Interview Moreon: Dancefloor Architect
Forming a label imprint, touring Europe and recording a debut album all alongside best friend Baffa, Moreon is the DJ pushing teamwork to the upper echelon.
It’s process of we with Moreon & Baffa. The Venezuelan house and techno duo is strong, their moves calculated. The two have been building since 2011, when they reconvened in Barcelona after years of involvement with other projects. Over the course of their on wax debut last year, the duo have tallied up five releases, including Root Code, this year’s neat 4-track retrospective EP dropped under Social Experiment Records. The pair have had a fair amount of spotlight, playing for Boiler Room in a Barcelonean monastery, the city where they both reside.
But tracking the individual movements of Moreon (real name Gustavo Romano) makes for nothing if not an engaging paper trail. The self-labelled ‘architect’ of M&B, Romano has had a rich history in techno and house, forcing himself into the discussion from a young age in Venezuela’s saw-edge techno and house scene in the early millennium. Now, he’s willing to not be the star of the show: recording, producing and releasing alongside Baffa. With milestones like the formation of Budare, M&B’s record imprint and a long-awaited debut studio album converging, Moreon explains his recent moves and the beguiling stories behind them.
Moreon & Baffa: 'Rain 24' (Social Experiment)
Photos by Carlos Carrillo / Words by Reuben Tasker
You mention South America as a base you work with doing electronic music. But what role does Barcelona, your current HQ, feed into your sound?
Barcelona is a very nice city right now for me. I’m living with one of my best friends, Emidio (Baffa). He is a huge part of my artistic project because we’re running Moreon & Baffa now. That is our main feature, our main job, our main life, everything. We’re very focused on that. However, the only city where you can catch one of us playing alone and being published as a solo act would be Barcelona. Everything outside of Barcelona has to be Moreon & Baffa. But getting to the main question: Barcelona has a really nice artistic scene, culture, people from everywhere and that inspires us a lot.
However, the main inspiration for the sound that we are developing is not based on Barcelona. Our country, the whole European community and different parts of the world are the places that inspired us. Movies, music, art itself, a lot of things. Barcelona is just a city where we are living now and we love it, it’s very cool. It has some ups and downs, some good things, some other not-so-cool things but it’s an amazing city.
Do you journey back to South America frequently?
No, no. It was a base when we were living there. We grew up there in Venezuela. Baffa used to run a very important trip-hop band in Venezuela called Sur Carabela, among other band projects, he was living in Caracas. Meanwhile I was in Barquisimeto, doing radio, studying journalism. But everything started between ’98 and ’99, We started to go to the first wave of rave parties in our country.
The whole rave scene and techno started back in those years. Illegal raves, mostly techno, some psychedelic and drum & bass started to happen around ’98. I don’t remember exactly, but around 2000 I was already learning how to mix and my first gigs were around that year. I was producing a radio show with some very cool friends that helped me to start up in the musical scene. Eduardo Javith and Rafael Alvarado, they were already known DJs of the city, and in the country. It started with radio and then I started playing some parties. Then I started to throw parties and almost everything involved with the scene. I did it over there. I’m still trying to collaborate and help some friends that still are trying to pull up cool stuff.
What about your solo output, As someone that’s established themselves successfully working with Baffa, do you see yourself facing challenges drawing attention to this?
The thing is that my own work right now is focused on our project. My own work is just my act as a DJ, here locally. But I will say that even here, half of the acts that I do are with Baffa. Everything is very focused with him, I just drop all my focus and feel like it’s my project as much as it is his. We are not thinking about going solo now. We started playing solo around 15 years ago but we met each other back in the early 2000s. We couldn’t work together because he was living in another city. When I was leaving the country in 2011, I was already in touch with him, we never lost contact. We were already very excited because we knew we were gonna hook up, now we were older and had more experience. It was very natural, it was very special and it still is.
