Part 1

Name: Francesca Lombardo
Nationality: Italian
Occupation: Sound Artist, Producer, DJ
Current Release: Terra Remixe on Echoe
Recommendations: Luio Zau 8118 series painting n.2  - Zau is one of my favourite painters at this time, I love all of his paintings but this one is particularly amazing.
Kende "Wasted time" painting - Another great classic on canvas from one of my favourite graffiti artists.

Visit Francesca Lombardo online on her Facebook page.

When did you start writing/producing music - and what or who were your early passions and influences? What what is about music and/or sound that drew you to it?

I started writing music on my piano at 6. I was always inventing melodies and loved to play my own stuff. I remember I wrote a song for a carnival play I was doing with my classroom, and it became the song of that particular show. My schoolmates and I had to sing it at the end. I always had fun writing but producing came a bit later when I slowly started to buy studio equipment. At this point I was already in London, it must have been 2001, in search of bands to play with whilst working with a couple of friends. We were into techno and electro, with influences from acid techno and underground artists such as Henry Cullen and Darc Marc to the electro artists on Gigolo Records. At the time, I remember feeling that I was a good enough writer but had to learn production properly, so I went on a course to do so. It was an easy choice as I was completely in love with electronic music, drawn to all synthesizer sounds.

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 had always sung since doing the opera with school and I was constantly part of bands in my hometown, so I was always singing for one reason or the other. I started as a musician before becoming a producer. All I had was my piano and my voice and I was not DJing back then either. When I moved to London I had a wide choice of engineering and sound technology schools to begin studying electronic music properly. Any music I made I was keeping for myself, as I didn't think I was ready to share it with others. Although in their early stages, the tracks had great ideas but I wanted to be a more advanced engineer. I didn’t really like the computer thing or audio loops but soon started falling in love with hardware gear. I have never copied anyone but I was inspired by other artists for sure. Saying this, I have always chosen not to listen to any music whilst in the studio, as I don’t want to be conditioned by what I am hearing, aiming to keep a pure sound of my own.

What were your main compositional and production-challenges in the beginning and how have they changed over time?

I guess my new equipment and studio were my challenges. For the first time I was composing with a different instrument, not just a piano or a guitar, so the way I wrote my melodies and tracks became different. The equipment you choose is going to determine your way of making music.

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 studio at the beginning was small. I had a computer, a pair of monitors, a small mixer and my first synth, an MS2000, and a Rode Mic. As a producer you will never stop discovering new toys, constantly wanting to improve your studio. It helps develop your music. At the moment my favourite pieces of equipment in my studio are my new Arturia Matrix Brute, which is a very powerful and flexible monophonic synthesizer, and my Minimoog Voyager.

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?

As humans we can excel at ideas, deciding what we want the synth or machine to play. Depending on which synth you are using, sometimes you find that the machine almost behaves how it wants to. I personally don't have a formula but sometimes I can get creative just by playing a particular sound from a synth and routing that signal through outboard FX whilst playing with them. Sometimes, I use just one synth with an arpeggiator and create very fun melodies, rather than playing them myself. The world of technology is so wide and even if you understand your equipment, the mechanism between you and the machines can become very creative and unpredictable.

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?

I know my studio pretty well, so I know how I can get what I want from it. When I introduce something new into the studio, I try to welcome it as if it were a person. I try to study it and understand it, so I can make a full use of it later. If something doesn't work for me I just get rid of it or put it to one side.

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 think any of those methods you named above could work. Whatever it takes for you to get along and be able to collaborate with someone. I have done all of them and I think jamming is probably my favourite. You can enjoy yourself with the other person and both of your creative sides can come out more strongly. All you need to do is press record.

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 always try to start my day by doing the most boring things, e.g. answering emails or anything that could distract me before going into the studio. I try to free my mind with some meditation and play piano for a bit. I love doing yoga and some exercise before sitting down for 14 hours. My favourite time to go to the studio tends to be in the afternoon and then I continue through the night but not too late. At times I am so deep into a track that I just wake up and go straight into the studio in my pyjamas but that is only something that happens when I am really, really taken with my 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?

Sometimes I follow a concept, so for instance if I am singing on a track I usually start with the melody and write the lyrics after or use lyrics I already have, changing them later to suite the track. I try to say what I want to say but also make sure the lyrics fit the music and the melody to their best. I always see the track as a final product from the moment I have started. I often already have the idea in my head and I try to visualise it. "Eye Ring" was done that way. I started with an idea and the finished product was that idea put into music.

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 think a healthy state of mind certainly helps to create. Things like meditation, yoga and a smile go a long way. I aim to keep the phone away from the studio most of the time, avoiding emails also. I love taking breaks as well, going for walks, cooking, before heading back into the studio. However, if your mind is free from problems and you can really get into your work, you probably don't need to take breaks or even to eat.

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?

Sometimes you find yourself composing something from playing around spontaneously at first. It seems more magical when that happens and for sure more fun. Sometimes you can spend ages working on a track and it never happens. I usually leave it on the side and come back to it later. I think there is a strict relationship between the two and it's always better when they are both 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?

I try to use outboards and certain fx to create space in my music. I usually try to think of the music as a space itself and create more space within that. Reverbs, delays, chorus, filters and dynamics are all part of my everyday sound processing tools in my studio.

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?

Apart from one sense heightening another, a beautifully presented meal making it more delicious for example, I’m not sure I can really relate to what you are touching on above. Like I say, I will often visualise an idea in my minds eye before going into the studio and what comes out in the end is music. Also, something visual and separate to sound can definitely inspire my creativity, which is channelled in a different way.

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 love music, it is definitely my passion, I also love any form of art, it means freedom to express yourself, which ultimately can really speak to you and others, sending meanings way beyond words. I sometimes have  ideas for paintings or other forms of art but I still don't find the space to do it in my heart or brain. There are still lots of stories I want to tell through my music.

It is remarkable, in a way, that we have arrived in the 21 st 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 music is a form of energy that travels. But I'm not sure where it travels besides our world.