Rádio Quântica Talks


Launching at the beginning of November last year, Rádio Quântica provides a platform for the current wave of Portuguese DJs and producers, spanning a vast musical expanse from hip-hop to punk and broadcasting 24-hours a day, seven days a week. Founded and run by London-based artists Photonz and Violet, aka Marco Rodrigues and Inês Coutinho, we spoke to them to find out more about the acts, ideas and ambitions tied into the project… 

How long have you been planning Radio Quantica and why is the time right now for a Portuguese station?

V: It all started in the beginning of summer 2014. We were on holiday in Lisbon, driving our Nissan Micra and listening to the radio. We were thinking: wouldn't it be amazing if Portuguese radios paid attention to our underground? Or if they played the classics that influenced us and inspired our scene, and shared the ideas we believe will push our culture forward? All of a sudden it was clear that something needed to be done about the very little radio representation of the most relevant voices in our cultural landscape. We quickly started to name all the artists, crews and DJs that would contribute to this imaginary radio station. We started talking to all these people about it – they found the idea super exciting and were very keen to get involved. Then we started a secret Facebook group where we'd post all the technical updates and a set of rules to get everything working in an almost communal way. In a matter of three or four months, we were on air.

Can you tell us some of the highlights you have throughout the week? We understand it's not simply DJs playing music, that it has a wider remit than that.

P: Having a comprehensive selection of some of the finest portuguese DJing happening right now in Portugal is pretty important to us, no doubt about that, but right from the start we had a more ambitious agenda: to be a cultural fast-forward for the Portuguese scene, and that can only be accomplished with a very clear position regarding the ideas we want to spread, the scenes we want to promote,the stories we want to tell and even the politics associated with all that. We don't believe in political neutrality; Rádio Quântica is a progressive-minded radio tackling topics like feminism and equality, queer culture, the fight against homophobia, systemic racism (or any form of) and even these wild forms of unregulated capitalism. Shows like 'LET the dogz out' by João Manuel de Oliveira, 'Para Lá De Nunca' by Carin & Carlos, 'Em Jejum Com O Varela' by Varela, 'Venus Rising' by Violet, 'Mashnotes', 'Outras Histórias' by Joana Neves, 'Covil Sessions' or 'Desterronics' offer a more diverse picture, including discussions, political activism, improvised jams with machines or just pure banter. 

You actually live in Dalston. When did you move to the UK and why? It seems like there’s a small like-minded community of other Portuguese artists here too. Is that correct?

P: That's right. We moved together – me and Inês – in the Summer of 2013, and at the time we were living in Peckham. There's a bunch of great Portuguese artists around, for sure, like Trikk, IVVVO, Silvestre, Nuno Valle of 40% Foda/Maneiríssimo, Tugalife, Old Manual of AVNL Recordings, Ana3 from Internet Bravo – all of these have their shows on the radio, but there's more I'm sure. A lot of artists decided to move to London in recent years, not just musicians but even visual artists and other creative types. 

We’ve been hearing whisperings that Lisbon, where you both lived before, is having a renaissance, or at least is a cheap place to move to! What kind of scene is there that you relate to there?

V: It is definitely a cheap place to move to, especially when compared to London. On the other hand, it does also have a big youth unemployment problem – music wise it's even trickier to make a living. But that isn't stopping people from trying new things like starting labels, opening venues, throwing parties and festivals. We had a golden era for dance music in the early '90s, and I feel like in the past decade we've been slowly building up something really interesting again: a colourful scene with lots of different flavours and many people pioneering their own sounds instead of just mimicking what's coming from abroad. Our crowds are a bit difficult because they love hanging out and drinking in the streets, so that also pushes the scene to come up with different ideas to keep people interested: street parties, warehouse raves, strong after-hour club nights…

Marco, you run the label One Eyed Jacks. Can you tell us a little about its history? There seems to be a love of rave energy running through it, but one that’s recognisably Portuguese. For example, there seems to be a very distinctive percussive thread. What were some of your formative influences in getting into electronic music in terms of clubs, labels, DJs etc.?

P: One Eyed Jacks is a small independent operation that I started in 2010. At the time it was meant only for releasing Photonz records, as that was sort of the deal we had with Rubadub – our distributor. In the meantime a lot of great music started to gravitate towards us and we started to have our little crew of friends and stuff. It slowly became a bit of a labour of love of mine to put out unrepresented but outstanding music by those artists. Now it's a big family. In some ways it worked a bit as a training ground or rehearsal for what we're doing now with Quântica, specially the part where you're promoting and at the same time organising/managing the roles of so many talented, creative people, each one with their own singular artistic vision. 
It definitely feels like there's a coherence, but in a way that's quite hard to boil down to certain elements or genres – it's more like a soul or a melodic/rhythmic repertoire. I try to stay away from categorising it too much because I feel like the moment we find the formula it will inevitably migrate somewhere else. My own formative influences were mainly from the Portuguese rave movement, which I followed a bit at a distance at the time because I was too young. I was avidly consuming it through radio shows and CD compilations, so I ended up romanticising it a lot more than some of the older cats that actually went to the parties. I don't think that makes it less special though; the myths, ideas and mental images of a certain scene have a truth of their own that is even more real and unspoiled than actually going to events sometimes. A bit like when you're at somewhere special and only really realise it when you think about it three years later, when you totally forgot about the idiot that puked on your shoes at 3am. The mental aspect of it is, in my opinion, where the magic truly resides.

