Earlier this year we brought you the first in our local columns on Barcelona, which featured words and thoughts from three people very much entrenched in the city’s independent music scene. This time we broaden the remit slightly to take in the more electronic side of the spectrum – more a Sónar than a Primavera piece, I guess – as although the idea of a unified ‘Barcelona Sound’ is one that might not occur to many of the 1.6 million people that call the city their home, it is the bright, breezy, brilliant pop of acts like el Guincho and Delorean (pictured) that has found success on an international level of late. Although neither act is native to the city, renowned local DJ and remix artist John Talabot is, and it’s his considered, personal take on the Catalan capital that makes up the bulk of this piece.
As before, a raft of links and acts is included in the following, as well as the caveat that it is very hard to adequately sum up the buzz and feel of a city’s music scene in but a couple of thousand words. You’d be far better off coming here yourself really, and what with those two festivals taking place next summer, why not make a holiday of it?
Export Manager, Mushroom Pillow
What are your favourite festivals here, and why?
Primavera Sound Festival. I’ve been going for the past seven years and have seen some of the most memorable concerts ever: LCD Soundsystem seven years ago, !!!’s concert at Poble Nou which was amazing, ESG a few years ago, The Books and Pavement this year. Always a memorable line-up and a great atmosphere.
I’m also a big fan of Sónar, not only for the festival but the atmosphere that the city has that week. Parties all over the city and generally great music everywhere. Also the sound at the festival tends to be amazing.
What are your thoughts on the music scene here in Barcelona at the moment?
I think it’s a very exciting new period. There are lots of independent labels coming through with some great acts such as Bankrobber and Sones, labels which are embracing artists that sing in Catalan and Spanish such as El Petit de Cal Eril, Fred I Son and the always fantastic Mishima. Also in the dance scene there’s interesting things happening, especially at Hivern who are working with great music and the blog Desparrame run by DJ K**O and Delorean. There are also a few companies making great music videos at the moment like Canada who filmed the latest El Guincho video ‘Bombay’ and Crampton Video.
Where are your favourite places to see DJs and live music?
I can’t say I have a favourite club but places you should definitely check out are Razzmatazz, Apolo, they always have live shows and DJs on the weekends and its always interesting stuff.
BeCool are bringing in some interesting acts as well. Smaller places like Sidecar and especially Heliogàbal are fantastic to have a few drinks and see up and coming acts. There’s a small venue called Clandestino which sometimes has live music and there’s always a great atmosphere on weekends. Also in Gràcia there’s the Electric Bar.
I'm in Barcelona for a day and a night - what should I do and where should I go?
I’d either walk around the city or try to get myself a bike. I’d pop down to Barceloneta for a vermouth at Electricitat, have a wander around the beach and then head into El Born and around El Gotico. In the afternoon I’d go up to Montjuic and just get lost up there. If I have any time to spare I’d also go to Gràcia which has a great feel and atmosphere. For dinner I’d go to Recasens at Poble Nou.
Then wherever the nights takes you…
Ekhi Lopetegi, Delorean
Could you tell us a little bit about Sónar?
Sónar is one of our favourite festivals. We like both the music and the crowd. The crowd’s always diverse, as electronic music crosses over many different genres. It used to be more avant-garde focused which we used to love too, but now it’s more pop-oriented, which is also cool. The show we played was so great, one of the best we've had so far this year. So many good vibes.
Who do you associate with in Barcelona, musically?
We’ve lived in BCN for many years and we know a lot of people involved in music in one way or another. When it comes to our closest mates we need to mention DJ K**O with whom we run Desparrame (it’s mainly been him at the controls lately). We also have a close relationship with John Talabot and Alex Ferrer (Sidechains). Alex has helped us master and mix almost all of the remixes we’ve done – we've learned a lot from him. Same with John Talabot, who is an amazing musician we also play with. Big ups also for Plat du Jour, the best UK inspired club in BCN.
