If you were wondering how the Portuguese electronic music scene is going, look no further. Lisbon-based producer Violet, real name Inês Coutinho, is actively promoting Portuguese music through her transmission platform Rádio Quântica, which she co-founded alongside boyfriend and partner in crime Photonz.
Together they also run the One Eyed Jacks imprint, which has sheltered music from a bunch of local producers including IVVVO, Lake Haze, Pal+ and many more and Violet hosts a monthly show for RBMA’s ‘Scenery‘ series, focused on Lisbon’s underground scene, while also curating catwalk music for haute-couture brand Versace. A busy schedule.
In order to better understand Violet’s multi-faceted persona, we caught up to get further insight into her subtle craft, as she recorded a captivating mix that melds acid beats, swinging house and rugged techno, fully embodying her stamina behind the decks.
Interviewed by Vittoria de Franchis
"We thought that with such a rich and varied scene in Portugal it was a crime that there was no mirror of that in the radio medium."
Glad to have you over in our mix series! Can you please tell us about the mix you have recorded?
Thank you for having me, so glad to be amongst such a lovely group of artists in your mix series. I recorded it at the Rádio Quântica studio in Lisbon on two CDJs and a trusty Pioneer mixer.
I’ve been preparing for an after-hours set for a One Eyed Jacks party in Lisbon at Europa Sunrise – a lovely club that used to be a room in one of the city’s legendary clubs in the 90s rave boom, Kremlin – so I had a lot of trippier loopy tracks on my mind, but mixed it up with some current and old favourites from labels like Nocta Numerica and Meda Fury.
Let’s dive into Rádio Quântica, what’s the story behind the radio station?
In the summer of 2015 my boyfriend (Photonz) and I were on holiday in Portugal (we still lived in London then) and whilst driving around we realised that the local radio station didn’t offer much content at all about the underground scene and the ideas close to our heart.
Back in the UK there’s NTS and Radar Radio, and in Germany there is Berlin Community Radio and so on and so forth. We thought that with such a rich and varied scene in Portugal it was a crime that there was no mirror of that in the radio medium. We started talking to a few crews, DJs, artists and activists that we thought were doing vital work in their niche.
Our friend Gonçalo who is a super skilled programmer as well as a great DJ offered to help and build the whole broadcast technology side of it, João a.k.a. Shcuro worked on the website. It was real teamwork, in a matter of 3 or 4 months we were on air with 70 broadcasters. Nowadays there are more than 140 of us broadcasting and we are in a wonderful studio in central Lisbon that the lovely people at the Rua das Gaivotas 6 cultural hub shared with us.
We work in a very communal way, many collaborations and ideas have emerged from the radio project. We have been running a monthly night at club Lounge in Lisbon, from February we are going to pair it with a bimonthly night at Lux Frágil’s two floors, an invitation that filled us with excitement because it truly is the club of clubs in Lisbon and to think that we can regularly put our DJs in that amazing setting is a dream come true.
In terms of radio shows I do quite a lot: I take turns with Elles doing ‘Venus Rising‘ every two weeks, a show dedicated to women in music; I take turns with Maria – my other half in our band A.M.O.R. – doing Summer of Love, a very fun and eclectic fortnightly show and I take turns with Photonz doing the One Eyed Jacks show, which is more DJ oriented.
I also do a radio show for RBMA Radio that focuses solely on Lisbon’s underground music scene – from minimalist pianists to acid producers, rappers and rockers.
"The label vision is one of rave romance, Photonz and I were heavily influenced by the early days of rave in Portugal"
What’s the state of Portuguese electronic music scene?
It’s very diverse and more exciting as each month passes. There is a very talented younger generation coming up and doing their DIY projects, like throwing independent parties and starting labels. They also collaborate a lot, so it’s less and less strange to see the noise/ambient people doing stuff with techno producers and rock/punk/hardcore people flirting with disco and house, and of course, you see brilliant Kuduro producers playing some of the best clubs in the country.
The hip hop, urban and UK-influenced scene also seems quite healthy. Also, many new venues are opening and giving a chance to new, lesser-known but super talented DJs, like Lux’s new venue Rive-Rouge, EKA Palace and Damas, alongside mainstays like Lux, Lounge and Music Box who all keep pushing the boundaries and doing a lot for local talent.
There are also a couple of after-hours spots and one-off warehouse parties that are really gaining traction, which I feel brings a wilder side to the electronic music scene that is very much needed in Lisbon – we could use a stronger rave spirit for sure.
Can you list any rising Portuguese producers?
EMAUZ, EDND and Caroline Lethô are probably my current favourites in terms of sound, originality and emotion. I will also strongly recommend Shcuro a.k.a. José Acid (both his aliases are great – check his labels Sombra and Paraíso), Silvestre and Renato from Padre Himalaya, Mind Safari and Pal +. I could go on for ages, there are loads of really, really good artists popping up.
You also founded One Eyed Jack with Photonz, how do you select the producers to release?
Photonz founded the label and I soon joined as an artist but was rooting for them in the backstage for a long while. We have naturally developed into a crew of sorts, with our main artists being Roundhouse Kick, Pal +, Lake Haze, Photonz and myself – but we all have similar influences so we normally end up playing out lots of records by the same artists which really unites us as DJs too.
The label vision is one of rave romance, Photonz and I were heavily influenced by the early days of rave in Portugal, where a very particular, naive yet quite heavy sound was developed by artists like Urban Dreams, Underground Sound Of Lisbon, LL Project, Kult of Krameria, O.L.N. – we want to keep that original flame alive and mix it with our more traditional Chicago influences, as well as with our love for acid house.
"It was inspiring to work with Donatella Versace, she gave me creative freedom and was always keen to push the message of positivity and strength for women around the globe."
Besides being a musician you are also an activist. How do you channel your ideas through music?
Yes, and I wish I could be even more active in my feminism and fight against racism, transphobia, homophobia… If only I could stretch time!
I started expressing those ideas with my rap band A.M.O.R. actually, in tracks like “We Gs“, and it all took a new weight when in 2015 I decided to do an all-girl cover of Underground Resistance’s classic ‘Transition‘ with my Lisbon sis Maria, Nightwave , Coco Solid , Nancy Whang and Mamacita to celebrate International Women’s Day.
It got picked up by Donatella Versace who loved the message and used it for a Versace runway show in Milan – we donated the money it generated for the music to Equality Now, an NGO working in gender equality – that whole process was one of my favourite things that I was ever involved in.
In 2016 my Suspiciously Delicious sister Elles helped me produce another cover for International Women’s Day, “Let It Be House” by Mike Dunn, with vocals from Alinka, Debonair, Maria, Nightwave, Coco Solid and all the Bandcamp revenue we made from it, including generous donations by Optimo, Luke Solomon and more, were again sent to Equality Now. Needless to say I’m doing it again in 2017…with a twist :)
The Versace collaboration also went on and I did music and wrote lyrics for two more shows in collaboration with Photonz. It was inspiring to work with Donatella Versace, she gave me creative freedom and was always keen to push the message of positivity and strength for women around the globe.
Another way I channel my emancipatory ideas through music is definitely my community work for Radio Quantica and my work as a volunteer tutor of DJing and production for girls.
Discover more about Violet on Inverted Audio.VioletOne Eyed JacksAcidHouseTechno