Members: COQWE (Pedro Coquenão aka Batida), Ikonoklasta (Luaty Beirão)
Nationality: Portuguese and Angolan
Occupation: Producers, rappers
Current release: The Beginning, the Medium, the End and the Infinite on Crammed Disc
Recommendations: You should read about Lusona. A way of telling stories through drawings.
The first two albums by Bonga: 72 and 74. Two masterpieces from each of those years.
If you enjoyed this interview with IKOQWE and would like to find out more about them, visit their 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?
Dance. Drums. Those were my first impulses that I can recall. Getting together with my cousins at the age of 5 and trying to write lyrics and make something to share and present in family reunions. That was it. So I feel it was mostly due to this sense of family.
My mother is my main inspiration. She offered my first drum and she was really into all sorts of sounds. Coming from Angola she had a different taste than most of the other adults here. My aunt was also dancing and singing most of the times and my oldest cousin was also a great model role. He is also a one man Hip Hop situation : ) Got crazy by his set-up of Djing, Break Dancer and draws. Later, my step father, as he was a very skilled bass player. Attending rehearsals, going out to clubs and shows with him and my mother as a child was really striking.
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?
I don´t really know. One thing that I do know is that I fail when I try to copy something and end up going somewhere else quite often.
I started by trying to make something that would play at the Hacienda or Paradise garage. I am still trying do that. So I would say I started by doing it without thinking at all, as a child, and later I felt it so important that it took me till I was 30 to risk doing something.
Throughout my life I was mostly an avid listener, spectator and promoter of other people's art. I learned a lot by watching and listening and advising others.
What were your main compositional- and production-challenges in the beginning and how have they changed over time?
As I always relied a lot on software to produce, I had to learn everything about making it happen. It is a never-ending process but I would say that as I started really late I already knew what my passions were and I never tried to do something bigger than what I could do. I evolved slowly and by trial and error, taking much of my learnings through collaborations but mostly by watching and listening. These days I feel more confident in trying my own mixes and I know best how to achieve good ones.
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?
It is very similar to the one I have today. A computer, a soundcard and a microphone. It evolved with the need of having no handicaps as excuses for the basic ideas and to enjoy myself while doing it.
Now the soundcard is way better, as well as the computer, the headphones and I am surrounded by a few things I really like: a small Ampeg amp, a mini jazz chorus, a space echo pedal, a Technics turntable, an Analogue synth, Midi Fighter, Drum pads and particular percussions, a Neumann Mic and a fantastic RME Soundcard with a pair of Beyer Dynamics. Quite minimal though. I do have a pair of big monitors that are not accurate but just loud and pleasant to listen to while producing.
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 are able to repeat themselves. I am not. As I am not a skilled executant, that opens up chances for me to replicate what I have in my mind.
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 comes from the love I have from certain objects and sounds that mean a lot to me. I get inspired by many different things. My tools sometimes assume the form of imaginary musicians or moments in art history that I 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?
The most intense form for me is jamming and interacting in person, but ultimately, they're all inspiring. Usually it is mostly about file sharing and I rely a lot on the perception I have of the person I collaborate with and the vision I have of what we can achieve. Usually I work with people I do really feel inspired by. The context around me and how I perceive society, too. A shared meal is essential.
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?
No fixed schedule at all. Waking up really slowly. Checking the news. Brief social media checking. Getting into office mode. Trying to sort al email challenges so I can have some mind space for any creative challenge that I always have in my notes. When I get into it I just disappear for a good while. Sometimes I smile while doing it and at other times I end up frustrated thinking “This is it. I do not have a way out of this”. Eating, going outside and talking to my cats helps a lot.
I try to separate theses different dynamics between admin and creative work as much as possible. I do even use different names sometimes.
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 record was pretty much an attempt to go back to where the Golden Era of Angolan music paused and to connect it with the post war prolific moment in Luanda, specifically. Blending Semba with Drum Machines and trying to bring that melodic era and those conscious lyrics to Kuduro as well. Plus, adding rap to create something I hadn't heard before. It involved checking archives, old records, compilations, challenging befriended mcs and producers to get engaged with that idea of trying something which feels new, but is actually trying to restore a lost link.
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?
Warm, with my cat, with all the basic techs running with no issues, no interruptions and good vibes at home or with your studio partner at the time. Distractions may be requests by production or promotions or just basic needs such as trying to sort something at home.
No strategies, just accepting it when the opportunity arises and instead of waiting for the ideal situation, accepting when you feel it, even if it is just for a quick moment.
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?
When you do play live, things end up being less ideal and less overproduced. There's the feedback of the audience, the dancing and the overall perception you get by sharing something at such a loud volume and with so much more people outside of your bubble. I do usually do things from the heart. So it is mostly a matter of always being in recording mode after a period of having many things wandering in your mind or just capturing something that happened live.
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 do associate certain sounds with certain moments in my life or actual moments in music history. Using them can evoke them in a more personal way than a sample and they can lead you to the moment where you were when you first heard those type of sounds. There is a strong emotional and biographical aspect to it and also the ability to combine things that were not together in any other place than in your head before
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 relate a lot with the medium, such as radio, movement and a certain image that I may have. There is no particular order to this. It can happen differently, alone or combined.
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 think it is a very basic and essential human need. I am human and I just can't help relating myself and all basic needs and moments in life, including reacting and contributing to what is happening in the society I am in.
I really think it has to be a decision and an option not to be part of what is happening around you. Not the other way round. Meaning: I think I am most of the times engaged and feel it´s difficult not to be and being distant.
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?
It can go back to being a part of everyday routines and needs as essential and not as optional or just entertaining.