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Interview: Alan Cerra

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Based in Argentina, Alan Cerra first emerged in 2019 with a contribution to 3rd Avenue’s popular ‘We Are The Future’ series. His progressive sound quickly found footing with world class DJs such as Cid Inc, Eelke Kleijn, Hernan Cattaneo, Miss Monique and more. Further successes came across the next two years, with the Río Gallegos resident finding a home on Beatfreak, Hoomidaas, Mango Alley and Siona Records. Continuing on an upwards trajectory as 2022 takes shape, Alan now adds Higher States to his resume with a three-track showcase entitled ‘Ascension’. We had a chance to catch up with Alan for an exclusive interview leading up to the release. Enjoy!

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

Hello PA, I’m very happy to join you. I actually listen to a lot of music daily. I can literally go from listening to salsa to heavy metal in ten minutes haha. In what matters to us, I’ve been listening to a lot of GMJ & Matter, Alex O’Rion and Paul Deep. The music from these guys is not from this planet.

How’s your year so far? And what are your plans for the coming week?

Everything is going great; a lot of new music is coming. I’m actually on holidays right now cause is summer in Argentina. But I’ll be back at home next week to finish new music. And in some days one of my biggest EPs will land thanks to the great Roger Martínez.

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

So hard, but first I have to name Traffic by Tiesto. I still remember lying in my bed and suddenly the videoclip of the track appeared on tv, it was with images of his 2003 concert. My mind was blown. Then Love Comes Again was released and I became a big fan of Tiesto in that time and started djing with a friend. I discovered a lot of artists and music back then. In these days one of the tracks that captivated me when I started joining the progressive/melodic techno scene was Papillion by Artbat, such a magnificent tune. I can’t think of specific tracks, but the artists I named before plus guys like Subandrio, Dmitry Molosh, Cid Inc are fountains of knowledge with every track, listening to them makes you a better producer. There are so many inspiring tracks outside electronic music too, the world is full of amazing artists and musicians in all genres. I’m completely out of the “music genre war” that people have, progressive lovers think other genres are bad, rock lovers think pop is bad, etc. All the music has the right time, the right mood or occasion. Some tracks I loved from last year are GMJ – Rite Of Passage (Matter Remix), Armen Miran & Nicolas Rada – Fall Away and Alex O’Rion – Avalanche just to name a few, there’s a lot more.

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

I grew up listening to a lot of music and I love it in general, I’m a big fan of 80’s music, I’m a singer too so I travelled through a lot of genres. I think our national music is amazing on all styles, but I always had a preference for international artists.

Progressive music is well known for being hugely popular in Argentina, how did your country become the genre’s mecca over the last 10-15 years? What would you attribute that to?

Yes progressive music is amazing here, there’s a lot of new great producers every year. I’m new at the scene too, but I’ve been listening to electronic music since 2003 I think. I was a huge fan of trance music, then I was away for electronic music for some years and began to familiarize with progressive house in 2017. Obviously, there’s a lot that can be attributed to what Hernan Cattaneo has achieved and how big he is around the planet, but I also think the reason can be the music itself, it’s like the country was made for that. People here are influenced by all the music around the world, it’s a music friendly country.

What are some of your best memories from first going to clubs in your country? Were there specific nights or sets that really made you feel you wanted to pursue electronic music?

I’m from the very south of the country, here you don’t have massive events or big parties. I used to watch Tiesto in Concert in 2003 over and over thinking “imagine being there”. I remember when I was younger and I started listening to electronic music, there wasn’t a lot of people supporting the style, so I started meeting new people who were in the mood and there was like a group of 50 that always organized private parties. Some nightclubs tried to do some events but didn’t work, the money is in the mainstream music and Latin rhythms. I like that too but it’s like there’s no place for the progressive industry here. My life changing event was my first massive party in 2018. Yotto, Cid Inc and Darin Epsilon in one night. Listening to Henri that night was one of the best things that happened to me in my life. When I heard the groove of his music it was like “this is my thing”, this is what I have to do” and after being frustrated for some years trying to do trance music I turned to progressive house after this.

Now that you are an established Dj and producer, what are your favourite venues to play in Argentina and why?

I’m not playing much actually cause I live very far of where the parties and events are. So most of my time is in front of the pc making music this days. But I think dates will start coming very soon.

Who are some up and coming Argentinian artists to look out for?

I really like what a good friend of mine named Máximo Lasso does. He already has some great releases on Colorize, Freegrant and Kyau & Albert’s label Euphonic. He is getting the confidence he needs. I also like the music of Agustín Ficarra, Jesuan M, Ric Niels, Dany DZ, Evegrem, Agustín Pietracola, Agustín Pengov, Sebastián Sellares is well known already but his music last year was amazing, same with Berni Turletti and Paul Deep, I love their music.

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?

I don’t really know how to order this haha, but I would love to see Alex O’Rion, Cid Inc, Hernán Cattaneo, Mariano Mellino and Artbat.

You have a new EP out this week via Roger Martinez’s Higher States, tell us a bit about the release and how it showcases your sound.

