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Feature: Morttagua [Interview]

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Morttagua is considered one of the most important DJs and music producers in the Brazilian Progressive House and Melodic Techno scene. Morttagua is also the founder of Timeless Moment, highly regarded by the artists and specialized press as the premiere melodic underground label in Brazil. His own productions and his label tracks have gathered massive support around the world from legends such as Solomun, Tale of us, Sasha, Dubfire, Nick Warren, Pete Tong on BBC Radio 1, Hernan Cattaneo, Laurent Garnier, Maceo Plex, Guy J, Guy Mantzur, Eelke Kleijn, just naming a few. Now celebrating the 50th release on Timeless Moment, we had a chance to catch up with Morttagua and chat about the label’s history, it’s future, his production process, inspirations and more. Enjoy!

Hi Danilo, thanks for joining us today, tell where in the world you are and what are you up to? What are your plans for the week?

I am in Copacabana, famous beach in Rio de Janeiro City, Brazil. My plan for the week is to Produce Music, Label work, family and travel for gig on weekend.

Tell us a bit about yourself, how did you discover electronic music and what led you down the path of wanting to be a DJ and producer?

I discovered in Brazil’s radio FMs back in 98-99, but only became in love when I first went to a Psy trance festival in Rio in late 2006. I was already a bedroom producer at the time, producing some amateur Hip Hop beats and instrumentals and immediately switched to producing Progressive Sounds. Eventually after 2 years producing I felt the need to show my tracks to the world and I went to a local DJ course in 2008. So I ended up making my professional dj career debut in 2009 under the alias ‘Janeiro Tones’, so that’s 10 years as a pro now.

Name five tracks that were most important in your musical development and why are these pieces so significant for you.

The old school Trance and Progressive Masters were really important to my development as an artist, they inspired me greatly in my beginning and their classics were part of huge moments in my early electronic music experiences as a raver. I would say Andain – Beautiful Things (Gabriel & Dresden Remix) and Tiesto – Just Be as I was discovering my love to listen to Trance, and Michael Cassette – Regatta , Pryda – Alfon and Deadmau5 – Not Exactly, when I was discovering my love for producing Progressive House.

Tell us about growing up and living in Brazil, how has it affected your musical taste and the music you are producing?

Growing up in Brazil is good, but it’s also bad, and at the same time bad, but good, If you know what I mean lol. I love my country and relatives but we have too many political and economic problems. Growing up here had no influence in my taste for music or my production; actually it just made me a late starter as electronic music was not really a popular style in Brazil when I was growing up.

What are your favourites venues to play in Brazil and why?

There are so many great venues in Brazil, hard to have a favorite, but I would say that the small and intimate Lake Club was something else.

Are you musically trained? And do you think it’s necessary for success in writing electronic music?

Yes, I did Piano Classes for 2 years in my high school years in 2002-2004 when I lived in USA. Knowing harmony and music theory is a must to produce the type of melodies needed for a stand out Progressive tune.

Your label Timeless Moment has been running for a few years now and has firmly established itself as one of premiere imprints in melodic techno and progressive house. What made you want to start a record label? What was your initial vision for it when it began and how has it changed and evolved to where you are today?

I had a label in the past called Uplifting Music and had gained a lot of experience. We were Releasing mostly progressive house and a bit of Prog Trance in 2011-2015 , but it was too hard to cope with the genre confusions on Beatport at the time, so I closed it. When I found out that Beatport was fixing the genre problems I immediately thought it was the right time to open a new Label, this time 100% focused on the sounds that I played live since my beginning with my alias ‘Morttagua’ in 2011. Always had big plans for the future for the label, but initially the objective was to put out tracks from me and to help the new upcoming Brazilian melodic underground producers. It eventually changed fast as the label became heavily supported by big names and stormed through Beatport charts. I knew we had something else going on very organically so I decided to professionalize it faster than it was previously planned.

How did you come to decide on Timeless Moment as a name for the imprint? It’s a pretty bold name for a label!

