An electronic & techno music artist from Brussels, involved in the prolific underground scene of the capital of Europe.
Rafael Munoz is an electronic & techno music artist and dj from Brussels, involved in the prolific underground scene of the capital of Europe. Multi-skilled and versatile musician, he likes to see different universes combine and influence each other to blur sound frontiers. His music is an explosion of colours and raw and complex sound textures.
You perform in the electronic music world, however have you always been interested in this music? For how long have you been active as a DJ and producer?
More or less always, yes! I begun listening to electronic music when I was 7 or 8 years old, and since then I have always been interested in electronic music. It was at first dance and house music that we could listen to the radio in the late 90s. Then, few years later, I started buying CDs. That’s when I turned to a more « underground » kind of electronic music, more attracted to new, fresh, uncommon sounds: Techno, Hardcore, Experimental, Trip hop, Lounge…
In 2004, I started partying. I remember buying my first techno CD: I Love Techno 2004 mixed by Redhead. This same year, I saw him playing in a bar Place du Nouveau Marché aux Grains in Brussels. This bar does not exist anymore, but this precise night I had a revelation: I fell in love with techno music, and with the whole vibe this music brings. After that, I kept visiting Fuse, I Love Techno, P3P… Few years later, I’d evolved to minimal techno and started buying vinyls, and mixing at home, then at friends’, then at student parties…
It all led to my studies of Electroacoustic Music in the Royal Conservatory of Mons. Since then, I’ve been composing music.
The Brussels scene know you as the founder of NOXON (event series at our late FFORMATT). It seems you booked a lot of local artists during your events. Can you tell us more about your implication in the Brussels techno scene?
Indeed, the NOXON project was aimed to focus at first on the local techno scene. We do have a bunch of very talented local artists. However the Belgian scene has not much influence abroad compared with the French or the German one. Of course, we are not the only collective to promote this local scene, but we wanted to contribute and put these artists in the spotlight in the new club FFORMATT.
Furthermore, it brings us the possibility to lower the entrance fee: no more plane ticket or accommodation… Our parties were then affordable to a larger crowd. It has always been very important to us. Before NOXON, we organized the ON.afternoon open air parties and we already wanted to offer free entrance. We had then an amazing atmosphere, with loads of people, from different backgrounds, some of them there by accident! However, it became more and more difficult to keep it free because of some rules, having a good sound system, and most of all, because we wanted to pay fairly the artists.
The Belgian techno scene seems very active at the moment. Which artists do you think we should keep an eye on?
At the moment… not so much! But, yes, the Belgian, more precisely the Brussels’ scene, was indeed booming before the lockdown. New clubs, more and more music collectives of all kinds, more and more new artists… I wish we could meet this energy again when parties will be allowed!
Haha yes, I was talking more about the producers who continues to release great tracks, EP’s and compilations! But of course, we are looking forward to meet this energy again when parties will be allowed!
And amongst the artists to follow, there is of course Phara and Border One who both have produced superb EP’s on very qualitative labels. But there is a lot to mention! Altinbas, Emily Jeanne, Ospiel, Mika Oki, Kafim… And I have a thought for SP-X who is a heck of a producer but stopped performing as a DJ. I would have loved listening to him at a NOXON night.
You had planned a NOXON night in April, which was cancelled. In july, FFORMATT announced that they were left no choice but to close the club. Like most actors in the scene (and society at large) this is affecting you badly. How do you keep the spirits up as organiser, and how is the situation developing for you?
Indeed, we were affected like every other cultural organization. And since March it has been series of cancellations and bad news. The heaviest blow for us was the closing of FFORMATT this summer. Because we felt at home there. The FFORMATT team was great, like a big family. And it was galling because we just started to have a large loyal crowd and we had planned a great 2020-2021 season. We’ll make it later!
The heaviest blow for us was the closing of FFORMATT this summer. Because we felt at home there. The FFORMATT team was great, like a big family.
