If there’s anyone you should keep your eye on in the trance world right now, it’s Obie Fernandez and Lightform. These up-and-coming DJ and producers from Mexico have stormed into the scene with guns blazing. Having recent releases on AVA Recordings, Reaching Altitude, and Perfecto Records; these guys mean business when it comes to putting out solid records.
They’ve made such a mark on their listeners that they have landed a spot on the world’s premier trance festival, A State Of Trance. I don’t know about you, but I’m beyond excited to see these two incredible artists take the stage at ASOT 900 Mexico on September 21st! It certainly won’t be one to miss.
We were able to speak with Obie Fernandez and Lightform about the trance scene in Mexico, their upcoming happenings and just trance in general. It was very enlightening to hear what is on their minds, so wIthout further ado — here’s what they had to say.
FMF: First off, I’d like to thank each of you for allowing me the opportunity to ask you some questions. You’re both up and coming artists in the trance scene and have made a huge splash with your recent track ‘Ghostface’. One thing I really wonder is how each of you got into producing music and DJing. What brought you down this path?
Lightform: Well first of all, thank you for giving us the opportunity to introduce ourselves to your audience!
Obie Fernandez: Yes, thank you!
Lightform: I’ve always been into music but when I was about 15 years old, my interest in electronic music got really big and I was so curious about how they made it, so I talked about this with a schoolmate in high school and he told me about this software I could use (FL Studio). I downloaded it and started watching youtube videos to learn how it works. I didn’t know much about DJing when I started producing. That came a few years later.
Obie Fernandez: I’ve actually been into electronic dance music literally my whole life. My Uncle Frank was a successful club disc jockey for many years in Newark, NJ — which is a pretty big city in the United States near New York City, where I grew up. When I was a kid I would go to his house and marvel at his huge vinyl record collection which filled entire walls of bookshelves, plus he had all this amazing equipment — so many big speakers and amps and gear, plus a beautiful custom built console with dual Technics turntables. And the miracle was that he was super nice about it and let me play his records and even gave me my first beat matching lessons. So, DJing has been a constant in my life as long as I can remember.
In 2001 I finally had some disposable income and began buying synths and software like Logic Pro, so that was the start of my “bedroom producing years”; making electronic music as a hobby. I didn’t limit myself to trance either. I made all sorts of stuff from downtempo to happy hardcore. At the same time, my career in technology was taking off big time.
Fast-forward to present day; I have this amazing career as a best-selling tech author and entrepreneur including amazing startup ventures like Andela, which I helped get off the ground as their CTO. But despite all that, deep in my heart all I really wanted to do was to make music and play for big crowds. As soon as I was able to ramp down the paid work, I started putting a lot of time and energy into my music career. That started about 5 years ago, and got really intense once I moved to Mexico.
By the way, the cost of living is really cheap in Mexico City. You can get a delicious and healthy meal for the equivalent of a few dollars. I don’t know why more people don’t move there if they’re trying to bootstrap a career as an artist. Because there’s no real money in music until you’re A-list like Armin van Buuren or Paul van Dyk.
Trance is obviously a huge deal for the two of you. What does trance mean to you?
Obie Fernandez: Trance is such an emotional kind of music. I’m an emotional guy, but the world forces guys (especially those that have a lot of tough responsibilities like myself) to suppress their emotions, you know what I mean? I’m the oldest of 5 kids. Ever since I was little I was told to be strong and take care of the others.Good trance music overwhelms my stoic defenses. It pushes me out of default mode. It makes me radiate love, and cry big hot tears. It provokes a release of emotions that no other kind of music does for me. Being able to make it myself and see the effect it has on other people is mind blowing.
Lightform: Trance for me is the best way to express myself and to feel everyone else. I love it because thanks to trance, I’ve met and became close to so many people. It has allowed me to feel things that I just don’t feel with other genres.
