Exclusive: Damian Schwartz on his recent release ‘The Dancing Behaviour’

Heavily influenced by 90s techno, Spanish producer and DJ, Damian Schwartz, recently released The Dancing Behaviour on A Harmless Deed – a label he co-runs with José Cabrer. The album is a diverse submersion into jazzy deep house cuts and is quickly gaining steam in the underground scene. We chatted with Schwartz as explains the importance of coherency, searching for the ‘natural flow,’ and why having his own label was essential to his musical longevity.

You recently released The Dancing Behaviour. What expectations did you have for this release, both in how it would be received and personally?

I honestly didn’t have big expectations, first of all I wanted to sell the records, I can’t afford losing money making records right now (laughs)! Of course I had some expectations… did I reach them? I don’t know, time will tell, it has been a long time since my last release as ‘Damian Schwartz,’ so I knew this wouldn’t be really easy. 

To anyone who is unfamiliar with your sound how would you describe it? 
Like a mixture of many things, sort of like those old albums from the 90s where you could expect different styles thrown in, though everything within a certain flow or feeling, I have the same approach when mixing. I don’t focus myself on styles, I rather prefer to focus on the main feeling I perceive, that’s more definitive of a song from my point of view. 
What influences did you draw on for The Dancing Behaviour

There’s Detroit Electro (D.I.E., Drexciya…) There’s Atkins in there, there’s my friend DJ F, there’s quite a bit of Terry Riley too, and there’s definitely a lot of House in there (Konders, Gemini, Ben Cenac…), at least in my mind, I tend to process everything through a House philosophy, after so many years it is where I feel most comfortable, even if I do different things, which I do, I always kind of approach it from that angle. I know it could sound a bit abstract, but these things are kind of abstract and hard to explain.

Thematically, what can we expect from the album? 

Well, you know, I don’t quite think too much about those things, I need my records to feel well balanced and coherent, but that is a very subjective thing, then someone might chime in with some theory about it, and I would be like “well that sounds like right” or “that has nothing to do with what I had in mine”, but regardless of that, I’m not someone who believes that much in theorizing about stuff, at least as a producer. I have some aesthetic, some sound in mind, something I want to try… and I try to reproduce it, then it might end up being something similar to what I had in mind, or completely different… 

So thematically… I don’t know, I just wanted to make something coherent; something that goes to different places without loosing it’s feeling, and that took some time.  

There’s quite a variation between the tracks, to what degree are you maintaining the balance between cohesion and variability? Is one more important than the other when making an album? 

Hahaha, well I should have read all questions prior to writing my answers, I guess this is pretty much covered above, but to extend a bit more, that’s exactly the difficult part when you try to do something like that, and it’s the same way I think about a DJ set, it’s just another approach, I’m more concentrated on the story regardless of it’s style, I search that coherence through a global mood or feeling of the track. I might hear something and then immediately think about some other track, and that other track might be something different, but it might share some mood with this song, and so I will mix them.  

What was your thought process when making the release?

When doing the album, I instead of using existing tracks, I created them, once I had some tracks that I liked I started putting them together, some might go, others might stay and I created other to fill in the gaps. 

What key pieces of mixing gear did you use to make this album?

I used an MPC100 for mainly all sequencing and drums, a Jomox Airbase99 that I sequenced from the Akai, a Korg DW8000, a x0xb0x I built 10 years ago, a DX-21, Waldorf Microwave I and a JX8p. Sountracs mixer, some FX (Sony V77, Deltalab effectron II that i fucking love, TC 2290) Some were live recorded and then edited, some were multi-track recorded and then some things might be changed – added etc.. Everything went into Cubase or Protools, I don’t have much preference for either.

How has your style evolved, especially with your previous work? 

I started very early making music, but my music started being released early too, so you can really see how I evolved and the music changed accordingly throughout the years, I think my taste evolved quite a bit after going through different things, and I learnt a lot along the way. Everything is much clearer in my mind right now, so the production process has become faster, and also easier, or at least more focused. 
You have a background in musical composition. How studied is your approach when making music? Is it more methodical?

No, I’m not methodical by any mean, I don’t like the kind of music where you can imagine it’s composer thinking about each and every turn his music does, well there are exceptions, like some of the great classics, but I think it takes a big mastery to be able to do that and at the same time give the feeling of things happening ‘naturally’. In electronic music this becomes worse, because many times producers are copying and pasting midi blocks in front of a screen, and I have had that feeling many of times of music not following a natural flow. That’s my constant search; I’m obsessed with that ‘natural flow’, which I’m pretty sure is just in my mind. I try different approaches all the time, new tools… You can apply that to my background too, I don’t like Virtuosos unless they’re able to make things feel natural, improvisation is very important in my approach to music, but of course those magic moments are very hard to capture or replicate.

Are you drawn to certain chord progressions?

Not really, I’m quite into one chord music, I love progressions but I dig modal progressions, so much so that lately they feel more natural than diatonic ones. I might copy some part of a standard progression from time to time, and I tend to use Dorian scales a lot, I have that sonority very deep ingrained in my mind, which is kind of a pity. But I don’t think that much about that before doing s song either, I think about it afterwards to be honest.
How important is having your own label to release your music?

Very much! I don’t think many of the music I released on AHD would be out without it. I was sending stuff before, some might answer but it wasn’t getting published, so I said fuck it, I’m going to release it myself. I’m quite happy I did it though, I have complete control and finally the label stabilised a bit, still it is hard, but it’s going somewhere. 
Who are you listening to currently? 

I still love Sotofett and all the Mania-Wania crew, I listen to Nasty Boy from Italy, he released a great record on Sahko. I love the Mood Hut crew too, I truly truly love Gifted & Blessed, he’s one of my favourite producers at the moment, liked the Kaitlyn Aurelia album, the Eduardo Polonio reissue is something I expected for long (even more being from Spain) DJ F stuff… there’s a lot of stuff right now.
What are the five albums of all time that have influenced you?

A Love Supreme – John Coltrane
Harnessed the Storm – Drexciya
Rosa – Thomas Brinkmann-
Tri Repetae – Autechre
Virgo – Virgo Four

How do you maintain the creative impetus to make new and different music? Do you ever encounter creative blocks? 

I might find myself in this negativity cycles from time to time, where everything kind of feels shitty, so more than blocked I could stay for some days without making music. One of the worst things might be the economic pressure you know, and it’s pretty shitty to be stressed because of money, but being a bit on the cliché side of things, getting to work is the only thing that blows those feelings out of my mind. I found myself doing studio jobs too, and I enjoy that and it’s a good balance to make records and DJ, plus I can’t complain, I love what I do.

Lastly what lies ahead for 2016?  

I’m working on a couple new EPs, pretty happy with them, I guess some will come out before 2017, or I hope so. I just released 3 tracks in a VVAA, it’s out on Legend of Gelert.
And I have this new project I’m pretty fond of, I’m doing a sub label, mainly to release and repress Experimental and pioneering electronics from Spain. Thankfully it looks like people discovered (at least at a big scale), that there was some pretty amazing electronic stuff from Spain produced in the late 70s to early 80s, with Music from Memory reissuing Suso Saiz, Mecanica Popular on Dead Cert, Bibiloni, Eduardo Polonio. And the well known Esplendor Geometrico… 

Oddly enough not many people from Spain knew about some of these artists, (and they come to know them from foreign reissues!), which is great, but I think it would be even better if those reissues happened here. Anyways, I happen to know Eugenio Muñoz (one half of Mecanica Popular), and we are reissuing his amazing Randomize Album pretty soon, with other nice stuff to follow.

By Hanna Duggal

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