INTERVIEW Raw District

Belgian producer duo Raw District are no strangers to the underground music business as they both have shaped the sound of electronic music over the past decade. But in 2013 Massimo DaCosta and Vernon Bara joined forces and founded their project Raw District that has seen the two putting out releases on Innervisions, Crosstown Rebels, Moon Harbour and Defected. Basically in no time Massimo and Vernon established their raw and edgy House sound with more to come in the future.

Torture the Artist: You just played Extrema Outdoor in Belgium. What impressions did you take away with it?

Vernon: It is always a big pleasure to play Extrema. I think It must be the sixth time in a row we‘ve been playing there and it still feels like my first time.

Massimo: It’s one of the most established underground festivals in Belgium and we’re proud to be a part of it since the beginning. We keep seeing it grow every year. Our friends go every year and it’s also a great opportunity to see artists and people in the business we don’t meet often.

This year we’re also playing the Dutch edition in Eindhoven. We’ll be playing the Ants stage with a stellar line-up including Art Department, Andrea Oliva, Davide Squillace and Groove Armada amongst others.

Torture the Artist: Travelling a bit back in time. What comes to your mind when you think of your first gig as a duo?

Vernon: I guess it wasn’t the gig of the year as I don‘t have any memories from it.

Massimo: Ah, that’s hard to remember. What I can say is that at the time Vernon was really into techno and our first gig was more like finding the perfect balance between what we liked, what we wanted to play, and what where we wanted to head musically with the project. So I think it took some gigs to find that perfect combination.

Sometimes I feel frustrated because I’m more open musically but I have less opportunity to express myself.

Torture the Artist: How does your understanding for music change as you grow older?

Vernon: It’s relatively paradoxical because I feel like I’m enjoying each moment more. But sometimes I feel frustrated because I’m more open musically but I have less opportunity to express myself. Maybe I put too many constraints on myself to stick to a project that works.

Massimo: It’s been an interesting time. With all the technology out there I would say therehas never been an easier time to share and give exposure to our music as at the moment.

But I also feel like people don’t know how to properly listen and experiment with our music I mean that people aren’t listening to the music they are consuming. When we make music we bring out that which can’t be seen or felt easily. We hope that people really take the time to understand what we want to express.

Torture the Artist: Describe a moment in your life that had a profound effect on you, or your outlook on something. It can pertain to any aspect of your life, from any time period.

Vernon: That‘s easy! I think any parent would have the same answer ready. The regular exchanges that you can have with your child or your children are far above any passion.

Massimo: I would say when I started to hang out and I started to discover clubs, DJs and electronic music in some of the old Belgian clubs at the end of the 90s. It was like a revelation. I had a Soul, Funk and Disco music edition. I had never experienced something like that before.

We need more time in the studio together.

Torture the Artist: If you could work with any artist in the future, who would it be and why?

Vernon: I would say working more with Massimo DaCosta. <laughs> We need more time in the studio together.

Massimo: I was always into vocals. I believe that a vocal helps you expressing your feeling in a specific moment. We were lucky to work with amazing vocalists such as Lady Bird, Jinadu, Giorgia Angiuli, Forrest or Aquarius Heaven. I would be delighted to work on something with Kenny Glasgow or Roisin Murphy.

Torture the Artist: Would you call yourself artists and if so, what makes you ‘arty‘?

Vernon: I don’t consider myself an artist. Most of time I don’t talk that much with people about what I do. On the other hand I have the impression that it is all the opposite to the gaze of my loved ones. So maybe you should ask them this question. <smiles>

Massimo: I quite agree with Vernon. It’s like ‘art‘. ‘Art‘ is pretty much whatever somebody says it is, and an artist is pretty much any person that says he or she is one. Does fact of creating something is enough to call yourself an artist ? I don’t think so.

I think someone must be exceptional, prodigious or uncommon and do something creative in his trade. The person has to do so much that people can call the one an artist. In any activities, when someone is extremely good he’s called an artist, like a soccer player or a cook. If you ask them what they do for a living, they won‘t reply ‘I‘m an artist‘. So I feel more like a DJ/producer than an artist.

Torture the Artist: What artist would you like to remix a track of yours?

Vernon: We can‘t complain. We are used to work with labels and people who let us do so. We got the chance to chose our remixers for our release on Crosstown, for example Rampa, Josh Wink, Martin Buttrich. In my dreams I would love to have Tenon, Garnier or Matthew Johnson to remix one of our tracks.

Massimo: Ame or Dixon would be top, Moodyman terrific.

Torture the Artist: What does an unbeatable dance move to your music look like?

Vernon: Have you seen Carlton from ‘The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air‘? Something beetwen that and an Ewok slow-motion dance move.

Massimo: Nothing more to add. <laughs>

Torture the Artist: What are your other interests, besides music?

Vernon: Simply my family

Massimo: Family, friends, movies, history.


Torture: What did you work for the hardest in your life?

Vernon: Being musically present in the scene for years needs a lot of energy. Trying to plan and stick to scheduled studio sessions and doing our best with the music we produce.

Massimo: Trying to find a good balance between what needs to be done and what I like to do.

Torture the Artist: What‘s on your playlist when you want to impress someone you have a crush on/ you love?

Vernon: One of our productions <smiles>

Massimo: Definitively no electronic music. I would probably try to show that I can enjoy listening to a large variety of different music genres, such as Erykah Badu, Hooverphonic, Gainsbourg, Stevie Wonder, Ron Basejam, and Dr Dre.

I will also try to figure out a tactic to kind of secretly make her listen to some old disco or funk classics which have been sampled a million times like Nina Simone, Chaka Khan, David McCallum, Marvin Gaye <laughs>


Torture the Artist: How much does your job as a DJ and producer changed you?

Vernon: Traveling, meeting people and different cultures have influenced me quite a lot.

Massimo: It’s a way to express things. Sometimes you can discover some parts of you, you wouldn’t expect. And as Vernon already said meeting a lot of people from various culture and different social classes is really enriching.

Torture the Artist: Regarding the music business, what‘s a lesson you had to learn the hard way?

Vernon: Enjoy the maximum of the given moments. They are unique … and do it yourself

Massimo: First lesson: As underground electronic music producers we will never be rich! <laughs>

Seriously, the game has changed and you have to be more than just a DJ or producer nowadays.

Half of the job is the music, the rest is connecting with people, social media management, discussion with labels, PR, Marketing, accouns. Unless you have a strong team working with you, you can‘t just focus on the music.

It‘s not about giving up Facebook, Instagram or Twitter I think they are amazing tools for promotion and marketing, but just give yourself the time to figure out what truly makes you happy without spending hours online.

Torture the Artist: Would you like to change the world?

Vernon: Unfortunatly. Yes!

Massimo: Seriously, I start to get bored from all these social networks. I wish we could get back to a time when we were not addicted to those applications.

Instead of spending inordinate amounts of time connected, we should try to strengthen existing relationships, starting with family and friends. We should try to live at the moment and be focused on the things around us.

It‘s not about giving up Facebook, Instagram or Twitter I think they are amazing tools for promotion and marketing, but just give yourself the time to figure out what truly makes you happy without spending hours online.

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