Lazaro Casanova Talks Studio M.O., petFood Label, and Miami March Madness

Last year was a big one for Miami homeboy Lazaro Casanova, and 2011 looks to be even bigger for the up-and-coming DJ-producer. Once the wunderkind of Miami's indie dance scene when he presided over downtown's infamous Revolver party in the late 2000s, he has since graduated to the international stage following various quality releases (including a New Times' pick for Miami's Best Albums of 2010) and a couple of high-profile studio collaborations.

Casanova also has a formidable list of WMC/Ultra week performances scheduled, including prestigious Leftroom, Nervous, and Murk label showcases. And the action starts tonight at his weekly Tropicasa residence at Hoy Como Ayer, alongside Oscar G, Ralph Flacon and special world-renowned guest DJ Chus.  

We caught up with the talented local to talk about his studio M.O., petFood, and upcoming parties.

Crossfade: You've been producing for a while now, but 2010 seems to have been the year in which you really came into your own as a producer with several quality releases. What can you tell us about your musical development to date?

Lazaro Casanova: Whatever I'm currently listening to will have a huge influence in what I am producing. Most of my music before was sample-based so that's what pushed me to dig back into the archives of house music. Currently, I've been on a binge of NY garage house from the '80s. Actually, I just acquired a hefty collection of vinyl rips from that era. Anyway, that music had such a raw feel. Nothing was over-thought and polished on a computer. I love the Lindrum sounds and the analog basslines always sounded so fat. And then most of those songs always had a great vocal on it automatically giving the song a great deal of emotion. But who knows what will be my next musical obsession. Regardless of what I'm producing, I usually like to keep an open ear for a lot of different genres -- even pop music. I like to be aware of what everyone else is listening to.

Has your friend Oscar G been an important guiding force for your in the studio? What is your creative relationship?

Definitely. Oscar and I share similar music taste. He has a successful lengthy career and will always be a good example for me to take notes from. Another person who has helped a lot with the technical side of things has been Stryke. Any Pro Tools-related questions, I usually give him a call, which lately has been about everyday. (Laughs) And also now that Ralph Falcon is part of our Tropicasa party, I've asked him quite a few studio questions as well. I realize I still have a lot to learn so it's great to have these guys around.

The last year has also seen you take on some high-profile international remix and collaboration projects. What have been some of the highlights so far?

You know, I was never big on remixes and collaborations. My thing was usually originals and bootlegs, but I think that changed when I first remixed Juan Maclean for DFA records. It's really the moment that got me excited to remix. Since then, I've been very lucky to be able to remix a broad range of artists. I've got upcoming remixes for Maya Jane Coles, Lee Burridge, Intruder/Murk, Mauro Picotto and Tommie Sunshine, amongst many other amazing producers. For collaborations, I've got two EPs coming out with Oscar G and four songs I've recently finished with Matt Tolfrey. Lately it's actually been all remixes and collaborations. I was actually itching to work on my own stuff again which is what I'm doing at the moment.

Not enough people seem to know about your weekly Tropicasa party with Oscar and Ralph Falcon at Hoy Como Ayer, but anyone who understands the roots of Miamian house music should recognize its significance. How did you first launch this night and what is it all about? 

Actually full credit for the launch of the party goes to Oscar. I think the party was initially inspired by Francois K's night at Cielo. Just a fun night with none of the door policy you would normally get in Miami. The party has had a few revisions and I think we are at Tropicasa 3.4 by now. The party was initially Oscar all night and I joined a few months after, where I would play the first half of the night and he would play the second half. Further down it's where the Tropicasa live act started forming and really marks what the party has become now. The live act is a very unique "you have to see it for yourself" kind of thing. But it consists of Oscar playing beats, Philbert on percussions, Chino on vocals, and Michelle on piano for a fusion that includes (but not limited to) house music with Afro-Cuban music. Now that we have Ralph Falcon onboard too it's usually me opening with a deeper set and I segway into more percussion-heavy music as the band is getting ready to go on. Ralph is usually closing the night which is always a set I look forward to myself.

Your petFood label shows no signs of slowing down, with a pretty hectic release schedule in last year. What do you have in store for the label next?

We've been doing a release of month, but lately the quality of submissions have been great so in order to get some of these releases out in a timely manner we are toying with the idea of doing bi-weekly releases. But it's tough. The label is a very small operation -- just Jay-You and myself doing all the work. We fund everything from our own pockets. He has a day job and I got my own thing going on so the label is really like overtime for us. But it's been a great learning experience seeing what this side of the music industry is like. For March, we have the Swanken All I See EP out of Miami, and after that will be these two guys from Spain called D Low & Alex Sosa. We have been trying to keep the release schedule to keep alternating between deeper releases and more upbeat tracks just to keep things interesting for everyone. I am very happy to see the progress our label has made and still get giddy when I get good submissions from other parts of the world.

What has your touring schedule been like in the last year and where are some of your favorite spots to play at internationally?

It's been pretty consistent. Usually I am at home during the weekdays and travel on the weekends. There will be exceptions for the occasional one-off midweek or if I am flying to a different continent. This schedule allows me to work at home on the weekdays where I clock in freakish hours lately, like 13 hours a day in my studio. So in a way, when I fly for gigs it's kind of a mental vacation for me. Some of my favorite spots have been Lima, Barcelona, Lugano, Monterrey and Juarez. Although that list will keep growing as I explore new places.

As a long-standing Miami DJ, how do you feel the EDM scene has changed in the last decade? Do you think we have the potential of becoming a true dance music mecca, and not just during March?

I've always had a soft spot for Miami since I am born and raised here. Although, I will admit that the consistency of DJs being booked here in Miami at this very moment is great. The Electric Pickle is like clockwork every weekend bringing in great artists. All the promoters in Miami are actively keeping busy with bookings and it's really helped push things forward. The Wolf + Lamb family is spending some time down here and they've been welcomed nicely to the point where they are actively part of our Miami scene at the moment. You've got Luciano now playing LIV frequently. Oscar G at Mansion every month. It's a great time in Miami right now.

You have a whole slew of performances going in March. Can you give us the rundown and what to expect?

So far I've got Tropicasa with guest Chus on March 9; Made in Miami Shelbourne Pool Party on March 13; Flying Circus at Nikki Beach on March 23; Both the Liaison Boat Party and Listed Plays It Safe with Leftroom label showcase at the Victor Hotel on March 25; and both the Nervous Pool Party at the Clevelander and Made in Miami with Murk at Cameo on March 27. It's by far my most busy Miami March Madness. For lack of not knowing whether to call it WMC or Ultra week I will just stick with Miami March Madness. I am especially happy with this year because I am involved with a broad range of parties, which is what I've always aspired to be able to do, be able to play to different crowds. I'm excited about playing each of these parties, these lineups are so stacked! Especially looking forward to being on and playing my first boat party -- the Liason boat party -- and also looking forward to opening for Murk at Cameo!

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Sean Levisman