DJ Rolando has paid his dues to the techno scene over the years, with over three decades of experience under his belt and a CV that puts him up there with the best of them. There are few tracks that can truly be regarded as classics, but his 1999 thumper ‘Jaguar’ certainly fits the bill and his inclusion in the seminal Underground Resistance long ago secured his place in the pantheon of techno greats.
Refusing to be remembered for past greatness, Rolando has evolved into an altogether different beast over the past decade, relocating from his native Detroit to the markedly different climes of Edinburgh. Since then, he’s become a resident at techno mecca Berghain and continued to make his mark on the genre he loves.
We caught up with him ahead of his appearance at secretsundaze this Bank Holiday Sunday to pick his brains…
Thanks for taking the time to speak to us Rolando, what have you been up to recently? Of course, big news for you is your new label, R3. After a few decades in the game, what was it that encouraged you to finally start your own imprint?
Earlier this year we decided that we would start R3, Roland Rocha Records, something we had planned to do, but I hadn’t made any strong moves to do. I had a lot of tracks that I wanted to be put out there and working for myself was the only option in looking to the future and ensuring a representative brand. Putting music on other peoples labels is great, but it’s not representative of who you are as an artist. So far, I’ve been in this business to solely plug someone else’s concept. So, yeah, long overdue.
You’ve said that most of the releases on R3 will be from yourself. Can we expect you to push some of your own boundaries as you have complete control over the label output, or is there another reason behind this choice?
For now I’m putting out my own music, but that may change in the future. It really depends on the music. For now at least I want to establish my persona in my label which is not necessarily mirrored in my persona as a DJ. This allows me to release anything whether it be dance floor Techno, Acid House, Electro or Ambient. Perhaps something down tempo that might not work in one of my sets.
Is there any specific aesthetic your going for with the label? Any mantra?
This is artistic freedom, that’s my “aesthetic”. I’m looking to place EPs in a cohesive way, matching up tracks that I feel work best together in EP format, rather than the pick and mix of another label.
With R3 you want to address vinyl in slightly different way, what does this entail? With the surge in demand for vinyl records, do you think this different approach is necessary?
We want to do special projects because we can. That seems like fun to us especially as it is a different market, a much smaller one. So why not try and have some “fun” with it. It has no bearing on surge or demand, but as to what they’ll be, it may be a little premature to be discussing that.
What can we expect in the near future from R3?
The second EP ‘Wheesht’, which effectively means “shut your noise” in Scotland, will be out 2nd of June; it’s a two track EP.
There’s historically been a marked difference between US and European techno. Having roots in Detroit, and relocating to Edinburgh around a decade ago, do you think that this difference still, or ever did, exist?
I think there has been disparity over the years in the development of Techno, Detroit tended to have a more funky melodic side, European harder. That’s different now with access to digital media, our influences tend to be the same. So for example, if you look at my DJ charts they reflect global Techno. If it’s good I play it. It’s not like in the old days where music only available on vinyl and you were at the mercy of distribution. Now most music “with some vinyl only exceptions” is available digitally and easily accessible to everyone.
How do you think that this changing of scenes has affected your sound, either intentionally or subliminally? Or was it something a bit subtler than that?
Techno originated in Detroit my hometown so yeah there was a sound I guess that came from our sphere of influence growing up – we didn’t always listen to the same stuff.
How did you first get into techno? Was it something that found you, or did you have to seek it out yourself in the early days?
I discovered Techno listening to the “Wizard” Jeff Mills on his radio show, along with “The Electrifying Mojo”, but before that I was already buying Afrika Bambaataa and so I think that had a natural link to Techno as the seminal Electro Funk. I suppose I’d already been invested in it, without realising what it was.
A lot of people are romantic about the old days in dance music, whether it’s Detroit techno, Chicago house or the first wave of the Balearic sound. As someone who’s experienced it all, do you think this romanticism is validated? Was it really that much better back in the day?
When something is brand new and innovative it can’t get any more exciting. It was a “you had to be there” moment, they don’t come along to often and who’s to know if there will be anymore. So yes it is absolutely validated which is why it just doesn’t go away and it is still relevant.
How do you perceive the health of Techno in the modern day?
How do I perceive the Health of Techno? Techno is not going away. It’s like asking the health of Classical music or Rock – it’s here to stay without question.
Thanks for your time!
DJ Rolando plays secretsundaze’s day party at Studio 338 this Sunday alongside Mosca, DJ Qu and Wbeeza. Grab your tickets here.