Thursday, July 26. 2007
I was born in Chile the 6th of August in 1970 - it was exactly 25 years after they dropped the A-bomb on Hiroshima, exactly the time. I was born at 1:00 and it was 8 in the morning there. So exactly the same, except 25 years later…
One part of my family is from Germany, my mother. She is half German, Czech-German, quarter Italian and quarter Chilean. My father’s completely Chilean. So I’m half Chilean, quarter Italian quarter German. My mother was at university teaching journalism, and my father was also at the university teaching physics and math. There was a military coup in Chile in ’73 [General Augusto Pinochet overthrew the democratic government of Salvador Allende in 1973], when I was three years old, and then we flew to Germany because my mother had family there. It was a dictatorship, a right-wing military coup, not communist but the opposite, and so we had to leave the country immediately. My father’s friends died and got tortured and everything, it was horrible. But I was lucky because if I’d grown up in Chile, I would be something very normal, like an engineer. I would’ve taken the normal, academic route. In South America, you either go academic, studying a particular subject, or you have to work. There’s no in-between. In Europe, the possibilities are much bigger – you have the possibility to find alternative ways of life, to earn a living with music or whatever art you want.
Did you ever get into art, as in visual art?
No, but there is a website of a guy – I think he’s from Ecuador – who has the exact same name as me. He’s a visual artist and he cooks also, he is always giving life advice and that sort of thing. His website is www.ricardovillalobos.com. So many people think it’s me, giving life advice and very nice recipes for food – I always have people come up to me saying “oh, that recipe was incredible!” Sometimes I let them think it is me, because thankfully the guy seems to be very nice so it’s very good promotion for me! (laughs)
My family from my father’s side is very musical. Our family are very well known Chilean musicians still. My father comes from Parra and Villalobos; the Parra family is very musical and was very important also in Chile. For example, Violetta Parra. She is the most important musician in Chile. She was doing very deep protests and political folk music. A lot of different bands came out of this family. My uncle (my father’s brother) is undoubtedly a musical genius. He played the guitar too much and he’s completely crazy – for 30 years he’s been living in his own world and everyone thinks he’s crazy, but I think he pretends to be crazy. He doesn’t want to have to be responsible and wake up every morning to go to work, he decided to have no responsibilities with women and children and he decide to cut it all off…perhaps I’ll do this one day. (laughs) Playing the crazy one or the fool – it’s only your own freedom. So growing up I was surrounded by mathematics and music, which are quite similar. Music is like the mathematics of feelings. There is a certain connection between the two.
When I was small, someone gave me a guitar, which I thought was very boring. I’ve always been the type of person who either learns something very fast, or I leave it. I have a natural talent for many things, but if I have to train a little bit, I’ll drop it. If it comes automatically, perfect – but if I have to practice to learn it, I’d rather focus on something else. So with guitar, I dropped it pretty quickly, but I really, really regret it a lot. The biggest hole in my life is not to have learned the guitar or the piano. When I was 10 years, I started to play percussion, I started to play conga and bongos. Music was something I loved but I never thought that I could be a musician. I was listening to percussive and South American music at the time. South American music is like the perfect mixture between rhythm and melody in a way. The melodies are always melancholic or positive; it depends on your point of view, if you are melancholic or if you are happy. So it’s always leading you to one of the directions, and it’s really amazing. This influence is also in my music, to find melodies that I’m between, borderlines. In a way, the electronic music we listen to when we dance is very similar to African and South American percussion music. On one hand, you have the percussion, like Samba, where people are dancing for hours and days – it’s the same rules and ideas behind techno: to make people go crazy, lose their realities, let go. This is happening with percussive music. It was a clear path, or it was a normal consequence, to go from acoustic percussive music to electronic percussive music. All my knowledge I have about percussion, I put into electronic music of course. When I was a kid, I was very often in situations with percussion sessions, for hours, the whole night. My parents had friends that owned concert agencies so we heard so many Southern American musicians and sessions. I was just a little kid, always looking on and recognising something that was making people dance. This has always really fascinated me. As a musician, you are searching for that your whole life. I’m constantly on a search for the truth about the dance floor - why do people dance, what’s the secret behind it? In our generation, more so than the new generation and for new DJs, it was much more difficult to find the right records and to build up your musical taste. You had to find it yourself more or less; there was a little bit of house, a little bit of techno – but it was not like the complete information package. But now the new generation is receiving information about what music to play, what tastes, key sounds at the moment, new machines, cool programs – they’ve got all this information in packages. The new generations are getting this, and the good thing is they didn’t have to search for it so now they can do something with it. For me, as a musician, the nicest thing I can do is to transfer everything I know to younger generations. That’s what I’m constantly doing, because it’s the only form of survival as an artist and as a person, is to pass on your knowledge to younger people – be it a political idea or music or whatever. It’s important with people you admire or respect, because of their talent, to transfer and give them everything you know. My father was like that. My family was always teaching about energy, culture, geography, mathematics – I was lucky enough to receive all this, so it’s my part to pass this on to my younger friends and family.
