The story of Ricardo Villalobos – the legend, the artist (Part 1)

There’s basically no way each and every one of you reading this article has never danced, boogied or at least shook their bodies on a Villalobos track. We simply can’t believe that, the man is a living legend. Probably one of the most notorious artists of the electronic genre, his story is filled with excentric details that – alltogether – create this unique portrait of an artist who was influenced by the music and the culture he grew up with, and has also influenced other emerging artists who, in time, have gained a legendary status themselves.
Ricardo Villalobos was born in Santiago de Chile in 1970 to a Chilean father and a German mother. Both his parents were musicians, so he began playing congas and bongos at the age of ten. The Villalobos family left the country like other contemporaries such as Dandy Jack and Chica Paula, all children of Chilean intellectuals exiled after the 1973 coup. His father, Pedro Villalobos, was a professor at the State Technical University and his uncle Julio Villalobos was a guitarist and founder of the pioneering rock group Blops.
The German nationality of his mother made it easy for the Villalobos family to decide where to spend the years of the Pinochet dictatorship. They settled in Seeheim-Jugenheim, a small town near Hesse. Little did he know that moving to Germany would become an important pillar in what his artistic journey would later become.
I was fascinated by the rhythm and how people started dancing“, the artist  admits. He started acquiring records at the age of 8 and became a huge fan of Depeche Mode, being heavily influenced by the band’s style. Seeing how his passion for music grew and grew, his family saved money to buy him a synthesizer and he started making music at a very young age.
The young man grew up south of Frankfurt. It was in that city and in Hamburg where he began his path as a DJ in 1987. That’s almost four decades of non stop music making and mixing.
Villalobos began to play his music at parties while he was a student, but this was only for his own enjoyment. He started a label, Placid Flavour, in 1993 but it was unsuccessful.
His first record was released on the German Playhouse label in 1994 and so he began DJing as a professional in 1998. He recognizes the fact that his passion for dancing is what turned him to become a DJ. 
I’m a dancer and I don’t want to dance alone, that’s why I’m a DJ. It’s not like you can become a DJ when you’re 20 because you think it’s cool. It is something that touches you; you cry just by hearing a beat. Me, I’m crying all the time, but everyone is sweating and they don’t realize”, stated the artist in an interview for Beat&Mix Magazine a few years back.
Ricardo Villalobos is recognized for playing in the best underground clubs in Berlin. He has chosen the city as his new home in the late 1990s, which allowed him to evolve as an artist, although it seems that he has not yet fully adapted to German customs.
Now I feel half Chilean, half German, although my mentality is a bit more Chilean. I have a German woman and we have many differences, about punctuality, having a bank account, bedtime… I try to take it easy, but being part of a country like Germany is not easy. If you invite someone to dinner at 8 o’clock, they will come at 8 o’clock, instead they would catch me in my underwear still“, says the artist.
Which is somewhat consistent with the artist’s image of today. He is well respected everywhere, but nothing compares to the Berlin techno scene, where is more of a powerhouse artist than anything else. Baby Ford, Thomas Melchior, Daniel Bell, Andrew Weatherall and Plastikman are some of the major influences of his style, in addition to the constant Latin influence in his home, where he listened to Brazilian music and Chilean and Argentine folklore.
Brazilians listened to techno two or three centuries before everyone else. If you compare the cadence of samba to that of techno, there is a very, very similar idea behind both. I was looking for a more organic music in the electronic context, to dance to. «House is more groovy, more funky … You start to make your own version of it. For me, all the music we make is house, based on those rules, the four-quarter kick drum. You can replace these elements with other sounds and give it your own shape”, he once said in an interview for DJ Latino America. Here’s him playing some congas, showing everybody how similar latin music and techno can actually be:
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