Name: Aitor Etxebarria
Occupation: Composer, producers
Current Release: Nihilism Part 1 on El Segell.
Recommendations: Jorge Oteiza’s work
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When did you start composing - and what or who were your early passions and influences?
I started composing and writing when I was 17/18. My brother bought his first samplers and software and I started making my first drafts. Nothing serious I guess but I’m still a fan of my first night shifts on the controls.
For most artists, originality is first preceded by a phase of learning and, often, emulating others. What was this like for you? How would you describe your own development as an artist and the transition towards your own voice? What is the the relationship between copying, learning and your own creativity?
I think my brother was the icon here. He started composing and I just sat near him in the studio, so in a way I started copying my brother to find my own time and space.
What were some of the most important creative challenges when starting out as a composer and how have they changed over time?
The first challenge was to have a sound and aesthetic where my personality was reflected. Now I think I am where I wanted to be.
Tell us about your studio/work space, please. What were criteria when setting it up and how does this environment influence the creative process? How important, relatively speaking, are factors like mood, ergonomics, haptics and technology for you?
I just moved to a new studio with a lot of light and space. I am not a fan of having a lot of gear, I have my Soundcraft 200 B Analog mixer, a grand piano, some vintage synths like the Juno 106 and the poly 800, some analog effects like the Roland dep 5 , a Teac reel to reel .... I love to have just the essentials so I can build my own sound. I actually work best during the daytime - I used to work more during the nights back in the day but now that I am focused 100% on music and arts, I love working early in the morning in the studio.
Could you take us through a day in your life, from a possible morning routine through to your work? Do you have a fixed schedule? How do music and other aspects of your life feed back into each other - do you separate them or instead try to make them blend seamlessly?
I try to wake up early, like 7:30 am. Boil a proper Coffee and breakfast at home and then go by bike or underground to the studio. Bilbao is super comfortable and I really enjoy having my studio here. Usually I work till lunch time then I have a small nap and I go back to the studio till 8-9 pm. I work on music the whole week, mostly studio time and band rehearsals during the week and shows during the weekends so music is my Life I guess. But still have some other hobbies like doing weekly sport and hanging out with friends that are not related to the music industry. It is important for me to have a life outside of the music industry.
There are many descriptions of the ideal state of mind for being creative. What is it like for you? What supports this ideal state of mind and what are distractions? Are there strategies to enter into this state more easily?
I need to feel comfortable with myself, healthy and fresh. I used to workout 3 times a week. It is true that sometimes the best ideas on the piano might appear whilst in some irregular state of mind, but then I need to be comfortable again to turn that magic into something real. I guess balance is my perfect state of mind, I love to hang out and grab some wine and relax with friends, but I also need to be fresh to retain the correct vision of my compositions.
Could you take me through the process of composing on the basis of one of your pieces that's particularly dear to you, please? Where did the ideas come from, how were they transformed in your mind, what did you start with and how do you refine these beginnings into the finished work of art?
The second song of the album "Can't see nobody’’. I composed it in 2014 and it is with this song that I decided to record this length album. I started with a Rhodes chord arrangement and the vocal lyrics
“Can`t see nobody here
Can’t see nobody here
Just you and the trees”
Then I met Hannot Mintegia at the studio and he played those Rhodes chords on the guitar and and the energy was transformed. I used to listen to the draft every day till a trumpet melody just came into my mind and the fantastic musician “Amorante” transformed it into something eternal.
How do you make use of technology? In terms of the feedback mechanism between technology and creativity, what do humans excel at, what do machines excel at?
That’s actually why I use just a few pieces of gear. I hate having the feeling that the machines are controlling my productions. Sometimes I love the aleatory, but need to touch the ground.
Collaborations can take on many forms. What role do they play in your approach and what are your preferred ways of engaging with other creatives, including the artists performing your work?
I am lucky that I am surrounded by a lot of great musicians and friends. It is true that I love to work alone for the first steps of the compositions, because I am too sensible to other energies on the studio, but after the first drafts are done I love to work on the tracks with other musicians.
How is writing the music and having it performed live connected? What do you achieve and draw from each experience personally? How do you see the relationship between improvisation and composition in this regard?
I remember with great pleasure the last band tour with the original soundtrack that icomposed for Markak. The original recordings were super minimal, atmospheric and sparse. But we started performing live shows around the world and the energy of some tracks at the end of the tour was stunning. We love to have different shows, not having everything closed, talking about arrangements etc, so we just go with the flow of the crowd and venue. It is fundamental to me to have these open fields.
Time is a variable only seldomly discussed within the context of contemporary composition. Can you tell me a bit about your perspective on time in relation to a composition and what role it plays in your work?
In my last album there’s a one minute long song and a 13 minute composition closing the album. I always try to follow my instant intuition and don’t follow rules. I like punk records with some 15” tracks on them ....
How do you see the relationship between the 'sound' aspects of music and the 'composition' aspects? How do you work with sound and timbre to meet certain production ideas and in which way can certain sounds already take on compositional qualities?
For me the sound and the aesthetics are vital. I have the same respect for aesthetics as for the academic approach to composition.
Our sense of hearing shares intriguing connections to other senses. From your experience, what are some of the most inspiring overlaps between different senses - and what do they tell us about the way our senses work? What happens to sound at its outermost borders?
I like the soft touch of objects but at the same time I love the imperfections. I think the forms and imperfections affect my art aesthetics.
Art can be a purpose in its own right, but it can also directly feed back into everyday life, take on a social and political role and lead to more engagement. Can you describe your approach to art and being an artist?
I don't consider myself an activist, but I do like to be consistent with what I would like in an ideal world, so in art and more in the art business I try to remain ethical in all my human relationships. If this could help for a better world I would be a little happier.
It is remarkable, in a way, that we have arrived in the 21st century with the basic concept of music still intact. Do you have a vision of music, an idea of what music could be beyond its current form?
I think the basics will stand here forever. Like a proper rice or pasta will always work on your menu. It is true that art needs to find other spaces and state of minds that never appeared before. But art must help us refine the basics, too.