Interview / Andres Astorga (Trujillo) / Ritmo Fantasia / Soundway

Ritmo Fantasia is a colourful concept dreamt up by Andrés Astorga aka Trujillo. A visual and musical package intended as a snapshot of an idealized Ibiza, a even more paradise-like version of the paradise, that never quite was. The resulting record – 6 sides of vinyl rarities, strictly, strictly, Español – is a firm contender for Compilation Of The Year – in a year that has been particularly strong for comps. 

I was lucky enough to assist with the project, as it went to the wire, which gave me a very good idea of just how much effort had been involved. Andrés was looking to give the English sleeve notes, translated from Spanish, a polish, and mutual friend, Jona Jefferies, introduced us. The tight time-line saw drafts bounce back and forth for about a week, until Andrés, and the label, Soundway, were happy. Andres is a night owl, while I tend to wake before dawn, which meant loads of early morning / past midnight calls – dotting i`s, crossing t`s, and making sure that everyone who`d helped got name-checked.

During the course of these conversations I became – quietly – staggered by the amount of work and care that Andrés had put in. First off, digging across Europe for the original vinyl – which of course was the spark – then tracking down absolutely everyone for the licensing. I think he also interviewed them all. Nailing the artwork was a similarly painstaking process. This time collecting posters from White Isle institution, KU, designed by the legendary artist, Yves Uro. Then picking a favourite – in the end actually provided by Wild Life Archive – and checking with Yves` sister, to make sure that using it was cool. Catherine Uro was sent the music, sleeve notes, and inner and outer sleeve mock-ups, to which she very kindly gave the OK. Endorsing the endeavour further by contributing a short essay on her brother, his relationship with painting, music, and Ibiza. The undertaking, in a way, has become a love-letter to Yves. 

My part complete, back in August, I was sworn to secrecy – as a big promotional roll out was planned for December. With the commitment that Soundway had shown to the release, I knew that Andrés was gonna be super busy – doing launch nights, and DJ gigs, plus press for large, monetized, music sites – but he promised me an interview, and, hurrah, here it is. 

Where are you from?

I was born in a city called Mérida, in the south of Venezuela, in the foothills of the Andean mountain range.

Where are you based? 

I’ve been living in Berlin, Germany for ten years noW. I came here for the first time as part of cultural exchange between the Goethe Institut, and then decided to stay.

When did you first start DJing?

Back in the days, I had a band called Dioslepague, we used to play some fusion between rock, funk, and disco. I started to do the warm-up sets before the concerts and then a bit of the afterparty too haha.

Were there any particular parties or DJs that inspired you to start?

About 20 years ago I lived in London for a couple of years after finishing my studies in Venezuela. I remember going religiously every Monday to Erol Alkan’s party Trash at the legendary The End club… That was a great influence on me at the time. I was very into indie dance / electro.

What kind of music were you playing? 

I started playing more Latin and deep house when in Venezuela. I was a fan of Defected, Naked Music, this kind of label. Also, I was a big fan of the French sound from the beginning – the first Bob Sinclar and Daft Punk albums were a big inspiration for me. Then when I moved to London I got more into the indie dance sound, LCD Soundsystem, Soulwax, Etc.

Where were your first paid gigs?  

On those gigs supporting my band. I was already getting a little fee, but I started to really get proper fees when I moved to Caracas, the capital city. I lived there for about 10 years, and that was when I really started to play professionally. I opened concerts for Moby and Jamiroquai as a warmup DJ.

Can you remember when you first heard the term “balearic”? 

In the early 2000s, I was already buying the Café Del Mar compilations by José Padilla and Bruno From Ibiza. For me, the term Balearic was more like this kind of chill-out music, then in London, I understood it was a much more eclectic, and it could embrace other musical genres too.

When was the first time you visited Ibiza? 

I wish it could have been earlier, but it was in around 2015. Since then I’ve been every year, or as much as I can.

