Rock de Lux

by Arnau Horta, May 2003 (Madrid, Spain)

– What is your musical background? Do you think this background has been important to end up in what you are doing now or do you think your present way of working is more a reaction to that background?

I taught myself in guitar playing, music theory, acoustics / sound properties, analog and digital electronics. I did try to study in a school (i entered a course on “Analysis and composition techniques”, attended by people who had been in that school for 7 years), and it became clear to me that i was not interested in learning rules, but in discovering.
So my background was fully oriented towards being able to do my work. I played in rock bands with an experimental approach – later i became a rock producer – and this has left its mark in my identity.

– Did you have a musical training?

see above.

– Is there any artist or movement that influenced you and made you choose the type of music you do? I’m thinking about people working with drones like Charlemagne Palestine, Phil Niblock or also Indian and Australian aborigine music (made with digeridoo).

I have said many times that an influence may be reflected in many ways, and most of my influences are more of ideas and concepts than of music styles or forms. On a conceptual level, Cage and Eno were of great impoprtance. The influence of Alvin Lucier was very strong too. These were of course inseparable from my admiration for My Bloody Valentine and Sonic Youth.

– It is really difficult to describe the type of music you do by using determinate names of styles. Can you think of any name/s? Of course this is the most typical journalist question…sorry 🙂

Hmm, i’m afraid i can’t help you with that… and my work takes on different forms, one could call them different names too…

– Why did you choose the guitar as the main source of your work? Was this by chance or you actually ended working with guitars after considering other different options?

I started playing acoustic guitar at age 12, and before i even had my first electric guitar i had perceived that the sound of an electric guitar can be transformed in many interesting ways. I was fascinated by the idea of sound transformation very early and the electric guitar was the perfect instrrument for that.

– Why and how did you start this non-traditional approach to the instrument?

I wanted to have an infinite sustain sound (at a time when digital reverb was a thing you would only find in expensive studios, and i didn’t even know e-bows existed), so i devoted many years into finding different ways to achieve it. My first technique was playing a note, fading it in with a volume pedal and having it repeated with a delay, that’s how i recorded the opening and closing tracks on “Sound Mind Sound Body”.

– What other instruments/elements do you use to expand the sound of the guitar? Do you use computer?

The first item of “expansion” is really how you look at the guitar, how you handle it and approach it. That’s halfway into the sound. In the last years i have been using a modular analog system, which is very open. Before that, i was inseparable from an old guitar synthesizer of which i only used the distortion and filter, and all the typical stuff, like distortion, delays, tremolo, wah-wah, etc… Although i use hard-disk based recording since 10 years ago, now i am preparing myself to use the computer as a live processing tool.

– How do you use these elements? Is the idea of making the guitar sounds unrecognizable an important issue for what you do?
Not as an ending in itself, that is the process to do something else…

– In “Violence of Discovery and Calm of Acceptance” (by the way, an amazing record) you mention which type of guitar you used in each piece. This make me think that the source is important for you. Could we say you explore guitars differently depending on their characteristics? What kind of characteristics are that?

Not really. Please note that VDCA was recorded in 7 years, so it’s natural that in each case i would use the guitar most currently used….

– Do you use computers? I thought Ambarchi was using one computer but he doesn‚t. I actually see some similarities between your music and his. Do you agree?

No. I think Oren tends to work within instantaneous creative processes, whereas i tend to work with very slowly developing compositions. Although i improvise too, improvisation only allows a very limited control, if any, of form. And that shows in the recordings. This is not in any way suggesting that one is better than the other, of course.

– Oren mentioned that he likes the idea of getting lost inside the sound. Is this something you are interested in?

No. I mean, i would only choose another word, not “lost”. It doesn’t make sense to lose track of where things are going. I am interested in discovering new dimensions of a sound, but i must know, as exactly as possible, how i arrived there and where i go after. Playing abstract sounds with a guitar is something far more technical that one can imagine. But it’s good to provide a space for the audience to get “lost”…

– Are there big differences between your live shows and the music you do for records? I’m asking because I see some really big differences between the “Violence of Discovery…” cd and the live show you recorded in Paris.

There are some… especially because i have different composition methods for live performances and for studio pieces. Currently i want to merge the two, to have the same activity producing results for both studio and stage. This has been a handicap of mine, because i have to double the work…