For many Latin American artists, the allure of moving to Europe for regular gigs has often been seen as a tempting aim, but with the work and cultural changes Verraco and a host of other talented producers and DJs are making in Colombia, that temptation continues to shrink – especially so for the Medellín-based producer. Co-founder of Insurgentes, a music label that’s proved, sonically adventurous IDM, ambient and techno can be produced from the Latin diaspora since 2017, Verraco might be more recently better known for the label’s imprint and collective TraTraTrax. Revered by many as ‘label of 2022’, releases and tracks from Nick León, Bitter Babe, Tomás Urquieta and many more have provided a blistering celebration of dembow, cumbia, tribal, raptor house and everything in between.
We caught up with Verraco to discuss the amazing year he’s had with TraTraTrax, creating an array of strong connections with Latin American artists, a transcendental 2022 party in Brazil and the achievement that is fulfilling your dreams alongside your best friends. Taking on our landmark 300th mix, we felt it was a perfect opportunity to shine some extra light on a Latin American artist firmly putting Colombia and the Global South on the map for those just paying attention now. Describing his Truancy Volume as “dramatic tribalish techno with early-2000 Neapolitan reminiscences”, Verraco’s sculpted the heftiest of mixes, riddled with twists and turns for days. Featuring many a Truant fave from the likes of Anthony ‘Shake’ Shakir, Call Super, Doctor Jeep, Bruce, Pinch, aya/Iceboy Violet, and a defining three quarter moment from Caroline Polachek x Flume, this 12-years-in-the-making Truants moment is in very safe hands.
Hey there, thanks for taking out the time to answer some questions and do this mix for us! We’re all such long-time fans here! So just to start, can you tell us a little bit about how you’ve been the last year? What sort of things have you been getting up to? Did you take up any new hobbies, interests or get to travel to any new places you were really excited about visiting or playing? “Thank you very much for having me here. New hobbies? No :/ What happened to me in the last few years is that a deep commitment I had with a hobby made it become my main activity, or well, without euphemisms: my job. Last year was very intense, I traveled a lot, we put TraTraTrax and some of its artists on the map, we built some bridges, we broke other walls. It was a good year and visiting Brazil for the first time was transcendental for me.”
It feels like TraTraTrax as a collective and label is going to be very busy this year with TraTraTrax lined up for some amazing gigs and takeovers in the summer. You’ve talked about in past interviews how you like to think of yourselves as an interdisciplinary network. Could you tell us a little bit about what you meant by that, and also how Nyksan, DJ Lomalinda and yourself all first met? “I think that one of the “secrets” for the consistency of TraTraTrax is that we are six hands with clear divisions of tasks. So Lomalinda’s strong point is the financial part, Nyksan also knows a lot about numbers and all the administrative parts and I am more in charge of the creative and technical part. I don’t get too much involved into the numbers, but as they are tremendous selectors with an impeccable taste then we socialize a lot between the three of us on the curatorial issues. Besides, each one of us has an eye or an emphasis on different regions and that allows us to have a wide sonic spectrum that in the end is reflected in the artists we choose. I met Lomalinda about 8 years ago at DOCE, a record store in Medellín. We became friends and some time later we founded Insurgentes. With Nyksan we became very close when I lived in Bogota for a job I had there and it was like meeting a kindred spirit. When we came up with the idea of starting TraTraTrax I thought that together we could make a killer team. But when I say we try to be interdisciplinary, we also have a network of very bright close friends who help us with specific tasks. Also because, well, any activity developed only by three men, inevitably, will have major flaws.”
The curation of the releases has been undeniably amazing in terms of music but you’ve also mentioned in interviews that you’d hope that the records would represent a place of belonging and identification for their local audiences. Can you tell us a bit more about that, and how you’ve been trying to achieve this? “With the decision that the original music we release is primarily from Latin artists or from the Global South, this segment already creates a strong connection with the region. The rhythmic decisions we are making also play a fundamental role. However, it is still a difficult task because, at least in Colombia, the scene in general still has a colonial mindset, as many people still believe that the state-of-the-art of electronic music is the techno top 10 of Beatport. But well, we continue in the struggle so that more and more people can see that other rhythms are possible.”
You must be pretty excited for the Dekmantel takeover with you, Bitter Babe and Nick León providing the music for the takeover. It does feel like you’ve really nailed this family of producers that you can interchange with all your takeovers and have it feel right. ‘Collective care over individualism’ you once stated on your Instagram. What’s it been like working and DJing with everyone? “It is going to be very special. It gives me anxiety just thinking about it and imagining it so what I’m doing is trying to forget about it until the day comes without thinking too much and let myself be moved in the moment. It is something we have been dreaming about for a long time, especially with Laura (Bitter Babe) because we have been friends for many years and we have seen each other grow slowly. But the nice thing is that among all of us we have become very close, we have a similar spirit and similar or complementary energies that makes everything so simple, everything flows. Reaching what many consider as “success” or fulfilling dreams, ok yes, that’s fine, but doing it with your friends is something else.”
