Part 1

Name: Carlos Abraham Duque Alcivar aka Abe Duque
Nationality: American-Ecuadorian
Occupation: Producer
Current Release: Abe Duque executive-produced the apaull debut EP 4Sol, out now via Furnace Room.
Gear Recommendations: I will talk again about any TB 303 or clone for basslines. For me, it's the most mesmerising piece of equipment ever. It is something that I can play with for hours and hours and never get tired of. It is almost a religion to me at this point. Check it out! Maybe you don't like it.
Other than that, let me look around; I have so much that I really love. If you want to talk about synthesisers, there is one synth that rules them all, and I don't think anything has really topped it, which is the Korg MS-20. This synthesiser has so much character. It screams and cries and feels alive. It's rock and roll, it's techno, it's everything. If I went on stage and played with just that alone, I could really feel like I'm jamming with a guitar or something like that. So an MS-20, a Korg MS-20.

[Read our apaull interview]

What was your first studio like?

Well, it depends on what you mean by a studio.

I have been collecting gear since I was a teenager, but I wouldn't say I had a studio until I dedicated a room in my house to the work I was doing with electronic equipment. I'd say that was maybe in the early 90s. And it was, you know, a room with some speakers and a couple of synthesisers, a drum machine, a sampler, and maybe a Boss 16-Channel Mixer with treble and bass for EQ control and no returns or sends for effects.

Yeah, that was my first studio.

How and for what reasons has your setup evolved over the years, and what are currently some of the most important pieces of gear for you?

Well, as I said, I started rather early and had already been collecting gear in the 80s. I know that the first synthesisers I bought, I still own today. I didn't keep every synthesiser and piece of gear that I ever owned, but I kept a lot of them, and whatever I got rid of, I usually traded up for something else. So I've had a lot of time to amass a pretty big collection of gear.

The reason that my setup has evolved is just that I'm a hoarder and I love the gear! The most important pieces for me? Well, they all are. If they're here with me, they are here because they're my friends, and I see them as friends somehow. There are some standouts; the TB 303, my original TB 303, and maybe my 101. They feel very close to my heart.

There is also one of the first synths I bought, a Korg Poly-800, that is still near and dear to me. But I guess they are all my friends and I love them all.

A studio can be as minimal as a laptop with headphones and as expansive as a multi-room recording facility. Which studio situation do you personally prefer – and why?

Well, it depends again on what you mean by a studio. The studio is just an artist's space to work or a place where projects can be developed, which of course, could just be your laptop with headphones.

For many reasons, the simpler setups like a laptop with headphones or even just a few pieces of gear in a room can be the most productive because they have limitations. You're not in a room, a set of rooms, or a whole complex that promotes paralysis by analysis because you feel like you should be using everything in there. What do you use first? Then you don't end up doing anything.

That happens to me in my bigger studio setup. I have to find ways to narrow down the work to a few pieces and then move forward through that. Or maybe setting a target. That always works for me.

From traditional keyboards to microtonal ones, re-configured instruments (like drums or guitars) to customised devices, what are your preferred controllers and interfaces? What role does the tactile element play in your production process?

Well, I am quite tactile. The ability to put your hands on things versus just a finger on a mouse has always been very important to me. I have been working in studios before mice were even a thing and before the computer was all that important, and I have always treasured the fact that I can put my hands on knobs or use two hands to grab a couple of knobs at the same time and make things happen. Tactile controls have always always been great to me!

One of the great things about programmes like Bitwig and Ableton is that they allow me to map controllers to interface with the software, and I can then do the same as with my analogue gear. But for some reason, the fact that you can map a particular parameter to a controller and then remap it and remap it again, and maybe multi-map it, kind of takes away some of the limitation. The fact that it can always be in flux takes away some of the freedom you get when you have a control mapped directly to a filter, let's say, and that's always going to be the cut-off frequency no matter what.

It is such a relief having the type of control you get with analogue synthesisers. Many people like the Ableton Push controller, but I don't because of these ever-changing controls. The parameters under these knobs constantly change depending on what you're looking at on the screen or the screen you're flipping to on the controller itself. This throws me off.

To me, it is super important to keep moving forward. I know this sounds a bit counterintuitive, but it's true.

In the light of picking your tools, how would you describe your views on topics like originality and innovation versus perfection and timelessness in music? Are you interested in a "music of the future" or "continuing a tradition"?

Well, that's kind of a loaded question. You can't exclude either of those two things, music of the future and continuing with tradition.

I guess the continuation of tradition is impossible not to observe. Everything you've done up until now has happened because of the tradition that has come before it or becomes the tradition now from what was before.

Just think about something as simple as a bass drum. Where does that come from? It's a sample or an emulation of what would happen when you take an actual physical bass drum and play it. But before there were computers, you would have to play the drum, and you would have people that learned how to play these instruments adeptly and in great ways. You would also have artisans that can build these devices or drums.

You can keep moving back through the tradition and none of that can be disconnected from the final product. The final product, or what we use right now, will always be tied to the tradition so there's no way to escape it regardless. I understand you mean respecting the set boundaries, maybe in genres that might be traditional and to flourish within that style. That's okay, but for me it's never really been about doing that. I've never been that gifted to master any particular style.

And the music of the future? We can't avoid doing that either because we live on a constant path towards the future. We're always in the present, travelling towards the future. What we're making today is somehow the music of the future. Being forward thinking is maybe what you're getting at, and this is a very positive and great wave of work, but a little bit too much of that, and people don't understand what you're doing.

So I think all of the above has been the case in my pursuit of music and its creation. I think the word timeless is the best that I can strive for, something that works now and forever and will be appreciated years from now in the same way. Something that doesn't become dated. So timeless, let's say.

Most would regard recording tools like microphones and mixing desks as different in kind from instruments like keyboards, guitars, drums and samplers. Where do you stand on this?

They're all tools. All of them, and I see them all the same way.

Of course, I know that a certain tool will yield a certain outcome quicker. If I want a bassline, I grab a bass guitar, right? If I want a snare sound, I may record a snare or pull a drum machine with a snare available. All these things have a certain sound, but then there are unintended, happy accidents that you could have with them. This is what we call breaking the model, right? So we model something for a particular purpose and then use it in a way that was never intended, which is always a lot of fun. You don't always have a great result, but sometimes things work out well.

The original use of the TB 303, for example, one of my favourite tools ever, was to kick your bass player out of the band. You could have a bassline that would be computer controlled and sounds just like your bass player, but the idea didn't work too well. Actually, that device flopped and Roland discontinued its sale. It was later discovered by producers who realised that it did have something to do with bass, but in a new context, and an entirely new context that had never occurred to its creators. There was born acid.

So this is a great way to illustrate what I'm talking about. Breaking the model is often amazing, but sometimes the result is pretty dull.

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