When Rodriguez Jr. claimed the decks for his Sunday set at AIM Festival, it was clear he meant business. Standing out from the dreamier drives of other Do Not Sit performers thanks to revved up bass-lines and buoyant productions, he securely latched in ears and bodies into the sunny afternoon. His musical energy and selections walk the artistic line between hard hitting and cruising contemplation, sharply coasting and ascending until they reach a special type of peak, where one feels awake and aware. Currently hopping between Europe and North America for the summer, the French producer lands in Toronto this week-end to perform at Guy J’s We Are Lost Festival, debuting in North America. He has a new release in store with Anjunadeep, premiering on August 16 – we’re certainly tuned in.
HS: Hey Olivier, thanks for taking the time to talk to Husa Sounds. It was great seeing you at Do Not Sit, and back in Montreal after your live show with us at Newspeak last year. Now that you’ve played indoors and outdoors, at a venue and festival setting here, what were your impressions of the local crowd and reception?
Rodriguez Jr.: The crowd is particularly warm and intense and I really appreciate this. There is something particular in Canada, maybe it’s related to the sense of space that you have, or some kind of free-spirited ness, but it’s a whole different feeling.
HS: You walk the line in between melodic grooves and sharper techno sounds; how do you preserve this balance? Does that sound surprise people at times, who expect the balance to tip more to either side?
R: Basically I don’t think about that, I think this is the most important part, not overthinking what I do! I think its the most important challenge, because these days electronic music is so overly formatted, you must belong to a genre or to a particular sound, and the most difficult thing is to remain true to your own sound. To thine own sound be true! Haha! Of course sometimes I must face challenges when performing live because they expect more energy or a much harder sound, but whatever happens I love the challenge of convincing people with my sound. This might be the secret of longevity.
HS: We can expect you back in Canada soon for Guy J’s We Are Lost festival; what are you looking forward to from this gig?
R: To connect with the Canadian crowd and be a part of the line-up that was curated by Guy J which seems to be very promising.
HS: You’ve been touring non-stop for months; how are you feeling about being constantly on the road at this point? How do you balance the social hecticness of touring and abundance of people in every city, with fostering of genuine human connection?
R: I love touring thats my life, I like being on the road, I like airports and new faces every week, for me it’s the real richness of this lifestyle. Recently I’ve gone completely sober and the act of being clear-headed after my concerts allows me to connect on a deeper level with people, and make the most out of the limited amount of time that you get to meet someone. This also allows me to go home and immediately enjoy my family time without having to take a few days to recover. It’s the most winning decision I’ve ever made in regards to human connection.
HS: We loved your sharp and energetic set amidst the dreamier house heard at Do Not Sit; what would you say are the key ingredients to a Rodriguez Jr. set?
R: Its all about creating a unique moment, I try to concentrate on the energy around me but also to be sensitive to the emotion of the moment.
HS: You’ve mentioned a love and early influence for New Wave. How does this reflect in your sound and how do you see it reflected in contemporary electronic music?
R: Well in the most obvious of ways, I am literally getting married to the singer of the band Nouvelle Vague (a French band that covers New Wave songs) hahaha so that’s one way but seriously speaking, growing up with New Wave music has formed me in the quest for melody and hook.
HS: Which artists and/or tracks and/or lyrics from the New Wave genre do you hold the dearest and why?
I grew up listening to Depeche Mode and the Cure, Cocteau Twins etc but also more obscure stuff like Bernard Fevre…it’s real songwriting, you must catch the attention within 30 seconds and not have 8 minutes of sterile beats before anything happens.
HS: What have been some of the biggest challenges and lessons you’ve been confronted with as both a DJ and producer?
R: Learning to trust yourself and listen to your musical instincts is a lifelong challenge, but moreso in creating music.
HS: What’s the emotion driving Malecón Azul, your latest release on Mobilee?
R: These tracks come straight from the road, from the heat of the audience and the fluidity of the live performance. They’re filled with the energy they collected on tour. Malecón Azul, named after the enchanting boulevard in Havana, captures the intense and unique experience of being under the sun, in front of the sea, in a faraway place that suddenly feels like home.
HS: Tell us about your creative process, how you go about producing on the road, how you manipulate all the texture we hear in your sound…
R: I take a lot of notes on my laptop whilst I’m traveling, could be melodic ideas captured in a hotel room with presets etc but the major part of my work happens when I go back home and get back to my ‘toys’. I need my equipment to take things further. As far as texture, I try to bring to light the melodies by playing with the contrasts, volumes and color, it’s kind of like architecture. For this I spend a lot of time in the studio experimenting in a trial and error game with my machines.
HS: What gigs have been turning points for your own development?
R: The connection I made in the United States with the Robot Hearts and Desert Hearts crews, it was a connection to the burner scene which infused my music with a fresh identity, like it lit a different light upon my sound.
HS: There is a gradual movement of opening up dialogue about DJ and producers’ mental health within the music industry. What do you think could be bettered about people’s understanding and expectations of DJs and the strain of touring lifestyles? What type of support or changes do you think would be effective in supporting musicians’ mental health conditions?
R: Each person has to find their own balance and I am definitely not one to take a position of preaching about their lifestyles. That being said, I can share my own personal experience which has given me no other choice but to cut out everything that could be toxic or destructive to me as the pressures of travel and turning out music constantly are far too great. It’s a personal decision each person must take for themselves, but I can say this, I’ve never felt more connected or inspired and fuelled by pure energy since I went sober about a year ago.
HS: What artists and labels are you listening to these days?
R: These days I’m working on my album so I try to stay away from promos and other people’s music.
HS: With being on the road so much and geographically/musically a citizen of the world, what connection do you feel and keep with France, socially, culturally, politically?
R: I’m very proud to be French, it’s the country I was born in and the country that welcomed my ancestors. I will always be proud to raise my flag. Living in Paris I feel blessed to be able to absorb so much art and beauty which is a reminder of the cultural foundations of this country that have inspired so many artists for centuries. As far as politics, I have always chosen to not participate in the polemics, I focus on the things that my country has achieved instead of the current trend of people breaking shit on the streets.
HS: Are there any musical genres you want to dive into more but haven’t had the chance to yet?
R: Caribbean music! This multicultural hybrid between Africa and Europe is a very attractive to me at the moment and I try to find vinyls to listen to as often as I can. We often forget that the big trends today all come from past fusions and in Caribbean music we can find the ultimate accomplished fusions!
HS: What can we look forward to next, coming from you?
R: I have a new EP coming out soon in Anjunadeep, I’m very excited about joining this crew. I have a handful of remixes coming out as well my full length album. All very exciting stuff that keeps me busy. See you very soon!
Interview: Lola Baraldi