Hermanez, the Belgium born thoroughbred with Latin roots and heritage is currently riding a wave of popularity for his tribal flecked take on tech house. Shining like a brilliant star in the electronic dance music scene, real name Michael Coninx is making all sorts of good noise with a style and sound that are unmistakable, he is fast becoming a raging underground star, both treasured and sought after. As Hermanez, he has earned a huge amount of respect whether being celebrated by the likes of Loco Dice, Luciano and Reboot or releasing his music under prolific labels such as Trapez LTD, Leena Music, Noir and Suara to name some. Decoded Magazine caught up with the Belgian uber producer to discuss his career, his passions and his residency at the world renowned Cafe d’Anvers.
Hi Michael, thanks a million for talking to us at Decoded. It was under the name Miquell Santos that your earlier productions were released. Why did you choose to then produce under the alias Hermanez?
It’s a pleasure, thanks as well for inviting me. That’s an interesting question. It was actually my first project after I produced my own first tracks. It was the point of my life I was searching for a good sound and did some releases and remixes as well during that time. Everything changed when I accidentally wrote ‘Goldcoast’! I decided to do a new project with that kind of sound and started my own label Miconn Records on Vinyl.
Can you share your earliest experiences of starting out as a DJ? What sort of environment did you grow up in, was it musically fertile for you to let’s say naturally gravitate towards this as a career?
I was 16 years old when I played the first gig in a club in a small town. My task was usually to play the warm up sessions, but it was nice to get the experience at that age and to get in touch with other artists. At the age of 18 I started to promote parties with some friends in my hometown Genk. The memories I have from that time is just priceless. These parties were my push to do more.
How were your initial gigs, did they go well?
They were kind of varied in style. Most of the gigs we played house music in clubs, outdoor parties during the summer and self-organised parties at venues where it was possible in or around our town. Sometimes we carried our own DJ booth and speakers to make it all happen just for the love of music.
Are there any musical influences that shaped you in to the artist you are today?
I was always visiting record shops. At least twice a week for new music, it was very normal at the time but everything changed for me when I started to work in a record shop. For 5 years I was able to evolve faster because of the access to new music every day.
Any particular incident which triggered the production side of things, or was it a natural progression to fulfilling your artistic needs?
Until my 19th I never really made time to learn how to produce tracks because it was too expensive for me to afford all of the gear, but I always wanted too. Eventually I started to make my own tracks in 2002, step by step I learned everything by myself with self education and fellow friends.
How has your studio set up progressed through your career and what have been some vital additions which are essential to your sound today?
My studio progressed slowly over the years. I preferred to take time to discover my gear to stay creative. The best items I have are my speakers. It took almost a year to discover them properly because of the cheap speakers I had before. Nowadays I can’t live without them.
With continuous advances in technology with DJ and studio equipment, in your own opinion what has been game changing moments, and are there any pieces of kit you are looking to get your hands on in the future?
I discovered Rekordbox after my laptop suddenly crashed early this year. After getting a new laptop I never changed back, no offence against Traktor. I always loved to DJ with it and I played many years with it without regrets. These days everything goes so fast with advances in technology, who knows, I’ll use a laptop again when new interesting equipment or software arrives on the market. Also for producing, there’s always a way to expand your studio. Especially these days there’s so much new cool hardware out there, but when it comes to putting my hands on new gear, I never refuse to test some new instruments.
Can you explain some of the vision or music sensibilities you’re trying to show case from your own label Aella Music? Is co-running it with one of your longtime friends Ramon Tapia fun?
Ramon and I decided to start the label with the purpose to release tracks from ourselves and our friends. It grew fast and we expand the family with new artists. Till now we did several parties in Belgium in clubs like Café d’Anvers and Forty-Five and there’s more to come. Let’s say, less free time at the moment.
Your collaboration with Alex Flatner ”When The Sun Goes Down” is hypnotic and full of atmosphere. What other elements would you say characterised your sound?
That track was a challenge for me. I went over to Alex Flatner in his studio and we worked for a few days on it. We were inspired by the summer that time and wanted to have something sexy. Normally I use my typical pumping kicks and bass lines but that day I really wanted to have something different than I usually made. We were really happy with our work and I learned a lot from it. We are currently working on new tracks for our follow up release.
You’ve just recently released some real underground gems on Mobilee – ”Innersphere” and ”Whatcha Gonna’’. Where is your starting point with writing music in terms of structure and musical direction?
Well, the first things I did with both tracks from the starting point were searching good sounds from my synths and play on the keys some melodies. Bit by bit I added drums and structure to the track. I was very happy that Mobilee liked the tracks.
How’s your monthly residency at Antwerp’s Cafe D’Anvers? Is there a particular vibe and music policy you show case in these nights?
Café ‘d’Anvers was always special to me even before I had gigs there. The club has something magical and historical. For 6 years I’ve played at Café d’Anvers and performed many warm-ups for big events like Circo Loco, Labyrinth and Peoples with artists like Marco Carola, Seth Troxler, Dubfire, Reboot. Nowadays I play each month on resident nights which mean longer sets. I love to play long sets so that’s totally fine for me. I also have the opportunity to invite artists to play along with me all night long and that’s very interesting.
Looking back at your recent achievements has there ever been a time, when you’ve looked inwards and said to yourself ”I have arrived” ?
I can’t clearly say that I’ve arrived somewhere. I’ve more the feeling that I’m still going somewhere. I’m going back to school after 2 years to learn about classical music. Guess I’m a geek! Learning new things is one of my favourite challenges especially when it comes to music. The combination of friends, fans and followers helped me also during the process. I’m very thankful and happy about this way of evolution and I hope to continue that way.
How demanding is your schedule, with constant touring commitments and studio work. Do you have time for any other pursuits outside the music?
I try to schedule as much as I can, but still it’s not easy. I recently moved house and I’m also running a label that takes some time as well but so far so good. At the moment I don’t have much free time but I’m ok with it. I try to keep it calm in the evening and some days during the week to have some quality time with my girlfriend and my cats.
You’ve already released under some of the heavy weight labels such as Suara, Rawthentic and Circle Music. Is there any breaking news you can tell us about production wise, either in the way of remixes or originals?
Productions are going well these days. I’ve a lot of new things coming up on labels like Saywhat Recordings, Inmotion, GRUUV, Circle Music, TRAUM and of course my own label Aella Music.
You have kindly provided us with an exclusive mix. Can you explain the direction you have taken and some of your favourite tracks in the mix?
Most of the tracks are from other producers starting with deeper sounds to more solid underground. I also included one of my newest releases and some un-released tracks. Hope you’ll like it!
Once again Michael, thanks for chatting with us, its been a pleasure. What’s cooking for the rest of the year, any thing you’re looking forward to?
I’m looking forward to every weekend for my next gig and I’m looking forward to every week for my next studio session. Guess it’s going to be like this till the end of the year and perhaps next year too and hopefully for a long time!
01// Hermanez & BP – Octo Motus
02// Clive – Theory (Ismael Rivas & Javier Gonzalez Remix)
03// Martin Buttrich & Audiofly – Uninformal Processing
04// Jamahr – Stekyland
05// Wade & Artslaves – Promiscuous (Leon Tech Tool Remix)
06// Massimo Cassini & Philip Arrida – Bruise (Hermanez Remix)
07// Ukka – Dream Things
08// Jack Wickham – Sleepless Days
09// Martinez – Cabo Rojo (Miguel Lobo & Manuel Belgrano Remix)
10// Hermanez Feat. John Graves – Rauwer
11// Dachshund – Quiproquo
12// Redshape – Dogz
13// Proudly People – Say What