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Zalvador [Interview]

26 min read

Hailing from Colombia, Zalvador emerged from his country's progressive music landscape in 2018. Noted for his poignant dance floor productions, Zalvador's craft shines through vividly, making each one of his creations an emotive experience. Currently calling New York home, it was a debut on Soundteller Records which foreshadowed what has been a five-year creative swell for the rising phenom. A string of well-received projects for Mango Alley, Plattenbank, Proton Music, Siona Records and The Soundgarden, have yielded play and support from Hernan Cattaneo, Miss Monique and Nick Warren. With a contribution to The Soundgarden's Winter Collection to begin the year, Zalvador now embarks on the biggest project of his career, making his much-anticipated Clubsonica debut with 'Emotions'.

Progressive Astronaut caught up with Zalvador to learn more about the release of ‘Emotions’, his studio process, future plans, and more. Enjoy.

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

Hi, thank you for taking an interest in my music. I am really very happy at this moment with all the projects that I have been developing. The last piece I heard was an ID by my great friend Kamilo Sanclemente.

How has your start to the year been? And what are your plans for the coming week?

I dedicated the first week to setting the goals I want to achieve this year. I also thoroughly checked the tracks that I started in 2022 but did not finish. Next week, I'll work on some of those tracks.

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

I consider myself a DJ because it was the first thing I learned (many years ago). In production, I feel more like an explorer. I enjoy being a DJ more because of the direct contact with the public. Feeling the reaction of the people while I'm playing is something that's really magical for me.

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

Technotronic - Get Up: with this track, I discovered electronic music.
Frankie Knuckles - Your Love: thanks to this track, the arpeggio became one of my best friends.
Pink Floyd – Echoes: I fell in love with psychedelia and progressive rock when I heard it.
Lil Louis - French Kiss: for a long time, I had this track in my dj bag.
Delerium feat. Sarah McLachlan - Silence (Tiesto's In Search of Sunrise Remix): this track got me very close to trance music.

Take us through a day in your life, from a possible morning routine through to your production work and more, please.

In the morning, I get up, do some stretching, eat breakfast, and go to work. In addition to being a DJ and producer, I am a publicist. When I return home, I rest for a hour, eat something, and sit in front of the computer at night: production, listening to promos, selecting music, or simply looking for new musical gems.

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

Colombia is a very diverse country (even musically). I think that this diversity was transmitted in some way in my performances during my first years as a DJ. Also, for those of us who are from Cali (the city where I was born) dancing salsa makes us happy. That happiness is what I always want to share with the public.

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?

The first time I went to an electronic music club, I was very young (15 years old). I remember that when I arrived, there were two giant bouncers and a very long line of people waiting to enter. When it was finally my turn, I showed the bouncers a fake ID, they laughed but eventually let me in. My friends couldn't get in. I walked in alone, made new friends, and enjoyed one of the best nights of my life. That night, I saw a DJ for the first time. When the party was over, I said: “I know what I want to do all my life. I want to be a DJ”

What have been some of your favorite venues to perform or attend events at in Colombia?

I definitely loved playing at the best club in my city: Sonido Central.

You are currently calling New York home, what prompted you to re-locate there and how would you compare the nightlife to that of Colombia?

In 2021, Colombia was experiencing a very difficult economic and public order situation. And the arrival of the pandemic made everything worse. At that moment, I decided to leave the country and look for a better future. I chose New York because I like big cities with a lot of nightlife. Obviously, New York has a greater program and rotation of international djs than Colombia. There are events here almost every day, it's really incredible.

Your debut album ‘Emotions’ was just released via Clubsonica Records, please tell us about the release and how these tracks showcase your sound.

I had been working on the album for about a year. I wanted to create something conceptual to produce different shades of my musical line. I defined the concept and began to create. It was a long process, during which I discarded many ideas. In the end, the result was seven tracks, each representing a different emotion. The album has that particular progressive sound of my music, sometimes melancholic, other times more energetic. The album will be released on March 3 on all digital platforms.

This is your first release on the label and you’ve chosen to do an album which I would say is not the norm. Why did you have a level of comfort with the label to do an album project with them straight away?

I've always wanted to release my music on Clubsonica. I think it's an excellent label, and I really like its sound. I had sent some demos in the past, but they didn't quite fit. When I finished my album, I decided to send it. Although I knew how difficult it was to sign for the first time on a label, I decided to do it. They listened to the album and decided to sign it all.

Tell us how it began to take shape? Was there an initial goal of writing an album or did this happen organically in a way?

First develop the concept. Then I dedicated myself to creating several tracks. I selected the tracks that I liked the most, and finally, I assigned an emotion to each track.

The album is quite thematic with seven tracks which center around various emotions. Tell us why it was important for you to express your thoughts, ideas and feelings in this style of a long player.

The concept of emotions allowed for several different tracks. I was attracted to that. I thought it was a good way to freely express what I felt in front of the computer.

How did you end up with the final track selection? And how difficult was it deciding on the flow from a listener’s perspective?

The selection was difficult. I discarded some tracks, but in the end, I was very satisfied with the result. The flow of the album's tracks, on the other hand, was decided with Clubsonica. Throughout the process, I felt a great connection with them, which made everything easier.

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

I don't really call it a studio. I only work with my laptop, a pair of Rockville monitors, an Arturia minifuse card, and MDR 7506 headphones. Currently, I only produce with digital synthesizers in Ableton. I used a lot of U-he vst (my favorite) and some sample and loop libraries on the album.

Let’s talk about production 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? And was there anything that inspired the album?

The impulse comes from my feelings, emotions, and memories... it is very organic. I let what I feel flow through the sounds that I am creating and finding.

I would guess the writing of the album was a long process, now that it’s done what are your thoughts reflecting back on the process?

Because of the consistent work on a concept, I was able to materialize my feelings in an organic way.

How would you feel about these tracks being remixed? And are there plans for this?

I'm always open to proposals, but right now I'm very focused on the release of the album.

Do you think the digital era changed the way we perceive artist albums? Do they still carry the weight they once did or should? Is this something that perhaps depends on who (record label) is releasing it as well?

The industry is constantly changing. I don't think it's better or worse now. I think the important thing is that the album reaches as many people as possible. I know Clubsonica is doing an excellent job with the album's release, which makes me very happy.

What’s the task you enjoy the most when producing and what is something you’d rather have taken care of by somebody else?

What I most enjoy producing is the creative part: letting my imagination run, testing sounds, trying to innovate... I would prefer to leave the technical part (mixing and processing) to an audio engineer.

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?

4pm – 6pm Sebastien Leger
6pm – 8pm Guy j
8pm – 10pm Nick Warren
10pm – 1am Hernan Cattaneo
1am - ??? John Digweed

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

I am one of those people who thinks that less is more. I would simply like to have a quiet and acoustically suitable space in a professional way.

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

The movie WHIPLASH impacted me a lot. How far should we go or what should we do to fulfill our dreams?

What’s a superpower you wish you had and how would you use it?

Mute mode: I wish I could mute what I don't want to hear.

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

I have always wanted to visit Berlin.

Apart from music, what makes you happiest?

My family, friends, the beach, a good conversation...

What does 2023 hold for you? Anything you can share with us?

Releases are coming from labels like Mango Alley, Freegrant and much more.

'Emotions' is available now via Clubsonica: https://bit.ly/3kFat7g

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