A catch-up with Quinoa Experience's Chris Gorrie...
Quinoa Experience is the type of party we just can’t wait to get to. Though based in Madrid, the crew have brought the party to a host of far-flung locations. Lately, Rome and Rio just some of the cities who’ve hosted the full-on Quinoa Experience. While the party has hosted a crew of shrewdly-chosen international guests, it is very much a family affair, with its residents very much the stars of the show. We caught up with resident DJ and promoter Chris Gorrie for a far-ranging chat recently, discussing everything from the pitfalls facing promoters, his recent South American tour, the scene in Madrid and the many essential parts that make up the Quinoa family…
I’m a fan but quinoa definitely isn’t for everyone. So before we go on; what’s in a name?
Yeah, we get that one quite often. There’s a few reasons for this. Mainly, we liked the absurdism in decontextualising the name of a popular grain. It was also a good fit for the kind of community we wanted to appeal to: the young, worldly party-goers that also look after themselves and will make up for their questionable weekends’ decisions with a superfood bowl and breath of fresh air on Sunday (or Monday depending on how hard their weekend was). Plus, the word just kinda sounds nice. I think it’s being doing a good job so far.
You’re currently in the middle of a tour in South America. How’s it going? What have been the highlights?
So I’m actually typing this while on my flight back home from Buenos Aires. It’s been a wonderful experience. The first proper tour of (hopefully) many more. If I had to pick some of my favourite moments I’d say playing at Avant Garten (Buenos Aires) would need to be up there. It was my first time playing there and I think it’s one of my favourite venues now. The vibe there is unreal and the crowd was really open to everything. Amazing connection between the dancers and the booth.
Another highlight would be having spent two weeks in the jungle in Serra Grande (Bahia) with the Bug Pixel crew. We built a bamboo stage (designed by my partner Andrei aka Solar Punk) and a dance floor in the middle of the forest (without cutting any trees of course) and played in it for 4 days in a row. We were completely disconnected from the real world. Another kind of experience. It was more like staying in a hippie commune but with great music. Will always be grateful to Mano for hosting this. There've been so many other special moments with great people I’d take too long to go over them but I hope I get to see them all again very soon.
You recently played in Rio alongside some of our favourites such as Raphael Carrau, Alexia Glensy and Slowlife duo, Cecilio & Laurine. How did this one come about? And can you talk us through that experience?
Once more, we have the Bug Pixel crew to thank for this. Last year Andrei and I had a gig in Rio during carnival and in our time there we got to meet the wider team. Over the next months we stayed in touch and, liking each other’s work, we decided to join forces and pool our resources together to make one of the biggest lineups (within our niche) that Rio had ever seen. As the guys on the ground they did most of the heavy-lifting and the production was absolutely on point. The effort paid off resulting in a wild journey across such a wide range of sound. Laurine & Cecilio’s morning set got some huge smiles. Everybody played their best and stayed dancing from start to finish. It’s one of those events that make our scene so special.
You’re best-known for your work at the Quinoa Experience party, and you first hosted the party in Madrid. Before we talk about the party, can you tell us a bit about the scene in Madrid? Is there a pretty receptive audience, for example?
So, in general Madrid is fun, cosmopolitan and has a vast cultural offering. Its electronic music scene has historically been more focused on Techno and Tech-House, both of the more mainstream and underground varieties. Urban scenes have also been coming in strong lately. People here like to dance long hours, stay close to each other and go quite hard. The issue, as in most cities, is the a lack of venues specialised for our niche. We love the clubs we work with, their staff is super professional and there have never been any major issues, but we’d love a bit more choice.
The audience that we managed to build over the years is definitely open minded and curious. Some of the feedback I’ve enjoyed the most came from people having a hard time placing our music into a genre when their friends ask what they should expect at our events. The answer is generally “come see for yourself” and when they do, most end up sticking around.
You started out with clubnights in Madrid and have since played in major cities all over the world, including Rio, Barcelona and Rome. What’s been the biggest lesson you’ve learned above throwing parties during this time?
