[INTERVIEW] ALBERTO JOSSUE
(photo: Ded Agency)
This music trajectory that you’re on, DJing and production, how did this start for you?
I think I started almost like everyone starts - having fun and wanting to share some music with friends. And that was usually me, the first one to get in the car and be like, Yo, check this out! I just found this, have you heard of this guy? I was introduced to electronic music pretty early and I didn’t understand how it was performed or done, it just captivated me. Once I started my education in audio engineering I started to really understand how music is made. I played instruments as a kid but never felt like I belonged in bands, I wasn’t too easy to get along with as far as music goes because I was always very stubborn with what I wanted to do. Then I realized I could be the whole band by myself in electronic music. Like most people I just started having fun with it and eventually realized I really loved doing it and wanted to pursue it.
It’s been pretty organic and natural in the way that it’s evolved. I figured it would turn into work and be serious, but on the contrary I’m having more fun than ever before.
What audio engineering schools did you go to?
Congratulations on your latest release, Macrocosm on L’Enfant Terrible! I found the title track dreamy, chill and nuanced. How would you describe your sound?
Thank you! Well, it depends. Macrocosm was the birth of me and Aleks Kojic working together. I caught Aleks through gigs, playing as his duo project Cabalistic a long time ago, in which he does live keys and we always talked about jamming sometime. We finally got to it earlier this year and in our first session we created Heathen, which has been our most popular song of the EP.
The sound and style of this EP, I have to say I wouldn’t call my sound, I would call it our sound. When we come together, this is what comes out. We’re very different artists in our solo projects. I would describe my sound personally as a little bit heavier, but still melodic and groove driven. More in the sense of classic progressive before the EDM movement redefined that genre.
I think it’s beautiful to take on different sounds and projects, I know he would agree with me that we never want to have one specific sound, I think that’s a waste of beautiful ideas.
2016 has been pretty significant for you with three releases. How’s this year been for you in terms of gigging, being in the studio and putting releases out?
This year has been absolutely ridiculous, I mean I never would have predicted how this year has turned out. I’ve always been one of those guys to have a set of goals in mind and to have naturally just been able to hit them has been amazing. I wanted to have my debut release this year, that was my main goal, which was my release on 3XA Music, which was in February. That cracked the top 10 Progressive releases on Beatport which was a huge accomplishment for me. This EP with Aleks has gathered so much attention and love from so many different artists that we admire so, that’s also been surreal.
I mean I couldn’t be more grateful for how this year has been in the production side. I still have a remix Nature of Music and another remix for Talal & Zoi coming. I honestly can’t complain. And it’s been a team effort, to be honest with you. I gotta give credit to the people I surround myself with, I mean, not only Aleks, but Sarah at Sistrum. She permits me to have so much more head space for music and having someone you trust handling the business side of things for you, to be able to focus on what’s important, is priceless. I believe there’s a team behind every artist and the people that I surround myself with are just as important as what I do in the studio. Same thing goes For my White Label family, as someone thats trying to turn music into a career, having people you trust and are inspired by is key.
The Toronto scene is very special - what are you digging most about this scene right now?
Well, there’s many things to celebrate in Toronto but I think the thing that really stands out to me is the amount of original music that is really making a mark internationally that’s coming from our artists. Toronto has a sound that it’s always liked, or always been known for. But now we have artists coming out with music and productions that don’t follow that known Toronto sound. For example Nature of Music having two releases on Hernan Cattaneo’s label, or Talal & Zoi releasing on labels like Kindish and Traum, which is massive! Dustin Nantais for example, he’s been on fire for so long with so many releases on amazing labels, and the fact that the city is embracing that, I think those are the things that are really standing out for me in Toronto. I think our lineups, especially the Island, is showing that Toronto is starting to embrace all music more than ever and that we welcome all music to our city and this evolution is starting to show.
You have an audio engineering background, what excites you most about music production?
