‘Regal’ is a name that has passed the lips of just about every techno fan worth their salt. Success came quickly for the DJ originally of Italian heritage and he escalated up to the upper echelons of DJ ranks in 2012, releasing on labels such as Figure, Rekids and of course his own label, Involve Records.
But for the ambitious producer such accolades, while an honour, can obscure DJs from their ultimate mission of producing a quality musical performance. Rather than let the fame and recognition (while considerable) go to his head, Regal maintains a certain distance when appraising the industry. Much like his sound, a relentless, subdued and throbbing pulse, the trajectory of his career has been consistent, forward looking and constantly evolving.
In this interview Regal discusses the saturation of the music industry, the personal tolls he has incurred due to the lifestyle of a high-flying DJ, and his favourite place to play (spoiler alert: it’s not Berlin).
- Regal is an interesting name. Is there a story behind your moniker?
I took my name from an old bio that a Spanish promoter wrote about me when I used to play under a different name several years ago. He said my sound was “regio” which is the Spanish word for regal.
I was already planning to change my name, so when I read that, i liked it as a word but also the meaning so, I just translated it to English and used it as my new alias.
2. According to your RA biography you are of Italian heritage but currently based in Spain and you spend a lot of time in Berlin. Can you elaborate on this and tell us how each of these places has influenced you as an artist?
Yes, I’m Spanish, borned and grew up in Madrid, but my father is Italian and also my brothers in law. I spent many time in Italy and I’ve studied in an Italian school in Madrid.
Basically I’m influenced by the Spanish sound. I grew up with what we called “Poky” or “Makina” but also with the Italian Minimal sound, and step by step I discovered other styles.
A couple of years ago I moved to Berlin for almost half year. It was a really positive experience for me, I met a lot of friends, learned a lot of things and of course I got many influences. Since then I try to go to Berlin almost once each 3-4 months to see my friends, keep contact but also because my agency is based there.
3. When did you first make the transition from a techno fan to techno DJ and producer and what difficulties did you have to overcome in those early days? Do you have a preference for DJing or producing?
Actually there was no transition for me. I started mixing music at home just for fun since I was 13. Music of every kind: hip hop, electro, techno, house, etc. I never went to clubs or raves before.
I decided I wanted to become a DJ when I started to go to clubs to see how real DJ performances worked. It was on my 18th birthday that I went to a club for the first time and after a short while I started doing my own productions.
I don’t have a preference for Djing or producing, it depends on the moment, on how I feel. There are some periods in which I prefer to be closed in studio working on some ideas and some other periods in which I prefer to just play music for the people trying different ways of mixing.
4. You received the honour of being one of the youngest Spanish DJs to play at Berghain, a benchmark of success for any up-and-coming DJ and producer. How did you cope with the considerable pressure of performing in one of the world’s most infamous techno clubs and, looking back, how do you feel the performance went?
I’m really happy to have the opportunity of playing at Berghain and every time I play there I feel more and more comfortable but I don’t think this is the main point. Nowadays it seems the most important thing to be a notorious Dj is to play in this or that club instead of the music you play or produce. I think the skills on mixing, the music selection and the productions ideas are more important than the fame behind of a club name.
5. On your Facebook page you have called out producers for ripping off the tracks of other artists. In your opinion, what is at the root of such blatant imitation and how can producers protect themselves against this?
Now it’s really easy to produce music, everyone with a computer and internet connection can make music and release it. You don’t need to have great ideas or deal with distributors to place your music in an online store, so that’s why some people just take someone’s track, add some elements on the top and few weeks later the track is on sale online. We need to become more professional in our sector, distributors needs to filter music better and also the stores. On one hand this internet era is really good because makes music more accessible to the people but on the other hand anyone can create a label, send the music to a distributor and have it online without caring about the music quality.
The internet era it’s also the lazy era, everyone wants to be a superstar but not all of them want to work hard or do the sacrifices to reach it.
6. You have made recurring appearances playing at Tbilisi in Georgia, which is going through a political and Cultural Revolution. Techno and rave parties (amongst other influences) are both the fuel and the fire of this movement, particularly amongst young people. Tell us about your experience playing for a Georgian crowd and what are your thoughts on the political activism that is taking place on Georgian dance floors?
Georgia it’s an amazing country and Tbilisi it’s like my second home for me now. I really love the people there and it’s always a pleasure to play for them. The crowd it’s really passionate, I receive a lot of love messages and they also show me their love and energy while I’m playing, which gives me the energy to do 6hrs sets or longer.
I’m resident DJ at Khidi, a fantastic club that has nothing to envy to other famous Europeans clubs, and I highly recommend a visit there at least once.
7. The transition from analogue to digital and the wide-spread reach of the internet has affected every genre of the music industry. How do you think techno has fared this tumultuous upheaval and is good music falling between the cracks as a result?
As I said before, the facilities to release and distribute music on internet nowadays creates a saturated market where it’s really hard to focus on all the music released causing that many great music falls between the cracks and get never discovered.
The market it’s highly saturated, DJ’s are always on the road and we don’t have time to check all the music we receive.
8. Your career went into turbo mode in 2012 and in recent years you’ve been booking gigs in far-reaching corners of the world. What is life like for a DJ on the road and how have you (and your inner circle) coped with this adjustment?
For me it has been quite hard. I’ve lost friends and girlfriends and I’ve been forced to change some inner circles. Our lifestyle is the opposite of the rest of the world. During the week when people work, you’re at home trying to rest and getting ready for the weekend and during the weekend, when they like to party or hanging out, you’re on the road. Sometimes I have a free weekend and the last thing I want to do is go to a club, I prefer to stay at home or work in my studio and this is something that not everybody can understand.
9. What’s going on in your head five minutes before your grace the decks for a set?
I like to observe the crowd and the previous DJ, I try to study the people and their reactions on the music that the previous DJ is playing so that gives me a clue of the direction I should take during my set.
10. You founded your own label ‘Involve Records’ which releases tracks produced by yourself and other techno wizards such as Mark Broom and Boston 168. What lead to the creation of Involve Records and what is your vision for the label’s future?
I created the label to have a free way to publish my music. I was tired of sending demos, deal with A&R’s and be forced to adapt my style to some labels. I also wanted to create something good and professional, not just another label of thousands. Of course every beginning is always difficult (unless you’re rich) so I’m still developing some ideas I had in 2012 when I founded the label and I hope I can reach all my label goals step by step.
For the moment i can say there will be something really special coming out in December with many great artists and friends involved.