18.01.2021 | Interview by SGBA
Cosmo Lopez has been around in the electronic music circle for quite a while. With a long history and long journey, we were curious about his perception of the current happenings, his big record selection with over 4.000 records and his peers in Paraguay, where he is based. Starting as a kid playing music in bands, moving to London at a young age and following his intuition, he ended up staying for 16 years, with a 2 year stop in Berlin that has filled his life with music, people, experiences and a long list of strong achievements.
“In some way or another by helping your peers the scene grows stronger; sharing knowledge, skills and being open to give without wanting something in return always brings its fruits if you’re constant and dedicated to your craft I think. The sum of its parts achieves a much greater result for us as we’re a small country that is trying to show the world what is our take on this music. Will the world listen?”
Tell us a bit about your journey as a musician that lives in these two different cultures Latin America and Europe. Would you feel comfortable to give your perspective on the scenes, on the current subject covid and how it changes the musical landscape?
Music for me started sort of early when I was around 12, started getting into all sorts of music from that age onwards and when I was about 15 I decided to learn the bass guitar. That got me playing in different bands (gothic, noise/alternative and even some black metal with future LPZ (co-founder Octavio) in my teens and early adulthood, plus around 1997 guitar music sort of got boring (for me at least) and started getting more into beats and dance music, especially jungle and trip-hop which was probably out of fashion already in the UK where it was made but it was just starting to hit us in Paraguay.
Again with Octavio, who I knew from school, we started making drum n’ bass with an old Roland JX-305 and a cracked copy of Cakewalk. The new millennium came, we started DJing this sort of music (to almost no one) but somehow we got in touch with P. Lopez (also LPZ co-founder) at an event in Asuncion..
In 2001 I decided to move to London to try to start a life there, buy records and go to as many gigs as possible. There was no masterplan to be honest but I ended up staying for 14 years in the UK, then moved to Berlin for another 2 years and now I’m back in Asuncion for another 3 years already.
Since then we started LPZ as a production unit, released about 20 records, even more on digital, played out in Europe, Asia, North and South America, met a lot of really interesting people around the world while doing something I’ve loved since I was a teenager. To be honest, it’s been a dream come true!
As for the scenes and Covid, it’s really difficult to say what will happen and what not. In Paraguay the main clubs have shut down (Tango in Asuncion, Distrito and Pulse in Ciudad del Este, Room 101 in Encarnacion) but there are still some nomadic parties from different promoters, some more legal than others to be fair.
Somehow this diversified more the scene here in Asuncion at least where you can see more young people going the DIY route and starting their own parties and playing the music they love. So we will see what this new melting pot will bring when things get back to whatever normal will be once the pandemic has receded a bit more.
You have lived in Berlin and in the UK and have a strong community and crew in Paraguay. Being involved in both “worlds” for such a long time I believe you have a good network and involved yourself in many moments in Europe but also Paraguay. Thinking about the future of that journey, what do you see and how do you see evolving things for your work, transmitting and building bridges for yourself, the LPZ crew and the Paraguayan scene? And how important is the collective in this?
Connections are everything in the best sort of way possible, one door opens another and so on. It’s and old cliche but at the same time it’s really true.
To give you an idea, while I was living in London I met a lot of people through Ninja Tune the label. One of them, a party promoter and all-round top guy, John Power, decided to run a label called Body Work where we, LPZ, released 2 EPs, one called ‘1983’ and the other ‘Think for yourself’. Somehow this got to one of the bookers at Berghain and Panorama Bar, nd_baumecker who liked the releases so much he called us to DJ there. In the beginning, I thought it was a prank but nd was real and since then we’ve performed there collectively or individually 6 times already.
Because of the validation of those gigs at Berghain and PBar we got bookings to dj in Europe, Asia and the US, got called to do 2 Boiler Rooms and met a lot of people in the dance scene around the world. This is in no way boasting, it’s just to show how one event led to another and that to another one.
Also, through those contacts made in the Ninja Tune days I got a job working for EPM Music while in Berlin who are now our distributors for LPZ Records. I couldn’t be more happy with them as they truly care about our catalogue and are always trying to help us in every way and this wouldn’t have happened if we just sent an email to a distributor asking for help.
So who knows what would have happened if those connections weren’t made in the early days. That is my experience at least having lived abroad for a long time but while I was gone the scene in Asuncion was growing step by step thanks to the evolution of clubs there, from Fin del Mundo to Sequence to Tango that were important catalysts in showcasing dance music to our city while curating a very impressive programming of International DJs who shown a light of what dance music was around the world.
The connections made at those clubs were super influential in opening other doors and helping artists reach more people, as are the examples of P Lopez who is about to release an LP on Inland’s Counterchange label and Victoria Mussi who has just released music on Julia Govor’s Jujuka label.
In some way or another by helping your peers the scene grows stronger; sharing knowledge, skills and being open to give without wanting something in return always brings its fruits if you’re constant and dedicated to your craft I think. The sum of its parts achieve a much greater result for us as we’re a small country who is trying to show the world what is our take on this music. Will the world listen?
What worries you right now and what gives you hope?
Not sure if I’m worried as such but changes are tough most of the time and the pandemic brought lots of it. But change is probably the only constant in our life so one just has to learn how to deal with it and try to be as prepared as possible for anything that life throws at you. Or at least I see it that way!
As for hope, the prospect of a better future gives me hope. Isn’t this what most of us are aiming for in general? I mean, I got heavily into music since I was a kid and one of my main goals has been to try to make the Paraguayan scene better known around the world whilst funnelling through the information I collected throughout the years to the younger crowd.
Most of the people around me in the scene have a similar approach I think, there is a personal element but there is also a need to grow stronger together, so the Paraguayan scene is quite healthy in that respect and I for one am proud to be part of it.
