Mar 21, 2022
6 min read
A highly dexterous DJ known for his four-deck mixes, Swiss-born Mendo - aka David Ortega Bueno - cranks up the gas in clubs and festivals worldwide with torrents of tech house tunes. Bueno's library of material is ever-expanding with releases on Elrow Music, Knee Deep In Sound, Crosstown Rebels, Defected Records, Get Physical Music, Ultra, and many more staple electronic imprints.
Based in Malaga, Spain, famous for its golden beaches and fascinating history, he asserts that Malaga has an electronic music scene as strong as Ibiza.
"There are parties almost every weekend in clubs, and festivals with the biggest international DJs." As a result, he doesn't envy the clubbing culture of other European cities.
Mendo has always approached music with a curious eye and an open-minded outlook. Growing up in the '80s, he would vibe to the music of pop sensations like George Michael, Madonna, and Michael Jackson, while exploring other genres like hard rock, rap, and hip-hop.
"The first three 7" vinyls that my parents bought me and that I listened to in a loop on my portable record player… were Barbara Streisand - "Woman in Love," Plastic Bertrand - "Ça plane pour moi," [and] Marcel Zanini - "Tu veux ou tu veux pas."
His other early favorites included: AC/DC, Bon Jovi, Iron Maiden, and Metallica; Run-DMC, Public Enemy, Grandmaster Flash, and Salt-N-Pepa; and disco bands like Boney M, Bee Gees, and Earth Wind & Fire.
By the end of the '80s, Bueno gravitated towards dance music thanks to the German electronic duo SNAP! and British electronic band, The KLF, who played a pivotal role in developing stadium and ambient house.
"I would say that MTV [also] triggered my interest in electronic music [through featuring] acid house and new beat."
At the time, living in his hometown of Geneva, none of Bueno's friends or family shared his new-found obsession with electronic music. "All of my friends were more into hard rock, rap, and hip-hop."
Nevertheless, 1989 was a big year for Bueno. After realizing his love of dance music, Mendo's mum bought him his first ever 12" vinyl, "Pump Up The Jam" by Technotronic. "[My mum] worked right in front of one of the first electronic music vinyl shops in Geneva, called Back To Mono."
But the track that was most influential in Bueno's journey in dance music is "That Feeling" by DJ Chus. "It's one of the tracks that particularly influenced my career, and a track that I had the privilege of remixing 20 years later."
Mendo began DJing on vinyl in 1992. However, it proved difficult for him when the industry transitioned to CDs over a decade later.
"I always had a bad memory; it was difficult for me to remember the titles of the tracks without the cover. So, when Traktor offered the ability to add covers to each track, I immediately embraced this new technology." It took a few weeks, but Bueno mastered the intricacies of Traktor elevating his DJing.
When Mendo was 23, he dropped his first release through a Swiss label called Club Beat Records. "My style of music hasn't changed [since then], because I've always done house, or sub-genres like tech house or deep house."
By the time he was 33, he was approaching a turning point. "I told myself that it was now or never if I wanted to make a living from my music."
He quit his day job, sublet his apartment, moved in with his parents, and spent the next year dedicated entirely to music. Yet, after a year, he felt he needed just a bit more time. Then, one week before the end of his second year at home, a breakthrough moment arrived.
"I received a call from Luciano on my mobile to tell me that he loved my demos." The Swiss-Chilean party-starter received the demos from his manager, who Bueno had gone to school with. "He asked me to meet me in person and from there, everything changed for me."
Mendo signed the biggest hits of his career through Cadenza, Luciano's record label. He also joined Luciano's booking agency and became part of his vibrant party series, Vagabundos.
Long periods of tireless work paid off for Mendo in 2009. Soon after releasing his first EP with Cadenza, Luciano unleashed one of Bueno's tunes at Time Warp Festival in front of thousands of ravers.
"What an amazing sensation! After two years of non-stop work in the studio, I was finally able to see the culmination of my work."
Bueno's DJing skills evolved rapidly, with observers quick to label him as a 'four-deck specialist .'"[The idea of using] four decks had been given to me by my best friend, Chab, who mixed with Ableton Live."
Playing on four decks enables a DJ to build tension over time and create entirely new music on the spot. Layering tracks with scant rhythmic elements over loops, beats, and basslines opens up new worlds of creative control and peak dancefloor moments.
"I wouldn't say it's more difficult to play with four decks… just that playing with four decks requires a lot more preparation." Mendo prepares his sets to ensure that all of the loops, acapellas, and harmonies mesh. He treats his sets like live performances to prevent his four-deck mixes from becoming overcomplicated.
His intricate live performances aren't just a way to show off his impressive skills behind the decks. They are a way for him to test track from his label, Clarisse, still going strong after nearly two decades.
"Unlike many other labels, we take care to listen to all the demos and reply to them. We also try to give unknown or lesser-known artists a chance if the music is good."
Other factors behind his label's relentless growth include the consistent work that goes into their marketing, PR, social media, and highly-curated material.
"We always try to release quality music with good mastering and, if necessary, I take care to explain to artists how to improve their mixes or arrangements."
Words by: Luca Rizzello, follow him on Twitter