Nico Cabeza has been bubbling away under the surface as one of the people who is making a name for themselves in the world of techno.
2020 has been a crazy year for most in the music industry, but despite gigs getting cancelled, many artists have still found a way to keep going.
Supporters of his music include the likes of Ramon Tapia, Monika Kruse and Christian Smith who have all signed his music to their labels, but his tracks also get played in the sets of people like Enrico Sangiuliano and Adam Beyer.
With a new year just around the corner, now seems a good time to get some retrospective on the last few months and find out what’s next for Nico.
T.H.E – Hi Nico, could you start by telling us a little about how you first got into electronic music?
Nico Cabeza – Hi guys, first, thanks for the invitation! My first steps in electronic music started when I was young thanks to the music that was played in my home. Since I was young, I was fascinated by the music of Depeche Mode and their electronic sound (I’m still a super fan of them now). Progressively, when I was 14 years old, I started listening to various mixes of house music that my brother introduced me to, thanks to him and his friends I became super passionate about the genre and the whole underground world. I started to follow many DJs like Deep Dish, Masters At Work, John Digweed, Sasha etc … and then I slowly discovered the various other genres such as techno, and became fascinated with anything that came from Detroit. I started listening to artists like Juan Atkins, Carl Craig etc, and soon started to build up an eclectic taste of different styles. Then in my early 20’s I started making my own music, and I soon realized that my many influences were driving me towards creating my own individual sound. In fact, I went from one genre to another before realising I felt most comfortable making techno. and I think this path of experimentation was important to take, as it helped broaden my knowledge of different styles.
T.H.E – Where are you currently based, and how has the local scene been affected by Covid?
Nico Cabeza – I am Italian, and live in Berlin, but now I am “stuck” in Italy. I had my first lockdown in Germany at the beginning of the year, and I must confess it was not so difficult. The country reacted immediately, and this meant our lockdown did not last as long compared to other parts of the world. I also observed 15 days of voluntary quarantine after I was returning from a gig in the UK.
Now, I am in Italy, as I wanted to be near my family. Fortunately, at the time of answering this, we can still travel through the various local areas. I often stay in the mountains or go back to my hometown of Padua. The local scene in Germany was not particularly affected first time round, but the country is back in lockdown again now, which means for now I am stuck in Italy.
After the first lockdown, there were many outdoor events, and I was also lucky enough to play in Berlin at a beautiful rooftop party with my close friend Mattia Saviolo. That event was put on by Stroem who played with Marcel DB, and I must say that they were super attentive to health and worked really hard to make sure the event was safe.
On the whole, everyone in Berlin has been very responsible, and the government tried their best to put everyone in safe working conditions. Unfortunately, the major clubs have remained closed, and this is something that seems to be the same in most parts of the world.
For Italy, unfortunately, things got worse again! In the first part of the summer, it was possible to play gigs, and I got a booking request to play for my good friends at FREGA, so played with Ingrid and Mattia Saviolo at Link in Bologna. It was a beautiful open-air set that I got to play in complete social distancing safety.
Unfortunately, the Italian government decided to nationally shut down all events after there was a rise in Covid cases in some parts of the country. Italy club and music scenes are paying a high price for the restrictions, and I hope it can recover, but many are struggling and lots of club venues will probably disappear, which is very sad to think!
T.H.E – You have released on some well know labels such as Terminal M and Tronic, which of your releases are you most proud of?
Nico Cabeza – Tronic is one of my favourite labels, thanks also to the excellent friendship I have with the owner Christian Smith who has been a sort of musical father for me. He also taught me a lot about how to represent myself in the music industry, and his teachings led me towards releasing music on Terminal M, which in turn lead to me cultivating a good relationship with Monika Kruse who owns that label. The thing that has always impressed me about those super success full artists, is that they are people with a great openness to hearing music from people like me and are super positive about pushing emerging talent. I am always incredibly happy to be able to talk to with them, and if I have to say which is one of my favourite releases, then I would need to make a top 3.
