Luis Garban, operating under his dual aliases, Cardopusher and Safety Trance, is the Venezuelan DJ with releases on a slew of hot and essential labels such as Club Romantico, Hyperdub, and Boysnoize. Known for his evolving and all encompassing style, and his collaborations with Rosalia, Arca, and Brodinski, Garban can be counted on for a stylised release and an electric mix. Capitalising on varied club sounds that embellish harder constructions with latin drums a la raptor house, tripped out reggaeton, and UK inspired breaks, Garban’s style is as inviting as it is standoffish, a wise journey through dance music, seemingly outside of the confines of space and time.
Infusing his sets and mixes with the same hardness and freedom found in his productions, Garban often weaves something even more iconoclastic and weird, traipsing both hard dance and the latin influences of his background when DJing. His recent set for RA is a rabid mix of the darker tracks he’s drawn to as Cardopusher: trance meets heavy metal meets warehouse filling hard techno. In contrast, his Boiler Room System series mix, released just five days prior, sees his Safety Trance alias honing in on venom tinged and bouncing reggaeton, keeping the pace, just moving in a different realm.
Garban’s upcoming album entitled Immaculate Poison, out in February via EVAR records, is an exciting sonic manifesto, the latin lens of Safety Trance bleeding into his work as Cardopusher, an assured treat for those dancing outside the binary of genre.
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Hi Cardopusher, thank you for taking time to chat. Congrats on the announcement of your latest album, Immaculate Poison, just listening to the snippets of the tracks on Soundcloud, it's evident it’ll be a hefty trancey-junglist ride. What was the ethos of the work for you, and what influences, sonic or otherwise, did you look to when producing the album?
Hi - Luis here, thanks for the invitation. Regarding the new record I didn't approach it with any specific direction - actually the idea of the mini-LP came at the end. Originally we wanted to put out an EP but we had enough stuff to put out something larger and I tied all the knots needed to create a story. That’s the beauty of it for me, it was something unexpected. The only thing I knew is that I wanted to keep evolving my sound as Cardopusher and EVAR was a good platform for me to do it because we have a similar background, so I knew I could evolve my sound and bring something interesting and fresh.
You have been pushing a really distinct blend of dance music, with lots of Latin elements, something that is really being popularised. In your case, it makes total sense that you’re inspired by these beats and rhythms, as you probably grew up listening to this kind of music in Venezuela, however, what would you like to say about its popularisation?
I think it’s great that Latin music is getting the proper recognition it has deserved for a long time. There is a lot of good music being made in Latin America so it’s nice to see people around the world giving attention to it. American and European music has been dominating the charts for decades so for me it’s inspiring seeing the music I grew up with in a strong position now.
What is the scene in Barcelona like, and what initially drew you to the city? You mention working with Ivy Barkakati, and Arca, are there others within the city you look to for artistic collaboration?
It's pretty interesting what’s happening in Barcelona right now, there is a good community of artists doing interesting stuff. I've been living in this city for almost 15 years and I think it's having a good moment right now. I moved here because Caracas wasn’t the place for me to develop what I wanted with my musical career and the first time I visited Barcelona I knew instantly I wanted to live here. The language, the weather and having already friends living here also helped. Bad Gyal is one of the artists I would really like to collaborate with.
What can you tell us about the DJ production scene like in Venezuela? Did you grow up listening to dance music?
I haven't visited Venezuela in the last 13 years so it’s hard for me to tell exactly what’s happening there nowadays. Most artists and friends I have living there left due to the huge economic and political crisis that our country has been facing for decades so I'm kind of disconnected with the current music scene, but I have noticed that there is a new generation of artists doing their thing and trying to build something new which is great. I grew up listening to what you used to hear on the radio at the time, mostly alt rock that was a very big part of the 90s. MTV was another way for me to discover new music. Then during the early 2000’s when the internet became popular is when I started to be interested in electronic music.
You also go under the alias of Safety Trance, what freedom is there to be found in switching persona, and does it inform the style of your work?
Starting a new alias after working for many years under the same name feels refreshing because nobody knows what to expect of it. For a while I´ve been wanting to have the freedom to explore other genres that you might not associate with my regular work as Cardopusher and Safety Trance is giving me right now the flexibility to keep expanding my own universe.
Also, I have to ask you about the song El alma que te trajo with Arca, it’s one of the best club-ready songs I’ve heard in a while. How did that come about?
Thank you! I’m totally blown away by the positive response we got with it. After working with Arca on a few of her songs from the KiCk i series I asked her if she was into doing something together for my Safety Trance debut EP which she agreed. We simply wanted to come up with a powerful club ready reggaeton song and this was the result, it came out pretty naturally.
I’d like to think hardcore dance is really having its moment, does that feel accurate? Do you think there is more freedom lately in the hard dance scene?
Yes definitely - hardcore dance is having its moment right now, after the pandemic people seem to be looking for new sounds. Classic techno and house has been dominating the clubs for a while so it’s totally normal for people to experiment with other kinds of music after some time. More than freedom I think people are finally starting to get familiar with these sounds and trying to create a new wave with it which is great.
Your set for Dekmantel as Safety Trance is really engrossing, and your bio for Evar records, describes your sound as worldbuilding. What connections are you hoping to make with dancers? Do you aim to tell a story with your sets?
I want people to enjoy while I'm performing and I absolutely love when they dance to the music I like or make. It's curious because I rarely dance because I feel I don't have this natural connection with my body, but my brain is doing it on its own terms. My sets basically reflect who I am, my personality, where I come from, and my tastes so yes, it's like telling a bit of my story.
As a label head, what have you been listening to of late, dance music or otherwise?
I generally listen to everything, from dance music to non-dance. I’m a very curious person so I try to discover old to new stuff, from jazz to power electronics, reggaeton to breakcore and many more. I’m currently revisiting a lot of the crazy stuff from the now defunct V/Vm Test Records, run by James Kirby aka V/Vm (who now goes by The Caretaker).
Is there a moment you look back on that really cemented your obsession with production or DJing?
Yes, IDM and breakcore in the early 2000s basically made me obsessed with production. I used to spend a long time on p2p networks like Soulseek, KazAa, eMule, Napster and others trying to discover new artists and labels that were impossible to find via regular ways or record shops.
Your upcoming album meditates quite a lot on this idea of anarchic openness between producers, is this something you think will continue, what change would you like to see in the world of electronic music in the future?
I hope this anarchic openness continues. I feel like it's only the beginning, people are not afraid anymore of getting out of their comfort zone and hopefully more people will feel the same. I want to see in the near future more crossovers in electronic music, for me the unexpected is exciting.
What are your hopes for the new year, what are you looking forward to?
I hope I can continue doing what I do, putting out more music, meeting and working with exciting artists and traveling around the world. With this I have enough for now.
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