Name: Alex Stein
Occupation: Producer, DJ
Current Release: Zeit / Atomkraft on Senso Sounds
Ray Charles and Johnny Cash - Music
Interstellar and The Arrival - Movies
The Secret – Book
Website / Contact: If you enjoyed this interview with Alex Stein, his soundcloud profile and facebook page are probably the best points of departure to find out more about his work.
When did you start writing/producing music - and what or who were your early passions and influences? What is about music and/or sound that drew you to it?
Basically I started going out to local parties and rave events and just got more and more involved in it, always trying to learn more about the music itself and how it was made. From there on it was a long process of learning how to produce and make music and pefecting my skills. It got really serious when I went to Frankfurt and had my first actual real techno experiences and I realised that this was what I wanted for my life: making and living of music.
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 that is an interesting statement and really true, as I’ve myself experienced that and it seems that others go through the same. I honestly don’t think I have found my ‘voice’ as much as I have found a production style which can translate into my ‘own sound’. I believe that an artist is the sum of all of his influences so that never actualy stops happening. Still to this day, if I hear something that I like, I try to replicate it just to know how it was done. From there on, understanding the sound, gives me a lot more room to grow and experiment.
What were your main compositional- and production-challenges in the beginning and how have they changed over time?
I think the biggest challenge is and always will be to be original, and more, to create something no one has heard before. That is still a challenge to me and will never change I hope, because if you are always doing the same formula (even one you yourself invented) you stop to grow as a creative artist and start copying older versions of yourself.
What was your first studio like? 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 first studio was a Macbook and Sennheiser headphones for about 3 or 4 years. That continued until I moved back to Brazil in 2009 and used the knowledge I’d gained at the SAE Institute to design and build my very first professional studio. That is the same studio I am still in to this day. The only things that have changed since then apart from a few synths that have come and gone were the acquisition of my beloved Moog Sub37 and the update of my DAW and computer as softsynths got more and more CPU hungry.
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?
I use technology as a means to make my music. It all depends on technology, if there were no computers, I couldn’t make the music I make, so even with all the creativity, I still rely on machines to make the sounds in my head come to life.
Production tools, from instruments to complex software environments, contribute to the compositional process. How does this manifest itself in your work? Can you describe the co-authorship between yourself and your tools?
Well, I am the one turning knobs and composing, so I wouldn’t consider it a co-authorship, I own the tools, and use them to my advantage.
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 through, for example, file sharing, jamming or just talking about ideas?
I really like to collaborate, especially with friends and people I enjoy spending time with. I like to make music personally, so not over the Internet or anything like that. I think it's necessary to be in tha same room for the chemistry to really happen, at least in most cases.
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 do have a fixed schedule that I try to live by. Emphasis on ‘try’. But I try to work in the studio everyday, even when I don’t feel inspired, I think it’s important. A lot of my work came from sessions where I wasn’t anywhere near inspired, but it just kind of happened. Like I heard someone say ‘creativity has to catch you working in order for it to work’.
Could you describe your creative process on the basis of a piece or album 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?
I don’t have a process per say. Like I said before, I just like to go into the studio open minded, in a good mood and that’s it. If I don’t feel inspired, I’ll listen to music or watch a movie that inspires me. Or maybe I’ll just keep working on a loop until something interesting happens. I have had whole tracks that were based on a mistake or a bug, which then in turn gave me an idea for a sound.
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?
Like I said before: Keep it simple and more importantly, keep an open mind. (laughs)
How is playing live and writing music in the studio connected? What do you achieve and draw from each experience personally? How do you see the relationship between improvisation and composition in this regard?
It’s all the same to me to be honest. It all falls down in the same category in the end of the day.
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?
Honestly, I just keep it simple. There’s no deep thoughtful process or philosophy to making music, I just sit down and let my mind wander, and it just happens.
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 never had a synaesthetic event in my life. Would be cool though!
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 consider myself someone just like anyone else. I was going to work with radio & TV until I decided to pursue my dream in music and I never even thought I might make it someday. I still don’t consider that I have. I’m just a dude making music in his studio, hoping that people will like and enjoy what I consider to be cool.
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?
Not really. I love music in almost all forms and shapes. As long as it is made with heart and the soul, that is all that matters.