Interview with Hugo Capablanca

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Hugo, what do you think about healthy way of life?

I see… you want me to start with all the sex, drugs and R’N’R stories… What is healthy anyway? I consider healthy to explore one’s own mind and body (and others along the way?), find out your own limits given those exist, and find out what you REALLY enjoy doing in life or what you really feel you should do in your deepest inner self, and not what you are supposed to or trained to or used to do. We are all conditioned from where we come from, but we can also be truly unique human beings. Some people never have a chance to find out though… and I think that’s a shame. Because the world could be a lot better place and lot more fun and loving if people would realise these things. I sound like a tree hugging hippie but not that I give a flying fuck.

Personally, I consider rather essential to find out who I really am, and to ride that cosmic wave by any possible means at hand. Again this might sound like a rolling cliché but today’s society try to sell us the idea that we are really advanced beings, and we know exactly what we are doing and that’s a load of BS if I might say so, we know nothing or very little about ourselves, we still haven’t learnt to respect the planet we live in and we still kill each others in the name of flying spaghetti monsters, or some specific zombie, or some black mud? And we are not really taught how to be fulfilled as human beings or how to live in a sustainable way, in school or anywhere. We’re taught to “stay functional”, to serve other people’s purposes basically.

So I think it’s healthy to train yourself, everyday, just to be yourself and follow your instincts, and it’s healthy to listen to music, do “purposeless” things, stimulate your senses and enrich your life at all levels, and question things, and have fun, and love and laugh (specially at yourself), and dance, and have sex and take substances than help you render all the aforementioned and can help you find out who you really are. It’s healthy to live and work with and by what you love. And that I do. I think it’s unhealthy to pretend to be “fitting in” just to feel society’s comfort, and I think it’s unhealthy to drink vitamin juice and do yoga and be all ripped but not knowing a thing about yourself or about life. You know what’s unhealthy? HEALTH GOTHS.

Note perhaps related to the topic: Germany biggest newspaper recently used a (pretty good) picture of me nevertheless without my permission with a headline that reads something like “FOUR GIRLS KO WITH DRUGS AT FASHION WEEK PARTY”. That happened at a party I was playing, some fucking asshole put GHB in some girls’ drinks, and the paper actually make it look like I had something to do with it; needless to say I wasn’t even aware that happened until I read the “news”, I would NEVER in my life try to drug someone, and I am obviously gonna sue their ass big time. Just for the record.

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Tell me about your parents? Where were you born? I think you are not a natural born Berliner)

I was born in a small town in the north of Spain. I always hated it when I was a kid because a) there was no sea and b) nothing exciting to do, and c) found it ugly as fuck, but I’m learning to come to terms with it. I knew there was something missing in the puzzle though, in my puzzle anyhow, and I knew I had to get outta there and look for it. I’m happy I did. My mom is from Madrid and she was a teacher, and my dad built buildings and things, they’re both retired now or in the process of doing so. They’re hard working people and very lovable and did their best to raise a normal, decent person. If I’m a good person is thanks to them. I love them lots.
P.S. Sorry mom the surgeon/ lawyer thing didn’t work.

How did you start DJing and the whole thing with music?

I was a fine arts student but I’ve been always fascinated with music, well music, and movies and the arts… I think I saw “After Hours” when I was a kid and I didn’t understand a thing but it was all so exciting! The night life, the whole subculture thing, has always fascinated me. I used to do flyers for imaginary parties because I couldn’t find any of that and later I ended up doing flyers for real raves my friends threw, and I eventually managed to convince them to set up a small soundsystem besides the big techno one they had were we could play all sorts of weird music… back then I used to play at a pretty cool club, Sol, where you’d get paid in records, thats’s while I was in art school… then I moved to Berlin and thought I was gonna dedicate my life to arts but I ended up inevitably shifting towards music. At some point I was making visuals (out of painted photocopies) with some friends for Conny’s club, Rio, and my laptop broke so I asked him if I could play records instead. I guess it went down well because I ended up getting a DJ residence there. Then it came the record label, and the Golden Gate parties, and the AMD parties, and the infamous Tausendisco nights…

I read on Facebook that you have a special connection with «After Hours» movie about loneliness. Are you stuck to good old classics or do you find something interesting in modern movies? Have you seen Birdman? It is the last movie I’m super impressed with.