At the risk of sounding a bit repetitive, I guess the best way to put it is to stay true to yourself and know where you’re heading. I also mean this literally. Both as an artist and as promoter I believe it’s key to have an idea of what a crowd is expecting in a certain place. Once you know that, you can either meet or intentionally break those expectations in a way that resounds with your core message and values. In our case the message is love, as simple and cliché as that may sound. But to contrast it with other very talented artists in our scene, we’re not really about a more “introspective expression of distilled sound” or what have you. Rather we focus on the social aspect and making a space comfortable and joyful for people to share moments and smile, using sound as the main medium to create this environment. So as much as the intention has stayed the same, the ways we’ve been able to express that have improved over time as we acquired a clearer vision of where to head.
Every promoter is faced with challenges and pitfalls at times. What were yours, and how did you overcome them?
Organising events is synonymous with taking risks. The dynamics of the industry also concentrate the vast majority of that risk onto the promoter, who is the only stakeholder ultimately responsible for all the decisions that make an event successful. Regardless of how many correct decisions one might take, there will always be factors out of our control that may affect the final outcome. So coming to terms with all that and focusing on what is under our control, as the stoics say, is a challenge that keeps presenting itself. Calculating risk is hard. From flight cancellations, to missed payments on behalf of some former partners, to straight up organising an event on a “bad” date, everything is part of the learning process and can only be faced with patience and resilience for these projects to survive.
Was there one moment over the years where you felt things really clicked into place for you? Or one party that was particularly satisfying that sticks out?
Tricky one. I guess I haven’t had my “big break” yet. The legendary gig that some artists recognise as the one after which bookings come pouring in. I have had gigs that have topped all previous experiences more and more often over the past years so it feels like I’m on the right path. The first time I really felt like that was at the Oosterbar, in Amsterdam, back in 2019, when I played for the Unsilenced crew. That day I really got hooked onto that electric feeling of being completely in sync with a packed room. At that moment I knew that the artist-side of my career was eventually going to dominate my priorities so I’m keeping my head down and my hopes up, having as much fun as I can on the way.
As a promoter, do you truly get to relax when you’re throwing parties? Or are you so focused on external factors away from the music?
At first, definitely not. With time you learn to. I remember the first parties in Madrid used to drive me crazy because people have a habit of showing up particularly late around here. So we’d open at Midnight, have an empty room until 2am then turn around and find the place packed by 2:30…
Regardless of the outcome of the event, stressing over issues is not something worth doing as much. When problems arise, as they always do, I simply map out the best solutions and proceed pragmatically. By now, I can honestly say that I rarely have as much fun at parties as I do at Quinoas.
Refreshingly, you guys lean on your tuned-in residents as much as international guests. Outside of yourself, who else is involved with Quinoa? And who does what exactly?
I think there are two parts to this question, one about the core team and one about the local artists we work with.
On the first part, I’m proud to say that we’re a decently sized gang by now. First and foremost, my partner Andrei (Solar Punk). Without him none of this would have become what it is now. The very definition of multidisciplinary artist, he took great care in developing our visual identity, sourcing great music for our label, scouting talent with me for bookings, pushing the events and of course playing great music at our parties and beyond. He’s my ride or die. The peanut butter to my jelly. Or the soy sauce to my quinoa poke bowl I guess.
There is also Carlos (aka Jua’Rez), who’s the only other full-on Quinoa resident. An impeccable selector and a man who’s been a great musical inspiration for me over the years. He also plays an important role in defining the musical direction of the project and also adds the more free-spirited element to the mix. He’s been holding it down in Madrid like a champ during our tour and helps with running the label and programming.
Paula has been helping us take our social media game to the next level and her commitment to the project has been unwavering from day one. Her experience in photography and video have helped us get our best content out there and her bubbly energy and hype for the project is contagious to people outside the group.
