Compared to most house music, Raresh's sound is dubby, subtle and linear, but his penchant for filters, fader tricks and the occasional big breakdown has garnered him a fanbase far beyond most of his contemporaries. The 31-year-old amassed this following the old-school way: by playing great DJ sets. After almost 15 years in music, his entire discography includes just a handful of tracks and podcasts, and three mix CDs (the most recent being fabric 78 last October). If you're a Raresh fan it's very likely that seeing him in a club is your main reference point.
There's also a charming simplicity to the way he goes about his business. Living in Bucharest with his family, he makes music during the week, DJs on the weekends, and that, as he explains in this rare interview, is more than enough.
First of all, I wanted to ask about your fabric mix. How did you approach it?
I wanted to make the mix slightly different from Rhadoo's and Pedro's. But not necessarily super different. When I was asked to make the mix in 2013, I began to select records and put tracks aside in a folder on my computer. There is so much good music out there to discover, along with what I get sent by my friends. You have to dig for it, and scan all the online stores available these days.
So how much time do you spend looking for new music? Are you listening to mixes from other DJs?
I spend all my time at home listening to music and being with my beautiful family. There is not so much time to listen to mixes, but I do it in the car sometimes. I go through a huge amount of music I'm sent, most of it digital stuff. After that comes searching for records, old and new. It is wonderful to dig and look for interesting music. I am very grateful and consider myself lucky to be able to do this.
What other music do you listen to at home?
I listen to as much music as I can. Jazz, classical, all styles. Inspiration can come from anywhere.
With you and some of the other Romanians (plus other DJs like Zip and Ricardo), it's hard to tell how much you use the internet for music. But you're finding a lot of the music you play on there?
The internet is a very powerful tool for music. It can also get very confusing with so much stuff around. But I like it because it helps me research music (and other things). For example, Discogs is a wonderful place for music lovers.
If you use Discogs you must know about how expensive some [a:rpia:r] records are. What do you think about that?
Yes, I've seen the crazy prices on Discogs. But this is not only happening with our records. Part of the reason it's happening with our music is that when we started to press records in 2007, we did only 300 copies of our early releases. But this number grew with time, so now it's just hype that causes our records to get more expensive. And then people want to make money out of it. It's part of the game these days.
Are you interested in music magazines and websites at all? Do you read articles or reviews?
I am caught totally in the music, but I like to keep myself informed about what's going on. Sometimes a good read on whatever subject can refresh you a bit.
What do you think about people asking you for track IDs? DJs can often be very secretive about tracks they've found.
There is a lot of time invested in searching for good music. I am not that secretive, but I also think that everyone is able to search for music themselves. It's all out there, you just need to dig for it.
How is it with other well-known DJs? Are you asking each other for tracks?
Sure, we share stuff. The opinion of my friends is important. We don't keep music hidden from each other. I always say, 'Everybody can have the same tracks, but everyone will play them in their own way.' Or, even better, they will put their own soul into the tracks they play.
How many of your own unreleased tracks have you been playing lately?
There are a few. Some are live jams and live recordings that I made together with my friends Praslea, Dan Andrei, Cristi Cons and Vlad Caia.
You told me you're looking for a studio. How's that going?
I am still looking for a place, and might've almost found it. It will take some time to build it the way I want, but I absolutely feel no rush whatsoever—things have to come very naturally. I'm very, very busy with DJing. I have some gear already, but like everyone else in the game the need for more comes very often.
How long do you generally play a track in clubs before releasing it?
We normally play tracks out for a long time before releasing them. This is to make sure it works for our hearts and ears first of all, and then the dance floor. But sometimes we listen to something and immediately say, 'That's it! It will get released.'
What were some tracks on [a:rpia:r] that you immediately knew should be released?
Pedro's albums came very naturally, and we knew straight away they needed to get pressed. Also, Dan Andrei's Prima In Cerc Are EP and Cinderfella LTD's Ephemeris EP—when we first heard these we immediately said that they will be out.
What connects the tracks that have been released on [a:rpia:r]?
We simply release the tracks we feel the most. They're emotional for my friends and me.
When you play unreleased stuff from other Romanian producers is it mostly
new? Or do you have lots of unreleased tracks that are years old that you still play?
I'm playing a lot of new, unreleased material from other Romanian artists. But not just Romanians. As for older tracks, sometimes the passing of time and the influx of new stuff makes you forget about some things. They remain on your hard drive for years until you rediscover them and you start to be amazed again.
Do you think there's a Romanian house sound?
I don't think there's such a thing. Of course, there has been a lot more outside interest in Romanian house and techno over the last few years, but that's because more people here began to produce music.
