Here in Austin, TX, if there is a sound missing in the nightlife it's up to us to conjure it into existence. The city is filled with passionate transplants from all creeds who above all are on the look-out for something outside the normal fare. Furthermore, the litany of intimate venues scattered across the city gives ample opportunity to enterprising crews to throw small scale parties that cater exactly to their desires.
BlackTone is one such crew who are excelling at finding their niche and executing on it with authority. Specializing in minimal techno, Jorge and Alejandro are in love with their baby, if only because it gives them an opportunity to educate people as to the overwhelming depth of the Romanian sound they have chosen to target. Founded nary a year ago, their willingness to stick to their formula has allowed for them to throw over a half dozen high quality parties that have received accolades from the community at large. With bookings like Varhat, John Dimas, and Sepp, three outstanding names for those in the know, it's obvious that BlackTone has a vision for the future they are building toward.
It's hard not to admire the momentum this crew has built over the short time they've been in operation. Especially considering that the closer for their one year anniversary party this weekend is the one and only Priku, who stands as the Romanian frontiersman of the new generation of minimal techno producers. We have it on good authority that he'll be playing a 4+ hour set at the November 10th event, so get your money's worth and cop a ticket here.
Magnetic Magazine: How did BlackTone get it’s start?
Jorge: It started to take form right after I came back from London, where I was studying music business, sound engineering, and music production. I found that I wasn’t very happy going out here in Austin because I couldn’t find anything within my musical interests. I like all types of music and spend time at different shows, but to my core it is electronic music that calls to me the most. There were a few crews, like Movement Collective, who were putting on parties and helped open my eyes to the potential that this type of music had in Austin.
So I called a few people and we got together at my place and started having meetings every week. These meetings were a failure, for the most part, because at the beginning we were conceptualizing everything out of thin air. It’s very difficult when you don’t have a straight line to follow. There was a certain point where, in my mind, I thought we were not going to move forward with the idea; we were all so busy living our own lives. But then Alejandro and I went to Barcelona for Sonar and we found our inspiration.
Alejandro: Barcelona is a great city for inspiration. There are so many people from so many different walks of life. We came back with a very clear vision around what we wanted, musically, and with respect to the overall environment. With respect to the concepts, we really wanted to build a setting that felt intimate and elegant. The elegance is a key theme because we want an environment where people feel inspired just by being there.
MM: What about the intimacy appealed to you?
Jorge: In my mind, the world is a very fucked up place right now, and people need a defined space to be themselves where they don’t have to feel scared. A space to discover that there are other nice people who are interested in the same things you are. It’s the moments of nobility that bring this setting into play. Like when you’re at a party and someone random buys you a beer because they see you are dying, you know what I mean? The hugs, the love, in an intimate setting we can hone in on that in a better way.
Alejandro: At a deeper level, these intimate settings have always been an escape for me. In most social settings growing up I was very much stuck in my shell. But when I first found a party that I could feel comfortable at, I was able to build incredible bonds with people in a very short period of time. It’s very natural because you connect to the music first, and then the music becomes that easy connector to the person next to you.
MM: What was the first step after the name took form?
Alejandro: After coming back from Barcelona and talking with all of our people we decided to throw a “rough draft” party where we could test out our vision. We were fortunate enough to have our well-respected DJ friend from Honduras in town, and we pulled favors from various talented DJs in the community to turn our ideas into reality. It went better than we ever expected and we received a ton of support from the people who attended. From that success we decided it was time to book our first special guest, Sepp, which turned out to be an amazing first guest, not only because he is incredible, musically, but also because he had such a good time that it opened up doors for us.
Jorge: The Sepp party gave us a standard. We realized that it was worth it to spend the amount of money we were spending because we recognized the value in BlackTone. That said, it is never about the money. For us it’s about creating beautiful moments. For me, personally, I like to go to parties and walk around a little bit but then hide in the corner and watch the audience members enjoy themselves. I think it’s really beautiful to watch people smile.
MM: How much did the environment in Austin have an impact on what you were building?
Alejandro: We pulled the trigger on it wholly because we trusted that the concept we were building would align with what the city would offer in return. We were confident that we could build a base of 30-50 people in Austin who would understand and appreciate what was going on. We also trusted that people here are extremely open minded and are constantly on the lookout for something new. So we banked on the fact that in the small intimate setting, even on a slow night if we could have 80-90 people show up they would have a good ass time and would come back. I think that the mentality that people have in Austin makes our job a lot easier.
Jorge: More than anything else, we appreciate that our BlackTone family shows up and contributes their energy, because the artists feel it as well.
MM: What do the artists have to say about Austin?
Alejandro: One of the things that makes us feel amazing about what we’re doing is that, in all the cases, the artists have said they had a far better time than they expected. Many of these artists come to Texas and don’t expect to enjoy themselves. Many of these guys are stopping here on larger tours through LA and NY, and they often tell us that the stop they most enjoyed was Austin. We think that’s mostly based on the people and how they receive the DJs performances. One of the most incredible pieces of feedback we received was from Giammarco Orsini. He plays all over Europe, has a residency in the biggest club in Italy, and so on and so forth. He let us know that, once he engaged the people musically, he saw a reaction out of the crowd here that he would never see in Europe.
MM: What excites you about Priku?
Alejandro: What excites me the most is that he reaches out to many different places for his musical inspiration. Also when you come to interpret the history of the Romanian sound, he is one of the leaders of this 2nd generation. One of his first release was on [a:rpia:r], the label run by the first generation of Romanian minimal maestros: Rhadoo, Petre Inspirescu, and Raresh. This is an extremely high bar to hit as that label only does one release every two years or so. There's one track Priku has released recently that is minimal house but it features samples of violin from a country western track. It's a beautiful track and it's something that not a lot of other DJs would think of doing. He's a little more outside the box than others, and also his mixing style is very dynamic. I describe it as aggressively groovy.
MM: Where did this flavor of minimal originate?
Alejandro: There have been a lot variations of the minimal techno genre over the last couple decades. The first iteration to be popularized was the style as made famous by Richie Hawtin. We have a strong focus on the Romanian shade of the convergence of house, techno, and the minimal wave of the early 2000s. A lot of the direction in the sound came from Ricardo Villalobos' involvement in the early part of the century.
MM: What about Romania led to this sound?
Jorge: The creativity in Romania comes, to an extent, as a reaction to the oppression imparted by the dictator Nicolae Ceausescu. When his regime fell, the Romanian people who were free to express their creativity and freedom were unleashed onto the club scene. It's one of the places that pioneered the 10-15 hour DJ sets. People would party from Friday until Sunday and so would want to hear sets that had long, elaborate stories. The Romanian sound is built to send the subtle messages over the long life of the experience. When I describe this to people I always say the genre has a ton of "room for interpretation." The music is full of subliminal sounds that your head can piece together in different ways.