Author: Nathalia Guerrero
Photo Credit: Julian Gallo
Utopia or oblivion? The direct question shines in white on the black paste of the latest record of Verraco, a Colombian producer and DJ from Medellín that navigates between breaks, IDM and hybrid sounds related to his ‘mestizofuturismo’ universe that have hypnotized national and international dancefloors for a few years now.
The question resumes the context in which the world have been immersed for more than two years. For a moment it felt real: we lived a small simulation of the end of the world. Maybe we’re still trapped in it.
“Maybe it’s not the end of the world after all,” answers french producer Voiski, who contacted his friend Verraco immediatly after knowing about this collaborative compilation of Nuits sonores between France and Colombia. “Voiski is like a perfect match: we are soul driven by melody”, replies Verraco. Their friendship from years ago and especially their musical chemistry was tested with the track they produced for this project. A process that both describe as something special.
We spoke about utopia, dystopia, future and intercontinental collectivity with both producers. One in Colombia, one in France, both reading a specific moment in global electronic ecosystems.
It’s different to say that you have a good relationship, than having real chemistry for making a track. How did you find the correct sonic path for making it?
Voiski: At that time I was doing music. And needed something really good, something different from what I usually do, someone to push it even further. That’s when the compilation came and I immediately thought Juan Pablo would be a good match with his style. I was really thinking of a way to push it…
Verraco: I remember saying when designing the conceptual sonic frame, “It would be cool if we get out of our comfort zone and make something at 80-85 bpms: something like drum and bass but with the progression we like”. Then Luc (Voiski) made some beats, some pads, and he sent me an Ableton project. He makes the difficult things look so easy: in the arrangements, the programming, percussion… it inspired my process, my beats, my…
Voiski: Your melodies and soul!
Verraco: Yeah! The process was super quick… it was a couple of weeks.
Let’s talk about the past. How do you describe the electronic scene before the pandemics started, vs the one you are facing now. What has changed?
Voiski: In France the main change was a faster and harder techno, a really exciting and super intense music that is becoming very popular. We also have big rave movements. Somehow, I think it fits this climate of fear and what happened. It is very exciting because it’s hard, but I’m not sure if I love it or not. There is an emotional path of the music that I miss, and that I used to find in music before the pandemic. A certain kind of melancholy in terms of beauty and melody, and I think it’s a little bit rare now not to find beautiful melodies, except in some trance tracks. Is a little bit overwhelming sometimes.
Do you think these sounds are an instinctive social response to the pandemics, death and lockdown?
Voiski: Totally. It fits with the context, when everybody was locked in a kind of prison. It has to be radical, it couldn’t be anything else. And also young generations are running into it, I think it is a very positive movement, socially speaking, to go against the political restrictions and sadness. For me it is a pure mark of opposition.
Verraco: I have mixed feelings to be honest, because everything is super saturated now. There’s an actual big hold up in the industry: everybody is doing things again, there are too many parties, too much of everything, and kids entering the scene playing, doing parties.
I have been touring here in Colombia for many months almost every weekend, and in every city there are many things, but with International DJs. There’s not yet a good balance, they are again paying excessive fees for international DJs. Musically speaking I don’t like it. Here in Colombia all the kids are playing hard fast, saturated, techno and… we also like to go fast, super fast, we like to go hard but with information.
And what is information?
Verraco: Information is rhythm. It is groove between each kick. It is also melody as rhythm and rhythm as melody. Maybe we spend a lot of time locked up and new generations want to go out and go hard with just huge kicks… that may be another consequence of the pandemic. I also understand that this is the hype of the moment and I appreciate that surely many of these new guys that are entering our movement will delve into other sonic divergences. That is perhaps an optimistic way of looking at the issue. At the end of the day, almost everything is cyclical.
Voiski: It’s ‘End of the world music’, what else do you want to hear? But maybe it’s not the end of the world after all, maybe we’re going somewhere else… I don’t necessarily like all this fast and hard techno, but some parts of it are interesting…
Last year, the future of our electronic scenes was threatened. If I ask about the things our scenes need to be sustainable, what comes to your mind?
Voiski: I don’t know really in which way we have to work to make it better. Personally I felt guilty using so many flights. I am also really interested in new festivals that are trying to keep a greener scene, not using plastic, or making regional bookings.
I think that by doing little things maybe at the end you will make a difference. For example, every time I take a flight I ask for a drink, and I keep the seed from the slice of lemon that comes with the drink. Now I have a collection of 40 lemon trees coming from airplanes… is not much, but whatever I can do instead of nothing….
Verraco: I have a different vision because I live in a different reality. Everything Luc said is crucial. But then I raise some questions as a Latinoamerican. In Europe it is easy to take a train, but here we cannot take a train from Medellín to Berlin.