Talking about the scene in Paraguay. As someone that has been there for a very long time and built a collective through time and a reputation with the community and people that keep being strongly involved and super important like Amanda, Victoria, yourself, which other people can you name that are important to know about that had a strong influence on the scene back then and still have and why?
I think mainly the people behind two of the more important clubs so far in Asuncion (Fin del mundo and Sequence), P. Lopez, Matias Espinola and Alex AQ. They kind of started a new chapter here in dance music that is still being felt to this day.
Last year the scene was very strong with clubs like Tango in Asuncion (ran by Victoria Mussi, Ohm.io, P. Lopez, Kybo and Keiran); Distrito (ran by Rych), Pulse (ran by Cesar Vallejos) and the Orbe collective (ivan Rodriguez, Will Do and Bassbreaker) in CDE as well as Room 101 in Encarnacion (Seba Benitez, Tito Ayala, Perez Brothers).
But there is more, there was the all female collective of Koko, Natalia Doljak and Victoria Mussi, plus younger faces like Vera Brothers, SHPS, Bastian, Bordon who are DJs as well as producers. Also there are a lot of DJs and promoters at the moment, too many to mention but some I had the pleasure of working with are PNRM, MD AD, Sub Club, Linked, Beatcon, Sonico, Sunshine, Pam Pa Nam, Massage, 4 Phonique and tons more!
Which historical moments would you say were a big success for the Paraguayan scene and which ones have a strong negative effect on it?
The opening of those 3 clubs I keep on mentioning in Asuncion for sure (FDM, SQNC and Tango), all those parties and new clubs (Distrito, Pulse, Orbe) in Ciudad del Este as well as big events like the Sequential Festival and DJ sets by the likes of Marcel Dettmann, DVS1, Fjaak, Sterac, Gene on Earth and more.
Not sure if it had a strong negative effect but the closure of some of those clubs, either being temporal or permanent, spread out the scene which could be seen as something good or bad depending on one’s perspective.
How was the year for LPZ on the release side of things?
LPZ Records started last year pretty good with a compilation of dance music from around Latin America called Alt Lat 2020 which I’m very proud of. Then things got quieter release wise with the pandemic but a lot of music was being made at the same time so right now we’re on track to release EPs and singles by a lot of artists who I mentioned before and connections from around the world, in the next couple of months we have releases by Octavio, Amanda Mussi, Ali X, P. Lopez, myself as well as permutations of LPZ in general with collaborations from some of us 3 or all of us.
You got a long discography on LPZ. Bandcamp had a massive influence this year on helping distributing the productions of artists and labels. Did it help you with the label, to get more reach and sell better?
To be honest not really, most of our sales are done via digital retailers such as Juno, Beatport, Boomkat and the like. We’re still working on making ourselves more visible internationally via Bandcamp while retaining our ethos, although it’s not easy as there are a lot of labels and artists there.
You have a very big collection of records right? Can you give us a little tour through your it? from A-Z which ones do you love, which ones make you dance, which ones would be good for a break up. I want to know it all 😀
Yes, I have a large vinyl collection, about 4,000 records that I collected whilst living in London and Berlin. The sad part is that they’re still sitting in storage in Friedrichshain in Berlin as I haven’t been able to get them all here to Paraguay as the pandemic started just when I decided to stay here.
I love all of my records as each one of them carries a memory of either being picked up or listened to or shared with someone or being recommended by someone. So it’s not just the music but also the memory that a certain record gives to you.
But some of the ones that do spring to mind just for the pleasure of listening:
Herbie Hancock – Crossings
Can – Future Days
Velvet Underground & Nico – Self titled
John Foxx – Metamatic
Scientist – Meets the Space Invaders
Photek – Modus Operandi
The Others People Place – Lifestyles of the Laptop Cafe
PIL – Metalbox
Madvillain – Madvillainy
Cerati – Amor Amarillo
Music to dance to:
Roni Size & Reprazent – New Forms
Mr Fingers – Amnesia
Showbiz and AG – Runaway Slave
VA – Artificial Intelligence
Carl Craig – Landcruising
Metro Area – Self titled
Goldie – Timeless
EPMD – Strictly Business
Music for a break up:
Jessy Lanza – Pull my hair back
The Flamingos – I only have eyes for you
Fleetwood Mac – Landslide
Spiritualized – Ladies and gentlemen we are floating in space
Tricky – Maxinquaye
David Bowie – Low
William Basinki – Disintegration loops
The Cure – Faith
Suicide – Self titled
The Smiths – Last night I dreamt that somebody loved me
What are you working on right now and what have you discovered this year? Technically, personally, emotionally that you will carry into the new year that you are glad to have discovered?
Right now I’m working on a lot of music to be honest, it takes me a long time to say this is done when making music on my own that’s why I prefer to collaborate but I have about 10-15 songs that I’m quite happy with right now at different stages of production.
What have I discovered these past 12 months? Change is eternal. You can find inspiration in the simplest of things. Revisiting old ideas lead to new ideas.
Overthinking is counterproductive, same as overdoing. The right balance between them two lead to the best results.
And most importantly, the only thing that matters is that you’re happy with whatever it is that you are doing and/or feeling at this time. If record collecting makes you happy do it, there is a reason for it. If making music makes you happy even though you haven’t released a single song ever, do it, there is a reason for it. If finalising your next release makes you happy also do it! I think you get the pattern so far.
To be honest the one upside to all of this social distancing is probably that we all took one step back from the status quo to analyse what we were doing, regardless of whether it was something good or bad. I think we all became more aware of what we need in our lives and right now it’s all a matter of putting in the hours and hard work to make it happen. To a good 2021, it surely must be better than last year!
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