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Ruben Karapetyan [Interview]

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Born in Armenia but now calling Los Angeles home, Ruben Karapetyan has carved out a unique place in the electronic underground. His emotive synth leads, cross-cultural motifs and tough, dancefloor minded grooves have made for a resonant worldly sound that is all his own. Following a ten-year hiatus, Ruban made a triumphant return to electronic music in 2020 with a series of the releases via Mango Alley, Movement Recordings, The Soundgarden and Univack. On the strength of his fresh, progressive sound Ruben quickly earned praise from the genre’s trendsetters in Hernan Cattaneo and Nick Warren, while also becoming a regular in Beatport’s competitive sales charts. Now, as one of the genre’s most in demand talents, Ruben launches his RKP imprint with ‘Nostalgic Recall’, alongside remixes from Michael A and Hobin Rude.

Progressive Astronaut caught up with Ruben to learn more about the release of  ‘Nostalgic Recall’, his plans for RKP, DJing, studio process and more. Enjoy.

Hi Ruben, thanks for chatting with us again, how’s the first quarter of the year been for you?

Good Morning Mitch, thank you for having me once again!

I have been staying very busy with production and DJing and it does not seem like things will be slowing down anytime soon. I have already released 8 remixes and 5 originals in addition to all DJ gigs.

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 started back in the mid 90's something most people may not know about me. I am the only electronic artist that was asked to remix the one and only rock band CURE for Blue Crome recordings in 1999.

My best friend Harout Pogossian was making music on Impulse tracker, so I always watched and learned. I was a DJ at the time, playing big festivals like Audiotistic and EDC. I slowly started trying it myself, when FL studio came around in the late 90's, I switched from Impulse tracker to FL and been on it ever since.

Nowadays it's so easy to learn and make music, back in the 90's we had to invest so much money to be able to produce music. Today it only takes one laptop, and you're ready to go. Also, with YouTube there are countless tutorials to watch and learn. A good example is Dowden, doing an outstanding job explaining how things are done step by step. The main thing is not to rush, just take one thing at the time, pay close attention to tracks from your favorite producers, also never be afraid to ask. I have been getting so many massages from new producers asking "How I made this part or that part of the track" and I make sure to reply in as much detail as I possibly can to help out. It's not an overnight thing, so stick to it, you will get better and better with time and practice.

With the majority of progressive music artists, DJs, labels and events living or happening outside of North America, do you feel any sort of disconnection to the scene living in Los Angeles?

For a touring DJ living in the US location creates issues with regular gigs in the rest of the world. For instance, if you were to fly out to Europe for one show it requires a lot of flight time, not to mention flight prices make it very difficult for promoters to make it work effectively, so it has to be mini tours, 4-5 shows at a time for it to all come together and be worth it.

Unfortunately, Progressive music is not as big in the US as it is in Argentina for example. We don't have the same movement or following. We all do our part to push the sound here locally and hopefully by the end of the year things will grow and progress more.

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

Hollywood, Los Angeles is very big on clubs. There are a few definitely worth mentioning that constantly push progressive sound. Avalon and Sound in Hollywood would be my top choices to take visitors to hear good music.

As far as local DJs there are a lot of talented locals, but seeing Kristina Sky live is a must when you're in Hollywood, this girl knows how to work the dance floor.

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

I am not very big on going out to clubs, I think few times I went out this year was to see John 00 Flaming at Avalon and Jerome Isma-Ae at Exchange. I am more into a quiet lifestyle. I mostly enjoy staying home, working on music, watching TV or BBQing in the backyard, with close friends and family.

You have just launched your own record label ‘RKP’. What led you to start the label, why did now feel like the right time to do it and is your first foray into running a record label?

There is so much good music out there that does not get the attention it deserves and I get so many good demos from starting up producers. Therefore, it was logical for me to start my own label, and sign all this great music that was being sent to me.

In this industry with everything timing has to be right. It's fair to say the past 2 years my attention and focus was on building Ruben Karapetyan as a DJ/Producer/Brand and now that I have enough "pull" to be able to push other artists forward, it seemed like just the right moment to start my own label and promote the sound I love!

What advice do you have for artists hoping to get signed to RKP?

I have a different vision with RKP. When it comes to signing or putting music out, I don't want to release weekly like most labels, it's more about the music that moves me and touches my soul, so I am thinking maybe 5-6 releases per year. I also do things a little different. I sign tracks by invitation. I would email you and ask for the original from you or ask you to remix for my label. But just like any label I am always around to hear demos, so please send your music to RubenKarapetyan@mail.com

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

I am fortunate enough to have the constant support of these two legends, but to answer your question, yes "big DJ's = big following = better chance to reach a wider audience." Just like any other bossiness, we try to have successful releases. I've had the honor to work with both Nick and Hernan in the past (they remixed 2 of my original tracks for Mango Alley), and looking forward to more projects with them!

