Spanish techno veteran Oscar Mulero delivers a specially-curated mix for our 184th Global Vibe Radio episode.
Oscar’s DJ career has been as prolific and long-lasting as the evolution of dance music. As a key figure in its development, Oscar has always absorbed new trends and kept his finger on the pulse of electronic dance music, from the end of the ’80s right up to the present day. It is impossible to understand his genius without taking into account the tireless work he has carried out behind the decks for three decades now. Production-wise he’s been releasing records since the late ’90s, with countless 12″ vinyls and several studio albums, as well as many remixes for the best players in the scene.
Oscar runs Warm Up, his very own imprint, since 2000 as well as the label PoleGroup Records since 2004, both of which have reached the 50 releases mark. On 2013 he started a series of live A/V performances under several project names like Light and Dark, Biolive and Monochrome AV. Recent years also saw the explosion of Selección Natural, the project he founded alongside his PoleGroup colleagues Exium and Reeko, as well as touring far and wide, reaching every corner of the globe from Los Angeles for WORK presents to the depth of South America, from every significant techno city in Europe to far-flung Japan, all cementing his status as one of the most respected and sought-after techno pioneers of the last two decades.
Meeting Oscar in LA earlier this year was somewhat of a surreal experience for me personally. I had long respected his artistry and had lost myself on dance floors in Europe listening to him play on several occasions and, not knowing what to expect ahead of picking him up at LAX, my mind raced through various subjects we could possibly talk about. With three decades of industry experience, what would he be like? What would he think of LA and the party that night? Was he as “hardcore” as he looked in the pics with his tattoos and punk-rock style?
Needless to say, at least to anyone who has had the pleasure of meeting Oscar, all my expectations and doubts were thrown out the window the minute we introduced each other. The man in front of me was kind, attentive, talkative and as genuine as they come. He was as interested in me, and the LA techno scene he was about to play for, as I was in him and his music. He may have been doing this for 30 years and he has likely “seen it all,” but the impression I got as we got to know each other more, was that of a young artist still eager to prove himself, of an artist with a clear mission in mind when it comes to techno.
Oscar returns to the United States on Nov 8th and 9th to perform two important gigs, info for which can be found below.
Our time together impressed me so much that we kept in touch, and he immediately took up my invitation to contribute to 6AM’s mix series as well as to sit down for an exclusive interview to accompany it. Read on for our chat with Oscar as well as the track listing for this exclusive mix, which you can also find below.
Hey Oscar! How have you been?
Good man, how was ADE?
Fun, crazy and very tiring, as always. I was meant to come to Dockyard but it was one of those parties where it didn’t work out. How was it though?
The vibe was great there were a lot of people but it’s one of those parties where the new Dutch law means that the sound is a bit low. We enjoyed it a lot. It’s a bit difficult to get the people in the right mood and properly dancing if the sound isn’t fully perfect but the festival is just growing, and it has grown a lot since they started.
That’s great to hear. Did you play any other gigs that weekend?
Yeah Friday I was in Rome and then Saturday I was in Amsterdam. That was it, then Sunday I was getting back home.
Very nice. I used to go to the PoleGroup showcase at Dockyard for years and that hasn’t happened the last couple of years. I was wondering if a PoleGroup Warm Up or Source night was something that you had possibly thought about doing for future ADEs…
Well, we are always looking at ADE as a very good chance for a label night but it’s getting more and more difficult to do it. We have been struggling a lot to find the right venue and it’s getting more and more expensive to do it. This year we had a very nice conversation with a very nice club where we did an ADE showcase 4 years ago and we might do something next year, but it’s getting super expensive to find a place, to rent a place at ADE. If you look at the parties during ADE you see a lot of big major labels doing parties, and that doesn’t happen much with smaller labels and I think this is why. We have been working for the right affordable place to do this and I think it’s going to work for next year!
That’s great to hear.
For me it’s always good to be at ADE and playing and I feel very happy that labels and DJs invite me to play and it happens most years but I am missing my own label night. And it looks like next year it will happen.
I look forward to it, as I will definitely be there!
By the way, thank you for the mix Oscar, it was a beautiful journey. I wanted to ask you about it and what it represents for you. Is it more for home listening, or does it mirror one of your current sets in some way? What does it communicate?
This mix I made for you guys is something I cannot afford to do that often, only if I am playing very long sets… 6-7-8 hour sets. This is deeper, droney techno, perhaps for the very first hours of a very long set. Every time I am asked to do a podcast, it’s really motivating for me as I try to do something different.
This time the music I recorded for you guys is going deep. It’s more for a proper listen. Of course, it’s techno, but it’s more of a deeper journey, not super physical or fast like I can play in peak-time parts of my set.
I hope you guys like it!
Oh yeah, I personally enjoyed it so much, and I love it when artists who curate a mix put a specific artistic interpretation rather than just stitching together the 10 bangers they’re playing out right now.