I always had the feeling that the really good Progressive tracks were timeless and that if I could play them in any era it would create the same emotions on the dance floor, even in different generations. I specially feel this, as I play tons of old progressive classics in my live sets. SO I wanted to put out tracks that would stand the test of time and bring this moments every time they were played out, making that moment on the dance floor, or when you are listening to that track, a timeless moment, one you will never forget and will always feel it back when you listen the track again and again.

Could you list some of the artists who you consider a core part of Timeless Moment and the development of its sound?

I really think that all artists and tracks were core to our development as a label, but being able to release well established names such as Magdalena, Robert Babicz, Glenn Morrison, BLANCAh , Sonic Future, DNYO and few more, sure gave us an extra edge. But it wouldn’t be possible without the great talent of the emerging artists such as Rauschhaus, Space Motion, Uncloak, Marst, Melody Stranger and more.

If you had to pinpoint a few tracks which were crucial in the development of Timeless Moment, in terms of DJ support or otherwise what would they be?

I would say that “Fragarach’, our first release, put us directly on the map, as it gained 2 spins by PETE TONG the huge BBC Radio 1 Essential Selections. “The White Shadow – Back In the Jungle” was also a huge success after Solomun gave a spin live on Be.at.tv on Diynamic outdoor Barcelona.

Timeless Moment is celebrating its 50th release this week and you’ve kept something special for the occasion, tell us about that and please walk us through the production process on it.

Uncloak is one of my favorite artists to ever release on Timeless Moment, I love all their tracks, I think they are ultra-unique and talented, there live show is almost a spiritual experience. Their single “Hollow” is for me the most beautiful vocal tune we ever released, especially because of its deep lyrical meaning. Uncloak also is an artist that I discovered and helped a lot to develop in the scene and became core members of our Timeless Moment family and great personal friends. So I felt was the right track to Remix it for a special 50th release celebration.

The Production was quiet instinctive, once I started working with the samples they provided I made the bass line, which is core to the track on Sylenth 1 and started working on the arrangement on Ableton Live 8. I put few extra pads and Synth lines on the mix and it all became nicely together in a quiet natural way.

Is that a typical process for you or is every track a different journey in terms of the creative process? Do you have a studio routine? One where over time you’ve refined the production process into something that you know works or is every track a different journey in terms of the creative process?

Sometimes yes, but most of the time it’s not. Before having my baby daughter, my production routine was much more instinctive, as I had a lot of free studio time, so I experienced a lot with synth sounds etc, becoming quite a long production journey. After I had her, my studio time dropped dramatically, so I like to sit on the studio with the idea of the track already in mind. With almost 15 years of experience on the studio I can now put out the track ideas, harmonies, and melodies grooves etc quiet fast and finish my ideas in a more programed way. My basic routine is to build the main bass line groove, then the main melodic riff and from there I try to find the right synth sound to go with the midis, then everything else starts to flow.

Now that you’re 50 releases into your catalog has your vision for the label changed since you first started it? and have you exceeded your expectations for where you thought you’d be?

Totally, in the beginning, as I said before, was something more towards releasing my tracks and help artists I love, though I did have a plan in mind of it becoming the number one melodic label in Brazil. This plan was something towards the long term though. But everything just happened too fast and with one year we already had this reputation and the process of making it a more complete business got to us much sooner than I expected. It’s now becoming a complete lifestyle brand in Brazil, with events, 360 label management, bookings, International artist tours and merchandise.

In terms of DJs and artists who would say are the biggest sources of inspiration for Timeless Moment?

My biggest inspirations as Djs and artists in the last few years are the one that were able to build a complete musical brand for them heavily attached to their label sound. So that would be John Digweed as for Bedrock, Solomun as for Diynamic , Guy J as for Lost & Found, Hernan Cattaneo as for Sudbeat, Tale Of Us as for Afterlife, Dixon and Ame as for Innervisions and Above & Beyond as for Anjunadeep & Beats. Of course I also admire their musical journey, there dj skills, their production and their ability as tastemakers, but their edge for me is the way they were able to build a huge legion of fans by connecting their artist brand to their label name so firmly it almost becomes one. I feel that this is exactly where I want to lead my career together with Timeless Moment, to the point where the fan and scene see this connection and we become one.

