Mar 2, 2022
5 min read
Striking the perfect balance between the codified classics and what’s en vogue can be a test for any artist. For French-born DJ, producer, and composer Kevin Rodrigues—aka Worakls (pronounced “warrackles”)—that challenge comes in an even more literal form.
With inspirations from German composer Hans Zimmer to dubstep maestro Skrillex, Worakls combines the vivacity of classical orchestral concertos with the ethereality of modern, minimal techno.
Worakls built his career on this unique musical amalgamation that has captivated audiences worldwide. He grew up in a family of musicians. His father, a self-taught guitarist, motivated his musical path – enrolling Worakls in piano lessons at the age of three and conservatory at the age of six.
“Conservatory was so different. Much stricter,” he says. “Even the first year I went there, they told me, ‘No, you’re not going to touch a piano for one or two years.’ But I was already able to play the piano. So, for me, it was weird – and I didn’t stay there for a long time.
Formal lessons lasted until the age of 12, giving way to more typical pre-teen musical pursuits: garage bands, metal music, and, later, nightlife.
“At first, I fell in love with harder style, hard stuff. I was getting out a teenage passion for metal music and those things. I loved it because it was full of energy,” he says. “Later, I fell in love with the [club] community as well. Going into the club and seeing people dressing in a different way than they would dress in the streets. I found it very interesting. So, I started to go clubbing every weekend, and eventually I even got a job at the club because I needed money to pay the entrance fees.”
“One weekend, I saw Eric Prydz play,” Worakls says, reflecting on a formative set at Redlight, the Paris club where he worked. Whereas other DJs tended to spin mostly chart-toppers, Prydz, he says, constructed an entirely new world out of his original tracks.
“First of all, I thought, this guy is incredibly talented. And second, Prydz brings us into his world. He’s not just playing tracks that we already know by heart. He plays his own stuff.” At this moment, Worakls knew he was destined for a career in electronic dance music.
“That was the beginning of a very nice adventure.”
That adventure has led Worakls to the leading edge of sonic experimentation in EDM. But blending digital sounds with classical instrumentation posed a challenge all its own and forced Worakls to relearn the intricacy of composition altogether.
“I think like a pianist,” he says. “Writing for guitars, basses, drums, et cetera, taught me a lot of things. When I decided that I wanted to bring orchestral and classical instruments into my music, I had to learn again, how to do it. Some instruments are very specific. You can’t blow in a trumpet for hours, for example, the guy has to breathe – those are the details I had to learn.”
That adventure has led Worakls on several tours throughout the U.S. and Europe. One of his most prolific was his 2019 Orchestra tour. He composed the score for a chamber orchestra consisting of violinists, cellists, percussionists, and an ensemble of brass and woodwinds players with, of course, Worakls conducting at the helm on keyboard and mixer.
His studio album “Orchestra” was the inspiration. In venues and amphitheaters in cities including Geneva, Lyon, and his thrilling Cercle debut at Château La Coste orchestral harmonies floated overtop of vibrant, expressive electronic melodies.
“That tour is the ultimate version of my life. I want to do it, like, every day. That’s my goal: to only do live shows with the orchestra,” he says. “I like solo shows, but it’s not the same. Once you taste the show with the filmography, lights, it’s like defending something, really. Like a movie. Like a book. It’s a whole project. It’s not just like going to a club. You are presenting something, like, ‘Here’s what I did for the past three years.’”
“Of course, it’s a show. So,you need sometimes to have, let’s say, beautiful string parts overlapped with a big drop of only electronic music. And you have to find the right balance to surprise your crowd and keep them interested.”
Balance was something that took him years to perfect. It remains an ongoing test for any live show he plays, even in a club environment.
“You know what is hard? When you bring an instrument on stage, you don’t know where to put the filler. You don’t know if you want to have more electronic music or classical instrumentation. A lot of these guys just want to go to a club and dance. Some others want to have a concert. So, you have to find the right balance between the two. And, of course, I didn’t find that right away. I worked for that.”
Worakls learned from his first tour how to create a perfectly harmonious experience. And plans are already in the works for a 2.0 version of his Orchestra tour.
“Electronic with a full orchestra?” questioned one YouTube commenter. “This may be one of the greatest collaborations of all time.”