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Paco Osuna: Thoughtful Evolution

An honest discussion on changing times and raw emotion with the Spanish ambassador and ENTER. resident.

Paco Osuna is an artist with conflicting ideas. Proponent of honest intimacy, contributor to brooding label goliaths, partial Luddite and a thoughtful mediator the man from Barcelona approaches a crossroads between new school, old school and the simple beauty of creation.

Heralded as a proud ambassador for Spain's electronic music scene his career departs from the path of numerous, incremental progressions in favour of large, life-changing events. Holding a nightly residency for Ibiza's Amnesia whilst still in his youth acted as a platform towards far-reaching international exposure and immediate shoulder rubbing with established icons. Whilst 2003 and 2006 saw Osuna establish his own labels, Shake and Mindshake respectively, circa 2007 a natural knack for production and a unique reaction to the dark magnetism of the then prevalent minimal sound led to the first of many much lauded contributions to Acquaviva and Hawtin's Plus8 imprint. Releases on Clink, Minus and Spectral followed as well as the cultivation of Osuna's own projects, namely the Club4 concept in Barcelona and the expansion of his labels' artist rosters. Now, Paco is a figure synonymous with the clunking might of Hawtin's ENTER machine performing as a monogamous resident at the weekly Space event and representing the brand around the globe.

Pushing a stripped sound thick with moody departures and inky elements Osuna has stayed true to his minimal roots - he is one of few artists that strives to continue the development of the genre - as opposed to abandoning it. This along with an explosively potent, self-instilled work ethic casts Osuna as a man with still bristling potential. When he finds the time, who knows what shall be achieved.

When we meet a few guiding principles occupy Osuna's thoughts. First the idea of self-worth - of having your 'own sound'. Whilst the goal of most genuine artists is to eventually, almost organically, discover a sound unique to them, the idea of honest originality is a concept that Osuna has fiercely and immediately pursued since the very beginning of his career. This is reflected in the strength of his productions and is an affecting factor in the generation of the second idea: gaining the trust of the people, and being deserving of this trust. Once throwing parties for a few hundred dedicated music fans, Osuna as with any rising artist now sees more arching festival stages then dingy intimate alcoves and recognises the differences - not just in physical space, but in the consciousness and mentality of the people before him; how this effects the atmosphere of a party and what it means for him as a performing artist. The third is a musing on technologies part in shaping the electronic scene - being an advocate of the vinyl school whilst simultaneously embracing new technology means Osuna is in a rare position, experiencing the positives gained from both walks of life.

After his set in ENTER's Sake bar I snared a brief talk with Paco in Space's backroom to discuss the above musings, his residency at ENTER and the near and far future:

Barcelona is one of the most artistically alive cities in Europe. Imagination and expression are encouraged and flaunted everywhere you look, how important was it to be able to live and work in such an environment?

"Barcelona has always been very present in my life, in everything. Both as a city and a musical scene we have always strived to have our own spirit - when other form of music were very big in the rest of Spain Barcelona always maintained its own sound without any commercial following - we are very proud of this freedom."

"In the past I did a night where we never announced the party line-ups, the people were completely trusting of its taste - of our taste. Sometimes you could see someone entirely unknown, another, perhaps Richie Hawtin - it was a constant surprise where the most important thing was the trust of the people."

Is the aim then, to translate the magic of these parties to bigger events, to do large scale events with no line-ups?

"It is difficult. As soon as you play for a crowd of 4-5000 people there cannot be trust - everything is too massive - you require a small space, a club of 500 people like ours was. There you know instantly that the crowd understands the music, they don't want bullshit - you know at the end of the night they will club you if it is not good."

"Once you play for 4-5000 people you cannot trust - it is too massive. 4000 people do not go and see you or any other DJ. In a club with 500 people - like ours - it is very easy and very nice. You know this crowd understands music, they don't want to listen to bullshit - you know at the end of the night if it is not good they will club you."

Is the challenge to bring that feeling of trust onto a bigger stage?

"It is impossible. I mean, it is already difficult on a stage with big names. On a stage at Creamfields for 5-10,000 people, I don't think 10,000 people come to listen to Paco Osuna - probably to Richie Hawtin or Loco Dice."