Violet, you had a huge hit with your cover of Underground Resistance’s ‘Transition’ earlier in the year. Versace even used it for one of their shows, right? Is UR’s tight knit community and suspicion of the mainstream music industry something that you identify with? We’re at a period when there a huge schism again between major labels and smaller, niche (often vinyl only) labels.

V: Right, they did! That was unexpected, but great. I relate 100% to UR's tight-knit community vibe, it's all I've done in my music path so far. It is also definitely what we do with Rádio Quântica and with our label One Eyed Jacks. We believe in human potential and I feel that that potential, a lot of the time, is best manifested within an independent structure that doesn't have the need to present results to investors and push marketing plans and whatnot. That way, only the music and the people behind it matter. A part of me entertains the idea that a natural, fluid exchange between these independent structures and mainstream giants could turn out to be a symbiotic relationship, where both could learn and evolve from it, given that dignity is maintained for the smallest. I believe niche and mainstream labels will eventually have to learn to live together. To be fair, they both release some of the most vital music that's coming out – they have that in common. Perhaps we should all make it the most important bit and forget about the gimmicks that make the mainstream so samey and the underground so snobbish.

You also in a group called A.M.O.R. Can you tell us a little about them? Have you ever done vocals of any of your own tracks?

V: Yes! Maria, aka EightyEight, is my cousin and started A.M.O.R. with me back in 2006 when we were both living in Lisbon. We both love rap and electronic music and we merged those obsessions into our own rap project. There is a huge Portuguese hip-hop scene but it's very boom bap, sample-based and we wanted to do something very different so we hit up our favourite producers like Photonz, Shcuro, aka José Acid, and Niagara, and ended up writing a non-formulaic, feminist, sometimes hardcore ego-tripping hip-hop album that we're really proud of. I do vocals on all tracks alongside Maria and throughout the years we've played at festivals, nightclubs and have a nice little following back home. We've also played in Paris and London – that was super super fun. We also do a weekly radio show together for Rádio Quântica, it's called Summer of Love. On my Violet tracks I've done vocals but not on any released music – except for the UR version and a Matias Aguayo version that came out last year on Cómeme.

We imagine, like any venture, you’ve had some teething problems. What have you learnt in the first few weeks of operation and what advice would you give to anyone following in your footsteps?

V: I would say that technology is the bit that can be trickier, especially if, like us, you're not at all a pro. We had a great deal of help from our closest friends but still we bumped into lots of bugs last minute – on the website, on the live streaming and on the scheduled shows. We ended up almost not sleeping in the last week because we were tweaking the system to make it work, so I'd say start early with the technology bit, do lots of research and tests and perhaps think about doing a soft launch two weeks before you go on air – that way you can tweak unexpected bits before your official launch. Then there's managing all the broadcasters – we're lucky enough to have strictly amazing people on board, but since it's 90 people doing shows and helping out, it can get very time-consuming to upload and schedule all the non-live shows, so I'd say definitely set hours aside for that every week and ensure that people send in the content on time so you don't have to chase them for their shows.

Growing up, what was the radio show that most inspired you? Or, given the availability of everything on the internet now, are there any you've unearthed that you wish you'd listened to?

P: I used to listen to a lot of radio when I was a teenager; I used to tape shows like 'Casa, Bateria & Baixo' by Rui Vargas every day, religiously. Actually, that radio station, Voxx, was a huge influence on what we're doing now with Quântica. They had a lot of the same stance on things, promoting stuff that would never get on the other stations, with a bit of political commentary as well, and a clear emancipatory, cultural edge. Before Voxx there was this station called XFM that I wish I had listened to at the time – everyone say it was incredible, but I haven't found any recordings online. 

What’s next on the release and gig schedule for both of you?

V: I'm releasing a new EP on One Eyed Jacks early this year, and there is a very special various 12" coming out on a new label called Paraíso, which includes a track by myself.
P: My remix for Legowelt's "Institute of The Overmind' just came out on wax, on Unknown To The Unknown, and it's getting really cool reactions. There's also a few new EPs coming up, on labels like Vivod – run by one of my influences and now friend, Ali Renault – and something also on Silverback Recordings, with remixes by Phantom and Ikonika. Gigs-wise I'm taking it easy until early this year, doing some local gigs and focusing more on making music, which is harder now with running of the radio station, of course. There's a few cool things lined up; I'm gonna return to Paris to make up for a cancelled gig the day after the horrible Paris attacks, Berlin also again, and a big dance music festival in Lisbon, in March, where we'll be presenting a One Eyed Jacks showcase, which I'm really excited about.

Find out more about Rádio Quântica HERE.