Eduardo de la Calle may be loquacious, but he is always sincere. He has no internet at home and is speaking via Skype from a cyber café near Málaga, in the south of Spain, close to where he lives. He has built a studio in the mountain next to an Ashram where he has practised his other discipline, Bhakti yoga, for four years. Eduardo's recognition as a maverick and, at times, controversial techno producer has gone hand-in-hand with his spiritual development. His journey from apprentice to master in search of pure techno and personal truth feels like a quest; it spans 20 years of commitment, financial hardship and, finally, success.
Yet this journey has also not been without other costs and frequent misunderstandings. He has often been dismissed as an outsider and an eccentric. Worse, though, are the accusations of plagiarism that follow his sample-heavy music.
As well as the continuing success of his vinyl-only label, Analog Solutions, he has recently released tracks on Modularz, Semantica and, surprisingly, Cadenza. His debut album is due imminently on Seth Troxler and Craig Richards' new imprint, Heel To Steel, with a second album, for Cadenza, already under way. His documentary, Beatz, has also just been premiered in London. It features interviews with many of the artists whom he was accused of stealing samples from.
Eduardo was born in Madrid and raised in Cádiz, about 300km from his present home. The Andalucía territory is more widely recognised as the heartland of Flamenco than a techno hotbed, with Cádiz also hosting one of the most intense and vibrant annual Carnival festivals. But it was here that Eduardo was introduced to electronic music through acts like Sisters Of Mercy and New Order, and industrial groups like Neon Judgement and Sneak Core. By the early '90s, he was hooked on the exploding techno scene. He opened his own record store in Cádiz and bought his first studio gear.
"My dream was to be a DJ," he says, "but at this time the scene was full of DJs, so I was thinking of how to introduce myself. I was thinking the best way to do that was with a live act, because at this time in Spain it was really strange and difficult to find someone doing a live act with machines. So I started out with a friend doing some live acts around Spain under the name JD Cler." Eduardo shared his early days on the road with Ángel Molina, Oscar Mulero, Christian Varela and Italian DJ Marco Carola, names who would go on to become luminaries of the Spanish scene.
However, starting as a live act proved to be difficult. "I did 40 or 50 live acts, during four or five years, and I did many clubs and many festivals full of people, but most of the time when I did a live act, there was nobody [there]. I remember one time in Gijón with Marco Carola, there was a club for 3000 people and maybe there were 20 people there. There was nobody. I went by car everywhere just for €200. I had to pay for petrol, and go back and forth, often 24 hours driving. It was really hard, but I remember that time, and I feel happy because I did what I was fighting for."
As well as forging a fighting spirit, the live set was a critical step in the evolution of Eduardo's sound. He described his early set-up as "two Akai MPC2000 samplers with no MIDI, just pushing buttons, and it was really exciting and really risky." This physicality and an untethered approach to manipulating and sequencing sounds would eventually form a key part of his approach as he switched from live act to DJ and producer.
Eduardo's earliest production steps proved frustrating. After financial issues delayed his early releases, on Groof's (Roberto Gemelín) Brainwaves imprint, he was forced to start his own label, Recorder. It only released two split 12-inches, with tracks by Eduardo, Groof and others, but it was enough to attract the attention of Richie Hawtin. "Richie Hawtin took one of my tracks to include on DE9: Closer To The Edit. He sent me the contracts, but after two or three months, he put the CD out without my track. I think the reason behind it was that he sold the whole mix to Mute in the UK, and Mute cut it. So my loop, my piece of the record was at the end and so finally Richie didn't use the music."
Such exposure so early in his production career could have been a path to recognition and financial stability. As it turned out, Eduardo would need to take a harder road. He moved to Barcelona and started working in record shops, like SCI-FI run by Ángel Molina. To make ends meet, he also worked as a courier and recounts many tough days in Barcelona trying to combine work, production, DJing and running labels. "I passed some really hard moments in my life," he reflects. "Sometimes I had to take some things from street. Once I had to fix my motorbike on Sunday to do my courier work on Monday. I had been observing another model of the same motorbike there abandonada on the corner for one year. So I stole some pieces for my bike because I had no money."
In 2005 Eduardo moved to Berlin, where he would remain for almost three years. He moved in the right DJ and promoter circles and managed to get gigs, but released little music. Although he absorbed musical influences and the intense activity of the local scene, the impact Berlin had on his future came in a more unexpected way.
The move proved to be critical. In this period, Eduardo founded the Analog Solutions label and cemented his trademark sound, a mix of electronic edits and original productions, and deep, organic arrangements gleaned from his vast experiences of playing live. But first there were other obstacles to overcome. "When I started my discipline I stopped drugs," Eduardo says. "I stopped hash, meat, fish, alcohol and many more things. With the force I receive from my yoga master I could do many, many things that I could not achieve alone."
The establishment of an often-gruelling diet regime and early mornings also had creative benefits—not only an increase in quality but also an increase in output, with over twenty 12-inches appearing in 2011 alone. And the productive run has continued into the present. "I have to recognize that since I started this discipline that my records have become more and more special, with more deepness and more message, with more wisdom, with more feelings, with more texture, more atmosphere. I don't know. Everything just became purer and more spiritual."
