Ahead of the highly-anticipated Festival Forte 2018, we sat down with Enkō, a Portuguese DJ and producer on this year's lineup, to talk about his background as a musician and what he’s looking forward to at the upcoming four-day techno festival held on 30 August – 2 September, 2018 in Montemor-o-Velho, Portugal.
To start with, can you tell us a bit about yourself? How did you first get into music? What were your early influences growing up in Portugal listening to electronic music? From what angle did you approach electronic music in terms of going to parties and getting into production?
I can’t really say that my closest family is very musical, so I guess my interest comes not from being influenced by them, but as a teenager’s necessity for inner growth. I always felt my connection to the city I grew up in, and gradually found that its customs were wearing a tad thin, so I started using the internet to find like-minded people. Eventually, we formed a group in Lisbon and started attending concerts in Alcântara at Paradise Garage and going out to Rockline, Incógnito and a few other places in Bairro Alto. Later, house music took over my attention and Kremlin and Lux were the places I most sought to listen to this strange new music. At the time, X-Club was also very influential and I went to a few of their parties around Portugal. The strange ambience, textures and repetition used in electronic music plus the physical experience of the PA System on the dancefloor made me want to experiment with this music, so I bought a few records at Carbono in C.C. Portugália and Bimotor in Restauradores and went to my friend’s place to see if I could learn to mix. From there, I started to throw parties and eventually went on to producing, although I consider myself a selector first and foremost. From then on, I was a regular at parties and forums, such as Fórum Sons and Versus, where a lot of people making things happen in electronic music in Portugal were discussing music and events.
Where do you make your music? Does that environment suit your sound palette?
I currently have a studio space in Lisbon where I have everything I need to work on my projects. It’s a quiet place, and my colleagues with whom I divide the space are my friends. Each of us has a room and it definitely helps to be around other creative people. The influence and information we pass onto each other is very important, as is the ability to discuss and to break out of a certain obsessive mood that creating content puts us in. Friends are important for your balance and I’m lucky to be working close to them. Experimenting and listening to other people’s music, as well as knowing your way through the gear that is available, is more important for the sound palette.
I know you divide your time between studio work/sound design and DJing. Are there links between your work as a sound designer and a producer in terms of process, production, style, sound design?
It depends on the type of project I’m working on. For example, realistic movies that require field recordings can certainly inform me if I’m trying to make ambient. I like to include these recordings because, psychologically, I feel a connection to these sounds. Sci-fi, for instance, or other abstract works can also inform the musical work; in this case, techno might be its counterpart. However, the attempt to specify where and how they overlap is somewhat unjust and an incomplete exercise since it is such an amalgamation of ideas running through these projects.
Likewise, do you have any preference towards DJ or live sets?
I don’t put one over the other as they are different approaches to music and I value both of them equally. I know a live performance will generally not be as long as a dj set, so I’m not looking for the same thing in both and will adapt my expectations accordingly.
What have you been up to recently in terms of building new productions? Can you shed a little light on the process?
Currently, I’m sitting on offers from a few labels and I’m in the process of delivering tracks to be released this year. Two of the labels are Portuguese, one is from France, and another from Germany; however, things with labels are very dynamic and uncertain in terms of release dates, which can always change. As for the process, I tend to prefer my machines to build a groove and work on the initial rhythm, but then I will usually incorporate samples, digital synthesis and digital processing. I think that limiting yourself and exploring your machines will open possibilities that may otherwise be hidden. Micro rhythms, oscillation, polyrhythm and texture are all important, as is developing your personal taste and considering the ambience you wish to create.
I’m well aware that you have a cat called Dozzy. How did you choose such a name? You will be playing alongside Donato Dozzy at Festival Forte this year, so maybe there is a connection...
Well, this a little bit embarrassing but also nice at the same time. I tend not to put anyone on a pedestal, and even if I’m very faithful to the people that I feel do a good job, I also tend force myself to forget about them because I need to go different places and find new things. That being said, it is not a very big secret that I value Donato a lot as a dj and also as a music-maker. After learning in an interview that Dozzy was what his mother used to call him when he was little, it seemed so sweet that when I decided to bring this 1 and 1/2 month old little kitten in from the streets, I had to call her Dozzy. My grandmother then baptised her as Dozzy Maria (and she also calls her Rosa Maria), so that’s the story.
