- Zilka Grogan
A chat with Antonio Vázquez
Antonio Vázquez hails from Seville, Spain, but learnt his art as a DJ in Madrid in the 2000s. Moving to Berlin was the turning point in his musical development: it was here he started to explore the deeper side of techno. He has since released on such forward-thinking labels as Shaded Explorations, Hypnus Records, and Semantica, while taking up bookings at some of Berlin’s most respected clubs.
We caught up with Antonio to discuss the concept behind his recent mix for Patterns of Perception, how moving to Berlin has impacted his sound, and why paring back his life has helped him find a sense of peace that flows through his music.
Tell us about your Patterns of Perception mix. Was there a particular concept or inspiration behind this mix? How do you approach mixes more generally?
For me the mix started with the idea to project different moods and music styles within techno. The starting point was what I’m interested in, which kind of tracks. Typically when I do a podcast I meditate first and then record it. Everything flows in this way. With music, I see myself as an instrument. I’m interested in many different styles of music, especially because of my concept of what music really is. I see it as a tool to make us vibrate in different states.
The first part of the mix is a really calm, profound, deep sound with atmospheres and grooves and weird elements to create different emotions. I wanted to set a really calm mood. The second part is much harder, which is developing more into my punk, metal, rock and more hard styles. This is to create a sense of rage and anger, to let out these emotions and feelings. Then the third part, which is the most danceable I think, it belongs between the previous two parts. Sometimes there’s a track that’s more moody, more groovy or more hard, but it sits in between both. This third part could be the middle point of the first and second part.
Is there a particular reason you structured the mix this way? Why put the ‘middle’ section at the end?
We shift between two poles and it’s clear that we have to make a balance. You feel one side and then the other side, and then you put it in balance. It’s like everything in life – you cannot understand one side without the opposite. So that’s why I put this third part at the end, to put everything in balance. But what I’m more interested in is what other people receive, what other people feel when they listen to it. Most importantly I want them to really enjoy it.
Take me back to the start for you. How did you first get into music?
Almost everything in my life is just about following my natural flow so it’s difficult to explain. But actually, if I reflect on it, I think it was because of my father. My father has a really big focus on music. Whatever he does, he really needs to have his time for music. When I was younger, he was working a lot, moving around, and most of the time I travelled with him in the car and he always puts on these cassettes recorded from the radio. We’d stop at the gas station and we’d buy cassettes. But of course, it started because I had it inside – we all have it inside. I have these moments that I need to explore with music.
What music did you listen to with your dad?
Well, he plays a lot of different styles and songs, especially ballads and quiet music, and also jazz, classical music and awhile ago I tried to get him into post-rock. I started to show him my favourite band Tortoise. He enjoyed it. He’s not a person to express his feelings so what he thinks about it, you see it in his face. The music he played help me to discover Pink Floyd and early Santana, so this took me to focus on psychedelic rock. I think I was eight years old when I first listened to electronic music, with a cassette compilation that my father bought me called Max Mix 10.
How did you get your start as a DJ/producer from here?
I was living in Malaga, trying to study at university. I say ‘trying’ because it was not my thing and I quit it two years after. I was involved with friends, especially one called Javier Salas, he started to DJ and play and show me a lot of music also. And also with other friends, Ruben Guerrero and Segundo del Toro, we started meeting and listening to music. Here I discovered bands like Gong, Can, Tortoise, Mogwai, etc. This was a really good inspiration for me. And we started to go out to parties and to Granada to go to clubs, to see Oscar Mulero and Oliver Ho, for example. Then I started to research about music programs for my computer. I had a lot of fun with it. Two years after this I moved to Madrid. And then after one year or so, I decided to buy turntables and to start learning to play. In about 2009, I played in my first club, called Cassette. Before that, it was mostly bars, private parties and events. This made me more comfortable to do it.
How did your sound develop over this time?
My music taste developed because in Madrid at that time the kind of techno I used to play was not really promoted, so I shifted to explore other music. I often played in really small bars and there were not so many places where you could play that harder sound. I was always between the two sides of really smooth and really hard. After playing at Cassette, it made me go back to that root of harder techno. This is the history of my music life: I develop and then I always come back to the root. Then the key moment was when I came to Berlin, this is essential.
At what point did you decide to relocate to Berlin?
I came to Berlin in 2011. As with everything, it was the flow of life. You feel the impulse and you follow it. In Berlin, I met some really good friends and inspiring friends who were making great music. Here I met Refracted. To me, he is one of the highest producers and DJs. His music speaks for itself. What he does with his concept and how he expresses himself, there are no words.
Besides meeting these friends, what is it about Berlin that’s had such an impact on you?
Berlin gives you the freedom to be whatever you are. You can dress however you want to, nobody judges you. You feel it on the street, you feel it walking. I think part of it is because of the history of the city. One kaiser, I don’t remember who, in the time of the inquisition took all people persecuted by the church and made a safe place for them in Berlin. That is what the spirit of the city became.
Energetically, I think it’s also because of the amount of water. Berlin is surrounded by water and I think the water is what gives it this energy. Water has the possibility to have memory and be affected by energy. And everything in life is energy.
How has moving here affected your career in music and your sound?
