Interview: Reeko (Mental Disorder, Polegroup, Avian)/inC: Premiere

Interview by Helena Markos

Introducing Reeko can be hard, as he has unquestionably been one of the most prolific and important DJs/ producers since the late ’90s. Reeko finds himself, deservedly, amongst the elite of Hispanic and global techno. Juan Rico, under his different aliases has marked new territories with his unique signature sound. His contribution to the electronic music scene has been immense. Member of the PoleGroup gang, he is also part of the project Selección Natural, uniting Reeko with Oscar Mulero & the Asturian duo Exium.

Reeko has proven himself over and over again a true master of the darkest and hardest-hitting productions, slavishly followed by thousands around the world eager for a glimpse of this elusive master craftsman. For those lucky enough to be present, his is a performance that both inspires and devastates in equal measure, witnessed at Awakenings, both solo and B2B with Oscar Mulero, Berghain, Tresor, Fuse, Printworks and Concrete to name a few, alongside extensive touring of the USA, South America & Australasia.

Juan Rico uses a variety of aliases to release the diverse artistic sensations which flow through him. These are all characteristics that define his personality and are an intrinsic part of Reeko himself. Producing and performing under different names allows him to concentrate fully on an idea or style to which he is totally faithful, putting aside for a moment sounds and influences that don’t belong in the particular character which he is mutating into at the time.

This interview happens few days before Reeko’s upcoming, experimental LP ‘Dualidad‘, released on his own label Mental Disorder. Reeko talks about the concept behind it and also reflects on the current situation. He shares some interesting aspects of his creative process and today he chooses to stay optimistic and productive, hoping for the best, giving as a hint about his music plans for 2021.

With his new album, Reeko goes a step further. “Dualidad” shows us a constant struggle between the drive of imperfect melodies and that cosmos we were talking about. Two sides of the same coin, the irregularity of the universal “noise” against the softness of a light song, the dissonance that fights with harmony. Thus, a handful of songs emerge that require patient listening, without haste, with all the senses activated to appreciate the nuances that we will find built on layers of intricate sound sequences. Tracks were generated in the most organic way, in a single take, with hardly any post-production, resulting in a personal and unique work. Listening to the tracks of “Dualidad” we are invited to take the journey that Reeko proposes us, letting ourselves be carried away by that visual imaginary so cinematographic that we all have in our heads about the universe. Who has not ever imagined crossing beyond the rings of Saturn.

Today, together with Reeko’s interview, we premiere the track ‘Dualidad 12’, part of his new album; a real piece of art. The track evolves in a chaotic atmosphere, like leaves blown away by a strong wind, guided by a steady military kick, that breaks through the whisper-like voices. A nightmare or some sort of daydream? Determined and persistent, like a Blade Runner scene, disrupted by a moaning guitar synth-line.

T.O.P: First of all, thank you very much for your time to answer my questions. I want to ask you how the pandemic and the current events in the world are affecting you? What are you mostly missing from the pre-covid era? 

Reeko: It has affected me in the same way as the rest of the people working in the sector. It might have affected us even more in Spain, a country particularly restrictive, but despite of all that, I am very happy to be able to spend more time in the studio and to be able to work on projects that I had in mind, but that due to the travelling (for the shows) was impossible to start with.

This album is the proof of that. I always wanted to make something like this album so it was the first thing that I began to work on when I saw the future that waited for us. I miss the energy of a dance floor, inevitably that’s something I think all of us who do this miss when we can’t perform, now is when you understand the importance of getting that energy out, for both the DJ and the clubber.

T.O.P: How has your journey into the music been so far? 

Reeko: The truth is that I can’t complain. Living from what you really love is a privilege in our society and as the years go by you learn to value it more and more. Sometimes it is hard because music changes constantly and you need to reinvent yourself and at times it can be frustrating, but as I said before, I can’t complain. I am very grateful to have a loyal audience that follows me and understands my way of expressing myself artistically and that for me, is the most important thing when you work in music. I also feel that I am in a very creative moment and that gives me peace of mind because after 17 years of working professionally in this field, sometimes we hope that our creativity will diminish and it reassures me to know that this is not the case.

T.O.P: How do you feel being part of a very powerful collective such as PoleGroup? 