That has already affected me: I had some proposals in Europe, but promoters tell me it’s a really long flight for me to go only for 1 or 2 gigs. That affects me. For me, it is a problem that goes beyond us. Which are the 3 or 4 countries that produce the majority of carbon emissions? Is not the fault of DJs, it is the fault of USA, China, Canada…
The industries of those countries…
Verraco: Exactly. Of course we want to put our effort, but it is more difficult for people from Latin America. I also think the big issue is the people that are in positions of power: festival owners, big labels, big promoters in the Colombian scene. It’s the same story: there are many things happening, but all the money is going to 3 or 4 pockets. With a more ethical perspective attached to the core values of this movement it can be more balanced, equitative, without precarization in many aspects.
Voiski: That’s not right…
Verraco: I’m not against big festivals or big corporations, but they operate with very different visions. A good example is Nuits sonores, this interview is a proof of what festivals should do in a way. Not like these festivals that come to Latin America to extract culture, money, and then come back to their countries. Nuits sonores believe in this type of exchange, in doing sonic encounters with different artists.
With your experience of the pandemics, what importance do you give to collective work, local and intercontinental, for the sustainability and the future of our scenes?
Verraco: I think it’s imperative. We have to see each other in a more horizontal way. Not like a competition, but like people that collaborate. There will always be this feeling of moving forward, and that is fine. It energizes the processes. I use the metaphor of breaking down walls, also as a personal exercise, to connect with other groups of people.
That’s what makes us feel good: to feel that we are not only playing and that’s it. The most important feeling is this community construction, that we are growing at the same time, because we have the desire to close the gap , and because we know what’s happening between Europe and the talent here. We want platforms to stand out without that being a result of individualism.
Voiski: Collaboration in my life and work is something I really look forward to, because I always think that someone else can push you further. If I keep doing music on my own, I will still probably make the same thing.That’s why I need someone else to bring my energy in a bigger dimension. Having someone else always gives you more than you can imagine.
What thoughts and reflections can you share about Intercontinental collaboration between the global North and the global South?
Voiski: It’s hard to say because I’m not collaborating with a Cumbian artist. Verraco has a background that influenced his life and I don’t have: that is mixing together. What people know about me is that I grew up in Paris, but the music that raised me is mostly Iranian traditional music.These influences push you to other places even unconsciously. You end up listening inside. If you produce electronic music you will do it with a certain background.
Verraco: This type of exchange gives us, global south artists, the opportunity of a bigger audience. I’m sure this compilation is going to be a big opportunity for new names that are doing collabs with big french artists. Many are going to have their music pressed in vinyl for the first time. We don’t have this type of platform here.The artists of the compilation bring different cultural backgrounds.
Sometimes these types of collaborations open new paths for making new collaborations in the future, and connecting many dots that are far away is very special. This is an initiative that puts everything in a more horizontal perspective.
Let’s talk a little bit about utopy. With the experience of these two years, what ideas of possible futures do you have for our electronic scenes?
Verraco: I began the pandemic with a romantic and juvenile vision, but now I am not in a positive perspective of the future. I think we will not be done tomorrow or in 10 years, there will be a couple of years more. But now I think about how we are going to spend the time that’s left and with who, and that excites me. I think the question for utopia doesn’t have to be so apocalyptic. And the work we are doing with our friends in Colombia is inspiring. There’s desire, there’s anger and resentment, but we have a genuine way of channeling those uncool feelings in a way that makes our blood boil and mobilizes us forward.
Voiski: I think the pandemic brought a lot of people together into electronic music. It’s more popular than ever, and there are more teens and more crews and more friendly people caring about making a safer scene for everybody. All of this is very positive. And in all of these things, I see the future of taking the music and making it something completely different.
Music already is everything we know. I have a feeling that maybe there can be a new style that hasn’t existed yet, still remains to invent, or just will evolve to something different, maybe something that gets out of the binary of occidental music.
Verraco: For example something microtonal, I’ve been thinking about that recently.
Voiski: I would expect something radically different. I don’t know what it would be, but I would like to find it out. I wish that that we can push forward music into something else.
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About the author
Nathalia Guerrero is a feminist journalist and editor focused on women’s realities, electronic culture and the recording of countercultural stories. She is currently co-founder and Editorial Director of MANIFIESTA, a Colombian digital media with a feminist perspective.
Former editor of VICE Colombia’s print magazine and former sub-editor of its digital platform. Former journalist for THUMP Colombia, VICE’s electronic music platform. Winner of the Simón Bolívar Journalism Award in 2016. ICFJ Fellow 2021. She has published in media such as The Washington Post, Arcadia, Shock and El Espectador.