One of the most iconic labels in House Music is growing…
Balance – the venerable Deep House label run out of Chicago by Chez Damier – has begat “Inner Balance,” a new sublabel in the capable hands of the young but talented Jorge Caiado.
I’ve known Jorge Caiado (in the way you get to “know” people thousands of miles away that you’ve never laid eyes on) for a couple of years now, and it’s as a fan of his productions (and DJ mixes) that I say he’s the right man for the job. At just 25, Jorge has released records on Groovement, Compound and of course Balance and remixes on a half dozen more.
The first Inner Balance release, Fragil/Trintaeum (embedded above), is dedicated to two closed Portugese clubs that went by those same names. It’s out on vinyl now, and there’s nothing sadder than shuttered movie theaters and nightclubs, so let’s start our conversation with that:
I had these tracks I think about a year ago and was waiting to pounce on them once they came out, and here we are and they’re on a whole new label: Inner Balance. We all know Balance. How did the concept of the new sublabel “Inner Balance” come about?
Yes it’s true, this took a while to came out. This new label comes as an idea of Chez to build a new way for me not only work my music out but also to keep the Balance spirit alive thru me, that is spreading the word and helping the newcomers to find a way to express themselves. So now it’s my time to take the torch and start working with young producers and musicians.
The name came from my philosophy of life, since I think for everything we do we always need to find a balance, something that must come from our inner feelings, intuition and vibrations, and that was funny because when I went to Chez to tell him about the name he told me that it was one of the initial options for label in the ’90s.
I’m thinking of tracks about nightclubs that I’m familiar with – Paul Johnson’s “Welcome to the Warehouse,” Garrett David’s “That Queen Track” from a year or so ago… Most of them are “party” tracks – happy, anthemic, arms-in-the-air, etc. “Frágil” at least is far more meditative, and both are fairly mellow in comparison – maybe even with a whiff of nostalgia for “places that are no longer there”? What can you tell us about these places, and what are the tracks, ideally, intended to memorialize?
Perfect analysis. This EP it’s a tribute to two small clubs that are now closed, but that influenced a whole generation, including myself. Frágil (the photo on A side of the label) was in Lisbon and it was opened for 30 years. Trintaeum (the photo on B side) was in Porto and was opened for 18 years If I’m not mistaken.
When I was 17, I started to go out to clubs outside my hometown and the first club that really had an impact on me was Trintaeum. I never had those kind of experiences before (music and people), it was a game changer for me. I started to listen to a lot of new music from new producers and new labels that I never heard before, so was super exciting all the time. I was addicted to going there every weekend to listen to new music.
Then after a while, I started to listen to all my favorite artists at that time on that small living room with the best host ever, the owner Rui Pereira. The vibration there was unique, the people went just for the music, and that was crazy since the music was not commercial at all. I was lucky enough to some years later had the chance to play there regularly, and was also there that I met Chez Damier for the first time in 2010. The “Trintaeum” track (it wasn’t called that way in the beginning) was the last track I played before Chez came up to the DJ booth to play that night, and he came to me and asked “Hey, can you tell me what track is this?”
I was shocked and said it was mine then he asked me with a surprising face “Oh really? And where/when it was released” and I explained him that it wasn’t, that I never released anything before, then he told me something that I’ll never forget, he said “Son, don’t worry, we will talk in the end of the night…” then he step away and came back again to add “…and I can assure you that I’m not the type of man that just talk, I make things happen!” and went to the DJ booth and played a wonderful session full of positive energy!!
During that period I was already spending some time in Lisbon, since my sister was working here, and my favorite club was Frágil, I had a few friends at that time that were residents there and I was always dreaming to play there one day. As soon I moved to Lisbon that day came, and I became part of the resident DJs and it was incredible! I had countless epic nights there.
Frágil was also a small club in the middle of the main neighborhood with night life in Lisbon called Bairro Alto, it was a gay club and the DJ booth was above the bar, a few meters from the dancefloor. Every night was like there was no tomorrow, if you know what I mean, it was crazy every time. People felt free there, was a dark club and the music was loud so you only had two things to do, and that it was to dance and free your mind.
