Today we talk to the two most important names in Uruguayan electronic scene and, of course, well known on an international scale. Fernando Picón and Martín Panizza, partners in crime 😊, talk to us about their projects, but, as always, we’ll take a look at their extensive careers.
– Hello Martín, hello Fernando, it’s a pleasure to have you on MOAI Magazine…
Let’s start with your beginnings, which is always interesting for our readers… because not all of us were born playing Techno or House and we all have a past. In a recent interview, we asked Emi Galván about his rock past… and it seems to me that Fernando also had one, please tell us something about those first steps into electronic music. And you Martín, what can you tell us about those first musical experiences, those first memories?
Fernando – Since I was a child I was surrounded by music; my mother had been a concert guitarist and both my father and grandfather had a lot of vinyl records. At the time they were also both very pro-technology and we had a Grundig 3-in-1 stereo which was a beauty (TV, radio and record player). For a little boy all that was very striking, especially the equipment and the vinyl records, there were many 78 revolutions that were hard as if they were made of porcelain.
My grandfather played me tango, milongas all the time and my father more Beatles, Shakers, Club del Clan, ABBA and that kind of stuff.
Before becoming a DJ I studied drums with the municipal band teacher, Arturo Barros, I learned to read music, a more classical school, like jazz, listening to Billy Cobham or Gene Krupa, for example. Then we formed a rock band with friends from the neighbourhood, we played AC/DC, Baron Rojo (who had an Uruguayan drummer, Hermes Calabria, who was the uncle of a neighbour who lived next door) and that style of heavy metal music, but then I got more involved with the subject of passing on music and I followed my path that way.
From then on it happened naturally, I started playing music for school dances, friends and things like that, followed by birthdays, weddings, in that way I was learning by myself, remember that there was no internet and the info we received was very scarce, so I just loved music.
The first times I played music I did it with cassettes and mixed with the volumes of the Sonitel amplifier (Made in Uruguay, I didn’t have a mixer, I don’t forget anymore hahaha), then came the IZU trays with their floating plate, very rustic, without pitch, Later I got a Numark PPD mixer that had a sampler, then came the beloved Technics MKII and a 2 channel Ecler mixer and we were just getting to the 2000’s and we were still using that technology, after that it’s more known history.
Martin – Beautiful memories! In my childhood the radio was always on (and in AM haha), my father’s Philips 474 record player was a treasure that I was forbidden to play as a child, but I could play vinyl of all kinds and genres.
That’s how I was moulding my tastes towards rock, preferably Anglo-Saxon, and Nordic metal. As a teenager I started singing, played bass and guitar and was part of several Heavy Metal and Trash bands, genres that occupy most of my record collection.
– When do you consider that electronic music enters your lives, both as a musical path to follow and professionally, when does that moment come when you say, I’m going to do this?
Fernando – When I was about 15 years old, I started to go regularly to the record shops in the city to buy vinyls, I would spend whole afternoons there and spend all the money I had. In those long days I exchanged a lot of info, I learnt from the sellers who were obviously DJ’s and I started to get the vinyls they had under the counter, not the ones in the racks that everybody had access to. I think that’s where I got the kick that seduced me into the DJ scene and lifestyle of electronic music. At the age of 16 I started working at Espejismo (1987), a very underground club, initially as a substitute DJ, which gradually stretched into a residency. From then on, I continued working professionally, earning good money and spending it all on records 😊. So, we grew up together with electronic music and its evolution.
Martín – In my personal life, it came fully into my life in the 90s. In 1994 I spent some time in Bilbao and at the age of 17 I was invited to travel the “ruta del bacalao”, so it was a before and after.
On a professional level, the turning point came in 2004. In 2002 I decided to retire from the booths when my little daughter was born, I had been a DJ professionally since 1994 although I didn’t consider it my job. But two years later there were some “cosmic coincidences” that made me come back: friends were producing big parties, I was working with them in marketing and media and one day, a couple of weeks before the Christmas party, the resident DJ quit. They called me to a meeting and asked me to come back just for that one time so as not to let them down… and here I am!
– Both Fernando and Martín are DJs and music producers. I imagine that first came the booth and then the studio… Was there a long-time difference between those two steps? What are your first memories in the studio?
Fernando – We were good editors from an early age hahaha, first because when we recorded the radio music on cassette we started cutting and pasting things, arranging the precarious recordings, praying that the announcer didn’t speak and if he did, we tried to eliminate him or correct him to save the track we had managed to get. Double cassette recorders and then the mini disc were tools that we used a lot at that time, at the beginning of the 90s.
In 1998 approximately the DAW ACID appeared, which we accessed more or less in 1999 and with which I created my first track that was released on CD, a compilation called Power Dance 2000 under the pseudonym SFERIK. Track No. 12 year 1999.
