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Rodrigo Lapena [Interview]

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Hailing from Argentina, Rodrigo Lapena first emerged in 2018 on the strength of early productions for BCSA and Massive Harmony Records. His groovy progressive sound quickly caught the attention of the genre's diehard fanbase, leading to future projects for Hernan Cattaneo's Sudbeat Music, and Nick Warren's The Soundgarden, amongst others. Also highly regarded as a DJ, the Buenos Aires resident has been a fixture of Argentina's nightlife for several years, sharing the stage with top talents such as Dmitry Molosh, Kamilo Sanclemente, Mariano Mellino and more. With 2024 getting underway with a project for Collective Music, Rodrigo now returns to his pad imprint with the much anticipated 'Whispers' EP, alongside remixes from Berni Turletti and Alan Cerra.

Progressive Astronaut caught up with Rodrigo to learn more about the release of 'Whispers', his background, growing up in Argentina, his pad records imprint, DJing and much more. Enjoy.

Hi Rodrigo, thanks for talking to us today. How has your start to the year been so far and please tell us something interesting about your day today?

Hey guys, nice to talk to you. Well The beginning of this year finds me in the studio finishing some remixes, it's been a while since I've done any remixes, as I was focused only on originals. We're also preparing the second semester of pad events.

Looking back on 2024 so far, what gigs of yours have stood out and why?

So far this year I had three good shows, maybe I can highlight an outdoor event in the summer and my last date at Shamrock, nice place to play

Let’s also look at tracks released since the beginning of the year. What do you guys think have been some of the standouts so far?

Well, there has been some really good and varied music released this year, I think Polo, atish - Nostalgia, Kamilo kabi & agustin ficarra - Astro funk and the recent Simon Vuaranbom & Tantum EP are my favorites.

Take us through a typical day when you’re not travelling, what does a day in your life look like?

I wake up very early in the morning, to go to training, it's my fuel for the day, then I work a few hours, outside of music, on my personal job, which I also enjoy, and when I'm not in the studio with Ableton, I go out to eat pizza, or I spend the day watching TV series.

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

Argentina is a country with a lot of musical variety, within the world of electronic music. Personally, I had the chance to go to many parties, of different musical genres, and enjoy each one of them At creamfields I heard Hernan Cattaneo and that made me get into progressive house. Having Hernan as a reference for the country, and having the opportunity to listen to him on several occasions and his genre being progressive, makes that influence many of us when we start, at least in my case.

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

Well, I have many memorable nights you know, with my friends we had the chance to listen to the best DJs in the world, but the one I remember the most and the one that marked a before and after, was listening to Hernan Cattaneo at Creamfields 2013, that night I fell in love with the progressive genre, I connected in a special way with Hernan's music and electronic music in general, there I decided that I wanted to start playing. That night was magical.

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?

I think that The Bow and Crobar are some of the best clubs in Buenos Aires, and if you like something more underground and with great sound, Ohito In San Telmo, My favorite national DJs to listen to are John Cosani and Simon as I said before, and I recommend listening to the Who Know? crew, Cocho Agustin Ficarra, Polo, Kabi, Maezbi & Losardo, they are the new faces that I like the most and with a great future, great producers and good dj, They show something different, and they work hard in the studio, they are not Instagram DJs like many of the new ones are.

Being a Buenos Aires resident, how would you say the nightlife differs from Buenos Aires to the other major cities in Argentina? Or is there a difference at all?

I think Buenos Aires has a lot of nightlife on offer every weekend, that's the big difference, maybe in one night there are famous DJs playing in different clubs. But each city has its main club and its own vibe, for example, Cordoba, Rosario, Tucuman, to name some of the cities with the most events. I had the chance to play in those places and the parties are great.

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.

Yes, I think Hernan is the ambassador of Argentine electronic music. He has generated a lot of popularity, and today, anyone of any genre is going to listen to Hernan and that is not easy to achieve. Personally, he is my greatest reference, and also of the genre. Throughout my years of producing, I had different references. I love the sound of John Cosani and Simon Vuarambon are two references today as well. Nicholas van Orton was a reference in my beginnings and also a person who helped me.

You have a new EP ‘Whispers’ out now via your pad records imprint. Tell us a bit about the release and how it showcases your current sound.

Whisper is my first EP on our label, and I'm looking forward to it. For some time now I have been including a little more house sounds in my tracks, but without losing the progressive essence. I'm looking to be more versatile when I produce and not so linear.

There are also two great remixes from Berni Turletti and Alan Cerra, tell us why Berni and Alan were a good fit to re-interpret these particular tracks?

With my partner Rodrigo Ramirez, we think that pad is a label with a progressive essence. So we try to invite producers who represent that sound. Berni is a great friend of us and the pad family, and one of the most renowned producers in the genre. And on a personal level, Alan is one of my favorite progressive house producers today. It's going to be a great ep, with four different tracks

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 on your ‘Whispers’ EP?

To produce I use Ableton Live, a midi keyboard, an Arturia synthesizer, monitors. I also use vst like Diva, hive, omniphere, and I work a lot trimming samples, Those are my tools today, and the ones I used to create the ep

Let’s talk a bit more about your label ‘pad’ which has been running for almost four years now. What led you to start the label initially? Was this your first foray into running a record label?

