Producer, song writer and multi-instrumentalist Diogo Strausz has been blazing a trail with his impressive work on Greco-Roman and Barefoot Beats. His current release on Brooklyn’s Razor-N-Tape Reserve, getting some remix attention from Prescription Records master Ron Trent. We talk to him ahead of the release.
WWD: Thanks for talking to us today Diogo. Where are you right now. Rio de Janeiro or Paris?
Right now, I’m actually in São Paulo, where I’ve been living since I came back from France. Even though I am originally from Rio.
WWD: What are you up to today?
Trying everything in my power to get rid of this flu! It’s all over here in Brazil.
WWD: Love to know what took you over to Paris and when?
That’s kind of a crazy story. I’ve met French singer/songwriter Nili Hadida during a carnival in Rio back in 2015 and she invited me to collaborate on her next album back then. A couple of years later, suddenly, I got a message from her sound engineer Fred Deces saying he mentioned my name to French artist Voyou, who invited me to co-produce his record “Les Bruit de la Ville”. And then (finally) Voyou invited me over to tour with him, which led to two amazing years living in Paris.
WWD: Your roots are in Brazil, but has the city or Paris had an impact on your sound while you lived there?
It definitely had. First because French music has been very influential for me, from Michel Legrand to Air, Justice, Yuksek etc… And you can’t avoid being influenced by seeing people from other countries and cultures working in their own particular way.
WWD: What is your history with music. Are you classically trained? What instruments do you play?
I always joke that I’m a bad player of lots of instruments. For me it’s more important to be able to communicate ideas efficiently and know the limitations of each instrument in order to boss around the musicians than to actually perform. But in an emergency I can find my way around the bass, guitar, piano, and congas.
WWD: When did you start to compose? How old were you when you realized you had this talent? Where do you think this talent came from?
I had a little tic as a kid of playing drums using my teeth, left canines were kick drums and premolars were snares. Normally I imagined rock n’ roll tunes like the ones my dad played me such as Beatles and Beach Boys. Since then, I have always loved to picture musical images of all kinds in my head.
WWD: At what point did you begin to DJ? Where were your first gigs?
Me and my friends started throwing parties in Rio de Janeiro when we were 17-18 years old, and it was the first time we experimented with CDJs. It was so much fun, and I played mostly indie rock back then. Actually, this was the first time we had contact with dance music, since electro groups like Justice or Late of the Pier had such a rock attitude.
WWD: As a DJ, What do you tend to play genre-wise?
As long as the music speaks louder than the sound design it has a place in my sets. The dance floor is such a musical playground where a piano solo, a weird sample, a percussive break, or a big orchestral arrangement can make a strong statement. For me that’s what’s all about.
WWD: Do you have some fave labels and artists that you follow? Who are they?
Quite into the last album of Arp Frique released with Rush Hour. And Brazilian artist Liniker released a superb record last year! For dance music, I also highly recommend the two labels I happen to work with Razor-N-Tape and Cracki Records.
WWD: We have to compliment you on ‘Flight of The Sagittarius’. It was one of the best track of 2021. That very funky, sassy 70s flavor. Did you have a lot of fun making that track?
Thanks! That song is very special to me and has a particular story. The idea first came to my mind when I was waiting in the line of immigration while still living in Paris. I had to quietly distance myself from the cue to sing the bassline and trumpet melody to my phone so I wouldn’t forget it later. A while after I went to my friend Kassin’s studio in Rio de Janeiro, and it was a blessing to see the idea being played by the musicians and coming to life.
WWD: The video for it is also very striking. The style, the dancers, the horoscope concept. Did you use a video producer for this, or did you produce it?
Yes, all the credits go to magnificent director Romane Pineill who conceived it. She blew our minds from the first moment when she showed us the project for the video.
WWD: Some great dance moves on your part. And you look like you should work in fashion. Is the aesthetic as important to you as the music?
All things considered, aesthetics are everywhere, even in invisible art forms such as music.
WWD: We’d love to talk to you about the ‘Pausa’ project on Far Put Recordings that you put together during lockdown in 2020. The music is simply stunning. It brings up feelings of sadness, at the same time it has a peaceful mood that we all shared. How did this idea come to you?
Thanks for bringing that up! This song is very important to me. I have a passion for composers such as Tom Jobim and Ryuichi Sakamoto, but I could never reach that level and as I mentioned before, I’m not exactly a skilful pianist. So, one afternoon during lockdown in Paris I started to jam and record everything. At the end I had 1 hour of mistakes but felt like some parts, if properly put together, could become a good song. At the end it became this audio-visual collaborative project with musicians, drone cinematographers, my good friend and director Jacob Perlmutter and many others. It was a little light at the end of the tunnel for me.