When I was in school, I had little school bands. I went to school in Germany, it was near Frankfurt. It was quiet in the countryside; I grew up away from the city, which was good. When I have children, I will move of course. And I’m expecting a child in two months, so this will change my life and take the speed out of my life a little bit, because it’s really constantly full-on at the moment. Anyway, my first few years at school I was very bad and I was playing lots of music, doing a lot of sports. I played in a couple bands, more like Santana kind of music, like Latin rock, I was playing percussion of course. My interest in electronic music came from Depeche Mode, for sure. For me they were like the Beatles of the eighties, with electronic instruments. It was one of the bands responsible for making electronic music popular. In '81 and '82 they had lots of four-to-the-floor stuff, ten or eleven minute mixes of tracks, and they were the first to do it. Daniel Miller was doing techno in the early eighties too, and he, of course, signed Depeche Mode to his Mute label. You can mix those records with techno tracks. In the beginning people complained about Depeche Mode. They said, 'They don't play the music how it sounds on record.' But after a while people understood it, and Depeche Mode need to be credited with helping this music find popularity. I’ve been doing electronic music since I was about 15 years old; I’ve been also DJing since then. I did some parties, some illegal parties around then, it was really nice. I met all the important people in my life musically at my parties – all the Playhouse people, for example. I invited them to play as DJs, and we got closer from there. It was very lucky. In the beginning it's like a hobby. DJing paid something between one hundred and five hundred Euros. You couldn't live out of it. Since '98 this has definitely been a career. I need to live, and I need to work hard. It took me ten years from getting my first money, to realise that I'd be able to live from doing this, that it's the centre of my life, the reason I stay living. If things grow slowly, and you stay where you have always been much longer, you don't fall as fast. Everyone is talking like this now, all the good artists, it's like a rule. It's the much better way.
LABELS & PRODUCTION
In 1994, I made my first record for Playhouse. My first record was in 1992 I think for a label called Overdrive. And then we had two labels, but we stuck to one after the second release. It’s not really my thing to run a label. It’s a little bit complicated, especially with vinyl. In the vinyl business, in the chain of production, someone is always losing - because there’s not too much money. Either the artist is losing or the label is losing or the person who’s doing the design of the record didn’t get paid – one of them is always losing. This is the bad thing about the business, but it has to go on. Vinyl is so special, it’s something you can touch, the music’s in there…of course you can scratch it but it’s still there. A scratched CD is over. There’s much more information; even the analogue information on the record is much richer than on a CD. A CD is more a photograph of the reality, it’s not sounding very nice. I’m always working on the same thing: to create music that is sounding very nice, which impresses you because of sounds, especially the frequencies and how well they are recorded. It’s always a vision of a club of the future; it’s music which is long music, you can mix it very softly and monitor it with another, it’s made for that – like long bass drum leads, elements that are quite mixable, guiding melodies. This is the idea, to deliver music for the foresight, as a musical construction.
