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Hugo Ortiz [Interview]

36 min read

We continue our series of label manager interviews with Hugo Ortiz, who you may know as being one half of the Argentinean progressive house duo Funkstate. The Cordoba resident also runs his own imprint 'Buddhabrot' which launched in 2020 and manages Antrim's Strangers Beats as well. Enjoy!

Hi Hugo, thanks for sitting with us today! What is your current mood and what was the last piece of music you listened to?

Hi, it is a pleasure to talk to you again. Today my mood is relaxed and happy. Just finished listening to Arctic Monkeys - Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino, loved that song.

What are your plans for the week?

This week will be tough as I must reorganize my schedule of pending work and review several demos, as well as resume my physical activity. Unfortunately, I was offline for a while due to health problems.

Tell us more about your story. How did you discover electronic music?

Well, my history with electronic music began in my hometown, Villa Dolores in the province of Cordoba, Argentina. In this city, there was practically no electronic music, until a DJ moved from another city and started the program "Airtronic" in the radio station "FM Aire". He also started to play in some local discos, his name is DJ Mike.

He played deep house and house sets.

As time went by, we became friends and that's when I fell in love with electronic music.

Then I moved to the city of Cordoba and there I started going to exclusive electronic music clubs and started learning to be a DJ and Producer.

How has growing up and living in the Argentina contributed to your passion for electronic music?

As you all know Argentines are very passionate about everything, that makes us live electronic music with a lot of intensity.

But we are also lucky that Hernan Cattaneo is Argentinean, and he became our teacher. He taught us to enjoy electronic music and to value each producer.

And at the same time, it is a territory with many rich musical styles that directly or indirectly serve as inspiration. Rock, pop, cumbia, cuarteto, reggae and many other genres are very strong in Argentina.

I am grateful to have been born here because I learned to love electronic music in a very special way.

At which club or event did you experience electronic music for the first time and what memories have stuck with you from that moment?

In my hometown there was a club called "Nabuco", where I listened to my first electronic tracks.

But there were 2 clubs that marked my memory and it happened when I moved to another city, they were called "Zen" and "Dorian Gray".

In these clubs, the underground culture prevailed, and I fell in love with that. The freedom of expression and the possibility to listen to electronic music genres that are not commercial is what made me fall in love with these places.

Over the course of time, I could fulfill my dream of playing in "Dorian Gray" with big names in the scene.

Can you name five tracks that were influential in your musical development?

1_ DJ T. feat. James Teej – Sense

2_ Audiofly feat. Fiora - 6 Degrees (Tale Of Us Remix)

3_ Aquarius Heaven - Can't buy love (Future Sound System Remix)

4_ Royksopp - What Else Is There (Trentemoller Remix)

5_ Gustavo Cerati - Casa

What led you to start the label Buddhabrot? Was your first foray into running a record label?

Having my own label was always a dream to fulfill. During the beginning of the pandemic, I thought it might be time to start fulfilling my dreams. This time brought many producers into the studio to create music and many others began to take their first steps in this scene. The time was right.

It was my first foray into creating a label from scratch, thinking about every detail. But I already had experience from working with Antrim.

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

Well, Buddhabrot was born mainly to support new artists. We are inspired by those artists that the world does not know yet, but their productions are already at the height of the scene.

When I started producing it was very difficult to get on a label without experience or contacts. That led me to try to create a space where new artists can receive feedback on their music and if possible be released on Buddhabrot.

To name a few artists that inspire us I can tell you Antrim, Funkstate, Carl OS, After Burn, Ezequiel Arias, Lucas Rossi, Analog Jungs, Artfaq, Berni Turletti, Kamilo Sanclemente, and many more.

If you had to pinpoint a few tracks that you released which were crucial in the development of Buddhabrot what would they be and why?

All releases have been important for Buddhabrot, as they have always been selected based on the artist's creativity and the label's current moment.

I can tell you that the release of Rodyy and Hector Cortes stood out for their quick positioning in the public.