Obie Fernandez: Santiago (Lightform) was in my studio one day and was showing me his workflow on Logic, which I don’t know much about anymore (I’m an Ableton Live guy). I was teaching him some techniques on there too. When we were done with that, I asked him for critical feedback on this project I was working on called ‘Inner World’. He had ideas on how to make it better, so I proposed that we work on it together. And that’s how ‘Ghostface’ was born. It took quite awhile, because Santiago is one of the most perfectionist producers I’ve ever met, and I think you can tell that from the finished product. Getting it signed on Perfecto was not surprising, but it was definitely a dream come true in so many ways, since Paul Oakenfold is such a trance legend!
It’s very well known that there is a huge trance scene in Mexico and the fans here are very passionate about it. What more can you tell us about the history of trance in this country?
Lightform: I agree with you, trance fans in Mexico are super loyal and passionate to it. Thanks to artists like Zaa and Vlind, Mexico has been present in the scene for a long time. Now that I’m more into it, I’ve known and heard artist like Leo Reyes, Ellez Ria, Diego Morrill, Silvela, Huem, Xquizit, etc. They all have been lifting the trance scene of Mexico over the last couple of years and I know that they will continue doing so.
Obie Fernandez: I’ve actually only been living in Mexico City for a couple of years. Before moving to Mexico I was DJing and helping promote UNITY Events in Atlanta for a long time. When I got to Mexico, I was like ‘where are all the trance parties?’ because I knew Mexico had a reputation as having a huge mass of trance fans. I did find one, hosted by this guy Trancestor, who has been fighting the good fight for trance for many years down here. He’s a living legend, so I have to give him props for that. I went to his event — it was up and away from the center of the city near the airport. It was a real pain in the ass to get there, but I went and it was at a little dive bar on the side of a busy highway. There were 20 people there, if that. That was my first trance event in Mexico City, and people were telling me that trance was pretty much dead in the city. I looked through the Facebook groups for events. There were plenty of past events, but all the promoters had apparently disappeared.
The next day I was back home, plotting for how I could help resurrect the scene because I had the experience and resources to make things happen. Except we had a huge tragic earthquake in September 2017 that derailed everyone for at least 3 to 6 months. I ended up having to move apartments 3 times in 6 months until finally settling down, it was awful. But I did end up with a really good place for throwing parties, right in the middle of Roma Norte, which is a hot neighborhood in the center of the city. So I had this nice place, and I had in the meantime started a record label called MUSIC OVER MATTER with my friend MarioMoS.
Mario and I decided to invite all the Mexican trance producers we could get in contact with to a party at my house. It was a nice event — catered, open bar with bartenders. We even had two stages; one in the front in my living room, opening out into the front balcony overlooking Alvaro Obregon Avenue, which is a hot club district — the other in my back terrace, which we completely covered up to protect from rain and removed all the glass in the back of the house to open up the space. It was a little crazy. We had not only trance DJs, but I also had this idea that a lot of trance fans had migrated over to the techno world. I wanted to test my theories about that, so I invited a bunch of local techno producers and DJs also who brought their friends. We ended up packing the house with over 150 people and we raged all night until 6 in the morning. Indeed there was a lot of crossover from the two areas, and it created a lot of buzz in the community.
That was the first MUSIC OVER MATTER event. We’ve been doing multi-genre, rave-style events ever since that first house party. We have debuted quite a few big international artists locally already — from Cold Blue and A.R.D.I. to Somna and Haliene (who did a VIP performance in my living room). Let me tell you, that was something super special, but we always make sure to showcase local artists too. I think the local trance family appreciates how we try to find a healthy balance between international and local talent. Like how we give opportunities for local up-and-comers to perform in front of big audiences. For the Cold Blue show we had a DJ contest that had over 20 contestants competing to see who would open up the main stage.
Nobody else is really doing trance raves like we do. Overall it’s a very fragmented market. Other than our shows, there are house parties or big festivals like EDC and ASOT. It’s not from lack of desire — it’s just that the financial outlook for doing rave-style events (especially if you bring in international talent) is sadly near impossible. They don’t make money and you can only lose (oops, I mean invest) money in events for so long before you decide not to do it anymore. The trance family here is not a rich bunch. They have to scrape together funds to be able to go out and the big festivals drain a lot of fans’ discretionary income that would otherwise go to smaller promoters.
