Ismael Martínez is 42 and proud, for he knows that the experience that comes with age is an advantage. All his life, music has been an essential part of his daily life, through two activities that take up so much time: DJing, and consequently, listening to tons of music, and designing T-shirts based on his favourite B-films and artists. What Ismael, who takes the stage name Die -6- when manning the DJ booth, had never done is produce his own music. And all of a sudden, at this point in his life, at an age when most DJs decide to call it quits, he has decided to do just that. A few weeks ago, his first album came out, “Back.Te.Riality”, on Swedish label Funk Noir, the result of tenacious self-teaching. He had never touched a machine or software, apart from assisting Ángel Molina in his remix work, but the album is surprising, tense and hard. “Back.Te.Riality” is an exercise in EBM, industrial and sombre synth-pop that shows that there's always been an artist in Ismael. And a great selector, too: it's a double album, and the second CD includes remixes by people he admires, such as Esplendor Geométrico, Absolute Body Control, Lagowski, Magas, etc.
Right now he's thinking about new tracks (for a future second album, which will come out when it comes out; “I've waited 42 years to do the first one, I'm in no hurry to do another one now,” he says) and he's opened a shop in the heart of the Barcelona, Annexia T-Shirts, to have an outlet for his other big hobby, T-shirt printing. In the meantime, he's prepared a special set for PlayGround, in which he condenses the essence of Die -6- into one hour: toxic electronica, angular rhythms, tributes to the industrial era, in what's about 33% of his musical vision (lacking are electronic pop, noise and rocky techno). It’s a good way to get introduced to his sound and understand his vision. You'll see him soon at more than one festival, but you can listen first here.
Under what circumstances did “Back.Te.Riality” come out? Why now, and why on Funk Noir?
It all started after I visited Huw Williams one weekend, from the band Risqué (who recorded for Some Bizarre). He was living in a small village in the south of France. I went there to show him the Depeche Mode remix I had done for a Beatport competition. Without even having had time to listen to it all the way through, he was already ringing up two European labels to recommend me. One of them was Funk Noir, a Swedish label directed by Jacques C, who ordered a couple of remixes for two of his tracks, “Grow & Prosper” and “When Are You Gone”. He later came to visit me during Sónar 2010, and asked for two tracks for his label. I told him I had never made any tracks, but that I could hook him up with other artists who could supply him with what he needed. But he insisted that he wanted me, not someone else. That was partly what made me believe in Funk Noir and think about “Back.te.riality”, as I didn’t see a label in Barcelona, Spain or Europe offering something like that to someone who had never made music before.
You had released loose tracks on compilations, and the odd remix, but never an album or an EP as Die -6-, which is a project you've been working on for quite some time. What stopped you from releasing anything before? Was it you who simply didn't want to, or was it the circumstances?
I had done a few remixes alongside Ángel Molina for a couple of projects by Dirk Ivens (Dive and Sonar), and for Spanish producer Hierro. With Geistform/Univac I did a couple of reworks, and “Unveiling The Secret” for Canadian artists Psyche, and one Fad Gadget remix of a cover version Spunky did of “Under The Flag”. I also collaborated with Splatterpunk, a rendition of The Normal's “Warm Leatherette”, and after that I went out on my own, doing some things like that Depeche Mode remix. I even made a 27-minute mega mix for Esplendor Geométrico.
Once I felt secure with the software, I felt ready to create what I wanted to do with “Back.Te.Riality”. It wasn't easy, as my goal was to develop and mix several periods and styles in a way that was concrete and concise, to be enjoyed on a dance floor. Although I didn't expect things to go so fast, it was the right time for me to do it. Before, when I sometimes DJed at underground parties in Barcelona and Berlin, or was working as a photographer and designer for Bibian Blue and starting to do Annexia T-shirts, it wouldn't have been possible.
How did you make the record? Did you set up a studio?
No, I did in on Ableton Live. I bought it in 2009, when I was starting to make some money with the T-shirts, and started to try it out. I used the first ideas for that Depeche Mode remix. I did a lot of tutorials, and after a week I started to practice with it. After a few days I knew how to do what I wanted.
So the album came about rather fast.
I did the tunes in one night. Then I spent months modifying them, changing the settings, adding private samples going back to tracks by Klinik and Aphex Twin, but the bare bones of the record came about pretty quick, yes.
Did you pick the remixers of the second CD yourself?
Yes, I did. I got in touch with almost all of them through Facebook, sending them messages telling them how I felt about their music, sending them links to stuff I was doing, and those who responded, I asked for a remix.
You're true to EBM and the industrial scene. It's quite fashionable these days to compile minimal wave material and to post old tunes on blogs, but when it comes to making new tracks, things are quite different. The circuit is rather marginal and hidden. Do you feel bad about your sound being little more than the last thing nostalgic people can hold on to, or do you see possibilities for a new and wider audience in the near future?
My style? I have no style. I don't care about trends or styles these days. I think that sticking to one sound, marginal or not, isn't good, it's boring. I do like to discover and enjoy the more underground stuff, I even love the more or less extreme sounds, but it's essential for me to avoid everything that sounds nostalgic, like too late, because that stuff just takes up a lot of unnecessary space I haven't got, I don't want to spend the time and effort to listen to all of it.
EBM and industrial were something that happened in the past; a lot of really good, timeless, unforgettable music came from it, but today there is music that is just as good. I believe you have to live in the moment, no matter how much you like the sounds of yore. My style is to dance to what I like, without worrying about tags or labels.
How do you recognise your music, what's your personal touch?
The energy it transmits.
Name five artists without whom you wouldn't be the DJ and musician you are today.
Uwe Smith, Richard D. James, Al Jourgensen, Dirk Ivens and Daniel Miller.
How did you set up this mix set, and to what extent does it describe you as a DJ?
I dedicated the PlayGround set to my personal preferences in electronica: it features both vintage industrial and new sounds. The central part is very energetic. I would say it covers about a third of what I do as a DJ, because I also like to do sets of techno, minimal wave, EBM, techno-pop, and, if possible, all of them together. I also like to play in chill-outs rooms (although I hate that word, but it probably best describes what I mean), where I can just play really good music without the need to get the dance floor moving.
After “Back.Te.Riality” is released, what are your plans?
To open my own T-shirt store while at the same time making “Back.Te.Riality” was quite an experience, very tiring and exciting. The next step will be to find time to think about new material and continue to explore my musical preferences, and to translate that into my own music. There will be a second album, but I have no idea what it's going to sound like. It will sound like Die -6- though.
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