Part 1

Name: Manuel Fogliata
Nationality: Italian
Occupation: Producer
Current Release: Fantasia on Apollo
Recommendations: Luigi Pirandello - The Late Mattia Pascal; Federico Fellini - The Book Of Dreams

If you enjoyed this interview with Nuel, visit his bandcamp store or soundcloud account for more music.

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 think that influences come from the interactions with the environment and the people I deal with the most.

I started playing guitar around 13. I was pretty rock at the time, a Led Zeppelin fan, and that’s because of my older brother and sister. Later at school I began to expand my musical horizon thanks to a broader number of friends and relationships. It was the ‘90 and I went trough trip-hop, idm, jungle and breakbeats, my path towards electronic music has been slow and smooth, and I started producing later on, when I was about 18 / 20 yrs old. During the past lockdown I found some early demos I did 20 years ago with my homie and listening to them again has given me very strong feelings.

Thinking about the way I was listening to music at a very young age I’m pretty sure that what was catching my attention were production techniques and mixing skills, those nuances and small details; for example I remember I used to listen the bridge of ‘Going to California’ in loop mode, and now I know that it was mainly because of the reverb action.

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 think I’m not so different from the most, it worked that way for me too. But the emulating phase was really short. Even when I started playing guitar I was more interested in doing something of my own instead of reproducing music that was already there. It was this desire that moved me toward recording and producing, I wanted to hear something that didn’t exist yet.  

But I think that, in order to create, learning is necessary. A good way to learn in the beginning is to copy, and it’s better doing it from the best if you must. The next step is to learn how to learn, and then do it for a lifetime. These concepts are a source of inspiration, I like to study and exercise and often the best ideas come from that; this way my own development flows together with my life and it’s still in progress.

I think I’ll never find my voice because the beauty is in the process of searching it. There’s no arriving point but a continuous discovery, the awareness of being in one phase and the knowledge that another one will follow.

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

In the beginning, everything I was doing was adding, adding and thinking about what I could add. Then I learned how to listen, and started to remove. Before I was a river, now it’s more like I can look at this river and see what it has to offer.

Over time the focus has shifted from technique to vision, and the motivations from the outside became internal. If I was formerly more into recreating something that I heard somewhere, now I prefer to have a clear picture in my head first. Once I’ve got it, I put it in front of me and try to reach it in three moves.

So I spend most of the time preparing myself and creating the right conditions, things like the set up are very important to me, and it changes every time. That’s the real challenge.

If I know what I want to do, what I have and what I don’t need, the big part is done. All the rest can be done quickly, and it’s better to do so before overcooking it.

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 would say that mine has evolved naturally, it’s the difference between my needs and possibilities. Everything started with a Fostex four track tape recorder. Me and my friend Marco used it for our guitars sketches and overdubs, after a while we felt the need to add some beats and decided to spend all our money on a sampler. We didn’t know anything and ended up with an Akai S-2000; two weeks for getting the first sound, but I still remember the emotion when that happened. An external sequencer was needed in order to control it, we found a  Roland mc 500 mkII, not intuitive at all, and they both worked with floppy disks.

Since then I bought and sold several pieces of gear but I’m not attached to them. My approach is more like ’take the best out of it and move on’. Same with the studio, I’ve tried various settings, more analog or digital, but without a stable solution. I even change the room itself constantly, after a while it’s harder to get something out of it without any modification.

At the moment I’m keeping only what it’s essential to me, a drum machine for rhythm and a synth for sounds, some musical instruments and a DAW. The most important pieces of gear are my hands, no joke. As long as they work well, the rest is secondary.

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?

I think that the most significant difference could be creativity itself. We as humans can think about something that doesn’t exist, the abstract. But I heard people say that their modular system has become aware.

I do make use of technology of course, but I’m not a geek, don’t feel the urge of updating constantly. I’m working with a laptop from 2012 running a pretty old Protools version, a mixer from the 80’s and all is well. I don’t look at it as a solution to my problems but as a tool at my disposal. For sure I’m grateful for the technology that allows me to do things that only some years ago would have been impossible.

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?
The choice of tools I use and their impact on the final result is so important to me that it plays a primary role in my creative process. But I prefer it when I drive, that’s why I change setting every time, and don’t even use samples, it seems like I’m fooling myself.

Another thing I realized pretty early on, is that I prefer to limit options rather than having endless possibilities. I like to set limits, narrowing the field of action stimulates my creativity, in a lateral way. It becomes a challenge with myself: ‘let me see what I can do with a couple of audio tracks and a bunch of effects’, or ‘here is an acoustic guitar, I need to get rhythm, bass line, harmony and melody out of it’. To compose I use physical instruments instead virtual ones simply because the body is involved. I feel a big difference between standing in front of a screen or standing in front of a speaker.

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