In third place, I would put “Celestial” on Tronic, as that EP was really one of the best I’ve done. Unfortunately, it came out just before the pandemic, and that meant it did not get played at many dance floors. In second place is “Broken Voices” on Terminal M, because it was released on vinyl, and because it got support from Adam Beyer.
First place is “The Destroyer” on Tronic … seeing it play by Enrico Sangiuliano at Awakenings was such a special moment for me!
T.H.E – How has your style changed over the years, and is your sound still evolving?
Nico Cabeza – I’ve always loved a good groove, and my first records were in a tech-house style. In that style, I got the privilege of working closely with great artists such as Pirupa, Riva Starr, Nice7, Matthias Tanzmann and many others. However, my sound was often quite driving and heavier than the tech-house style, and my demos often did not fit with those house labels/artists I’d been working with. So, I started sending my demos to some techno labels, and from there I started an evolution in the sound I became known for releasing. Over time I’ve refined my sound, and I now consider myself a techno artist, whereas before, I considered myself to have an eclectic style.
T.H.E – What is next in your schedule, do you have many new releases planned for the rest of 2020?
Nico Cabeza – Yes, I still have two great releases to come out in 2020. One will be in November with my good friend BOHO that is coming out on Jaw Dropping Records. This is an EP composed of our two originals plus a remix by Carlo Ruetz. In December I have my second EP made in collaboration with Ingrid and that one will be coming out on Simona Grigoriu’s label Kuukou. I am very happy with this latest EP because I believe that Ingrid is a really talented artist who has a great career ahead of her, and I say this having seen her passion and skills in the studio.
T.H.E – Could you tell us about your studio, and how you approach starting a new piece of music?
Nico Cabeza – My studio in Berlin, is at a place called the Arttraktiv complex, and inside there are many great artists of various genres whom to exchange ideas with. I share my studio with two friends that are also super talented producers. Luis Arboleda is DJ and Producer from Brooklyn in New York, and the other is Mattia Saviolo who’s a fellow Italian that works with labels like UMEK’s 1605.
Being able to share my ideas with them is always illuminating, especially Mattia who I’ve known for several years, as we are both from the same city. We have a good set up, with a Subsequent Moog37, a Korg R1, Juno, Jupiter, Push2 and Kontrol S49 keyboard. The process of creating a new track usually begins with the melodic part. Often, I start writing the break, and building a whole climax around it, then add in the rhythmic elements such as the kick drum and other percussions. Sometimes I get stuck doing the structure, as sometimes things do not flow as I want, so I go back to the original idea to try again until I’m happy.
T.H.E – 2020 has been a crazy year, but let us focus on the positives for a second… what has been your favourite thing to happen this year?
Nico Cabeza – This year has presented me with numerous difficult moments. In addition to not playing that much, I had many crises in the studio. Perhaps the distance from the clubs and all the vibe that surrounds them led me to create music without any guidelines. Of course, music must be an expression of its own, but I found myself doing some tracks that were so melodic that they verged on being classed as ambient instead of music for the dance floor.
Despite all this, I still met some fantastic people, and in the last period also a person who has given me a lot of confidence in myself. Perhaps at the end of it all, this year’s break was a great way to internally restructure me, and give myself a new outlook on life that finds positivity even in the toughest moment.
T.H.E – We are coming towards the end of the year now, and I also wanted to know what you are most looking forward to in 2021?
Nico Cabeza – I hope for Covid to end, and clubs to open again!
T.H.E – Is there anything you want to add before we bring this chat to a close?
Nico Cabeza – Keep positive thoughts, and stay close to the people who make you smile… remembering that the past is behind you, so it’s better to focus on making the future a better place for us all! I look forward to seeing all my friends again on a club dance floor, and I can’t wait to stand in the DJ booth sharing my favourite music with likeminded people 🙂