We caught up with “the label honcho with a poncho” Hugo Capablanca to find out more about his fizzy and multicolour sonic realm full of unconventional stories and now richer of a debut EP, ‘Lap Top Less Dance’.
Capablanca is one of those precious gems that shine a special light, deliberately hidden from prying eyes within the moving sands of experimental-leaning and acid-infused electronics; continuously and minutely developing his craft, bushwhacking his way between house, disco and techno with equal talent.
Over the past decade, the Spanish producer who studied arts in Kassel, Germany, fashioned a very eclectic and peculiar approach towards DJing, quickly establishing his own imprint Discos Capablanca in 2008, which featured artists and acts such as Keita Sano, Scott Young, Two Dogs In A House (a parallel project of Ron Morelli) and Marc Piñol – his alter ego of the C.P.I. duo, in addition to collaborations with Philipp Gorbachev and Moscoman,
We caught up with “the label honcho with a poncho” to find out more about his fizzy and multicolour sonic realm full of unconventional stories and now richer of a debut EP, ‘Lap Top Less Dance‘, which recently came out (you can grab one of the limited edition 69 copies (12″ vinyl, poster + insert here). Here’s Capablanca’s contribution to our series, granted 100% Hugo – which we’ll leave up to you to discover…
Interview by Vittoria De Franchis
"I also held a residency at a club called Sol in Salamanca, where I would get paid in records instead of money as well. It’s always been “a labour of love” I guess."
Hugo, I’m glad to have you on board on our mixes series! When and how was it recorded?
It’s a live S.I.T.C.O.M. Transmission whilst entering The Zone. It has a good drive and enough weird moments. It was recorded on a Taula 4 mixer, two Technics, two CDJ2000 and a Boss Space Echo. Time and Space are relative.
Let’s dive into your background: I know you’re from Spain and studied in Kassel? How did you come to music production and DJ’ing?
I was already DJ’ing in Spain, but just for fun. I was at the art school and I would design posters for raves my friends would put up and instead of money I’d ask them to let me play some records on a smaller sound system. I also held a residency at a club called ‘Sol’ in Salamanca, where I would get paid in records instead of money as well. It’s always been “a labour of love” I guess.
At some point I grew tired of the very conservative way the art school was handled in that city and requested to exchange an academic year to the furthest possible place from there. That was Kassel, apparently. I stayed there for almost a year, occasionally playing records at a punk bar called Mutter or at art school parties, and eventually moved to Berlin.
"So many people pretend they’re so pro at what they do now, like “they know better”… there’s so much pretentiousness around. It has become way more competitive and therefore, much more dull."
Berlin is a fast-evolving city and you have been living there for some time. Can you tell us your impressions regarding its transformations and your relationship with it?
It’s pretty much a love-hate relationship. It’s still one of my favourite places on Earth, and still way more exciting than many other cities. At the same time, a lot of the romantic side of things have gone. The amateurism is gone. It used to be a very carefree place and nobody gave a fuck, most of times.
Everyone mixed up and got loose and tried things out just for fun or if they sounded interesting enough, even if it meant investing a great deal of time and energy into it. Can’t say it’s the same anymore. So many people pretend they’re so pro at what they do now, like “they know better”… there’s so much pretentiousness around.
It has become way more competitive and therefore, much more dull. I’m not playing that game though. I believe on doing things your own way, and having some fun while you’re at it. THIS IS NOT A COMPETITION KIDS. JUST FUCKING PLAY. That being said there’s still a lot of very unique places and lots of very special people around and a lots of fun to be had.
"I guess things got a bit more serious when Optimo included my very first production with him on their Fabric mix. I was like WHAT. And I got hooked."
How and when did Discos Capablanca start? Any new releases coming out soon?
I started the label almost ten years ago, just because everyone told me to not do so. It was a bad moment for music business, they said… I honestly did not care one bit about the business side of things. I just HAD to do it.
To be fair, it was also probably a way to get more involved with music and less with art without being too intimidated, since I had absolutely no idea what I was doing. So I thought I could take on the “artistic direction” of the label. And then of course I got curious and tried to remix stuff and did some very shy attempts at production with Oklo Gabon, the artist formerly known as T.Keeler, a very talented producer and musician.
I guess things got a bit more serious when Optimo included my very first production with him on their Fabric mix. I was like WHAT. And I got hooked. The thing is, because I never cared about the business side of the label, I would just put one or two records out a year. Only and solely when I had something really good in my hands. Sometimes not even then because I had no money to pay for it.
But this year things are changing quite a bit and there are 4 or 5 EPs scheduled to be released, if pressing plants allow. There’s the much anticipated new Sharif Laffrey jam “Always” about to drop, and also a killer Odopt 12”, both this month. And a truly brilliant EP by a young man called (this time) Satin Doll right after the summer break.
They’re all very fine records really. And there will probably be quite a few special releases and editions and surprises coming out next year as well to commemorate the 10 years milestone.
"I also like the idea of the EP being a completely independent entity, since it’s such a bizarre thing."
Your debut solo EP is on its way, can you tell us details about it and why you chose not to release it on your own label?
I like to think of my label as a curated effort and it just feels somehow dishonest to curate yourself. I respect people who do that but I guess it’s just not my way.
I also like the idea of the EP being a completely independent entity, since it’s such a bizarre thing. It came out of a cassette jam I recorded a while ago without laptop, forcefully. I killed my laptop while attempting to record other stuff . When I found that tape again more recently it had the title written on it (Lap Top Less Dance); most of it was out of sync, there were lots of yelling and drones and distortion and pretty much unbearable noise.
I realised there were still interesting bits, overdubbed some, and came up with the whole concept in the meanwhile. After building quite a lot of structure around it to make it more “dance” I realised it was loosing its cool so I discarded it all and stripped it again back to its bare, adding very little but necessary things for it to roll.
I’m aware it’s not precisely club hits but I really don’t care. It’s not a promo tool to get gigs. I don’t really know what it is. But I’m fond of it.
What are your plans for this year?
I’d like to engage and commit to a daily poetical action, while at the same time reinforcing a playful discipline ritual. Mainly.
That also involves lots of music. Lots of label stuff. Bits of traveling. Maybe I make some music people can dance to, for a change. I have another idea for an EP which is also a sculpture. There will finally be new C.P.I. material coming out as well. And there’s another project with Manfredas in the works. We will go to Andalucia, drink some wine and finish that shit at some point whenever the time’s right for it.