During the inaugural edition of Magnetic Plug & Play we spoke with one of the most valued artists in the global techno scene. A regular at parties in Ibiza such as Music On and Music is Revolution, Canadian DJ/producer Carlo Lio greets us at the Indigo Hotel in Madrid to give us his opinion on the current situation engulfing the White Isle as well as updates on his new studio projects and his own record label, On Edge Society.
You have been touring in Australia and have just landed in Madrid after a 24-hour flight. Is it stressful for an artist to follow this tight travelling schedule?
Carlo Lio: Being constantly on tour is very stressful, but I guess what keeps me strong is the love I feel for my work, and especially for music. As a result, I get to keep a balance in order to be one hundred percent at each show. At first it was more difficult to adapt to all these trips I had to do, but I'm used to it now.
How do you spend all those hours in airports and flights?
Carlo Lio: Almost always my mind is busy thinking about music. I'm always thinking about new ideas, and even occasionally I pull out my laptop and start creating loops or capturing those ideas - but when I'm not busy with music, I like watching movies or TV shows. That makes me disconnect and often comes in handy.
This summer you have played a few times in Ibiza, including Carl Cox’s party, Music is Revolution. What has it meant to you getting to play at the last season of this club and this party?
Carlo Lio: For me it has been a privilege and an honor to play at Carl’s party. The first time I played in Ibiza was at his party in 2010, and for me it has always had a special meaning to be there. Being part of this last chapter in the club and the party was an honor. Carl Cox has been an idol for me even before knowing I wanted to be a DJ.
The other night I was watching a live stream of the last Music is Revolution party with Carl playing all night long and it was just awesome. I wish I could have been there, but anyway, it was a privilege to play there this season.
With the closure of Space Ibiza, the Isle loses one of its main clubs. How do you see the future of Ibiza in the long term? Do you think the commercial music will became more important and the White Isle will lose part of its essence?
Carlo Lio: Space’s closing has been like a punch in the stomach to the island, as this club was one of the hallmarks of Ibiza. I think that area of the island is going to become the most commercial area, somehow like Las Vegas. But there are still many good parties and so many great clubs that I doubt that Ibiza is going to come down because of this. Therefore, certainly Space closing hurts, but it has been wonderful time and now life goes on.
Do you think that the new clubs such as Ushuaïa or Ibiza Rocks, with a more mainstream approach, are the ones that will set the music tendencies on the island?
Carlo Lio: I find it hard to admit, but I fear partly yes. As I have said before, that area of the island is becoming a space focused on mainstream music, so it doesn’t attract me anymore. This Ibiza is attracting people that until now have not been interested in what was happening on the island: the upper class people with money to spend on expensive bottles. I am a bit sad to see this change because I've been coming to Ibiza for many years before all of this came, and seeing this evolution is not very encouraging. Without going any further, the word Ibiza has been marketed enough. There are people who go there with no idea of the history of the island or anything that has been done there so far.
All in all, I believe that clubs such as Ushuaïa are attracting a different crowd to the island, but I like to think that there is space for everybody; there are still strong underground parties and solid clubs. Every time a door closes, many others open up.
In your opinion, Is Ibiza a reflection of what is happening in the whole electronic music industry, where marketing is slowly taking the spot of music?
Carlo Lio: Yes, I think so. There was a point when everything was purer, the music was the main thing and there wasn’t so much paraphernalia linked to this world. The music was what it was, without additions. People went to a club to listen to the music - not to buy bottles in a VIP area without even knowing who is in playing. So yes, marketing has become very strong in this industry, but I think it is natural. When something grows so much and so fast these things happen. Today, even techno seems incredibly commercial, but it's there, and you have to deal with it.
With electronic music getting as popular worldwide as it is nowadays, Is there still even a real "underground?"
Carlo Lio: Yes, of course the underground remains, all that has happened is that it has changed. It has become bigger because more people have had the opportunity to know it, and now instead of being in small rooms with few people it has moved to larger spaces and bigger crowds - but the foundation is still there. As long as the essence remains intact, I think it's good for everyone that it has grown. For clubbers, artists and promoters, it is a good thing that the underground music evolves and reaches more and more people. Same happens with commercial electronic music. This evolution is good for everyone as it is a gateway for the clubbers to know the less mainstream sounds.
Thanks to the rise of electronic music, parties and festivals have grown a lot in recent years. As an artist, do you still prefer playing in small clubs, or are you more motivated to play big events? Do you approach the way you prepare your sets differently depending on where you are playing?
Carlo Lio: This is one of the most difficult questions to answer. I love the atmosphere and energy of small clubs, but I can’t help getting excited every time I go to play at a big event in front of 10,000 people. The feeling is completely different, so it is impossible to keep one or the other.
