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Lucas Zarate [Interview]

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Hailing from Argentina, Lucas Zárate first emerged in 2022 with releases via Balkan Connection South America, Bekool Records, Droid9 South America and RYNTH. Immediately recognized for his organic and progressive sounds, the Tucumán resident would quickly earn the support of Gorje Hewek, Modd, Nick Warren and many more. 2023 has proved to be a breakout year for Lucas, building on the success of his early releases, the fast rising phenom has added trendsetting organic imprints Melody of the Soul, Peace Symphonies and RADI MIRA I LUBVIto his resume, while remaining a beloved DJ as part of his country's burgeoning nightlife. Now, continuing on an upwards trajectory, Lucas makes his debut on Secret Feelings with 'Esporas'.

Progressive Astronaut caught up with Lucas to learn more about the release of 'Esporas', his studio process, DJing, future plans, and more. Enjoy.

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

Hello! I'm in a great state, feeling happy and appreciative for this interview. Currently, I'm tuned in to "Tears for Fears - Everybody Wants to Rule the World."

How was the winter season in Argentina and what are your plans for the coming week?

The winter season treated me well. As some may know, I hail from Tucumán, situated in the northern region of Argentina, where temperatures soar for most of the year. However, during this past winter, the cold was almost non-existent. In the upcoming weeks, I'm gearing up for my performance with Rocio Portillo in my city, and I'm brimming with excitement about it.

Do you consider yourself a DJ or producer first? And which do you enjoy more and why?

To be honest, my journey commenced in 2020 as a DJ, a challenging year that proved pivotal in my life. With ample free time on my hands, I was at a loss on how to fill it. That's when I discovered my passion for DJing. Devoting countless hours to practice led me to hone my skills. Then, in 2021, I unearthed the other facet - creating music akin to what I used to play. This revelation blew my mind and unfurled a realm of possibilities. Connecting with individuals from other countries and cities in Argentina through music inspired me to persist. At this juncture, I would identify more as a producer than a DJ.

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

Growing up in Argentina undeniably shaped my musical preferences. My parents exposed me to a diverse array of music, including Argentine National Rock, Folklore, and Pop. However, Electronic Music gradually took the reins. Since my early adolescence, I found myself captivated by artists like Skrillex, Avicii, and David Guetta.

When we ask most artists what is responsible for the popularity of progressive music in Argentina the overwhelming answer is Hernan Cattaneo, would that be your feeling also? And if so please speak on that, also to add to that, who else from Argentina inspired you when you first discovered the music.

Hernan Cattaneo, without a shadow of a doubt, stands as the Argentine benchmark in Progressive music. He is highly revered here. I had the privilege of witnessing his performance at Forja 2022, and I was astounded by his artistry. His mastery in controlling the audience and his impeccable musical selection left a lasting impression on me. I strongly believe that numerous artists with immense potential stand in the shadows behind him. When I embarked on this journey, I recall my national role models being Emi Galvan, Fernando Ferreyra, Sebastian Busto, Ezequiel Arias, Antrim, and Mariano Mellino, among others.

If you were a tour-guide for nightlife in Argentina, what would be the clubs you’d take the people to see and what local DJs do they need to hear?

Speaking of Tucumán, the place where I've had the most exposure to nightclubs, La Boite Club and R9 indisputably lead in terms of event production. However, recently, I had the honor of participating in an event by Eita Producciones alongside Fernando Ferreyra and Nicolas Viana, two dear friends. The event was nothing short of phenomenal. There's no doubt that they will create quite a buzz in the near future.

If you are not DJing or socializing at clubs, where do we find you? And doing what?

Apart from being a DJ and producer, I am also a student of sound design at a university in my city. I invest a substantial portion of my time there, and it's where I've encountered numerous friends with musical tastes vastly different from my own, which is a wonderful experience.

When you were first getting started in production did you have someone help you or are you completely self-taught? And what would you recommend new producers do to help with the learning curve of production?

I embarked on my music production journey in 2021, a challenging year but one where we were beginning to emerge from the pandemic. My initial mentor was Federico Monachesi, who guided my first steps in Ableton Live. Having a mentor at the outset is undoubtedly fundamental. It saves you a lot of time and prevents you from merely relying on intuition, instead imparting a solid foundation.

You have a new EP ‘Esporas’ out now via JFR’s Secret Feelings. Tell us a bit about the release and who’s been playing it.

I am tremendously thrilled and content about this new EP. Initially, it started with just one track, "Esporas," but then, one after another, the other three tracks were added, culminating in this significant EP for my career. Undeniably, there's a considerable amount of effort and numerous hours of hard work that JFR appreciated, paving the way for me into his new discographic project, "Secret Feelings." Presently, Fernando Ferreyra has been actively featuring "Esporas" in his sets. He mentioned that he simply loves it, and it resonates exceedingly well with the audience on the dance floor. Emi Galvan has been playing "Silk Serenade." Recently, I received a video of him playing it in Brazil, which filled me with joy.

