Home Featured Feature: Rodriguez Jr. & KIKO [Interview + Premiere]

Feature: Rodriguez Jr. & KIKO [Interview + Premiere]

24 min read

Hi Guys, thanks for joining us. How has your start to the year been and please tell us something interesting about your day today?

Rodriguez Jr. Hello! Always a pleasure talking with you guys. I had a beautiful start into 2024. January and February are months I like to keep quiet in order to spend time in the studio and with my family, so I only played a few shows in Mexico and in the USA where I live now. It’s an important time of the year because I finally get to relax a bit, mentally digest the previous tour and prepare about upcoming projects with my team.

KIKO: Hello everyone, my start to the year has been very enriching for me since I was able to finish this album 'Digital Family' that I started 3 years ago.

Both of you were born and raised in France I believe, so please tell us about how growing up and living there affected your journey into electronic music?

Rodriguez Jr. The electronic music scene was extremely exciting and fertile in France during the 90s. Even though our movement had a bad reputation in the medias because it was new, unknown and loud, we had some stunning ambassadors / mentors such as Laurent Garnier. There was so much going on in Paris, but also smaller cities such as Grenoble, Marseille, Montpellier. Kiko and I arose from this same french “rave-microcosm”, alongside Miss Kittin, The Hacker, Oxia, Agoria, etc … He had a cool record shop in Grenoble and many things gravitated around it at that time. It was a hub.

KIKO: I started composing my first tracks at the beginning of the 90s and scoured all the first raves in the south of France! In 1995 I opened my record store in Grenoble specialized in electronic music, where I met The Hacker, Oxia, Miss Kittin who are also from Grenoble! And that's when I started my career as a DJ!

Who were some French artists who inspired you in your early years and why?

Rodriguez Jr. The first electronic music I heard on the radio was Jean Michel Jarre in the mid 80s. It was such a slap in my 8 years old face. The melodic side of my work has been massively inspired by his early works. Eventually, Laurent Garnier was obviously some kind of light house for all of us as he used to play a lot of Detroit Techno and Chicago House amongst many other genres. His first album “Shot In The Dark” clearly inspired me when when I started producing music.

KIKO: Of course Laurent Garnier and his Label F.com… By the way, Rodriguez Jr. and his group The Youngsters were on this label!

Take us through a day in your life, from a possible morning routine through to your production work and more, please.

Rodriguez Jr. Nothing crazy I am afraid! I try to balance my days between family time and music. I usually hit the studio after dropping my son at school at 8am. My ears got damaged over the years so I need to make regular breaks in order to actually hear what I am doing: I regularly go outside and enjoy the Miami weather for a bit, either walking, running or jet-skiing around. Then it’s family duties again in the late afternoon until I spend another 6 hours in the studio at night.

We’ve been told you guys are old friends and have known each other for many years, please tell us how you met and why you’ve connected so well?

Rodriguez Jr. Kiko was already a well established artist when I released my first record in the late 90s! I remember how he inspired me to play live with the project “Phunky Data” he created with Oxia - another well known french legend: they would show up with an Atari 1040 computer, a 909, an Ensoniq sampler and rock the crowd for hours. His music was already a unique blend of funky house, italo disco and emotional techno he’s still well known for.

He eventually did a remix of one my very first records with my project “The Youngsters” on a label called G-Funk. We basically became friends over the years while performing in the same parties. Both of us are studio nerds and I assume we share many similar influences!

KIKO: My connection with Rodriguez Jr. goes back to the time when he was part of a group called The Youngsters, which was signed to Fcom, Laurent Garnier's label. They also had their own label called 'G funk'. Around 2001, Rodriguez Jr. was still living in Montpellier, and we had the opportunity to see each other quite often. During this period, we collaborated on an EP that was released under their label. The EP included two tracks by them and one by me. This collaboration marked the beginning of our friendship.

We’ve hosted the premiere for the first single from Kiko’s first album since 2008 which has just come out and it is a collaboration with Rodriguez Jr. entitled ‘Miller’. Please tell us about the track, how the collaboration came to be and why you choose this piece as the first single to launch the promotion for the album.

Rodriguez Jr. Kiko came up with the idea of recording an album to celebrate his 30 years of career together with French artists he collaborated with over the years. He sent me a first draft he had in his hard drive and I instantly got hooked by the vibe.

I believe Rodriguez Jr is now based in Miami, so i’m curious about the production process on ‘Miller’, did you guys get any in person studio sessions to work on the track? Tell us about that and how much road testing and revisions were done before you were ready to consider it ‘finished’. 