There’s nothing I love more than doing mixdowns. I’m a big fan of shaping sounds and highlighting sounds and polishing the final product. I recently just did my first two remixes ever, which I mentioned earlier, and I found a lot of fun in that too. I think that’s something I’m going to focus on a little bit more and have a little bit more fun with. Playing with people’s sounds and figuring out how I can interpret their work.
What about DJing and telling a story, taking people on a journey? What’s your approach to music in general, the emotional nature of it?
I’ve always been a big fan of variety and taking chances with DJing. I’m very excited to have opportunities to showcase different genres. The last set I just did, the mixtape for Godzilla Disco, that’s going to be an outlet for non-dance floor music. I’m really looking forward to doing more of these, and evolving with it as a project. It’ll show me how far away I can get from the dance floor and that will permit me to discover so much new music and develop new skills. That’s really exciting for me.
I would eventually like to do more open to closes locally. I had my first open to close this January, which was a really big success for me and I had so much fun. I went through so many genres and decades of music. It was a very interesting and surreal experience. I was lucky enough to have Nest, who's been such a crucial outlet for my music, provide me with the opportunity to give it a shot.
I heard amazing things about that night.
It was wonderful. It was very humbling to have so many people come out and support you, it meant a lot because at the end of the day, all of us, not just me but every single guy or girl who’s trying to push themselves musically and be a DJ/producer, to have people come out and support you, without necessarily having a big name to piggyback off of, is very humbling and makes you feel really good and motivated.
(photo: Ded Agency)
What’s most important to you as you move forward along this path?
I would say the thing I care about the most is to keep things honest. I want to just stay true to who I am and I think that’s a big challenge nowadays for performers because we have to adapt to the market, we have to adapt to the crowds. I find that longevity is found in the people who really stick to who they are and are just honest to themselves. The guys that I look up to, guys like John Digweed, Hernan Cattaneo, Laurent Garnier, Guy J - these are guys that are just who they are. It’s not a genre kind of thing, it’s more of being true to what you love doing. They let the music do the talking and they just stay themselves. Humble and happy to be sharing music and living their dream. I think that would be my biggest contribution to myself as an artist - to try to stay focused and always stay moving forward, having new projects and a new vision and challenging myself to achieve new goals. That’s what I want to focus on, the music, and try to eliminate all the other noise as much as I can.
Who are the other influences you’ve had in your life, musically, or today?
All kinds. Overall, starting locally I would say, many, many people have influenced me. But one of the guys who really stands out to me is Jad Ad, who has been such an amazing professional, and friend at the same time. And musically, sharing so many things, he’s literally contagious as far as love for music goes. I’d have to say Nature of Music as well, they’ve been so instrumental. Ever since the first day I saw them play I was like, Man, these guys are the truth. They were very instrumental in shaping my sound and opening my ears to different sounds. The legend that is Arthur Oskan and the amazing Gab Rhome were also very important in the birth of my first releases of 2016. They provided so much help and guidance, small tips and contributions that made all the difference in my studio work. On a global scale, I grab influence from everything, Radiohead being my absolute obsession. Also, even though it kind of makes no sense, my biggest influences are not electronic music, I listen to a lot of soul, a lot of blues, a lot of jazz. I find that usually is what gets me inspired. Before gigs, before studio sessions, I like to really dabble in very different genres, possibly the least electronic possible. There’s so much out there that we can translate into our music.
Do you have particular soul artists or styles you’re into? Like Philly soul, Motown, Aretha?
Oh yeah, right now I’m a little bit obsessed with Al Green and Sam & Dave. Outside of that, blues-wise, I’m a huge Muddy Waters fan. I love him, he’s just so raw, in every possible way. A lot of R&B as well, like Etta James, Amy Winehouse, D’Angelo. I like stuff with a lot of blues and a lot of, I don’t want to call it sadness, but a lot of emotions. Like, heartbreak is a beautiful thing and I get very attracted to that musically. I would say heartbreak and rough times in life are by far the things that have motivated and inspired me the most.