You once showed me one of Donato’s 4hr ambient sets, and I later witnessed one of your expansive downtempo sets at an intimate countryside party. How do you feel about playing alongside him this year, and can you draw any comparisons between your work and his?
First of all, I’m honoured that the people behind Festival Forte have faith in me and trust my work enough to be playing the main stage this year. I’ve been to the festival before and played at the camping site with the Desterronics collective, but this time I feel it’s a lot more personal since I always felt I was better at selecting music than creating it, so it’ll be a good opportunity to show a bigger yet very genre-specific audience what I can bring to the Portuguese techno-community. I feel everyone in this line-up has a different sensibility, and I have to show them that nuance and personality is important, even if they are subjective notions. My connection with Donato Dozzy is from the perspective of someone who plays music and is influenced by another artist. The respect I gained for him over the years does not overshadow that which I feel for other people in my life and who have helped me develop and become the person I am now. I feel that my connection to Donato Dozzy might be explained by looking back at my adolescence, when I was searching for someone with whom I resonated and eventually found them, and went on to build a group that went on to listen to music together. It’s all about finding the subjects and the people you resonate with.
While on the subject of hypnosis and deep sound, would you agree that trance music, particularly psytrance, has had a profound influence and popularity in Portugal over the years? Do you see any of these genres evolving into techno/deep-techno productions nowadays? What about the parties and the people—are there any similarities here in terms of vibe, dance, sound, or social interaction?
My opinion on the subject is that we are too caught up in what words represent in general and not the feeling itself and the context in which it is used. It seems to me that, texturally speaking, although trance may have informed this deep techno/hypnotic techno sound, what stands out for me is the repetition; that is, the rhythmic section and it’s ambience. There are, of course, examples where you can draw a closer approach between the two genres because of how some producers use the bass for rhythmic purposes, but the real connection, for me, is that both of them, even if different in philosophy, are indeed very trance-y and trance-inducing. The word seems to fit both worlds. However, It is also interesting to see how this apparently new sound relates so much to Plastikman’s Consumed album and some of Robert Leiner’s music from the 90s, for example. This is a personal point of view and I’m sure there are others who can complete, further and oppose what I’m saying, which is what a discussion is all about.
I’m aware you were one of the founders of OBRΔ Lisboa, a collective who ran a long series of after-hours parties with a specific focus on deep techno. Can you tell us a bit about what your objectives were (i.e., sound, aesthetic, environment)? How were the nights/mornings received and where were they held?
I’ve written about this before on my SoundCloud page and I feel like it would be best to redirect you to that text as it explains a lot of what I tried to achieve during those fantastic times.
Much has been left and will remain unsaid about this series of events and what they meant to Lisbon and its nightlife. However, looking back and dwelling a little on this enterprise, I cannot part with the feeling of vortex and illusion created at these conclaves as we turned the lights off in this sweaty and windowless room and zoned in. The odd visual ambience as the amalgamation of bodies started to move and sway, the metamorphosis of chatting into whispering, into silence, on the dancefloor as people restrained their interaction and found a new balance with their movement, with their dancing, and felt the overpowering sense of liberation from their physical bodies as the easing mind took over their rhythm... all of this nourished and aided the dissolution of a demanding social interplay we’ve become all too accustomed to, it liquefied its rigidity and it gave new hope. Suddenly, the aural experience intermixed with the visual field, space and time evolved into seemingly distant and abstract notions belonging to a different era of linguistics very much removed from topical understanding. There and then, empathy was being born, or at least a preamble for empathy or empathies. Some empathies grew and flourished; others succumbed to the strangeness and failed.
That was a great time for experimentation. I must confess that there was, in fact, an agenda. As we progressed, there were times when OBRΔ became more than a simple dance event, it became a bonding and a family event; a place in time where humans who could devoid themselves of a black tendency to superiority and control were slowly and gently allowed to enter a phase of deconstruction of the self, and were thus convinced to rebuild their desire for equality, for respect. Energy resonated with our bodies, minds interested in free will, affinity and kindness resolved and took charge. I was looking at conscious matter manipulating the oblivious state of unconscious matter, pushing it deeper, pulling it closer. We were using repetitiveness, the removal of visual references and using sound sources and specific textures and rhythms as odd vantage points from the habitual standards of human perception; they were our tools for bonding.