Rodriguez Jr. We haven’t actually seen in other in person for such a long while! Might be something like 5 years. I think we started working on Miller during the pandemic. It was a long process because we wanted to create something special with a strong sound signature. Also I moved to Florida and didn’t have access to my studio for about 6 months, so things got delayed quite a bit at some point.

The album will be the first release on Kiko’s new Hot Banana imprint. Launching a label with an album is definitely not the norm, tell us about why you wanted to introduce the label this way?

KIKO: The label is not new :) I created this label in the early 2000s with Fabrice G, a long-time friend! We had signed releases with The Hacker, David Carretta, Alexander Robotnick, Danton Eeprom, Kiko… We had just put it on standby and so we reactivated it for this album!

Do you think the digital era changed the way we perceive artist albums? Do they still carry the weight they once did or should? Is this something that perhaps depends on who (record label) is releasing it as well?

Rodriguez Jr. Even though the golden era of full length album is over, I still like working on long formats. It’s all about balancing things. An album is less consumable than a single track. It tends to stay. It’s also better for developing an interesting narrative and that’s what this Kiko’s new album is all about.

What are your plans moving forward with the label, might we see a remix edition for the album? What can you tell us about your plans for Hot Banana?

KIKO: Yes I think that the logical continuation of this album is to make a remix album! And for the Hot Banana label why not sign new artists :)

We’re in an age where content turns over quickly and attention spans are short; so will this be factor into how you run and sign music to Hot Banana?

Rodriguez Jr. I’ll let Kiko answer about his plans here, but I agree attention spans are short nowadays. There’s about new 100,000 tracks released everyday on Spotify, and the only chance to stand out and pass the test of time is to strongly focus on quality and on being unique, different.

KIKO: As with this album, we tried not to follow a trend, but rather to make tracks that will last over time! And I think I will take the same direction with the label!

The subject of mental health is complex and nuanced, and it is an issue to which those working in electronic music are especially susceptible. It can be deeply rewarding but it is also competitive, fast-paced, unpredictable and hedonistic. Talk a bit about the pressures of what you do that fans may not be totally aware of, and as a prominent artist how important is it for you to raise awareness on subjects like ‘mental health’?

Rodriguez Jr. That’s definitely a lot of pressure and hard work, far away from the dream life often displayed on socials. It takes a lot of self confidence for an artist to throw himself in this industry. I personally like to think about long term plans aiming to create music that might pass the test of time instead of strictly following trends. I’ve a lot of gratitude for the loyal fan base I’ve built over the year and that keeps supporting me whatever I do. Also I’ve been sober for about 5 years. This decision surprisingly brought a lot of fun back to my life as it forced me to somehow reconnect with my inner child who could reach a state of pure bliss without any substance.

This ties into the last question to an extent because  you have both spent considerable time on the road touring across the world the last few decades, and in doing so there are dramatic shifts in emotion being a performing artist, from playing in front of large crowds where there is a tremendous amount of energy to travel days where you may be stuck in airports or on a plane for extended periods of time. Do you have tools or practices that you use to get yourself back to a state of balance?

Rodriguez Jr. I basically set clear boundaries and focus on the really important things. What are the things that really matter in this world ?

If you were not a DJ/Producer what do you think you’d be doing with your life? 

Rodriguez Jr. I studied mathematics so I might have been a teacher somewhere in France. Fortunately mathematics didn’t like me at all, so I ended up going at the rave every weekend.

What are some of your favorite TV series? Both all time and recently, what have you been enjoying lately?

Rodriguez Jr. I must confess I don’t have TV and never take time to watch movies appart of old classics. There’s so much stuff on Netflix that I can’t find anything. Every time I try to look for something I’d like to watch while travelling, I always end up watching synth or studio tutorials on Youtube. I might have a problem ?

KIKO: I watch TV but without watching :) it just gives me ideas for my music!

Apart from music, what makes you happiest?

Rodriguez Jr. Looking at my kids growing up is an absolute gift, and I am blessed to be able to travel the world and meet inspiring people every week.

KIKO: The same, seeing my children grow up and traveling every week around the world! It’s fabulous!

What does 2024 hold for you both? Anything you can share with us?

Rodriguez Jr. I’ve spent two months working in the studio on new material for my label “Feathers & Bones” and a new live show I am excited to hit the road with in 2024.


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