I just started to research, thanks to Refracted, more deep techno. Because of the group of friends we were, we started to have after parties at home and I just started to play more. Two podcasts I made were important but one in particular, the T_mood podcast, I think this one was the key moment with how everything develops for me. Thanks to that podcast and meeting Caleb ESC, I was invited to play for the first time in About Blank. At this time, I released an EP on T3R Records under the name Versenkt called The Owls Are Not What They Seem (in reference to one of my favorite directors, David Lynch). And then I had the big surprise: I got invited to play in Berghain about one year after I arrived in the city. It was totally out of the blue, actually I just received a message on Facebook one day.
I think this is how I want to live: just enjoy your life and not expect anything. I’ve learnt it with the years, to live in peace with yourself and your environment, and to follow your own flow. The most important thing is how you wake up in the morning. If you have a moment of peace – if you have your cup of coffee and breakfast and enjoy it quietly – then this helps you to have this same energy throughout the day. Maybe play some ambient music, some quiet music. And also do the same before you sleep. These are two essential pieces to find balance.
What’s your moment of peace in the morning? Do you have a particular routine?
This morning, for example, I woke up and I played Vangelis. I can’t remember the album. I usually listen to a full album and after that I take my coffee, I play some post-punk or rock to energise myself. And then I continue the day. I live quite comfortably because I work just two days per week. To work more is unnecessary. I reduced my expectations of life: I don’t have a phone, I don’t need to eat too much, I don’t need to spend so much money. I reduced the… I wouldn’t say my needs, but wills. I worked a lot in the past years and I discovered, why do I work so much to go on holidays? Why am I not living like I’m on holidays? This is one of the essential points for how I reached the peace that I have.
What impact has this way of living your life had on your music?
I’m still waiting to see. For the moment, I just express it through my recent podcasts. This one (for Patterns of Perception) is the fifth one since I started to feel this, and I think the Deep Electronics podcast really shows the moment where I discovered the peace I was living.
What I discovered is that I don’t want to limit myself through my musical tastes. I receive what I like, I process it inside and then I express it. I also discovered that I don’t want any stress about producing or releasing my music. I don’t like to see my music as a product, I just see it as it is: a tool to enjoy and make us all enjoy.
I try even to avoid promoting myself because I don’t like it. I only do it because I am asked to do it, and to support the parties, sites and labels I’m involved with. I stopped using Facebook at one point for this reason and others, and wish that soon I will stop again. If people are interested in following what I do, they will find a way to search for it. My life and what I do is not an advertisement. In summary, I don’t care to become a big artist or earn a lot of money with what I do. My success lies in enjoying every moment that I live, in every breath I take and every step I do. So I don’t need anything else.
How have you seen the Berlin techno scene develop over the years?
Techno is always developing. It is always reinventing itself. This is what I like in this style of music. Every time I talk with Refracted, or all the friends I have who make music, they are really searching for something new, something different. And myself, I’m always searching for new things. Also for my productions, each one is different. That’s why I think I am on Hypnus. It’s the feeling that the owner of the label gave me, that to meet him and also all the family was essential for my evolution as a producer. Hypnus is like a family, with freedom of expression, but of course with a certain quality of sound. And in Berlin, there are always new parties and the clubs are open to receiving and promoting more events and new music.
Lately I have heard a lot of comments, judgements and opinions about clubs and parties, which is just gossip at the end. All this takes the real joy out of partying, which should be somewhere you can feel free to release yourself, without being affected by others, without affecting others with our own perceptions, thoughts and emotions – and just have fun and enjoy the music you like or want to explore. I believe parties are the best place to meet people because here they forget a lot about their own lives and worries. They just open themselves properly and enjoy. The world would be a much better place if we all partied. Let’s take Kim Jong Un to a party! Merkel, Trump – let’s do a Patterns of Perception presidential edition.
You’ve released on labels including Semantica and Shaded Explorations as well. What have been some highlights production-wise for you?
The Coil on Shaded Explorations is the one that reached people the most, based on their feedback. But each release is different for me because each marks a certain moment that I was living. The Semantica one, everytime I hear it I find something new. This is my goal because it gives you something more. Repeating the same thing is nice of course but I prefer to discover something new.
Are you working on any releases at the moment?
At the moment, I’m working on a release for Hypnus. I’m researching and have a clear idea of what I want to do. I even have the name of the release, it’s just taking some time. But I have to give something to the family.
What else is on the cards this year? Any gigs you’re particularly looking forward to?
Definitely Parallel Festival. I was recently asked about my personal goal, and the only thing I thought of was to play at Parallel Festival. I can say so many things about the experience from last year but nothing would do it justice. Parallel has a special concept – each day means something. I still don’t know at what time I’ll be playing so I will guess and keep researching tracks. What I like is to prepare the beginning of the set, like the first hour. Then I get people in the mood for the kind of music I like to express.
I’m still waiting for confirmation from two of my favorites parties in Berlin to play so I would prefer not to say anything else until they are confirmed. My next gigs are at AVA Club on May 17 and at the Tokyo Redlight party at Renate on June 17. Every gig teaches me something new so I am really looking forward to them.
Anything else you have coming up?
Next winter I’m thinking to move back to Seville. My idea is to go back to my roots, to experience something new from them. It’s also about energy, meditation and all these other things I’m practicing. Just for the winter. Other than that, what is coming up will come up. I prefer not to know, I prefer to focus on the moment as always.
Links: Antonio Vázquez on Resident Advisor Antonio Vázquez on Facebook Antonio Vázquez on Soundcloud