Rodriguez Jr. Interview

'Baobab', Sasha and almost becoming a maths teacher with the mobilee London headliner

Rodriguez Jr., aka Olivier Mateu, arrives at Egg this Saturday 29th July for mobilee London having recently released his second solo album, 'Baobab'. Overlaying melodic techno and deep house with dusty, atmospheric textures, it cements the reputation he first established as one-half of The Youngsters, who released two albums on Laurent Garnier's F Communications. With his live show having already been declared a highlight of Movement in Detroit this year, we expect another performance worthy of his headline status. 

Joined by Kevin Over, Ralf Kollmann and more on the night, we spoke to Olivier about musical roots, Sasha and almost becoming a maths teacher. 

Where are you right now and what are you doing?

I am on a Lufthansa flight, flying back from the USA to Europe. It's been a hectic weekend performing four gigs in a row in New York, Quito in Ecuador, Puerto Rico and finally Washington DC yesterday. I spend more and more time in North and South America. There's a great momentum over there. 

You just released your new album 'Baobab'. Tells us a bit about it. Where was it written, what did you have in mind during the recording and how happy are you with the result?

‘Baobab’ is about my roots. I basically wanted to connect back with the energy I felt when I started producing. There are many connections with the music I used to listen to as a kid, for instance, although there is no kind of nostalgia involved. I avoid nostalgia as it kills creativity. The real challenge was actually to create something fresh and forward thinking with these ingredients. Looking back over my shoulder helped me to understand who I am and where I wanna go. I had a picture in mind of an old tree growing up in a tough environment thanks to its roots, this is why I decided to call it 'Baobab'. 

Recording this album has been quite a long and tough process. I wrote it while travelling so it's been kind of hectic. Touring, experimenting in the studio, producing, mixing down, touring again… I actually didn't realise how this album would be a landmark for me, both musically and in my private life. It's been a life changing experience. 

What does it mean to you to be part of mobilee? How often does everyone get to hang out together?

It's a family thing. We have known each other for such a long time and we kind of grew up together. Anja and Ralf have helped me a lot in developing my sound signature for the last past 15 years and they give me the freedom to do whatever I like. Unfortunately, everyone doesn’t hang out together enough, because both Anja and I have crazy schedule. 

How does your live set-up work? Are you able to take much of your actual studio with you?

My live rig is totally different than my studio set up. Performing on stage is all about interacting with a crowd. Therefore I rely on a compact setup which I perfectly know and can instantly interact with, instead of being surrounded by useless gadgets and push random buttons. I bring a couple of controllers, a drum machine, a keyboard and that's it. 

There's a totally different workflow in the studio. I still use a lot of hardware gear and vintage synthesisers. I still need a physical connection with the instruments because it gives a very organic feeling, which you cannot have only with a laptop. 

Recently you also supported Sasha for his Re-fracted shows. Was he someone who inspired what you do? What are your musical roots?

Of course! Sasha has been an inspiration for a very long while and I was very proud when he produced a remix of my track 'Smile' for his album 'Involver' 16 years ago. Lately, I was thrilled when he told me about his shows at Barbican and invited me to support him on stage alongside the band. This has been a mind changing experience for me. There are still so many things to invent and develop when it's about performing electronic music on stage. This Re-fracted show was a great achievement in terms of music writing, arrangements and emotions.

My first musical roots were Kraftwerk, Jarre, Tangerine Dream, all that stuff, but also bands such as Depeche Mode and The Cure. I eventually got into dance music with the early techno and house from Detroit: Underground Resistance, Kevin Saunderson, Derrick May, Carl Craig. I was fascinated by labels such as Metroplex, Transmat, UR, 430 West, Read Planet, all that stuff. I was also a big fan of everything being released on Warp. The fusion of all that stuff is still probably the main ingredient of my sound signature nowadays. 

You've done music for some big fashion brands. How did this come about? Is there any money to be made from actually releasing electronic music anymore?

It's all about pushing your comfort zone and meeting the right people at the right time. I am always curious to try different kind of things. Working for a fashion show is another challenge. Music is a little part of a show, but it still has to stand out and deliver a strong emotion. Yes, there is still money to be made. The whole business model has been massively mutating for the last 15 years though. We have shifted from selling records to streaming audio, and the balance is slowly getting right again. 

What else are you looking forward to this summer?

Egg! Can I answer anything else? I love the club, I love London, and it's gonna be fun to hang out with the crew. There is also a short tour in Brazil and a couple of festivals here in Europe I am also looking forward to. 

Tell us something about yourself that your fans won't already know about you?

I studied mathematics at the University of Montpellier. I wanted to be either a teacher or researcher, but I failed and ended up performing electronic music in clubs. Nobody is perfect!