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DJ Rolando interview

interview by Dan Bean














D: You’re quite a busy man at the moment I believe?

R: Yeah yeah, pretty busy but that’s usually been the case after Jaguar took off a few years back; it’s just been constant djing; hectic schedule. But I’m not complaining, it’s what I love doing so it’s been good to me.

D: From what I know, you play all over the world, you really get about and play all sorts of mad places. That’s a life far removed from most people’s experiences. I was just wondering if you could say a little bit what that’s like to actually experience.

R: Well for one, I never imagined, I mean growing up, it was the furthest thing from my mind you know? Being able to travel in all these far places is just unbelievable, to actually go and do something, you know to make a career out of something that I actually love doing you know. It ‘s very rare to get the opportunity to do that. It’s just been great while it’s lasted. I don’t know what it is, it’s something else. I’m just very glad to be in the position that I am in you know, so I just I hope it keeps going.

D: As far as I understand techno in the states is kind of something of a minority pursuit, it’s not massive in the same way that rock or even hard trance is. Given that situation, what brought you into that scene, how did you actually get into techno in the first place?

R: Well there was in the mid eighties - in the early-to-mid eighties - a big scene in the inner city of Detroit and also in Chicago as well, and it did get airplay on the radio. We had a lot of guys like Derrick May, Jeff Mills, the pioneers of this music. Fortunately they had time slots on the radio so from that, it was always broadcasting every night, somewhere, some radio station, and there was kind of a small underground following. It just took off from there but I think what happened was most of the people got older and had to wise up and got jobs and stopped going to the clubs. And then (helped by) the guys that I mentioned before like Derrick and Jeff, the music crossed the pond and it really took off here in the UK, but (also) in Europe in general. And they basically just, I wouldn’t say abandoned the city, but you can’t blame ‘em. People were just asking: ‘Hey, come play for us - why not?’ And it kind of left Detroit in just a…. I don’t know, it’s just like hitting a pause button if you will, and it really took off here in Europe and just kind of left a void there. I don’t know how to explain it, it’s very weird the way it happened. But nowadays, just like you said, techno is a very small scene in the states, but you get a lot of people who don’t have a clue as to what techno is. They might say ‘techno?’ - and automatically they’ll think: The chemical brothers or The Prodigy because that’s what it’s marketed as in the states, it’s very odd the way it is, the way it works out.

D: Your releases and in fact the name of your label make quite a lot of reference to your cultural background, how does that come into your music? I know that’s a massive question, but could you give us some idea of how your background influences you, maybe in your production or just in a broader sense. What’s it about for you?

R: Well I think it also has do with not only the music but also artwork as well, you know with the pyramids and all that Aztec culture. That’s always been big for me, you know just growing up as a kid and seeing it graffitied and the way cats used to just spray paint the wall and it used to be littered with that stuff. I was pretty amazed by that and it always stuck with me. Stuck in my head. And I always wanted to incorporate that into the music. As far as sounds as well, I mean Latin music in general, there’s just something about it that really just… I don’t know, just makes me click. So that’s always stuck with me as well and like I say, I just try to incorporate the sounds if I can, if possible, with the electronic music and just go from there.

In my neighborhood I just remember going out as a kid and you could just walk down the street and there would be just all types of different music. There is Puerto Rican music, Cuban music, traditional Mexican music, just all types and they’re all different yet they’re the same way in some odd way.

D: For my mind the thing that would seem closest rhythmically to techno would be the large samba bands

R: Right

D: Is that something that you listened to when you were growing up?

R: Yeah, that was really big, in my neighborhood I just remember going out as a kid and you could just walk down the street and there would be just all types of different music. There is Puerto Rican music, Cuban music, traditional Mexican music, just all types and they’re all different yet they’re the same way in some odd way. I don’t know how to explain it, that’s always been with me, always been part of me and yeah I’m trying to carry that into this kind of music, marry all them different types of Latin music with electronic music.

D: Do you think there’s a reverse effect in terms of techno being popular amongst (the) Mexican or the larger Latino community, because normally, the people you mentioned, figure heads of techno like Derrick May, Jeff Mills, are African American. Does it have the same profile in your community, is it coming through, or are there new artists who are doing techno or stuff like that?