So when these two clubs closed a few years ago, for me and for a lot of people that used to go there was really hard. It was a hell of a journey for me to be part of these clubs, I’ve learned a lot and I saw also a lot during those years. I didn’t had other places like these two where I could express myself as I wanted in terms of music. So, thats why this EP it’s so special to me.
Who is in charge? How does the relationship work between Chez and yourself?
There’s not a person in charge in this case – we always talk about the projects and discuss the details of it. The idea here, as I explained, is for me to take the lead in terms of searching and co-working with new producers (local or not), but then we always talk about it and we try to feel the vibration of the person and music to see how we can help him.
Besides this project in particular, me and Chez have a really peculiar relationship, since we can spend months without talking and then suddenly we got in touch again and we can spend hours talking and planning and working as if we never had that gap of communication. I feel blessed to had the opportunity to cross my path with him, he is a true friend, a wonderful mentor and my backpower of inspiration.
Do you foresee doing A&R for people outside of yourself? How wide will the circle be?
Yes of course, the idea here is to work with other producers and find new ones to help them. There is already a few things on the table, I’ve been working with my big brother, Brawther, for a while in a few tracks, but since he’s on fire, it’s being hard to find some time to finish that. Besides that I’ve been receiving a lot of demos and I’m listening to them for a while, I’ve selected already some material to bring on table at the next Balance Board Meeting with Chez and Brawther, heh heh 🙂
There is some downhome fierceness to this record, though, especially with “Maybe Tonight,” which is one of the few garagey tracks that don’t go way over the top with vocals. This whole EP seems really thoughtful and considered – is there a meaning as well behind “Maybe Tonight” other than to show you can make better jersey garage tracks than 95% of people using the term?
Ahaha… The idea of the record first came with the track “Frágil” that I did just before the club was shut down, then I decided to add the other track that I mentioned, from Trintaeum to make a tribute EP. Since those two tracks were for me more garage oriented I decided to include two tracks that I did a few years before for a My Love Is Underground 7″ locked grooves that never came out, that in my head fitted perfectly on this EP. I know that is something different from what I did in the first record to Balance, but that was also the idea, to show a new side of me, of my influences.
I think there’s been an issue popping up more and more lately: some records absolutely fly off the shelves… but most of the copies aren’t played by DJs in clubs. They’re wrapped in plastic like preserved cheese, stored in a closet and kept more as “objets d’art” – something that will appreciate in value rather than having a practical use now. As you’re running a sublabel that uses vinyl for distribution, Do you feel like there’s anything a label can do about this, or is it just something we have to deal with in the vinyl market?
It’s a good question to be honest. I feel you when you say that it makes no sense to produce and release a dance music record (house, techno, etc.) that was made to be played at clubs for people dance and then the only role they have is to be at collector’s shelves getting dust.
In my opinion I don’t think it’s something that labels can change – or in other words, I don’t think it’s their fault. For me it’s a cultural problem in most of the cities outside big ones like London, Berlin, Amsterdam, Paris, Barcelona, etc. that have people enough to fill specific clubs that are more forward thinking in terms of music. What happens is that outside that axis of cities you loose the amount of people interested in something that is underground (which is normal), and these days you have a huge amount of records coming out that doesn’t do the crossover, so they will stand at home at DJs shelves.
What I can tell from the experience that I have here in Portugal, is that in my case for example, it’s quite big the amount of records that I buy that I don’t play here at the clubs regularly, because I don’t get any positive feedback since the lack of culture in the underground electronic dance music here, but I keep buying them, not only because I like them but because I want to keep trying here and there to share them with the people and find ways to keep playing different music from what they expect. It’s usual to see that phenomenon happening here, since I’m running my own record shop at this moment in Lisbon with more two friends, called Carpet & Snares, I feel that everyday, I see always new music lovers and DJs buying music that they know from the start that will be really tough to play then. I think this will not change since it’s underground music made to a minority amount of people that have interest and feel inspired by that kind of music. What can be changed it’s to work in all these cities outside the major ones, the crowd and create a scene that can involve more people interested, that can at least feed the scene and the artists, becoming a self-sustaining environment, allowing an evolution.