Our latest spotlight interview features Sotela. The Costa Rican producer has a brand new remix (in conjunction with Javier Portilla) of Juan Deminicis ‘Strange’ out now on his Moonchild Records imprint. Please enjoy our interview with Sotela below.
1. Hi Sotela, thanks so much for joining us here. Let’s give the people some sort of background info on you so we’ll start with some basic stuff. Where are you based and how long have you been DJing and producing?
Sotela: Thank you! is great to talk you folks!, I am based on San Jose, Costa Rica, I have been an electronic dance music dj for almost 13 years now, and got into producing for about 8 years.
2. How did you first discover electronic music? Where do your musical roots lie and when did you know you wanted to pursue electronic music seriously?
Sotela: Bands such as Pink Floyd, Depeche Mode, Pet Shop Boys, Erasure, NIN, New Order, Moby, composers such as Giorgio Moroder, Jean-Michel Jarre, Vangelis, Hans Zimmer, William Orbit and many more! This where my base day to day listing ever since I was kid, I always enjoyed deep, melodic music, so many of those influences use heavily electronic synthetized sounds, which makes me explore more underground electronic music such as Underworld, Massive Attack, Faithless, Hybrid, Aphex Twin, Infected Mushroom, Daft Punk, Chemical Brothers. Then I got a mixtape from a friend with an essential mix live show, having Sasha and Paul Oakenfold spinning, I got totally in love of the vibe and sound that was the moment when I decided became a dance music dj. I used love play lots of progressive trance music, sill love it, I was able to share decks along with a lot of heavy weighs back then, when trance was at its peak such as Tiesto, Van Dyk, Corsten, etc. At certain point I was not happy how the trance music sound was going, so I move on to progressive house which offer a much more creative palate for my sets, alots of uk progressive house music, Digweed, Sasha, Charlie May, Jimmy Van M, Quivver, Nick Warren, Dave Seaman, James Holden, King Unique, labels such as Bedrock, Vapour Records, Deep Substance, Hooj Choons, Plastic Fantastic and many others.
3. What is the electronic music scene like in San Jose (Costa Rica)? It’s the biggest city in the country so I’m assuming the nightlife is pretty good? How is progressive house received there?
Sotela: Electronic music scene, is quite little but I must say is very educated (music terms) I know how to clubbing, costa rica dance music roots lie on progressive house parties, we had must of the legends here, Sasha, Digweed, Lawler, Jimmy Van M, Nick Warren, Satoshi Tomiie, James Lavelle, Seaman, and many many more, everyone here used to love the Global Underground & Balance golden era albums so many of the parties started in warehouses, open air states and off course clubs. At that time we did not had full time electronic music dance clubs, the parties where done every few months, it was really cool!, after that electronic music got more popular and proper dance clubs where opened like Vertigo which change the scene and brought other styles like house music, tech house, deep house, which is the current influence and sound as it now in the scene.
Javier and myself promote progressive sound driven artists and organize tasteful parties 3 – 2 times per year, we have successfully introduce a more mature and fresh sounds with djs like Henry Saiz, Guy J, King Unique, Quivver, Facundo Mohrr, Marcelo Vasami, Darin Epsilon, Jimmy Van M and others, so people here respond fantastically to our events, so we are very glad of this.
4. You recently had a gig with King Unique, tell us a bit about that and were you involved in putting that event on or were you just DJing there?
Sotela: Javier and I had always talk of how awesome will be to have Matt play here, ever since he is a key influence in our music, and our sets, so an opportunity came along and we took it, I am not as much involved on production as Javier, but I do have small portion of work on logistics and other tasks for the events.
Matt (KU) is incredible, when he plays you can feel and see that he has passion and personality blended with positive energy for the entire set, we had a blast with him, and we hope that we can have him here soon and share decks with him once more.
5. You obviously get to hear a lot of DJs then, who if anyone has blown you away recently?
Sotela: There´s a lot of djs must of all that we brought and promote here, if I had pick a favorite set, will be my buddy Henry Saiz, music selection is just amazing, his style and music was just over the top.
6. What do you do outside of electronic music? what is a regular day like for Sotela and what do you enjoy doing besides producing and DJing?
Sotela: Well, unfortunately djing and overall musician career is not very profitable here, so I have a day job that helps me chase my dream J I work as a IT Engineer. My time is very limited, when I am not working on remixes or originals, I also work on producing bands, currently I am working on a 12 track album for a well know consolidated rock band, were we are putting modern layers, synthesis and other sounds. I also have an active Electronic Rock Band called Electric Bird which we just released a 5 track EP, where we blend all sort of influences, Rock, Electronic Music, Classical Music, Industrial and Pop and off course managing our label Moonchild which takes a good chuck of my time.
