Techno Alchemy

A talk with Oscar Mulero.

In conversation with Oscar Mulero, none other than the Spanish maestro of techno himself. With a career spanning over two decades, he has consistently pushed the boundaries of sonic exploration. Join us as we delve into the mind of this prolific artist, exploring the evolution of his sound, the state of techno today, his AV projects and a nice tidbit about another one of his passions.

The beginning of your career as a DJ coincided with your involvement in Madrid’s Omen Club as a co-founder with your friends. You had to balance your artistic development on one hand and your techno-loving community on the other. How did you experience this dual life, if we can call it like that?

I started DJ-ing in 1989 and took over Omen Club in 1994, about five years later. Running the club with a friend was relatively easy for me since we focused on the musical direction. Right so we were in charge of playing every Friday and Saturday so there was a duality in a way but it was all about taking part of the musical direction of the club. There wasn’t much difference between being a DJ and a club owner as it was always the music at the center of my life. Playing every weekend, regardless of the role, was crucial—it was my life, and it still is. So, being both an artist and a club owner didn’t feel much different, to be honest.

In parallel with the Omen Club, there was the Sonar Festival, an event that started in Barcelona in 1994 with around 300 people in the audience and is now a mass phenomenon that gathers thousands of people from every corner of the globe every year. In 1996, your performance was recorded as a true springboard for your career. Do you think that without Sonar, you ascent might have been delayed? And what was lacking in Spain at the time to keep techno as a niche genre?

The first Sonar edition happened in 1994 I think, and at that time, it was a big deal. It played a crucial role in Spain’s music scene, especially in electronic music it made a significant impact. Personally, playing at Sonar in 1996 was a big deal for me too– my first time there; and meant a lot for my career. And we can say Sonar had a definite role in shaping Spanish electronic music scene.

In 2000, you founded Warm Up, and in 2004 Pole Group. We talk about artistic of the caliber of , Perc, Norbak, P.E.A.R.L., Kwartz, and many others. What differences, if any, underlie these respective labels?

Warm Up is more open and versatile, covering various types of techno in its catalog—deep techno, atmospheric, sci-fi. On the other hand, PoleGroup has a more specific sound, a distinct PoleGroup sound. In the beginning, PoleGroup served as a platform for our own labeled nights, booking agency,featuring specific artists and releasing specific music. It was not just a label but a platform. However, these days, PoleGroup focuses on the label and our label nights. The booking agency, which used to be under PoleGroup name, now goes by a different name. So, back then, PoleGroup was more than just a label; it was a complete platform. This is the main difference between Warm Up and PoleGroup, with Warm Up being more open to various techno styles while PoleGroup maintains a specific sound.

I couldn’t help but notice from your instagram profile the beautiful photos you take around the world. I see that, apart from favouring black and white, you capture scenes of landscapes, cities, and sometimes people. Can you tell us more about it? Do you consider photography a hobby or a secondary passion after music?

I’ve always loved photography since I was a kid. Around 2005, I got more into it, not just looking at photos but learning how to take them. It became a kind of escape from music, a therapeutic hobby. I enjoy going around with music in my headphones and my camera, especially since I travel a lot for music. Photography is more like a passion or a hobby for me; I don’t see myself as a professional photographer. The pictures I take are mostly connected to the places and experiences shaped by music. It’s a way for me to disconnect from music and express myself, but I wouldn’t say I’m a skilled photographer. It’s just something I really like to do for fun.

In 2013, you began a series of live A/V shows with different project names such as “Light and Dark”, “Biolive” and “Monochrome AV”. Rhythm, repletion and duration of dreamlike worlds and real places, lights and shadows, stillness and movement. A dialogue between the nature of the music you play and the power of audiovisual technologies to provide the audience with a unique and unrepeatable multi sensory experience. How did these three projects come about? Were they a result of your interest in photography somehow?

I always like being part of different music projects and staying passionate about photography, films, and such. It’s important for me to be involved in various types of music to keep my motivation alive. That’s why I decided to create audiovisual projects, like the latest one called Monochrome which is more related to my love for photography. I was inspired by Javier Bejarano’s work on a cemetery in London. His black and white photos amazed me. After releasing the Perfect Peace album, which was experimental and not just techno music, I talked to Javier about a new project. I wanted something different, focusing on slow-motion, black and white images, a contrast to the digital and glitchy trends at that time. We discussed ideas, and that’s how Monochrome started. It’s probably the most recent and meaningful audiovisual project for me.

The COVID-19 pandemic has had a significant impact on the live music industry. How have you dealt with this situation, and what changes has it brought to your musical focus?

The COVID pandemic changed things in the music industry. Social media became even more important for artists. Unfortunately, sometimes it’s more crucial than the music itself. This shift was happening before COVID, but the pandemic sped things up. Now, how you present yourself on social media seems more important than your music. It’s a change I don’t like. These days, music feels less important, and social media is taking the spotlight. It’s affecting how young people see music—they care more about popularity than the actual sound. For me, my music hasn’t changed much. I still stick to the same style. The current trends in techno or whatever doesn’t really affect me. My labels continue to release the kind of music we’ve always focused on, regardless of what’s popular. So, personally, my musical focus remains the same.

Your music, and consequently your fantastic sets, are renowned for being raw, dark and hypnotic. It seems these traits found their way when you were featured in “Vortex Chronologies Evo.2” by the Italian label Kr3 Records. Each artist involved (Claudio PRC, Terence Fixmer, Velvet May, Alessandro Adriani, just to name a few) was asked to represent their sonic idea of vortex. What’s the story behind your track “Covered In Sand?

The idea of this track, when I start to work on it, it was to work in a very, very simple track in terms of composition. Actually, it’s just over. like three four elements but but I add a lot of texture in in those few elements if I’m not wrong it’s only like probably like four o five stems in the track. My idea was yeah working a very simple track you know but just a few elements, but all the elements are. All the elements are kick drum and the sub bass section. All the rest of the elements are moving constantly. They are very moving, very organic in a way. So yeah, I wanted to try to represent, when you are a covered in the sand, you are in a beach with heavy wind, and, you know, you feel how the sand is starting to cover you. So the idea is to represent that kind of sound.

Your musical style has evolved over the years: techno, electro, IDM, experimental. How would you describe the evolution of your sound? Have equipments and softwares been the same to produce music?

Different types of music influence me a lot. It reflects in the way I make my own music. My motivation comes from exploring various genres, whether it’s making an IDM album or experimental, or focusing more on techno. This variety is crucial for keeping me excited about music. Since I was a kid, I’ve loved all kinds of music—post-punk, industrial, IDM—you name it. Listening to such diverse music over the years helps me stay open-minded when I’m in the studio. I want people to recognize my unique sound, even when I try different genres. It’s essential for my evolution as an artist. Equipment and software are a significant part of the final music. They let me work differently and bring out diverse results. The tools not only impact music production but also influence how I DJ. New tools let me try things in new ways, speed up my work, and open up more possibilities. So, equipment and software play a crucial role in shaping the evolution of my sound.

Do you have any specific musical projects or collaborations you’re currently working on and excited about?

Currently, in terms of music collaboration, I’m working on the second release for a project called El Joven Prisionero. It’s a collaboration between me and a producer from Asturias called Cristian ( Artistic solo name Another Machines ) , the region where I live. The upcoming release, titled “Kinki”, is geared towards club play—energetic and physical music. This project is my closest collaboration as a producer right now. Also thanks for the interview opportunity, and sending hugs from Spain.

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