Where are your favourite places to play in the city?
We always say Apolo has the best sound-system, such a nice club to play at. Razzmatazz is probably the biggest and we’ve always been very welcomed there. There’s a bunch of small venues that we like too, but usually it depends on the club night.
How has this year been for you guys?
Last year’s been busy, very busy. Since the record’s been released we've been focused on touring mainly, which is also a different way to be busy. We’ve toured the US a few times, played in Europe, Australia, Beijing, Tokyo and even Addis Ababa in Ethiopia. We don’t spend as much time at home as we used to. But we’ve met so many new people, so many good friends all over and that is so great and important. Press wise, we're very happy with all the support and attention, there are good labels working it for us which is something we appreciate. We’ve also learned how to actually measure all this media presence. Even though it’s important there are many other things on which a band’s career depends. Right now, we just want to keep on touring and once the touring is done we’ll sit down and focus on writing a new album, which is the most exciting and scary thing we’re going to face in the future.
I’m in Barcelona for a day and a night. What should I do and where should I go?
You need to go to Barceloneta and eat some fish and drink some vino turbio at Can Maño, Bombeta, Cova Fumada or Bar Electricidad (this last one’s good for weekends to drink Vermouth in the afternoon). A paella can work too, Kaiku or El Refugi del Port are cool restaurants. Then probably walk around the beach to the old town, have some beers at the Castells for example, check some music stores at Tallers or at Discos Paradiso (awesome store). Then improvise, but if you fancy a nice drink look for the Caribbean club or the Negroni bar, awesome cocktails. The partying depends on the acts happening!
Since I was 17 years old, Barcelona has always had a good relationship with dance music. Sónar was a great way to show the world that the city had an interest in dance music and it had great variety of clubs with interesting line-ups every week. Clubs like Nitsa or Moog were bringing in Autechre, Mike Paradinas, Michael Mayer or I-F. It was a time when styles had not been defined yet and people would go out to discover new music and to dance. I went to my first club and enjoyed listening to music at such a high volume. People were dancing and enjoyed music without knowing any of the tracks the DJ was playing.
A few years later festivals such as Primavera Sound and new venues like Razzmatazz brought new and more acts and have positioned Barcelona as a city open to new music. However, the local council and government have been very restrictive and are not allowing parties in places which aren’t venues, any kind of raves or permits for new clubs. Barcelona has slowly become a bit of a snob of a city, and the local government only thinks about bringing in tourism for money and the music culture is undervalued or if it was a type of vandalism act. But despite this, I do love living in Barcelona.
Scenes and Producers
I think Barcelona has had amazing resident DJs, and they’ve influenced many producers. All that I know of music is thanks to those resident DJs in Barcelona such as Omar Leon, Zero, Marc Piñol, Angel Molina and Mouseup who learnt how to mix records as the public of Barcelona were learning about dance and electronic music. Now everyone knows of course (they have the Internet), but it was different before. In the past, what people were listening to in a club could only be heard there and only by those DJs.
Although Barcelona is renowned for its clubs and festivals, unfortunately it has not had the same success with its musicians and producers. There’s never been a Barcelona sound, like there’s been a Detroit, Birmingham or Bristol sound. I feel that for a long time the producers in Barcelona were trying to emulate the scenes from these other cities, instead of trying to make something original. Nowadays there are lots of new producers in Barcelona and each are trying to make something different. But slowly people are losing their fear of making new and original music and trying to find a sound of their own. I don’t think it’s a lack of talent, but more a problem with confidence and the lack of solid distribution platforms available to people in Spain.
I’m very happy with what’s happening at the moment for bands such as Delorean and El Guincho, and pleased to see how many people their music has reached. I feel the city deserved this opportunity and to see bands like these two going abroad is an extra motivation for musicians who are taking a risk with their music without worrying if anybody will be releasing it. Being a musician in Barcelona is difficult, the Spanish music market is very different from the English and it’s incapable of taking in many things, so many musicians have to make a decision: to make music to play around Spain or take a risk and try to release something abroad, but to combine both and live from this is extremely difficult.