I can also mention that the releases of Carl OS and Funkstate were very important for Buddhabrot as they were created exclusively for the label by the label managers.

The label has been running for close to two years now, how if at all has it changed in that time?

The label has changed due to the knowledge we have acquired over time. We have learned how to deal with artists, as well as the management involved in making a release.

I think the main change was internal, in how we work as a team and how we have improved the division of tasks.

You also manage Antrim’s Strangers Beats imprint as well I think, is that correct and if so what are your duties there?

Yes, that is correct. I have the privilege of working with Antrim on Strangers Beats.

He taught me how to manage a music label and gave me the opportunity to practice on his sub-label.

I take care of all the label management, talking to the artists, selecting cover art, and even sending out promotions, as well as handling the publicity for the releases.

The decision of the tracks we sign is consensual between both of us. But he always gets extra points for being the creator of the label haha.

Organic House has become quite a trendy sound in electronic music this past year, would you ever consider creating another label to focus on this sound? And what are you thoughts on the rise of this sound?

Organic House is at its best worldwide. I think Lee Burridge has done a lot for this sound and has opened the doors to many incredible artists.

It is a genre that I like very much because of the nature that surrounds it and the possibility of transmitting so many feelings in one track.

Nacho Varela, Cruz Vittor, Valdovinos and Facundo Mohrr are my favorite Argentinean artists of the genre.

I like the genre but I'm not considering opening a new label currently, not on my own. Maybe, if I could work in partnership with some artists of the genre and contribute with my knowledge in the management of the label. But the opportunity has not yet come up.

Running two labels with a consistent release schedule like you have is a daunting task. Are you solely responsible for the A&R on both labels? And if not, who else contributes to what gets signed or helping with the weekly duties?

Having two calendars working at the same time is not an easy task, as many times unforeseen events arise.

The key is teamwork with clear and predefined tasks with time to execute them.

At Strangers Beats the team consists of Antrim and me. Antrim oversees mastering the tracks and I do all the rest.

In Buddhabrot, I work together with 2 partners/friends and the tasks are more distributed.

Carl OS is a sound technician, and he oversees mastering the tracks. Emilio Reyna oversees all the graphic parts of the label, as well as the programming and web management. I take care of all the management of the label and the communication with the artists.

For both labels, it is very important to keep the calendar always in mind and to be in contact with the artists to keep them informed about their releases.

Do you have someone who you get a second opinion from when it comes to signing tracks? A significant other perhaps?

Of course, at Strangers Beats we debated with Antrim to define a release.

In Buddhabrot the decisions are made together with Carl OS and Emilio Reyna, it is a democratic way that we have defined to approve the releases between 3 partners.

When you get to a point with a track or set of tracks where you’re close to committing to signing them what can push the decision one way or the other?

The first thing is always the creativity and the sound quality of the track. But doubts can always arise regarding a possible release.

In those cases, the experience of the artist, his last releases, and the projection that the artist has come into consideration.

We cannot forget the time factor either, many times our calendars are almost full, and we must talk to the artist to define if he/she is willing to wait several months until the release.

Do you have a special spot to listen to demos? Outside of the studio I mean, a place where your mind resets a bit and you have fresh ears in a way.

I always make the final decision in the studio, but I like to listen to the demos on my headphones on a morning walk in my neighborhood.

What advice do you have for artists hoping to get signed to Buddhabrot or Strangers Beats?

I think art is too subjective to be pigeonholed but I recommend that you let your creativity fly, that you differentiate yourself from the rest, and that you pay a lot of attention to the mix of your tracks. Today the competition is very hard, so separating yourself from the rest is fundamental but preserving a good mix according to the market standards.

Is big DJ play a factor in signing something? From someone like Hernan Cattaneo or Nick Warren for example.

It's always good if a big DJ has supported the tracks, as that assures you that it has worked on the dance floor or on the podcast. But it's not essential, as the luck factor is also in the game.

The important thing is that the track transmits soul and is not just another copy on the market.

I believe that with constant work and good quality material, the support of great DJs will come at some point.

