A Sit Down With DJ Ricardo Villalobos
Ricardo Villalobos is a Chilean DJ and producer. He is well known for his work in the Minimal Techno and Microhouse genres, and is one of the most significant figures in today's minimal techno scene. Though he loved music, he could never see himself as a musician. In the late eighties he began to make electronic music. From a very young age he has been a a big fan of Depeche Mode, even following their tours around Europe to listen to them.
"People playing records have to be DJs their whole life."
You've been making music for over ten years...
More like twenty years I think. My first record that came out was 15 years ago.
How do you manage to keep your music so organic when a lot of electronic music is so mathematical and precise?
First of all, one of the disadvantages of electronic music is that it sounds not organic. Electronic music is a sound expression that is very limited compared to acoustic music. Compared to a recording of sound and space, sound of a room, the sound of nature, the sound of a trumpet or a cello or whatever. The whole frequency, the spectrum is more developed, much nicer and touches you more than electronic music. Electronic music in itself only has a chance to survive if it is going to have a marriage with acoustic music. Sound design came to an end two three years ago with the last record of Autechre. You see that all the companies at the moment who were doing incredible synthesizers before are now selling piano sounds and trumpet programs and string programs. So sound design came to an end and now the acoustic thing has become more important. This all has to do with the approach of trying to put something organic inside electronic music and make it danceable but in an organic way.
Would you say innocence is important for you?
Yeah, I think for me, since I started until now, nothing changed, really. I have the same innocence approaching music, because for me, music is something; you collect sensations, emotional reactions to the music. And it has nothing to do with an intellectual process with thinking in itself. Its a language, like something is talking to you and approaching you, and in one moment you have an emotional reaction to that. And when youre listening to some other music, this emotional remembrance is coming back.Yeah, we had like this. My parents were absolutely up for it, for letting me make parties in the basement, so we had really amazing people, like Carl Craig was 22 years old, playing for 12 hours on his first ecstasy. No, it was not his first ecstasy, but hes a calm guy, really. But this moment, it was amazing. We had so much fun, but we still have so much fun. We still have wonderful situations. We still have the friends after it, since 20 years, we still like having them play, still doing it since 20 years. And its getting better and better. The more music we have collected, experienced, the better the surprise it is to listen to it, after 15 years, Yeah! I know this record, and you are sitting all together listening to this record, its amazing. And this is whats still happening. And as long as you are still playing the music you like when you are doing it, then you cant go wrong. Going on, and it doesnt matter if its two hours or three hours or five or 20 hours playing.
In terms of jazz, since I believe youre a fan, do you look at what youre doing from the perspective of spatial imaging or the endurance of the player and longevity of the track more?
I appreciate especially the spaces and recordings with microphones. And what I try to do with electronic music is try to sound as good and free and as spacey as an acoustic recording. This is the big reference for me, but its nearly impossible. Because the electronic frequencies are more defined and the rooms, you have to create rooms with spaces and reverbs. All the other effects you can use as something abstract, but the reverbs Humans are experts in reverbs, it is the one thing we are really experts in; we know if were in a kitchen, an elevator, a big hall. Microphone recording lets in this space where the sound was recorded, but with electronic music, it is an effect that is light years behind.
We've heard you say before that you don't like making albums, that you much prefer making singles.
For sure. The thing is an album is pressed into a form, the form of 80 minutes, the form of having different kinds of music in order to show all the kinds of music that you like. So you have to put everything inside the album and show a little bit of your musical side, your softer side and your harder side. All these stupid things are the expectations of people about any album. My concept is really doing timeless music for the dancefloor. For this situation where you go to a hospital for mad people hospital perhaps. You go inside the club and you forget about time, you forget the name of your father, where you live and whatever. I make music for this situation even if the people are taking drugs or not.
What is your reference for success? How do you judge when youve succeeded in these goals?
I dont have any references. I am fighting with the problem that if I bring out an album everyone is comparing it, measuring the success with it. But if to be not successful means you are not having to do the things that get you interviewed in the magazines maybe I dont want the success. The problem is we have to deal with the thing of success and its lot of bad sides, the side of hype. The hype is an enemy for art, doing what you really want, which is playing music and not talking to millions of people who want to have a little bit of your time because they want a little photo or conversation or whatever, and it really distracts you from what you really want to dowhich is to play a nice party with a nice soundsystem, which is the only reason I am doing what I am doing. Thats the problem you have to deal with, all the things that have nothing to do with the music.
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