Currently I’m happy to be collaborating with the label Hivern. They are releasing music by artists which they love no matter where they come from, but their aim is to promote artists from Barcelona and Spain, and I feel like we are slowly achieving this. Pional , for example, is our next big discovery.
I have a close relationship with Delorean - we’ve been friends since we were 17, I think. I met them in Zarautz when I went to try and surf for a few days. I quickly realized surfing wasn’t for me and went back home. A year later we met up again in Barcelona and I found out they had a band. Since then we have been close and with K**O of Desparrame (Delorean’s blog). Delorean’s success this year feels like my own and I’m extremely proud because we’ve grown up learning together, exchanging ideas and albums and they have worked very hard to be where they are. A lot of people are not aware that having a band is much more difficult that it seems, I went on tour with them a few years ago, we did 2,000 Km in 48 hours and I decided I’d never have a band, ha ha!
Barcelona is a small city and that’s good to be able to see friends, have a drink, and think about music, it’s a city that inspires; it has the sea, beautiful neighbourhoods, mountains, and excellent restaurants.
Clubs, Neighbourhoods and Restaurants
Out of all the clubs in Barcelona, if I had to choose one today I’d go for Moog, because it’s a small club (200 people max.) with a good soundsystem. There are people from everywhere: tourists, locals, people who don’t know where they are going and people who are there every weekend. They open every day and it’s nice to DJ there because you are close to the people.
If I had to choose a neighbourhood in Barcelona it would be La Barceloneta. It’s the neighbourhood by the sea, full of sneaky people, people who enjoy life, the neighbourhood of the Rumba Catalana and gypsies, of fishermen, small restaurants where you’ll find great rice and fish dishes like el Refugi Del Pesacador or Cova Fumada. Nearly all the buildings are falling apart but it’s nice to go in the summer and have a drink.
I’m not sure what style or scene my music belongs to. I feel comfortable playing under the guise of John Talabot because I don’t have to satisfy any scene, or a public that only like one type of music or expect anything in particular from me. I’ve tried to do different things in my music and remixes, and I like the freedom in not thinking or knowing what I’m going to do when I start writing a track. I feel that having ties to certain styles is what’s limiting dance music and producers sometimes. I think some producers have possibly forgotten about experimenting, trying new things in the electronic environment, on the other hand pop bands, are using electronic tools in a much more creative way than the electronic producers these days. I’ve always tried giving my music a certain texture, to give it a life that I wasn’t finding in techno or house productions. I wanted my music to sound alive. I don’t have a big studio, so sampling has permitted me to give that texture to my music, I’ve sampled pretty much everything and I like to work with different styles of music, like if it was a collage. There are some songs with 20 different samplers and other with just 2, but I only use sampling as raw material to transform it into my own thing and give it that texture which other types of music.
This year I was happy to have played at Sónar; it’s been around since I was little. I remember the first time I went: extremely loud music in every space, lights, bumper cars. The space was so huge that I got lost and didn’t find my friends until five hours later. Even today I get slightly nervous when Sónar arrives as it’s something so special.
The festival has always taken a real interest in promoting Catalan and Spanish artists, they have always given opportunities to DJs and producers who didn’t have a place to perform before… Sónar is a magical festival because it combines local unknowns and international artists and people accept and enjoy it.
Delorean play the followng UK dates in December:
Monday, December 6th - London, Hoxton Bar and Kitchen
Tuesday, December 7th - Manchester, Ruby Lounge
Wednesday, December 8th - Brighton, Jam
Delorean photo by Chus Anton; Parc de la Ciutadella by Alice Skinner; Richie Hawtin at Sónar 2010 by Google Images. Many thanks to Fernando, JT & Delorean