ART:CAST #72 & INTERVIEW Iñigo Vontier

Emerging from the up and coming and vibrant Mexican contemporary electronic scene, the highly energetic, multi-talented Iñigo Vontier has just completed a productive and eventful summer season and shows no sign of slowing down for the rest of the year, with releases on multiple labels already on the coming year’s horizon. How the Calypso label boss and recent Lumière Noire superstar keeps his momentum going is a secret so deep maybe only the Mexican mystical world can tell, but one thing for sure, his imagination and passion for music and the music scene, and most importantly, his sense of humor add a little bit more layer and edge to the color spectrum of the electronic music scene all across the globe. Torture the Artist sneaks some time in between the Guadalajara native’s very busy schedule to catch a glimpse into his vivid and constantly evolving world – from his very first musical inspirations to love at the sight of his very first drum machine, from his thoughts on cannabis to plans of circling the globe, and making music with friends along the way, in 2020. Additionally Iñigo compiled the latest edition of the art:cast series.

Torture the Artist: Hola Inigo! Where will we find you at the moment? What did you have for breakfast and how do you plan to spend the rest of the day?

Iñigo Vontier: Hey there! I’m in my hotel room in Mexico City, preparing to head back to my hometown. Just finished having breakfast, I had some ‘Enfrijoladas’ one of my favorite Mexican dishes which is basically some tortilla wraps filled with cheese and covered with a sauce made of beans. I will be traveling to Guadalajara today to play a gig in the afternoon, then I plan to spend the rest of my day with my wife watching movies.

I have no plans of slowing down for the rest of the year.

Torture the Artist: Eventful is an understatement for the summer season you just had. A Euro tour, participating in Burning Man, scores of venues near and far. How do you feel about it coming to an end. Have you finally started to slow down this month or will do you plan to keep the momentum?

Iñigo Vontier: I am very grateful for the past months; it has been amazing playing in some of the best parties I’ve ever been to, and at the moment I have no plans of slowing down for the rest of the year. Next week I’m heading to Ecuador to play at a festival and then a party with Nicola Cruz. After that, I’ll play some gigs in the US. I will present my live band ‘Iñigo Vontier & Los Hijos del Maíz’ in Trópico Festival in Acapulco, followed by a little tour in Europe presenting my album in Paris, with Chloe. Oh, and I also plan to throw a label party for my own label, at Opium Vilnius. So with all that said, things just keep on going.

Nothing can describe what happens there, the wildness and freedom.

Torture the Artist: Looking back, what were some of your favorite experiences. Any particular gig or venue that stood out and touched you?

Iñigo Vontier: Uff, yes many, but I will talk about my three top favorites to keep it short. First of all I will say playing at Ant Bangos Festival in Lithuania, which is probably my favorite place to ever play in. The Lithuanian crowd is just the best, the energy they have and the connection I felt with them is very special and that night in the main stage during peak time, I did one hell of a set. Next is playing at the Mayan Warrior in Burning Man, this was my second time with the warriors. Then again there was something in the air that night, all the energy this art car has just went through my body and when I got to the stage I just let it all go. We had a magical ride that night. And finally, Fusion Festival for my very first time. I heard a lot of things about this monster but nothing can describe what happens there, the wildness and freedom I felt made me connect so much with everyone and I just had a great set of absolute madness.

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Torture the Artist: First, let’s go back to the very beginning. How did young Inigo Vontier get into music? Who were among your greatest musical inspirations and when did you decide to pursue music as not only a career, but also a way of life?

Iñigo Vontier: Well, since at a young age, my parents introduced me to bands like The Beatles, Alan Parsons Project and David Bowie; then growing up I got inspired by bands like Chemical Brothers, Daft Punk, Air, Boards Of Canada, Aphex Twin, Depeche Mode etc. When I was 20 and raving every night I decided I want to become an electronic music DJ so I bought a drum machine, downloaded a production software and then it began. Phew, years after, right around when I turned 25, I quit my job and decided to go full on with it.

Torture the Artist: Where did you grow up? Tell us a little bit about your hometown and how it influenced you as an artist?