What is your thought process behind remixer selection on a given project and how many is too many in your opinion?

For both labels, we have defined only to work with original material from the artists, as we consider it a good way to present the art of each artist through an EP or a VA.

Personally, I consider that a maximum of 2 remixers is enough in a release so that the original artist doesn't lose presence.

But I can't deny that when an artist is very new in the circuit, having remixers is helpful to spread the name.

What is your biggest pet peeve about receiving music for the labels?

I could say that it bothers me when the email only has the link to the track and does not have an introduction of the artist or a greeting minimally.

We all make mistakes because of the anxiety of signing our recent track with some label but we must also understand that we are trying to negotiate our art with another person who represents a brand, so it is essential to establish clear and respectful communication.

Looking back over the discography of both labels, which one of your early releases / tracks still puts a smile on your face when you listen to it now, and why?

It is difficult to choose since many artists and tracks have been on both labels, and all of them have been very good.

Without favoritism, I would say that in Strangers Beats I choose Jesuan M & Andres Moris - The Gate To Heaven (Original Mix) because it transports me to very nice moments on the dancefloor.

In Buddhabrot, I will choose the Funkstate - Caelia EP for being the last release of my duo with which I close a cycle of 11 years of production with my friend Emilio Reyna.

Today I have started a new solo cycle under the aka Microdub, so the end of Funkstate with the collaboration of Sarah Chilanti was very emotional and satisfying for me.

Who do you see as future stars in Progressive House?

Well, there are many artists that in my opinion have a lot of potentials to be the next stars of progressive house.

Just to mention a few I would say, Andrés Moris, Tory, Hector Cortes, Mario Segura, Hyunji-A, Kenan Savrun, Julieta Kühnle, Diego R, and many others.

If you could set up an event with a line-up of five artists of your choice, who would you book and what set times would you ascribe to the artists?

Let's dream that I have enough money haha

my line up would be:

Hernan Cattaneo - Main (of course)

Sébastien Léger - Warm Up

Antrim - Warm Up

Microdub - Opening

Carl OS - Opening

What’s a book you’ve read or film you watched that has left an impact on you, and why?

Book: Cirque Du Soleil – The Spark

This book impacted me because of the history of Cirque Du Soleil in the way they push creativity and innovation in their shows and artists. And how it shows us that we can all elevate our potential.

Movie: Groove – Are you feeling it?

This movie impacted me because I felt very much reflected in my beginnings as a raver and my love for the underground culture of electronic music. A movie that shows that the most important thing is the music and the respect between ravers to have the best party.

In your opinion, what’s the biggest risk you’ve taken and what made you do it?

I think I have taken several risks in my life, but I can list 2 as the biggest or most important.

The first one was when I moved from my hometown to be able to continue learning about electronic music in a bigger city where this culture is more established.

The second and most recent, was when I decided to close the Funkstate cycle to find myself again and return to the role of student, a novice in the electronic music production circuit.

For 11 years I was producing with a friend and that meant that I always had the support and knowledge of this person to finish each track. Getting out of that comfort zone confronted me with my fears and insecurities regarding the quality of production, but it also allowed me to explore myself, search again for a sound that identifies me, and to make myself known to the world.

What is your favorite food?

It is difficult to choose a single favorite food because in Argentina all the food is delicious, and I like to eat haha.

But I'm going to choose “El asado" and “milanesas con papas fritas”, two very typical foods of my country.

Apart from music, what makes you happiest?

There are many things that make me happy besides music, but the main ones are spending time with my mother, playing with my cat, enjoying a night out with friends, watching F1, and traveling to see new places.

What can we expect from Buddhabrot this year – any special releases we should be looking out for?

This year we have decided to experiment a little more and will be presenting a very interesting work by Bastian Cash in the upcoming months. It will be an EP of 4 tracks with a lot of personalities that will be more focused on listening and not so much on the dance floor.

Also, the label managers Carl Os and I (Microdub) will be releasing new music.

Check out the Buddhabrot catalog here: https://bit.ly/3wdfHu7

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