Interview: Raw District
The fledgling house project Raw District comes as a collaboration between Belgian duo Vernon Bara and Massimo DaCosta.
Originally introduced to dance music as production duo Vernon&DaCosta, the new Raw District project focuses on the deeper and darker side of house music. So far, the music of raw District has already been featured on esteemed labels like Crosstown Rebels, Souvenir Music, Defected, and Innervisions (not to mention an exclusive DHA mix) as their prolific DJ tour schedule takes them to virtually all points of the globe including a residency at Belgium’s Labyrinth Club.
This summer, that busy schedule includes a stop at the aforementioned club’s debut Croatian Festival event – Labyrinth Open Croatia – we managed to catch up with one of the duos of the moment.
“…a production project must evolve as does the music and the world.”
First off, what is behind the name Raw District?
Vernon: A collaboration of almost twenty years between two friends.
Massimo: It’s a long time collaboration between two guys from the same town in Belgium both fully committed to electronic music.
How does your approach as Raw District compare with your previous production alias Vernon&DaCosta?
Vernon: When we started “Raw District” three years ago we had the goal to explore something different. We wanted to stay close to our first soul-funk or old school influences but definitively wanted to try and bring something fresh and original to our music. We had no idea of what it would sound like from one day to the next.
Massimo: I truly believe that a production project must evolve as does the music and the world. After more than ten years of production, everything around us was changing : the music industry, the technology, the way of making music, the way of playing music. We really enjoyed what we did under our “Vernon&DaCosta” moniker but it was the good moment to close the chapter and start something new explorating some other sides and influences of us more reflecting our current world.
You guys are residents at Labyrinth club in Belgium, who are also launching an open-air festival event in Croatia this summer. Describe Labyrinth as a space for underground electronic music? How did your relationship start with them?
Massimo: Labyrinth is not just about a club. It’s a professional organization driven by passionate people. Ugur Akkus runs Labyrinth Productions as a real music lover committed to the art aspect of it. Passion is the glue that has held his whole team together and the one defining
Of course there is the club with a heavy weekly programation managed by David Gorez who was previously booking manager at Fuse Club in Brussels for ten years. There is as well Extrema Outdoor Belgium and a bunch of great successful events. The booking agency is doing pretty good. The roster contains a lot of talented people sharing the same vision and human values such Amelie Lens or DKA. LABO Festival is a new step and Im sure it will be an amazing new adventure.
Vernon: It’s a cool, family-like atmosphere when working together. I met Ugur and his team when I was producing under my previous Ultrasone project. Quickly we figured that we shared the same taste of music and passion and he took me to his booking agency. When it was time to find an agency for Raw District it was an evidence to work together. He’s definitively fully involved into the success of Raw District.
See also: Interview: Amelie Lens
You are also a recent Innervisions signee with a track on their latest “Secret Weapons” release. How did this collaboration come about? How did you see the creative environment at Innervisions?
Massimo: Dixon was really into the second EP we released on Crosstown Rebels two years ago. He was playing it in almost every gig. His tour manager Bjorn texted me once saying that Dixon asked for some tracks. We sent him a couple of tunes and he got back to us a few days after saying that he wanted “From The Inside” for Innervisions.
Beside the prestige and honor releasing on it, there is a team of individuals who care about the music, work hard in forging relationships for the benefit of the music and producer, and that team mentality which is inspiring. When there’s so much music out there, the label and the people around the producer make all difference on how the story is told to everyone. We feel lucky and blessed to work with labels such Innervisions, Crosstown Rebels or Moon Harbour. Those guys do their best to get the best of you and have your music reaching as much audience as possible. Nowadays success is no longer exclusively measured in terms of record sales. Attention is the new currency.
Speaking on Labyrinth Open Air Croatia, how do you anticipate the event? Do you have a hand in its organization?
Vernon: We are super excited! We are there as resident for Labyrinth playing on Sunday sharing stage with Guy J, Guy Mantzur and Hernan Catteneo.
Massimo: Its gonna be a lot of fun. As we said Labyrinth is a family and a lot of friends are joining us for the trip. So this promises to be epic. We will get in on Sunday playing the day before Ants Stage at Extrema Outdoor Holland. We plan to enjoy the full festival experience (conference, friends, fun, party, networking, visits, …) before leaving on Wednesday.
How do you enjoy Croatia as a festival destination? What have been some of your positive experiences there?
Massimo: It looks like Croatia is proving to be one of the main festival destination in mainland Europe. With new festivals added every year, divine beaches, boat parties and amazing diverse scenic backdrops its becoming a must-do destination for clubbing. I totally understand why Ugur choose this location for his LABO. Ultra, Defected, Sonus, Hideout, Dimension … all of them amazing festivals finding home in Croatia during the summer. Its crazy. I really hope that it will keep fresh, authentic and affordable.
Aside from this event, what are some other highlights of 2017, whether past or upcoming?
Vernon: Happily summer will be busy. We are playing great festivals such LABO from Labyrinth in Croatia, Dour Festival, TomorrowLand or Wecandance to name a few.
Massimo: The festival season just started indeed and im really excited about our schedule. Im looking forward to get back to Pacha Barcelona playing with Matthias Tanzmann in July.
Finally, with the summer season in full swing and the schedule undoubtedly busy, how do you maintain a level of mindfulness through it all?
Vernon: I do my best finding the perfect balance between work life, family life, and personal life. It’s really challenging. I sleep like ten hours a night. I try as much as possible to have a healthy life, doing some sport, don’t drinking alcohol and take care of my family.
Massimo: Balance is the key. It’s all about keep on sticking to studio session planning and manage all of this as professional as would be any other day job. I don’t have kid but I try to see as much as possible my family and spend time with friends doing things beside party’s and studio which is a great way to disconnect.