Loneliness? I don’t know… I just love that film. I have a weakness for certain freaky films from the 70s and 80s, but still watch a lot of new movies. Some of my weird favourites: Tampopo, Black Moon, Hausu, Sans Soleil. Tried to watch Birdman twice but always got interrupted, maybe it was a sign. I did really enjoy Nightcrawler and Inherent Vice, even tho the latter should have probably been called Incoherent Vice. Plotholes (potholes?) never felt so good.

Do you remember what stuff did you play on your first parties? Who were landmark DJs for you atm?

I used to play some industrial, drum n bass, acid, house, and a lot of Rephlex and experimental stuff, never really stuck to one genre. From there I went into more extreme noise stuff and then bounced back to play whatever would make people dance, be it kraut, electro, Suicide or Madonna. I had en extremely eclectic period when I probably played a few really shitty sets but it was good to lose your fear to try things out and let yourself go. You’ll eventually find your style.

How did you start your own label? Bananamania was the first, right? And don’t forget to tell about the bananas thing, saw you brought it with you on every gig some years ago))

Nah, Bananamania was an edits label, but Discos Capablanca was first, it started about seven years ago. I wanted to start a label that would join the dots between disco, kraut, mutant house, other psychedelic stuff… everything I liked basically, without caring if it was senseless, and with a lot of attention to the art, but all very DIY. And that’s what I did. Thing is when you only put a record a year, it’s complicated to say the least to keep a label in the map. But I wasn’t in a rush, and the label it’s still there… and this year there’s almost as many releases planned as the last six altogether. Bananamania was more of a fun thing, we’d do (Los Massieras) these sleazy disco edits and I would throw parties in Berlin, NY, Copenhagen… where I would bring a lot of bananas and there’d be polaroids and silly costumes, and they’d turn into a bit of a happening. It was all rather silly and fun.

Who’s behind Discos Capablanca artwork? Why it is so limited?

The original unicorn chess logo is by street art legend Nomad also of Africaine 808 fame, and the first releases carry sleeve art by my friend Andreas Golder, who’s a badass painter. He also did the edition of fifty unique spray/hand painted sleeves for Food Pyramid, while I came up with the “regular” silkscreened sleeve. All releases were hand silkscreened and or handpainted, limited and numbered, because I like it that way, and it was a very small operation anyway so you could put a lot of attention to the detail, and I thought it was cool to blur the lines between music and art… it’s always been all the same to me anyway. Now I have a different way of producing which allows me to put more than one or two records a year; it’s a lot more difficult to do limited, hand made editions and there’s quite a bit more people interested in the label, but I still like to give it a bit of a DIY feel with inserts or devil’s details, and I still do a super limited edition every now and then, like the one of 99 records for Marc Piñol’s Clef III.

My favorite record of Hugo Capablanca is C.P.I. 12″, I played it almost on every gig after I bought it. And what is your favorite record of Hugo till date?

Love that record too. How that C.P.I. 12” came out was almost magick, it was very spontaneous. And I’ve never met Marc (Piñol) before that but we had been talking for quite some time, and we wanted to meet and make music. So I flew to Barcelona for over a week to his home, and we really clicked, and it just happened. The final arrangements and details (and remix) took a bit longer but the core was there. I love that record from head to toe, including the art, I wouldn’t change a thing.

I’m also quite proud of all the stuff I’ve done with Tobias (T.Keeler) as well, like “Acido” or the Golpe de Estado stuff that went by quite unnoticed, it all sounds rather uncompromising and kinda far out in retrospect and I’m fond of that. I think it all aged well because there was no formula to follow or trendy production tricks. I don’t know if I have a favourite though. I’ve been working on some solo material lately, it’s not quite ready yet but I hope it doesn’t fall too far from all these other projects. Sometimes it’s hard to say with your own work though, it could be shite as well.

Are you classical trained musician?

So not. I have absolutely no idea what I’m doing. But I’ve been told that when my parents went to the movies when I was little more than a toddler and dropped me at my grandma’s place I would run straight to the kitchen and start banging the pots. And the first present I recall ever asking was a a drum. So I guess I’m a natural born drummer who never really learnt to play a thing but insisted in making music anyhow.

Tell about Berlin? What’s hot there? Was something changed from the moment you came there till now?

