Having made his full EP debut on the label at the start of the year with ‘When Life Was Slow’, Sebra Cruz has returned once more for Life And Death’s final release of 2020. As befitting a newly hopeful mood that the world finds itself in at the end of a tumultuous twelve months, the Margot Records co-founder & former Cocorico resident has brought to bear his talent for cinematic melody on this brand new pair of tracks.
We caught up with him to talk about his beginnings as a teenage DJ in the 90s, how it compares to the modern scene and the production hardware that is the key to his sound…
You started DJing in Italy in the mid ‘90s. Where did you first start playing in clubs, and what records were favourites for you at that time?
In the 90s in Riccione I played mainly in three clubs. I started when I was 15 at Savioli Disco, and the following years at Peter Pan Club and Classic Club After Hours in Rimini. I loved tracks like Bounce To the Beat by Todd Terry or Can You Forgive Her? (M.K. Bicycle Dub) by Pet Shop Boys.
At the records store Discopiu in Rimini, where I worked for years, I also often took titles from techno DJs – when those tracks weren’t too fast I was able to use them in my house sets. Tracks like Format #1 by Solid Session or Celestia by Mauro Tannino & Stefano di Carlo.
There is a lot of nostalgia these days for the early rave era – what do you think was better about the old days, and what do you think is better today? How has the scene in Italy changed since you began?
In the 90s it was very difficult – you needed a lot of technique as well as good taste and recognizable style to be able to find space in the clubs. We often spent afternoons spinning 3 records in time and I sometimes enjoyed launching the challenge of going to pee in the bathroom and returning with the 3 turntables still in time and being able to correct if necessary. We liked to manage musically the club like a wave, shake or soothe the energy as we pleased. Besides it wasn’t easy to produce records because you couldn’t afford a home studio.
Now surely you have to be very intelligent and skilled in marketing but I think the music scene is anyway still full of artists who are very good at producing music and excellent DJs. This is the important thing. The technical and artistic aspect is important in the style of the productions as well as in DJ sets.
In Italy there were a lot of admirable producer DJs in the 90s and there are a lot of admirable producer DJs now. It was difficult to find space in the 90s and it is difficult to find space now. Basically it hasn’t changed that much.
And even if at home I have a lot of vinyls that I have used for almost 20 years in clubs, I am not interested in talking about vinyl, mp3 sticks, computers, etc.
Good music and good mood is necessary – the format is not a problem in my opinion. The important thing is that there continue to be different facets and sounds. I like to think about the 90s scene and I like to think around the modern scene. There is no better or worse in my opinion in general.
You release music solo and in collaborations. What are the advantages or challenges of working solo or as part of a team?
I worked with a few people and I learned something from everyone, in particular from Giaga (50% of Margot), from whom I learned all the techniques that I then spontaneously customized through my personality. By working alone there is undoubtedly greater freedom but it is always also beautiful to work as a team. I love the energy of the team, always learning new things.
How is Sebra Cruz different to your other projects? Is it unique in the project sound, or do you approach the productions in a different way?
At the moment my set up is: Vermona Perfourmer + samples. Sometimes in my tracks the samples are enough to satisfy me, as in the case of When Life Was Slow or others tracks. Other times my Vermona is the main element as in the case of Siebel, Hydroshima or others tracks. With the samples my approach is much more DJ-like, while when I play the synth there is a more atmospheric ambient flavor.
Sometimes I also use the Analog Four by Electron, or a digital plugin, and I like to look for smaller and sharper modern sounds. But then I often realize that the completely analogue sound of my Vermona, with its dissonant polyphonies, reflects me more.
I do a lot of experiments, always looking for new combinations and other instruments anyway, and I hope to publish something weird soon too. Modern producers like me are lucky to be able to use programs like Ableton or Logic or other fast and intuitive softwares. Basically the computer is potentially sufficient to do great things.
Please tell us some details of when & how you made Siebel and Hydroshima – were there any unique conditions or production techniques under which the new tracks were made?
Yes, I created Siebel and Hydroshima the same week that I particularly enjoyed passing my Vermona Perfourmer chords into the Guitar Ring – a Native Instruments virtual effect that perfectly emulates guitar amps and ambiences.
Is it hard to make dance music when there are no dancefloors open at the moment? How do you address this issue?
Certainly without clubs all is less stimulating but I think one of the most difficult challenges for a producer is to find stimuli when there are none around.
What are your tips for staying creative, productive and for keeping spirits high during these times?
For the mind: having people around you with whom time is well spent and made up of simple things.
For body: Play sports, release energy!
What projects do you have coming up next?
My album in 2021 and I’m collaborating on productions & projects at other studios too.
What is your wish for 2021?
We hope that DJs can soon return to mixing music in clubs and parties in general, safely, whether we are talking about outdoor raves or small clubs, commercial or underground.