Apart from this personal experimentation, an objective was always to bring some of Portugal’s talents, whom I felt were being overlooked, to Lisbon, and to give some local artists the ability to express themselves as they so wished. EKA Palace presented the perfect opportunity for these events to come to life because they were an out-of-the-norm crew and their space did not have the rigid rules of a standard club. This DIY space encouraged and welcomed all sorts of artistic projects and was a place that had a special aura when we started throwing parties there. Eventually, the event became really well-known within Lisbon’s dance community and we ended up having a full room every morning, which meant a reasonable pay for the artists, while it also helped pay our bills. The entrance was kept at 5 euros whilst I was part of the project because it was what I felt was fair for everyone.
What would you say are the advantages/disadvantages of making music and creating events here in Lisbon, as opposed to other cities in Europe and beyond?
Portugal has always looked very openly and enthusiastically toward whatever comes from outside its territory and has depended for centuries on the riches its colonies provided, so it is only natural that we have inherited that way of being. I don’t think this is very bad as it informs us of what’s going on and it makes us go forward and be connected, have ideas, but I think we have a tendency to underestimate our own, which may lead to inertia, disappointment and bureaucracy instead of dialogue and problem-solving. Electronic music in Portugal has some tradition but it is also an imported good; therefore, the general public’s connection with it is superficial. That being said, we have seen a developing interest in Portugal from other countries, and there is definitely a new generation that looks at Lisbon as a very good place to explore and to live their lives. As the influence of electronic music continues to grow, I expect these projects to become more and more common, and I wish the opportunity to think about how spaces can be used in different ways that are not hindered by local policies, and instead, are encouraged, as we see in other countries.
After knowing you for a while and speaking about the topic of music from both rhythmic and therapeutic perspectives, when it comes to outdoor festivals, do you see music as a therapy? I am aware that your techno sets incorporate some very cerebral music, which helps the dancers become connected to the sound and focus in on themselves. Do you find that beatless/chillout sets can provide the same relaxing/therapeutic benefits?
My experience with ambient music is more limited than with techno, but last year, me and a couple of friends were able to present a series of events focusing on this genre. These events have stayed in our memories, and we feel very proud of them. The Ocaso project showed me that it can definitely be therapeutic in the sense that it inspired people to mingle and engage in conversation as the dj creates a mood, which doesn’t compel you to dance, but instead creates a sound bed to which you can switch on or off. I feel it can also be very inspiring but also very intense and demanding. It really depends on where you want to go as there is ambient music for very different tastes. Personally, I think people connect to everyday sounds; therefore, the incorporation of field recordings in these sessions is an extra layer that lends some familiarity and it allows for some strangeness underneath. At Ocaso, I also felt that Ambient naturally belonged to the outside - its expansiveness, as you put it. The sound demanded it, at least for those events.
Aside from Donato Dozzy, what else are you looking forward to seeing at this year’s Festival Forte?
There is a lot to take in this year and I’m especially curious about the experimental bits, as with Violeta’s project Art Attack, Monolake’s live surround, Jose Macabra, Drew McDowall and Florence To, Alva Noto and Robert Lippok. As for dancing, it's very difficult to choose from a very good list, but I’m mainly curious about the Portuguese djs performing this year as I’ve heard great things about them and would like to be there to support them: Marum and Hedonic. Other favourites to steal my time would be: Umwelt, P.A.S, Surgeon, Helena Hauff, Neel and Svreca.
Earlier this year, the good people responsible for Rádio Quântica (the greats Violet and Photonz) have reached out to see if I was interested in having a show on their radio, which I postponed because of my role at Boom Festival and some personal affairs, but I now feel inclined to accept it and I might get back to them and see if they’re still interested in having me, but it’ll depend on a few things. I might also become closer to the HAYES crew (Temudo, ViL, -2, Ossē) and other ideas are in the works that are not yet fully developed, so I'd prefer not to discuss them.
5 tracks you're enjoying at the moment?