Name: Rodolfo Wehbba
Occupation: Producer, DJ
Current Release: Culture Shock ‘Bunker’ (Wehbba Remix) is out now on RAM Records
Recommendations: A painting:
- The Nile - Jean-Michel Basquiat: I saw this mural from Basquiat, a gigantic 12m x 2m thing, when I was 16 at an art exposition in São Paulo called Bienal, which brings some of the most important artists and works of art from all over the world for a specially curated, yearly show. It was the first time a painting had moved me so much, it’s gritty, classy and intense, I fell in love with Basquiat’s style there and then.
- Almost like asking what’s my favourite song, lol. But I suppose Lost Highway from David Lynch, as it has an amazing, perfectly curated soundtrack, and you can totally detach from your ego while watching it, without pretending you can figure stuff out. It’s almost therapeutic, and an amazing trip.
If you enjoyed this interview with Wehbba, you can find out more about him on his personal page and facebook account. Or visit his page on the website of drumcode, the label of his latest three releases.
You can also find out more about one of his recent collaborators in our DJ Deeon interview.
When did you start writing/producing music - and what or who were your early passions and influences? What what is about music and/or sound that drew you to it?
I started writing music when I was about 13, I’ve had a few bands all the way through my teens, and always had a knack for composing hooks and lyrics. I am a guitar player, but somehow I was always the one in charge of being with the engineer in the control room when there were any studio sessions booked. That’s how I fell in love with the magic that happens on the other side of the window, I was blown away by how much care and science goes into the recording process. That’s why I realised I was really into that, more so than in simply performing in conventional ways. I needed to find a way to do both things, and I found it in electronic music.
My early influences are incredibly diverse, from Prodigy and The Chemical Brothers to Underworld, Jeff Mills, Plastikman, Underground Resistance and beyond. To be completely honest I was a blank book when I started to get into electronic music and liked everything without even knowing what each style was. I’ve been drawn to techno the most from the start, but I’ve always had an open mind, listening to lots of trance, Goa trance, hard house, house, techno and drum’n’bass. I still do a fair amount of exploring now and even try to listen to things that I don’t particularly like, just because it’s challenging my ego, and might lead me to a new discovery about myself, and about music.
For most artists, originality is first preceded by a phase of learning and, often, emulating others. What was this like for you? How would you describe your own development as an artist and the transition towards your own voice? What is the the relationship between copying, learning and your own creativity?
For me it’s been a crazy curve. I’ve started out with complete freedom in the early 2000s, I had no ambitions of becoming an actual music producer, let alone full time. I was studying to be a dentist, I actually became one and practiced for a few years, so I had no pressure and just did what I felt like doing; no emulations or copying involved. A few key people from the early scene back in Brazil picked up on that, and saw some potential in me, which I had no idea about. So, I kept going, and pushing myself to become the best I could with the tools I had, and after lots of partying, researching and studying, I found my sound, my essence, so to speak.
Once I started to get some degree of success, and started to tour internationally, I felt the pressure of being on top of things, and having to impress and deliver every time, in order to remain relevant and remain wanted. That’s when I fell off the wagon, and started to emulate others pretty often, always trying to “disguise” it with my own aesthetics, but I’d lost my essence. I’d lost my vision. I stayed like that for years, just cruising, just managing, and had to hit rock bottom to realise I had to go back to my roots and to my freedom.
So, I took a step back for a while and started to listen to what I did when I first fell in love with this music and basically re-built my vision from the ground up, a second time. I also stopped engineering for other artists, and focused on getting myself back together. While I did that, I also started to research again and study more than ever. I think the trickiest thing is to find your voice and be faithful to it regardless of the pressure of the music industry.
What were your main compositional- and production-challenges in the beginning and how have they changed over time?
I had serious budget limitations when I started out and only had a really basic PC, and learnt by doing. I started with Fruity Loops (now FL Studio) and Sony Acid, moved on to Logic, then Reason, then Cubase, until Ableton became a fully featured DAW (before it was just intended for live use and had no MIDI implementation), then I made the switch. Learning all of these different platforms showed me I didn’t need to rely on them for anything, it was always about what I would be able to do with them, how I would use them.
Over time I’ve acquired all sorts of different hardware, and with those came different issues associated with working out-of-the-box, like syncing and clocking issues, noise, tune drifting, etc. But to me that’s the single best part of life as a musician and artist: challenges. There’s always a new challenge and a new change; it’s essential you keep your mind open and you keep looking ahead.
What was your first studio like? How and for what reasons has your set-up evolved over the years and what are currently some of the most important pieces of gear for you?
My first studio was in a big room at the back of my parent’s house in São Paulo. It consisted of a beat-up PC, a Sansui power amplifier, a Brazilian low-cost 6 channel mixing desk, a set of home-stereo speakers, my car’s subwoofer, an old Casiotone keyboard, and a M-Audio Oxigen controller, that I was hardly able to afford in 12 increments. I’d bring in some borrowed equipment every now and then and had a Roland SP-808 lying around regularly, plus also a JX-305 and some NS10s eventually.
I always had the need to explore and be free from any sort of system or method, so I’ve always researched a lot and tried lots of things. Got a lot of great surprises and fulfillment, as well as disappointments. Once I started being able to afford new gear, I began to carefully collect some things up until my current setup, which for now feels complete. I’d say my Moog One is the center piece of the studio and runs the show right now, but my trusty old Virus TI has a permanent spot on the top list, together with the Analog Rytm, the MKS-80 and my eurorack system. I recently started to work a lot with some of the Roland Boutique stuff and been using them quite a lot as well.
But above all, I’d never be able to capture the amazing sound generated by all of these machines without a very good converter, so that’s where the Antelope Goliath HD comes in. It’s an amazing interface that plays an essential part on my sound currently.