Have you DJed there?

Yes, I had the pleasure to play at the legendary Pikes Hotel – together with my good friends’ Homies who host regular parties there. I also DJed in other nice places such as El Silencio, where I had the joy of doing the launch party of my new compilation Ritmo Fantasía.

homies pikes ibiza

El Silenco ibiza

El Silenco

Prior to the pandemic did you have any regular local DJ gigs or residencies?

Yes, I used to have a couple of special residences in Berlin – in the Michelberger Hotel and at the Odessa Bar – two of the city’s key places, well known by both locals and visitors.

michelberger hotel

Michelberger Hotel

Odessa Bar

Odessa Bar

When did you start making music?

I was a teenager when I started Dioslepague, still in my hometown Mérida, in Venezuela. We released three albums and had some success in the country. After the band breakup, I started my solo career and released some E.P.s on my friend’s label, Apersonal Music, and then I did my first solo album titled, Daltonic Now! – yes I’m colorblind hehe. The album got a lot of success and I even won some music awards!

What equipment did you have then? 

With the band, I started playing guitar and singing, and then I got a keyboard and an Akai MPC sampler, and left the guitar to take charge of the electronics and backing vocals… Then I moved to Caracas, the capital city of Venezuela, and set up my own studio there with some nice vintage, and modern, electronic gear. such as a Rhodes Piano, a Roland Juno 106, A Roland JP8000, some nice filters, etc. There, I started producing the E.P.s and then my album.

What sort of music were you making?

We started as a rock band, but then we fused with other styles, such as funk, disco, and electronica. As a solo artist, I started doing Slomo House and Nu-Disco with the E.P.s, the album was more like a pop-electronica sound.

What equipment do you have now? 

From that era, I only kept the Rhodes piano, which I was lucky enough to bring to Europe with me… All the other stuff, I sold it. Now I use my laptop with a controller just to compose and build my musical ideas, and then just go to friends’ studios with all the nice gear and do the proper production there.

What instruments can you play? Have you had any formal training? 

I can play guitar, bass, and keyboard, but all at a basic level. I know the chords and some basic music theory, just enough to be able to draw my ideas.

Are you open to the idea of musical collaborations?

Always, I love to do collaborations in all possible ways. I think it’s always nice to have another input, a different point of view or vision that compliments or boosts my own.

What’s your connection with the label, Apersonal? How did you hook up with them? Are you involved in running the label? 

Apersonal is a label created in Barcelona, Spain, by my good Venezuelan friend Andres Vegas – who’s been living there for a long time. Since I was the first artist on the label and did their first release, a special musical connection has developed between us. Little by little I’ve been involved more in the label’s music curation and creative aspect, I could say I’m a sort of label’s A&R as I’ve been connecting the label with artists that I like. The idea is to build a small family of friends and artists that are musically connected, and promote them through the label’s platform. Apersonal has a catalogue of 30 releases now, with a lot of quality music on it, so it’s something really nice that has been built with passion, love, and dedication from Andres Vegas and I’m really happy to support him on this project.

Are there any artists or pieces of music that have had a direct influence on the music that you make?

Yes of course! There always are musical influences on every artist. In my case particularly I could mention artists from totally different styles, like Daft Punk or Jazzanova, in the electronic field, Gustavo Cerati on the rock Latin American side, or Daniel Grau or Los Amigos Invisibles from the Venezuelan sound.

Could you please give me a few – preferably new – pieces of music that you are currently enjoying?

Yes, some of the stuff I’m currently enjoying at the moment are the new Ponzu Island on Apersonal, which is a beautiful blend between classic YMO japanese vibes with a modern approach, the new Garnica release Children / Parents  beautiful ambient vibes, the new Paula Tape E.P. on Rhythm Section is dope, the Wilson Boateng edits by Mr Mendel on Kalita, the El Guiri Edits series of reworks from Spanish classics from the 80s made by my good friend Jona Jefferies, the Vinicio Adames reissue of his first album, Al Comienzo del Camino, on True Class Records. And on a more pop note, I love the new L’Impératrice, Jungle and Parcels albums!