Yes, so excited about this one. I think Roger’s label is one of the best and exclusives of the genre and joining it makes me feel very proud of the hard work I’ve been doing these years to became a better producer. I usually send music to Roger, he is a great guy. But he really liked these ones. I had these 3 finished tracks that I really like and was looking for someone to send them to. I decided to try with Roger and he literally loved them. It was so crazy, he told me that these tunes represent exactly what he was looking for. Being here is one of the things that you think it would never happen, but if you work hard and insist, they do.

I would say these are some of your strongest tracks to date, what has the reaction been to the EP so far?

Thank you so much. This happened so fast that these tracks are super unreleased. Promo will start soon, and we will see how it works.

Can you walk us through the production process on one of the tracks? Whichever is most interesting for you.

I really like the 3 of them. But I think ‘Ascension’ is so powerful. It’s one of my favorite tracks ever. I was building up the track and the melody suddenly appeared, and I felt like omg this is so cool. It’s exactly what that track needed. It’s also Roger’s favorite, I think. One funny fact is that ‘Isle of Man’ is named like that cause it is the city where the Bee Gees were born. And I just love them and their legacy.

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

I work with digital only, I have my cpu, monitors and a midi keyboard. That’s how I worked all these years and I feel comfortable. I love what physical synths can do but I don’t really know if I could work with them. I mean, to learn them. On this EP I worked a lot with Hive, Diva, Omnisphere and Pigments.

How would you feel about these tracks being remixed at some point? And do you generally enjoy hearing remixes of your work?

That would be amazing, I enjoy that. So many different things can be made and reinterpreted with little ideas you have.

Generally speaking, do you find it more difficult to come up with original tracks than remixing a track from another artist?

Yes, always. You work with the same energy but it’s just different. When I have a track to remix the ideas come instantly, I hear the track and I instantly start singing a bassline on top of it, or a melody or arrangement I would have done on some parts. It’s just a different process. I enjoy doing originals more, I haven’t done many remixes.

What’s a piece of gear or software that always gets used when you’re writing a track?

I work with Ableton and during these year’s I convinced myself that is not worth to get ALL the plugins, just work with those five or six you feel comfortable. I always use Uhe ones like Diva, Hive, also Omnisphere, Dune, Spire and Pigments.

How much road testing or friend feedback is done before you’re ready to say a track is finished? And who is someone you share your new music with first for feedback?

I actually don’t share my music much, sometimes when I feel a little lost I send tracks to a friend that I know he will be honest and I trust on his opinion. But most of the time I just feel it’s done, exactly the same on the inverse, I just know when a track needs something else to shine. Most of the time less is better. I started trusting myself and believing in my ideas, music is so subjective that we all feel different and will do different things on each track, maybe if I share it for feedback the other person doesn’t like some of my ideas but I mean it’s just the way I felt it in that moment. A different thing is when a label manager tells you “this part should be shorter” or “maybe take these bars out”, they are usually right and know what they are talking about, so you always have to listen to them.

What would be a musical extravagance for your studio you would pay for, if you were very wealthy?

Never really thought of that, right now I only have my cpu, my monitors and a midi keyboard. I think it can be a couple of cdj’s and a mixer to get friendly with them.

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

I don’t read much, maybe some news or articles. I watch a lot of series, I don’t really remember which one impacted me more but my favorite right now is Ozark cause a new season just came out. Looking forward to the new season of Better Call Saul.

If you could travel anywhere for one day, all laws and limitations void, where would it be?

I would love to visit Ibiza, it looks like a magical place to enjoy music. Berlin and Amsterdam too.

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

I don’t really know but starting to send demos to labels was hard. I’m a little insecure so at the beginning it’s hard to deal with frustration. That’s why I’m grateful to everyone who has ever supported me.

What is your current favourite place to eat and what do you generally order there?

I love hamburgers 🙂 I try to taste all of them in all stores.

iPhone or Android?

I have Android and Windows.

Apart from music, what makes you happiest?

Music is the best, it’s always with me. I enjoy eating food I like, watching series, I love summer and the beach, I always go to the same beach on vacations and it’s really my happiest time of the year. I love to walk down the sun listening to music. My city is cold and windy even most of the summer, so when this season comes I like to run to the beach where the sun and good vibes are.

What does 2022 hold for you? Anything you can share with us?

Music for sure. I already have 4 releases waiting to see the light and a lot of finished tracks. I have word confirmation of another big one later this year but I’m gonna wait a little to share it. I just can’t believe all the things that music gave me so far. All the support from the people, the messages I get are amazing, to see the music you make is so well received in so many countries is so cool. Seeing that all the dj and producers you admired all your life are now playing your music is something you literally can’t explain. I can’t even believe we are having this interview. Just want to take the opportunity and say thank you to everyone for the constant support.

One thing I would like to say as a final thought to encourage other producers is that you don’t need to buy all the physical instruments, synths or the better pc on the market to start making music. Those things came with time. You just need to focus and work hard with what you have, be patient and live the process. It’s hard but if you really want it, you will get it. I started doing things with Ableton in 2013, and it took me several years to realize what I wanted to do. I stopped producing cause I was frustrated and then in 2019 with the same old laptop I made half of my songs to the date. The most important thing is hard work and perseverance.

Thanks PA 🙂

‘Ascension’ is available now via Higher States: https://bit.ly/3gKOK8w

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