I think Schnitzler likes to experiment with different frequencies in modular synthesis, using ones everyone likes and ones that are off. He’s interested in the interference of frequencies by combining different tracks, and this is something strange sounding or unfamiliar. Normally you have a certain feeling for certain frequencies, something that reminds you of what’s cosy or safe or frightening or something else. I think there are some frequencies that are popular, and others that are kind of in between. He plays with that. When you’re producing, you’re choosing from your emotional musical experience by sifting through the ranges that interest you. My bass drums and hi-hats are always in a certain range, and DJs and people who have collective musical heritage share a sense of frequency. Does a modular set-up allow for greater exploration? Well, normal synthesizers have oscillators, filters and envelopes in a specific order, so you can expect a specific kind of sound. With modular synthesis you can squeeze and stir the directions, because the order of what affects the sound is adjustable. You can put a trigger impulse into a filter directly, while it’s normally generating the oscillator or the envelopes. You have infinite possibilities. I’ve been using modular systems for the past six years. My friends were always using it, but I was too lazy for a long time. I did little modular things with the computer, but it was really just smaller stuff. Then a very good friend told me, ‘You have to take it a step further.’ Who was that? Max Loderbauer, with whom I also recently remixed Schnitzler’s Zug. Max told me I’ve reached the highest level of what I was doing without modular systems and I needed to push forward. So I did. And that’s when my laziness disappeared. I was like a little kid connecting everything with everything and seeing what comes out. I became a child in the studio again.
Los Prisioneros “La Voz De Los 80” From La Voz De Los 80 (Fusión Producciones) 1984 [Immediately] Los Prisioneros, and [lead singer] Jorge González especially, are our true Chilean heroes. During the dictatorship he was too young to get killed and he was saying the truth. Through his performances and his lyrics he was informing the people about the political situation and injustice. Of course, he had a lot of problems, but he was never identified as an enemy and was never on any list to be assassinated. He created a political consciousness within a dictatorship – he moved the whole country and particularly the generation that is now starting to take power today. He’s also an amazing singer and songwriter. Did you listen to Los Prisioneros while growing up? Well, some Chilean exiles living in Germany, who my family knew, started to go back to Chile during the last three years of the dictatorship, because they mostly weren’t on the lists of people who were being hunted or forbidden from returning. I know that our parents’ generation wanted to go back. Exile lasted such a long time and lots of people lost patience. Some friends of mine who did go sent me cassettes of Los Prisioneros and told me how cool they were because they used drum machines with electric guitars and whatnot. And they were big Depeche Mode fans. But when I
Los Prisioneros’ Jorge González on Chilean TV, 1985
understood what they were singing about, I thought it was amazing. The group’s subtle lyrics were critical of the political situation without calling anything out by name. That has to do with our language culture. Spanish is always looking for indirect ways of telling you something, with little escape doors to get away if need be. It’s not the precise Northern European language. English is somewhere in between. German is very descriptive and precise, without any little doors to escape through if something’s not right. If you say something in German, you mean it like that. That’s very good for science, but it’s more difficult for having a human relationship. In Spanish you can say things in many different ways. It’s a big illusion – an illusion of hope that’s maintained until the last minute. But it’s not scientific enough for Northern Europeans.
Monolake “Infinite Snow” From Silence (Imbalance Computer Music) 2009 I don’t know who it is. It’s somebody who’s equally involved in music production and instrument/software design. It’s Monolake! I don’t know this track, but I know a lot of his music, and I like it a lot. He has a really technical approach, which produces really surprising results – especially in terms of the soundscapes and mixing. I like the person also. Robert [Henke] is a volcano of interesting ideas. In the past you’ve been very vocal with your criticism of Ableton software, particularly for how its audio engine colours things. I think I was misunderstood a little bit. I was saying that if you only produce with Ableton, then you might hear it. And then there was this massive discussion that followed. But I also use Ableton when I play live! It’s a very useful and genius program. What I was suggesting is to have a variety of sources of sounds when you produce... If you’re the technical guy who understands everything about how the program works, then you’ll have an incredible sound. I know many productions of Monolake made with this limitation that are perfect sounding because he helped develop the system and its sound engine. He knows how to work with it, how to exaggerate levelling and do what he needs to do, just like with the granular technology that you sometimes hear on the recordings. Of course, granular has its advantages and disadvantages. It describes the wave in little grains, putting more or less space between them. And space can sound very nice, but you can hear that it’s grain technology or samples. But for many of us, Ableton was the solution to things we were dreaming about: to have the possibility to synchronise the files or sounds in one moment, in real time. I started out producing my tracks in one bpm so I could combine all my audio. And then Ableton came out and it was perfect because we could just produce and have little parts of loops and things and synchronise them. This is amazing. But as I said, you can you use it as one part of your studio, but not the only part.
Magma “Hortz Fur Dëhn Stekëhn West” From Mekanïk Destruktïw Kömmandöh (A&M) 1973 This is the song that [Christian Vander’s 1995 track] “Baba Yaga La Sorcière” was based on, which I then used for my own version [“Enfants (Chants)”, 2008]. I don’t know so much about this band. I started to discover them when I bought this CD for my child, because it was remade as children’s music. I just had my first son and I was really into buying toys and I was seeing the world with other eyes, everything related to this little thing, you know? But when I first heard this, I realised it was something that grown-ups have to hear. It was complicated setting up the contract stuff for musical rights between my lawyer and their lawyer because they are a group of quite complicated and well-organised ex-hippies. But in the end it worked out fine. Was it the repetition that drew you in? Absolutely. Repetition is what gives you the opportunity to get what’s happening. But the reason to repeat something has to be good. Would you say there’s a predictability to the way we progressively hear loops differently over time? A kind of hermeneutics of loop duration where you know how it will be heard from minute one to minute five to minute ten? It depends on how long you listen. If you listen to a loop for hours and hours you start to find different things, spaces in between and developments. Also, when you’re listening to one sentence, you start to understand different words. I had this experience with this track from my last album, “Put Your Lips”. After hearing that sentence for a long time, someone eventually heard the words “I’m jealous”, which we then also recorded and put into the track to combine the two. Certainly a loop has to qualify through the hours. If not, then bye-bye. The way sounds and words morph from one thing into another in your music sometimes takes on a pleasant paranoid quality. Also, small sounds, like a single breath, become big; and big sounds, like yelling or singing, become small. Do you hear any sort of paranoia in your music? No. I don’t think my music is especially paranoidsounding. But paranoia is a very normal human feeling, like sadness. It’s like any normal human sensation, like waking up from a dream crying, even though you know
24 | The Wire | Invisible Jukebox | Ricardo Villalobos