Our conversation frequently turned to the concept of master and student. There are two key masters that have clearly shaped Eduardo's path. "I spent four years alone with my [yoga] master in the mountains, four years doing my discipline and I discovered a part [of me], like an iceberg," he says. "I discovered some aspects from the surface of what the human being is really, and I was totally shocked because it was really something unexpected. For example, my father died a few weeks ago and I do not cry. I do not cry because there is nothing to cry for. This month I will release something new on Semantica. This EP is dedicated to my father. For me music is a channel. It is like a transmission. Everything is sound in the material world. You and me, we are vibrations."
Eduardo's other master was someone less likely: Frédéric Laroche, AKA Defré, who was not a producer himself but part of a bigger entourage around French artist Mr Oizo. "He did the video for 'Analog Worms Attack' [and he] comes in on a motorbike in the video," says Eduardo. "He was living in Paris and Barcelona. He built up a soundsystem with 25 subwoofers, with thousands of records, but he was only eating biscuits and milk. There was no kitchen, there was nothing. He told me, 'Eduardo, I know what you are looking for. I can teach you, because you have the capacity to hear. I recommend that you sample. First you have to EQ the music physically, not with plug-ins. You have to sample disco, you have to sample funk, Hindu or whatever you want to sample. Go into the street and record the sounds of your neighbours or your dog with a microphone and use that to try to build some techno masterpieces. Then you will find what you are looking for.' When I moved to the mountains I bought a sampler, an Akai MPC5000, and I started to sample."
Sampling opened the floodgates for an impressive run of releases, mostly on his highly successful Analog Solutions label and its sub-labels, Suprawax and Edits. His growing popularity has also seen him release elsewhere, including recent 12-inches on Mental Groove, Modularz and the Precursors EP on Cadenza. When explaining the Cadenza release, he is quick to defend his motives. "When I work for some labels, no matter who they are, I just do my tracks and if they like it, that's it," he says. "But I don't try to make something that is the sound of Cadenza, Semantica or whatever. I don't do commercial music, I just do the things that I feel."
Preliminary titled After The Warehouse, his debut album is also about to see the light of day. Eduardo is hesitant to give too many details, given the hectic schedules of all involved and the run of delays until now. "There are some beautiful tracks with a trumpet player," he says. "Some jazz. Some of the tracks are not for young people. There are some deep, electronic landscapes with acoustic music, really interesting. It will be a double album with interludes and of course some dance floor tracks."
Part of Eduardo's prolific sampling has also meant visual sampling. In a video interview to promote a 12-inch for Victor Santana's Chaval Records, he drove a UR-emblazoned car and wore a balaclava, vest and Metroplex pullover. "I like to cover my record bag with stickers and logos," he explains. "For me it is a question of culture. This is material culture, it is not spiritual. It is also a way of seeing myself in the mirror and seeing who I am materially, and to see what I am fighting for."
Eduardo's samples are controversial because of how nakedly they're used in his tracks. While the material is always EQ'd, and mostly treated with effects and pitch-shifting, there is often no hiding their origin, especially since many come from classic tracks—the piano from Carl Craig's "Butterfly," a riff from Basic Channel or a vocal from K-Hand. However, the important difference that's served Eduardo well has been his insistence on acknowledging the source of samples on every release with stickers and sleeve information.
Even so, one Berlin record store apparently refused to stock Analog Solutions, and his relationship with UR's Cornelius Harris has had plenty of ups and downs. "I had some fights with Cornelius, with Underground Resistance," Eduardo says. "At the beginning, our relationship was really, really good and I had good feedback from Mad Mike through Cornelius. I know very well that Mad Mike supports me. But after that… I can also understand that Cornelius was a bit upset, because he doesn't really know me. En un momento se desconciertan (at one moment they became disconcerted). But I know I have a lot of support in Detroit."
Beatz was made with the help of his manager, Iban Ugalde, and represents several years of love and effort, with over 150 people having participated. "Beatz for me was nostalgic," Eduardo says. "Some of the documentary films I saw in the past, like Universal Techno, High Tech Soul, I missed more people in unity, in one film. I have to admit that I cried making this film. I was with my camera and Laurent Garnier, and I could not believe it. Walking with him backstage, sharing time with Derrick May, with Kenny Larkin, Surgeon, with Carl Craig. Sometimes I took my camera in my bag after the party, taking a bus or a train back to the hotel crying."
Beatz is also intended as knowledge to be passed down from master to student, from one generation to the next. "My master told me with his love, his patience and his example, 'I want masters and not disciples, otherwise this makes no sense. If you discover something and you keep this knowledge for you, it means nothing.' This is also the point of the movie: to have the opportunity to give to the young generation the knowledge. How can they build up a DJ or producer career? Derrick May is very clear, to get synthesizers now is very difficult, so is to have your own sound. Blake Baxter is also a genius the way he talks in the film. To be successful you need activity, knowledge and effort. Maybe you can make a hit with the computer, but the most important thing is that you invest time. Invest life."