Can you tell us a little bit about how you create music based around a concept, like you did with your album ¡Ay! ?
To me, making music has always been about creating a world, although I can definitely make music without having a concept behind it — that’s how I started working on ¡Ay!, I was making the sounds at first and created the concept afterwards. I would say that I’m not really a fan of translating the personal stuff into songs, which is why I end up making concept albums… I think there are enough love songs out there already! (laughs) Well, I can’t really say, maybe one day I will make a personal album too, who knows!
Is this why you liked composing scores, because there is this conceptual framework to base yourself on?
Yes, in a way… Although, while you may have this romantic idea of scoring (being the one in control of the tension, the emotion), you actually have to deal with lots of inputs from the people you’re working with. But it’s still a really nice thing, I love it actually!
When you scored movies and TV shows, did you still feel that you made something that connects with you?
Yes, yes! For the movie The Seed, I had to negotiate a few things with the team, but for the HBO show The Baby, I was able to provide the sounds that were needed much more easily. We quickly found a common ground between what I was interested in at the moment and what they were looking for.
Do these concepts (in your own albums as well as for scores) influence your choice of gear and instruments?
I think it goes both ways. For example, I once tried making an album using just a bass guitar, trying to find out how much I could make with that one instrument, using processing and whatnot. So, that was an interesting limitation.
For the album ¡Ay!, when I started, I already had some idea of what I wanted to make (staying somewhat close to the traditional sounds of Bolero), but then I had the idea of adding sounds that were unfamiliar to the genre, like synthesizers. In Bolero, you sometimes hear organs, but never synthesizers, so I wanted to add that in order to relate to the sci-fi aspects of the album.
I’m not sure why, but at some point I became obsessed with the idea of using a Prophet-6. I don’t know where that came from; sometimes I get attracted to instruments because I hear or see something that I like… I actually bought it without even trying it! I knew how it sounded, but had no idea if I would feel good with it. But now I’m full-on with this synth! (laughs)
It’s always an interplay between the instrument and the current inspiration, isn’t it?
Yes, and it’s also about knowing how to bring out your own personality using any given instrument. A few weeks ago, I was working with an ARP-2600, making sound demos. I sent them to a friend and he said “It sounds just like you but through this synth! How do you do it? And I don’t really know — I think we form these symbiotic relationships with instruments, or look for the voice that we like and that starts to resemble sounds that we previously made on other synths. We push them towards the sounds we’re used to making…
You’ve been doing a lot of voice processing for the album. I was wondering: when creating new sounds, do you usually start with a recording, or do you start with the experimentation?
A lot of what I do with voice is influenced by my first experiences with a Moogerfooger MIDI MuRF. I was using it to design patterns, and I was already trying to translate Bolero-style patterns into it, so that I could find new ways of working with it. Somewhere in there, I fell in love with the idea of processing sound rhythmically. So when I found the Make Noise Erbe-Verb, it quickly became one of my favorite instruments. The Erbe-Verb is not really rhythmic in itself, but you can force it to be rhythmical if you send complex envelopes to it. So, what I do is send graphic envelopes (made on the computer) of rhythms into the Erbe-Verb and then use it to process things that way. I also use vocoders a lot, and lately, the Mimeophon. These are the most distinct elements of voice processing found on the album.