Last month, Oscar Mulero released a beautiful conceptual LP and EP and I interviewed him about it for DJBroadcast.
From his heady beginnings in the 80s from DJing the experimental clubs of Madrid, Oscar Mulero still manages to keep it underground. Mulero is one of the more prominent techno personas who helped establish DJing as a career. Apart from being a DJ, Mulero is also a well-known producer of experimental techno, owner of two record labels and a keen collaborator with his techno comrades and visual artists. Mulero will release his fourth LP Muscle and Mind later next month. For DJBroadcast, Mulero elaborates on the ideas behind his new record, his various collaborations and his opinions on the changes in the club scene over the last 25 years.
Do you believe that a thought or a mental state can influence the physical body?
Yes, of course. You can even create diseases coming from a certain state of mind. And that was my idea for the album – dealing with duality in music in a way that the more ambient and harmonic became the ‘mind’ part of the album, and tracks which are more orientated for the dance floor – the more physical ones- are about the muscles.
Recently, I have observed a growing trend towards the physical and biological effects of sound and the way frequencies can be perceived by our body and brain. Have you noticed this as well and how much is it included in the concept of your new LP?
Not really, my idea wasn’t focused on the direct response on the physical presence of sound, but on the sense of hearing. So how your body and mind process the music after it gets through your ears.
I read that each track was created with only a few necessary elements. How did you decide when the track was ready and were there special elements (field recordings, instruments) you used in the album’s creation?
In my case, if I could keep working on a track, it would never be ready. Even when I listen to tracks on the new album now, I still think that this or that could have been done differently.
While recording Muscle and Mind, I was very concerned about the technical way of mixing, because one of the most important things about this album was working in a more technical way. I was looking for wider and deeper sound. I wrote all the tracks in my studio, and then I took the material to Madrid and mixed it on a proper mixer in a studio. I was also testing out several tracks in clubs before sending them to be pressed. I’ve been playing them for about a half of a year now. So for me, it’s always difficult to decide when the tracks are done.
That’s interesting, because you release so many tracks, records and remixes! Last autumn, you released an EP with Christian Wünsch as Spherical Coordinates, now you are just releasing an LP, an EP, and a Subjected remix. What else can we expect from you or your record labels in the near future?
I’m going to release some new music on several labels like Warm Up, for example the second volume of the Pattern Series. Last year was full of collaborations and as I knew I was going to make a new album, I decided that this year, I want to collaborate less and focus on my own stuff: release an album, an EP and do a few remixes. But there are still some collaborative projects I will keep on doing, including the Light & Dark audio-visual set. I need to do different kinds of things; that’s how I keep myself motivated.
Together with the Muscle and Mind LP, you also released the Dualistic Concept EP, which includes remixes of the tracks from Muscle and Mind. Do you see the remix as a concept of dualism – same, but different? And how does the EP relate to the LP?
The concept of the EP was having two original tracks taken from the album, but with different edits. One I made myself, and two other producers would collaborate on the rest. When I was thinking about whom to collaborate with, I also had in mind the album’s concept: I wanted somebody, who is more conceptual or experimental, that’s why I chose SHXCXCHCXSH. I think they’re perfect for the Mind part. For the other part, I chose Stanislav Tolkachev; I’m a big fan of his music, it’s more physical. So his presence on the record creates a nice contrast with SHXCXCHCXSH.
The imagery used for Muscle and Mind seems to be like that from an old medicine book. How did you find the illustrations for the album?
I worked with a very talented young girl from Spain who goes under the artistic name of Acid Hazel. When I told her my idea and asked her what does she have in mind, she came up with the image of old fashioned drawings that would look like they’re from the middle ages or so. At the beginning, the first ideas were quite strong – muscles, a brain or a fist. But eventually we agreed on making it a bit softer. And I’d say they match with the music of the album very well. I’ve had some quite positive feedback on them.
So those are original drawings?
The fragments are taken from anatomy book illustrations and photographs. Also from antique prints. The images have been processed so that the colour is similar across all of them, to make them look like they come from old anatomy books.
The Muscle is symbolized by the square images, which are bigger and stronger. The Mind are the circles, the softer shapes.
The images or textures that are below each of the pictures are voice waves. Those in Muscle are normal male voice notes, whereas the ones on Mind are waves from opera segments and children crying. This element was intended to provide a final link between the artwork and the sound, and reference both parts.
Even though the work is meant as a whole, there is a strong emphasis in the differences between the parts of the muscle and the mind.
So it’s important to you that the visuals on the sleeve match your music. Furthermore, when playing live, you perform the Light & Dark audio-visual set, working with visual the artists Fium. Are visuals an important part of your work?
They are important, because there are no lyrics in my music. I think that my music can take you wherever you want to; but when I add some resources to that, it may take you in a completely new direction. Maybe through visuals, I can give somebody a new path. That’s why visuals are important to me. It’s a pity that there aren’t more clubs and festivals that support more audio-visual acts.
After 25 years of DJ-ing, producing, performing, running labels, promoting, travelling and distributing, what is your driving force? And where do you get the energy to refine your style and keep creating?
About DJ-ing – that’s just something I love to do. And I’ve been doing it for 24 years now. But it’s true that to keep myself in the business globally, it’s really important to keep myself involved in different projects, like the audio-visual project or Spherical Coordinates for example. I also release different styles of music on different labels. I need this like breathing. So the driving force comes through being involved in many different projects and touring every weekend.
You have been active in techno and dance music for the last two decades. How has the perception of and attitude towards techno changed within this time?
I think techno is as big as it used to be between 1995 and 1999. In my opinion, everything has already been done in club music in the past, so for me, it’s a cyclical thing. For example, there was a big boom of minimal music a few years ago. Many people thought it was new, but it had already been done in 1995 and 1996 by record labels such as Chain Reaction and Basic Channel and guys like Mike Ink. Sure there was evolution in the industry, clubs and studios equipment, but for people who have been in the techno scene for 20 years, it hasn’t really changed that much. Maybe there are new clubs and new places to play, but apart from that, techno has been there for us for ages.
And what about the crowd? Do you see changes in the crowd energy or the way people perceive music between when you used to play clubs in 1997 and when you play now?
Yes, since it probably depends on the event or the club you play in. But the reactions of the crowd to the music are still the same. It’s the same message; you just use different tools. Obviously, everything is more professional and we’ve got better sound conditions and such. But it’s still the same game.