The idea of that track came from distorting to the impossible the melody of the song Wonderful Life by Black that sounded like Acid Bubbles.
Martin – I’ve got some really clear memories!
My first PC with Yamaha drivers in the 90’s! To buy it I had to ask for a loan from the bank and I left the property of my house as a guarantee, a crazy thing from those times.
Then in 2005 when Gustavo Bravetti showed me Live 5 in a hotel room. I installed it and it stayed there for a long time without knowing how to use it, haha.
It was DJ PP aka Gabriel Rocha who taught me how to use it, online and with infinite patience.
And also, who rejected me the first demos, showing me the mistakes and helping me to correct them. It was years of trial and error, totally self-taught.
I’m from an inland city where there was only one other person with the same interests and I discovered it when the owner of the magazine kiosk where I used to buy FM and CM (with several months and even years of delay) told me that he was bringing two copies. That guy, Walas Menoni, today a tremendous artist, became my best friend and partner in E-GO, a live electronic music project where we gave (and still give) free rein to our madness.
– You are two extremely versatile artists… let’s talk now about your labels… Martin, tell us about your adventure with Gabriel Rocha (Dj PP). In Hund Music you like Techno and dogs, what a great motto. Tell us a bit of history, when and how the initiative was born, what is that moment or release that marked a turning point in the history of Hund Music, what are the projects for the immediate future?
Martin – PP is my Master Yoda!
I always ask him for his opinion on my tracks, no matter what label I’m on.
He is clearly a House guy and I used to send him Techno tracks that he liked but didn’t fit on his labels, so one day he suggested HUND Music, a specific Techno label to release emerging South American artists.
And as we both love dogs and we are politically incorrect we thought it was good to cut with so much feline in the scene haha.
Last year when Fernando, my other reference and friend in this scene, proposed me to join Surbeats, I quickly said yes, so now I divide my heart between both labels.
– Fernando, it’s your turn, the same applies to your project with Deibys Márquez, Surbeats Records, recently incorporated to MOAI PRO as a collaborating label.
Surbeats records has cost sweat and tears, it’s more of a journey through the secret ways of the music business, in the beginning we had a lot of music to show but no one to release us. That’s how we started first with Diablito Records together with Gustavo Oldak, there we have some physical CD’s released in the country, my first album “Intimo 001” for example. At that time Beatport appeared on the market and we all wanted to be there, a portal to the world; with that edited material which was a good letter of introduction I met Willy San Juan who opened the doors of his label Molacacho Records, within that label we edited the first references of our label, they were Surbeats releases but they appeared as Molacacho (MOSB 001 for example). Willy eventually talked to Beatport and got them to give us an independent label, that was around 2009, that’s when the story of Surbeats Records began for the world.
Surbeats was an idea that I had and that I have shared with several people, some were left along the way, because differences in points of view, currently there are two people who are unconditional, Deibys Marquez who is a great friend who has accompanied me for a long time and now Martin Panizza to whom I offered to accompany me and give a new air to the label that we had a little stand by.
We are with a renewed Surbeats, with a lot of strength, with several raleases entering the Top Ten on Beatport and Traxsource, incorporating new artists and giving opportunities to new talents.
– Well, let’s leave the recording studios and go to the booths. If you had to choose a special moment throughout your long and successful careers in clubs and festivals around the world… What would it be?
Fernando – One of the most beautiful experiences was playing with Gustavo Cerati in Punta del Este, in an intimate setting, El Camino Restaurant, where we had dinner beforehand, chatted, shared tastes and experiences of music. Those unthinkable things that music and especially our profession give you.
And obviously the day I met my wife, which was obviously at Lotus Club where I was the Resident Dj.
Martin: I treasure the simple moments, getting to know different cultures, dinners in distant cities with incredible people and artists before or after a show.
If I have to mention, I think quickly of Cochabamba, Bolivia, in 2008, the editions of NorthFestival, the small room of Ozone in Pamplona with friends, the Streetlife Festival in Munich in the rain, Redvolution with Fernando, Otro Mundo, Bora Bora and of course, Zul.
– Just these days the summer is coming to an end in Uruguay, and I think you have been able to do some events with the logical restrictions imposed by the health situation… How is all this being experienced in the sector there in Uruguay? Are the attendees aware of the situation and do they contribute with their responsibility? What measures have been taken as a general rule for this kind of events?
Fernando – We have had the possibility to do some events, generally in the open air, the problem is that it is difficult for people to stay still haha… many of the events ended up being suspended for not complying with the rules.
