As an electronic dance music artist, you can either draw your influences from the relatively limited palette of styles within the genre itself, or reach beyond it.
If you're Quantic (AKA Will Holland), the quest for inspiration could even take you as far as crossing the Atlantic, from England to Colombia, to discover the South American country's rich folk music heritage.
As an expat living and working in Colombia for almost a decade now, the British DJ-producer has explored traditional local music flavors like cumbia and salsa through the kaleidoscopic lens of modern electronic music production. The new crown on Quantic's formidable discography is his latest long player, Magnetica, which he will be presenting at Electric Pickle, along with other choice cuts from his catalog of Latin-electronic fusion originals.
Ahead of the show, we spoke with Quantic about falling in love with Colombian music, the new album, and his return to a more dance floor-focused sound.
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Crossfade: How did you first get introduced to Colombia and its local music traditions? What drew you to this country and its music?
Quantic: I was introduced to Colombian music through traveling to Puerto Rico and New York -- this was my introduction to Latin music in general. I was aware of Latin jazz through listening and collecting jazz records from labels like Impulse and Blue Note, but until then, hadn't had a chance to listen to the roots. After collecting jukebox 45s in San Juan, I got into the accordion-led cumbia from Colombia's Atlantic coast, and later into the Medellin studio Fuentes' sound, the more orchestrated and electric take on Colombian folklore. From there, I took up an invite from a friend to stay with his family in Cali, on the west side of Colombia, and later traveled extensively with my friend Beto Gyemant to look for records in both Colombia and Panama.
As a DJ and collector, those trips proved very educative, and as a music producer, they fueled my curiosity for new sounds and arrangement ideas. After a while, I thought it best to live in Colombia and pursue my thirst for recording a little more. There were things that I wanted to try in the studio, and South America granted me a freedom to do so that I couldn't find in the UK at the time.
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Tell us about your Sonido del Valle studio in Colombia. What's it like working in that corner of the world? How does it inspire and inform what you do as an artist?
In Cali, I started living in the Centenario barrio and rented a small house from a friend of a friend. I had shipped over my studio equipment from England and had negotiated the purchase of a Wurlitzer standup acoustic piano. After a few recordings there and the completion of the Tropidelico record, I moved to a larger apartment in the downtown area. This had a spare room and it was there I constructed the Sonido del Valle studio. We recorded several records there, including the Tradition in Transition record, Look Around the Corner with Alice Russell, and the accordion and cumbia record Los Miticos del Ritmo, which I put together after learning accordion with Anibal Velasquez in Barranquilla.
My time in Cali was very educative, being in the company of great musicians like Alfredo Linares and Wilson Viveros was a thrilling experience and one that I'd like to repeat. Having come from DJ culture and the world of releasing records in a dance music environment, it was a real change of pace and experience to be amongst Latin music culture, and especially to learn from it firsthand. After this period in Cali, I moved to Bogota after recording the Ondatrópica record with Mario Galeano, AKA Frente Cumbiero.
This summer has seen the release of your new album, Magnetica. How did you approach the songwriting and creative process on the album? Did you have a concept in mind before you went into the studio?
Ahead of recording Magnetica, I had definitely developed a thirst to get back into a more electronic and DJ-related sound. People have talked about me returning to my electronic roots with this record, but I can't say I really ever had my roots in electronic music. I've always balanced my productions with a good dose of both live instrumentation and electronic pizzazz. But I think this is a record returning to a more dance floor-, DJ-focused sound -- one for the Serato playlists and SoundCloud generation. I feel there are still divisions between those who listen to bass music, electronic music, EDM (call it what you will) and those who dig salsa, cumbia, reggae, funk -- these often seem like different worlds. So I guess Magnetica was my attempt at uniting them.
What were some of the album production highlights for you as far as bringing local Colombian musicians into the studio and collaborating with them?
It was a real dream to work with Fruko on this record. He is a key guy for anyone into the Colombian sound of the past century. He played with Los Corraleros, Latin Brothers, and was behind Afrosound, Piano Negro, and basically any hip sound that came out of Discos Fuentes. Michi Sarmiento was also a pleasure to work with, he's part of the Ondatrópica project too. On this record, I also worked with Alice Russell, who I have collaborated with on several records and it always feels so magical.
So what can Miami expect during your show at Electric Pickle with The Neighbours on Saturday? How do you approach DJing as a digger and selector?
I intend to play a mainly 45s-based set. I have a lot of new productions and dubplates to showcase, as well as Quantic classics and a good selection of things to shake your bum to.
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Quantic, alongside Mr. Pauper, Methods, Sire, and DJ Lumin. Presented by The Neighbours and Electric Pickle. Saturday, August 23. Electric Pickle, 2826 N. Miami Ave., Miami. The show starts at 10 p.m. and tickets cost $15 plus fees via residentadvisor.net. Ages 21 and up. Call 305-456-5613 or visit electricpicklemiami.com.
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