Hernan Cattaneo Speaks to CU

Hernan Cattaneo is greater than a legend and someone we deeply respect at CU.  We didn’t have a category worthy enough, so we created the new #masters section in his honour and are proud to award him our highest accolade, for all the work he’s done to further the global underground progressive scene. I took some time out with El Maestro…

Hernan Cattaneo, you’ve been DJing for several decades now – can you tell us a bit about how you got started, and when you knew you wanted to make a career of it?

Hernan Cattaneo: Started doing parties as a very young kid. We used to do them with a friend and put our two home-stereos together using the main volume controls as a mixer since we didn’t even know there was something to do that. We were underage so we have never been in a club and see a real dj mixing.

So one track would come out of my stereo speakers and then the second track on his. Now sounds so naive and funny, but we did a lot of little birthday parties like this when we were 12 yrs old in the neighbourhood and they worked good!

Career? I never planned it that way. At 15 I was playing in a club for 500 people and deeply in love with everything around music but I was not thinking much further. Of course I was telling everybody that I was going to be a dj all my life, but I had no idea really. It was my endless passion for music (talking). My father had a really hard time understanding all this and he was honestly thinking I was throwing away my future by not going to university.

It’s clear that your relationship with DJs like Paul Oakenfold, John Digweed, and Sasha was important for breaking out of Argentina and putting you on the path to the global recognition you now enjoy. How did you first get involved with those guys?

Paul went to play a big show with the Chemical Brothers in Buenos Aires in 1998 and I happened to be playing between them.  At that time he was the No1 DJ in the world and about to start a world tour.  He liked what I played and offered me to open his shows globally and his decision changed my life forever.

I toured with him all over the world and at the end, Maria May, his agent, offered me to move to London and enter the agency that still represents me almost two decades later.

I met Sasha & John in a similar way, when they went to play in South America and I was chosen to warm up for them and we got on really well, so later on when I moved to England I remained in touch and working with them frequently.

Also Cream was a very big part when they offered me in 2001 to be their resident in Liverpool at Nation and Ibiza at Amnesia. They were the biggest club music brand at the time so working with them was an incredible push for me when I was completely unknown outside Argentina.

It’s clearly been a very important part of your mission, through your live shows, your radio show – Resident, and charts to give exposure to new artists and music. How do you manage to keep up with all the new music that’s out there at any given moment? Which up and coming producers should we keep an eye on in 2017?

As you can read in my previous answers, I got some great help to rise up and have a place in the global scene so its my obligation and pleasure to give that back to other up & coming DJs and producers from all over the world.

I spend 4 hrs every single day hearing all the music I get sent trying to find what is interesting and fresh and then push this guys along the established ones in my sets, my podcast, my charts and of course Sudbeat.

Luckily there are lots of good producers making their way.  A quick view from the Sudbeat releases is very clear: Marcelo Vasami, Mariano Mellino, Luke Santos, Circle of life, James Gill, Michael A, Hubert Gomez, Juan Astudillo, Ziger, Saraga, Facu Mohrr and many more, are all producers on their way to have more recognition worldwide.

And who are your favourite producers and DJs at the moment?

Dj and producers get their best when they have experience so to be my favourites they can´t be the new kids on the block and they are all well known people.   Danny Howells been my favourite DJ for ages & ages and Guy J is my favourite producer.  Of course there is more, but I don’t want to leave names out so lets just say one.

How has technology changed your approach to DJing over the years?

A lot and nothing.  As a DJ, for me, it’s always been about making people have a good time while playing the music I like.  Since I was a kid I always wanted to share those records that gave me goosebumps with my friends or other people and never enjoyed for one second watching people going mad with music I don’t like.  So in that respect, nothing changed my approach of DJing.

Now, a lot changed on how you give your musical message since the days I used two vinyl’s compared to these days of 4 channels , loops, edits, fx and all digital possibilities.  Specially if you do progressive mixing, the new technologies are great allowing you to expand and soften your transitions and making a much more smooth ride all night long.

