Sergio Maldonado talks to us about the rise of techno in the US and the upside of EDM.
1. How old are you, where are you living and how long have you been producing and DJing?
Sergio Maldonado: I’m 30 years old. I live in Los Angeles and I’ve been DJing for 7 years.
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? Was a career in music always the only objective, were you interested in anything else as a life journey? Are there any particular productions or artists from the past that really made you think to yourself ‘this is what I want to do?”
Sergio Maldonado: I was a music fanatic for as long as I can remember. I started off by playing guitar and singing at age 13. A few buddies of mine and I started a band, and I haven’t stopped making music since. My first electronic music experience was at the Los Angeles Colosseum around 2005. I attended an event called, Monster Massive, and since that day, my life changed forever. I fell in love with the music, the culture and the people. One of the most significant producers and DJs that inspired my early producing career were Paul Van Dyk and Super 8 & Tab. In my later producing career, I discovered techno. It was during a random night when I saw John Digweed at the Avalon in Hollywood. I was completely blown away by his set. It was truly something beyond anything I ever heard before. Needless to say, that night was of great importance. If it hadn’t been for him, I would not be producing techno today.
3. What is the state of electronic music or more specifically techno in the USA? With the EDM fad now a distant memory, is underground music rising to prominence again?
Sergio Maldonado: Techno in the U.S. is definitely on the rise in terms of popularity. In regards to the EDM fad, sure, it came and went, but I think what’s most important is that it offered a lot of people the opportunity to expose themselves to electronic music. The true, diehard fans are the ones that are still around, and some might be techno converts. If there is one thing that I learned about techno, is that it has longevity and soul. So, when it’s all said and done, EDM fad or not, techno will always be here.
4. 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? Did anyone give any advice early on that really helped?
Sergio Maldonado: I have no formal training in regards to producing. When I first started, I taught myself, and often times, I would ask a lot of my fellow producers for tips and advice. They were always more than willing to give me a hand when I needed it. The best tip that I have received can be best summed up by this quote, “If your drums ain’t tight, your shit ain’t right.” I don’t remember who said this, but it has never left me, and when you think about electronic music, the foundation is a good solid beat. If you don’t have that basic foundation, you really don’t have a good starting point. I have always tried to keep that in mind.
5. 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?
Sergio Maldonado: The most difficult for me is mixing my tracks. I always feel that I can improve my mixing skills, and more often than not, when I am not happy with a track, it’s usually because of crappy mixing. The easiest part for me is writing the actual music. I have been lucky enough to have been around music for so long that I feel that I have a decent grasp on how to create good sounding leads, chords, and bass lines. I actually run into creative blocks quite a lot. The best thing to do is to simply step away, and just let it run its course. Sometimes your creative juices just need to be refilled. Listening to other types of music can help, but the best advice I can give to get rid of a creative block is, a big cup of black coffee! Sometimes you just need that extra push to get something going in the studio.
6. You have a new single entitled ‘In The Moment’ out this week on Water Bear Records. Tell us how you approached writing the track, and what’s coming later this year from you?
Sergio Maldonado: When I was writing, “In The Moment,” I really wanted to hypnotize anyone who is listening to it. What I tried to do was to use a constant acid line that does not stop throughout the track. If you latch onto that part, its very staccato with a rising and falling effect, you really feel like your stuck in that moment of the track. But, as you are listening to that acid line, so much more is happening all around it. I also tried to incorporate older styles of techno with new elements. In regards to what I have coming up, you know, I really don’t plan much. I try to just let life unfold, and whatever music or shows that come up, I do what I can to make sure it all comes out to the best of my ability. In retrospect, that is why I wrote, “In the Moment.” So much of our lives are in constant worry about the past or are anxious about the future. “In the Moment,” is my way of doing exactly that, living in the moment.
7. What is it you look for when signing new music to Water Bear? What’s your advice for people looking to get on the label?
Sergio Maldonado: Creativity. That’s all we really want. Music is all about expression, and the more personal that expression is, the more unique it becomes. If you are looking to get on the label, talk to us! At the end of the day, we are all just people looking to make music, and if you want to make music with us, let’s have a chat!
8. 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?
Sergio Maldonado: I am a huge fan of Reggae, Ska, Salsa, and hip-hop. The list of artists that I listen to and have influenced me are quite extensive! If I have to name three outside of techno, I would have to say, The Slackers, Hector Lavoe, and Nujabes.
9. What was the first and last physical (CD, Vinyl, Cassette, etc.) piece of music you bought?
Sergio Maldonado: The first CD I bought was System of a Down’s self titled album. Still one of my all time favorite metal albums! I really can’t remember the last physical album I bought! I purchase so much online now, that it has literally saturated my musical memory. But I think It might have been Pendulum’s Hold Your Color. Another all time favorite Drum & Bass album.
10. Tell us something about yourself that might surprise people?
Sergio Maldonado: I am a historian. I love writing essays, reading books, and will be pursuing a Ph.D in History! A lot of my music is inspired by what I learn in my studies.
11. What five tracks are you currently loving the most at the moment?
Sergio Maldonado: Vinicius Honorio – Walking Shadow, Peter Bailey – Rotate, CJ Jeff – Side Effect, Dubfire & Kittin – Ride (Solomun Remix), Slow Hearts – Dione (Alexander Aurel She Wasted the Olymp Remix)
12. There are countless producers out there trying to find their way and create their own unique sound like you have, what advice do you have for them?
Sergio Maldonado: The best advice I can give, and it is something that I am still trying to do, is to keep it simple. I have realized that techno is like a fine piece of Sushi. If you think about the ingredients of sushi, they are simple. Rice and fish. Now, they are simple indeed, but in the hands of someone who knows how to use these simple ingredients, they transform them into something extraordinary. Something that wows you. Techno should be crafted in the same way. Its ingredients are simple, rhythm and bass, but in it simplicity, there is complexity. If you master its simplicity, you can create something quite unique and complex.
13. If the final DJ/live set of your career was next week what would your last track be?
Sergio Maldonado: This is a huge throwback, but It would have to be Ayla – Ayla (DJ Taucher Mix) there is something about this track that really strikes me to my core.
‘In The Moment’ is out now on Water Bear Records, you can purchase those relase: here