How long have you been working on putting the Ritmo Fantasia compilation together? I know that it`s been a real painstaking labour of love, and it really shows – it`s a work of art. 

It took me almost two years, from the moment I conceived the idea to make the compilation. The most difficult, but at the same time the most enjoyable part, was the licensing process, since I got to know personally all the artists and also to reconnect with their musical careers.

Did the lockdowns effect your time-lines at all? Did it make pulling stuff together harder? 

Yes, lockdown obviously made everything slower, even if the people were working from home, I guess most of us were not 100% focused on our work, due to the uncertainty regarding the COVID situation. I think people’s moods have been very changeable.

What was the initial spark that inspired the idea? Was it finding a particular  record? Or a poster? 

I guess the initial spark was during a visit from my good friend, and great Brazilian digger / DJ Millos Kaiser. In Berlin, we were listening to some records at my place, and I when started to show him some of my Spanish finds, he suggested to put me in contact with Soundway Records, the label who`d recently released his compilation of Brazilian music, called Onda de Amor. So I asked them if they would be interested in a Spanish compilation, and they fell in love with the idea. First I put together the track-list and then I started to look inspiration for the conceptual and artistic part… and then I had this kind of epiphany where I dreamt that this music could have been the perfect soundtrack for the party “Noche Española” – an event that happened at the KU nightclub in Ibiza during the `80s – and all the imagery of it, created by the incredible, and iconic french artist Yves Uro, who was the mastermind behind all the amazing posters designed for the club. From there, everything just started to fit perfectly like it was just meant to be.

You talk a little in the sleeve notes about the people who helped you track the music and vinyl down. Can you give me a bit more detail about the stores, dealers, and collectors who helped along the way?

Right, during the last decade, searching here and there, I discovered some of these musical gems in record stores and local markets around Spain. But others I found thanks to the friendships I forged with excellent selectors and local DJs such as Breixo Martínez from Canela en Surco, Purito y su Combo, and Chez Ed, from the Amor Discos store, Fari Urune from Vinilarium, and the Discos Paraíso crew, all in Barcelona, Gerard, Arnau and their team. These guys are amazing people and super passionate diggers, who have dedicated themselves to exploring and discovering the music made in Spain – without them, the Spanish musical heritage wouldn’t be anywhere nearly so well documented. My admiration goes to all of them for their dedication and effort. Also, my good friend Norman Gervais, who is for me one of the world’s most dedicated diggers, was a great help and key source on helping me choose the right tracks.

At what point did you actually pitch the idea to Soundway? Was that at the beginning, or once you were close to completion?

I had already part of the playlist, let’s say half of the songs, as initially the idea was to do a double LP compilation, but it ended up being a triple LP! But this happened all during the course of the project, new inspiration never stopped popping up, and more tracks and ideas were just being added to the pile in a very fluid way, so at the end everything fit perfectly. It was just magical, as you know, since you were part of this perfect alignment of talented people working on this project. Everything just came together with the right timing to make it happen perfectly.

How hard was it to track down the artists, and the folks who own the licensing rights? Are there any interesting stories to tell there?

I think that there was a different way to get to each song. I don’t really know which one cost less, or more. For example Nsue’s album, I remember that I bought it at random in the Maxis section of the La Metralleta record shop in Madrid, simply because I liked the cover – there`s a very cool illustration of a dancer’s breakdance roll on the back cover. At that time there were at least 30 copies of the album online. It was a real surprise when I got home and listened to it. Cuélebre’s album was the last to enter the compilation. I already had the playlist practically closed and I only needed a license a couple of tracks, and then one day listening to music online I found a complete clip of the album. I started jumping the themes one by one and suddenly boom!  There was this wonderful Balearic boogie song titled, Costa Verde. I was amazed. I listened to it like ten times in a row haha. I instantly ordered a copy from Discogs and started looking for the members of the band.  