WWD: Again, the visual aspect/ video too is pretty special. Not only the production of it but the idea of it. What came to you first when you composed Pausa? Was it the feeling you were experiencing that dictated how the music played out?
Because of the process and the context, it was definitely a manifestation of the subconscious, kind of like taking a tarot card game but with musical notes.
WWD: Over the years you have produced for other artists like ‘Les Bruits de la Ville’ for Voyou. Does it satisfy your to be behind the scenes of such projects?
Definitely, it’s a pleasure to assist talented artists on their next work.
WWD: You remixed the iconic Gal Costa right?
It came out at the end of 2020; I remixed the tracks “Cuidando de Longe” that featured the brilliant singer Marília Mendonça who sadly passed away last year, and a fun disco tune named “Sublime” both from Gal’s record “A Pele do Futuro” from 2018.
WWD: The Balako project is one you share with Rodrigo Peirao that blends contemporary and retro sounds. Tell us a little about this?
When I first met Rodrigo I got very impressed with his musical curiosity and knowledge on pop culture. We quickly became good friends even though I’m a little quieter and he’s bigger than life. Suddenly we started having many musical ideas and thought why not try them out ? Until today he’s someone that teaches me a lot.
WWD: You have released on the brilliant Greco-Roman. The label was originally set up to celebrate artists that played at their infamous Soundclash parties. Was this the intro for you?
Yes at first, after some time the label got quite big and diverse. I got very impressed when Joe Goddard replied to Rodrigo. First he asked if it was an original track or an edit, which for us was a total goal because we were putting a lot of organic elements into a dance oriented original track. Then he proposed to release it with them. It was very important and opened a lot of doors for us.
WWD: So, this is now your third outing on Razor-N-Tape. How did you hook up with the RNT gang?
After two releases with Greco-Roman it got a little easier to approach other labels, at that point Balako had crossed the radar of some of the labels we liked, RNT included. So, my friend Rodrigo Gorky (Fatnotronic) was kind enough to introduce me to Jkriv who became a good friend and collaborator since then. We might get dinner tomorrow while he’s in São Paulo!
WWD: The new ‘Emancipação Extended’, first came out a year ago. Talk us through this track a little. The inspiration, the composition.
I’m a huge Azymuth fan and got very inspired by Jazz Carnival when I saw it being played by Dan Snaith once at the end of his set at Pitch Fork Festival. When I felt the impact that song had I got obsessed with (as Pharrell says) reverse engineer it. Which means to try recreating the path into the virtual place that an art work takes you to. I was lucky to have keyboard player Rafael Vernet who played a very inspired organ solo and drummer Patrick Laplan who threw some very unexpected jazzy patterns into my demo. The track already had this shuffle that reminded me of Lone’s Airglow Fire. Those were the inspirations for the track.
WWD: When you create a new track how do you begin? Do you have a process you follow, or does it change each time?
Usually, I hear it in my head and keep everything recorded inside my phone, just singing with my mouth, and describing what I’m hearing in order to reconnect with that virtual place. After that I try to bring the track to “reality”, find those sounds, play the lines, make a demo. Usually at this point unexpected things can happen, collaborators come in and we add new perspectives to it.
WWD: Pretty cool to have The Prescription Records master remixing you. Is that a big buzz for you?
It’s huge, right? I felt quite proud when RNT brought the idea and when Ron said yes!
WWD: How would you describe Ron’s take on your track? What do you feel Ron has done to it?
Emancipação can easily get lost, it’s hard to fit in a specific dance music genre and to fit in the set. Ron took the track and made it his own house music jam, he kept the organ solo, kept the main theme but at the same time it feels like a completely new track to me. He added some really unexpected acoustic guitar and replaced the shuffle for a Latin oriented clave, very very classy. I usually play his versions in my sets, and it always fits in, it’s like a gentleman that knows how to behave under any circumstances!
WWD: What other projects are you working on at the moment?
A couple of remixes and production work but with the latest releases there’s a lot of promotion to do and some little improvements on the live set all the time.
WWD: Do plan any future live performances Covid permitting?
Yes, my live set is up and running. There are a couple of gigs ahead!
WWD: You’ve spent most of your life dedicated to music. If you didn’t take this path, what else do you think you might be doing now?
Oh, if you chose this path it is because there isn’t another option, believe me.
WWD: Wishing you much success with this stellar release Diogo!
Razor-N-Tape Reserve present Diogo Strausz ‘Emancipação Extended (Ron Trent Remix)’ on 14th January. Buy Here