El Txef A, known as Aitor to his friends, is an enigmatic producer from Basque Country, Spain. Nestled deep in the mountains of his homeland, he has produced complex and heartfelt deep house, landing on a variety of labels including Hypercolour, Dirt Crew, Suol, and Permanent Vacation. In a few days, he begins his first US tour with stops in Baltimore, NYC, Austin and other cities. Poised on the brink of broader recognition, he says "I think now I'm closer than ever to sharing with people what I truly want to, and showing what I am." In this rare interview exclusively for Pulse Radio, we get a revealing glimpse of the artist and person behind the music.
While many producers these days come from cultural hotspots, like London, NYC, or Berlin, your home is in a relatively remote part of Spain, the Basque Country. What was it like to grow up there, and how does your town influence your music? Until a year ago I spent all my life in Gernika , a small town made famous by the Picasso painting [which bears the same name]. Now I've moved to Bilbao - it's bigger, but as you have said it can't compare to pioneering cities like New York, Berlin, or London. However, I think being here helps keep my work and creative process pure. Life is very peaceful in the Basque country and I think that is reflected in the feelings of my work.
Your breakthrough EP, She Kissed Me First, came out on Hypercolour a little over 2 years ago. But it's clear from the quality of that record that you had been producing for some time before. When did you start producing dance music, and what was your inspiration to start? I started producing my first dance beats seven years ago I think. I have always been closely linked to the music through my brother and parents. I started by playing piano and drums, and then I started researching sampling. Even today I’m continuously learning new things, about everything.
I think now I'm closer than ever to sharing with people what I truly want to, and showing what I am.
How did you meet the guys at Hypercolour? Did the debut with a well known label have an impact on your music or your life? I recorded " She Kissed Me First " in 2009. I don’t know how but the song ended up in the hands of Jamie from Hypercolour and he sent me an email saying that he was very interested in releasing that track. It was a really fucking great piece of news for me. I have always loved that label and it really was a big chance for me to show the world my work.
In comparison to many electronic artists today, you've chosen to release slowly. Following your debut, you put out one EP on Wazi Wazi a year later, and then a full length album on your own label Fiakun, this year. Why have you chosen this pace? I always try to create something special from the deepest site of my heart. The same when I do remixes - I try to choose very precisely what I throw out there.
I try to show what I am at that point in my life, through music.
Tell us about Fiakun and the concept behind it, and your album, "Slow Dancing in a Burning Room". Firstly...what does Fiakun mean? Fiakun was born of six lifelong friends - we’ve known each other since we were 3 or 4 years old. We just wanted a platform to work together and help our projects and ideas move forward. I decided to release my first long play on our label because I think that makes the album more special, knowing that it’s not making a huge “splash.”
Fiakun has a lot of meanings , could be a pretty girl , could be a nice beer , could be a cool party….
When you are stuck on a song, or having writers block, where do you go for inspiration in making music? I go to Gernika , where my family is based, and just have a walk around the beach, have a special evening.
Now a technical question for the producers out there - what is your workflow like in the studio? Do you have any favorite hardware or software? I’m not a freak when it comes to synthesizers. I’m happy with a drum machine, a piano and a mic.
Are there any upcoming releases and/or collaborations you'd like to highlight? I’m now working on my second LP called " We Walked Home Together ." Also I did remixes for Permanent Vacation, Galaktika, and a colaboration with Tigerskin for Dirt Crew that was released weeks ago. But I’m totally focused now on the new album.
You're beginning a tour with several stops in the US, the first of which is the Visionnaire party at Red Maple, Baltimore (which has recently hosted Tokyo Black Star, Droog, and Morgan Geist). What excites you most about coming to the US for the first time? I always felt something special about the United States. To have the opportunity to play in cities like Baltimore, New York, Chicago, Austin... it’s a real dream for me.
Having the opportunity to feel what people are feeling makes me very happy, and I think in the US and generally in the Americas people make you feel very close to them.
Bespoke Musik is hosting you in NY on the 13th of October. This is a party that has brought some exceptional European talent lately, including Daniel Bortz and The Revenge. What have you heard about that party, and the scene in NY in general? What can I say about the city that never sleeps… It’s a fucking honor to be playing at the Bespoke party. I’ve been updated about the massive bookings of Bespoke, and I’m very excited about this night.
New York is on fire, for example with people like Manik. I’m not so updated on the deepest underground scene in New York, but hope I will have time while I’m there to learn more about it.
What are your plans for the rest of 2012 and next year? After this tour I will start again playing live with the band and finishing my new album, and of course touring as much as possible.