Carlos Manaca on the EDM Cave [Q&A]


Carlos Manaca is one of the well-known Portuguese DJs / Producers. His career started in 1986, in his hometown, Barreiro, near Lisbon, the Portuguese capital. Being one of the Portuguese DJs involved in 1989’s Acid House movement, it was when he moved to the North of Portugal that his career took off.

As resident Dj of two of the most important clubs in the North of Portugal, “Cais 447” (1992 to 1995) and “Rocks Club” (1995 to 1996), played with almost all of the International Dj’s. Name like Armand Van Elden (1995), Danny Tenaglia (1995), Josh Wink (1995), Laurent Garnier (1996), Underworld playing live (1996), Jeff Mills, Ritchie Hawtin, Dj Sneak, among many others played in Portugal, for the first time, at “Rocks Club”, making this club an reference in Portugal and abroad.

-Let’s start this interview with the first and common question. Let’s talk about how did your career begin?
Officially my career began in 1986 when I got my first DJ residency at a club in my hometown, Barreiro, near Lisbon, Portugal. But I was DJying before that, mostly at private parties and at my high school from 1984 to 1986. One of my friends had 2 turntables, a mixer, and a great sound system in his bedroom and we started doing private parties there. Later he became the resident DJ of the only club in our hometown and when he left, in 1986, I replaced him.

-Which is your first track ever released and from which label?
My first releases were remixes I made in 1995 for an electronic duo from Oporto, Portugal, called O.L.N. I remixed “Places Of Pleasure” and “Reboot 144” from de duo which were released in Portugal by Kaos Records and later worldwide by Tribal America / UK. It was a good studio start!

-With which labels and artists have you worked on?

I worked with a lot of artists, but I think the most important collaborations I did were with D-Formation from Beat Freak Recordings in Madrid, Chus & Ceballos from Stereo Productions (Madrid), O.L.N. from Oporto, XL Garcia and, Mastiksoul, both from Lisbon.
I have releases on labels like SCI+TEC, Toolroom, Funk’N Deep, Orange Recordings, Transmit, Otto Music, Kinetika Records, District Audio, Beatfreak Recordings, Stereo Productions, and my own Magna Recordings, among many others.

Which was your latest release?
My latest release was “Roots EP” out on Magna Recordings.

-How have you been keeping busy during quarantine?
I started doing live streaming’s from my studio. I started with weekly DJ sets in March 2020 but in April last year also started doing live talks with some of the main Portuguese DJs and producers.

-Has your creative process changed at all with a more open schedule?
My schedule and creative process are almost the same that were before the pandemic: weekdays, from 10 am to 6/7pm in the studio. It was at the weekends that my schedule changed since March 2020. Before I would play every weekend at a club / event, now, with (almost) everything closed, I travel through my amazing country, Portugal.

-Do you have any dreams and plans for the future?

I wish that this pandemic ends soon because there are thousands of families that are in real trouble because of it. Not only the DJ’s families, but also everyone that used to work with live shows, either DJ gigs or musical festivals, theatre, etc, are suffering badly for more than a year now. 

I have several things planned for the future that are on hold due to the pandemic we’re facing. I’m also an Audio Engineer and I was planning to start giving production / DJ classes in about 2 or 3 years. But now, with the covid-19 pandemic maybe I’ll start doing that sooner.

What drew you to the music industry?
I’m inspired by a lot of artists from very different styles of music. As DJ’s I was (and still am) greatly influenced by Danny Tenaglia, Victor Calderone, DJ Vibe, Luis Leite (from Portugal), Chus & Ceballos, Laurent Garnier, and many more, too many to mention them all.

-Do you play any instruments?
I don’t really know how to play any instrument, but I “play” the synths by ear, which means that, even that I don’t technically know how to play them, I can create melodies and bass lines, which I use on my tracks. When something more refined is needed I normally hire a professional instrument player.

How does what you play on affect your style of DJing and what is your general process for finding music?
My way of finding music changed a lot since my early days as a DJ. From 92 to 99 I was responsible for the vinyl orders from the United States of a record shop and from 99 to 2000 I opened my own record shop. Back then I had almost all the best new releases in my hand, every week. When the main vinyl distributors went bankrupt and closed, a lot of record shops also closed and everything became digital. That was good because it made musical releases available to almost everyone, but it also created an excess of releases, which makes it harder to find good music these days. Every year that goes by, I spend more time looking for good music just to find out that I buy fewer tracks than before… 

-How do you think the electronic music scene was affected by the COVID-19 pandemic?
Right now, the global electronic music scene is almost non-existent. All the clubs are closed and almost every musical events were cancelled or rescheduled. It’s a total tragedy for the music scene. Lots of clubs closed for good, a lot of people that were working on the music scene had to find new jobs. Let’s hope the vaccination process speeds up so we can start doing at least open-air events this summer. 

-On a personal level, what music do you listen to in your free time? Do you have other activities beside music?
The truth is that I work with music so many hours a day that I normally try to listen to other things besides music in my free time. It’s a way of “cleaning” my ears of the hours inside the studio.
Besides my work, I really enjoy traveling. When we’re DJying we travel a lot, but normally we don’t have time to know the places where we work. Normally it’s home, airport, hotel, gig and back, sometimes with no sleep at all…
I also enjoy running 3 times a week, sail on the weekends (when I’m not DJying), rowing, and going to the beach. 

-Thank you so much Carlos for your time!

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