Cardopusher (Classicworks, Struments) Talks Acid House, Music Technology, Live Performance, and More!

Dubspot Blog contributor Mike Steyels speaks with DJ and genre-defying producer Cardopusher about his latest acid project, his production process, and the future of live performance with his CWS project. 

Cardopusher Classicworks

Rave With a Modern Touch

If there’s one thing that Cardopusher is known for, it’s change. The Venezuelan artist has gone through tropical bass, dubstep, and IDM periods. He even dropped a couple footwork inspired records. But his current iteration finds him siding with acid techno and house music, a move that brings him in line with his early love of electronic music.

He’s found his new groove in the synths and 4×4 thumps of that throwback style, and all of Cardo’s releases on his new Classicworks label reflect that general feeling. “A lot of people have been telling me that my music reminds them of raves from the ’90s with a modern touch,” he says. “That means I’m doing well.”

“It’s like coming back to basics because my first demos from 10-12 years ago was me trying to sound like old Luke Vibert, Astrobotnia, and Cylob. I just i had no idea how to develop those sounds.”

Acid is a genre solidly linked to the hardware used to create it, and as such, his interest in vintage synths and drum machines has grown in tandem with his fondness for the music. His new setup includes the obvious: a 303 synth, the definitive machine responsible for the squelching personality that makes the music so readily identifiable. (To get all technical with it, he’s actually got a Bassbot TT303, which is a clone of the storied Roland 303.) But his collection has grown far beyond that. His studio counts as residents a Vermona DRM1, a TR707, a Vermona Mono Lancet, a couple delay and tape echo pedals, and a in modern touch, Ableton Push.

“Hardware is awesome. These days I’m more and more into it. I’m not saying you need machines to sound big, but there are things that only happens when you manipulate the equipment with your hands. I love combining it with the digital world.”

In addition to studio experiments, he’s planning a new live set up that includes most of this gear. The project, called CWS, is a live show alongside his partner in Classicworks, Nehuen, who is another Latin American ex-pat that relocated to Barcelona like Cardopusher. On stage, the two will use laptops running Abelton Live to orchestrate the array of pieces, running loops and improvising. “There’s a story,” he explains, “but more than half of it depends on the moment. What we’ve done in rehearsals has been sounding slightly different every time, which is what we are looking for. Lots of dark acid stuff.”

They’re also collaborating with Inkclear, who’s been doing the artwork for the label. He’s developing a visual element to accompany the whole thing. The live show premiered at Mutek in Barcelona this week. The CWS project will expand into recorded music as well, with their first release debuting as a 12″ on Struments Records in the Spring. The single is a split between acid, techno, house, and lo fi.

But any story of Cardopusher would be incomplete if it only mentioned his most recent incarnation. Like many electronic artists who keep at least one eye on the UK scene, he’s drifted into 4×4 territory. The road that brought him to this point, however, is a long and twisty one.

A History of Change

He started in an electronic rock hybrid band back in Venezuela, but tired of working with other people who weren’t as interested in the electronic side, so he struck out on his own to explore it in earnest around 2002. At first he was into the glitchy, distorted sounds of IDM and mashup stuff, along the lines of Tigerbeat6 and Planet Mu. He then spun off into the harsh sonics of breakcore. “Caracas is a very hectic, chaotic, and dangerous city. That’s probably the reason I did breakcore. Once I moved to Barcelona in ’08, I simply didn’t want to do it anymore.”

Cardopusher

The trials of a city as troubled as Caracas had him wanting to move to Europe since he first toured there a couple years before actually making the jump. He’d long been looking abroad for inspiration, since there were no good record shops in his home country and the internet was where he discovered music.

“It’s hard to be an electronic producer over there because there are no record labels, and clubs are not exactly clubs where people go to dance. Artists can do electronic stuff, but there’s also bands playing. It’s a really small scene.”

As if to back the statement up, you can find nearly as many Venezuelan electronic artists in New York and Barcelona as you can in Caracas. Even the Abstractor collective there, a vanguard of forward sounds, counts such far flung artists as members to keep the ranks flush. There is barely any middle ground in the country, where the few super rich tower above a vast and poor populace. (See the ongoing protests for an example of the unrest there.) From the sprawling favelas, the sound of Changa Tuki grew to become a local electronic staple. But for a middle class artist interested in eclectic sounds, the scene was in his backyard and yet a world away. He appreciated it, but wasn’t involved with it.

Tuki, he says, was a “kind of music made in the favelas (which is a very big and different world) and they have their own crowd/world. That’s a problem, where you have different social classes so separate from each other, which for me is sad. You don’t know what’s happening on their side and they don’t know what’s happening on yours.”

Cardopusher was able to find opportunities through the local drum n bass network and that was how he started touring. But by the time he had finally moved to Barcelona, he’d moved on to dubstep. This was a time when the genre was a catch-all for anything moody and bassy, filled with syncopation, and set to a tempo of 140. His sound reflected the transition period between a hectic mind state to one less attacked. The wobbles were a part of it, but his direction was clear – the tide of warmer sounds was coming in. Eventually, dubstep became all about the heavy drop and his interest waned. “It became like the new hard drum n bass, which I can’t stand.”

So he moved on once more, this time to the world of tropical bass. Again, here was an era where formulas weren’t so pronounced, and his sound was hard to pin down – other than its deep, meticulousness production and Latin rhythms. But history repeated itself, and the scene changed. The trifecta of moombahton, dubstep, and trap became its formulaic calling card. So he looked elsewhere. Yet again.

And this is where we find him now. But of course, it’s not the last chapter for Cardopusher, and you can expect him to explore new roads at some point in the future. “The idea for Classicworks is to evolve along with us as individuals. We don’t want it to be a specific genre label.” But for now, it’s the 4×4 wormhole that drives him.


Mike Steyels is a writer based in Brooklyn who focuses on forward-thinking electronic music, regional sounds from around the world, rap, dancehall, and more. His work can be found in THUMP, Vibe Magazine, No Ice Cream Sound, and Dubspot. Follow him on Twitter at @iswayski.

 

 

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