Artist of the Month: Joaqu.n
Joaquin Chaffardet is a DJ and music producer who performs under the name Joaqu.n. He currently is the face of a new community in Austin that serves both as a meeting point and platform for Austin’s marginalized artists. I met with Joaquin on a Sunday afternoon outside Ellsworth Kelly’s “Austin”. We talked about accents, soaked laptops, and freestyles on the porch.
Joaquin: I’m not shooting again.
Jason: You’re not shooting again?
Jo: I’m not shooting again, not because “I’m not shooting again”, it’s just not right now. I don’t have any intentions of taking pictures. Or time. But I tried carrying this point-and-shoot with me so I can still sometimes take a photo. It’s all South By shit though. Kamaryn just got me new batteries the other day when she came over. She recorded Peter and I setting up for the Nu Wave.
Ja: Does it take a special kind of battery?
Jo: No, just double A. Kamaryn went to the liquor store to get liquor for her friend so she just picked these up!
Ja: Oh! I was at a concert the other day and I get a text and I look down and it’s Adam and he was like “Yo, do you have camera batteries?” [laughs] I was like “nah, man…”
Jo: [laughs] That’s funny!
Dude, [Nu Wave] was crazy, last night got packed really early.
Jo: And then it emptied out. I think we played house music for too long. But I mean, that’s what the special guest was playing. That’s what the vibe was.
Ja: Do you ever feel like you want to branch out to different areas of music but that branching out might alienate the people who attend?
Jo: It’s crazy cause, yeah, I always want to do something different. But last night, I was overthinking everything. At some point I felt that we shouldn’t have done house music, but then I decided that it was a vibe. It was just different because people weren’t jumping. But it was cool!
Ja: That’s a hard decision to make. Between how you want to express yourself and how appealing you want to be to your audience.
Jo: Yeah, and I definitely want to start bringing in more singers and more women to the Nu Wave. Next week I have Anna Rizkalla out of Dallas.
Ja: I was going to ask, how do you have all these Dallas connections?
Jo: I don’t know! It all started because of Larce Blake. Remember the Beat Garden, were you there?
Ja: I wasn’t there, no.
Jo: I did a back-to-back set with Christy Ray. She’s DJ Spinderella’s daughter. We did a back-to-back set at the Beat Garden and then we just kept in touch through Instagram. And then all these Dallas people just hit me up through Instagram and they just all happened to be in the same circle. This next month is a bunch of Dallas people, I’m bringing out Blue the Misfit.
Ja: Shout out Dallas, Texas!
Jo: And WilllYouBeMyFriend, Pouya’s DJ. This next month is gonna be cool.
Ja: Are you mixing Houston people in there too?
Jo: I have! Days Away is from Houston, He’s only been in Austin less than a year, for school. He dropped out of school, actually. He lives in San Marcos but he’s trying to live in Austin. I wish he lived here so bad, he’s one of my favorite people to make music with. He’s so talented. He’s fucking twenty bro. It’s wild. He produces and records everything himself. He’s been making music, I think, his whole life.
He sent me this cover of him singing this classic song, I think it was “My Girl” when he was twelve years old! [laughs] Which is not that long ago for him, that’s only eight years ago!
Ja: How long have you been making music?
Jo: Not that long, man. Like a year, maybe. But I feel like I’ve always been making music.
Ja: What do you mean when you say that?
"Ever since I started to produce,
I’ve listened to music differently. You make music too, so you can understand what I’m talking about. You can separate the drums from the keys and you can imagine the patterns on the screen. That’s how I see it in my head."
Jo: I’ve always wanted to be a producer. Well, not always, more so when I got into hip-hop when I was around fifteen or sixteen. I wanted to be a producer, so I tried to take a step [toward that] but it’s hard! Cause people are lazy. Everybody’s lazy. Picking up something like that is so intimidating. At first, you think, “Oh you’ve just got to do the drums and loop the sample” but, nah! This shit is complex as fuck! I still have so much to learn.
I started producing in 2012, 2013? I had a MacBook, I had Ableton, and I had a Maschine. I was just going to YouTube and typing in “How to sample like Kanye West”, “How to sample like J. Dilla”. I was really into older hip-hop – I was going through a hip-hop purist phase. I produced for like four months but the beats I was making, I didn’t like. They didn’t sound like anything I would listen to on the internet. I was very intimidated. Then I threw a birthday party at my house that got really fucking crazy and I was playing music off of that laptop and then my drunk ass had the laptop in the kitchen by the cooler…
Ja: Oh no….
