The 288th episode of our 12 Questions segment features producer Castano.
1. How old are you, where are you living and how long have you been producing and Djing?
I’m 30 years old, and currently living in Swindon, South West UK. I’ve been producing for five years and DJing for twelve.
2. Where do your musical roots lie, what are your first memories of electronic music and when did you know you wanted to pursue it seriously? Are there any particular productions or artists from the past that really made you think to yourself ‘this is what I want to do.”
My musical roots formed as a combination of listening to Motown, The Shadows, Britpop and Michael Jackson. My first memories of electronic music came from my sisters ‘Now That’s What I call Music’ collection! I wasn’t interested in the majority of tracks, but I can remember hammering BBE’s ‘Seven Days And One Week’ over and over again. I’m surprised the tape player didn’t give in. After a brief spell of listening to mainstream electronica my schoolmate Andy and I started listening to Fantazia and Fatboy Slim, but we also developed and addiction for video game soundtracks. The work Hiroshi Okubu did on Rage Racer was absolutely mind-blowing to us!
I started get into trance around 1999. I can remember picking up a copy of Trance Nation Three and being blown away by the music. The love affair with trance lasted a little while, but by 2006 there were tracks that got me hooked into the electro, tech and progressive sound. Booka Shade’s ‘In White Rooms’ was up there, as was a lot of Deadmau5’ work on the ‘Vexillology’ album, which kind of fell in line with the flow of electro house that everyone was playing a lot back then. It’s fair to say Joel Zimmerman’s work made me want to investigate producing a lot more, but if I were to pick a particular track that made me commit to producing, it would have to be Gregor Tresher ‘A Thousand Nights’. I still play that every now and again, what a track!
3. How difficult was learning to produce for you in the beginning? Did you take any Audio Engineering programs or production courses to help you out or are you pretty much self taught? And did anyone give any advice early on that really helped?
I found it hard in the beginning. I bought a copy of FL Studio 7 and an Edirol Keyboard, installed them and started playing with the native plug-ins. I wasn’t too clued up with it but I had a willingness to start creating the sounds that I was hearing. I didn’t take any courses or anything, but took to the ImageLine and KVR forums, searching them for hours, learning as I went. After a while I started contacting artists who were ahead of the game. I remember Maor Levi getting back to me via MySpace; he’d had music signed to Anjunabeats, was a busy fella but was also willing to give advice, which was cool. Additionally I knew Mark (aka progressive breaks producer Duane Barry) who gave me a load of advice for getting a more professional sound, in particular being sparing with compression and EQ and letting areas of the mix breathe properly. Early on I used to try and cram as much in as possible. Looking back at some of my earlier projects they were particularly ‘busy’ sounding, to say the least! Mark also put me in touch with the first label to sign my early work, Polytechnic Recordings.
4. What parts of the production process do you find the most difficult and what comes easiest for you? When you do hit a creative block what helps you through it?
The most difficult part of production for me is still, without a doubt, the technicalities of getting a good mixdown. Luckily I’m fortunate enough to have two sets of near-field monitors and a good pair of headphones, so that helps. As for what comes easiest, I think it’s laying down the initial groove. I guess that must be the same for a lot of producers, it’s the most fun part in my opinion, especially since the advent of Native Instruments’ Maschine; I love that hardware/software combo, and it integrates well with Logic Pro, which is now my go-to DAW.
5. What’s a normal day like for you? Do you have a job outside of electronic music? And what do you like to do when you’re not working on music?
My days are pretty varied, so there doesn’t tend to be a ‘normal’ day as such. I’m an Aircraft Engineer and have been involved with the aviation industry since 2002. When I’m not working or producing, I can usually be found motorbiking or mountain biking somewhere. I like being on two wheels!
6. Apart from electronic music what other genres do you listen to and who are your favourite artists outside of electronic? and do these genres or artists have a direct effect on your own productions?
I don’t really have a particular genre that I listen to outside of electronica, but I do enjoy listening to The Cure, The XX and London Grammar. I think The XX may well have a particular impact on my productions, there’s so much passion that translates into their music that it’s hard not to be inspired by them. In fact I’m currently working on a bootleg of ‘Fantasy’, but that’s another project…
7. What was the first and last physical (CD, Vinyl, Cassette etc) piece of music you bought?
First piece of music was ‘Disco Citizens – Footprint’ single on Xtravaganza, and the last was Guy J’s ‘The Trees, The Sea & The Sun’ album on Bedrock.
8. Tell us something about yourself that might surprise people?
I’m halfway through a degree in Aerospace Engineering and Airworthiness. I might be 30 but it’s never to late to learn!
9. Which producers in your opinion get consistently overlooked?
This is a toughy! There are producers such as Simos Tagias and Vlada D’Shake who have been working extremely hard to produce consistently good music. It would be good to see both of them break out on to bigger labels in the future.
10. Which producers consistently inspire you? And where else does your inspiration come from?
Praveen Achary is absolute class. I don’t think there’s been a track of his in the last twelve months that I didn’t like! I’ve also found inspiration in King Unique; Matt’s not scared of pushing the boundaries and stepping away from formulaic sounds.
11. There are countless producers out there trying to find their way and create their own unique sound, what advice do you have for them?
Don’t feel bound by what the current trends dictate; if you spend your time trying to produce to a certain trend you’ll always be behind the drag curve. The same goes for fitting into genres. Produce what feels right at the time, let the musical ideas flow and the unique sounds in your music will no doubt follow through naturally. Also, do your homework! Find the right labels to distribute your productions. Make sure they are as passionate about your music as you are.
12. If the final DJ/live set of your career was next week what would your last track be?
The Beach Boys – Good Vibrations
‘French Hello / Specta’ is out now on Keep Thinking, you can purchase the release: here