You’re back at the Gallery at MoS next month going back-to-back with Nick Warren, and with your Sudbeat – and studio-partners Graziano Raffa and Soundexile – that sounds like quite a night! What makes the venue and crowd there so special, in your experience? How does the experience of playing B2B with Nick differ from your solo sets?

The Gallery Sudbeat Balance

I’ve been playing The Gallery since the Turnmills days and now at MOS and they always had a great atmosphere and a crowd super ready for our style of music so it’s been a perfect home for me in London from my first time in 2001.  Playing the Sudbeat nights give us an even bigger vibe because we are all friends and people can see that all night in the Dj Booth, where we are all enjoying each other sets.

Nick is my DJ partner, the Soundexile guys are my studio partners and Graziano is my label partner so to have them all together at the same night is truly special for me and I´m sure all of our fans will enjoy it big time.

Playing with Nick is always super special. He is one of the best DJs I’ve ever know and a truly great friend, we have done so really fantastic nights together over the years and its a pleasure and and honour to play with him in his own country.

About how different? Good question. We both like similar music and there are a lot in common, but in a way, he brings some special energy that always adds a lot to the atmosphere every night.  I find the B2B shows are always more explosive than my solo sets.

Sudbeat has become something of an institution in the past 8 years, and 2016 saw the label hit its 100th release with Guy J’s ‘Algorithm’. What inspired you to start the label, and what have been some of the highlights of running it all these years?

I love music and I’m very passionate about it so I always like all ways of pushing the sound I like and the people that speak the same musical language so a label is something that I had in my mind for a while.

Originally I was thinking on doing it to push Argentinean producers, but when we started we realized that there was so much great music from all over the world that we should not close our doors locally, specially because we feel music is truly international.

Highlights?  A lot really.  Since our first single with Danny Howells, to Guy Mantzur first album, Guy J releases, Henry & Marc, Quivver, Dnox and a lot of producers we admire and our Sudbeat compilations to the push we been giving to (then) new young guys like Lonya, Khen, Nature of Music or Simon Vuarambom, just to name a few.

How do you see the label progressing as it moves forward?

We started last year with some really good label showcases and the attention and demand for them its been increasing big time.  We soon be doing London, Belgrade & Athens and also the ones with The Soundgarden in Miami, Off Sonar & ADE. We plan to have some new series this year too and lots of hot new singles as well.

Your mix albums have been spread across Perfecto, Balance, and, of course, Renaissance. Do you ever listen to your own mixes once they’re done? Do you have a favourite of the albums you’ve done over the years?

I listen them occasionally but mostly because someone else plays them in my presence.  It’s hard to choose a favourite since they are all special to me.  You put a lot of love, passion and work into them so you can´t really choose.

Of course my first Perfecto was my first international CD so it was quite a big moment for me and some people around the world say its their favourite, then, the day you get the call for a Renaissance Masters is a memorable day in your career, its like graduation day in a way and more specially since you see who were your predecessors.  And Balance is the coolest compilation label and one that i´m extremely happy to work, not to mention having the pleasure to do two !!!

‘Balance presents Sudbeat’ dropped at the end of February and has been getting great reactions. How did your approach to this album differ from your previous outing with Balance? Has the reaction been what you hoped for?

Since I already did a Balance album a few years back, the idea with this one was to introduce our Sudbeat label to a bigger audience and Balance was the perfect partner for us since they have such a great following around the world and Tom is a great guy to work with.

So musically its goes all around Sudbeat artist and if, in a way, that can make your options a bit narrow that choosing music from all over the shop, I used the opportunity to push all my friends to produce special tracks and mixes to make the album more special for our followers and make each track exclusive for the compilation, so its all new, unique and tailor made.

We been extremely happy with the reactions.  From the press to the fans, they all been really positive and supportive so we are all very pleased.

Your own studio work, particular your work with Soundexile, has clearly played a really important role in shaping the sound of your mix albums. How do you balance time in the studio and your DJ commitments? Have you got anything in the pipeline just now?

