Name: Cisco Ferreira
Current Release: I Want You on No.19 Music
Recommendations: Subway Art by Henry Chalfant and Martha Cooper and any art by Paula Rego
When did you start writing/producing music - and what or who were your early passions and influences? What is it about music and/or sound that drew you to it?
I started in 1988, was studying as a sound engineer for the Wall Studios. The Owner was John Payne from 80’s group “Asia”. Then I worked with first house and techno UK label “Jack Trax”, with early house pioneers, Adonis, Fingers Inc, and Larry Heard. They were my first influences to actually start producing music and what drew me to this music was 100% the machines they were using.
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 relationship between copying, learning and your own creativity?
My first ever “main” go to music was electro music, or latin freestyle and their amazing way to tape cut and edit. This form of cutting music I was obsessed with, and it led to my first ever productions being in this style of music. Then, it eventually evolved to more 4X4 house/acid house and later techno.
What were your main compositional- and production-challenges in the beginning and how have they changed over time?
Recording to 24 track “2-inch” analog tape and getting the best sounding EQ to tape so we could mix down clean sounding tracks. Then we would mix down various ways and patch certain effects to get certain results. Now you have so many plugins that you can do this process with a few clicks of the mouse ...
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 set up was mainly an EIII emulator sampler (keyboard version), Tac Scorpion Mixing Desk, a few effects, 909, 808, Oscar synth, Pro One, Korg M1 and MS20.
I kept most of my gear to date and have been more loyal to my hardware synths. My generation are all about machines not software, so to this day I still have 99% of all my gear from 1994 ... and still use my favs Pro One and Korg MS20.
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?
Machines and mistakes are what make the magic happen. A turn of a switch can make or break the session or vibe ... stumbling upon unknown sounds and weird sequences that you never tried, then you usually hit the spot ... human touch is important to get the most out of any machine - we are the programmers. They serve us and our needs, not theother way round.
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?
It’s a secret that I will not share. It’s taken me 3 decades to fine tune my process, and I'm not giving away my studio techniques. All I can say is discover your sound, use machines, hardware, even software, but chip away until you find your formula that makes your “hair” stand up, and make music that makes you feel good. It’s a labour of love.
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?
My past collabs all have been about me mentoring new artists, that are unknown or undiscovered. I share my time and show them how to approach and produce this techno and house music, and the way I approach my art. CJ Bolland, Mr. G and Industrialyzer all came through me. Without me, they would not be here today ... you’re welcome.
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?
Before I hit the studio, I wake up and do my workout. It's good to get the stress levels out first.
Then the first step is always working and tweaking the rhythms, finding the right sounds that work with each other, then move onto the bass. Once I get these two combinations working right, then the next level is just trial and error, trying different machines, exploring sounds, blending things together and keeping it simple.
This process can be quick. If I'm spending way too much time on an idea then I save and come back to it later in the month. I try not to spend too much time on ideas, they usually come quick. If you have the right sounds at your disposal then the results are quick, so I try to have an arsenal of sounds at my array.
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?
MY first G Flame Album “Who Knows” 1995/96.
This was a period when “tech house” was not really a genre and some producers were dabbling with upbeat house music, and it being a bit more electronic as opposed to straight up traditional house music which was 120bpm, Soulful, gospel Diva vocals, always piano riffs etc. I had a vision of using more techno elements and slowing the techno bpms to more house territory, and trying different combinations, making the rhythm more techno sounding but using those deep subtle house funky touches. I came across so many good ideas, and ended up creating a new unique style of music, that got us a lot of attention and a major record deal with BMG. I then released 6 singles and 1 album ... in a time when all these techno DJ’s didn't even know what tech house was and 100% didn't even touch it or play it. (20+YEARS LATER)
Present day lol, it’s more tech house than techno … 99% of techno DJs play this style now.
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 usually see it and can visualise the music- I can sometimes hear the finished product in my head, or in my dreams if I'm day dreaming. Over 3 decades, I learnt how to get certain sounds, instruments to match certain grooves. This takes time to master and develop. All good producers usually know what sounds work with what. This is key to being in the right state of mind, and it’s the creative process.
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?
Live for our style of music is more to road testing the music. Me having the opportunity to perform around the world, in some of the best venues, festivals and best sounding P.A.s. Test and check certain frequencies that may work, may or may not peak. Also what tweaks work best when you’re performing, sometimes things happen that were not expected, this comes from improving most of the time.
Studio tweaking is great, but the interaction with venue and crowd is the real test, the crowd usually lets you know if the energy is there.
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?
Our music, our tracks or songs etc, for me it's a journey and musical trip, and how we tell this story with sonics, with sounds and arranging it and making order of this sonic mess that’s in your head. Taking/Moving people to that place we call dance music, it’s fine tuning and crafting sound and blending textures. How you can tell a sonic story is an art form that takes time.
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?
The best example for me is music that makes my hair stand up. Up to 60+% of the human adult body is water, and when certain frequencies touch water there’s a reaction. Humans are energy and energy is vibrating, so we are affected by this natural process. Some artists have the gift to make this happen through DJing/performing music and making you feel good in your gut and your inner self.
For me, Jeff Mills is one of these artists, he makes the most purist form of techno music and performs in this exact unique way. When you watch artists like Jeff, who have zoned their craft down to a fine art, it’s really magical to watch and experience this live, in front of your eyes. All my senses (hair and water) are feeling something when Jeff is performing.
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?
Everybody has a reason and a purpose to do what they aspire to, be it art or not art, spoken word etc etc. Since an early age, music was always in my path and always a dream to make it full time. To finally do this as my main occupation has been years of hard work. With art you need time to develop your craft, it can be used as a powerful tool if done right, especially in today’s world, where musicians are just as important and powerful as leaders of the world.
It is remarkable, in a way, that we have arrived in the 2first 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?
Music is numbers, and numbers are more in our lives than ever before. So the future for sure will be an interesting calculation. From Classical to r&b, to rock, to reggae to electronic, it can keep going further, further and beyond ... Mars in the year 2120? That will be interesting.