From DJing at the biggest clubs and festivals in Portugal, to managing multiple record labels including Groovement, to running his Lisbon-based record store and label Carpet & Snares, Jorge Caiado‘s involvement in the scene has been making an impact across a variety of avenues.
The depth and diversity of Jorge’s experiences in electronic music are reflected in the uniquely thought provoking music that he produces, qualities which are on full display with the release of his debut album Time & Space. His insatiable curiosity for music, combined with the finely tuned ear of one whose life is dedicated to it, results in a unique balance of organic sounds, futuristic electronic elements, and experimental jazz concepts. Working in collaboration with musicians Paul Cut and Theo Thornton on the album he brings the “vitality of jazz back to House,” where early influences combine with contemporary approaches.
With each track representing an important part of Jorge’s Caiado’s life, from the memory of his dog Nasha to a reminder to “Try to Breathe,” Time & Space is not only the work of an experienced audio professional, but an emotional journey that invites listeners inside to explore his world.
Jorge Caiado photos by Ruben José
With seven years of work behind it and months of waiting for official release date, how does it feel now that Time & Space has been released?
It feels amazing, it was indeed a long process since the first draft of the first track until holding the record in my hands. For those who make music and release it on vinyl, it’s already something that we need to count with (the long wait) but in this case in particular it was more than that. In the last few years I didn’t have enough free time for studio work so the process was slower than I wanted and also the complexity of the album that featured musicians made it even longer. Basically every track was written while I was traveling through gigs and tours on a short period of time, while the post-production was what took more time than usual.
What was your motivation behind creating a complete album? Are there things you can accomplish with an artist album that aren’t achievable through individual tracks or EPs?
Well, I’ve been releasing records for around 10 years, so the idea of making an album was always in the back of my head, even if it wasn’t a priority. I always saw the album idea as something that had to come naturally. I didn’t want to put out just a collection of tracks. There should be a concept behind it, something that would connect all tracks and make the whole album sound as one. So this is already something you can achieve with writing an album that most of the times is hard to do on an EP. The music market is harder than ever so when you release an EP you need to guarantee that all tracks are winners (talking about the DJ/clubbing market). When you compose an album there is room for more than that, of course it will always depend of the aesthetics, but even if you “need” to include a banger/single or two, you will always have space to explore more experimental or not too obvious textures and rhythms. So my motivation was definitely to try and show something else that I never showed before with my previous 12”s, something that could surprise those that know my music already and also that could captivate people that didn’t know me or never payed attention to my music before. Another thing that I wanted to achieve was to make this record a hybrid one, which could be listened to at home but with some choices for the club as well.
I always saw the album idea as something that had to come naturally. I didn’t want to put out just a collection of tracks. there should be a concept behind it, something that would connect all tracks and make the whole album sound as one.
Was each track created with the intention of being included on this project? Is there something each track has which makes it fit into Time & Space?
As I explained before, each track was made with the album in mind; this was a concept record where the idea came after I wrote “Nasha’s Groove.” While I was working on it I realized that I could explore more ideas (melodies and harmonies) with the same palette of sounds making every single track different but in the same “universe.” Some of the tracks are more broken beat, some are straight 4/4, some more funky and organic, some more electronic and futuristic, but all with the same core of instruments and textures. I like to see it as if it could’ve been made and played live by an alternative electronic jazz band/trio.
As a huge dog lover myself, I love that you named a track after your dog Nasha — she looks like she was a really special dog who will always be a part of your heart. I imagine that while they might not be as deeply personal, that your other tracks names mean something special to you too. Could you share some of your favorite track titles and meanings? At what point in the creative process do you choose your track names?
Well, Nasha’s tribute track was indeed the motto for the album and also the single track of the LP. Some of the names come while I’m working on the tracks since for some reason they remind me of something. Others I need to finish first without thinking too much and then feel the mood of it and what I can relate to that mood from my personal life. “Time & Space” is basically a name to sum some personal experiences that took me back to a specific time and a specific space where I had good memories, and that’s why you can find tracks like “7 Hills” (one of the names that Lisbon is known for), or “Walking in Bogotá” which is a memory that I have very clear in my mind from my tour in Colombia (where most of these tracks were written). “MJ In Kobe” is more like a love song dedicated to my wife and the good times we had in Kobe, Japan, during my tour there as well. “Barreirinha Jam” is dedicated to a bar and a group of friends from Madeira Island that always provide me with unforgettable moments each time they book me there. “Magic Carpet” is directly connected to Carpet & Snares Records, my record shop and lifetime project in Lisbon. “Try To Breathe” is something that I need to remind myself to do quite frequently, in a way to meditate during my daily routines, so I can refresh my mind in the middle of my hectic days. “Jazz Traveller” is basically the way I approached this record, always with jazz as the base for the music and “traveller” because it was all written while I was on the road between gigs.
From the album notes, I read that “It’s the synthesis of a prolific period dedicated to exploring the many facets of house music.” I would love to hear more about this — what were some of your discoveries and how did they influence the album in general or any tracks in particular?
Those words were written as liner notes by Rui Torrinha (aka Artivista), the founder and owner of Groovement label. But he is totally right (as usual!) After I realized I was already working on my debut album I tried to put all my experiences (as a DJ/record collector and producer) towards making this record something special. In a way I didn’t mind knowing that some references would be easily recognizable but it needed to be clear to me that the final result was my approach and contemporary vision of house music with all those influences as background.
