Osuna cut his teeth in electronic music as a teenager growing up in Barcelona, sneaking out to the city’s small after parties to get a first taste of EBM and techno. Once he started mixing he put what he’d learned to test on Valencia’s after-hours circuit, where he landed his first residency at the club Heaven.
These days Osuna still plays to huge international crowds at the landmark Amnesia club every summer, while releases on Hawtin’s Plus8 and M_Nus have helped make him an international icon. Osuna’s stacked gig schedule has meant always meant he’s been best known as a DJ, but since the mid-2000s other creative pursuits have shaped his career. In 2005 he started putting out his driving techno sound on his label Mindshake, and one year later he’d opened Club4 alongside Christian Smith, Marco Carola and Adam Beyer.
With such a lengthy and expansive history in dance music, Osuna seemed like the perfect candidate for our Cornerstone Tracks feature series. Ahead of his special guest appearance at RUKUS on Friday night, Osuna sent over classic records from labels like Plus8 and Manchester’s Factory Records, before discussing some of the key moments of his career.
Bizarre Love Triangle – New Order [Factory]
Paco Osuna: Probably one of the first songs I fell in love with and one that made me passionate about music. My brother used to work at Studio 54 in Barcelona, and he had a lot of tapes of the DJ sets recorded there. He used to play those tapes in the room we shared when he came home. New Order made me passionate about music and got me addicted to buying vinyl.
Headhunter – Front 242 [Red Rhino Europe/Wax Trax!]
The song that introduced me to the world of techno. I was only 16 when I started going to an after party in Barcelona called Psicodromo. It ran from 6am until around 1pm. I was working in a petrol station at the time, and I used to escape from there on a scooter just to get to the club. I was in love with the place, the venue, the sound and the people I saw there. Everyone was amazed by the DJ. The club was new and unique, and Front 242 was the band everyone followed and used to wear on their t-shirts. They were a huge musical inspiration for me.
For many people who’ve been into techno for two decades or longer, EBM was their first entry point. Were all the DJs you went to see playing EBM as well as techno too?
Yes, most of the DJs I used to go and see play used to mix EBM with techno. It was a very good way to give a touch of strength to the guitars. I loved mixing both. In fact, the famous Valencian Ruta del Bakalao was inspired by the DJs who tried this kind of mixing. In Barcelona, they added a little bit of acid house to the mix... the musical wealth of that period was simply amazing.
French Kiss – Lil Louis [Diamond]
Without a doubt, the most special song for me. I remember going to Studio 54 in Barcelona, and enjoyed it like crazy every time Raul Orellana played it. I first got the album when I started playing and mixing at home. Even as an amateur, I was already obsessed with trying to mix everything the best way, but this one was really difficult. I went crazy trying to understand when the break and the BPM goes up and down, I tried at least a thousand times. For me, Lil Louis is the best house and techno producer in history. All of his tracks have a special groove and flow that are impossible not to dance to.
When was the first point you started playing out beyond your bedroom – were there any small clubs in Barcelona you regularly visited and started playing?
Of course! I looked like a beggar asking the DJs if I could play records while they were on. They didn’t always trust me, but step-by-step, they started giving me more opportunities and time to play. My professional career really started in Valencia. It’s where I learned the basic skills. I started playing in pubs until I had the chance to play an after-hours set at Heaven club’s anniversary. I had a trial gig, then started playing there as a resident.
Pullover – Speedy J [Plus8]
It drove me crazy trying to find this album for my record bag. As simple as it is effective; one of Speedy J’s masterpieces. It was the first time I had heard of the Plus8 label, and of course I became a huge fan. By pot luck, I started working for the label a few years later, until they stopped editing music. I can´t understand techno without Plus8. It was an innovative label and a reference point that brought the most memorable productions of techno in history… Spastik, Gravitational Arch of 10 and many many more.
How did you first start producing for the label?
The second release on my Mindshake label had quite a big impact, and a number of big DJs played it. Richie and I had already become very close friends. He proposed doing something for the label. I didn’t want to take advantage of my friendship with him – I’d always said to myself that I would release for Plus8 or M_Nus because of personal achievements, not friendship.
Minus Orange – Richie Hawtin [M_Nus]
The album that completely changed my perception of mixing and adding accessories to my setup. Shortly after Richie Hawtin´s popular CD mix (Decks, EFX & 909) was released, a whole new world opened up for me. It was such madness the first time I saw him playing this way. It changed me. I became much more interested in creating music and not just mixing. It’s a powerful song with massive groove. The main loop of the track that Richie used was from the group Yellow, whom I was also a fan of. I will never forget when he played it at Cocoon at Amnesia. It impacted me so much, I even remember the Nitzer Ebb song he mixed it with.
It seems like Hawtin had a big influence on you. How did your playing style change after seeing the way he was playing?
I’d seen many DJs playing with three decks, and some doing scratch tricks, but the first time I saw Richie using an Akai sampler, the delay and the 909, I realized how much I had to learn. I wanted to know how to incorporate effects modules to set new challenges. The first I had was the Kaos pad. I started learning how it worked step-by-step, and kept adding accessories to my DJ sets. He introduced me to a whole new level of possibilities. I believe that technology is here to make our lives better. I’ve always hated monotony and conformism, and Richie is an example of an innovative human that strives to alter the rules of the game. He’s a visionary whom I’ve always admired.