What advice would have for an artist hoping to sign their music to the label? Both in terms of presentation and stylistically, what are you looking for from a new artist?

For me the most important thing is the originality of the artist, the ones that do not try to copy or to impersonate too much of other artists sound into their tracks. I want to listen to something new, artists that take risk harmonically, percussively and more. The track must touch my heart and my emotions with new experiments and make me dance when I listen to them. When I feel there is one of this elements missing I simply pass.

Do you have a label manager and/or someone who assists with A&R? Or are you able to fit all this into your daily schedule?

Yes, as of today we are a team of three people working daily on the label, Enrico is handling artist management and helping me with A&R and Kelly takes care of our press, promo, social media and more.

What does the future hold for Timeless Moment, what goals are you aiming for moving forward?

I believe that only time and tell what the future will hold for us, but we do have big goals in the long term as to become a complete international brand, holding Ibiza Residencies, Open air festivals and more.

When you finish new original tracks how do you decide whether or not to shop them to other labels or releases them on Timeless Moment?

Well, I rarely shop for other labels, as you can see most of my originals in the last 2 years were on Timeless Moment. But I do shop when I feel the track does not fit the label style. And I don’t feel the track finds the home it deserves I simply don’t release. I have many finished unreleased tracks that I did not release simply because I feel they are not for Timeless Moment and I could not find a proper home for them.

There are a lot of factors which affect the perception of a label other than just the music these days, social media for one, how much emphasis do you put on stuff like this? and what are your thoughts on the current state of the industry?

Well, as for signing a track we really don’t care if the artist has big following or not, it’s a matter of me personally loving the track and wanting to play it live. But as our label focus, we do believe that social media is really important to create a fan connection to the label that goes way beyond music. This why we put a lot of effort o building our social medias, especially Instagram witch is the current most popular of them all at the moment.

What’s the thing most people think they understand about being an artist but don’t? And what are the biggest challenges you currently face as an artist?

Well, being a successful artist is not about just creating art anymore, but being able to create a complete brand that surrounds your art and to manage your art so that it can actually reach your audience. There is a saying from a famous Brazilian song from the 70s that wisely says “Every artist must go where the audience is”, and it couldn’t be more right. In today’s world with so much competition and easy access to art from everyone, one must make there self’s heard. So a successful artist is today’s time works really hard outside their own art to make this possible, with or without a team. From social media to business relations, one must work 24/7 so that people can see the tip of the iceberg.

What five tracks are you loving right now?

I am really loving some unreleased tracks from Timeless Moment that I play in every set but I will list only the released tracks: My tracks Amunet and Priam are a must in every of my live sets currently , I love playing them live. Also Ana Criado – No One Home (Stylo & Kintar Remix), DNYO – Flare (Petar Dundov Remix) and Eric Lune Between us

Who are some new artists to watch out for in 2019?

Stylo from Israel is bringing some serious heat to the dance floors and you will hear much more from him this year. In Brazil I think you could make a case for the very talented Uncloak, Binaryh, Kommodo, Maty Owl and Melody Stranger,

Outside of all things music, what do you like to do in your spare time?

Well family is really important to me, and spending time with my still baby girl (2 years old) is currently a huge for me. I love her so much I even put on hold my overseas tours this last couple of years so that I could be part of this special moment in my life with my first child and spend proper time with her while she still a baby. Also love to read philosophy and politics, do sports, such as futvolley, and work out on the gym.

Tell us what we can expect for the remainder of 2019 for yourself and Timeless Moment, anything you can share with us?

You guys can expect a lot of timeless music from me and from Timeless Moment. We have some beautiful Eps and Remixes lined up from Oovation, Kintar, Uncloak, DNYO, Kommodo, Binaryh, Space Motion , Stylo and of course myself, including a some amazing collaborations.

Thanks for chatting with us Danilo!

Uncloak ‘Hollow’ (Morttagua Remix) is out now on Timeless Moment, you can purchase the release here: https://bit.ly/2KGCWW2

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