Name: Avision aka Anthony Cardinale
Current release: Avision's In My Mind LP is out via Ellum Audio.
Gear recommendations: I am always raving about my Korg Minilogue, and I think everyone should have a Nord Lead in their studio!
If you enjoyed this interview with Avision and would like to explore his work in more depth, visit his profiles on Instagram, Facebook, and Soundcloud.
We also recommend our earlier Avision interview.
What was your first studio like?
Growing up I always had a studio in my house. My father is also a musician, who was always programming music for his band. Although, when I first started getting into making music I started off with KRK monitors, Logic Pro 7, and an M-Audio midi controller in my bedroom.
How and for what reasons has your set-up evolved over the years and what are currently some of the most important pieces of gear for you?
My setup has definitely changed over the years, becoming more familiar with outboard gear, and learning synthesis made me inspired to keep evolving my studio. I think the more my ear matured, and kept getting better with music production the more I kept changing things around.
I had a great start from my father as he always was a gear head as well. So I definitely fell in love with all the gear he had, which made me start adding to his collection. Some of the most important pieces in my studio are my Korg Minilogue Xd, Nord Lead Rack 2, my dad’s Korg Ex-8000, and his Yamaha DX7.
The digital studio promises endless possibilities at every step of the process. What is it that you actually need from these potentials and how do go about you selecting it? How do you keep control over the wealth of options at the production stage?
The digital studio has definitely become endless with so many plugins, and sounds accessible to everyone. I think the most important piece to all of this is to find a plugin or synth you love and learn it to the best of its abilities. I have so many plugins, and sometimes I like to just stick to one during my creative process. I kind of know where to go now for certain parts that I’m looking for. Although, sometimes I find myself getting inspired by a new plugin and realize the change is what I needed.
I tend to stick to simplicity when it comes to options, I feel that when I have too much in front of me I almost “over produce” my tracks and start to add too much. I like to stick to a lot of original sounds, for example a classic 909 or even a Linn Drum kit. Some sounds will never get old, and I feel that if the parts are good, and you process them in your own way, you can create your own identity.
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?
Tough question, but every situation is different. I find myself sometimes cranking out some of my best work with just my laptop. Although, I feel like when I sit in my room I can push the envelope a little bit more. I think it comes down to learning the basics, and when you know the basics so well, you can make music in any situation.
I personally like creating in my studio, and then taking it on my laptop so I can tweak, and change things in my headphones.
From traditional keyboards to microtonal ones, from 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?
I am definitely a more traditional guy, like I said I like to keep things simple.
My current controller is the Native Instruments Komplete Kontrol 2, and my interface is a UAD Apollo Twin Duo - I love them both as they are super easy to navigate with. The Komplete Kontrol makes my life so easy with selecting sounds, and playing on something that feels great.
My UAD interface has been a game changer for me in my studio as the plugins that you buy from them are absolutely top-notch. I’ve been able to take my sound to the next level because of it. They both play a major role in my process, because they are super user friendly, and the quality on both products are amazing.
How would you describe the relationship between technology and creativity for your work? Using a recent piece as an example, how do you work with your production tools to achieve specific artistic results?
The relationship between technology, and creativity for me go hand in hand when I’m working. For instance in my record “Contrast” there are certain filters and reverb on my vocal chain that inspired me to manipulate my audio a certain way. I believe technology now inspires my creative process to get a certain result that I’m looking for.
I now write my parts a certain way so technology can help me make them stand out.
Within a digital working environment, it is possible to compile huge archives of ideas for later use. Tell me a bit about your strategies of building such an archive and how you put these ideas and sketches to use.
I never like to build an archive of projects. To me it is one of the worst habits in music production, as I always like to finish what I start. Sometimes I write things to come back to but I make sure I finish them while I have the idea in my head.
I always like to strike when the iron is hot, rather than coming back to something that is a month old, and have lost the original ideas I had planned for it. Very rarely I will go back on files to recreate something, I always have the tendency to make new ideas if one idea isn’t working for me.
Despite the aforementioned near endless possibilities, many productions seem to follow conventional paths. How do you retain an element of surprise for your own work – are there technologies which are particularly useful in this regard?
For me, it comes down to staying true to yourself and what you bring to the table as an artist. I like to always stay inspired from DJing or listening to music outside of the genres I make. I wish I could say I turn to one certain thing when I’m in the process, but it doesn’t work for me. Although, sometimes when I turn on my analog gear, I like to dig, and design sounds. From that process I end up getting inspired from something, whether it be a certain chord progression or even a cool sample.
As I said I always like to keep it simple, and fresh. I always start from a blank canvas, I never like to use the same sounds twice, and I think that is what the element of surprise is for my sound. Everytime you listen to my records you hear something new or different.
Production tools can already suggest compositional ideas on their own. How much of your music is based on concepts and ideas you had before entering the studio, how much of it is triggered by equipment, software and apps?
I would like to say 50% of my ideas happen before the studio, and the other half is inspired by equipment or software. I really like when I have something in my head before the studio because it’s always fun to bring that idea to life. You’d be surprised how many times the voice memo app on my iPhone has come in handy.
How important is it for you that you personally create or participate in the creation of every element of a piece – from sound synthesis via rhythm programming to mixing?
It is extremely important for me to be a part of every aspect of my music. I think that is what separates a true artist, and producer these days.
I love having my own identity, and that all comes with being involved in every element. I feel like after putting in so many years of production, I am proud to play every note on all of my records.
Have there been technologies which have profoundly changed or even questioned the way you make music?
As soon as I got into analog and outboard gear it changed the game for me. It was the missing piece to my puzzle and it brought such a different skill set to my music. I almost feel like it made me mature as a producer and even made better on all of the other aspects in music production.
To some, the advent of AI and 'intelligent' composing tools offers potential for machines to contribute to the creative process. Do you feel as though technology can develop a form of creativity itself? Is there possibly a sense of co-authorship between yourself and your tools?
I do believe technology can develop a form of creativity itself. All it takes is one thing to inspire you which can either happen from a click of a button or just running through sounds. There’s endless possibilities on how you can use technology to contribute to the creative process.
I wouldn’t say there’s a co-authorship between myself, and my tools. Reason being is I am the driving force behind the technlogy. I am the one making things sound a certain way or playing my parts in a certain rhythm. I’m relying on my gear to help lay down my parts. Certain sounds I wouldn’t get out of just turning a plug-in on or an outboard synth.
Do you personally see a potential for deeper forms of Artifical Intelligence in your music?
I think it would be cool for sure, although my heart tells me it would make things a lot easier for people who have no experience making music, and our craft wouldn’t hold as much value. The easier it gets, the easier it is for someone to tour without any credentials or experience
What tools/instruments do you feel could have a deeper impact on creativity but need to still be invented or developed?
I think there is a ton of tools / instruments out there that have a major impact on creativity, etc. If I had to pick something that I think could make an impact I would love to see a talk box effect as an fx plug-in as I have yet to find something that is really great. I’m a huge fan of the talk box and I think it would change the game as far effects go!