Let our readers inside your studio for a moment, what is your current setup and what studio tools are featured heavily in your recent productions and more specifically your EP for Secret Feelings?

 Within my studio, I have a basic yet effective setup. I begin with a MacBook Pro 2017, Pioneer HDJ X5 headphones, and Audio Technica M50 X, the latter of which I am still in the process of adjusting to. Additionally, I utilize an Audio Interface Behringer Umc 204HD and a pair of Mackie CR5 X Studio Monitors. My approach to work leans more towards digital, relying on technology to assist me at every juncture, from virtual synthesizers to some VSTs to craft accompanying melodies.

Looking a bit closer at the title track ‘Esporas’, it’s quite a thematic and distinctive sounding piece of music,  please give our readers an idea of the production process on it, could you briefly walk us through that if you could.

"Esporas" is a track that exudes a surge of energy. The sensation intensifies as it approaches a climax. I believe its most distinguishing feature is the melodious bass that accompanies the main melody, along with the Middle Eastern vocals infused with a Gate effect - a thoughtful touch. These elements were drawn from samples, but I relish editing the sounds to impart a unique touch.

Secret Feelings is quite a new imprint with this being just their second release, so what was it about the label which gave you the confidence to sign an original project with them straight away?

The confidence and enthusiasm that JFR conveyed to me while discussing his project, "Secret Feelings," were substantial. This instilled in me the conviction that this was the right platform to release my tracks.

Let’s talk about production a bit more for a moment, where does the impulse to create something come from for you? What role do often-quoted sources of inspiration like dreams, other forms of art, personal relationships, politics etc play in writing music for you?

While creating these tracks, I wasn't in search of inspiration at a particular moment. It was about sitting down in a space where I disconnect from the world and connect with the sounds, letting everything flow. Placing one sound would guide me to the next, and so forth, until I achieve something that truly resonates with me.

What is the task you enjoy the most when producing and what would you prefer someone else to do?

The aspect I find most enjoyable about production is crafting rhythms and basslines. While melody isn't my forte, I recognize its immense significance, and I invest considerable effort into it.

Now let’s talk about DJing for a moment, it’s a unique discipline at the border between presenting great music and creating something new with it, between composition and improvisation to an extent. How would you describe your approach to it?

In this realm, I have my esteemed friends from Sendas who inundate me with outstanding and fresh music. Together, we spearhead the Sendas Music Collective project, which swiftly evolved into a record label. Undoubtedly, their productions are included in my performances because I simply adore them.

How much prep do you put into the tracks you choose to play? Or are your sets totally spontaneous?

Truth be told, I prefer to be as well-prepared as possible, from auto loops to manually quantizing some tracks that rekordbox didn't analyze accurately. Regarding the music, I like to have a meticulously prepared playlist for the occasion, whether it's an opening set, warm-up, or prime time. If things aren't clicking, I seamlessly transition to other playlists and improvise. Let's just say, I always have a plan B.

Can you tell me a bit about how your work as a DJ has influenced your view of music, your way of listening to tracks and perhaps also, your work as a producer?

Upon commencing my journey as a DJ, I became more analytical about the music. I noticed that some tracks sounded "better" than others, but I lacked an understanding of why. Subsequently, when I ventured into production, I grasped crucial concepts about mixing, volumes, and balance that hold paramount importance, particularly in electronic music. You may craft a spectacular composition, but a subpar mix can mar your track, and vice versa.

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?

Choosing a favorite is an arduous question, but I think it would resemble something like this:

- Simon Vuarambon

- Sébastien Léger

- Roy Rosenfeld

- Lee Burridge

- Hernán Cattaneo

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

If I weren't a DJ or producer, I believe I would be working alongside my father in the metallurgical industry. In fact, I did so for quite a while, and it was an intriguing experience, albeit not my true passion.

Current top five tracks?

As for the top 5 tracks currently, my picks would be:

  1. Simon Vuarambon - "Mature Simplicity"
  2. Dulus - "Nomy"
  3. Tim Green - "The Night Is Blue"
  4. Roy Rosenfeld - "Toco"
  5. Elliot Moriarty - "By My Side" (Molac Remix)

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

Reading isn't a strong suit of mine, but one movie that left a profound impact is "The Pursuit of Happyness" with Will Smith. It's an incredible and deeply emotional movie that evokes a myriad of feelings.

Apart from music, what makes you happiest?

Beyond music, sports hold a special place in my heart. From cycling since childhood, transitioning to rugby, and now focusing on weightlifting, I strive to maintain a high level of discipline.

What does the remainder of 2023 hold for you in terms of releases and gigs? Anything you can share with us?

Looking forward to 2023, I anticipate significant releases on labels such as Songuara and Radiant.

'Esporas' is available now via Secret Feelings: https://shorturl.at/nrX36

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