The rules are the basic ones that we have for everything here, bubbles limited in the number of people at each table or space, to keep a distance, to use a mouthpiece when walking around the place, to use alcohol when entering and to take a temperature, obviously not to dance, and restricted timetable.
Martin- Here large gatherings are not allowed and neither is dancing, we can only play in bars and restaurants which is quite strange.
And lately there has been an important escalation of cases in Uruguay, so I personally have decided to postpone my activity for a few weeks, convinced that everyone must contribute responsibly from their own place.
– We are asking you all this because we have references of how things have developed in Uruguay. Here in Spain, the electronic music sector has been really hard hit, government aid has been insufficient or in many cases non-existent. What has happened in Uruguay, has state aid arrived?
Fernando – The sector has been very hard hit by the situation, for the moment there has been no help, we have been hit the hardest because it is an entertainment sector that needs an audience.
Here in Montevideo, for example, the DJ is also considered a Public Show, and if the venue wants to have a DJ playing functional music, it has to comply with a reduction in its capacity and pay another type of tax, which makes the situation even more difficult for the venue, which is already in a situation of reduced opening hours. If they don’t comply with this and they see a DJ, the venue is fined, warned and can even be closed down; it’s difficult to hire a DJ with all these conditions.
Martin: If there is little help there, imagine here, where we have you as a reference point and where a scene has only been consolidating for a few years!
– To conclude, let’s talk about the more immediate future, and about another beautiful project you are embarking on together. Groove Beats will soon start its courses in Montevideo. DJ and music production courses for those who want to learn about all this from two professional experts. How did the idea of becoming teachers come about?
We have been linked to education in some way for a long time, a few years ago in my particular case I had a couple of record shops, first Diablito Records in Montevideo and Punta del Este, then Onix Records in Montevideo, in both of them we had a record shop, clothes, accessories and DJ courses.
We started the project and at the last minute I couldn’t keep the timetable and Martin started classes in AGADU with another colleague. After a while the possibility opened up for me to pick up where we had left off and it was there that we started working on what today has become GROOVE BEATS.
We also consider it an interesting option to continue living from what we are passionate about, we hope to be able to continue on the tracks forever, but obviously time goes by… Hahaha, but we’ve got plenty of time.
Martin: It was always clear to me that at some point I would have to change from night to day, but without moving away from what I love, and that’s something we talked about with Fernando.
I’m a broadcaster and I was a radio and TV presenter for many years, so I wasn’t intimidated to give classes, but I was a bit scared from a conceptual point of view: knowing how to do something doesn’t always guarantee that you can pass on that knowledge to others.
Luckily, from the very first class everything worked out wonderfully and today I can say that teaching is another facet of my career that makes me happy.
– How do you organise your courses, do you do everything on a 50/50 basis or perhaps in one of the two specialities do you focus a little more on one of the two?
Fernando – With Martin we really understand each other and we complement each other very well in a natural way, we come from a similar school, with similar experiences and training based on many years of hard work, thousands of sets, a hard road, sharing feelings and passion for music, that makes us have a similar philosophy in terms of how and what we want to transmit.
We try to manage everything 50-50 and cover for each other when one of us can’t make it, but we are always there for both courses and all the groups.
Martín – The courses are organised into syllabuses, each with its own sections, theoretical and practical modules… they are really very well put together.
But the plus is didactic, sharing experiences, explaining to your students a certain fictitious situation with an example that really happened in your career is great. And with Fernando we complement each other in such a way that the common thread is the topic we are discussing in class and each of us contributes naturally. We have an excellent chemistry, to the point that I’m answering without knowing what his answers are to these very questions hahaha.
– Groove Beats has also joined MOAI as a partner school and we’ve had the opportunity to see the environment and the facilities, which are really great. It’s not the most important thing, but the truth is that being in a place like this must be a good help to teach those courses, isn’t it?
Fernando – The truth is that we have a special infrastructure, with two large rooms just for us that can be joined together and transformed into a large hall. We are in a historic building in the city called Hacienda Williman and we are in the same space as a music school with whom we also share larger areas to give Master Classes or hold small events; we also have a cafeteria, outdoor spaces, etc. All this makes us an important centre of art that empowers us and where we have the opportunity to share experiences with musicians and artists from other related fields.
Martin: Without a doubt!
From the infrastructure we have at the Academy, to the staff, to the possibility of interacting and learning from other artistic disciplines, all these things enrich us and motivate us to do our best.We are really very proud of Groove Beats, first as part of Groove Academy and now also as part of MOAI.
– It has been a pleasure to have with us these two great Uruguayan artists telling us a little about their careers and projects. Thank you very much for your attention.
Thanks to you and congratulations for everything you are doing from MOAI for the artists and our scene.
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