Yes, I put this together with that in mind. I didn’t want it to just be a copy of what I may be playing now, but I wanted it to be special. I really hope the listeners like it.
I have no doubt they will. Going back to ADE… I want to actually talk about your interview for Attack Magazine that came out last month. I really enjoyed it and shared it a lot, and I think a lot of people read the interview and it was very talked about because it touched upon a lot of important subjects on the scene we love. I did want to ask if you think that the focus on higher-BPM techno was also part of why it was harder to find the right venue or promoter to work with for a label showcase with the sound you’re pushing?
No, it’s not really difficult. Most of the promoters really want to work with me and I feel very happy about that. What I was trying to explain in that interview is that not all the festivals and not all the productions are right for me just because I can play there. I have seen these days that everything is so mixed up and at some point I am feeling that sometimes I am in a festival, in a middle of a lineup where the crowd is expecting one kind of music and for me it’s a bit of a waste of time for the crowd and also for me. These people are expecting one kind of music and therefore I am not able to make people understand what I am trying to do in the middle of that.
I think at some point we will need to go a little backwards, more into the underground, or maybe we just need to be a bit more selective as there’s a lot more types of techno being played these days, and it can be so mixed up. I think it’s just a matter of finding the right promoters, finding the right programming and right festivals, because not all the festivals are mixing like this. There are a lot of very good festivals that separate these sounds, with an underground tent or room separated from the bigger sounds.
You said a word that is key there, “programming.” There is a trend, I noticed… it’s not even about the sound anymore. Promoters are trying to get more names on a lineup to sell tickets, mixing all the sounds on the same stage without making that flow musically, also perhaps because a bigger act playing more “underground” techno is playing a later slot after an up-and-coming act that plays very hard, and it throws the whole stage progression off.
Exactly, there needs to be more focus on programming. Building a following on a specific sound, and curating it for a festival, or a stage at a festival, instead of mixing it up. Of course, they need to sell tickets, and some people bring big names and they don’t think it matters to work on the programming within the lineup. Maybe they’re working to bring a lot of kids as there’s a lot of big names.
You know, that may be good for them, and it’s fine, but it doesn’t work for me. As DJs, we have to realize that it’s ok that promoters think about it this way, but we can have a different point of view, and as artists, we can have a different point of view when it comes to playing with a lot of different DJs and different sounds. It’s just different points of views with which to look at it. I have discussed this with other artists, and it’s just a matter of us looking at this differently moving forward.
This isn’t about me not liking or respecting the music of other artists, at all! It’s just that it doesn’t make sense for me to play after an artist that is doing something completely different, as people aren’t going to understand what I am doing after that and it’s going to be a waste of time for them and a waste of time for me. It’s just a matter of finding the right spaces for our performances, for our music.
I agree, and I did notice one thing that your agency is doing and stressing on that not all other agencies do. When I book artists on Source, the agents are asking me explicitly before confirming a show for entire time table, line-up and want to know who is playing before and after each of their artist with a focus on the order of the set-times. At first I was a bit confused as to why, five months before a gig, they insisted on knowing who was playing before and after, because in my mind as a promoter I try to program the night the best way possible so it’s a progression of sounds, and not just who is the biggest name, but I see that not every promoters books and curates the same way.
No no, unfortunately not everyone thinks this way and that’s why I made my decision and told a few festivals this year and next year that no, I cannot play. I thank them for inviting me and thinking I can fit on their lineup, but I don’t think it’s going to work. I really need to take care of this, as it’s important. That is why if I am going to be on a lineup with 10-12 DJs with really different types of techno, I need to see if it’s going to make sense for me and the people on the dance floor.
That is why it’s important for us to know who is going to be on the lineup, who is going to be playing before and after. For me it’s really important… everything has to make sense musically, not just a bunch of big names. It’s more about building up, the whole journey and experience, it’s more about the music.
Yes, the promoter is like the DJ. He is curating the night, building a journey with the lineup musically, just as a DJ does with his set.
A big thing in that interview was the focus on your legacy. You’ve been DJing for 30 years, and have built a fantastic name for yourself as an artist, built your labels and have reached the apex of your career at this stage. 30 years is a long time and I certainly hope there are at least 30 more in you for us, even if that sounds selfish. But that interview and the concept of “legacy” made me wonder… when will you know it’s time to hang up your headphones? When will you feel satisfied that you have achieved what you want to achieve in terms of leaving a legacy with your artistry? Do you have a metric for this or do you think you’re just going to wake up some day and know you’re done?
Oh you mean retiring?
Oh I don’t know… I feel like as long as I feel I am contributing and giving something to the scene, and at the same time having fun with it, then I don’t think I will ever think about retiring. But if somehow it stops being fun for me … if I am not enjoying it I don’t think the people on the dance floor will have fun at all! So at this moment I am not thinking about when I will stop, as I am having so much fun.
I am going to be turning 50 years old next year…
… and this question is being asked more and more in the last few years. So I don’t know, it’s a question that is surrounding me but I am not even thinking about retiring yet.
