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Spanish Inqusition: Oscar Mulero

Oscar Mulero has been crafting strong, pulsating Techno for over a decade and promoting the sound for more than double that onto the Spanish club circuit and further afield. Starting, around the same time (and in a similar manner) as Sonár Festival, in humble beginnings as the resident DJ of a small club that stuck to it’s values, with the help of some friends he began introducing clubbers to a sound not previously heard in the country; harsh, aggressive and deeply moving.

A lot has happened to Spanish electronic music in that time; Sonár has grown into an event that welcomes some 100,000 visitor’s to Barcelona, meanwhile the underground scene has – with the help of artist’s like Oscar and Semantica label owner Sverica – ushered in a second generation of young artists creating dark, creative and intriguing music, through his Warm Up imprint and sub-label Pole Group, enabling younger artist’s to export music via international labels whilst also developing their own sound and giving Spanish Techno something to shout about. We caught up with Oscar prior to the release of Warm Up’s latest project, the Pattern Series.

Hi Oscar, how are you?

Not bad thanks, I’ve a bit of a cold but all is well.

Firstly I wanted to say thanks for a great Boiler Room set at Dekmantel this year. The sound in the stage was in my opinion the best in the festival site.

Thank you, yeah it was really busy there but the sound system and the way it was set up was perfect for dancing.

So the first instalment in the Pattern Series will be released at the start of next month. How did the series come about?

Throughout the Series we’ll be working on different approaches for each release to express the texture of the artwork through the music that accompanies it. We’ve been working with Acid Hazel [the artist] for the artwork on most of my releases and we were aiming towards something special for our 12th year of Warm Up to push her art, whereas the music was more focused on the dance floor, it’s a more conceptual series than a music focused one.

A number of artists are using the format of a series to give the releases artistic expression and definition, is that what you guys were aiming towards?

Yea the idea was to develop a texture, built around the artwork and to produce that texture in the tracks, whose main purpose are as DJ tools.

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I was interested by your influences as an artist because there are a few that sounds are so recognisable but there are also touches of Dub-Techno in a lot of the music you create. Does that link exist?

In the late 80’s I was influenced by a lot of industrial and post-Punk sounds, EBM too and then some Drum & Bass later on whilst I was living in Madrid. All the music I listened to from when I was a child has influenced and affected what I’m doing now. A lot of the music I was making earlier on was more physical, but now it tends to be more focused on the details with fewer elements.

During the earlier years of your DJing career you ran The Omen. What was that like as an experience and in what way did it affect your sets?

For me it wasn’t really a step into my career, there were 4 of us running the club and I was really young. I took care of the music and playing myself, so they were very good years for me as I could get in there whenever I wanted and spend hours and hours playing, just me and the monitors. In terms of running the club though it was hard because I was so young and all I wanted to do was play. Having my own club was important but it wasn’t entirely what made me what I am now.

Given your relatively extensive experience as a resident DJ and the general trend at the moment for big line-ups with a variety of names on, what would you say you prefer?

When we started out at The Omen it was just me and another guy [Yke] playing, so we would play all night and start out with things like Selected Ambient Works by Aphex Twin and Amber by Autechre, then begin to build slowly. It’s a cool sensation to play to huge crowds with massive sound systems but when you play for two hours you just have to arrive and play for the dance floor. Most people say it’s very nice to educate the crowd, but at the same time it’s very nice to educate yourself.

Would you like to see more clubs doing frequent residencies, where there’s more focus on the music?

I’d love to, there’s something you miss when you’re playing in different places every weekend for just 2 hours. I’d like to get back to that again, having a proper club with a proper sound system, with more freedom too, honestly I’m missing that a little bit.

Going back to the Spanish scene and where it is now, what are your thoughts on the current state of electronic music in your country?

There is a really healthy scene in artistic terms; Exium, Reeko and Psyk are all doing great things at the moment, but the clubbing aspect of the scene is moving much slower. Apart from Sónar there’s not really enough events occurring, especially when you see the really great things happening in Holland and around the rest of Europe. As an example, since releasing music on Luke Slater’s label, Manuel [Psyk] has become very well known all over the place, but not as many people recognize him in Spain, which makes you wonder whether there is something wrong with the promoting.

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You have a pretty healthy interaction with Perc Trax. How did the ES-UK connection come about?

Doing label nights together made musical sense for us, we wanted to expand our sound to different countries and Ali [Perc] was really enthusiastic to make it happen too. In certain countries our music works well by itself, but in the UK working together seems to work better. There’s a lot of artistry in the UK scene so that is where perhaps we made the connection. The Birmingham sound was really big for us back in the mid-90’s and since that there’s been a great evolution of artistry in the UK scene.

So did the earlier Birmingham Techno output have a big influence on your sound?

Oh yea, massively so. I remember my first time playing with Regis in a club in Girona around ‘95/’96 and taking my Pet 2000 record for Surgeon to sign. A friend and I were the first to bring them over to Spain and introduce their music to Spanish clubs.

When you were first pushing that sound and playing it in clubs was it tough to bring people around, because a lot of the music is quite abrasive, very tough and not particularly accessible?

You’re right, it’s not an easy sound and it’s very raw. In the early years however it would fit very well, especially in the North of Spain, you know I was playing that sort of stuff constantly wherever I would go and it wasn’t particularly tough to get across. I think there could be a link with the character of the country and how it responds, in the 80’s much of Spain’s clubbing interest was in Soul and Funk and then in the 90’s there was a small shift to EBM, a few clubs would play it and then a slow transition began. I don’t know why, but it really worked well [back then].

The Pattern Series begins, with the first of six installations on the 1st of September, on both digital and 12” via Warm Up Records.

Interview by Olly Todd