Regal, alias of Italo-Spanish DJ and techno artist Gabriel Cassina, describes DJing as a script, a kind of call and response between artist and audience. He prepares unique playlists for every show that are site-specific to the venue and crowd, but during the shows authorial decisions are made in the moment. Which might be the most formidable part of his profession: with every gig having to sharpen your sensitivity to densely peopled atmospheres, the fickle moods of crowds, kuuki-wo yomu.
So as a show goes on, Regal recounts, a script is built, informed by both his premade decisions and the conditions of the crowd. Some scripts are more spontaneous than others. “…when I don’t see the reaction that I expected from the crowd,” he says, “I just completely change the script and play something else.”
To complicate this process, Regal plays widely, prolifically. His shows have taken him across Europe and more recently to Japan. Among all these venues – he remarks that the personality of crowds tends to vary more by venue than by country – he prefers the livelier shows: “I like energetic crowds, sweating and dancing souls who sometimes scream and cheer – but not all the time!” In these circumstances the intensity of people’s reactions will determine the next song. With a touch of pride he notes the subtleties of his travels, like the loud Spanish and Italian shows where the reactions are often very apparent, or the clubs in Georgia who show particular support for their DJs.
A Remix of Crossfaith’s 2020 release, ‘Endorphin’
His most recent project is a remix of Osaka metalcore quintet Crossfaith’s “Endorphin.” An acid techno-metal mix is nothing unprecedented for Regal, whose discography is as wide-ranging as his gigs—nor for the naturally innovative genre in which he works. “Metal and Techno are genres that have a lot of things in common in my opinion,” he says. “The speed, the presence of the drums that are so prominent in the mix, distorted sounds, the fact that it’s music that really gets people moving at the gigs and of course that it’s music that needs to be played out loud.” And Crossfaith, whose founders were inspired by nu metal like Linkin Park and Limp Bizkit, is a fit partner in their eclecticism.
The DJ’s broad musical purview could reflect recent patterns of “genre-blending” in the whole techno sphere. Over the last few years he has picked up on more techno songs heavy in distorted guitar, as well as metal music that makes use of synths. He enthuses over the chance to have his music reach those outside his usual demographic. He reflects, “…this is what musical collaboration is all about: expanding the horizon.”
Infiltrating the Mainstream
It is not surprising to hear that as a listener Regal’s tastes are just as variegated. He finds inspiration everywhere: a guitar riff in a metal track, the percussion in a reggaeton song. Much like his own shows, “There is no rule and I couldn’t really narrow my tastes down to one single genre, it’s always really a matter of my mood.” His label Involve Records, which he founded in 2012, has not only granted him some much-craved artistic autonomy but has also broadened the peripheries of his genre, which could easily be perceived as pretty insular. The label allowed for another of his artistic dreams to come to fruition: to create a recognizable label sound among the small team of artists.
Luckily, it is possible now for experimental artists like him and the Involve group to work. Thanks to social media and the rise of streaming and downloading platforms, it is possible for independent creators to flourish and to devise a discography with its correspondences in reggaeton, industrial rap, metal, punk. And it is possible the culture is shifting: With artists like 100 gecs and Death Grips coming to spearhead their respective “genres” and even infiltrate mainstream chatter and meme spaces at unprecedented rates, more people seem to be expanding their horizons past the top 50. Regal observes, “…many listeners don’t only listen to what they are being fed with by big record labels with lots of marketing capital, but try to dig the music themselves, discover new artists and new genres and start liking different types of music, which is a process that broadens or maybe even changes people’s tastes.”
Needless to say Covid has shaken one of his foundations, not only because of the lapse in live house activity but also the advent of “the streaming era,” where connections with the crowd only go one way. Initially the break proved a bit of a relief, but for such a high-energy artist the extended lethargy of our times can be trying. Luckily, unsurprisingly, Regal has twisted the torpor into artistic opportunity and he finds himself in the studio to fill up his newly free weekends. Fans—of different nationalities, musical bents, platform preferences—wait eagerly.
Feature image courtesy of YF Agency