Cristian Camilo Morales has been a backend software engineer at X-Team for almost six years. In our #club-music Slack channel, he recently made the announcement that he started a new YouTube channel called Pulsar Music where he would drop DJ mixes that he produces himself.

The fantastic music and great camerawork of these mixes show how much effort and care Cristian puts into his music. In this interview, we discuss how he puts a mix together, what inspired him to start a YouTube channel, and what equipment he uses to make it all possible.

How did you first get into DJing and music production?

Music has always been a part of my life. I've been a singer since I was a little child and have been in three bands (alternative rock and indie Latin music) before I turned to DJing. When those bands split up, I wanted to figure out how I could create music on my own. That's how I thought of becoming a DJ.

It helped that I had a few friends who were already DJs. We used to do lots of parties outside the city, and I asked one of my friends to teach me how to mix and DJ. That was roughly two years ago. I combined that with a deep study of music theory, and a year and a half later decided to launch my music production and DJ project.

So you launch your DJ project. How does that lead to the launch of your YouTube channel, Pulsar Music?

I had the idea in the back of my mind when I was playing private parties. I discovered this channel called Flavour Trip, which has this beautiful aesthetic, great house music, and great vibes on their videos. I found other YouTube channels like that and thought, I can do this too.

Because I'm also a photographer, I know how to record and edit videos. So on February 20 (also my birthday) I released my first video on Pulsar Music. I'm also creating an alter-ego music project called Mons Flumen (which means river and mountain in Latin) where I'll be creating music more like The Blaze, Bob Moses, Chet Faker, James Blake, et cetera. But that's still in the works.

Lots going on! Can you walk us through your process for creating a new mix or track?

A DJ mix is like a recipe. Before you can cook, you need the perfect ingredients. It all begins with the vibe I want to immerse listeners in. Since I upload sets on YouTube, I tend to look for a vibe that fits work, study, focus, and chill. But from time to time, I pick a party vibe too. The goal is to create sets that fit different activities to play in your daily routine, or even at a bar, restaurant, cafe, or event.  

Then I choose the music. I use the Mix-In-Key technique to pick my track, which means that I choose tracks that are in the same key, a fifth under/upper, or a direct relative. That's what creates melodic cohesiveness in the mix. After that, I organize the music depending on the vibe of the set. I fill the gaps or empty spaces between tracks with other tracks that equally help me shape the groove and feel.

Finally, I do a rough mix on my PC with my headphones on to find crucial points where each song clicks into the groove I want. That's when a set is ready to be recorded. There's also always a little space in the live mix, so I can improvise.

Of course, my creative process for building my own music is very different, but we can talk about that when I release my first song (already completed). Should be in a month or two😏.

How do you combine it all, especially with your work at X-Team?

It's a good question, because I'm also a photographer so I have to balance the three. I have a pretty organized schedule, which starts with X-Team: programming, having meetings, chatting with the team, and creating new features. It's a full day.

After that, I become the artist. On Mondays, I tend to prepare my sets between 7-10 PM, right after dinner. Tuesday is for photography: I review my photos and videos and, if I have time, work on them in post-production. Wednesday is when I record my video sets. I try to upload every fifteen days. When I'm not recording, I'm producing. Sometimes, though, I get taken away and start making music until it's way too late at night. I'm talking 3 AM late. I get immersed, like I'm in another dimension.

Then on Thursdays and Fridays I usually edit and produce the video I recorded Wednesday. If I have plans with friends, I move the editing to the weekends, which is also when I have a gig to play or other stuff to do. I don't follow the calendar perfectly (but mostly I do). I know, it sounds crazy.

It does sound pretty hectic, but equally really structured as well. What software and equipment do you use for your music production?

I produce in Ableton Live 11. My entire music process happens there. Inside Live 11, I use lots of plugin from companies like ROLI, Arturia, Soundtoys, SynthGPT, et cetera. I also have a few synthesizers, mostly digital but one physical from ROLI.

For my DJing, I use rekordbox from AlphaTheta. Then Pick My Rec to buy music and different sample services like Loopcloud and Envato, among others. I also use LALAL for music producing and DJing. It's an AI-driven software where you can extract stems (drums, vocals, wind instruments, et cetera) from songs in high fidelity.

Lots of software, but they're all different tools that help me shape my sound and bring distinct characteristics to my productions.

How has your background in software engineering influenced your approach to music production?

Software engineering has taught me a lot. How to deal with frustration, how to face the fear of the blank page, and how to understand software as part of a broader context. Also how to believe in the process, how to be patient when finding bugs, and how to figure out what's right from what's wrong.

Software engineering is an art as well. So it makes sense that what applies in code applies to music and being a DJ as well. They all require discipline, but passion too. Without passion, they would be very difficult paths to walk.

Could you share more about your upcoming EP? What themes or influences can listeners expect?

My upcoming EP will be an experiment in House music with touches of salsa, samba, and jazz. That's the feel I'm striving for. The idea came to me when researching house based on Latin American styles. There weren't many results. The ones that I did find weren't in line with  my own artistic vision.

So that's why I decided to create the EP. I don't have a date yet, nor a name, but I hope to release some singles over the next few months. The EP should have between four to six tracks.

Please share your songs when they're released. Who are your musical influences, and how do they shape your work?

I think the music we consume shapes our lives. I'm a music addict and try to listen to a new artist every day, to at least get an idea of their music. The genres I listen to most are R&B, soul, funk, indie rock, salsa, house, dark wave, and post punk.

In terms of specific artists, my biggest influences are Anderson Paak, Chet Faker, Kerri Chandler, The Smiths, The Cure, The Blaze, Gustavo Certai, Who Made Who, Session Victim, Crackazat, Gerd Janson, Alex Ferreira, and my beloved Jorge Drexler and Carlos Palacio, who I think are the most poetic singers in my whole world.

As you can probably tell, these artists are very different from one another. They shape my style, vision, and sound.

So you listen to a lot of music. But how do you keep up with new trends and technologies in music production?

YouTube is my shepherd. I follow lots of channels who talk about this topic: Andrew Huang, Dilby, EDM Tips, LotusTunes, and Mercurial Tones. I also have virtual classes with teachers from my city to keep up with the times.

How do you see your music career evolving in the next few years?

I want to play at clubs and festivals while releasing music, both on the Pulsar Music and Mons Flumen channel. The main idea is to combine this with my software engineering and photography career. But also making sure I do it all with calm and love, so I don't burn out.

What's the biggest lesson you've learned from managing both a tech and a music career?

Life is a rollercoaster but it's worth the ride. If you really want to feel, do what you love, follow your passion, and cling to it as long as it brings you joy. Combining tech and music in an era where most things are digital helps you see everything with perspective.

I'd also say that everything is a process. The goal is not the end, because there is no end. You'll always be on some kind of journey. Make sure that it's worthwhile.

Do you want to join a company full of musicians and creative people like Cristian? You can! X-Team is always looking for experienced software engineers. Send through your application today.