Have you had any mentors?
Many artists and people that influence me, teach me a lot of things. I wouldn’t say I have a specific mentor, but there is someone that has helped me understand many things in this industry, that I didn’t necessarily understand. I’m very fluent musically, but I’m not very fluent business-wise. So I would have to say the one person who has always kept me grounded and kept me focused on the right things, has been Brent [Hayward]. Not only has he been a great friend but I wouldn’t be anywhere without him as a musician. He’s one of the first guys that took a chance on me and still takes chances on me and supports me in every aspect of this ride. He’s always there to help keep me focused on what’s important and helped me ignore the noise. He’s been a huge guiding hand in how to carry myself in this business, which was my biggest challenge. I’ve always understood music, I’ve always been able to evolve musically, but the business part is a must, and whether you like it or not, you gotta play that game. Some people have the ability to play that game, some people don’t - I’m one of the people that doesn’t have that ability. He was hugely influential in me making the right moves and doing the right things at the right time. And not letting my hot headedness get in the way of my music.
What does music bring you?
Man, everything! (Laughing). Music brings life. It’s something that, it’s hard to explain, but lately it’s brought more peace than anything else because I found that I’m doing something I love and that I’m good at something I love, and that’s very rare. I was having a conversation with a good friend not too long ago, about the business side of music, the good and the bad, and the conclusion that we came to is that nobody can stop you from making music. I think that’s the most beautiful thing about it. We can pursue music professionally or we can pursue music as a hobby, but the most important part is that there’s nothing that can stop you from pursuing music.
And if it brings you happiness, then you’ve already achieved success. Outside of that, almost every good friend I have I’ve met through music. Everyone in my life who I care about has come in or been introduced through a musical experience. I think music surrounds you with like-minded people. I’m a firm believer that if you listen to someone’s music you can kinda tell what kind of person they are. I’ve always had that with headliner DJs, for example. I’ll meet a guy who’s music I love and I’m like, Man, it makes sense! Now that I’ve finally met you, your personality totally matches what you do. Music does so much for people, I mean it’s brought us to have this conversation right now.
What’s next for you?
Right now I’m not looking past the Island, to be honest with you. I’ve got New York this weekend, which I’m really excited about, one more surprise next week, which we’ll be announcing during the week [Output!], which I’m incredibly excited about. After that, I’m going to be focusing on a follow-up EP on my own, and I have one EP that I’m finishing up with Aleks as the follow-up to our debut.
I am putting together a small group of musicians for an electronica project we’re feeling out right now. Thats more of a 2017 goal, and then I’ll be taking a little time off the studio, and a little bit of time off towards the end of the year, just to decompress for a bit, gather some inspiration. Take a long vacation, do a little traveling, get the juices flowing and then winter time is studio time again to hit 2017 hard.
What does playing Electric Island mean to you?
The first feeling I had when I was told about it, was a feeling of accomplishment. It’s a beautiful way to get recognized by your peers in Toronto. And the fact that I started in this scene the way you probably did, and the same way many of us do, which was on the dance floor. Watching this collective of people evolve from the 99 Sudbury and Footwork days to the astronomical level of success of the Island, to later in my life be invited to perform there and have the honour to be chosen, feels like a nod and I really appreciate that. It means a lot.
I think it’s the one party in Toronto that exposes people to types of music that they are not normally exposed to. I see people that normally don’t come to any events that still go to the Island. People that have no clue what they're walking into and have never heard these artists, now go home realizing that electronic music is much more than what they’re getting from radio and TV. Exposing these people who don’t know about our music to really good artists is a huge deal, and to be a part of that is very humbling, and it makes the work worth it. I hope it happens to a lot of other guys because there’s still a long list of great DJs that we have, and artists in the city, that also deserve a chance at that gig because we’ve got so much to showcase. I’m very grateful and I’m very excited.
Many thanks to Alberto for taking the time to do this interview, and for LCPR for setting it up.