How do you see TraTraTrax as a label in comparison to Insurgentes? What did you want to accomplish differently? “We never wanted it to be something different. It was a natural process. In fact it’s funny because the idea of TraTraTrax was to be a sub-label and in just two years it got all the attention, relegating Insurgentes a little bit. But our spectrum has always been broad, so there are two hustles: with Insurgentes what bothered us is that many people outside were universalizing what the “Latin” sound should be, so we wanted to “prove” that here we could also make IDM, ambient or techno influenced by our environment but that didn’t necessarily have to be reflected on the sonics. With TraTraTrax the struggle was more local, trying to amplify rhythmic collisions between our influences that came mainly from the UK and rhythms closer to our region and with which we grew up. To be honest there were other reasons that motivated us. Seeing how some people from the Global North were recognized as the masters of Latin rhythms because of the media made us feel uncomfortable, but well, we can leave that story for another day.”
In terms of your own music, what sort of goals do you have for your productions after releasing your album Grial in 2020 (E.M.R.I. | The Last Alliance was one of my fave tracks from 2020 by the way)? You’ve talked about in interviews around the time of the release that you wanted to dismantle the Western perceptions of Latin dance music, whilst also rejecting the notion of a singular Latinx musical identity. Is there a next step for you now? Thank you, that track and that name are also crucial to me. And well, I don’t know if my pretension was as big as you put it. What I’ve always tried to do is to be honest with what comes naturally to me when I sit down to program music, and that is hybridity. That is what I try to exalt, because what warms my blood is to see how rhythms or genres that you were always told were forbidden to mix, then clash with each other giving birth to new mutant rhythms or melodies. But, well, that’s all complementary. In the end, I always think that the artistic output, the music by itself should stand on its own, regardless of where it comes from. That’s why I always appeal to a tweet by Lyra Pramuk that summarizes and inspires my artistic pursuit:
“i don’t want seasonal CLOTHING and MUSIC, i want ��TIMELESS�� CLOTHING and MUSIC — TIMELESS silhouettes & TIMELESS tunes — durable, SUSTAINABLE materials, hypnotic constructions, melodies that haunt you for years.”
There was a particularly amazing Mamba Negra party you got to play at in July right, that made you hopeful for the future for Latin American dance music. You had some very gushing praise for it over on your Instagram. What made it so special? It really does feel like the latin american and its diaspora are making and throwing some of the most exciting music and parties around at the moment. “IDK, is the future of everything. I am not capable of explaining it or condense it here, you have to go and realize it, or maybe not, maybe just let them continue with their utopia alone. I can only say that the community that Cashu, Laura, Victor and the whole Mamba team have built is what I think this was always meant to be about. On the other hand, I believe that for many years incredible things have been happening here. Maybe what happens is that the consistency of projects like TraTraTrax or NAAFI have put us on the spotlight a bit more nowadays. But the truth is that even since the times of concrete music there were already artists and movements here being really disruptive and refreshing.”
As you become more and more of a house-hold name in Colombia, can you tell us a little bit about how you approach your DJ sets? Has it changed at all with the bigger crowds and your style of taking things in different directions. Has there been a night you’ve called the perfect set yet? “I love being able to now have the opportunity or be in the position to play both in small venues and be in front of 3,000 people at festivals, which I really really enjoy too cause I also like to take risks on those spaces. But the closest to a perfect set can be more when I do an all-night-long. Last year, for example, in my residency at Video Club, I did an all-nighter, it was sold out and I was able to cover in 7 hours all the territories that I like to transit, sonically speaking. I think that date was the closest thing to having a perfect night.”
What are you reading at the moment, or have you read any amazing books in the past year? You’ve talked about your love for sonic fiction in past interviews, and how your academic interests have also been big influences on your music. “My reading time has unfortunately dropped considerably in the last year. Being on the road does not allow me to concentrate to read. I still haven’t read anything weird. Basically I’m trying to finish the entire Mark Fisher catalogue and some essays from the Caja Negra publishing house. But the pure truth is what I read the most now are just modular or plug-ins manuals or mixing and recording technique books.”
I’ve been listening to a lot more full length LPs lately, lots of ones I used to listen to when I first got into electronic music especially. Can you tell us about three albums that a) define you getting into electronic music, b) maybe a midway album when you were fully invested in DJing and and c) a recent album that you’ve especially enjoyed?
a) James Holden – The Idiots Are Winning
b) Huerco S. – For Those Of You Who Have Never (And Also Those Who Have)
c) ulla – foam
So what can you tell us about the mix you’ve recorded for us? Was there any direction you decided you wanted to go for this when making and are there any particular tracks you want to shout out? “I’ve distanced myself a bit from the typical perfect-contemplative studio mix to then be more faithful to what I am playing in clubs these days. So expect inside upcoming TraTraTrax material (shouts to those artists), personal favorites from the last years, drama, dynamic mixing style x 3 decks. To put it in a Hardwax type of description, this mix is like: diverse dramatic tribalish techno with early 2000 Neapolitan reminiscences plus punchy ace grime +++ bla bla bla.“
Lastly, usual question from us, when was the last time you danced and what was the last thing to put a big smile on your face? “The last time I danced? Yesterday recording this mix. The last time I smiled? Just as I am answering these questions, I am moved watching my father’s new puppy jumping around. After working 30 years for the same company he is going to retire and spend more peaceful and happy days with his new bb.”
Verraco: Soundcloud, Instagram, Twitter, Bandcamp
TraTraTrax: Soundcloud, Instagram, Bandcamp
You can download Truancy Volume 300: Verraco in 320 kbps and see the full tracklist by supporting Truants on Patreon here. Your support allows Truants to continue running as a non-profit and ad-free platform. Members will receive exclusive access to mixes, tracklists, and merchandise. We urge you to support the future of independent music journalism—a little goes a long way.
Header Photography: Kasia Zacharko