Reeko: Very happy to have contributed to the evolution of an emerging sound at that time. No doubt these were very special and decisive moments in my artistic career. Our nights as Selección Natural are missed in these times, we had very exciting nights without a doubt.

T.O.P: You are the man behind the prolific record label Mental Disorder? Would you tell us a few things about the label’s philosophy?

Reeko: Well, from the beginning I always wanted Mental Disorder to have a clear concept behind it and a very defined musical line, that’s why I normally release most music myself on the label, although other artists have released on my label too, but always because for some reason their music seemed to connect with the musical line of the label at that time. Many labels have this same philosophy, some are stricter when it comes to the music they release and others are based on more defined concepts than other labels.

But at the end of the day, Mental Disorder has always been my particular playroom, the place where I edit the most risky or effective music for the dance floor, depending on the moment, but always with total freedom. I have big plans for this 2021. Despite of the fact that we are in a difficult moment right now, the music must never stop, and if the world does not end before, I will celebrate in two years the 20th anniversary of the label!

T.O.P: Is there any person, moment or experience that has influenced your production? 

Reeko: An infinite line of moments, records and artists that have influenced my music from watching other artists play, listening to records or situations that seem very simple but that inspire you. For example, I remember that in 2011 I was traveling by car from Leeds to London, about a 5 hours’ drive if I remember correctly. I remember falling half asleep and the driver put on very soft dub techno, something like “chain reaction” but even more ambient, so I was all the trip listening to that sound in the background.

At that time I was starting to work on the trilogy of “Ella“. I really like that sound and I had an idea, so that trip added to the lack of sleep, that makes you more sensitive and receptive.  I decided that the trilogy would give an important twist to the sound of the label, which until now bordered more industrial, giving it a sound merged with dub techno.

This is one of the thousands of examples that I have lived and for which each one has to be attentive. Without a doubt it was a good choice and the trilogy of “her” worked very well! As far as artists go, it’s very similar, I don’t have a specific artist, I’ve been inspired by artists of many different styles. In the 90’s, I was strongly influenced by the English sound of Surgeon, Regis, James Ruskin, other artists like Fumiya Tanaka and their way of elaborating the sessions so conceptual, it was not common at that time. Nowadays, I have influences a bit farther away from techno, like Ben Frost or Andrea Belfi

Photo by Adriana Petit

T.O.P: How would you describe your creative process? What inspires you most?

Reeko: As I told you before, there are situations that sometimes even seem somewhat absurd, but even so, I can get heavily inspired by them for some reason. Cinema has always been a very important tool for me to obtain inspiration, ironically one of the directors who has inspired me the most does not use a soundtrack, is Michael Haneke, but that is precisely what inspired me, the lack of a soundtrack created a more realistic and intense atmosphere.

Nowadays, I look for inspiration in more real things, meditation has opened many creative doors for me, simply because when you enter that world and understand how the energies work in us, it is very inspiring. I am not the only one, countless artists of all kinds have been inspired by meditation. A clear example is David Lynch, he always talks about how meditation changed his creativity and his life.

T.O.P: How do you feel the electronic music world will emerge in a post-pandemic era?

Reeko: I sincerely don’t know. The world is too strange nowadays to be able to predict such a thing. I think it is not the pandemic that will make things change, I think this depends on the mentality of society. As long as social networks are still more important than music itself, then everything will come back in the same way as before. And you may have to wear a mask at the club or not, but what must change is our mentality and that I cannot predict from here.

T.O.P: What do you think are the major challenges that artists face today?

Reeko: Well, exactly what I said before, show the world that you are there for your art, for your music, not for your physical appearance or your people skills. Nowadays the competition is tough for the same reason, because there are incredible musicians with very few followers on social networks or even without social networks. Those artists are already in trouble for that reason alone, regardless of the incredible music they make, that is a mistake that must change over the years. I trust that it will.

T.O.P: Any upcoming projects/collaborations to announce?

Reeko: Yes, I have several collaborations in mind for the next year on Mental Disorder, but I prefer not to talk about this too soon, especially in these difficult times.

T.O.P: Which album of yours would you suggest as a mind/soul healer? 

Reeko: My next album “Dualidad” without a doubt, because of the spiritual background it contains. I do not know if so much to heal but it can make you think of something.