Five Minutes with John Talabot at RBMA

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Last week, XLR8R headed to Madrid and spent a handful of days at this year's Red Bull Music Academy. Amidst the flurry of lectures, studio sessions, club nights, and special performances, we pulled aside John Talabot for a quick chat. The Barcelona-based producer and former Bubblin' Up subject was invited to Madrid as one of this year's RBMA lecturers, so after dropping over an hour of knowledge on the Academy participants, he sat down with us and spoke about his new album, his RBMA experience, the relationship between Barcelona and Madrid, and how his music goes beyond its sunny reputation.

XLR8R: Is this your first time doing anything with the Red Bull Music Academy?
John Talabot: Yes, it's the first time. I actually wanted to go to the Red Bull Music Academy this year, and I started doing the application to go to Japan, but suddenly they changed it to Madrid, and I was like, "Fuck! I don't want to go to Madrid. I wanted to go to Japan!" So, I thought that I would do the application next year. Then I received a phone call from Red Bull asking me to do a lecture, and I asked, "If I do a lecture, can I still go [as a participant] next year?" They said it's not so common to do that, but I [still] said that I would do the lecture. I wanted to.

So now, you've disqualified yourself.
I disqualified myself. [laughs] Doing a lecture is incompatible with being a participant. It would break all the rules for Red Bull, I think.

You're from Barcelona, and the Red Bull Music Academy is in Madrid this year. What's the relationship like between the two cities?
I think the relationship is based on personal relationships between artists. There is no concrete music scene in Barcelona, and there is no concrete music scene in Madrid. In the end, it's based on personal relationships between artists that collaborate on their own. A lot of people talk about "the sound of Barcelona," or say that Hivern is the sound of Barcelona, but I don't think that's true. There's a lot of people making stuff, and Hivern is a part of it. Pional, Aster, and all the people that I know have relationships between them.

So you don't have any negative stereotypes or preconceived notions about Madrid?
No, I think Madrid has always had a techno tradition, based on DJs like Oscar Mulero and other well-regarded DJs. Barcelona didn't have that.

Your last release was the Families EP on Young Turks, but you've just finished your album.
Yes. It's coming out in January on Permanent Vacation. The album is a mixture of my influences. It's an album with a concept of not knowing exactly when it was done. That was my inspiration. I didn't want to set the album in the present or the past. It's a mixture of '80s, '90s, '00s, house, disco, Kraut—everything. It's quite strange, but that's how it went. It has a whole concept and does not include any of the tracks I've previously released, so it's all new material.

Does it have a title?
Yes, Fin.

Your music is often described in the press as "sunny," "Balearic," and "tropical," but you've been quoted as saying that you don't necessarily feel that way.
Totally. I don't feel that way. When I made "Matilda's Dream," I thought it was a really dark track, with an acid line, suited for playing in dark clubs. Then it was presented to the press as a "shiny" track, and I was like, "What the fuck?" "Matilda's Dream" is not "shiny." It's a dark, acid/drums/jungle track. The album is pretty dark, and it has a pretty intense atmosphere. This time, I think it will not be categorized as "tropical." It's not a tropical album, so I don't want it to be sold like that. Shiny music is good, but dark music is good, too. I don't describe myself as a super shiny artist.