Jo: and the ice started melting…[whistles] everything. Gone. Everything that I had made. Everything. And I was already pretty discouraged so… it just wasn’t the time. Some things just don’t happen, but then they happen later. It wasn’t until 2017 that I picked it up again, I just downloaded FL Studios, but this time I took a different approach. I looked up how to make Travis Scott-type beats and Kaytranada-type beats. I looked up all these artists that I liked and saw how they created their sounds. The first beat I made after I came back? It wasn’t great, but I felt like “Oh, I can vibe to this.”
Ever since I started to produce, I’ve listened to music differently. You make music too, so you can understand what I’m talking about. You can separate the drums from the keys and you can imagine the patterns on the screen. That’s how I see it in my head. When I started taking production more seriously, I started to feel so much more critical of music, and I hate [feeling that way]! [laughs] I can’t hear music the same way that I did before!
I put my foot into this world of photography, but I was never really passionate about photography. It was fun and I liked it. That’s how I met Omenihu, that’s how I met everybody. But I never really felt like a photographer.
Ja: That makes sense. I read somewhere that your camera broke, and instead of buying a new camera, you bought DJ equipment.
Ja: That’s wild, it kind of parallels the broken laptop, right?
Jo: Yeah, it’s crazy. I do a lot of things on impulse. And a lot of times I act on emotion too, which is not always a good thing. They’re double-edged swords, both of those things – but that was one of the good decisions. It all happened because Payton Long, he’s a dope ass producer who moved to New York, was coming back to visit and he was like “Yo let’s throw a party!” I was like “Damn, who am I going to get to DJ?” I hit up my homie Travis and I said “Yo, you want to DJ this party? But I’m picking every song!” [laughs]
Jo: He’s like “Nah, but I’ll teach you how to DJ!” [laughs] So I went to his place and I literally spent eight hours at his place and he taught me everything. In one day.
Jo: And then the next day I was ready to buy a camera, then I was just like “Fuck it, I’m going to buy a controller” and I went and spent like nine hundred dollars on a controller. Which hurt my wallet, but I’ve made that back and much more. It was a great decision.
I started DJing and i felt like “production is right there, you pick it up now or you’re a DJ forever.” I don’t like being called a DJ, but I literally am a DJ. I DJ every fucking Saturday. [laughs] But I’ve always felt like a producer. When I’m in the studio, I’m not just making the beat. I’m making the song with the artist, and directing...so I don’t know, I hate labels I guess.
Ja: It makes sense, your art is broader.
Jo: Yeah, ‘cause I make all my designs, I can do a lot of things, but I want to be known as a producer.
Ja: Now that you mention it, I remember this house we were at...you were there and I was there and there was a freestyle circle, and you were rapping...
Jo: Oh shit! [laughs] I remember that!
Ja: So I know you can rap, and I’ve heard you sing in a live show so I know you can sing too. Are you ever going to put some vocals down?
Jo: I don’t know, man, maybe! Sometimes I get very shy. I’m super shy. It’s weird being at the Eastern every Saturday, hopping on the box and being on the microphone because I’m very shy usually, but I’m just in my comfort zone there. I just... yeah. I forgot what you said. [laughs]
Ja: [laughs] Are you going to rap or sing?
Jo: Oh yeah! One day. When I get comfortable enough. Because I’m not even comfortable enough to release music right now. I have so much music. It’s to the point where any day now you’re just going to see me drop a twenty song EP, mixtape, whatever the fuck. Just to put all the music out that I’m never going to use. That’s probably what’s coming next. Just an untitled, unmixed piece. I have so much.
Ja: I can’t even imagine!
Jo: I was just texting my girlfriend I was like “I really want to start doing vocals on all my shit” but I have an accent, and I have this voice. People fuck with my accent. Everyone says “Shut up, you’re good!” But it’s different for me because I’m me. I hear myself all the time. Everybody hates their own voice.
Unless you’re a rapper with some good engineers and you’re like “Damn, this shit sounds tight!” [laughs]
But yeah, once I get more comfortable I will.
Ja: Yeah, I’m excited for that!
Jo: I might have some shit already...
Jo: I have like three songs. But my voice is pitched out on all of them. [laughs]
Ja: You grew up in the United States, but you also grew up in Venezuela?
Jo: I lived in Venezuela until I was fifteen, and then I lived in Puerto Rico for a year.
Ja: Oh wow, I didn’t know that!
Jo: And then I moved to Houston. I was in Houston from seventeen to twenty-two. Then I moved here three years ago, I’m twenty-five now.
Ja: Have these places influenced your style?
Jo: Everything has! Everything has influenced my style, the person that I am, the things that I do, and say. But my sound directly isn’t influenced by a lot of those places.
I do want to get more into putting some parts of my culture into my music, but we are in an era [in which your location] doesn’t really define your sound. Especially in the U.S. You have A$AP Rocky who sounds like he’s from Houston. And some people from Houston were hating! I never did because, I mean, he grew up with the internet. He just fucking likes Houston music. People from New York sound like they’re from Atlanta now. You can’t hate on that!
Ja: Like regional rap is being dissolved by the internet?
Jo: Not just rap, anything!
Ja: Does that feel overwhelming for you, or does it feel like you have more options to choose your style from?
Jo: It can be overwhelming but it is cool that I have an infinite amount of stuff that I can choose from! I would love to have you at my place and play you all the music that I have. I have a lot of different types of sounds! I have a house song with Mike Melinoe on it.
Jo: Yeah. It’s crazy he’s like singing on it. Like rapping, but singing. Peter and I literally made two songs yesterday. We made one after the Nu Wave. I made him this beat and he just did it. The thing about Peter, is that he’s just fucking incredible. He does everything in one or two takes. And he doesn’t write it down! That’s crazy to me!
Peter inspired me to start making beats and to get a microphone. I’ve known him for three years now and we used to freestyle on the porch very heavy. Every time we would go out. You have no idea the amount of albums Peter rapped.
Jo: Into the air!
And I would get so agitated, like “You’re making songs! You’re here rapping songs out of your head, that you never wrote down.” I had people around me who were so talented, they just needed someone to enable them. Peter raps, he doesn’t make beats. I wanted to be a catalyst.
Ja: How has the energy been different for you here in Austin, compared to how it was living in Houston?
Jo: Yeah. I dropped out of school a long time ago. I was always a horrible student. I was living in Houston making minimum wage and being a slob. I felt creatively trapped. I picked up photography about a year before I moved to Austin and that’s when my creative juices started flowing a lot more. But I always liked coming to Austin, I would come every one or two months. Mostly to party, but I always liked that there was art and music.
Ja: And now you’re a part of creating that culture!
Jo: It’s weird! It’s really weird! [laughs]
Ja: When you first conceived of Nu Wave, did you have a goal in mind that you wanted to accomplish?
Jo: Nah man, I just wanted somewhere to DJ! I was playing events, but I never wanted to practice [DJing] when I was at home. I would rather be making music! So I just needed somewhere I could DJ every week. Didn’t even want something that was crazy like the Nu Wave has turned out to be. I just needed a place to go DJ.
I posted on my Instagram story “When are these Austin clubs and bars going to stop sleeping on me and give me a residency?” and Jose and Chris Cates from When Where What hit me up and they were like “Yo, give us a list of places you want to play at.” The first place I picked was the Eastern, and they set up the rest! When Where What has been a huge support, I owe so much to When Where What. Nu Wave started out Thursdays, and next thing you know it was Saturdays. It got big out of nowhere.
The first Nu Wave was just me playing a set. Then I realized I had so many talented friends that I needed to put on. Like Leo Sins? He had never performed before, but the Nu Wave was his first show and it was packed and everyone was vibing with him.
Jo: I like putting people on because it inspires them to keep creating. I’m sure that experience meant a lot to him. It meant a lot to me.
Ja: Wild how everything came together like that - someone gave you a chance and put you on and now you have a platform to put other people on.
Jo: Yeah! I wasn’t planning on doing any of that! [laughs]
Joaquin Chaffardet is a DJ and music producer among other things. He performs under the name Joaqu.n and is based in Austin, Texas. You can follow him on all platforms at @joaqu.n. Jason Ikpatt is a meat eating vegetarian. You can follow him on Instagram @jas.ikp