Juan Pablo Pfirter, better known as Pfirter, is one of the most renowned Argentinian DJs and producers. Characterized by a dark sound, both disturbing and at the same time stimulating, Juan Pablo has achieved a great international recognition that has led him to be part of the Polegroup family. Together with his inseparable Jonas Kopp, he owns his record label: MindTrip, platform through which he promotes that innovative and exquisite spirit present in his sets and productions. We spent a pleasant time in his residence in Barcelona while he told us that, despite being Argentine, he does not like mate.
Well, the fact that all Argentines like mate is not so true, is it?
Not at all. That’s a stereotype … I hate it! (laughs)
First of all, thank you very much for giving us part of your time Juan Pablo! Let’s start talking about your beginnings in the music world.
It’s funny because I actually started working on the radio and in the same time I was writing in a music newspaper … All these activities were limiting a bit myself in the sense that I was not able to put the music I wanted or to write about music that I loved. On the radio everything is predetermined and in a way it bored me … Nothing in comparison of what I’m doing now! During that time (I was 13/14 years old), I started dancing and seeing what the DJs were doing and, at that moment, I realized which was my thing.
I bought my first deck, I approached the resident (called Mykonos) of the club where I was used to go and asked him if he could teach me how to play. For what concern the production it took me a little more time, about 10 years after I started DJing.
I simply did not have the knowledge to produce when I started with all this. My first steps were with Jonas Kopp. He was my greatest mentor at the time (and he’s still one of my biggest references). I started with softwares. Then, one thing leads to the other and you start buying hardwares …
What was the first piece of hardware you bought?
It was the mythical FilterBank. Anything that goes through it becomes techno! (laughs)
And how did you take the matter of producing?
I’ve always been quite self-taught, but it’s also true that I had people around me who taught me countless things. Luckily, with the Internet, access to information made things easier, which helped me clear up many doubts that arose during the process. Also, in Buenos Aires, I did not have the possibility to go to a store, try the machines and so on.
Jonas and I released some albums together and working with him was a real luxury. Each one contributed to form the creativity and the knowledge of the other: he did not play too much and he was lacking some details from the functionality point of view, so to say. In the meantime, I knew where I wanted to go but I was lacking in the technical part, so it was an incredible synergy. Seeing Jonas produce is impressive, he is very fast, a real machine.
When did you decide to move to Barcelona?
From 2008 I started to edit more songs, so I came more to DJ in Europe. I suppose the fact of being Argentine and doing techno was like a novelty at that time.
My first important gig in Europe was in 2008, at Berghain. I did not even know what it was! (laughs) I had heard a lot about the club, but the reality is quite different.
Since then, I knew that I had to be in Europe. For a while I was living in Berlin, but I had a hard time producing there. For me, inner happiness is what clearly influences my creativity during the production process, and in a place with cold and gray weather, few things could inspire me. What’s more, I just had the fortune to go in Germany during the coldest and darkest winter ever had there!
I was used to open the window, see the day and loose any motivations to go out. At 3 in the afternoon it was already night … I was very frustrated and nothing came out of the studio. I love the night, but not as an imposition day after day. So in 2011 I decided to come to Barcelona.
And how was the Berghain experience?
I knew it was amazing but, in person, it is even more spectacular. What is going on there is hard to find in any other club of the world. I made the opening from midnight until 5AM. It has a massive sound. At that time I had never heard anything similar and it was brutal.
It’s funny because I went there once and they did not let me get in (laughs). I had already been there to play music several times but not that time, I just wanted to go as an assistant. It was all improvised and I did not tell anyone I was going, so when I got to the door they told me to leave. I showed them some pictures to prove them that I had already been an artist several times and luckily everything went fine! (laughs) Nobody likes the right of admission, but I think the essence of Berghain has been maintained in time thanks in part to its access policy.
Tell us a little bit more about MindTrip. When did you decide to launch it?
Around 2006, when Jonas and I were producing together, we had the idea of offering a platform with which release our music and the one of some of our friends. Originally, the sale was online. We released the first releases and it started to grow. Launching in digital is always easier, really, and now that we start editing on vinyl you can tell the difference. You have to pay attention to many more things.
