way the Clubbing industry should focus on reviving smaller clubs, because smaller venues are the roots of a strong tree. Another important thing, especially in Italy, is learning how to be happy for other’s success because united we stand, divided we fall and also because collaborating bring inspiration and has a beneficial impact on everyone. Finally, I had enough of social media, the influencers, the people with phones in their hands while dancing and it saddens me to see young producers and DJ’s being slaves of such perverse dynamics instead of focusing on their art. That really needs to chance.
-Finally, before letting you go, tell us when you felt the most happy, fulfilled, emotional throughout your career. It can be a anything you want!
There’s so many stories to tell but one memory I hold in my heart is about that time I brought Anna, the cleaning lady at Tenax, on stage as our ‘Queen’. Anna was such an amazing woman who used to love Tenax more than us so when she got to be in the spotlight for one night, surrounded by two thousand people sending her kisses, she burst into tears and I’m sure she kept that night in her heart until the day she sadly passed away. Another great memory is about that time we brought Circo Nero to Cuba and my Cambodian adventure. Last but not least a special mention to the DJ and producer Francesco Carresi alias Kommando, cause amongst many great memories from the past he represents the future and I deeply believe in his commitment, passion and love for music and for the club culture.
-Thanks a lot for your time Leo, it’s been a great pleasure to talk to you.
Thank you Apparel Music!!! I don’t know where we’re headed but I’m sure it’s gonna be fun. That’s all I want and I’ll work for it everyday!
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