As an example, we have very little time to make music. However, we have created a lot, tonnes of music in a very tiny amount of time because we connect really well, that’s very special. That’s why I focus everything on our duo, our brand, our name, together.
Do you ever produce on your own?
No, I don’t produce on my own, I just love being a DJ. I’ve been flirting with production since 2004 / 2005. I did it with other friends that were more focused on production, more producers than DJs. I was born as a DJ, so for me, production was something very important and something that I respected a lot.
The first time I started to flirt with production, it was 100% hardware. I loved it, but I thought this was very serious, what I was doing, I was very honest with myself. Back in 2005, what I was trying to do didn’t even sound close to the records that I loved and had heard by that time. One DJ that I remember, Pippo from Maracaibo, told me he hadn’t produced anything ’till now... and he’s older than me and Baffa, I think he’s had 20 years DJing. He said that if you’re a DJ and you wanna cross over to production, you have to know a lot of music and a lot about how techno and house work. So when you go to the studio and try to develop something, you will know how it has to sound.
For me that was very important, I took a lot of time, I did work with other friends (Ivan Viña a.k.a Dubmobil), Federico Agreda, who has a very famous and successful drum and bass project now called Zardonic. I experienced doing productions with a lot of people, but it only got serious from 2011 to now in Barcelona when we hook up. Emidio (Baffa) is also a good DJ, but he’s an audio engineer you know. We both bring a lot of ideas, but in the studio he’s the engineer and I’m like the architect, so we hook up very well together in the studio.
Moreon & Baffa: 'Root 1' (Social Experiment)
Tell me about the work behind Root Code, your new collaborative EP
It’s funny, those were one of the first batch of tracks that we did together. We made them around 2012. The first stuff that we did, we liked, we knew that this sound was cool then, but I wasn’t 100% sure that this was our sound. It was okay, it could work on the dancefloor, but we didn’t feel it 100%, so we started to make some new tracks. This is the batch from Root Code, we hit the studio to do something timeless and something that represented our roots. With Root Code, all the loops, samples, bass, kicks sound like the root sounds that inspired us when we started back when we were younger, when we started to play, what got us into techno. Maybe it was faster back in the day, techno, house and everything was faster in terms of BPM, but the sound is there. That’s why we called it Root Code.
We have other Root tracks that are unreleased: Root 2 and Root 3. Maybe they’ll see the light.... sooner or later
Could you explain the decision behind forming your own imprint Budare?
There is a very important name here and that name is Jimmy Disco, the guy from Subwax. He’s just a lovely guy. Baffa already said this publicly but I think the scene needs more people like him. Budare exists, in part, thanks to Subwax and Jimmy, who gave us the opportunity. We were sending a lot of our music, always buying records and talking about old artists and classic stuff. He used to distribute really old school techno from Sweden. We dug that sound a lot back in the day so we were hooking up and getting along with each other really well. Some of the music that we sent to him he told us he liked, but it wasn’t for Subwax so there was like a batch of music entering in this opinion that he said.
One day tell he tells us you guys are developing a lot of music, you want to have your label?’, we said ‘like, of course, let’s do it’ and it was very simple, it was like that. We love the project, it’s going really well, getting stronger and stronger and the next releases are stronger than the first ones. I think it’s gonna get better.
Will Budare mainly contain your music or the music of other artists?
No, we started thinking about releasing only works from us and those close to us, mostly friends from South America but we said, ‘no, we are open to any artist that sends us music that we like from anywhere’. Of course it’s not gonna be a label that is gonna release every month so it has to be very special. We don’t request superstars or whatever. We just release music from friends, us and that’s it.
Did the decision come organically?
Yeah, Budare is very organic, originally a budare is an organic pan for cooking very basic Venezuelan bread. That’s the concept, we thought that it was funny and it also reflected our culture. We love it, the whole project came very organically.
Would you say in your experience, that there’s an expectation for musicians to take as many opportunities as possible?