You and the [a:rpia:r] guys talk about how it's nice to support fellow Romanians.
I think it's essential to help other people in general. In music, what can be more beautiful than playing your friends' tracks, giving them feedback and helping them go further?
Do you think you play better alone, or when Rhadoo and Pedro are there?
Playing with my friends is great, but I also enjoy when I play alone. Both situations bring about different feelings, depending on the party. The best thing is that it's different every time we play together.
How did you first learn to DJ?
A friend introduced me to electronics when I was 14. I was originally more into this than music. I even built my own amplifier, together with a pair of speakers from my grandma's old radio. It's amazing to build your own things from scratch, whether it's making stuff from circuit boards or building acoustic wooden boxes for speakers.
When I was 15, I started playing at a discotheque in my hometown, Bacău. I had to play all kinds of music for all kinds of crowds. They didn't have any turntables there—it was only a double CD player with a pitch control. My first gigs were late afternoon parties from 4 PM to 9 PM for young people. In 2001, after playing there for one year, I got the chance to play at Zebra, the only "house-music-all-night-long'' club in town. I was so happy to be able to play house and techno all night. They had two Technics 1210s, which I learnt to mix on. I was blown away and immediately became addicted to records. I was a resident there until 2005, when I moved to Bucharest for my studies. But even after 2005, I caught the bus 300 km back and forth to play at Zebra on the weekends.
What did you study at university?
Chemical engineering. But the music really took over in 2006, and I had to quit school. Fully concentrating on two things at the same time is not for me. I chose music and I don't regret a thing.
Can you remember some of the first records you bought?
I was into UK tech house and techno, and also some progressive house. I really enjoyed labels like Eukahouse, 2020Vision, Mosaic, Crayon, Soma Records, Yoshitoshi—there are so many. Even today, some of these releases stand out. One that truly blew my mind was a track from Wulf-N-Bear called "Raptures Of The Deep." And then there was a record on Soma from Otaku called "Emilia." When I discovered Discogs, I found out that the same artists made both of these records.
Where did you find music to play in those days?
There was no record store for this music in Romania at that time, so I was ordering records online. My first ever orders were from Covert and Juno. Covert doesn't exist anymore, but Juno is still a very good store today.
How did you pay for them? Did you have another job?
My only job was playing music on the weekends. I had to be very selective about what I bought. I only bought the records I considered special and very essential to own.
Were big DJs from other countries also playing at Zebra? Ricardo did, right? Who else did you see there?
I met a lot of DJs from Bucharest. I also met Catalin from the Sunrise booking agency, who started to offer me gigs elsewhere in Romania. But it was after I played with Ricardo Villalobos in Bucharest in 2006 that things took off. After this party, I was practically introduced to the world, and Ricardo and I became close friends. That party was magical.
Why was it so special?
Obviously it was extra special because it was my first party with Ricardo. I prepared a lot for it. I was very nervous, but it was amazing in every way. There was an afterparty outside Bucharest in a nice villa, where Ricardo and I played together.
What are you like as a DJ now compared to back in the mid-'00s?
I'm not that different. OK, maybe there are more nights without sleep and hangovers. But my enthusiasm for music is the same. The passion for looking for music and new sounds has been going strong since day one. Another very important aspect is my friends and how an entourage can create something really beautiful. When you share the same passions with your friends, you automatically create something bigger.
I've heard you say that it's important to be unpredictable when DJing. Is this harder to do as you've become better known? When you're playing bigger venues it can be risky to do something too unpredictable.
It's very important that people can't identify you as a DJ with only one style. I think it is good to be always prepared with the record case packed with many styles. Of course, there are places where you know that you are going to play a certain way, but it's never completely planned. You can normally feel if it's too extreme to play a certain record when the venue is bigger. But it spices up things a bit when you drop something that people wouldn't expect to hear at that moment.
Have you been to any parties in Bucharest lately? How is the scene changing there? Romania has been in the EU for a while now.
I don't go out much in Romania unless I'm playing somewhere. I have a beautiful family and I prefer to stay at home and chill. The scene is getting better and stronger. It seems like everyone is making music or organising some kind of party somewhere. The crowd is also very enthusiastic and people are usually very nice at the parties I go to and play.
I guess more tourists now come to Romania to check out the parties since we joined the EU. Sunwaves, 12 HDM, Mioritmic, Dor De Munte festivals and our own parties are good examples.
Where in Bucharest are you living?
I live close to the centre. It's sometimes a bit noisy during the day. In a few years I plan to move somewhere out from the city, which will be a quieter environment for my family.
Has having a family changed the way you view living the DJ life?
Yes, my family keeps me down to earth. The time during the week with them is the best time ever.