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Techno Tuesday: Hernan Cattaneo discusses Argentinian dance scene and extended mixes

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Techno Tuesday is a feature on Dancing Astronaut documenting the culture of underground dance music. We’ll bring you exclusive interviews, tracks, and narratives from artists within the techno, tech house, and deep house world in an effort to shed light on some of the best talent outside the world of mainstream dance music.

One word that describes Hernan Cattaneo with succinct accuracy is “timeless.” Having diligently served the electronic music community for nearly three decades, the Argentinian DJ and producer possesses a distinctive sonic identity and seamless mixing skills that have consistently placed him within the top tier of acts pushing the scene forward in many markets.

Cattaneo’s specialty is ethereal, yet driving progressive house and techno. Brought up in a highly musical family where progressive rock and lengthy songs reigned supremely, Cattaneo enjoys tying hypnotic elements and long, complex builds into his work. The artist remains staunchly committed to his sound, excavating the underground for new artists to take under his wing that will continue on his legacy.

 A shining example of this outlook comes in the form of his brand-new compilation on the well-known Balance series, which features entirely new music penned by some of the most highly-skilled artists on his Sudbeat imprint. Cattaneo is one of the very few artists asked by the brand to come back a second time, three-years after his first appearance on it in 2014.

In celebration of the compilation’s release, Dancing Astronaut spoke with the maestro himself to get a thorough look into his perspective on the vibrant Argentinian dance scene, his proclivity toward progressive music, and the benefits of an extended mix.

Hernan Cattaneo

Let’s start out by talking a bit about the Argentinian scene. We know that progressive and trance are hugely popular in the region and the scene is one of the most passionate in the world. From your perspective, what do you think drives this deep love of the music and appreciation of the scene over there?

There has always been a lot of enthusiasm about music in Argentina. Not just for club music but any kind of music people may like.

I guess in terms of electronic music, the more melodic and deeper sounds and styles became more popular because it is what most of the local leading DJs have been playing forever and, of course, the big influence we got when all the international DJs started arriving to our (then) little scene.

A bit of history will explain everything more clearly…

It was between 1990 and 2000 that our scene took shape and developed into a sound and style with some very influential moments that caused a big impact on the scene as well as for a lot of the DJs throughout the country.

Our first foreign show ever in Buenos Aires in 1991 was the iD Magazine world tour headlined by the super cool band Electribe 101 (with Billie Ray Martin) and DJs Graemme Park and Nancy Noise. Of course that night every single Argentinean DJ was there in attendance to hear those deep and housey sounds and we all absorbed A LOT.

Then in ‘92 Paul Oakenfold and Darren Emerson played another memorable show when we heard tracks like Oakenfold’s remix of U2´s “Even Better Than The Real Thing” or Gat Decor´s ‘Passion’ and that was the first time a lot of us were exposed to the sounds that many would later on describe as progressive house which became so popular throughout Europe but totally unknown over here.

In 1998 it was the Global Underground invasion where Sasha & Digweed, Nick Warren, Danny Howells, Danny Tenaglia, Lee Burridge, Satoshi, Sander K, and many more started coming on a regular basis. Dave Seaman even recorded his Buenos Aires album at Pacha (a very proud moment for us) and finally we arrived to NYE 2000 when Deep Dish played a big Cream open air show. I would say that that day was our “graduation” as part of the international scene and a must-stop for every global DJ at the time.

Of course we also had a large variety of great DJs from other styles, such as Danny Rampling, David Morales, Justin Robertson, Richie Hawtin, Mr C, and many more, but the biggest impact on the scene at that time was towards the melodic music sounds from the Global Underground DJs and that is still a big part of what people hear in Argentina.

After that, in 2001, we had the first Creamfields Buenos Aires festival that brought many different tents and DJs all together so people started interacting between genres. Since then, the whole scene opened up to all kinds of electronic music until today where all styles are really popular. Techno, trance, EDM, or melodic house are all equally big and many DJs find Argentina to have their biggest audiences – sometimes even bigger than if they play at their home towns in Europe or America.

What sorts of things have influenced you taste in melodic, lush, and driving stuff?