Did you feel that your sound or techniques had changed from initial concept to finished product? Were there any earlier ideas that differed as you developed over time?
The draft of the first track I did for the album — “Nasha’s Groove” — was done before my Colombia tour in 2017, so there is basically a period of three years between the first draft and the finished physical release. In this record in particular I didn’t feel that my ideas changed or differed through the creative process since most of the tracks were written in a short period of time with an aesthetic very clear in my mind. What took more time was to then arrange them, mix and produce them. Since most of the tracks were written while I was traveling just with my laptop, when I came back home and to my studio I re-recorded every element/instrument with my synths and gear to reach the sound I had in mind. Also after all this process I still went back to the studio again for the recording sessions with Paul Cut and Theo Thornton (both musicians that I invited to be part of the album to play keys and percussion respectively) and only then did I finish all the mixdowns and pre-masters for the mastering and pressing phase.
As a record store owner and head of two different labels, you must be continuously inundated with new music and have a well-developed ear for quality. What do you think makes for exceptional house music? What does it need to stand out among the rest?
Yes, I receive tons of demos all the time. It’s flattering to feel that many people trust your ears and would love to release on your label, but with that also comes a huge responsibility and also demands a lot of your time to listen and give proper feedback. I try to reply to everyone, but I can’t always do this since the way people approach you sometimes is not adequate. For the ones that actually get in touch properly and are patient to get an answer then I’ll help them how I can. Sometimes the result is just to tell that person my opinion and maybe to give a couple of label suggestions that might fit better for their music. So getting back to your question, to stand out among the rest, after a good approach, is definitely a feeling that is not easy to describe. Since I receive a lot of music the first filter is done by listening to the tracks quickly (skipping, like I do when I do the buying for the shop), and if something pops out immediately then I usually save the link or the files to listen later with more time and with the right mood. So first is just a feeling, a guess, then if the tracks are actually good and interesting I start thinking if any of my labels are the best platform to help that artist to spread his work. If then I feel that one of them might do the work, then I start the “executive production” process. Together with the artist I try to guide them and help them to get the best of their sound. Try to improve some details in the tracks, sometimes creative-wise, sometimes just a technical issue (mixing problems), sometimes just to give them confidence and tell them how good and exciting their music is. The final process is to find the best tracks to showcase that artist in the best way possible for an EP. So, summing up, it’s to find a good feeling/mood in the music (I’m a sucker for moods in music!) and feel the artist is open to work together to reach a great final record that will stand through time. Aesthetic wise, at this stage I have outlets enough to reach almost every sub-genre of house and techno in my labels, so it doesn’t matter if it sounds more classic or if its too futuristic, I’ll find always a space for it, as long as I feel it in a special way.
How does your work in the music industry influence your creativity? Is it difficult not to let business become a priority or do they complement each other?
Sometimes I miss my early days in production, where everything was done by experimenting without thinking too much. These days I make that exercise of trying not to think about the industry when I’m composing and to be honest I think I’ve been managing to make it. Of course after the ideas come out and you start seeing where the track is going it’s kind of inevitable to think about what kind of DJs might like it and what kind of circuits will have fun with it, but again, I try to make that extra effort of not thinking too much. It’s not easy, but it’s something that I feel is super important during the creative process. Even if the result is something that I can relate with other artist or specific release I try to not think too much and just make sure it was an honest feeling and that the result came naturally from my mind.
Of all you have accomplished, what are you most proud of so far in your career?
The album is definitely something that put a smile on my face every time I think about it or see it highlighted somewhere. But well, the way I started is also something that makes me super proud. I feel blessed by the opportunity to have had the chance to release my debut record on Chez Damier‘s Balance imprint (10 years ago) and become friends since then with one of my idols. “Beyond The Atlantic” EP is a record that will always be special and which I’m super proud of.
Besides the releases it makes me feel special the fact I was part of the international Red Bull Music Academy in 2011 that allowed me to meet loads of like-minded people and to work with big references like Mathew Jonson or warming up to Frankie Knuckles on a magical night. To be able to tour in Japan in 2018 was also one of those things that I had on my checklist that I’m proud to have done already. US and Australia are just next on that list.
What projects currently have your focus? Can you share with us more of what’s on the horizon for you and your labels?
On my end I have a couple of different releases already in the pipeline and also the next Conversion release almost being distributed (my alias for my electro/techno sonic excursions away from my housier roots) with really good feedback so far. Regarding my labels, there are loads of new records that I’m super excited to put out also before the Summer. We will start producing them independently and do direct sale and distribution from our HQ at Carpet & Snares Records. There will be 12”s for every taste, from House to Techno, from Electro to Minimal. A lot of new producers but also keep developing the ones released so far. Carpet Distribution will be a good part of our work tasks list soon but also trying to showcase worldwide more and more. Everything has been growing very nicely over the past couple of years but to be completely honest 2020 is going to be a very tough year, even more with all the pandemic crisis. Although we have all these projects coming into fruition it’s been very hard staying afloat, the lack of local support doesn’t help, as neither myself as a DJ or the whole project have been generating enough revenue to make it sustainable. The good news is that no matter what gets thrown at us, we don’t give up!
Jorge Caiado’s Time & Space LP is out now on Groovement.