Hernan Cattaneo lives a story of improbability. Who could have predicted that a DJ from Buenos Aires, Argentina, would emerge as one of the most popular decksmith's on the planet? His story is one of luck (everyone needs a little of that) and, maybe even more so, of a true love for discovering and disseminating new music.
Early on, Cattaneo was heavily influenced by the electronic pop sounds of the '80s--specifically, Depeche Mode, New Order and Simply Red. However, he soon caught the house bug when a friend returned from a trip to New York with classic house tracks from the likes of Frankie Knuckles and Derrick May. Enamored with the soulful U.S. house sounds, Cattaneo taught himself to spin and began playing sets at his friends' house parties and at small local clubs.
Cattaneo experienced a series of big breaks that helped define his career in the ensuing years. In 1996, he (now well-known in Buenos Aires) secured a weekly residency at club Pacha, one of the world's best emerging house-music institutions. As Pacha grew to an international property, Cattaneo got the opportunity to play parties at clubs around the world. Paul Oakenfold realized Cattaneo's potential and signed the DJ to his Perfecto label, offering him warm-up slots on several world tours. This brought the Argentine DJ a new level of exposure and enabled him to launch a viable career as a headlining DJ and recording artist. Cattaneo is now an in-demand producer and remixer and has released several mix compilations for the likes of Perfecto and Renaissance.
For his latest mix CD, Renaissance: The Masters Series, Volume 2 (Thrive, 2005), Cattaneo worked hard to keep the vibe parallel to that of a live setting. Mixed using two Pioneer CDJ-1000s and Apple Logic Pro 7 for track editing, the set builds from the slow, bubbly early-evening house of disc 1 to the clubbier, slightly more uptempo late-night bounce of disc 2. The collection not only showcases Cattaneo's musical taste as a DJ but also reflects his progress as a producer and remixer. Included are his own original production (co-produced with John Tonks) "Warsaw" and edits of tracks from 16B, Jeff Bennett, Hybrid and Underworld.
Because Cattaneo is always busy traveling (he plays roughly 150 gigs around the world every year), he relies on his laptop and Logic Pro 7 for the quick in-flight editing of tracks that he plans to play during his DJ sets. Cattaneo is so busy that he even completed one of the standout tracks on the new CD, his edit of Underworld's "Mo Move," while in transit. "The original is musically perfect, but it doesn't have a good clubby kick drum or percussion and has no effects" he says. "So I added all these elements to the track, and I created a breakdown that wasn't on the original track. I did the edit in about six hours just cutting and pasting while on an airplane. That's the amazing thing about technology: that you can take a great track like that and completely make it much more club-friendly within just a few hours."
Although Cattaneo does implement both vinyl and CDs in his live sets, CDJ-1000s have become his preferred playback device. Vinyl junkies will argue to the death against the use of CDs in a DJ set, but this medium has allowed Cattaneo to play tracks the moment they are born. It enables him to offer the freshest cuts to fans and to tailor them to his own needs within the context of a set. "Eighty percent of stuff I play comes straight from the producers," he says. "I'm not going to wait six months to play a track when it gets licensed and pressed to vinyl. I'm going to play it tonight."
Put simply, one isn't going to hear the same run-of-the-mill progressive tracks when experiencing a Hernan Cattaneo DJ set. If a DJ's role is to provide the hottest new tunes, then Cattaneo is doing his job better than anyone else. At the same time, he has become the figurehead of a massive South American dance-music movement--one of the most exciting in the world. And what's next? Touring, remixing, touring, producing and, um, touring. For Cattaneo, it can't be any other way.