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Credit: Ruggero Isacchi

Recognise: Paula Tape

Rising Chilean DJ/producer Paula Tape has made her name releasing irresistible, synth-drenched house tracks on quality labels including Rhythm Section and Permanent Vacation, while her Hola Mundo party holds residencies in London, Paris and her adopted home of Milan. Here, alongside a stomping Recognise mix, she speaks to Ria Hylton about her focus on production, crate-digging, and making a radio show for her plants

Paula Tape’s mixes are full of theatre — bold, synth-laden cuts that put you in mind of the Ibiza coastline. Balearic chuggers fold into spacious polyrhythms fold into evergreen melodies — lighting up the brain’s pleasure centres. And even when sets lean on the slow side, they still maintain a muscular energy, almost carrying the dancefloor. What’s more, every Tape selection feels like an old gem — the kind you find after trawling through hours of forgotten material. This is because Tape never stops digging and, quite simply, she has great taste.  

Her sound might call to mind a certain era, but she’s careful about curation, keeping a balance between early house selections and fresh tracks. “I’m divided between the old and the new,” she tells DJ Mag. “When I travel around, I’m always trying to dig — even if it’s for an hour, I try to go to the record shops and to find things that I cannot find here in Europe. I think you can find really rare stuff in Asia,” she continues. “I’ve found music in Japan that I couldn’t find in Europe — but you can always be surprised anywhere, if you’re prepared to get your fingers dusty.” 

When we call up Tape she’s in Milan, her hometown since late 2015. She arrived after a stint in Spain, where language held no barrier for the Chilean, but the quality of life in the Italian capital has kept her rooted ever since. What’s the club scene like in Italy, we ask? “They are Italians, they put a lot of passion in everything they do,” she replies. “The hospitality is so good when you travel around Italy and I have been lucky to play in amazing places — and for promoters who understand my sound and call me for that.” 

Paula Tape, real name Paula Soto Carmona, was born and raised in Santiago, Chile. Her first musical port of call was the drums, playing in heavy metal and electro-indie bands in her teens before migrating to the decks in her twenties. Her early loves were new wave, shoegaze and indie bands — My Bloody Valentine, Sonic Youth and Cocteau Twins were on constant play — but cultural magazines imported from Europe turned her ear to electronic music. Through Spanish publications like NEO2 and Rockdelux she discovered Gus Gus and The Prodigy, slowly shifting her palette towards the underground. “Those magazines helped me a lot with discovering new music,” she remembers. “There was a mixture of many kinds of styles — that was my way from new wave to house.” 

Around the same time Tape was also seeking out fellow left-field enthusiasts, people in touch with alternative club nights in her hometown. She remembers one particular venue that played gothic and dark wave in one room, house, electronic and rave in another, and indie rock in the third: “In that club scene, I was building up my music taste in a conscious way.” These club excursions, coupled with the cumbia, merengue and salsa music in her everyday, formed the background of Tape’s sound. “If you had interest in a certain scene, you had to find the right people. It was very underground at that time. You were always discovering stuff, even if the music was far away.”

Photo of Paula Tape DJing at Aegis Festival
Credit: Karen Madi

Tape has released music on a number of tastemaking labels, like London’s Rhythm Section and Munich’s Permanent Vacation, but her first release, ‘Agua Congas’, landed on the SOBO imprint in 2018. The EP’s title track is a tropical chugger with a funky slap bass, with Tape on vocals, while on the flipside she enlists a stomping kick-drum and punchy snare — the kind that defined the ’80s — giving early electro feels. Tape invited the bass player Lorenzo Morresi onto the project and played some percussion herself, giving the two-tracker’s wonky, off-grid moments a live feel.  

EPs ‘Astroturismo’ and ‘Octavia Dimension’ followed three years later in 2021, offering up hypnotic melodies with beefy lower-ends. She also made appearances on Boiler Room and Lab LDN, securing the DJ’s name among a new generation of old-skool house producers. “Production is really important,” she explains. “I don’t want to leave it behind. For me, production comes before DJing.” And as her discography shows, Tape has stepped her output up since the pandemic. EPs aside, she’s also released a number of singles on !K7, Planet Trip and Ransom Note, as well as remixing a slew of tracks in the past two years alone. Her take on Totally Enormous Extinct Dinosaurs’ ‘When The Lights Go’ was a real moment of pride. “It was so fun to work on that. It’s weird for me to say I’m happy with my releases, but with that one I’m very proud.” 

Tape held down a residency at Worldwide FM for two years with Astral Jam. It was a show for the mellow side of her collection, cuts outside the 4/4 wheelhouse, as well as those discoveries she released through Tempo Dischi, her ’80s Italian reissues imprint. “I like to dig not just for club music, but also for old and new jams,” she shares. “I miss the show because it was therapy for me, going out of the mindset of clubbing. It was an hour of a gift for myself.” Before Worldwide she was at Radio Raheem in Milan, hosting her Music for Plants show. What was the concept? “I have a lot of plants in my home,” she opens, we imagine with a smile. “Some of them can clean a space and set a good vibe, and as I wanted to take care of them, I wanted to share music with them, have a dialogue with them.”  

Tape’s appeared on a number of radio stations over the years — London’s NTS, Bali’s Potato Head, Rinse France and Sydney’s triple j — but since Worldwide came to an end she’s been keen to hone in on her production. “I think it’s important to do radio mixes and I like the idea of inviting DJs to play, but now I’m more focused on taking care of my music production. I put a lot of research and effort into my radio shows, so if I have a show I want to have a concept, I want it to be more than just about playing at the clubs.”  

Earlier this year, Tape launched Hola Mundo — Hello World in English — a club night with residencies in London, Paris and Milan. “The inspiration was to create a space where I could build a stronger link with the crowds and bring great line-ups that align with my taste,” she tells us. “Each line-up is very mixed, inclusive. I would like to invite more artists from all around the globe. As a South American living in Europe I feel the need to be more inclusive and not Eurocentric, only booking DJs from Europe. But for that you need a budget, you know?” she laughs. So far, Palms Trax, CC:DISCO, Optimo, Massimiliano Pagliara and Kim Ann Foxman are all signed up, and if things take off, Tape will take the party series further afield. “I would like to bring Hola Mundo parties out of Europe, maybe do something in Chile — that would be a big dream.”