Regarding the way I prepare my sets, it is quite different when it’s a small club than when it’s a festival. If I play in a club, I know I can afford to cover a wider range of sounds, a slightly more experimental approach. On the other hand, when I play in a big event people want music louder, music that makes them want to raise their arms in the air, something with more consistency. So yes, both the music and the way I play it is different depending on the place.
You performed as part of the first Magnetic Plug & Play event, which was streamed live. Do you think these kind of streaming platforms benefit the artists to spread their music to new people?
Carlo Lio: Of course. For an artist it is important to perform this type of streamed set because it allows you to show your music and perhaps reach a certain audience that otherwise would not have been possible. I think it is a great idea, as well as streaming sets of artists in clubs as Be-at.tv does. All of this makes people more interested in going to clubs and listening to this kind of music. I'm not a fortune teller, but I think the future of the electronic music industry goes through these kind of platforms.
You have said several times that Barcelona is like your second home. What do you like most about Spain? What do you think of the clubbing scene in the country?
Carlo Lio: I like everything about Spain. I'm from Toronto, and since I started having gigs every week in Europe my friend Dubfire recommended that I move here. It was too tiring to fly from Canada to Europe every weekend. For this reason I decided to move to Barcelona; it is a place that makes me feel very comfortable. I like the people, the environment, and the weather - everything in general. It is a city that fills me.
As for the culture of Spanish clubs, I think it's amazing. The audience is always delivering energy and artists can feel it. There are parties like elRow that you can’t find anywhere else in the world. And, of course, there is Ibiza, which for me is one of the best places on Earth.
And what about your hometown, Toronto? How is the clubbing scene over there?
Carlo Lio: Toronto is really awesome, although it is very underrated. People do not appreciate how amazing the scene is. I spent 20 years of my life in the city, as clubber and DJ, and have always enjoyed the scene there. There have never been bad times, although some clubs have closed lately, the quality has always been incredible.
The pity is that the institutions and the authorities still do not support the scene as much as they should. They are now starting to open up a bit to this whole culture, but there is still a long way to go. I find it important that the authorities get involved and understand that electronic music is an art like any other discipline, to support it and respect it. The issue of drugs is still linked with electronic music in the eyes of many people, and that has to change. It is absurd because if people do not consume drugs in a club they can do it at a concert, at home, or on the street. People need to separate the drug issue from electronic music, but I’m sure the time will come.
Recently, one of London’s most famous clubs, Fabric, has been suspended because of a drug issue. What do you think about this measure? How do you think the problem can be solved?
Carlo Lio: As I just said, the relationship people talk about between drugs and electronic music/clubs seems quite absurd. As an example, how many people die from drugs on the street or in hotels? Throughout the many years of Fabric's history, several million people have danced there, and the incidents have been isolated - so I do not understand this overreaction. Does anyone believe that the closure of Fabric will help fight the drug problem? I doubt it.
The problem is that people who are taking important decisions that affect our culture are totally out of our circles. That is, they do not understand or want to understand what is behind all of this. Maybe in ten years, when there is a generational change in the institutions, things start changing.
The good thing about Fabric closing is that the whole scene has shown unity. The authorities received more than 1,000 letters supporting Fabric, and more than 140,000 signatures were collected. This is something very positive for us. People have the capacity of reacting, and that is encouraging.
Talking now about your recent productions. Your new EP on Kaluki Musik has just been released and a brand new collaboration with Nathan Borato for Saved Music will be launched soon. How is it working with Nathan in the studio?
Carlo Lio: Nathan and I have been best friends for a long time. Actually, we were a duo for quite some time, and before that I already admired him as an artist. We know each other very well, so every time we sit in the studio things come very naturally. Even without being together for a long time we know that the connection is still there and everything will flow easily. In fact, this week we will play back to back in Ibiza, in Music On, and I know that everything will be fine. We have that complicity.
You have also started a label together with Inmotion Music’s boss, On Edge Society. What can you tell us about the label? What kind of sounds are you looking to release?
Carlo Lio: We both feel much love for techno, and that's what led us to create the label. In this project we are trying to release albums with a strong character and Detroit/Berlin techno vibe. Raw and powerful music. In addition, we also release on vinyl, which is something that is quite important for both of us. The spirit of the 12" makes each record special for us, and for those who buy it, too. We don’t make a lot of money with the vinyls, it is more for personal satisfaction.
To conclude, Do you have any new productions that you can tell us about?
Carlo Lio: After the EP I mentioned before with Nathan Borato on Saved Music, I have a brand new remix for Pirupa that will be released on his own label, and also a record for Sci-Tec (a collaboration with the legendary DJ Pierre), Dubfire’s label, and a new EP on a New York-based label that I still can't talk about. The only thing I can say is that it will impress a lot of people.