Chus + Ceballos: The Iberican Sound
For the past decade-plus, Jesús “DJ Chus” Esteban and Pablo Ceballos have remained one of the globe’s most popular DJ/production teams.
Presented through their Stereo Productions imprint, percussion-driven productions and remixes, and marathon DJ sessions, Chus + Ceballos’ Iberican Sound—tribal house with techno elements—has spread well beyond their native Spain and earned a devoted fanbase.
With the release of their latest compilation—Balearica 2015, featuring new single “Abisinia”—we caught up with Chus + Ceballos to talk tech and more.
DJ Times: How did Chus & Ceballos come about?
Ceballos: We both grew up in the same neighborhood in Madrid and shared a similar love and passion for music. Chus was a resident DJ at one of the very first house-music clubs in the capital of Spain, while I was trying to make a name for myself in music production. A few years after our first meeting, we decided to make music together and it was pure magic ever since our very first track.
DJ Times: What was your first big break in the States?
Ceballos: Danny Tenaglia was our biggest mentor in North America and he invited us to play during his residency at Arc in New York. That was our first time playing in the U.S. and it was a memorable night at a legendary club. Playing at such a great venue with one of our longtime idols was a dream come true.
DJ Times: What gear do you use in the studio?
Ceballos: We still have a few pieces of classic hardware that we like to use, like the Avalon compressor; classic synths like the Moog, the Virus or the Nord Lead. We also like to use some of the new stuff like the AIRA series from Roland that takes the best out of classic analog pieces and adds a new digital flare. We believe that a good mix of both hardware and software brings a nice balance to music production.
DJ Times: And DAW, plug-ins?
Ceballos: We’ve been using Ableton Live in more recent years. It’s very fast and intuitive, and it’s perfectly oriented for electronic music and DJs. As for plug-ins, just to name a few, we love the stuff from Native Instruments, FabFilter, SPL, Arturia and Soundtoys.
DJ Times: What’s your DJ set-up?
Chus: We started out with vinyl, then moved onto CDs, and now we play with Traktor, our computers and a few gadgets. We respect every different way of playing music, but right now it’s the Traktor’s expert system that allows us to be more creative and enables us to create a different story through our music every night. We still play vinyls at home and at parties once in awhile. It brings back good memories and it’s still is the most beautiful and romantic way to playing records. Our vinyl collection is an endless source of inspiration in the studio, and it’s also the best sound library we can have.
DJ Times: How has Traktor impacted your DJing approach?
Ceballos: Before performing with Traktor, it was easier to identify who was playing what because of our different styles. But now with Traktor, it’s just like one big jam session, where we’re always adding loops and a cappellas when we feel like it. So it’s become harder to differentiate between our two sounds. Like we’ve said before, Traktor has completely changed the way we play and it’s made everything a lot more creative and fun for us.
DJ Times: Does your approach to DJing and studio work differ?
Chus: When we DJ, we like to work with a whole range of music. We like to move through different styles with ups and downs. It makes our sets more dynamic and fun, like we say, from house to techno, drums are always present. We definitely like to give our crowd an experience and a great time to remember. When we produce, it’s pretty much the same thing. We are not closed off to any single genre, and a recurring element in our music—“leitmotif”—is groove and soul.
DJ Times: What keeps you inspired and motivated?
Ceballos: In our case, it’s all about our fans. They are a true inspiration. They give us so much energy and love each time we play that we always want to bring something new and exciting for the crowd every time we go back to a club. Thus, we’re on an endless search for new music or working on new projects. Another reason that keeps us motivated is our families. We sacrifice so much time doing what we love that the best way to honor all those hours not spent with them is leaving the best music legacy we can.
DJ Times: Advice to aspiring DJs?
Ceballos: Be yourself and find your own sound. It’s something that people will recognize instantly when they listen to your music. It’s also really important to be influenced by other artists and gain inspiration from your favorites, but the key to making good music and being a good DJ is to find your own blend. The crowd knows when you are doing something from deep within your soul. You can’t lie to them. When you believe in something and fight for it, you gain an aura of understanding that will naturally help you excel in your career.