Now with over a decade of releases under his belt, Spanish producer Juan Rico has become a well-established name within the International techno community. Under his various aliases Rico has extended his output to a diverse set of labels, including Oscar Mulero’s Pole Recordings, Ben Sim’s Theory Recordings, and mainstay Planet Rhythm Records. Following his latest release, a two-part reimagining of Kafka’s ‘Metamorphosis’, we caught with Rico to discuss Barcelona, Danny Elfman and the Birmingham sound.
So to start things off, how has 2015 been for you so far? Quite impressive to have three releases out in three months!
There are still interesting things that need to be edited for 2015 but I’m sure it will be a great year overall, both in my professional career and personal life. It’s important changes in my life that give me the energy when it comes to production work.
Can you tell us a little bit about the ‘La Metamorfosis’ EPs? How did the idea come about? Should we treat the two as a split album?
Yes, of course we can call it a split album. I liked the idea of doing a mini series of two parts, which could tell the story in another way. I think it’s always interesting to change ways of doing things, and in this case, I split the album into two parts instead of one. The whole idea came when my brother, who’s always had some influence on my creativity and always finds things to recommend to me that will often serve as inspiration for future projects, and usually film related, recommended that I read Franz Kafka’s ‘Metamorphosis’. He thought I’d like it and that I’d find some inspiration in it, though I don’t think he expected that ‘La Metamorfosis’ would be the outcome.
I started to read the book during one of my flights and because it’s always noisy on the plane, I had the idea of putting some ambient music on my MP3 player as an improvised soundtrack. It was something really inspiring and casual, since I chose tracks that suited reading the book. Then, I came up with the idea of translating the story into techno, telling it in multiple chapters. In this way, I find it easy to create something; when you have a strong source of intense inspiration.
What drew you to Kafka’s work in particular? I’ve always thought of his novels as being perfect for reinterpretation for some reason, but I don’t think I’ve ever heard a musical reimagining before.
That’s the best part of it all. It also appeared to me as an innovative and different way of translating the book. I thought it was intense in the beginning, and I tried to express that in the music, using organic sounds - for example the insect on every track, striving to tell the story in a better way.
You seem to put out around five releases every year under various aliases which is pretty crazy… How do you manage to maintain a level of enthusiasm? What keeps you inspired?
I don’t have this kind of performance every year, mostly because other years there have been circumstances, like trips for example where I have less time to edit releases… But yes, it’s true; between the projects I edit at least one album a year. I look for inspiration by giving my albums a feeling and an argument. That kind of inspiration I get mostly from movies. I watch a lot of films and I find movies are a great source of inspiration.
Sometimes an important personal situation can also inspire me in a great way. Recently I moved to Barcelona and this change has had a big effect on both my personal and professional life. I find much more inspiration over here and have much more energy than before. That’s why this year I’ll release a lot more than before under my two aliases.
Speaking of aliases, I’m a big fan of your dub work as ‘Architectural’ - what was the thinking behind starting that alias? Do you see it as necessary to have different monikers for each style that you explore? When do you know that a release is going to be under a certain name?
Architectural started during a musical transition I was experiencing, where I produced only one kind of techno, much more raw than what I produce nowadays and much more oriented towards the sound of the noughties. So I started to explore new sounds, to play around with dub elements. The first result was an edited EP on Music Man’s label under my ‘Humano’ alias, but that label in particular wanted me to release all my work under that alias with them and I didn’t like that idea. So, I decided to create my own project from the beginning, considering I had so much material. It was a new world for me! I could experiment with melodies and sound that I couldn’t use before, yet was able to keep the intensity in the tracks. It’s not that I believe that it’s important to have several aliases, there are people that have explored different styles and genres while still using the same name. That said, there are other artists like me that were tagged from the beginning with a specific and concrete style and it’s quite hard to get out of that.
So, if I wanted to do something different, like Architectural, I had to create a new name. After all, I don’t want to leave out the techno of my origins! The truth is, I don’t believe there’ll be any doubt about what track will come out under Architectural or under Reeko. Even when the tracks could have some similar sounds, each project is very different. Architectural has a futuristic jazz vibe and it’s melodic, while on the other side, with Reeko, I experiment with new sounds which make the techno sound more organic and raw.
I’m also really fond of your explorations into ambient - is the genre something that you listen to often? Who are you listening to at the moment more generally?
I do listen to a lot of ambient and I have a lot of it on my mp3 player: ambient, experimental and composers like Gustavo Santaolalla, Danny Elfman, Angelo Badalamenti and Alexander Desplant. Also, in the ambient and experimental world, people like KTL, Asmus Tietchens, Ryan Teague, Oren Ambarchi and many more. It is a genre that I find attractive and inspiring - especially tracks that last longer than 20 minutes.
You’ve been DJing for what must be around 15 years now - what are some the shows that stick with you most? What makes a show memorable for you?
It’s very hard to say which one of them. From the more recent ones, I remember my first time in Buenos Aires’ Under club. I really liked the public’s reaction to my first four-hour-set. It was a very atmospheric and visceral session and I think the audience reacted as I’d hoped.
What really makes a show memorable is when I find the perfect mix between a comfortable booth and being close to the audience, coupled with a nice, clean and strong sound, and an audience willing to listen and feel.
Your Discogs page cited Birmingham as a reference for your live sets. How much of this is true? Is the work of Regis, Blackdog, Surgeon, Sandwell District etc important to you?
In the beginning, the music coming from Birmingham was very important and in Spain that style was quite successful. When I wrote my first albums, that’s why they have that sound – it has helped me write the techno I write today. But like everything, there are beginnings, and mostly when you’re young and don’t know other areas, you just do things in the tried and tested way. Nowadays, I think things have changed and the influences are there. Those artists influenced thousands of producers, including me. Year on year every artist has looked for his inspiration in different places. In my case, when I started to listen to different genres, you could tell by the way I produced my music. I think it’s important, but something you only learn over time.
Finally, what can you tell us about future projects you have coming up? Anything releases in the pipeline you can tell us about?
There are some tracks waiting to be released before the year ends. An EP with Pole Group that’ll be released in July, an EP with Soma after the summer and an album under my Architectural alias. So, it’s going to be a very busy year I guess!