Nowadays there is a lot of artists that get lost in this whole big market. It’s like a competition to be successful, or whatever. I mean being successful is cool, it’s awesome, but the most important thing is to be happy with what you’re doing. In that way, you cannot lose contact with the art. Because we’re artist, being an artist is to create art.
We love to see the people dance when we play, we were born DJs, but in terms of creating music: it’s art. It has to work on the dancefloor, I will always want to feel a groove, because that’s my background. But I always try to create something different that sounds, I don’t know, rare or interesting. Maybe it could be very groovy, maybe everyone could like it or it could be successful but that doesn’t mean that it’s not going to be created under the principles of an artistic process. That’s what we want to keep in our work.
With more and more experimental and leftfield sounds / structures appearing in house and techno for records to sound distinct, would you agree that producers should stop classifying their music altogether?
Sometimes it’s kind of ridiculous. I’m not gonna say any particular name of style or whatever but when someone asks me what we’re doing and I have to say this is a very original type of thing what we do, but it’s basically techno and house. I don’t want to put any more labels like ‘Oh it’s very dubby, dark’ or ‘breakbeat, electro, deep or…’ if you had less of these classifying things, I think it’s better, so you can be more open, not expecting something specific.
I don’t like labelling too much. Obviously when you hear something you can know if it’s more dubby, if it’s more dark, if it’s more tribal, funky or whatever but that’s it. It’s just genres and styles–– and when I mix a lot of them, I prefer not to invent a new label, a new name or a new AKA. When there’s a lot of styles involved, I prefer to say it’s just a mix of techno and house with a lot of styles and that’s it.
Have you returned to Radio as a platform in any way?
No, right now I think the chapter of me working on the radio, it’s kind of closed. I wouldn’t say that’s it’s already closed and I’m not gonna work in radio any more because I really don’t know what can happen in the future. Back in the day it was very important because when I started to go into these illegal raves in my city I was very very young, I was 16 years old, something like that. It was very difficult for me going out at that time because many characteristics of Venezuela were dangerous.
So there was this radio show, I was very surprised because it was the only one in the whole country to put out just two hours of underground techno and house music, happening on Saturdays and it was done in my city, that was very special. I remember they were doing like contests like if you [said] the name of this track or this DJ, you [could] call and win the record. I started to call to every show and I started to win every record, every mixtape. The guy said ‘okay, so this kid is a freak, who are you?’. So we started to get to know each other, hangout and also with the other DJs in the city. These guys (Eduardo and Rafael) helped me develop my profile as a DJ. Then they told me “So it looks like you are very deep into techno music, you want to work in the production of the radio show?” and I was like ‘whoa’. Yeah it was a big thing.
I started to learn how to play vinyl, not going to the studio or their house to play, they just gave me tips. Then, a friend Ivan, (releasing as Dubmobil now on Budare), was the first guy that said ‘hey, come to my place, I have a pair of decks, if you wanna try’. That was super important for me. I had many tips and had seen many DJs every weekend trying to go to house parties or raves. I was almost a big part of the party, not dancing at all, just seeing the guys playing. I learnt a lot of technique and heard a lot of music that impacted me. I really have to thank these guys: Ivan, Eduardo, Rafael, all these guys that are in Venezuela. Others have already left also but they were very important.
So what can you tell us about the future?
We are working on an album actually, we don’t know where it’s gonna go out. We’re gonna release something soon on Indigo Raw because these guys are our friends, they have helped us a lot in Barcelona. Also, we have prepared the next three releases on Budare. By the end of the year we will be dropping a very special record on Budare. There is also an awesome remix on Subwax coming soon, I will not say anything but it’s super huge for us, big artists involved. New stuff for Visionquest is in the pipeline too.
We’re just trying to tour Europe too. It has been very difficult, there is a lot of bureaucracy here [touring] and playing gigs, we don’t have an agency we’re just doing everything by ourselves. We’re trying to develop, to grow up more in this business and to reach more people out in a good way. Our music and our act, that’s it basically.