Interview with Ka§par

Following the all new podcast, Lisbon-based Ka§par and I had a chat about his musical roots, influences and his own production. You also get to listen to some of his tracks and some more of his regular mixtapes.

What is your first recollection of music and how did it go from there, when did you decide to become a musician?
Well, I was very much into music at a really early age. I felt addicted to rhythm as soon as I can remember. This is like… at the age of 4-5… the first music that appealed to me was rhythmic, obviously stuff that played in the airwaves, pretty standard mid 80s R’n’B stuff, like Janet Jackson, Milli Vanilli, Yazz, Eurhythmics, even Huey Lewis. Then, a bit after that, when I was 7-8, I began to pay attention to my father’s record collection. This meant I was exposed to a mix of German Krautrock and electronica from the 70s (Klaus Schultze to Kraftwerk), but also to a very rich sample of progressive rock, like Pink Floyd, Alan Parsons, Genesis and Tangerine Dream, to soul, funk and disco (MFSB, early Donna Summer, Earth Wind & Fire). From then on, came hip hop, and my first real perception of a musical genre, through A Tribe Called Quest’s “Can I Kick It” when I was maybe 9. I was quickly swept by the time I got into house music, in ’91, a couple of months after that, through tracks like The Source’s “You Got The Love” (now with a much in vogue remix of a cover version), or – speaking of vogue – Madonna’s “Vogue” for example. By the time I was 12, I was dreaming of being a musician, I played the keyboard on top of my favorite tracks all the time. I guess the musician side came first. Shortly after that I got a sampler somehow, some crap MIDI thing that allowed like 0.5 second of sound. Had to sample stuff out of it, high pitched, and then downpitch them inside it again… that type of thing. It was a fun time, I split my time between school and writing music whatever way I could. The fascination with DJ’ing came with the radio shows I was into, there were two in Portugal at the time. One of them by a big DJ (DJ Vibe), that played some mad house tunes, and I got really deep into the underground side of that, around that time, maybe around ’93/’94.

What were you into when you started producing?
Well, it was like a mix of Chicago and New York stuff, with a lot of disco and jazz influences. It was a time when DJ Harvey started to be really high up there in the Portuguese scene, and played here all the time. A lot of our local DJs where playing quality house and classic disco, acid jazz, soul, that kind of thing. That was the first moment when I was more or less certain that I was on the right path. To be perfectly honest, I banged my head against the wall a couple of times and bought some really crappy music, in the process, just trying to figure out what was what.

Where there any idols you looked up to?
Good question, well, I’m not the newest kid on the block, but I’m not a geezer either, and I had the luck to begin my work real early, so I grew up in a time where there was no Internet. Only local DJs, local shops, and records you wanted, and people you knew played good music… so my first idols where local heroes, Lisbon DJs who where and still are great connoisseurs, collectors and displayers of fine music. Like Lino(Alkalino), who moved to Munich 5 years ago, and taught me all I know about Techno and Detroit… I mean, I knew some of the most important names, but the information was very hard to come across in the mid 90s for a 13, 14, 15-year-old. He taught me about Transmat, Metroplex, Underground Resistance, and I also saw him DJ a lot, and mix that with Roy Ayers, Martin Circus, even Nightmares on Wax, you name it. Also, Rui Murka, a local DJ who got me into drum ‘n’ bass in the 90s was very important as a big brother figure too… Good DJs are the ones who don’t play styles, they play music you dance to. But I had my share of inspirational producers and DJs… I’d say… James Brown, Giorgio Moroder, Kraftwerk, on the classics… in the last 15 years I’ll say there are many. To name but a few: Recloose (his first DJ mixes on the net blew me away), Moodymann and Theo Parrish, Moritz von Oswald, Jonah Sharpe, Anthony Shakir, LTJ Bukem, Tim Love Lee, Andrew Weatherall, 4 hero, Sa-Ra, Jedi Knights, the Stones Throw guys, Larry Heard. I also love the Dutch techno scene, out of the Clone/Delsin axis, of course Maurizio and Basic Channel was of the biggest importance, Maurice Fulton… Pepe Bradock is also big in my book… and Luke Vibert, of course!

Your first record was still made with your former partner Jackzen. How was it to work with a partner?
Right, well, António Alves (a.k.a Jackzen) has always been as close a friend as they come, since we where 17. We met because our IRC nick names where Moodymann and Theo Parrish. This was in 1998, imagine the odds. I invited him to DJ with me in my residence ASAP, and I think that might have been his first gig ever. A couple of years later we took some time to produce music together, of course I had the previous expertise, but António has a great vision of how he wants the music to flow and sound like, and since we are both very much obsessed with futurism and depth in music, it was almost always fairly easy and very enthusiastic. Unfortunately, when we started to get deeper into our college degrees, we had less and less time to both produce music and DJ, and of course I’m still trying to finish mine, where he’s already doing a full time day job for the last two years, and I’m a full time DJ (maybe that’s why it’s so hard to complete 3 silly little courses that I need to be a licensed psychologist).