Iñigo Vontier: I grew up in Guadalajara, the second biggest city in Mexico now better known for the Narco Series from Netflix. Anyway, I had a happy childhood, playing soccer and Zelda all the time. One thing I love apart from the food here is that during the summer, mushrooms grow in the countryside so since I was young, I usually go there to have magical trips. I feel very connected with the Mexican Mystical world.

Torture the Artist: And you’re still based in Guadalajara today, what do you love most about your city? Can you recommend some cool spots – clubs, restaurants, hangout spots?

Iñigo Vontier: The spots I like most are actually near the forests, La Primavera or Tapalpa, I just love spending my time there. In the city, we have very good restaurants like Birria, Carnes en su Jugo, Tortas Ahogadas or Tequila. I also like going to my friend’s place called El Habanero Negro which is a modern cantina. And of course, we have one of the best clubs in the country, Bar Americas.

I can see myself running a restaurant in the mountains, raising my own animals and planting my own vegetables.

Torture the Artist: Besides music, do you have other passions or talents? Can you think of doing anything else other than music?

Iñigo Vontier: Well, I draw sometimes. I actually did the drawings used for the art of my upcoming album. Besides that, I can see myself running a restaurant in the mountains, raising my own animals and planting my own vegetables.

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Torture the Artist: We know you just recently completed an EP (which we would love to talk about later!) but at the moment, which of your own productions over the past x years most resonate with your current state of heart/mind? Tell us why you feel most connected to this particular track right now.

Iñigo Vontier: I’m constant evolving as an artist which pushes me to be more connected with my latest productions because when I listen to old stuff, I usually don’t find it to be good enough. Right now I feel really connected with one of my album tracks called ‘Don’t Go Back’. I just love this track, the sound design, the melody, I think it is a very contemporary piece of art and this makes me feel proud.

Torture the Artist: You’ve been producing for quite a while now, about 7 years since your first release, how do you find the inspiration and drive to create such forward-thinking pieces of art? Which year during your career did you feel escalated your career most rapidly?

Iñigo Vontier: As I mentioned before I am always evolving, I’m always looking for new sounds as well as ways to make an impact on the actual scene. I like to be an artist who is always fresh. I think my career escalated more since last year, probably because of some releases and gigs I did and people I met.

I have to say I am a very organized guy.

Torture the Artist: You DJ, you produce (well you run a label too). How do you balance your time wearing all hats? Are you happy with the amount of time you allocate to each aspect of your musical career or do you wish to change it a bit – have more studio time, travel more, release more?

Iñigo Vontier: I actually feel very balanced. When I’m home I am always at the studio, I have like 40 unreleased tracks right now. I think I’m covered for some years <laughs> Usually I spend one or two days a week digging new music and listening promos and this is enough. As for the label, I run it in between time, I look for new artists, speak to people, make plans, while doing everything else. I have to say I am a very organized guy.

Torture the Artist: Two years ago, you founded Calypso Records with Thomass Jackson. Why did you and Thomass decide to create a label and how has your relationship evolved since its inception?

Iñigo Vontier: The idea of creating a label was because it is always hard to find the correct label for your own music and then if you find it, the process is sometimes annoying. So we just decided to make our own and try to help some new talent along the way. Ironically, now in my own label I don’t have slots to release my own music until 2021 <laughs>. My relationship with Thomi is great, we are good friends, but maintain a good balance when it comes to stuff we do for the label.

Torture the Artist: You were back on Chloe’s Luminiere Noir Records with Xu Xu, a joint collab with Xen, which includes a remix by electronic music wizard Roman Flügel. First, how did your relationship with Luminiere Noir come about and eventually lead to a second time around? How did you get Roman on board for a remix?

Iñigo Vontier: Three years ago, I sent my EP to Chloe and since then, we have been in touch and she has helped me with my career. She’s very kind, sweet and a really great artist. So when I finished my album, I sent it to her and she loved it and told me she would like to release it. ‘Xu Xu’ is part of the album and the remix from Roman happened, thanks to Chloe. She simply asked me who I would love to have a remix from and of course, I said Roman.

I really don’t like this idea of the DJs with many rules, trying to be serious about everything.

Torture the Artist: Your album ‘El Hijo Del Maiz’, meaning ‘Son of a corn (b*tch)’ in English will shortly be released. How did you come up with this rather unusual name for an album? Does it perhaps say that you do not take yourself too seriously?

