Name: Mirwais Ahmadzaï
Current Release: The new Mirwais single "2016-My Generation" is out now as part of Record Store Day
Recommendations: Book : Simulacre and Simulation by Jean Baudrillard, La Colère by Alexandra Dezzi
Painting : Mona Lisa by Arnulf Rainer,
Music : Europe Endless By Kraftwerk, Rite of Spring by Ivor Stravinski
If you enjoyed this interview with Mirwais, visit his website, facebook page or soundcloud profile for more music, recent updates and more.
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?
I started producing music at a young age of 18 with my band Taxi-Girl.
My influences were mostly Jimi Hendrix, The Doros, Velvet Underground, The Stooges, The Rolling Stones when I was 14. Then I started to listen to punk music and art school bands like Magazine, Stranglers, and also Kraftwerk, Trans Europe Express, Man Machine, Devo, Blondie and some Disco Music too.
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?
Of course, copying and emulating is the first step I could say, and especially in current pop culture it is the final step too. Since the rise of sampling culture, there is now a fuzzy line between creation and outright theft.
You will notice that people who are saying that “creatives ideas” belong to everyone are most of the time more “A&R artists” than real creative ones.
Borrowing music has always existed, but now, for 15 years, with the emergence of social networks and its narcissist consequences, we exist at what we could describe “a domestication of the creation”. In few words, it means that most musicians and creators, because of economic reasons, are employed by “communicant’s artists” who use their creative skills like some sort of gasoline to move forward their vehicle.
What were your main compositional- and production-challenges in the beginning and how have they changed over time?
The main challenge in the beginning was to perform well in the studio, and if you had enough money, to hire good studio and good record engineers. Computers have changed everything. I have no regret of the 24 multitracks era and it still sounds great, but it is too long a process.
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?
I’ve always been obsessed by equipment because of the equation:
Using equipment by yourself = Artistic freedom.
My very first studio was the very first Teac 4 track Porta studio.
Today, you only need a powered full computer, a pair of good monitors, a very good monitoring control like grace design for instance and some recording equipment, preamp, mics etc ... to capture everything, you cannot reproduce with a plug in.
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?
Intuition and changing your mind are the best things that a human could bring to a piece of art. Machines are controlled by humans. There is the concept in discussions of AI that suppose the future will not completely be dominated by machines but more by a kind of alliance with “cobots” (collaborative robots). I think I’ve already been using machines like “cobots” for a long time now.
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?
Strictly regarding the compositional aspect, I could only say that wrong machine manipulations lead to accidents or unexpected ideas that contribute to the final creation. But it is still human hands which give the impulse.
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 don’t mind about any form of collaborative process. The main goal is to stay focused on the search of musical excellence.
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?
For a long time now, I have had my main studio at home and also some other portable computers that I can use for some editing.
No fixed schedule, but I like to work in the morning when my ears are rested so that I can carefully check the medium and treble. This is very important because late at night, after hours of listening you can’t clearly perceive these critical frequencies.
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?
Curiously, from the beginning, all of my work has been based on lyrics or if there is no lyrics, on the title. It gives me the direction of where I want to go in terms of production or song writing. For instance, "Disco Science" came from the fact that I was in a club one day looking at people dancing, and I was saying to myself that the dance process is like science. It needs to be reproducable. I got the title ‘Disco Science’ and only then did I start to think about the song and the production.
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?
No strategies. I may be a bit naïve, but I truly think that when you open your eyes in the morning and if you are a real artist, everything is already there. Your bed, your phone, your house, having breakfast, your family, everything contributes to creation. For me, only people who lack inspiration needs to create a “creative environment”. You just have to live and let go.
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?
I’ve spent a big part of my life performing, live and in the studio. Now, I almost program everything except vocals. In my mind, it became conceptual. We have an entire society which is in the process of being digitally substituted. So let’s do it musically too.
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?
Since the sampling culture has implemented modern music, there isn’t a difference between production and composition anymore.
It was the case of course in the past. Let’s take an example:
We, everyday can listen to covers of John Lennon’s “Imagine” on the Internet. Some of them are good, some others are really bad. But what makes the difference of course is Lennon himself, but this is not the only thing. The piano sound in the original starts mono then turns stereo, the chorus on the vocals, the muffled drums etc. Spector’s production gave a density to this song that contributes to the songwriting.
Today, with sampling and reproducing tools, both aspects are totally blended.
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?
Everything is about resonance. We all know that a book could resonate for many centuries like Aristote‘s books. I am convinced that a sound that you have heard 20 years ago could still remain somewhere deep inside of you, and by hearing it again could give an immediate access to a past that we think has vanished forever.
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 am not interested in art; I am only interested in artistic expression. Both are different things for me.
Artistic expression can give some new directions that people, society, or politics can use and can be inspired for their own engagements.
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?
Yes, I have a vison of less music everywhere. Who needs music everywhere?
We need silence too. We need to think a little bit more now.