R: Yeah I think there is, there’s definitely um, in Chicago, LA, in Phoenix and even in Mexico City and throughout different cities in Mexico. I’ve played in places, I’ve met people: producers, DJs. Brazil, you name it. Basically everywhere in South America it’s really blowing up and in Central America there’s guys just popping up everywhere, you know, really trying to get in and just making music, throwing parties, DJing. So they’re coming around definitely, but I think the reason why those names stand out: Jeff Mills, Derrick May, are because they’ve been around since day one and they really made an impact. It’s going to take some time but these (new) guys are definitely here to say.

D: Is there anyone that you think we should particularly look out for? Who’s doing really interesting stuff?

R: I don’t have anyone in particular, but there’s heaps of them let’s put it that way. They’ll be making noise definitely, just keep your eyes open I guess.

D: What were you trying to do with the nite-life mix? That’s quite an opportunity for someone to make a particular statement if you’re having a mix CD that’s going to be marketed all over the world. What was your intention?

R: Well first of all, my main goal was trying to make something where a person could listen to it at home, or in the car, or even if they’re having a little get together in the house, maybe a small party or something, rather than just full on, you know 140bpm techno. I just couldn’t do that. Myself personally I don’t think I would enjoy listening to that sitting on the sofa reading a paper or whatnot and I just wanted to make something that was a bit easier… you know easy going. And then also musically, I wanted to try to touch on, you know, ‘Different’. You know, not just stick to one-format type of music: a little house, a little techno, some electro and just try and throw it all in together, and that’s basically it really. The rest just fell into place, those were really the two main things I had in mind.

D: If you’re in that situation, what kind of music would you listen to? If you’re chilling-out at home?

R: Well it’s usually, err, I like jazz, I really like rock music. I don’t know if it’s the right term, but I just consider rock music guitar music like Pearl Jam or Jimi Hendrix. All different kinds of things. Just say I’ve got a very open mind basically, it can be one day jazz, the next day rock, all types of things. Even techno, but the majority of time it’s things other than techno because I’m usually always listening to it at the weekend so you’ve got to get a break from that. D: What’s your plan with Los Hermanos, why did you start it and what do you want to do (with it)? R: Well the reason why we started it is because I was on UR first and they have a distribution thing with Submerge and what happened was that they moved (address) back in 2000. Basically, Mike Banks, the owner, had to kind of shut shop if you will, for a while for UR and the other labels, because he basically bought a building and had to gut it out and you know, a lot of construction. And once the construction was completed it was like a fresh new start and he was like: well we got room here for a couple of new labels, and it was just the next step really for me career-wise to start a new label. Fortunately for me Gerald Mitchell, you know, he’s my partner, and he helped produce all the records that are out, you know we just agreed to do this. The main goal was just to try to be consistent with releases because you know being on UR was very hard. You had not only Mike Banks and myself but there was so many other producers, that it was just the next step to have another outlet if you will, to put some quality music out. So the main goal now is just to be consistent and go with the flow.

D: Do you think you’re going to stick with the housier end of techno that the releases pretty much followed so far, or do you think it will broaden out?

R: Yeah, no definitely, you know, we’re going to broaden out. I don’t want to be pinpointed as to: ‘well Los Hermanos is known as a certain type of music’. I don’t want that, so we are going to do different types of things and also maybe some collaborations or have other artists featured on the label as well.

D: Who’s doing it for you at the moment, who are you listening to at the moment?

R: There’s a guy, now I don’t know if he’s actually from Sweden, but It’s a label from Sweden: SLS, and his name is Andre Saag, I believe that’s his name, I’m sorry. But he makes some hell of a music. I only have two or three releases from this label, I know he’s done other things but it’s just err, he’s really doing it for me, his last few realeases that I got are really nice, he’s definitely the one that’s been doing it for me.

“Aguila” by The Aztec Mystic is out now on Underground Resistance.

Nite:life 016, “Rolando” will be released on 13th October.

Thanks to Dan Bean for letting us publish this transcript of his interview with Rolando for Passion FM on 27th September 2003. Dan hosts Chilled Out Passion every Friday, 1-4am. Live webcast at

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