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Interview: Casper Keys

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SLC-6 Music’s journey across the night sky continues with ‘Constellations: Capricornus.’ This time, Casper Keys takes the controls, guiding us through territory both dreamy and tough. He begins with the signature track, ‘Constellations,’ a melodic progressive piece made with clarity and precision that launches the listener optimistically forward into the rest of the mix. Bookending the mix is the ambient ‘Alpha Capricorni,’ beaming with cinematic drama, and leaving the listener mindful of the infinity beyond. In between, he takes us through an outstanding selection of progressive house and techno from fellow SLC-6 Music artists. Casper Keys’ artistry as a producer and dj is evident in this benchmark project, and we look forward to his future works while reveling in this one. We had a chance to catch up with Casper for an exclusive chat just prior to the release. Enjoy!

Hi Casper, thanks for joining us. What is your current mood and what was the last piece of music you listened to?

Hey! Thank you so much for having me! I’m currently super excited about my next release, and also about the new music I’m working on. I’m listening to a lot of Bicep, Jaco Pastorius and Darius, I like every kind of music as long as it feels real and I love to discover new artists!

What are your plans for the coming week?

I like to go out of town during the weekends – there’s not much to do in the city during this pandemic. But also, I’m very busy lately working with stuff for SLC-6 and my other projects, as I’m also a film producer.

Talk to us about growing up and living in Paraguay, how has it affected your musical taste and the music you make?

When I was a kid, Paraguay was much more conservative in terms of musical tastes than now, so I mostly listened to classic rock and classical music. I also studied classical piano, and I played the drums in a rock band until I was 18. I discovered electronic music pretty late when I was 23 and since then I’ve been experimenting more with sounds and beats, but I always want to mix it with my early influences. Casper Keys is my “club” alias but with my other project called Runik we usually play live.

It’s a country not so well known for the electronic music, what venues or events did you first experience electronic music live?

It’s definitely not the most popular genre here, but there has been a growing scene since the big EDM boom during early 2010s. I remember going to David Guetta and other similar shows back then but my real love for electronic music started when I went to Creamfields in Buenos Aires in 2012 – it really changed my life.

And what is the nightlife like there in recent times (pre-pandemic)?

When EDM went out of fashion in Paraguay, and big festivals like Road to Ultra stopped happening, people started to look deeper into techno, tech house and house. Since around 2015, parties like Ologram, The Link, and clubs like Sequence and Tango managed to keep the scene alive and even brought very big names like Carl Cox, Sasha and John Digweed, among others.

Can you name five tracks that were important in your musical development and why they are so significant for you?

In my own productions:

Charlie and Zulu – You Got To: CH&Z was the name my first EDM project, and me and my duo just had won a local DJ contest, and the prize was a trip to Las Vegas to play in the finals against DJs from other countries. We went there and played this track and people really liked it, but also, we got to send it to Dannic, which was a big EDM DJ back then, and he played it in his radio show. So, this was the first time that I realised that my music reached a certain level where it was fit for the big names.

Runik – Lightyears Away: Runik is the name of my current duo, and in this song we challenged ourselves to write the lyrics, and even if it’s not my current style anymore, I still like it and it means a lot to me.

Casper Keys – Arrival: Arrival was my first track under my solo, club-oriented project. It was the first time I signed a track with an international label like SLC-6, and since then, David (D.J. MacIntyre) and I have worked on many tracks together, and have become very good friends.

Casper Keys – Dreamer: In this track I tried something different and stepped away from the usual 4 on the floor beat, but still wanted to make it fit for clubs, and I really like how it came out! It was signed by ICONYC and got a bunch of awesome remixes, so it became one of my favorite productions.

Casper Keys – Alpha Capricorni: this track is going to be released in my upcoming Constellations mix – Capricornus. I’m heavily influenced by film, as I’m also a film producer, and I always make ambience tracks but never get to release them. This is the first time that I release a track like this so I’m very excited for the feedback!

If you could teleport to any era in electronic music, where would you fly off to?

The 2000s, when it was still fresh and experimental, but mature enough to have big acts like Daft Punk, The Chemical Brothers at their peaks.

You’ve recently compiled the latest installment of SLC-6 Music’s Constellations series ‘Capricorn’. You’ve written some new material specifically for the mix in fact. Tell us a bit about the collection and process behind putting it together.

I really like the concept of mixing new releases with pre released tracks to give them a new life. Some very good tracks just get lost today because there are so many of them. It’s also challenging to tell a story with a very limited number of tracks, as we’re used to play with tons of tracks from different labels in a playlist.

