To preview Sónar, Mark J talks with one of the headliners Dubfire, as he prepares himself for a week-long jolly of mayhem and debauchery – otherwise known as Sónar Week – endeavouring to dig deeper, explore further and tell all about Barcelona’s infamous urban festival and congress.
Apart from all the jaw-dropping audio and visual performances, Sónar in Barcelona is firmly established as one of the fundamental meeting points for the global electronic music and digital arts industry, convening to work hard and play hard. What better than mixing business with pleasure at a music festival that continues to be at the vanguard of electronic creative arts?
The 24th edition of Sónar Barcelona will be held at multiple venues across the city, but is headquartered at La Fira Montjuïc (Sónar by Day) and La Fira Gran Via (Sónar by Night), and this year, it is even bigger than any of the previous editions. It’s longer – the first official day for conference delegates has moved forward from a Thursday to a Wednesday and there’s a Sunday night event at l’Auditori de Barcelona serving as the official festival closing party.
There’s a new stage – SonarXS – which means more artists; and the Sónar+D conference is spreading its wings and joining forces with San Francisco’s Maker Faire 2017 in La Fira Montjuïc’s Italian Pavilion and the CaixaForum Buildings (just across the road) for even more tech-related activities on the Friday and Saturday.
Aimed more at families, this new collaboration with Maker Faire extends Sónar’s activities, reaching out further to communities of technology enthusiasts, artisans, educators, creatives, engineers, scientific communities, writers, artists, students and commercial exhibitors, to share and enrich the experiences and processes from around the ‘maker’ universe.
You really need to check out the website sónar.es, or download the app, to access all the information on the shows, performances and expos to make sure nothing is missed. The web-page and the app are very intuitive and really help to make scheduling simpler. Some of the events, such as Björk’s official Sónar opening DJ set, have already sold out.
Associated expositions such as ‘David Bowie Is’, which pays homage to one of the most influential figures of our time, or ones by contemporary artists like the ‘Björk Digital’ experience and Brian Eno’s work in his ‘Lightforms / Soundforms’ show are in different venues entirely and may have different entry requirements apart from your official wristband.
Official activities kick off on Wednesday 14th June with Networking Day at La Fira Montjuïc, to welcome delegates on a full pass who can access this event, also all Sónar+D activities, Sónar by Day performances over 5 stages and Sónar by Night performances over 4 stages.
This year there are 140 shows on offer across 9 stages. Be aware that Sónar by Day gates open at 1pm to 12am on Thursday 15th and on Friday 16th to Saturday 17th, from 1pm to 11pm. Sónar by Night opens its doors at 9pm where concerts begin at 9:30pm normally finishing at 7am. (N.B. there is an average 20-25 minute journey between night and day venues. To be honest, there just isn’t enough time to fit it all in!)
Unmissable at SonarClub, Sónar by Night… DUBFIRE
Let’s take Dubfire at a glance…
– 40+ tracks, remixes and edits, continuously touring the world
– Produced first ever release on Desolat
– Awarded Best Techno Artist & Minimal Artist Beatport Music Awards
– Actually won a Grammy as half of DJ duo Deep Dish
– Has a film out about his career called ‘Above Ground Level’
– Barcelona Restaurant Tips: Xemei, Tickets or Suculent (all 3 close to La Fira Montjuïc)
– Dubfire closes SonarClub, Sónar by Night 16th June, 5:10am – 7:00am
One highly anticipated performance is Dubfire’s in SonarClub. Hot on the heels of ‘A Decade of Dubfire’, a retrospective release, SCI+TEC Digital’s founder Ali Shirazinia, is putting on an awesome audio-visual showcase. Dubfire’s show is part of the Sónar by Night billing and he is showcasing some of his finest work with a ground breaking visual and digital light extravaganza. One of electronic music’s pioneers and a true master of his craft, Ali actually resides in Barcelona.
“I’m thrilled to be returning to the esteemed Sónar festival!” he said. “I will be hanging there both Friday and Saturday taking in all of the amazing sights and sounds,” he revealed. But does he remember his first time at the infamous festival?
“My memory is a bit fuzzy but it must have been in the late ’90’s that Deep Dish were playing Sónar for the first time,” said Ali. “I recall going down to see Richie Hawtin play and was hanging in the crowd with our lawyer/manager Kurosh Nasseri, Jeff Mills (who we had just met) and Francois Kevorkian – I couldn’t have asked for better company!”
“Then we all decided to go backstage and started down this long corridor. And on the way we see the members of Kratfwerk who were quite close to Francois and they came over to say hi. I was shitting myself!”
So how did it all start for him, what was the first break? “I don’t really think of my career as a series of breaks, although from the beginning there have been many people whose collaboration, guidance and support have been vital to my continued path forward; people like BT, John Selway, Carl Craig, Danny Tenaglia and my longtime engineer Matt Nordstrom.”
“Then there is the team that was around Deep Dish as well as my current team who I wouldn’t be able to function without. While it’s ultimately my vision and creativity, it is very much a group effort. Team work makes the dream work!” he added.
So what led him to you falling for Barcelona and eventually choosing it for a European base? “It’s a funny thing because in the 90’s and early 2000’s, I felt no connection to the city. But it was when I decided to spend a couple of summers around 2005 that I fell in love with it.”
“I was staying at a former agents’ pad in Diagonal Mar and was hanging out with Davide Squillace and Michelle Tabucchi, two Italian producers who live in BCN that I became very close to. They introduced me to all their friends and they took me to some of their favorite restaurants and everyone I met went out of their way to welcome me with open arms,” Ali recounted.
“Suddenly I really felt quite at home there and I decided that it would make the perfect European hub. For starters, it has the best and easiest airport to fly in and out of. You can pretty much get anywhere you need to by bicycle. It also has some of the greatest gastronomy in the world, the weather is beautiful and the people are very laid back… I have yet to find a European city I like better!”
His last performance at Sónar with the Hybrid concept was amazing. What can we expect this time? “Last year I started working with the Dub Video Connection team in Portugal for my SCI+TEC stages and we’ve had many discussions about new technologies we can begin to explore for the next incarnation of my live show.”
“But as that is a few years down the road we started to brainstorm ideas for an “enhanced DJ set” which will involve some new visual and lighting designs. While we don’t have the budget or freedom to fully explore this for Sónar this year, it will be a sort of experiment and teaser of things to come as it evolves further.”