Hey, great to meet you! How has your year been so far, what’s been good and bad?
Thanks and good to meet you too! It has been a really great year so far. On a personal level, it has been a year of learning, strong decisions, some amazing Papa Loko parties and performances and lots of inner work and exploration. On a more collective level, I am happy to see more and more people awakening to the fact that we need to take urgent action if we want to save and rebalance life on our planet. It is also inspirational to see so many of us, young and old, thinking not just of ourselves but of future generations and others too.
Why did you decide now was the right time to start the label? What inspired it, how hard has it been to get off the ground?
Creating a record label has been something I have been thinking of for a while but never had the courage to do. I feel it is becoming increasingly difficult to release one’s music through a label, especially if it is not confined exactly to a genre or a style. And my music never quite did. As with all my major decisions at the moment, I took the decision to start a label after a series of meditations. Deep inside I think I knew I had to do it, but had worries and fears that prevented me to do so. When, after lots of asking, I got the inner answer that I should do it, all worries and fears not just vanished but also, I felt like a massive weight had been lifted off my shoulders. Things have been flowing pretty much beautifully since but I am taking things calmly and without rushing too much.
What will be the vibe, the musical MO? Does the label have a sound in your head?
Conscious Expansion is more defined by certain qualities than a specific sound. In fact, I want its sound to be quite flexible, within the realms of Electronic and Ambient/Filmic music of course. The way I think Conscious Expansion is as fresh sounding, soul-expansive, cosmic, timeless and experimental too, if need be.
Will you only release your own music or will you A&R others?
At the moment I am taking small steps as I would like to grow the label organically and stress-free, similarly to how our party Papa Loko has been evolving. So probably, I will just release my own music for now. In the future, I would love to release carefully selected music by other artists too. I would just need to make sure I have the resources to do so well and that I will be in a good position to help them and offer them something viable.
Will artwork and format matter to you, are you concerned about making something collectible?
I am planning to do most releases digitally, but for bigger projects, such as the piano album I am working on, I am planning to have vinyl too. Its cover is already being made by my dear friend and über-talented artist Dan Hillier.
Why did you decide to launch with three remixes? How did you chose the source material?
It is funny, I was not actually planning to do so originally but it sort of happened and felt like it was the right thing to do. I played an early experimentation of Cura Sana last summer and it went down a storm and I thought I should do a proper remix. At the same time, I owe many big and positive changes in my life to the first group of Ayahuasca ceremonies I took part of in Brazil back in 2012. My inner decision, for example, to start experimenting with electronic sounds, took place during these ceremonies, though I was still working mainly as a composer and songwriter for the next few years. So it made sense to dedicate the first Conscious Expansion EP to the ‘medicine’.
Last summer, I created a playlist of some of my favourite ceremonial songs and Icaro Sagrado and Mamae Oxum were on that list. Cura Sana had been an absolute favourite of mine for a few years back.
How did you tackle them, did you have self imposed rules on how much or how little you need to change them?
I didn’t have self-imposed rules but I had limitations. The original field recordings were rough and the vocals/drums on Mamae Oxum and vocals/guitar (Cura Sana) where, obviously, not separated. Icaro Sagrado had a good deal of noise embedded to it too. It took lots of thinking outside the box to overcome these environmental factors but in the end I embraced them as I felt they created and defined moods and gave a certain authenticity to the tracks.
The profits all go to charity – tell us about that and why you decided on that?
The first idea about offering the profits of these tracks to a good cause came very early on. These songs and remixes belong to the rainforest, where these sacred plants originate from, and for this first release, I thought would be a nice gesture to give something back. In a way, I feel, it is blessing for the label to do so too. Initially, I was thinking to give all profits to Amazon Watch, which is the charity I support the most. I spent 3 weeks in the Amazon rainforest, a couple of years ago, and I am in awe with it. Later on, I discovered that Andrés Córdoba runs the Tama-Cona foundation in Kali, Colombia, which works towards rehabilitation of young drug addicts with the aid of medicinal plants. Andrés and I then decided to give the profits of Cura Sana to Tama Cona instead.
Tell us about Papa Loko – what’s the vibe, who is it aimed at , what is the crowd like, what’s it like to play there?
Papa Loko has a very special and loving vibe. It started 4 years ago and though we only do 4-5 events a year, with hardly any publicity or advertising, it has gained a hardcore fanbase. It is unique as it puts the limelight on upcoming talent rather than big names. We had UK debuts by fantastic artists such as Aston Alba, Impérieux, Baime and Adelante and London debuts by artists like Remcord. The crowd is also super cool, unhinged, wild and conscious too. Sometimes the vibe is very queer but other less so. There are always some incredible characters to look at and the atmosphere is much like New York early acid house scene in the 80s, at least from what others have said and what I imagine it to be.
The other very unique element of Papa Loko is that it focuses on spiritual principles and on specific intentions we set up for each party. Of course, only a small percentage of people focus on the given intentions, but we know that most people do read the text we write, and subconsciously they carry the intentions with them too. This is enough to create a unifying and charged environment but also, as we have seen in some cases, to allow for the possibility of personal breakthroughs and transformation. For me Papa Loko has always been more of a prayer and an offering, rather than a party, albeit an extremely unorthodox one!
What else you got coming up or in the works?
Loads! I am finishing a piano album called The God Within, which I recorded through a successful crowd sourcing campaign and which I would like to release through Conscious Expansion. Club Mixes from that album are also on the pipeline. On another note, I work on some beautiful ethereal songs, delivered by an incredible upcoming artist (more on this soon!) and writing the music for a left-field musical in collaboration with the legendary Marc Almond and poet Jeremy Reed, something which we had started a few years back and created, what is now a beautiful and highly collectible record but never had the chance to take to the next level. Besides all these, I am trying to find the time to work on new purely electronic EP too… so yes, loads!
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