Name: Brandon Valdivia (aka Mas Aya)
Nationality: Canadian- Nicaraguan
Occupation: Drummer, Percussionist, Composer , Producer
Current Release: Máscaras on Telephone Explosion Records
Recommendations: “Canto, Palo y Cuero” by Martina Camargo / The Mu Sessions by Don Cherry and Ed Blackwell
If you enjoyed this interview with Mas Aya, you can explore his music further at his bandcamp page.
When did you start writing/producing music - and what or who were your early passions and influences? What was it about music and/or sound that drew you to it?
I started writing music during high school, about 15 years old after I had learned a bit of guitar and I would come up with these little riffs or melodies. Eventually I went to music school for composition so I learned a lot there about composing and constructing music and later began merging my instrumental experience with electronic production. Music just came so naturally to me once I started playing recorder at the age of 8 and the deep love and being affected by music I can remember from the beginning of my life. It just made me feel like nothing else.
For most artists, originality is 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?
Finding your own voice is a constant search or is a constant becoming. However, I do believe you have to emulate others to come to some sort of understanding of what one would like to pursue, and this is what I did and always do stepping into new modes of exploration. I would just try to recreate what I have heard that has touched me but then mix all of it together in a sort of alchemy creating something new and personal to my experience.
How do you feel your sense of identity influences your creativity?
I feel this is different to every person but for me it has lead me two specific areas of inspiration that perhaps someone not from the Central or South American and Caribbean area or familiar with those cultures would hear. So, my inspirations to at least some degree have come from what I have been exposed to as a result of my culture or sense of identity with my father being from Nicaragua. The musical practices of the Caribbean and Central and South America has directly fed into my creative practice. At the same time, I have been inspired by music that has nothing to do with my personal sense of identity.
What were your main creative challenges in the beginning and how have they changed over time?
I suppose my main creative challenges in the beginning of my creative life were trying to find what I wanted to say musically and how I would be able to execute that in a real-world situation. I spent many years playing drums and flutes independently from one another but never together so it took me a while to combine my melodic and rhythmic tendencies. Over time these challenges have changed according to my abilities in my technical knowledge and creative interests as they are always shifting in some way.
As creative goals and technical abilities change, so does the need for different tools of expression, be it instruments, software tools or recording equipment. Can you describe this path for you, starting from your first studio/first instrument? What motivated some of the choices you made in terms of instruments/tools/equipment over the years?
My first instrument was the recorder, then alto recorder which I played for some years. I then began percussion and drums and fell deeply, profoundly in love. Time passed and I was introduced to Ableton by a friend and from there became interested in electronic music and producing and making beats. I haven’t really learned too many new instruments other than the ones I played as a child (flutes, drums, percussion, guitar, piano) but for recent electronic interests they have been motivated by what I am exposed to and what I am attempting to accomplish musically.
Have there been technologies or instruments which have profoundly changed or even questioned the way you make music?
Once I began to play drums, flutes, piano, guitar, these instruments all altered how I view music. But once I began to explore Ableton in a way that was truly creative this altered my viewpoint of music making tremendously. It was amazing to me to see the plethora of creative possibilities in Ableton, electronic music and recording in general. Relatively recently I have begun to record myself playing drums and percussion and this has altered how I approach my production and electronic music practice.
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 love to play music with people but recently file sharing and collaborating remotely has been really fun and productive way to make music also. Recently a way that I have been collaborating has been asking questions about mixing and other elements of electronic music. I feel this has been a type of collaboration. Of course, I also love to have a friend play on a track or record together live off the floor. Talking about ideas is always a wonderful way to learn and be inspired.
Take us through a day in your life, from a possible morning routine through to your work, please. 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?
Every day is different with me but I do have a family so their requirements will dictate my schedule. I generally work on music in the evening sometime. How music and other aspects feed back I would say they sort of blend together, music is a constant presence in my life so I don’t try to separate them. During the creative process, I do need to turn off my family brain and switch to composer mode which, depending on what is happening in my family world, can take a specific effort to make that switch.