I have been clubbing, partying in Brussels for a long time. I can tell that the scene is resilient. Some venues close, others open, collectives are created. In other words, the scene has always been evolving and the public remains. So, I believe in the future, and I can’t wait to see what will be next, what will emerge from all of this crisis.
And what’s the future for NOXON ? Any plans for 2021 ?
At the moment it’s impossible to plan anything. We don’t have any clue when clubs will reopen, therefore we don’t know where and when the next party will take place. But we’re really looking forward to it!!
Can you tell us about one of your best memories from a Noxon night at FFORMATT?
One of my best memories has to be the closing set of Phara at our very first party. I was satisfied and relieved to see that the room was almost full. The atmosphere was hot, dark and sweaty (as I like) and Phara was rocking the place hard as he usually do, perfect…
You recorded a podcast for us last month. How did you approach preparing the mix?
In general, I get to a podcast in a different way than with a live DJ set. As the listening conditions are not the same, I must adapt. A live DJ set is mostly relevant when it is played, according to the crowd, the atmosphere, the venue… While a podcast must be consistent as a musical piece on its own. A podcast can thus be more achieved from a technical and a musical points of views. But of course a recorded live DJ set can also possess these qualities.
A live DJ set is mostly relevant when it is played, according to the crowd, the atmosphere, the venue… While a podcast must be consistent as a musical piece on its own.
Concerning the podcast creation, once I did my selection I record trial sets until I reach a result I like, musically and technically. I have to admit that I am a bit meticulous, so it can take some time. For this one, I was inspired by our previous NOXON parties at FFORMATT. I needed to let off some steam and to dive back into the nightlife atmosphere I miss so much…
What do you think is the most challenging in DJing, and what is the most exciting part of it? The most difficult thing in this job is, while playing, to find the perfect balance between two things: on the one hand offering my proper musical experience and on the other hand keeping the connection with the crowd and its moods of the moment. It is the most difficult thing but also quite exciting!
There are a lot of things I find exciting in DJing… the atmosphere at night, the freedom each can find and express, meeting new people, meeting artists, forgetting about time and the outside world…
Taking the step from DJing to producing seems to be a natural progression. You started to produce your own music with machines and modular synth. Can you talk us about your projects ? Any upcoming release ?
It is indeed a natural progression. However I don’t think it should be! Some artists are really good DJs but poor producers, and some techno producers are bad at DJing. They are two distinct art forms.
As I told you earlier, I have been composing music for a few years now. But it was mostly electroacoustic music, experimental music for art installations, film score… I was also producing techno music on the side but was never satisfied about the result. Indeed, producing techno is a way different approach than what I had been doing for years. It’s only recently that I started to focus all my energy on it. The lockdown was perfect for me as I had plenty of time to work on it.
I now try to associate both of what I have learnt, on one hand from DJing, listening to and living techno, and on the other hand the electroacoustic background. The main motive is always the research of new and original sounds. That’s way I love modular synth: it is perfect to discover new sounds endlessly. I have the chance to work part-time for the INFLUX studio from where I can borrow modules and test them.
What’s your studio setup ? Are there any pieces of gear or software that you couldn’t do without ? (Photo studio / gear).
I have a few synth: Make Noise O-COAST, the modular system, the Oberheim OB6 (that I currently am digging a lot) and the Roland JV1080 (but I still don’t have a full understanding of it). I also use the Roland TR8S for the drums and some VST’s in Ableton Live.
The only tool I cannot work without is Ableton Live which is the central piece of my studio. No matter which synth I use, I always manage to find sounds that fit in a track.
Last but not least, what is next in your journey? What are you looking forward to? What are your upcoming plans?
As I said earlier, my main focus right now is producing. So I’m looking forward to finishing some tracks and see what happens! And for 2021 I’m of course looking forward to clubs and party’s reopening and being able to keep on going with NOXON. I can’t wait to see how crazy the atmosphere will be at the end of this crisis…