Well, together with my partner Rodrigo, we thought about creating the label to show new talents and mix them with DJs with greater experience. The idea arose in the 2020 pandemic, when events could not be held and we wanted to continue connecting with music. We are oriented towards progressive house, but today any house sound is also welcome,

Now that you’re almost four years into your journey as a label owner, looking back on those years, how has your approach to running a label changed? Or has it at all?

Connected to the previous question, today as I change my style of music a little, my vision also changes when it comes to selecting the songs to release, always respecting Rodri´s choises, who is super progressive. The idea is to mix genres, not lock ourselves into just one. and today we give a lot of importance to the quality of the track and what it generates. I think it takes a long time to position a label at the top, and that is what we are working on day by day.

You’ve released on some prestigious record labels within the progressive house space, Hoomidaas, Sudbeat and the Soundgarden come to mind, so i’m curious, being a label owner, how do you decide which of your tracks you want to release on pad as opposed to shopping them to other labels?

Sometimes I forget which big labels I'm signed to, thanks for mentioning and reminding me. Nowadays I don't think about a label before producing, only when I finish a new track do I think about where to send it, these last two tracks identify me, they have that midpoint between progressive house and pure house. So I decided to release them on pad to show my new way of feeling music.

What advice do you have for artists hoping to get signed to ‘pad’?

Well, the most important thing is to be authentic, that the track has a good mix and has a progressive groove. and it also has to be club music.

Now let’s talk about DJing for a moment, you’re one of Argentina’s well established progressive house DJs, having performed alongside Dmitry Molosh, Kamilo Sanclemente, Marcelo Vasami, Mariano Mellino and Nicolas Rada, amongst others. How would you describe your approach to DJing?

Thank you for those words, being a DJ is what I like the most, being able to generate moments on the dance floor, with your own musical tastes, is something unique. My way of making music changed because of my way of listening and mixing. My sets today are linear but versatile. Some time ago I only used progressive house style tracks, today my way of mixing is progressive, but I use differents styles.

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?

Before starting to produce I was already playing, that helped me a lot when producing, to know the moments of the tracks, to put together the functional structures, and the tracks look good to mix with another. I feel that maybe being a producer changed the way I listen to music, I don't just listen to electronic music, what I listen to most is British Rock for example, and it even changed the way I listen to that music too. Since I've been a producer I can listen to music disassembled and put together at the same time, distinguishing the way it is mixed and how it was produced, it's something very crazy and funny

How much prep do you put into the sets you play, or are they spontaneous for the most part?

Good question, it all depends on how I feel, where I play and at what time, I'm not one to put together the set at home, personally I don't see it well, I used to put together the sets when I didn't have that much experience from start to finish, until One night I realized that what I was doing wasn't connecting with people and I started improvising. From there I only prepare the first 3 tracks, to be able to generate a climate and from there see where I go. I always take several folders with me, with different intensities that I separate days before and listen to several times to know the subject perfectly, that is the most important thing of all, knowing exactly the track you are going to use and at the right time. I see color in music, so I also use the same color in my sets, and I look for tracks with that color. And it is super important to respect your place, nowadays in Argentina, the DJs who are starting out do not warm up, no one prepares the track at the main stage, everyone wants to be the main artist, you enter at the first hour of the party and it is playing a guy j track for example or super intense music. And the warm is the most important part of a party

Current Top five tracks in your sets?

Navar, Golan zocher - Zoom Out
Ivan Aliaga - Robotica (Jamie Stevens Remix)
Key Lean - Bongo Bells (Michael A Remix)
Mike Griego - Perfume
Rodrigo Lapena - Aerials

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

I like to visit my family, I do it regularly, I also go to train at the gym every day, and also at home watching series with my partner.

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?

What a good question and how difficult, I dream of this line up:
The main artists in charge of closing party would be Hernan Cattaneo B2B John Digweed.
Guy J in main time
And why not? Hvob and Christian Loffler, that’s would be my dream stage.

Looking back on your career thus far, what advice would you offer to your younger self?

The most important thing is that you never stop being constant, there will be fluid moments and moments where it is better to wait, but never give up, and always work to have more knowledge about music, but not work to be famous or to make a living from music. , work for music and be true to yourself, not be a copy, not judge others. Ask for advice from the most experienced and help those who are just starting out.

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

I would continue with my usual job, at the insurance company, maybe I would be studying law like when I was younger, don't worry, it's hard for me to imagine myself away from music.

What TV series have you been enjoying recently and what are some of your all time favourites?

Watching series is another of my hobbies, my favorite is Breaking Bad, but the last ones I saw that are really very good are Peaky Blinders, Sopranos, The Office, Vikings to name my favorites.

What can we look forward to from yourself and pad for the rest of 2024?

Personally, I have several releases, between originals and remixes, and some Bootlegs to release this semester. and with pad we are preparing a great event for our anniversary, and with 2 more EPs confirmed with great remixes, which we will be telling you about in a short time.

'Whispers' is available now via pad records: https://tinyurl.com/3em748nb

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