7. You created the Moonchild Records imprint in 2010 so it’s been 4 years now, how has the label evolved and where do you see it going in the future?
Sotela: I am very much exited how things are going with Moonchild, last year and half we had great names such as Marcelo Vasami, Darin Epsilon, Facundo Mohrr, Deepfunk, Inxec, Dale Middleton and our latest release of Juan Deminicis. We are trying to keep the label fresh, with lots of good artists that we like and think that go along our sound. We got huge release coming soon with talented legend producers, so stay tune! We want to go and start doing concept events with label internationally and have more club presence so that will be the future for us.
8. What advice would you give to producers hoping to get their tracks signed to Moonchild? How would you suggest they approach it?
Sotela: Our advice is to do music with lots of passion, we particularly like and aim tracks that have great melodies, atmospheres and sound organic, but most important it must work on the dance floor, it a nutshell it should take you on a trip, put a smile on your face and make you move your feet. Listen to our music in beatport and it should give you a hint, don’t be afraid and send us demos we will do our best to answer them all!
9. All your recent productions have been in conjunction with fellow countryman Javier Portilla. How did you guys initially meet and eventually decide to collaborate together?
Sotela: Javier and I have been friends for years now, and as djs we had a shared taste for music selection and influences, we first started to spin together, and one day we decided to start working on some music, he is now the co-owner of Moonchild with me, so you will be hearing a lot from us in the future, as we had some bombs line up for other labels and we will start on touring pretty soon.
10. You have a new release out this week on your Moonchild Records label. A single from Juan Deminicis who just had a great EP on Lost & Found. It has remixes from Dale Middleton and yourself and Javier Portilla. Tell us a bit about it and how did you guys approach your remix.
Sotela: Yes! We wanted Juan long time ago in our label, we always thought he will be next big artist, After we sign up “Strange” single it came up the news that he got signed to Guy´s label, which we were very happy for Juan, he most definitely is on the top of the wave right now.
We knew that we wanted Dale for the remix; we loved what he did for Darin´s Cosmic Discovery track. So it was a great decision, this remix is doing extremely well on promo feedback.
Our remix when we sat down on the studio, we wanted to give it a more clubby- tech house feeling, lots of low end bass, but simple structure, we had road test it in the dance floor and it worked pretty well for dancing which is very important!
11. You’re also part of the Electric Bird band which showcases an amazing blends of styles. Please tell us a bit about that and where can people hear your music? Is it on Beatport?
Sotela: Yes! Electric bird is basically me and 4 other members (2 Guitars, Bassist, Drummer and Lead Singer) it was the outcome of probably the most important gig of my career so far which was back a few years ago I was invited to open a concert for Depeche Mode for about 25.000 people, so back then I decided I just did want to dj in a rock concert I thought It will simple be boring at the time and want go and at least do something live. So I invited a guitarist (my cousin, current lead guitar) and a vocalist (Vane my main singer) to go and do some covers that I remixed. So after the gig we decided to go forward and we recruited the rest of the guys, and start on writing new music, at first it was challenging because I never worked with performer musicians before, but it turn out to be a great learning experience.
The EP we recorded is called “Awakening Paradox” its five tracks and we blend rock & roll, electronic dance music, pop, classical music, there´s a lot of textures and emotions going on in each track, this is a concept EP so it goes all about what happens when you Dream and the parallel world you go in.
My role in the band is usually to produce the electronic bases such as percussion, drums, and synthesizers. Live I trigger sampling and play some keys. The EP has not been release for buying yet, but you can hear and stream on the following URLs:
12. 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 in your career that really helped?
Sotela: It was pretty challenging at first, back when I started there was not online schools or local schools that offer any audio engineering or producer courses here at Costa Rica, if you wanted to learn you had to go to another country like US or Spain.
I am pretty stubborn I want day decided I just did want to keep on forever playing others people music and do my own, so I started researching online, and found my first tool to make beats which was the properllarheads “Rebirth RB-338” which emulated the old Roland TB-303 synthesizers, a Roland TR-808, and a Roland TR-909 drum machine all at once. This for me was pretty cool since there was no way I could either get or afford any of those hardware pieces. After that I started using Reason, Cubase, and now currently Ableton.
I pretty much started without any guide so ever, just by listing other tracks and try to follow the structures I slowly learn techniques, by sitting for hours trying to get an specific sound, I then started reading books, and researching more online more seriously about mixing, EQing, Mastering and ask for other producers for advice and feedback about samples of my work.
