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Interview: Rafa’EL

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Rafal, better known by his stage name Rafael, is a Polish DJ and music producer. An artist, who has always been closely linked to electronic music, developing his musical taste and polishing it since 2008, is now setting his productions on a very deep sounding level. The styles he plays are heavily associated with deep house, progressive, and afro-house. You can listen to Rafael’s music in a number of radio stations, e.g. on Proton Radio (where he hosts a show called Infusion), on Polish Houseradio, and even on Argentinian FM BLUE 105.3 FM. His music enables him to show his soul and express his true personality. Thus, his music sets can be compared to some emotional tales whispered secretly to your ear. This week Rafa’EL returns to Canadian progressive imprint Strange Town Recordings for a special collaborative project alongside German production Carsten Halm. We had a chance to catch up with Rafa’ EL for an exclusive interview just prior to the release. Enjoy!

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

Hey guys, I appreciate the invitation. I feel great now currently as I go through many internal changes that go well hand in hand with a creative process in my head that I am very happy about! The last track that I have listened to is the track of mine called Car test. It was a remix that I made for Juan Deminicis, which I am super happy about too.

What are your plans for the coming week?

I try not to go that far ahead with my plans. This week I plan to start working on my new Live Act that has a release date set to December. Also, I do have certain plans that relates to self-improvement. In fact, as I am thinking, I have a bunch of things planned but I wouldn’t make it to talk about them all here. I will make sure though the time was creative and hard-working from all the angles.

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

I am very connected to music and since the genres change as it develops, the beginnings as such are easy to remember them by. I will try to focus on those that had enormous influence in the creation process which, in a profound way, has also contributed to the music perception as the art that I choose to practice.

The 1st to mention is David West – Welsh Morphology [2008]. The track has marked the beginning of the path I am now following and love for the music I value implicitly. For me it’s literally the essence of progressive house genre. And by the way, where is that guy? Ehh, I miss his work recently.

Perasma – Swing 2 Harmony (Original Mix) has often been listed to with David West actually, and probably on the same playlist. The song so beautiful and free – I write those words and I somehow feel I launched this this track for the sentiment and huge fondness towards this beautiful breakdown… pure poetry. I sorely lack in the current music.

The next track in line, or I would even say an album is the 1st vinyl of HVOB – a vinyl that has played a significant part in my career and respectively music I am now producing . ‘Her Voice Over Boys’ has been feeling me up with high-proof melancholy, which in the end also reflects in what I create on a daily basis. I just love this climate. It is a very special one indeed.

Undoubtedly, I love coming back to the Kiasmos duo as well as every single vinyl that own from them. For me personally, it is a very ambitious piece of electronic, which you need to get slightly mature for. Each track is an adventure, a unique kind of adventure that can be interpreted according to your own perception of electronic music. It exudes great charisma. It has been what I have looking for in electronics.

There is a bunch of music, which inspired me more or less. The last but still important one I dedicate to someone who may not necessarily be related to the club scene. It has undoubtedly been giving me lots of inspiration and chills. His name is Hans Zimmer – every production of his, irrespectively if it’s created for the filming purpose or scenic performance, is a masterpiece in its own way. I trust that I could be able to meet him one day. It is a very important dream that I have.

How did growing up in Poland influence your music taste and direction? Or did it at all?

Poland is not an easy country when it comes for the culture and art. Difficult years of communism has brought some delay and just now its all slowly raising again. At least, this is the impression that I have. I happened I have been born in the twilight of the era still considered to be a difficult one.

90s as well as my youth was devoted to street art and hip-hop music – at the time it was really enjoying its revival. I would call it a hip-hop renaissance. The beginning of the current century tends to be connected to trance and its fascination that I still draw inspiration from. The 1st festivals and unforgettable set from ATB at Soundropolis! – I still think of it with a great sentiment, sentiment that has also climaxed into strong desire, which in fact later turned into actions and well, here I am where I am now.

The path and my inner development has even since been a fascinating thing, which I am happy very about. I am really proud and glad I could be a part of this world.

What is the electronic music scene like there in present day and more specifically progressive house?

To be frank with you, its really hard to cover this ocean with one eyesight. Everything is so rapidly changing. People usually go around, coming in and out, lots of releases. Seriously, it is really to grasp it all easily. I would actually rather focus on a closest group of producers and publishers.

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

It happens that I don’t know any emerging artists here in Poland

However, I do know the old guard of people one should pay attention to. It is a longtime friend of mine Tuxedo, a synthesizer freak, great producer and an individual that knowns everything about the stage (I swear). Enigmatic, whom I am working with on a great EP + Cream that is old stager with above-average musical taste. There are also E.F.G, Neptun 505, Monojoke and many others.