ASOT 900 Mexico is a landmark event and being on this lineup is a sign that you truly made it, which is an inspiration to us all. Tell us how you got to this point and how does it feel to be playing this amazing event?
Obie Fernandez: I think it’s a sign of a lot of hard work paying off. I’ve been DJing since I was 14 years old; dreaming about this kind of success for a long time. In the last 5 years, since I finally got very serious about reaching my goals, it’s been a lot of work and investment. It may seem like things are happening for me out of nowhere, but it’s only because people don’t generally see how much sweat and tears go into the earliest parts of a career. It has involved serious expenditures on setting up a studio, promoting events at a loss, and hiring a team of people in Mexico to help do everything really professionally.
Despite that, I’m still at an early stage and at this point, when you hear that your management is working on a booking the magnitude of ASOT — you just kind of learn to shrug it off because it feels like a long shot and the worst thing as an artist is getting your hopes up just to see them crushed. My manager Zaa, who is an awesome guy and legendary trance DJ in Mexico himself had given me a heads up that he was trying to get me and Santiago in, but I didn’t really put very much thought into it. I was already booked to play Imagine Festival on the same day, so my first thought was ‘oh damn, I might have to cancel the Atlanta gig’.
The funniest thing is that a couple weeks later, I was backstage at Luminosity Beach Festival, early in the day (as it was starting up) and a friend of mine rushes over and gives me a big hug all excited and is congratulating me. I’m like ‘hey, wait a minute what are you congratulating me for?’, and he shows me the ASOT lineup in an email on his phone. That was how I found out the news, but the worst part is that even though I wanted to tell everyone in the world — I had to keep it a secret until they announced it. I was dancing around Lumi about 2 feet off the ground with a big grin on my face — so happy and excited about it, but I couldn’t tell anyone, I couldn’t even talk to my team back in Mexico about it immediately because of the time zone difference!
Lightform: Being on the ASOT line up is one of my biggest dreams, finally coming true. I think that the hard work I’ve been putting in throughout the last 3 years, being able to sign my music on Armada (especially now on MaRLo’s label Reaching Altitude) and Armin’s continuous support definitely helped. However, it wouldn’t be possible without the help of our good friend, Zaa.
What’s next up for you guys in terms of events? Where else can we catch a performance by each of you?
Obie Fernandez: I’m currently booking gigs in Asia, which is where I’m headed after ASOT. In Mexico, my team is in the early stages of planning a big MUSIC OVER MATTER event in December around the holidays. More than anything else I’ll be focusing on producing new music the rest of the year, but expect lots of shows in 2020. I think it’s gonna be my breakout year as a DJ.
Lightform: For the near future, ASOT is the only gig that I have confirmed so far — so you can’t miss it!
Both of you have had several releases this year already. What else do you have in store for us before the year closes out?
Lightform: Like I said before, I’ve been signing my music on MaRLo’s label, Reaching Altitude. Stay tuned because you’re definitely going to hear more from me this year.
Obie Fernandez: I have a fun acid tech trance banger called ‘Big Speakers’, which is my latest release on AVA White. I also have a retroish hoover-driven track called ‘Do Over’ which is coming out on Mickey Marr’s Radiation Records. I also recently wrote a vocal track with Kate Miles — it’s along the lines of Simon Patterson’s work with Lucy Pullen and describes what I went through with a recent romantic breakup and I’m proud to say that track was picked up by Black Hole Recordings and should be out soon. I have a new tech trance track coming out on MaRLo’s label Reaching Altitude, which is my foot in the door at Armada to work alongside Lightform and so many other great artists. I’ve also been putting a lot of creative energy into deeper music with releases coming out on Solarstone’s Pure Progressive and John 00 Fleming’s JOOF Recordings.
As you can tell I have a ton of music in the pipeline and it’s very exciting!