Walk us through the production process on one of your tracks on the release, one of your favourites if you like.

Alpha Capricorni is definitely the one I’m more excited about. It feels like a new door has been opened for me and I’m looking forward to producing more stuff like it. I got inspired by watching both Blade Runner movies in a row, and I had this chord progression that sounded really Sci Fi, so I decided to use a piano plugin and then throw Portal (Arcade) on the FX chain and mess with it. That was the foundation for the strings and pads that brought the cinematic vibe to the track. For the final touch, I added a retro synth lead, and improvised a melody on top. It felt really natural, and I think I did it in one take or two and I called it done. As usual, I let it rest for a while and went back to it after a couple weeks, with fresh ears. The feeling was the same, so I knew it was something special.

When it comes to your productions what is it that you’re aiming to achieve with them?

I always try to make them better than the previous one, to find a new technique, sound or workflow that make the process more enjoyable, and the track more interesting. If I like the result, I think a lot of people will like it as well, as I consider there’s a lot of people out there with similar musical taste and appreciation as me.

Do you think the digital era changed the way we perceive DJ mix albums? Do they still carry the weight they once did?

Yes, it definitely changed. Attention span is very short nowadays, in general, but there’s a lot of people out there that still appreciate them. I’m an album listener myself – I enjoy storytelling, and one of my big goals is to get to do at least one conceptual album one day.

The majority of your music has been released by SLC-6 thus far, what makes the label such a great home for you?

Because it feels like home! There’s a great sense of community, and great artists that I’m glad to call friends, even if we haven’t met in person and live thousands of miles apart. Because of the pandemic, we frequently do zoom meetings to discuss different topics or just chat about what we’re up too, and I really hope someday we all get together in person and play a show or just hang out.

What does your set-up like? Do you favor physical gear over digital? And what studio tools featured heavily in the writing of the material for the compilation?

I’ve been always interested in physical gear. I grew up playing piano and drums, so I need that connection with an instrument, being that a synth or midi controller. I also like the visual aspect of gear, you can really show of with it. My gear currently consists in: Prophet 6, Analog Rytm, Ableton Push, Erica Synths Zen Delay, Eventide Space Reverb. I’ve owned the Prophet 6 from way before the rest so it’s the one that has more influence in my productions. It’s in every track I made since I got it in 2016.

How have you been dealing with COVID-19? How has it affected your daily life?

A lot! I think everybody has been affected somehow. I think I grew a lot during this time. I learned to focus more on what’s important, to adapt, to accept that there are things we can’t control and we have to learn how to live with them.

Did you happen to be more in the studio during lockdown and finished more tracks or did you generally have problems working on new music during the pandemic?

I actually built my own studio during lockdown J. I took a loan and invested in something really cool that I think it will help me reach a new level in my productions. Since done, it took a little while to get used to the new acoustics and I also had to do other stuff for money, but now I’m making a lot of new awesome music that I can’t wait to finish and share.

Has your musical taste changed during the pandemic?

Actually, yes! I’m listening less club tracks and more live electronic artists. I always did, but before the pandemic I was always gold-digging tracks for DJing. With no open clubs around, I started listening new artists and genres and I think that will make my music richer.

What is the current situation with the pandemic in Paraguay?

There are lot of cases and we’re at the limit of our ICU capacity, but people, mostly young, don’t seem to care that much, apparently.

Once nightlife eventually resumes globally what kind of effect do you think this period in our history will have on the clubbing experience?

I think it will be gradual, and I think there’s going to be a time where small artists and event organizers will have more chance to do stuff because they won’t be able to afford big names as venues will have reduced capacity.

What have been some of your favourite tracks over the quarantine period?

I’ll go with albums:

Darius – Utopia

Bicep – Bicep

WhoMadeWho – Synchronicity

Against all Logic – 2012-2017

Stephan Bodzin – Powers of Ten

What is your favourite food?

I wish I was born in Japan.

Iphone or Android?

I’m an Apple fanboy since the first Imacs.

 What does 2021 hold for you? Anything you can share with us?

I’m very excited for this year. I think I’m reaching a place with my music where I’m feeling very confident, but I still have so much room to grow and experiment. I’m preparing a two side EP with my project Runik that will be very different from anything else I’ve ever made, and it will have a video aspect too. Besides that, Casper Keys will keep delivering music, most of it courtesy of SLC-6. Very thankful for how things are going, can’t wait to share!

Thank you!

‘Constellations: Capricornus.’ is out now on SLC-6 Music, you can purchase the release here: https://bit.ly/3o5vWSy

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