The most difficult to license was La Guinda, since the composer of the song is today a prestigious Spanish pianist named Chano Dominguez, who has been nominated for a Grammy and has released albums with Blue Note Records. Chano is an artist with a fairly tight schedule between concerts and recordings, and he was not really interested in the idea of reissuing a piece from what was his first musical band, 35 years ago.  The team that I was working with in the licensing process, Paula Durán and Rafael Garnica, already considered the issue as discarded, but I kept insisting and insisting. I sent Chano at least twenty emails, without receiving any response. It was finally thanks to his manager, Massimo Di Stefano, who understood how much I loved and wanted to include this song in the compilation, who one day told me, “Tonight, Chano has a concert and I’ll see him. I’m going to print the contract and I’m going to take it with me”, and so it was. Chano signed it in the dressing room before his performance, just the weekend before closing the licensing process. It was very emotional for me to receive that contract!

How about the artwork? How did you manage to source the Yves Uro cover, and how did you manage to get Yves` sister`s blessing for the project? 

Yes, during my research of the `80s Ibiza music scene, the legendary KU nightclub became paramount, for all that it represented, both locally and globally. Undoubtedly, much of that fame / success is due to Yves Uro, who was its illustrator and creative director. Obsessed with his incredible catalogue of posters, especially those of Noche Española – a themed party of cosmopolitan magic that took place at KU, and that was an essential part of the inspiration for the concept of Ritmo Fantasía – I managed to get in touch with his sister Catherine. As Catherine learned more about my project, and my desire to use Yves` original illustrations for the artwork, she agreed with me that the compilation would be the perfect soundtrack for a tribute to him – diverse and colourful like his work. Catherine graciously agreed to allow the use of these wonderful pieces of illustration for the cover and booklet, and for us to remember his great artistic legacy with this small tribute in his memory. Thank you Catherine and most of all, thank you Yves! I invite you to review his wonderful artistic work on the internet.

I know that you recently did a couple of pre-launch parties in Paris, and at Brilliant Corners in London. How were those parties? Are there any more events planned?

I did a small Ritmo Fantasía pre-release promotion tour during the summer and fall of this year. I did the first party in Spain. I felt that the very first presentation / listening session for the compilation needed to be in Ibiza, so just as everything has kept flowing, it was like this, and it was in an amazing place surrounded by all the local key personalities in the balearic music scene. Then I did Barcelona and Madrid, and then Paris with Phil Mison – which was another amazing night! Amsterdam, at the wonderful Doka, with Millos Kaiser and Shady Lady, again it was a night to remember! Then in London in Brilliant Corners with Heels & Souls and Noorsica – this was like the official release party with the label, and was very special as I got to finally, personally, meet Alice Whittinghton and Paula Durán from Soundway Records, who I`d been working so closely with during the whole process of the putting the compilation together. Then I closed the tour in Berlin, at the mighty Sameheads, with my friends Bayetë, Mademoiselle Linda, and Princess Chewchew, plus a small and very intimate exhibition of my personal collection of Yves Uro original Ku Posters!

What are you going to be working on next? A new compilation, or some new music of your own? 

Right now, I’m spending a few months on a paradisiac island in the middle of the Caribbean – doing some music consulting, at an amazing place – and at the same time working on the promotion of the compilation, plus some upcoming reissues on my own label – which I’ve started with my partner and mentor Claas Brieler from Jazzanova. Also, I’m starting to compose some new music here, inspired by the majestic starry sky in the Cosmic Caribe! I’m planning on returning to Europe in the summer to make the Ritmo Fantasía Verano Tour!

Strong contender for one of the comps of the year, Ritmo Fantasía is out now, on Soundway

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