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Cristian Varela - 30 Years of Techno.
30 Years of Techno - Cristian Varela.
Cristian, we extend our most sincere congratulations to you and thank you for giving us so much music. To start by taking a look back at the past 30 years, where, how and when was your musical baptism?
The closest thing to a musical baptism would be at Porche in Villalba. It’s where I really started out doing a professional session in the evenings. Before that, you started out as number two in the booth and if it worked out for you and you managed to fill the club, they would promote you to booth manager and they would move you to the night session.
At that time, when your family saw that you had what it took to dedicate yourself to music, you were giving piano lessons and teaching music theory... How does it feel now that you have ended up so focused on electronic music and on being a DJ?
In the beginning it was like having a jug of cold water poured over me because I was studying piano and when I told my parents that I had been offered a job as a DJ, they were perplexed. The first thing they asked me was “But how are you going to work if you are not old enough?” So, I explained to them that it was in the evening and that they would pay me a little money... After my family discussed it, they accepted and said “Well, okay, if I have to go with you, tell me and I will help you to manage your money and make sure that you don’t spend it on a load of crap”. Logically, at first, they were not amused, but they trusted me, which meant a lot.
Cristian, you were a young lad at that time and people around you were older and had more experience. How did they react to you?
Well, it is curious, but what people felt at that time was curiosity rather than suspicion. They heard about that 16-year-old boy and they came to listen to me out of curiosity. Those who had most professional experience spoke wonders. When I went from Porche to Attica, a lot of DJs came to see me, and everyone was delighted. This was something that Fan dl kaos – who is a key figure for me – he was one of the first to make electronic music and release it on vinyl – told me all the time. He said: “There is something different about this kid.”
What was it like when they start calling you from places outside Madrid to play? At what point did it happen? Who were the first ones?
The perfect example was my good friend Luis Ibañez to whom I owe part of my career, who heard about a very young lad who was going down a storm in Madrid, and he got in his car and came to see me at Epsilon. That day, when I finished playing, he was introduced to me and he suggested I go to La Real in Gijon, which was before La Real in Oviedo, and I went for the first time. I did a session with four turntables and it was a total success. From that moment on, I began to go religiously, and they began to call me from venues in Galicia such as Oxido, La Kripta, and La Capilla for the after parties. They also called me from Valladolid, from Komplot, and from my favourite venue from that time, CAMAROTE, where the resident DJ was Joshua, who was wonderful to listen to.
Many people in music talk about your talent and your great abilities in those early years. When did you see other people who were doing the same as you? Who do you remember seeing/hearing in those years and thinking, that artist is one step further ahead?
I have never mentioned it but Tobias, a great DJ and professional who had a music store called Planet (thanks to which I met Luis Ibañez) introduced me to Yuriy, resident DJ in the evenings at New World, where Iker and Oscar used to play at night. We would go to his house a lot and he would show me tons of videos of the DMC championships, and when I was that age, seeing that skill, all the repetitions and the scratching, I became obsessed with all of it. I started to practice; I marked the records with stickers to scratch. I did not take part in contests, but all the DMC contests were etched in my mind forever. At that time, Yuriy was a very, very good DJ.
You started to go beyond our national borders; up until recently, we have regarded Spain as always seeming to be one step behind. What did you feel? How did they treat a young man from Spain?
I think the first gig outside Spain was in Toulouse, and when I got there, and they saw me looking so young, with long hair, and that look... They immediately started taking the mickey with all the cliches about: “Spain, bullfighting, paella…”. Just as well that I’m bilingual: I speak French and so I told them – I was really cocky – “Wait till you hear you hear me play and then start going on about all that folklore and paella...”. When I went to Belgium and Holland, people didn’t take me seriously just because I came from Spain. It pains me to say this, but that is the way it really was. On the basis of doing tours and starting to produce on very prestigious techno labels such as Primate Recordings, Planet Vision, Stay Up Forever, Plus8... And starting to play at the big festivals of that time such as I Love Techno, Shockers, Nature One, Inner City, Awakenings, and Dance Valley... That is when they began to take a bit more interest in Spanish techno.
You have already talked a bit about it, but what role has your brother Luis played over the entire course of your career?
Right from the start, my brother was vital to my career and in my life in general. As well as playing the role of elder brother, adviser, confidant... Luis took charge of everything for me: the shop, the agency, the accounts, my gigs... He was my manager. I owe everything to him.
What was your first time in Ibiza like?
I was petrified. I thought that my music didn’t suit Ibiza, how was I going to play the total techno that I had played at La real or at Florida 135 at Space Ibiza? Carl Cox told me, “Play whatever you want, as far as the people who come to Space are concerned, if the music is good, everything else doesn’t matter. People value the quality of what you play and how you play it... Even if you want to play hardcore”. And the truth is that it worked out really well, so much so that Carl immediately suggested that I go there every summer to do 2-3 sessions. One day, quite spontaneously, he suggested that we do a B2B in the booth, and of course we did. Only with vinyl records, pure improvisation, incredible magic ... that B2B impressed the public as much as it did us. There was something so special about the energy and technique of the two of us together that we did it again and again for several years. Even when Carl was on the road and couldn’t attend a show, I would substitute for him.