Agree. All those tracks we made for the albums are our way to be more “hands on” and allow us leave a bigger mark in the compilation, something that makes me very proud.  I know Oliverio and Baunder forever, we are very good friends and we are in touch all the time so there is a very good connection inside and outside the music, and this way, the day we are together in the studio, we all know what we are doing, how we like our sound and what avenues we take or avoid, it’s a very enjoyable process.

Balancing my time is something I learned over the years.  Until I got married and had the girls, I used to be a DJ 24/7 DJing and producing non stop.  Of course once you have a family, you want to be around as much as you can but also you must keep the pace of your career, so you balance both.  I´m away most weekends but I´m at home during the week.

Your experiences at Burning Man seem to have made a big impression on you. Can you tell us a bit about how you got involved, and what makes the event so special to you?

Went there first time in 2000 with Oakie and been back a lot since then. BM is a artistic and spiritual experience, not a music festival like lately people start thinking about. The shows are fun, but honestly, you can have great ones in many other places.  It’s everything else that makes BM so special – the people, the desert, the atmosphere, the experience with people you don’t know. Something truly unique that everyone should experience at least once or twice.

For a number of years now, DJs from all over the world have been singling out Argentinean audiences for their energy and passion, and the country seems to be a hotbed of talented new producers. What makes the scene there so special?

As I said many times, we are a cool mix of European immigrants with latino sprit and that its a explosive combination. The atmosphere at the shows, concerts, or sport events its fantastic and people in Argentina LOVE to get together and celebrate.

hernan cattaneo street art murial

As for producers, these guys are REALLY passionate and hard working on they will push big time to be heard, and I think that makes a big difference with most others.

Your touring schedule seems pretty punishing. How do you cope? Do you enjoy all the travelling?

No complaints really. You travel the world, you meet very cool and interesting people, different cultures, beautiful places.  I enjoy playing music on a global scale, and i understand that the price for that is going on a plane 200 times a year.

My touring used to be much harder back then than now 🙂 I’ve been very lucky with the timing of things happening in my life. When I really needed to push my career all day long, I did it, and then when I met my wife and wanted to have more time for personal life, I could do it because I was already an established DJ and did not need to keep doing 130 shows every year like an up & coming DJ.

So now with kids I slowed down my touring life and I only do the shows I know I will enjoy more, and take weeks off regularly to be with my family.

Aside from the places we’ve already mentioned, what have been some of your favorite places to play?

Stereo in Montreal, Warung in Brasil, and Woodstock69 in Holland, all really outstanding for different reasons.

After years inside the top 10 or top 20 of the DJ Mag top 100 chart, you eventually got bumped out, along with the likes of Sasha and Digweed. Does the chart hold any relevance these days, or is it just, as King Unique memorably put it to us, a “marketing exercise for 12 year olds full of sugar”?

I think its only important until you get there and realize that its only a title. If you do not deliver week after week, no chart will make you relevant or save your career. Its like a popularity contest for young clubbers, highly trendy oriented. Not only DJ Mag, all of them, they represent different trends (EDM, Techno, etc). I have better shows now than when i was at DJ Mag or RA charts so I don´t really care, and i think, more importantly, my real followers don´t care. But its fine for me I’m not saying they should not exist — I just don´t pay attention.

What do you do when you’re not working? What other kinds of music do you enjoy, aside from electronic/dance stuff?

I spend almost all my free time with my family and love every second.  Kids grow really fast so its highly important to be around with them and for them. I don’t want to see them becoming teenagers and realize i wasn’t there on the way.

Music? I can hear a big variety of music but there are four women at home so i don’t have a chance to control the stereo 🙂 They are little girls, so they hear Pharrell Williams Justin T, Bruno Mars, The Weekend, mostly modern soul music, very well produced, so i´m cool with that.

What advice would you give your younger self just starting out a career in music – that is, what do you know now that you wish you’d known back then?

Be patient, word hard to be really good. Its crucial to understand that this is a long career. Great djs don’t suddenly appear, so try to control the anxiety and stop thinking on how to be the next big thing.

It’s your last gig ever. What track do you close with?

No, thats impossible to say but something from Frankie Knuckles would be appropriate


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