Yeah hmmm… what didn’t change?? Berlin is a mutant city, so many things changed since I moved… it’s been a decade now but I don’t want to sound like an old fart saying how much cooler it was when I moved here because, you know, there’s always gonna be someone that was there before you, and it was much cooler and wilder back then of course. It has changed A LOT, and it probably lost quite a bit of character and wilderness but I mean, there’s still a lot of crazy stuff happening, and parties that go on for days without closing, and there’s still tons of semi hidden cool spots, and a lot of freedom (is there?), and freaks, and a very creative and effervescent scene. Only that now there’s money, and everything’s cleaner, and apparently it’s impossible to find an apartment (now THAT is crazy, it used to be soo easy). But yeah it’s still infinitely cool if you compare it to London or Paris where there’s basically no fun left to be had… well that is actually not true. I had a lot of fun last week in Paris. But perhaps if I would live there it’d be a different story. Wanna know what’s hot? Come over and get lost. That’s still hot.

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What’s the hardest thing in your life of a travelling DJ? Do you enjoy it?

Waiting. Waiting in airports. Waiting in airports when you haven’t slept, or haven’t had a shower, or food. For days. That’s hard. Everything else, that’s the good part. I LOVE IT.

Name last records you bought please

1) Esplendor Geométrico “Arispejal Astisaro”
2) George Theodorakis “The Rules of the Game”
3) Ro Maron “Collected”
4) HOT10TO10 “R1Z1”
5) Flat Static LP
6) Der Zeltweg: Italian Industrial Music 1982-84 (Mannequin)
7) POV (Crowdspacer 007)
8) A Private Realm (Tears of Joy)

Describe your best gig last year? What was special, describe the place and maybe name some tracks-highlights from it.

You guys are fishing for compliments here because you know very well it could perfectly be that boat party last summer with the Low crew and Chris Kontos in Kiev, and it’d be my pleasure to say so, because what a gig that was! I think that boat party and that forty minutes edit I opened my set with, the Billy Woods one, still resonates in quite a few heads. Ahh… moments in time. But to tell you something you don’t already know… my L.A. debut at that warehouse downtown with Rebolledo that basically rolled into a three day party at the Standard, meeting all those magical people I dare to call family now could also be it; or closing SF’s epic Sunset day fest with Solar while meeting the Monsters, or perhaps the megablast of being invited to play with Harv at Bestival… last year was immense.

What are your impressions of Kiev, our audience?

Can’t wait to come back and rock the boat, as you can imagine. First time I visited was a bit of a mess (missed several flights, almost got arrested, ended up staying there drunk for a week, etc etc) but I had a hell of a time, duh. And it just kept on getting better!

How do you feel about work with The Pool agency? Did it give you more freedom or do you feel the opposite effect?

Total freedom. I feel very lucky to be working with these fellas. They are absolutely lovable and I can’t possibly think of any other agency that would understand me better and treat me with such uttermost care. It’s more like a family, really. Hail The Pool!

Do you have a handbook?

No. But if I had it would probably be an impossible hybrid of Legs’s McNeil’s Please Kill Me, Huxley’s Island, Michele Bernstein’s The Night, Richard Hell’s I Dreamed I was a Very Clean Tramp and Groucho’s The Groucho Letters: Letters from and to Groucho Marx.

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How do you manage to create a memorable image? You always have well-chosen things-accessories that perfectly emphasize your bright appearance and create a fantastic contrast! Confess, do you invent yourself or do you have someone behind your image?

Well I’ve been using Lady Gaga’s stylist for a while but things went a bit over the top so I’m doing something more DIY YSL nowadays, you know… more like 70s improv comedy stuff. That, and my Soft Curls travel spray that goes wherever I go, because I’m worth it. The poncho choice was obvious because besides its timeless glamorous allure it doubles up as flight blanket and gets your free tequila wherever you go, and a hat can always protect you from a bad hair day and help collect some coins in case you miss the plane back after the gig of course…

(that being said, my wonderful friend Tanja Siren, who is better stylist than most stylists out there working, might have had some word of advice here and there. Real friends always get the best out of you. Hx)

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Words by Sasha Tessio & Artem Super Ikra
Collages by Tasya Kudryk
Cover drawing by Sasha Tessio based on Nicola Delorme’s polaroid