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

I guess being a DJ helps a lot to choose remixers for the label, as a DJ you constantly listen to music from fellow producers, and develop favorite ones that make music that fits well in my style and sound. I really enjoy what KYOTTO and Mayro are doing, so I invited both of them to RKP to remix original by talented Nacres, track called Naturalie, for 2nd release on RKP, release date set for September.

I always try to keep 1 or 2 remixes. I believe 2 versions of any original with the right sound is more than enough to choose.

The first RKP release is just about to come out, it’s a single from yourself entitled ‘Nostalgic Recall’. Tell us a bit about the track and why was this the right piece to launch the label with? Was this something you had been holding specifically to use as RKP’s first release?

I wrote Nostalgic Recall about 3 months back, it's deeper, darker, groovier than my usual production style, and the sound is exactly the kind I wanted RKP to be known for, so it was perfect fit for RKP 001.

How did you go about choosing the remixers (both of whom have done a sensational job.) What made Michael and Hobin the right fit for this particular track?

I am a big fan of Michael and Hobin's music, and I almost play every track from these guys. With any release it's best to balance things, the original being very deep, dark, spacey track. I knew Michael will add his driving baselines and energy to have that massive dance floor monster, and Hobin always has a talent to pick up the track and add an elegant spacey feel to it while always keeping things working on the dance floor. I am honored to have these amazing producers joining me on my first release!

I believe I put together the best of both worlds, deep dark, and also dance floor driving package!

What if anything inspired the production of ‘Nostalgic Recall’. And what role do often-quoted sources of inspiration like dreams, other forms of art, personal relationships etc play in the creation of your music generally?

I always say, making music is like telling a story but with notes, or listening to music is like reading a book but with sounds, you can always tell my mood, state of mind from my music. I was writing Nostalgic Recall on very rainy days we had in California past few months. No sun, always wet, so my mood was going along with the rain and my music always follows my mood.

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?

I have been DJing since the early 90's, when we were doing small warehouse parties and underground desert raves in California, so DJing is like second nature to me, standing on stage feels like home.

DJing for me is more about creating a journey that I can take my audience to, carefully mixed, key matched tracks, that I spend a lot of time programming before I get up on stage.

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?

DJing has a big influence on how you do things in studio, for example, when you're up on stage and you play that brand-new track you just finished, you get the chance to see the reaction from crowd, you can notice what works and what doesn't, what it's missing etc. I always make mental notes, to come back to the studio and make the changes I think it needs, and try it again, you can always feel that "approval" from your audience, they give you that feeling "that it's ready to be released." Being able to go out and test your music before releasing is a massive advantage for any producer!

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?

Kristina Sky 9-10

Guy Mantzur 10-1

Hernan Cattáneo & NickWarren  1-6

John 00 Flaming 6-9

Myself to close the night

"Haha I only included myself because there is no way I am missing out on this lineup, I mean look at all the talent I put under one roof :) "

Current Top five favorite tracks?

There are many tracks, but the ones I've been playing none stop past month are

1) Whoriskey - Save yourself (Ruben Karapetyan Remix) [JOOF recordings]

2) Emi Galvan - Around the World [Replug]

3) Gorkiz Auseeb Khan - Macroscopic Ego (Original Mix)

4 )Integral Bread, Analog Jungs - Connection (Integral Bread Remix) [Univack]

5) Jerome Isma-Ae - Baharat (Ruben Karapetyan Remix ) [Jee Productions]

 You’ve got one meal left on earth, what are you eating and where is the meal taking place?

 Oh that is easy, having wagyu tomahawk steak in my backyard, cooking myself with help of my son Karo :)

What does the remainder of 2023 hold for yourself and RKP? Anything you can share with us?

It looks like it's going to continue being a very busy year.

Yesterday my remix of Whoriskey's Save Yourself was released on JOOF Recordings, my Latest remix of Jerome Isma-Ae called Baharat is out on JEE productions, my collaboration with Alex Mango called Golden Age is coming out on June 15 on Mango Alley with Remix by none other than Anthony Pappa & Jamie Stevens.

Also I was invited by Nick Warren & Petra to do "Nick Warren Presents The Soundgarden" DJ set on Metrodance on June 1st, and also honored to have my "Sound Frequencies" signed to The Soundgarden label out this summer.

My collaboration with Kristina Sky will be out on Mango Alley in few months, 2 track EP on Movement recordings, releases on 3rd Avenue, Univack, Transensations Records, and many many more.

As for all DJ tours, podcasts, and management of RKP label I have one full package of business for rest of the year!

But I love being where I am and I'm very grateful to everyone for giving me a chance to share my art with the world.

'Nostalgic Recall' is available now via RKP: https://bit.ly/3HJXGc5

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