Photo: Press (214)
There’s no shortage of records that offer new takes on the tried and tested formula of electro, however none stick out quite like the EPs and albums released by Chris Roman, also known as J Alvarez, under his 214 guise. While most takes on the genre opt for aseptic futurism or crunchy 808 workouts, his approach to electro is colourful, lush, and emotive. Having just released his third LP Exposure to Winds on 20/20 Vision, he is currently preparing for the release of a new EP on Steffi’s Klakson imprint. His mix for the Groove podcast in the meanwhile sees him exploring the deeper and slower end of the genre as well.
First off, how have you been doing the past year?
I’ve got my health and fortunately my day job, so I’m very thankful considering the state of things. I’ve tried to keep myself mentally and physically occupied as much as possible.
After you had dedicated your last album North Bend to the city of the same new, also your new album Exposure to Winds again takes its inspiration from the region you live in. Originally however, you come from Florida. What made you relocate there?
I grew up in Florida and was ready for a change. An opportunity came up through my day job so I jumped on it and made the move.
The natural environment of the area, made famous thanks to David Lynch’s Twin Peaks, plays a huge role in your music. How exactly does it influence your work when you’re locked in the studio and what’s the underlying concept of Exposure to Winds?
I think it is more of an implicit type of influence. My home is surrounded by mountains and forest, so it’s a constant source of stimulation. I like to go outside for walks or hikes, especially in the morning or before a studio session. Admittedly, the work on this album follows any other type of release for me. It’s more of a feeling and state of mind at the time rather than a particular concept. The theme is always based around my location, but the process is the same. Just turn on the gear and see where things go over time.
Speaking of which, what does your working process usually look like? You work mostly hardware-based.
I love the best of both worlds honestly. While I tend to use a lot more hardware due to hands-on preference, I still record in the box and occasionally work with plug-ins. In my opinion, I think finding that balance between both is where the sweet spot lies. Most of my working process is experimenting and jamming until things sound good enough to start arranging.
You have a new EP coming out soon on Klakson, a label that you have been closely affiliated with in the past few years. What characterises your personal and working relationship with Steffi?
The EP will be out shortly after the LP. It’s been an absolute joy to work with Steffi. We’ve become close friends over the last few years and she’s such a fantastic label boss to work with and mentor. As an artist always looking to grow, she likes to suggest feedback when I send her tracks for release and I’m always very open to that. Many times we’ll talk through each and make various edits from the initial submissions. It’s honestly that feedback that gets my tracks to the level they are when released.
When performing at clubs, you normally play live. What role does DJing play in your work?
I’m a DJ first and foremost. I started DJing in the mid-90s, a few years before I started producing. I still make mixes throughout the year that I’m always posting on my SoundCloud. I’m constantly buying records and digging for new music so it plays a huge part in my work. I play live similar to how I DJ, keeping the flow of music going like a DJ set, mixing between tracks.
And how about online mixes – how do you usually approach those and what was the idea behind your mix for our Groove podcast specifically?
The way I approach my online mixes is usually based on who is requesting. Of course all my mixes will have an electro theme running through them, but I like to mix a variety of sounds. Especially now with the way genres have morphed and you hear hints of various styles in every track. For this mix I tried to keep things on the deeper, lower BPM side of things and not so much club focused. Not having played in a club all year, it was becoming difficult to create a club-focused mix. I guess this might fall under the after hours/morning hours category.
Last but not least: What are your plans for the future?
Continue creating and learning. And hopefully sharing a dancefloor again soon.
Stream: 214 – Groove Podcast 284
01. Soul Oddity – Soul Communication
02. Babel – Shaman
03. The Unit – Stop Pushing
04. Peter Benisch – Faster than Light
05. IVM2 – Planetarium
06. Qnete & Carmel – Forest Magic
07. Lost Palms – Similar Steps
08. O Wells – Culling Virus
09. As One – Shambala (reflected by Russ Gabriel)
10. Solar x Brother Nebula – S.I.S. Savile’s Jetset Radio remix
11. Since Cell Orchestra – Knockout drops