Was it vital to play Ibiza? Even if you hadn’t wanted to, why Ibiza?
Yes, because even if you don’t like it, Ibiza is the meeting point for the entire electronic music sector worldwide. Artists, promotors, labels, there may be some who are reluctant, but when they try it, they get it. The island’s energy goes beyond music – the amount of energy that I have sensed there is something that I have never experienced anywhere else in the world. From the very first moment that you step off the plane, the best things in the world, or the worst (laughs) can happen to you; it’s heaven for some people and hell for others.
With your arrival in London, you began to work closely with Black Codes on events etc. How did it go?
The label was founded one year after starting with Pornographic Rec. Black Codes was more experimental, it did unusual things that I liked to create, then it became an underground techno label around that time (2001), which surprisingly managed to sell a lot even despite the fact that the music had not been created for the dancefloor originally. With the change from analogue to digital, I had to decide on one label, and I had to put Black Codes on the back burner for years. Later on in London, a good friend and great producer, DJ Ian Axide asked me why we didn’t go back to Black Codes? It seemed like a great idea to me, so we did it on digital and then on vinyl. Then we started with the events, first at The SteelYard, then we were asked to do ShowCase at the Egg, and then later at E1 Studio Spaces. We were very happy, focused 100% on techno and all the artists were delighted to take part in events from Japan, Holland, Spain, and the UK...
On your arrival in London, you started working with big brands, for example, Roland. What was it like working with them?
I couldn’t believe it, it’s like when they called me to play at Attica or they accepted some of my promos at Primate, incredible. For the live shows that I did at big festivals like I love Techno, Nature One, Shockers,etc. I took two percussionists, Pablo Guadalupe, and Karim Haas. Roland Spain started to sponsor them, and Karim introduced me to one of Roland’s managers. Later, at ADE, David Nus introduced me to one of Roland UK’s managers, and he said to me, “What do you need from us?” I told him, “The only thing I want is that when you bring out a new piece of technology, you send it to me to test it and I’ll send you a report about what works well and what I would improve for future updates... That’s how it was, they started sending me synths and drum machines up till now when I am also developing sound libraries, demos, lectures, and masterclasses in academies.
What is S.I.X?
S.I.X is a new live show using 6 turntables. It’s doing a live show, but with vinyl records, not just mixing songs. It also shows how you can do a live gig without machines, just using turntables. The idea is to create music by bringing several vinyl records together, using each one as a very specific element (atmosphere, Base, Percu, FX...).
The 30th anniversary of your career. What have you prepared?
If we are able to and they let us, we are going to start off by taking S.I.X on a world tour; I am really looking forward to doing something completely new and original, something that, above all, excites me. S.I.X makes me very excited. I am also continuing with my 4-deck sessions. I am going to release a new album on Black Codes, and, on May 28, I am bringing out a new album on Materia (Marco Bailey’s label). A track has just come out on one of my favourite labels Mord (by Bas Mooy) and on the OAKS label, which is now one of the benchmarks, together with DAX J, as they are rescuing the more industrial hard groove that many of us are so driven by. Hector Oaks asked me, “You wouldn’t happen to have some tracks from the Primate era that you’ve never released? And looking through my old DATs... BOOM! 6 unreleased tracks that they loved.
Like all artists, we imagine that you are dying to play again, but let’s say that we tell you to close your eyes and describe it, how do you imagine that day?
I would really like to do a B2B together with artists like Marco Bailey again, at E1 here in London, for example. To do a massive techno session with Marco, Ian axide, and Regis. We hope that it can definitely happen by October-November.
If you had to send a message to some of the many clubs and promoters in Spain that you have passed through over these past 30 years, what would it be?
A thousand thanks for contributing your grain of sand to my career! Without you it would not have been the same. Especially to Luis Ibañez from la Real, Miguel Lopez- Epsilon, Alejandro Conde- Attica, Juniorfrom Copera, Inma from Family, Luismi, Nuke, Cesar from Fabrik, the Arnau, Pepe Roselló from Space, and many others, for the great work that they have always done supporting national artists. They are clubs that have helped us a great deal by showing that our national talent is some of the best around in the world of electronic music.
Before we go... For the public, for your fans, what should we tell them about the 30-year career of Cristian Varela?
Say thanks to all of them! The energy, the unconditional support, the warmth and to stress that, if it had not been for them, I would be playing at home or doing something else with my life, (laughs). You’re nobody without the audience. For me, the fans come first.
¡Thanks Cristian!Read more Close