But hey, the idea of the label is to sign the music that I like the most and I really enjoy discovering other artists and being able to make an investment of time and money to make that artist more popular.
Dold is a very good example: a Swedish artist very little known but I fell in love from the first moment I heard his music. He sent me 40 tracks that were to edit them all. I had to choose 6 and it costed me a lot choosing!
I love being able to offer people new music and artists. I’m not looking to release an even-growing number of albums per year. Whatever comes and is worthy of being heard is going to be part of the MindTrip.
Do you think there has been an event in your life that has influenced / affected your production process?
It is clear that there are certain types of mental states that can lead you to reach a sound that you would not reach without that emotion, but I would not say that there has been a turning point in my life that caused this kind of reaction. I only remember that when my mother died, I spent almost 2 years making music without stopping. It was my way of channeling emotions that I could not release with words.
It’s not like I’ve had a specific moment that totally changed my sound. I’m ruled by 3 concepts that always have to be present: timelessness, sense of urgency and tension. These are my maxims when it comes to produce, either for pure techno tracks or for tracks more focused on ambient sounds. And, obviously, all this translates to the music released in MindTrip and to my sets.
When I took my first steps as a DJ in Argentina, I found myself with very varied audiences and I have always needed to look for music that best suits the needs of the dance floor. I have never liked to structure my sets. I like to move between the emotions while reading the reactions of people.
Do you get any inspiration from other genres?
I have to say that the intensity present in some genres such as grunge or rock makes me feel the same as when I listen to techno.
How do you see the theme of the tours and the huge number of hours that DJs spend traveling?
Well, it’s a delicate subject, because on the one hand I love to play and I’ve always been inspired by my sets to produce more music. The better the club or festival is, the more inspired I get. But of course, the time you have at home during the week is so short that it is difficult to be productive in the studio.
It’s all about balance; you have to know how to properly organize your time.
What hardwares do you use when producing? Do you always follow the same methodology when sitting down to generate tracks?
Actually, I started producing with softwares, so in a way I took the opposite path of most of my idols. But I always try to mix the 2 worlds.
I have the mythical Roland 909, the Roland 808, a couple of Leploop drum machine … Unique pieces. I’ve always liked having more unusual machines. I recently received a synthesizer made by some guys in Russia called Lyra. It comes without manual, made by hand and they produce very few units. This for example can not be mapped with anything, you have to try it alone and, apart, it has no keyboard. It offers something that ’emulates’ a keyboard: round buttons sensitive to pressure and to the movements of your body.
I love the filters also to polish the sounds to the maximum, like the Yotincore, which offers 3 filters in one. I also use several analog preamps and equalizers for post-production.
Furthermore, it cannot miss in my studio several classic synths, like the SH101, the Roland 303 … And I always rotate the equipment, really. The classics are always there, but I do not like to always be stuck in the same.
I recently discovered a new plugin that I love. I have a Tape Delay called Roland’s 1981 Space Echo that produces a lo-fi but subtle sound to the ear. But of course, you have to change the tape and you have to dedicate a couple of hours to that. This plugin allows me to do the same but without the drawbacks of the physical format.
There are times that I even find a plugin that has the same sound as the machine. Being able to combine hardware with software is a real luxury and for me it is the best way to produce in the most efficient way.
What do you think about the B2B obsession that exists lately?
I think they have become more a marketing and communication tool, rather than something natural that arose in the club. If it draws attention, people will go. But the b2b has to come out spontaneously, not as a sales strategy to make an artist better known or for the mere fact of offering new things to the public.
Now there are some quick questions in order to know you a little better. Let’s start
I have many, but if I had to name one, it would be Jeff Mills.
An artist that you would like to produce with:
With Jonas Kopp I have everything I look for in the studio.
Favorite track right now:
Galaxian – Malice, I love to prick it.
The strangest thing you’ve seen while playing:
5 people having sex in the cabin.
If we say Sync, you say: