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April 28, 2020

Interview with DJ Gregor Salto — The pleasures and downsides of travelling

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Started as a producer in 1994, Gregor Salto worked his way up to become an internationally recognized DJ/producer. Travelling has given a lot of possibilities to boost his career and to develop his own sound: house with a tropical twist. Next to being active for almost 20 years, he co-wrote and produced the Latin Grammy award-winning song Echa Pa’lla by Pitbull.

The last ten years he has become more involved in environment and sustainability and is part of a new wave of artists that speak up about climate change. Last year Gregor visited one of our events where we had a short talk. This year we followed up with him to find out how he sees the world of travelling, the upside & downsides of it and how he addresses the need for clean mobility.

Q — Who are you in a nutshell?

My name is Gregor van Offeren and I’m a DJ/producer, also known as Gregor Salto. I started around the age of 16 with my first attempt to become a producer. Later on, I started DJing as well and I've been doing that professionally for about 18 years now.

Q — What do you enjoy the most about your work?

What I enjoy most about my work is that it’s a lot of fun and that I am super connected with the crowd, culture and cities that I visit. When I started my career I was just a producer and I didn’t receive feedback from a crowd dancing in front of me. It was just me in my bedroom making music without having this interaction. The moment when I started DJing, I started noticing what worked on the dance floor and what did not and with this knowledge, I became better as a producer and more effective. Those two things really helped each other. I can’t say what I like best, but it started for me with making music and I think that is still the part I enjoy the most.

Q — What do you value most in life?

Love, safety, joy and health. All those things that I think everybody values most in life.

Q — How important is travelling to do your work?

It is very important as an international working DJ and producer, because my market is international, so it would be very hard to do my job just from the Netherlands alone. At first, I was playing exclusively in the Netherlands for a very long time, but that has changed a lot over the last few years, in which I travelled all around the world. During my trips, I met all kinds of people and I had all kinds of meaningful interactions, which eventually led to the music I still make today. So I couldn’t have done it without travelling. For example, I learned to speak Spanish while I was studying and I always imagined travelling in South-America. Mobility, travelling, my personality and music all come together and are very important aspects of my life. My life flows into my career and in my music, so travelling is very important. Obviously people that know my music, know that I’ve always been very much into blending different kinds of musical styles and cultures. I literally made music with people from Brazil, Curacao, Angola, Zimbabwe, Morocco, Spain, Suriname, Norway, China, India and of course the melting pot that’s the Netherlands. To put it simply, I’m into international cross-cultural musical styles.

Q — What is the downside of travelling?

Obviously having a family and being away from home is not always cool and I miss my children when I’m not there. Usually, the trips that I make are not so long. The real negative effect that I’ve been feeling for a pretty long time is that my CO2 footprint has an impact and I have been feeling quite guilty about that. Sometimes I think: is it really necessary that I’m doing all this travelling by plane and playing music for other people? I don’t have the answer to that yet, but I’m very much aware of the impact it makes. On the other hand, the amount of joy that I give and receive from people with my music is always satisfying, that’s always a dilemma I find myself in. Meanwhile, when I’m in Europe I like to travel by train, better said: I prefer to travel by train.

Q — The paradox of our time: we need to move, to discover and there is a big need to travel. On the other hand: we want to live in a beautiful world. How can we address that?

What’s interesting in the mobility field of China is that they transformed their railway network from something very old to the fastest and probably best in the world. It seems that the electrification of their transport is going way faster than here in Europe, but obviously, Lightyear is helping to catch up on that aspect. I think that's amazing and from an environmental point of view, I find it very interesting what Lightyear is doing. It's very hard to say if we are going to travel less in the future and I think there's a big task for governments to put extra taxes on travelling or to stop subsidies for the fossil fuel industry etcetera. I try to do my own part as well, I’m a vegetarian, I try to eat vegan and I’m doing my best to buy as few clothes as possible. Other than that I started an initiative called “duurzameles.nl”, which teaches children to be more aware of the human impact on the climate and we presented it on the 10th of October last year on the Dutch National Day of Sustainability. But to keep focus, I believe the most important task should come from the government by giving the proper education and setting the right measures.

Q — A year ago during a Lightyear event, you told us that your fellow artists are not keen on publishing any climate or sustainable related posts to their audience on social media. Why do you think that is and do you think that this has changed over the year?

I think that this is not changing fast enough yet. I still don’t see the same urgency that I have, among my colleagues. Maybe they know it's important to inform other people but they don’t do it. Maybe it is because these kinds of topics don’t get the desired number of likes and comments, because climate change is still not fully accepted or not a priority yet for a lot of people.

You can compare this climate-change denial with the Corona-virus pandemic. At first, everybody thought it was just the flu. If you would say a month and a half ago, that almost the whole of Europe would be in lockdown, no-one would believe it. The same counts for climate change. Hopefully, we will take a lesson from this unfortunate event, that we should not take our lives for granted as much as we do.

Q — Do you think we (people) can make the shift to clean mobility?

I don't believe we can, I know we will make the shift to clean mobility; because little by little, it is going to be cheaper to use clean mobility. And If the economy tells us one thing, if something becomes cheaper, it doesn’t make sense to hang on to more expensive options. For now, there's still too much money & power involved in the oil industry. On the other hand, I know from many sources there is money being poured into sustainable mobility, so it's just a matter of time.

Q — What triggered you to get involved with the Lightyear story?

I've always been interested in sustainability, but I'm not an engineer and I don’t have certain engineering talents. My interest lies in a variety of subjects including sustainability, geography, biology and mobility, so you could say I’m a bit of a nerd in that sense. I think it is amazing that a Dutch company founded by students came up with a concept like this. Lightyear’s pioneering is something that I really like and it reminds me in a different way of myself. Like me and my colleagues being in our studio, creating new music. It's in a way the same process of using technology to create new things that were never possible before and you just do it and show the world that it can be done. So yeah that's what made me get involved. Plus you’re making a beautiful car that I would like to drive someday. I think Lightyear’s concept is amazing just like ‘’Boyan Slat’’ with The Ocean Cleanup and we're going to see more and more of that and I love it.

Q — Are there any insights that you want to share with our audience?

Well, what I've seen is when it comes to city planning it makes such a huge impact on how people live. If a city is set in a chaotic way, the lives of the people will be also chaotic. If a city is structured in a sustainable & smart way with enough parks and space for the people there will be less chaos and I believe people will be more happy and healthy.

I always share this one: I think it starts with education, the moment our culture starts embracing some kind of sustainable way of living and we teach our children about this, we will reap the benefits of it. One example I can give: I played at a festival in Japan on a beach once and when my gig was over I stayed around at the festival site. When the festival ended, I was talking with some people and all of a sudden I looked at the festival grounds that everybody had left. The beach was pristine, clean, and there was no trash to be found. I was so surprised because for the first time in my life I saw the grounds of a festival that were totally clean. This proves to me that if you just teach people the right things, it can make a huge impact. When people are thought to be more conscious, we will eventually all be happier. One last thing; “clean streets keep the streets clean".

Photos of Gregor Salto by © louismglr

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