On a personal level, I hope retirement doesn’t come any time soon, and my question wasn’t meant to imply that it should, quite the opposite. I hope that you keep having fun and enjoying what you do for many, many more years, because I am having a ton of fun at your sets.
But you talked about “having fun,” how much fun are you having these days and is it more or less than earlier years, now that you’ve been doing this for 30 years?
These are probably the most amazing years I have been living since I started DJing. When I was 19 years old it was completely different, but these days I am so secure with my skills, my way of DJing, I feel so comfortable… I have so much fun. Of course, there are some things that are more fun in my job than others that aren’t as fun, such as the traveling which is the hardest thing.
Of course, there are things in the scene and industry that I like and others that I don’t like, but I think all of these things are part of the job. The most important thing is that I still have so much fun while DJing and while I am still having this much fun, my motivation is to keep on going.
That’s great, so happy to hear you’re having so much fun still. On top of DJing, your work as a label owner and also with the agency is giving important space to a lot of young artists. I know you have a strong focus on and hold the Spanish techno scene in particular dear to your hear, that it’s really important to you personally. How do you feel Spain is being represented in the techno scene right now and who are some of the artists you are keeping an eye on for future decades?
I think that the Spanish techno scene is having the best times it has ever had. Not just because of my labels or my guys, but there are just a lot of young people, new names doing a lot of amazing stuff. There are a lot of artists receiving requests to play abroad, to be involved with collaborations, so there are several great names that are doing great things and who will make sure that our sound is going to be here for years to come. I am very happy to be honest, and like I said in the beginning this is probably one of the best times we have had in Spain with techno. Spanish techno really is on the map when it comes to electronic music, techno music around the world.
So I am very happy with the way things are doing, and for our part in terms of leaving a legacy, we have been working hard and focusing on this sound for the last 7 years, and I think there is a beautiful future for this sound in Spain.
There are a couple of names of very talented people that you should keep on the lookout for. These I haven’t signed up on the labels yet, but they’re doing amazing things. Young people, very talented and they’re doing a really good job… check them out: PWCCA and Kastil!
Thank you, I definitely will. You were in the States earlier this year and you played LA, SF, Movement in Detroit and I wanted to ask about your experience playing over here.
Oh yeah, every year I travel to America it’s getting better and better. For me, the States was the hardest for a while. I have been touring South and Central America for, I don’t know, 10 or 11 years or so, but for the past 3-4 years it has gotten more and more interesting. You see, in Europe people react to our music very similarly in the different countries, so it’s always very interesting to come to your side, to play and see how people react to the music – especially in South America people react like crazy to the music, they’re so enthusiastic.
I had a great time in the States, some fantastic gigs in May and June, and again in November I am going to be back for two gigs. New York and Chicago – in New York I have played several times but this time it’s going to be in the brand-new club called the Basement which I have heard very good things about, and then Chicago in a warehouse. I am really looking forward to both!
When you were in LA we had the chance to talk in person about your other passion, photography. Of course fans who follow you on Instagram can see a lot of the great pics you take on your travels and while on tour, and I wanted to ask you about this passion. How different, or similar, is photography to music for you? As an artist is your expression the same or different with these two mediums?
They’re both very different ways of expression for me. Since I was a kid I always liked photography, and for the past 7-8 years I bring my camera with me on the weekends, and I really enjoy it.
Somehow they’re related in terms of being able to express myself. Somehow I always feel like there’s a link between the creativity behind music and photography. The feelings and emotions that surround me when I sit down in the studio enable me to express myself with my music, but those feelings also are expressed through my photos.
These feelings can be expressed in two different types of creative processes, for me it’s music and photography, and for others, it can be other ways. For me, it’s a way of escaping for both, but with photography it’s also a way of escaping from music itself, and that is also very important for me.
For me it’s a hobby, it allows me to really see the places where I am traveling to and playing. It makes me really look at everything that is around me when I am traveling, you know? Sometimes it’s easy to forget to look.
Thank you Oscar, for the mix and chat! Speak to you soon.
GVR Track Listing:
01. “No Skin” / PWCCA.
02. “Delirium” / Nørbak.
03. “Momentum Shift” / Latmos.
04. “Measuring the Truth” Tamudo & Nørbak.
05. “Led by Light” / Anthony Linell.
06. “They Spoke to Me” / Acronym.
07. “Descending a Staircase” / Einox.
08. “Overture remix” / Cassegrain.
09. “Unreleased” / Oscar Mulero.
10 “Frihet” / Evigt Morker.
11. “Lost System” / Kalter Ende.
12. “Cold response” / Anthony Linell.
13. “Unreleased” / Oscar Mulero.
14. “This Shell is a Vessel rmx” / Frederik Hatsav.
15. “Unreleased” / Nørbak.
16. “Reeko & Psyk” / Withsand.
17. “Re. Vox” / Neel.