While some artists are using quarantine to record and write music, USC DJ Rafi is “mastering mix” by experimenting with new DJ equipment to explore new ways to enhance the electronic dance music he produces.

Rafael Caro, known as DJ Rafi, is a USC Business Administration and Music Industry alumnus.

Before going to USC, Caro was interested in pursuing a corporate career. But after he started DJing at houses around Los Angeles he realized he could make his passion for producing an occupation. USC inspired Caro because he saw that he was making people happy through his musical performances.

His interest in music began long before his career at USC. Caro has always been drawn to music. His earliest memory with music was listening to the blind Italian opera singer Andrea Bocelli, an artist his parents would always listen to.

When he was five, his parents brought him a Casio keyboard, one that had built-in songs and where the notes lit up on the keyboard as the song played. He started learning songs on the keyboard and “got really hooked in the music.” He played in a band from 6th grade to 11th grade, which toured in Los Angeles and played a music festival in Texas.

Caro is influenced by guitarists like Jimi Hendrix. (Photo courtesy of Rafael Caro)
Caro is influenced by guitarists like Jimi Hendrix. (Photo courtesy of Rafael Caro)

For Caro, the process of making music is an intimate one.. The experience of listening to and crafting different sounds alone in his studio makes it thrilling when he is finally able to share it with a live audience.

Caro feels this thrill is “one of the coolest things that music has to offer.”

One of Caro’s biggest role models is legendary rock guitarist Jimi Hendrix. “He’s just a pioneer. He's a legend. He is the definition of what I think a true musician is, which is someone who just fully devoted his life to perfect his craft and like, doesn't care about what anyone says in the non-egotistical way,” Caro said.

Hendrix’s experimentation with the guitar, “inspired this other new wave of guitarists who further revolutionized how rock became pop in like the 80s and 90s,” Caro said. “If [Hendrix] was alive, I guarantee the music scene would be different. I think you’d definitely see more rock and more Zeppelin stuff, as opposed to a lot of rap.”

He is also inspired by DJs like Flume and Skrillex, who Caro believes influenced a generation of producers with their unique sound. “I guess my biggest role models are people who inspired not only me, but like, millions and millions and people musically and they're very pure and they stand for what they believe,” said Caro.

Caro is still experimenting with and exploring different genres of music and production techniques. Because of recent sales, he’s been able to buy different types of compressors and plugins and learn the best way to make the guitar and vocals in a track sound better. His favorite piece of production equipment is the Omnisphere, a virtual studio technology (VST) plugin that has “every sound you've ever wanted” and several sonic textures.

Caro’s music has no set genre and changes with every song he produces. He described his genre as a mix of Odesza and Porter Robinson with some accents of Flume and guitar. “Like a big, wild, Hippie Sabotage type vibe,” he said.

In terms of the future, Caro is looking forward to touring and being able to travel and make music on the road. He is planning on releasing new songs soon, which were all made in one day. Caro explained that his best ideas come to him the fastest and that he can have an entire track done in five hours.

Caro’s musical philosophy is that “less is more.” He plans to expand his demographic of listeners by simplifying EDM music and “staying true to unique soundscapes and textures.” Ultimately, he hopes even his parents can enjoy the music he produces in the future.