You have a new signal ‘Atlantis Flower’ which you collaborated with Carsten Halm out this week on Strange Town Recordings, tell us a bit about the track and how the collaboration came to be.

The situation is quite interesting, about a year ago my kind friend Bryan Wolf Ear (A&R Strange Town Recordings) wrote to me whether I would like to create something new for his STR. When I wrote back he gladly invited me to think about some kind of collaboration, and that is how Bryan suggested working with Carsten. It all happened very quickly. Very efficient cooperation!

Where does your inspiration come from and was there anything that inspired this track in particular?

For this particular piece, I was inspired by the very piece of working together and the thought that we would combine 2 different styles – Carsten melodic approach with a German flair as well as my own, smooth, flowing, and melancholic. It turned out very well and we are all very happy about.

It’s always an interesting process when you collaborate with another artist, walk us through the production process on ‘Atlantis Flower’.

As I mentioned above, Atlantis Flower was created very dynamically. I sent my vision as a track base, then Carsten refined his part with all beautifully integrated details.

What does your set-up look like? Do you favor physical gear over digital? And what studio tools featured heavily in the writing of ‘Atlantis Flower’?

I love the Analog Sound! I have built quite a collection of synthesizers, which I often use in my productions. But then again, I also use VST. For Atlantis Flower for instance, I mostly used VST. The themes like Pads though as well as Lead and Baseline were made on Moog Subsequent37.

This is your third release on Strange Town, with one coming in each of the last three years, what has made the label a good home for your music?

I always respect the Publishing-Artist relationship.

In case of Strange Town, it is good relationship, and I may be tempted to even call it friendly. Bryan, the owner, is a cool man. We have a lot in common, which we have both confirmed in our renewals. We sincerely hope to meet each other on the occasion of ADE! So, as you see the plan is there, we are just waiting for the future development of events.

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?

Unfortunately, I feel critical of myself. It takes a long time and bunch of car tests before I ascertain the piece as ready. The person whom I am sharing my music with to further be analyzed and receive a specialized feedback from is my friend Tuxedo – it has been like this for years. I have ben scrupulously bugging and forcing him to review my work. I greet him warmly from here due to that.

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

I noticed it has been much easier for me to do remixes and now it is the opposite.

I do relatively less remixes now, maybe I have become more demanding to pick up a good one, not sure.. Hehe, but, on the other hand, I have ben making a lot of original productions.

What has the last year and a half been like for you? Have you focused more time on making music? And has the pandemic affected your creative spirit in any way?

For many of us it has been a strange, though time. With a pandemic in place, I have literally been grounded to sit at home at all times, hence I devoted considerable amount of time to music production. I also took time to improve my workshop from technical angles. I took an advance Mix and Mastering course, read a few books concerning issues related to sound and how we hear it. I learned a lot and went deeper into module of musical tools and acoustics in general too.

It been a good and undoubtedly creative time.

What is the situation with the pandemic in Poland at the moment? Are there parties or events happening yet?

The beginnings were hard and very conspiratorial. Now everything comes back to normal, the clubs are starting to prosper again, just like in the old years heh. Hopefully there won’t be another Lockdown, although many things might point to it again.

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

At this very moment, I am processing a book that has influenced me much and continues to impress me. Each and every person, who hasn’t gotten to know is an artist should read it.

“The Artist’s Way: A Spiritual Path To Higher Creativity” is a book that has been written by Julia Cameron – I would recommend it to anyone. It does wonders, trust me.

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

Basically, my life has been a string of many risky decisions that I make. I feel as if I am going through a rebirth that I also work on a lot. Of course, its not easy but with the support of the loved ones is much easier to follow the path. I thank them very much for everything they made for me.

What is your favourite food?

I am food lover in general! I love spending my evenings in the kitchen; however, I do not have my own specific, favorite dish or a cuisine. I eat what want or what I have a sudden urge for. I love pasta, Mediterranean cuisine, our local cuisine and street food! I always find something that fits my taste everywhere.

Iphone or Android?

Android Team!

Apart from music, what makes you happiest?

Its my second half Magdalena that gives me lots of joy – from this place I would like to send her my love and multiple kisses.

I’m also a keen enthusiast and a passionate lover of gardening. I love to spend time there nurturing my plants. There’s quite a crowd there already.

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

I am currently in the process of preparing lots of new music for you with most of it already contracted by labels such as Zerothree, Hoomidaas, Serendeep, Beatboutique. I am also working on a brand new Live Act which I will have pleasure presenting in December in the Wroclaws event at Transformator alongside with MARSH and my friend Enigmatic.

‘Atlantis Flower’ is available now via Strange Town Recordings: https://bit.ly/3kgKArb

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