One time I was unable to finish tracks, because I keep on changing them every time I work on them, I often drift into a new idea pretty quickly. There was a time when a great producer friend of mine give an advice on once you have the base idea of the track you stick to it all the way through and not change it, first idea of your writing it is usually the right one.
13. How has your studio changed since you started producing?
Sotela: After years of conceiving my studio I can now say I am pretty happy with my gear, when I started I had a PC, shitty soundblaster soundcard a DAW, few VST plugins and a pair of headphones (which in my opinion with the right skills you can do great things)
Now it has changed a lot, as I get older I get more gear junkie J I just love synthesizers, and proper gear, and even thought is not the gear that will make you a good producer or do good tracks, it will certainly make a difference on your overall sound quality. I own 2 analog synths: KORG MS-20 and a Minimoog Voyaguer, and my personal favorite a Virus TI Polar which I think everyone should have one!
14. What parts of the production process do you find the toughest? and what comes easiest for you? When the writing or production process gets tough, what gets you through it?
Sotela: I think that the easiest for me is coming up with that first 8 bar idea and develop it, writing comes very natural to me it is my favorite part. Mixing and EQing has always been tough to me (I must admit) it took me quite a long time to finally learn how to proper do EQing, compressing, etc. It’s not as fun as writing melodies and building structures. 🙂
Process of finishing tracks are always tough because you tend to overdo or change stuff, when I get to point where ideas are not flowing, I just stop, take a long break let me ears rest and continue the next day if possible, things usually makes more sense when you have fresh mind and ears.
15. What does the rest of 2014 look like for you as a producer and Moonchild the label, any upcoming releases you can tell us about?
Sotela: We are working hard for me and Javier to start a South America and Europe touring pretty soon, we have a lot of original releases and remixes on the queue for releasing, and our baby Moonchild will release some killer releases from well-known artists. So stay tune!
16. If you had to pick one track which solidified your love for electronic music early on what would it be?
Sotela: Oh man that’s a tough one, mmmm I’ll have to say will be one from my old trance roots” Insigma – Open Your Eyes”, this might be my all-time favourite track, the composicion around melody, emotion, structure is just wonderful, it puts a tear in eye every time I listen this track such an amazing music done back in the day.
17. What was your first and last DJ gig?
Sotela: It was a small bar, I was nervous as hell, and nobody show up like 10 people J including the waiters and bartenders.
18. What was the first and last record you purchased?
Sotela: First: Sasha – Xpander, Last One: Jimmy Van M affkt luxor t – Dreams, complete nuke on the dancefloor!
19. What would you say is the highlight of your career thus far?
Sotela: I have to say, having been handpicked my music by Martin L Gore (Depeche Mode) to open the Sounds of Universe Tour gig back a few years have been m a dream to me.
20. Tell us something about yourself that might surprise people?
Sotela: I quit Law-school to pursuit music!
21. Which producers consistently inspire you?
Sotela: Guy J is a current source of inspiration as well as Henry Saiz and KU both are amazing edu imbernon is another too! Ooh some many that I can named them all.
22. What artist or track would you love to remix? and who would you love to be remixed by?
Sotela: James Holden will love remix a track of his someday, M83 , Arcadefire, Hans Zimmer, will be awesome too, NIN, Sasha many more! I will love a remix from Henry Saiz or Guy J. Quivver will be fantastic too.
23. Record labels are a dime a dozen these days and the majority of people feel most of them are mediocre music factories. Which ones if any standout for you?
Sotela: Vapour records, microCastle, Bedrock, Perspectives, Sudbeat, Lost&Found, System Records, Saura, Minus, Natura Sonoris, Cr2, Last Night on Earth, iboga, Manual music, Flow, Mashtronic, Half Seas Over, lots of good labels out there.
24. What would you say is the best mix compilation of all time?
Sotela: My personal favorite is one of the old GU Nu Breed for Satoshi Tomiie, what a great mix; I still listen to it from time to time.
25. Current Favourites (you can list more than one per category if you like)
TV Show: Doctor Who
Video Game: Final Fantasy 7
Album: Darkside of the Moon
Track / Song: How to Destroy Angels – A Drowning
Producer / Band: Hans Zimmer
Record Label: Natura Sonoris
DJ: Plastik Man
26. If the final DJ/live set of your career was next week what would your last track be?
Sotela: Underworld ‘Born Slippy’
Juan Deminicis ‘Strange’ (Sotela & Javier Portilla Remix) is out now on Moonchild Records, you can purchase the release: here