2010 starts with a couple of new releases under the name of Ka§par, tell me about the name and what is it with the “§”.
Comes out of the fact that I wanted an original name and my middle name is Gaspar (roughly translates as that). At the time I had the feeling that there where going to be a lot of people with the same name, over the years, so I decided to use a special character to distinguish myself. And, indeed, it was a smart move! Right now there are duzens of Kaspers, Kaspars, Caspers, Caspars, Caspas, but only one has the §.

What are the new releases and what else have you got coming?
In early January my new single “Music Life” came out on Groovement, the label I started with my mate Rui Torrinha, back in 2000, when I was hardly old enough to be legally responsible. It features a remix by another Portuguese act, The Photonz. Then I have another 4 track EP coming out on 4lux (the second on Gerd’s fine imprint), out in April/May. Then in June, I have a third one on Groovement as well. I feel I was lucky that Gerd payed attention to the music I was working on, because it’s really hard to be doing stuff that’s a little bit out of the norm as my music tends to be, and also because, being Portuguese is not really the coolest thing in the European DJ business. I feel if I where German or English, I’d be doing a lot better.

You are working on an album, how long have you been sitting on it and what can we expect?
I’ve been producing this album for the past five years. That’s right. I began this project, when I was 22, maybe 23, when I realised I needed something like an LP to establish a real basis for a proper career. Problem is, the more I worked on it, the more I realised I had so much to learn in the process. I composed the first draft of ideas, maybe 12 tracks (songs, dance tracks, diverse instrumentals, and even interludes) a year later, after I returned from the Red Bull Music Academy. But the more I learned, the more I wanted to improve on the set of ideas I had, and this lead to a very meticulous process where I spent 5 years perfecting the core of this material (of course a lot of it was also put aside in the process).

It’s a very uncompromising and natural piece of music, no aesthetic faith in particular. It’s plural and diverse, ranges in styles and tempos… some of it is single material, some is more experimental, but there’s a bit of everything, from house and techno to dub, jazz, hip hop, garage and… that post-step kind of thing as well… the end track is a pure reggae track… so, I didn’t really care too much about how it’s going to be labeled.

Who have you collaborated with on the album?
Mostly with my mates from the Broadcite camp, TRoy and Cartell, who helped me. Troy rapped on one of the tracks, which got released in my first 12″ on Groovement back in 2007, and I still think the track is so dope it deserves to be in the album. Cartell wrote the lyrics sung by Andrea Clarke on Music Life. And Portuguese talent, musicians and producers from around here. I can’t stress how important it is for the international community to be aware of the quality of local talent being grown here. I hope that in the future we, as a country will establish ourselves as more than a place where the best football players come from, but also as a place where some great musicians, DJs and electronic music producers come from.

As you mentioned the RBMA, how was the experience?
I was in Seattle in 2005, it was a life changing experiece even, as I believe it is for any participant. For the amazing people I met, and for all I learned from the fantastic body of teachers and studio heads there. We where being taken care of by Tony Nwuchakwu and Lars Bartkuhn from Needs, and I learned way too much about mixing, composing, arranging, recording.  Also, with Larry Heard, the four of us did a track, that was awesome too. Upon returning, I completely lost track of my college degree and got completely depressed for a year or so, just feeling sorry it was over. I really miss it, but I’m so happy I had this opportunity, I can’t complain about it now anyway! Onward, you Christian soldiers!!

About the mixtape you recorded, what can you tell about it?
I used 90% records, live mixed with two 1210s, a Traktor Scratch Pro for the promo stuff and exclusive tracks on it, and an external analogue FX processing unit, all live.

How did you choose the tracks you played?
The criteria was to try and reproduce a whole night in little over an hour. I usually start with slower paced music, and work my way up, as more people start to boogie. The music itself is a mixture of tracks that have always been with me in my bag (like François K’s remix of Atmosfear’s “Spaced Out” or Blue Boy’s version of Alison Limerick’s “Make it on my own” ), but also of modern music that I am excited about (like A Made Up Sound, or Floating Points)… and, of course, to display the high standard of music being made by my friends here in Portugal, like DJ Ride, Social Disco Club, Photonz and Tiago.

You also have to check out Ka§par’s tracks Able to Find and Internal Doctrine, both of them are still unmastered and hence can’t be embedded. But you should have a look around on his SoundCloud and MySpace sites anyway. On Mamilo you can also find many of his other mixes.