Then, due to us scaling up with our XL format this coming May, we brought on board a specialised ops team of three members, and some of my best friends. The team is led by Tony, a man who knows the industry in and out and is responsible for countless deliveries of cashless solutions in major festivals. His level of understanding of event operations is so deep that having him on board basically guarantees a smooth event or at least enough to give me peace of mind. To support him are Claudia and Jupa, who are proving to be key elements for pre-event organisation and that will be especially in charge of onsite operations.
I wouldn’t fully answer this question if I didn’t mention Moulin, the talented Parisian DJ I originally founded the project with. Although we parted ways after some time, mostly for him to focus more fully on his musical career without the burdens of promoting, the role he played in creating the project is something that I will always be grateful to him for.
Finally there is our network of local talent that we absolutely love to work with and that have played a key role in making what Quinoa is today. From Madrid the names that stand out are certainly Mari.te, Cesc, Avo, Abdulla A, Luks, Wo-kem and Mario Glossy. From Barcelona C.ru.z, Bruno & Marco, Jimmy Siao and Perro Jimbo. And from Rome the rising talents of Brasi, Rond and Dino deserve special mention.
Outside of clubnights, you also host your own radio show. Can you tell us a bit about that one?
The pandemic definitely pushed us to do that. We were desperate to have an outlet to share our selection, so we reached out to the lovely folks at Radio Relativa and are now 4 seasons deep. It’s been a great opportunity also to have guests over, both more established locals as well as rising talent, and to be part of a tightly knit network of underground talent based in Spain.
How does running a show like that make you a better DJ?
I think there are two main factors at play. First, it offers the chance to practise serious sets, without relying on gigs. It’s good to practise preparing a bag as often as possible. Second, and probably most importantly, it gives an outlet to play non-club music, to explore those b-sides and experiment a little bit out of the comfort zone. Also, I guess it’s always good practice to get rid of stage fright, as we definitely got more comfortable with recording both our mixes and our chit chat over the seasons.
You’re also fond vinyl lovers. Can you talk us through some of the special pieces in your collection? Are there any EPs you own that really encapsulate the Quinoa vibe?
Hard to say. Quinoa’s vibe itself has changed a lot over the years as we dug deeper and our tastes evolved. I do however, have some records that hardly ever leave my bag. Some of them are:
One of my favourite tracks. Progressive and emotional with a bit of drama but not too much. Great development as it goes and has always worked on a dance floor.
My favourite fire-starter, to be played when things are getting serious in the room.
This is one has been washed out a bit lately but with good reason. All 4 tracks are special and work in a variety of contexts. Lucky I got it when I came out before the sharks had their go.
You’ve equally played at parties in the likes of Fabrik. How do you approach nights like this compared to your typical, more intimate affairs?
Not very differently to be honest. Every time I prepare my bag I ask the same question in my head: “what would sound best in that place at that time?”. Of course the answers change significantly when you’re playing for 50 people vs 1000+ but the logic is the same. An inevitable truth is that on a scale like that, the challenge is to get as many people as possible into the vibe, which perhaps forces one to go for a more accessible selection. The Fabrik crowd, for example, is particularly into the harder side of Techno so playing there definitely gave me the opportunity to unleash some demons.
What actually makes a great party in your eyes?
There is really only a handful of elements that make a party in the first place. Nice location, right time, good soundsystem, good music of course, some more experiential entertainment but really, and above all, it’s about the people. Having the right people is what makes the right vibe. Other elements may not always be 100% on point but having the correct crowd will soothe the hiccups and make it all work out in the end.
What’s next for you - musically and professionally - that you’re really excited about?
So for this year our Quinoa XL format on May 6th will take the prize. It’s the first time we’re doing a bigger off-site format and we hope it will be the first of many.
We also have 2 more releases on Quinoa Cuts coming up before 2024 and are excited about how they sound. Other than that, we’ll carry on with our residencies and are looking forward to work with great talent on these fronts. On a more personal level, I’ve recently refocused my work priorities so as to be able to focus the majority of my time and music and Quinoa. The timing felt right so hopefully the choice will pay off. Besides that, there’s a few exciting things I’m recording that are planned to come out this year that I hope you’ll check out on the cloud!
Keep up with Chris Gorrie on Instagram here