Iñigo Vontier: Actually, it is more about the meaning in Spanish, which is literally, The Son of a Corn. I believe we Mexicans are the sons of the corn as it is our principal food. With this, I am saying to the world that I am a proud Mexican, and do not necessarily need to sound ethnic to be one. Talking about not taking myself too seriously, I am all in for this. I really don’t like this idea of the DJs with many rules, trying to be serious about everything. It’s always better to have fun, and this is about having fun. I have to mention I have this new project called Salsa Fingers with Thomas Von Party and it’s actually just us goofing around, playing stupid flutes, making fun of the so called Chamanic House. We will release an album early next year.

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Torture the Artist: When and how did the idea to produce an entire album arise?

Iñigo Vontier: I always wanted to do this, the idea of an album for me is to show another part of you, and not just dance music. I wanted to show to the world my imagination, and as an artist, I find that consolidating and expressing this through an album is important.

Torture the Artist: What is it that you want to express or achieve with your album, e.g. cause awareness to a certain topic (musically, societal, strain of thoughts) etc.?

Iñigo Vontier: Mainly it is about a personal journey, I wanted to show a deeper, more complex picture of me. I even did the drawings of the art, so it is a complete piece of art. At the same time I wanted to make a statement about Mexican contemporary electronic music, and show that Mexican music can also be this and not only Folclórico. Well, there may also be some pro weed messages within the music.

Torture the Artist: Where did you produce the album, e.g. during your travels or did you lock yourself away in your studio?

Iñigo Vontier: This album was produced in my studio in Guadalajara over a span of two years, so it’s almost like a collection of tracks.

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Torture the Artist: What’s a routine that helped you to produce the album or that you came back to while working on it?

Iñigo Vontier: I had no particular routine through the production. As I mentioned before every track came from different directions. What helped me more is Time. When you listen to a track after a year or two and it still sounds fresh, that’s when you nailed it. 

Torture the Artist: Who do you show your music first before introducing it to a wider audience or sending it out to labels?

Iñigo Vontier: The first person always is my wife. She is my toughest critic. After her, I have some really close friends I go to for feedback. It’s always necessary to hear feedback from people you respect. It’s good to know if the track is working or need changes.

Torture the Artist: Though you’ve been in the game for quite some time, do all this still feel surreal from time to time – hearing DJs you admired play your tracks, having a scene veteran such as Roman remix your track, gaining the confidence of selective label bosses, playing in Mayan Warrior…

Iñigo Vontier: For me it always feel surreal, I’m still amazed when someone I admire likes my work. I still enjoy playing in places I never imagíned playing in in my life. I think there is a long way still to walk so I am humble with what I have done.

Torture the Artist: On top of Xu Xu, Montreal’s Multi Culti is hosting Calypso Recs through a highly energetic, mind-melting, and dance-floor tried, tested, and favored EP, Calypso Cult featuring two of your tracks alongside two of Thomass’. This is an interesting concept, why Multi Culti? What was your motivation for this project?

Iñigo Vontier: It was Von Party who came up with the idea of doing this Calypso Cult release as like a sign of brotherhood between labels. At some point we talked with Jackson about doing a split EP together in Calypso so the support of Von Party to do it in Multi Culti sounded like a great plan. Plus, now we also work with Multi Culti on certain bookings and even doing some show-cases together.

Torture the Artist: What can we expect from Inigo Vontier for 2020 and how do you plan to finish off the last few months of 2019 – besides enjoying the moment your album?

Iñigo Vontier: Last months of the year will be nonstop touring, while focusing on my album and live presentations and finding some time for holidays with my wife in between. For the coming year, it’s already a busy schedule with Calypso. We have great things coming! One is the release of our series Flavors of the World which focuses this time on Quito with Nicola Cruz on board. Some other releases of new and exciting talent, more edit series are in the pipe as well.

As I mentioned earlier, the album release of my joint project with Von Party, Salsa Fingers is due next year. I will also release the last part of my album which is an EP of remixes, including one from Roman Flügel, Nicola Cruz (again!) and Simple Symmetry. I’m also working on an EP for Disco Halal, and another for Correspondant and some other stuff. As far as touring, I’m excited to travel to Asia and Australia for the first time, and back in summer for Europe festival season!

Interview by Marie J. Floro