A chat with Refracted
As both a DJ and producer, Refracted is coming into his own. The past year has seen him release the lush Through the Spirit Realm LP on Silent Season, secure slots on the summer festival circuit and hit the studio to work on a host of new productions, to be released on his own Mind Express label and elsewhere. His career has taken him from his hometown of Majorca to Berlin, a city that allowed him to pursue music more actively and to carve out a space of his own in the techno scene.
Ahead of his appearance at Patterns of Perception this Friday, Refracted reflects on his path to music and gives a glimpse of what’s to come.
You hail from Mallorca in Spain. How have your hometown and home country shaped your sound and perception of music?
Mallorca is a wonderful island full of beautiful landscapes and amazing waters surrounding it. My love of nature and the sea have probably led me to feel more attracted to organic sounds and textures instead of a more clinical sound design. This, in turn, shaped my own idea of “good” sound throughout the years. Once I started working on music I had a clear vision of the type of sound I wanted to pursue.
How did you found your way to music and to Berlin?
During my teenage years, I was very lucky to have access to techno parties every weekend. Angel Costa, the local resident and promoter, would keep bringing all the big names to the island and I would be on the front row every day. After these events, I would always scour the internet to find tracks and new artist names. It was an obsession that really shaped my taste and throughout the years of non-stop listening I refined it. If it wasn’t for Angel, I don’t know where I would have ended up.
Berlin came many years after that. After completing my postgraduate degree in London and working in the completely uncreative and mind-numbing corporate sector for a couple of years, I decided to put my hard-earned money to use and bought a laptop with Ableton and a Machinedrum. I was hooked. Soon after that, I was packing my bags, I left everything to go and pursue my newfound passion for music production. Berlin allowed me to live on short working hours and I needed that extra time to work on my music.
You have a singular sound which is rich in its diversity – from the ambience of your LP Through The Spirit Realm, to the hypnotic techno featured on your own Mind Express label. Can you tell us a bit about the artistic vision that drives your productions?
Honestly, there is no clear artistic vision. At least not at the beginning of the creative process. Once I start jamming and things flow in a certain direction that I like then it might happen that I get visions of the track being played in certain environments like an outdoor festival or a dark warehouse. This puts me on focus and tends to shape the overall sound and texture of the track. I like using this trick and not to overthink too much about concepts and thoughts.
To me, it’s all about the creative process and I think some people get too hung up on abstract concepts which then aren’t even heard in their music.
For the album, it was completely different. I spent a lot of time thinking about what I wanted to do with it. In my opinion, albums should tell a story not just be a collection of tracks. I took this idea and decided to tell a story with it. At the time I was reading True Hallucinations, a book by Terrence McKenna and experimenting with certain substances. This was deeply inspiring and shaped what the overall story for the album would be. After that, it was just a matter of focusing on what each chapter should tell and how it should sound. I’m pretty happy with the result and look forward to starting the next one.
You’ve just returned from DJing at the much talked about Parallel festival in Spain. How do you go about preparing for your DJ sets, and does your mindset change when putting together a festival set versus one for a club setting?
Preparing for a DJ set, I like to look at the whole lineup and where my slot is. I also pay attention to the club and past events the promoters have organised. This gives me an idea of the sound and intensity I can play. Then it’s all a matter of careful listening and selection. I like to take a week at least to do this. I don’t like to play the most usual tracks so it takes a bit of extra time to find and think about something more personal.
The mindset definitely changes depending on whether it’s a festival or a club event. Especially if it’s an outdoor festival like Parallel. I really believe the primal aspect of techno fits perfectly in a natural environment. Nothing beats a well-tuned and powerful sound system outdoors where there are no concrete walls or air conditioning vents to impact the flow of sound.
Thinking about this while preparing for a festival set is really inspiring. Sometimes I have even produced tracks to play specifically at a festival. I just get in this mindset which really takes me to the spot and then the creativity just starts flowing. There seems to be a lot of recognition building for what you are doing. What’s in the pipeline for you now?
Mind Express 003 is soon to be pressed and I’m again collaborating with another track on the next official CD mix from PoleGroup made by Reeko. There is also an EP coming out on a big record label at the beginning of next year. Shortly after that Mind Express 004 should follow and then maybe it’s time to start thinking about a new album.