Den Harrow: "Taylor Swift's producer is looking for me: but who is he?"

Den Harrow: “Taylor Swift's producer is looking for me: but who is he?”

“I don't believe it. Send me the article, please. It seems like one of those stupid jokes they usually play on me”: Den Harrow responds like this when we call him to tell him that Jack AntonoffThe producer of Taylor Swiftthree-time winner of the Grammy Award as “Producer of the Year”, among the most sought-after and requested men in the world music biz, he is a fan of his, as he revealed in our interview. No, it's not an episode of “Jokes Apart”. It's all true. And the credit goes to a documentary from a few years ago, “Dons of Disco” (directed by Jonathan Sutak, released in 2020), which Antonoff came across while looking for something to watch in streaming: the docu-film retraced the parable of Den Harrow, real name Stefano ZandriThat in the 80s he climbed the charts with hits such as “Bad boy”, “Future brain”, “Catch the fox”, “Don't break my heart”. Just that he wasn't the one singing them: Den Harrow he only lent his figure, always singing in playback. “But that documentary was a rip-off,” explains he, who today lives between Malaga and Viareggio.


“This American director called me and told me that thanks to his father, a fan of Italian disco, he had come across some of my old 45s. He had discovered my story and wanted to tell it. But underneath there was an absurd story: the purpose of the documentary was not to exalt my few merits, but to do exactly the opposite. Among other things, I discovered that it was actually the singer who 'lent' his voice to me who had commissioned that operation”.

Which of the many?

“Not Chuck Rolando, member of the Passengers, who is a dear friend of mine and who only recorded the first two 45s of Den Harrow, 'To meet me' and 'A taste of love'”.

Were you the Italian version of Milli Vanilli?

“I actually anticipated them: they arrived at the end of the '80s. In Italy it was a normal practice, to make beautiful faces 'sing'. I won't name names because I'm a gentleman, but many of the characters who became very famous among the 80s and 90s actually didn't sing their respective songs. Coming to Taylor Swift's producer: don't blame me, but I don't know him. I don't follow Taylor Swift and the new scene very much. I listen to old music, 70s funk. But if he has defined as my trash pop music it already pisses me off and so I don't even want to know it (laughs)”.

He didn't define your music as “trash pop”. Quite the opposite: you said that in Italy certain productions are perceived that way today, but that your project was very interesting.

“Our music has never been trash pop, unlike many other Italian productions.

Den Harrow's music was crafted by professionals such as Roberto Turatti and Miki Chieregato. We have sold 20 million records across Europe. I as a character received 400 covers, stuff that not even Duran Duran did. In Germany I won awards before Michael Jackson, Billy Idol, Bruce Springsteen. Our music was well played, even if I did more tame things like 'Catch the fox': in any case, in that song Fio Zanotti played, not exactly the latest arrival. There was mastery behind those hits.”

Why then is it perceived as trash?

“Because in the '80s we were considered by the old Italian singer-songwriters as those who made second-class music, even if we sold much more than them. Forty years later, we have taken revenge.”

On whose behalf are you speaking?

“About that whole scene. It was me, Gazebo, Sandy Marton, Ivana Spagna, Sabrina Salerno. We waved the Italian flag on the most important stages in Europe.”

How did you get into music?

“Totally by chance. I didn't know how to sing, it had never been my desire. I worked as an image boy in nightclubs, starting with the American Disaster in Milan. I danced well. Roberto Turatti was the DJ in that nightclub. He said to me: 'Do you want to be the image singer of a ready-made record?'”.

And you?

“I accepted. I thought it was a game. We churned out one success after another. At a certain point my career got out of hand.”

What do you want to say?

“By the time it got serious, it was already too late to stop me. It was a condemnation, performing with someone else's voice. I felt like I was making fun of the fans. The Den Harrow project no longer seemed fair to me.”

As a dyslexic, how difficult was it to learn playback?

“Very hard. The hardest thing was learning the songs by heart. When I couldn't do it, I covered my mouth with the microphone.”

Have you ever been afraid of being exposed?

“Here I am. When they called me to do live performances on TV, I refused. I felt psychologically inferior. And I was sick. I experienced what Sangiovanni talked about before him, but I didn't have Sangiovanni's balls”.


“It's hard when you're 20 to turn down all those good things: the money, the sponsors, the covers. I came from the outskirts of Milan. If I hadn't done Den Harrow, who knows where I would be by now. I didn't know how to do anything, plus I was dyslexic. Today's kids are much more dignified than we were.”

When did you decide to say enough to that farce?

“In 1988, fighting against the resistance of the record companies. Once I showed up at the Baby Records offices to explain that I no longer felt comfortable. They told me to go and get a check to buy a big car. 95 million spent. But then I managed to assert myself. With 'Born to love', with my voice, I reached the Festivalbar final. But it was late: disco music was ending.”

When did the carousel stop spinning?

“From '90 onwards I started making records which were less and less successful, until I retired. I have never liked this environment, those who frequent it.”


“I live between Malaga and Viareggio, together with my wife Daisy Scaramella, author of my productions in recent years. I continue to perform. Especially in the summer, when together with Gazebo and the others we have big 80s themed reunions, collecting sold outs everywhere. In 2021 I made a new single, 'Always', vinyl was very popular. But at 62 I did what I had to do. Where the fuck do I have to go? Can you see me at 70 years old being a dancer? (laughs)”.