Paco Osuna: "You Can't Go Against the Evolution of the World"
Spanish producer and DJ Paco Osuna has set the tempo for techno and tech house for over twenty-five years. As the owner and head curator of Mindshake Records, he's guided the prevailing sound of the underground since 2005, releasing his own music and that of industry leaders like Pig&Dan, Cuartero, Eats Everything, Carlo Lio, Daniel Orpi, Blackchild, Jean Pierre, and Ben Sterling.
Around the same time he founded Mindshake, he opened the Club4 techno night alongside Adam Beyer, Marco Carola, and Christian Smith. The quartet eventually parted ways, each marking their own heavy influence on dance music culture. Osuna, too, remained on a path that opened avenues for expressing his deft skills as a curator of memorable nights.
He has also found himself at the inception point of several other ground-shaking cultural institutions. Like many other artist-led brands, Mindshake moved beyond releases and became a platform for creative growth in the club. After leaving Club4, he was one of the first residents of Marco Carola's Music On. Then when Osuna transitioned away from traditional DJing, he became an ambassador for Richie Hawtins PLAYDifferntly brand. And he was notably one of Spanish experiential party purveyors elrow's first resident DJs.
When Gray Area spoke to him at ARC Music Festival after playing on the elrow stage earlier this year, Osuna emphatically explained how deep his reverence runs for dance music's champion of the confetti blast.
"I was with elrow from the very first day in Barcelona. So I am part of how this entire family has grown from the first day," he explains. "For me, it doesn't matter where you have to be with them, Chicago, Russia. It's always a family."
Being a part of such a unique organization's explosive growth has allowed him to express aspects of his creativity that otherwise would have laid dormant. Working alongside famed multimedia artist Okuda San Miguel he helped soundtrack elrow's highly conceptual Kaos Garden theme in 2019. Osuna says that even though it's always a challenge to collaborate with a creative genius, he's always open to finding artistic union.
This summer, Osuna debuted Nowhere, his first Ibiza residency in conjunction with The Martinez Brothers at Hi Ibiza. Over the inaugural season, he invited Ben Sterling, Melanie Ribbie, Anna Tur, Reelow, Latmun, and Nicole Moudaber to join him.
Now that he's started his own event concept, he reflects on how he can continue to exist at the intersection of art, technology, and music. And while he still loves the creative trifecta, he explains that music remains paramount.
"My father always told me to look no farther than the next day. And for me, it would be a dream to spread my brand to Taiwan like elrow does. But it's a different concept. With elrow, the music is important but also the show is important. In my party, it's only [the music that's] important."
When Osuna began his journey in dance music, it didn't matter who was playing, people just came to have a good time. This storied era— before the celebrity DJ and the abhorrent hero worship of the selector— is something that he holds close to his heart. As a curator, he understands that the experience is important, but as a musician, there is nothing more sacred than the dancefloor.
That's not to say that he hasn't envisioned expanding his vision beyond the speakers. In fact, he tells us that's a vital part of his bringing the residency across the pond to Club Space for its first US iteration at Miami's Art Basel in December 2022. He plans on making it a unique experience. And he's excited to partner with one of his favorite clubs in the world for the one-night-only experience.
It's no coincidence that Osuna regularly plays in the world's most esteemed clubs like Space and Hi. His sophisticated yet dancefloor rocking style has been a focal point of his mystique for years. Seeing someone like Paco Osuna perform reminds you that how you play makes all the difference.
Stoic and focused, Paco stands amongst a small array of digital gear when he plays live. And while he still calls himself a DJ, what he's doing is far more complex. So when I ask him why he chose to leave the decks behind for a more elaborate performance setup, it's surprising to hear that the change was out of necessity.
After years of standing hunched over turntables and CDJs, he explains that he developed a debilitating sickness in his neck. His nerves were destroyed, leaving him at critical crossroads. His doctor told him, "you need to stop DJing or find a way to play where your neck has to be as straight as possible."
And while many would have given up, Osuna saw an opportunity in technology. When he decided he was going to use the computer to play, he was met with the usual derision from purists saying that he was taking the easy way out, that he was no longer DJing.
"I always give this example to people [who say] you are not DJing anymore; you're playing for the machines. People are driving here in America for a long time with automatic cars. In Europe, no! Do people in America not drive" he laughs. "For me, the way that I play now is much more creative, giving [me] so many opportunities to go very far with ideas that I have in my mind at the moment.
The creative freedom he has with his innovative setup would be impossible with turntables alone, he explains.
"So for me, it's very important to always evolve with the times. You know, maybe in 20-30 years, there is no computer, there's something else. I remember I had a friend who told me 'in the future, we are not going to hear music. We will hear frequencies and the frequencies will make us dance. So, I don't know. But you can't go against the evolution of the world."
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