The first big step in your career was residency at Amnesia, how did that come about?

"I was working in Valencia and was at a period in my life when I had no exit, no job in that city. No promoters or clubs wanted to work with me - they didn't want to trust in my sound. A friend of my fathers was a mutual friend of Martin [Ferrer] from Amnesia and put me forward as a resident - it was a big step in my life, not only my career because it changed everything. I learned absolutely how to manage a dancefloor. I was a resident playing 7 days for 7 different nights of music. I had to open sometimes when DJs were Tiesto or Sven Vath - it was hard."

Did this early exposure to such big names influence you in any way?

"Of course I learned from them but influence-wise when I am playing it must be only myself - completely me - it was like that even then."

The vibe on the island has changed notably over time. In your eyes, does the vibe remain different from mainland Spain - from Europe?

"Everything is different from when I began, I am twenty years older - the first time I came here was in '98 - but it is part of evolution. Maybe it is less wild, less magical, but there are also so much more opportunities in other ways. I do not like to complain in life. I would say you must live the moment and survive as well as possible."

You are heavily involved in Enter which is obviously very conceptually based. Your Club4 concept and Mindshake philosophy also draw on the idea of conceptuality, why do you engage with the idea?

"Actually I don't think I do. When I am DJ-ing I constantly try to do something different. I don't have time to think of something 'new' and 'exciting' - it is hard. I have been with Richie since the first days of ENTER and working with him, watching what he's doing - I do not have this time or this team. I am happy to be a part of the [Enter] project - involved as a DJ and with promotion - we are like a family. To have my own night or fully engage in such things is too much responsibility."

Your performance setup is a mixture of the old and the new, using digital vinyl with Traktor along with hardware devices and digital manipulation. For effects, why do you use Ableton Live instead of Traktor's onboard mirrors?

"Everyone must find a way in which they feel most comfortable performing a DJ set. Traktor's effects are very good, and I use them alongside the Ableton processing, but Live gives me more freedom to manipulate the sounds exactly how I like. In Traktor things are more 'standard' - again it is imperative, so important, to find your own sound."

In the past you have experimented with live performance, collaborating with Alex Under, do you have any plans to explore these avenues?

"If you have asked me two days before I would have said no. This very morning I was working on an idea, not just live, but a mixture of digital and live. The end of the production of Technics turntables has had an effect on the way we artists perform: since they are no longer made it is difficult to go to a club and find a good turntable, you have problems with needles etc. I know there will be a day when I will have to move completely to digital."

Do you feel DJs are being forced to leave turntables and the 'past' behind?

"I think my generation can survive maybe 10-15 years more, but the generation after? They already don't know - this is why I want to do something different. Perhaps I shall move to synchronizing Traktor with Ableton and figuring something special to create a real show."

You participated in Richie's CNTRL Tour in America, what drew you to this?

"As I said before, I don't like to judge people, everyone has to find their own way. In some ways it pisses me off that people buy Traktor, go to Beatport and call themselves a DJ. If they want to do it that way then do something creative, give me more. I will not call myself 'the real deal', because everyone calls themselves that - but when we started with turntables it was not easy to match two records in time - it was something you had to work at - it was special. That kind of 'school' I miss a little bit."

ENTER's adherence to concept is militantly strong. Does this focus affect the way you play - your selection of material?

"I would have to say yes - Richie is so focused on the concept. For sure, the music is perhaps more techno, more deep techno, I would not say 'darker' but maybe less airy and more serious."

Your label Mindshake has been moving from strength to strength, do you have any upcoming work you'd like to share?

"We have a release by Carlo Lio and an album from Alexis Cabrera with remixes of each track including a Barem cut. The label is doing very well but I need to spend more time preparing parties/label showcases for next year - the showcase at Sankeys earlier in the season went very well. Finding the time between gigs - and living - is very hard."

Do you have any upcoming work or projects?

"My beautiful son is coming around the 15th October - he shall take all the Beatport charts by storm."


Catch Paco Osuna playing ENTER.Main tonight (Thursday 29th August).

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