When I’m creating music, I dream of a white club with incredible sound, that’s open and light, with clean air and nice smells, where people meet not necessarily in the night or to drink alcohol or take drugs…just to enjoy and listen to the sounds of the music. This is able to give you so much energy – you must know the energy I mean from going to fabric. That’s the reason I love playing at fabric so much; it’s my favourite club to play in because of the sounds. The sound guys are so into it, and so dedicated, like Sanj running around with a computer. Everything’s done so perfectly. If the needle skips, immediately someone comes over, changes the needle and makes sure everything is okay. It’s so professional. And Keith, the complete music lover – the reason why he is running this club is because he loves the music, and nothing else. It’s amazingly nice. But a club like fabric is only possible in London, there’s no other place in the world where it’s possible to do something like this, to have three different levels with different bookings every week. You are always in your own world throughout the three rooms. It’s like three small clubs in one building. I can’t explain why it’s only possible in London, but I’ve never seen another club in the world that’s like fabric. I think Judy invited me 5 or 6 years ago, and I was really surprised because normally in England, the club scene is very isolated in a way. They play their own music, they have their own thing going on – from English people for English people. But the last 2 or 3 years the English scene’s really started to open up and I think it’s thanks to fabric and Mr C at The End. Fabric did a lot to bring in really good DJs and people from outside the UK – fabric really has been responsible for a lot. I remember every record the first time I played at fabric. I always remember exactly what happens at fabric, because I’m interested in the records, interested in the situation, interested in the sounds…there’s so much information all at once, you record it in your brain forever.
Of course I love to DJ and it’s nearly never a job. It’s always a voluntary thing, I really do like and love to play and like and love make people dance. But I hate when there is too much hype and people love you because of nothing, even when they don’t know you, even when they’ve never heard a record of yours played. The people are so devoted, but they’re not really concentrating on the music, it’s only this hyped thing. I don’t like that so much, of course I don’t like when clubs are inviting me and it has nothing to do with me and nothing to do with my music. But most of the time, I really love it and I’m very dedicated. It’s an amazing so-called “job.” I have always DJed the same way. I don't jump around, and make a big show, and scream or whatever. Things like that are not my style. You have to be very concentrated, but also you have to be in the mood of the people, that is very important. Being relaxed is good, and it means you can play a little more abstract stuff in-between the stuff that people are more likely to be expecting. Everyone has a style and mine has always been like this.
It is all my productions and it’s a form of introducing an album as a mix. Every time you do an album and then you do the next one, people start to compare how the music is different, why you did it on this label and not that label, they try to define it, “the other album was better,” “there’s no hit like ‘Easy Lee’ on it” and so forth…it’s exhausting, really. So I think you always have to find a new way to introduce your music and present yourself. I chose fabric because Judy has been asking me for 3 or 4 years now, but I’ve been so busy. And it’s really stressful to do a DJ mix. So I figured it would be much easier to do a mix with my own music, and of course fabric is the perfect label for me to do this on. The nicest thing is no one will really be talking about how it’s an album, it’s all moving along very naturally – no big promotion or releasing tracks for radio two months before. I really prefer for it to be treated like a normal mix CD, with no hype. Sound-wise, the mix is going to be more housey than head-y. I’m more known for head-y, trippy music, so of course it is still very trippy and monotone, in the monotone way of delivering always the same tone and doing something to your brain. But it will be more dancey and housey and summery. I always think of the dancefloor when I create music, but not a vision of the actual dancefloor – it’s always a vision of what’s going to happen. Of course at a club like fabric or a couple clubs in Berlin, you have this already. But many other clubs, not so much – so it’s a projection, a vision. And it’s not one track after another after another, it develops very subtly.
Of course I’ll still constantly be doing music. The baby’s coming at the end of August, and I think this will change my life completely. That’s what I want; it’s not like being on an after-hours for 4 days. (laughs) There has to be a reason to come home, and this is what I need. Really to structure my life in a more normal way, but of course I’ll still go to crazy parties and be crazy myself – this will never disappear. I need something that will bring me back to reality, to normality, to a normal life. And having a baby is the most wonderful thing in the world.
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