I grew up in a very musical family. I have two older sisters that they were always in charge of the stereo at home and they introduced me to a completely different musical spectrum than the one I would have listened on my own as a 6-year-old kid. Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin, Yes, and all of what was called progressive rock was very popular in my house.

Those long records, full-side songs that were very hypnotic, really made an impact on me and also stuff like Doors, Fleetwood Mac or electronic stuff like Giorgio Moroder, Alan Parsons and even later Donna Summer (again very long songs at the time). Those arpeggios and synths had me in front of the speakers all day in my house. It was a magical attraction.

I will be forever grateful to my sisters; they shaped my taste in music and, of course, the rest of my life.

What are your thoughts on feeding off of the crowd to build a set? Do you feel the complexity and grooving nature of the music you curate also ties into your freedom behind the decks and ability to take listeners on such an expansive and intense sonic journey?

It’s always been about long and mixed sets for me and I guess there are three main reasons for that:

Firstly, I started DJing at 12 and got my first good nights at 15 at a club in my neighbourhood. At that time, in clubs or houses, there was only one DJ who would play all night long. Therefore it has always been natural for me to play long sets.

Secondly, before the house music explosion in Buenos Aires, people used to dance in clubs or parties to a big mix of disco, funk, pop, rock and even some Argentinean stuff, so all local DJs have to develop skills to mix all that in a coherent way and to get people happy on the dance floor all night long.

Thirdly, during the 90s the nights became all about house music. I had massive influences from where I learnt a lot about HOW to DJ properly in what we call a progressive mix or transition. I had already a very clear musical identity, but I still had lots to learn to take my DJing to the next level.

I used to travel to NY to hear Frankie Knuckles at Soundfactory where he would play from the first to last track and I was in love with it all – especially with the way he played the records. His patience to build, his peace, and his tempos. At some point during the night he would play the instrumental mix of a record, then drop the vocal mix, and finally bring the dub mix to create a 25 minute journey through a track and everyone in the room would become totally hypnotized with the sounds and going mad into a musical tunnel full of grooves and rhythms all night long. What a master he was!

Danny Tenaglia, Louie Vega, Morales (and his superb Redzone mixes!)… they all use to do that in NYC. Even when it was a more classic house sound (which I really love too) the way of playing it, in my mind, was totally progressive. It was like working with more soulful sounds, much like the deep, cinematic and very mental transitions I used to hear when I was a kid. It was like going back to school for me.

So I’m really sure that those were the reasons they got me into this way of DJing and experiencing all of that was the perfect training camp for what I’ve been doing every weekend since then – playing a long mix of deep and melodic house, techno, or what ever sounds good in my opinion that many call progressive house. It’s always a hard time when a festival give you 90 min to two hours. My mind-set and the sounds I like to play work much better in a set 5 hours or longer and, with the right crowd and sound –  the longer the better!

When, for example, you go to a club like Stereo in Montreal where you can play as long as you want and you have a magic sound system that will never tire anyone’s ears after long hours and on top of all that there is this INCREDIBLE and supportive crowd that loves as much a slow Californian deep track at 110 BPM at 2am, a banging melodic techno from France at midday, or a Depeche Mode accapella at 5pm….  how you are ever going to prefer a short set?

We are extremely lucky to have such passionate fans with a deep love for our sound, an understanding of what this is about, and patience to let us do our thing. The same way I used to enjoy those really long musical moments in NY, I can do now in my own sets and feel how much they appreciate the music when its being played that way.

Of course it’s not for everybody, but fortunately there are many many followers of this around the world and one of the best things about staying long in the scene and being known for playing a certain sound is that 80% of people that comes to the shows worldwide understand the long set concept so you can explore more and do more and more interesting things.

Finally, technology also became highly relevant in this sense because these days you can carry all your collection in your pen drives and with Pioneer CDJs you can have almost the same ability like with playing on a computer and manipulate the music in a way impossible to imagine during the times of vinyl only DJing. But, at the same time, being completely “hands on” and still feeling the adrenaline and excitement of a real live experience.

Listen to a minimix of ‘Balance Presents: Sudbeat’ below, and order the compilation here

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