Name: Pablo Bolivar
Occupation: DJ, Producer, Label Owner at Seven Villas
Current Releases: Space & Form' EP on Moodmusic; Back Door EP on Peppermint Jam; All Clear EP on Culprit LA
Recommendations: Check Okuda's painting or Aphro's Collage, and if you like indie video games check "Obduction" or "Firewatch"
Website / Contact: If you enjoyed this 15 Questions interview with Pablo Bolivar, he has a personal website and facebook profile.
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 around the year 2000. During those years, I was really into the German techno sound. I was a big fan of Kanzleramt, Basic Channel, i220, Force Inc, Tresor ... I really like the mixture of deep melodies with strong drum lines.
For most artists, originality is first preceded by a phase of learning and, often, emulating others. What was this like for you?
Exactly, it was like that. Before producing music, I started as a DJ, buying the records I liked. I developed my own style, then I realised "playing is nice but I want to make records!" When I finished the Sound Engineering institute I started to build my home studio and at the beginning I was inspired by Kanzleramt, Basic Channel and my favourite labels/artists. After releasing my first record I developed my own style slowly. Nowadays people tell me, "Hey, this sounds like Bolivar".
What were your main compositional- and production-challenges in the beginning and how have they changed over time?
I love to get deep with chords and pads. I think it is my characteristic sound. In the beginning, without piano skills, moving in the scale trying to make chords wasn't easy for me. That was my most challenging process. Nowadays, after having had piano lessons and practising every day it's more easy.
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?
In my childhood room, I had a computer with Cubase, a Yamaha RMX1, a Roland Mc-303 and a small keyboard. These days the gear in the studio has grown, and I feel I can't stop getting more and more ... Right now, I am in love with the little Roland Jx-03.
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 prefer the classic workflow, I don't usually use "help" tools like the ones on iPad or Ableton to do melodies. I just search for the sound I like, record it, and work with it. Sometimes I use audio plug-ins but I prefer to record hardware and work with audio.
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?
Possibly the most complex machine I have is the Analog Rytm, but I use it in a basic way. I need to learn more about it, it looks the possibilities with this machine are infinite. Sometimes I draw ideas with Garage Band or Korg Gadget when I am on the road. Also my audio recorder is good to catch those moments and organic noises.
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?
Jamming is my favourite, a couple of days in the studio with good wine and some smoke is fantastic and enough to do an EP, as I did with Mastra, Dactilar or Noah Pred. It is a lot of fun!
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 try to be organised, starting the day at 8:30, breakfast, checking the news, networking ... then office time, emails, answering interviews like right now ... and then studio time, producing, managing Seven Villas, listening to demos ... 2 days of the week I go to Yoga at midday, after I have lunch around my hood and then back to the studio. I try to finish around 9pm and have dinner with my girl. This is a normal work day, but sometimes a friend will call you for a drink and you finish in a club at 4am drunk like a louse. The day after that will tend to be a lazy day.
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?
I will have a thought in my mind like "it's time to produce something for the dancefloor, or something ambient, or a deep tech tool …". Then I'll create a basic drum line and start jamming around the studio. Playing with the toys is the most enjoyable part!
Once I have enough material, I'll start with the progression, the mathematics. The track is getting complex and I am adjusting Eqs, EFX, dynamics while I am moving and cleaning up the parts in general. When a draft is ready I render it and test it at the club. If it sounds correct, I'll do the mixdown and master and test it again and again.
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?
If I am very inspired and focused. It's difficult for me to get distracted. Time flies, I can easily be in the studio for six hours non stop. For me, Winter is the inspirational season. I like to see how the street gets dark. Rainy days are the most productive.
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?
This is something I need to improve. I stopped doing live acts because I felt they were boring. I want to make a proper machine live act, with more improvisation, not just shooting audio clips and sounding very similar like the original track.
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?
Both are very important, but I think for club music the "sound" aspect is even more important. A good and clean sounding track with a "hook" and "simple" melody is a winner for me. If we are talking about an album then yes, an original and good composition is the important thing. A great album is one on which, every time you listen it, you'll discover hidden layers.
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?
Woohoo, what a question! I was talking with a friend about this some days ago ... Difficult to explain: for me, it is easier to see colors/landscapes listening to sounds with the eyes closed, than hearing melodies with the eyes open and the ears covered. What I mean is that "hearing" is the most important sense for me.
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 really into art as a movement, I like when a work it's well done and becomes art, an album, a movie, a photo, a video game, a book.
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?
I always thought the music would become more and more minimalistic with the passing of the years, but it is not happening, is it? When I think about future music, I see IDM/glitch sounds added to classic styles like rock or jazz, something like John Hopkins. But the real "evolution or involution" of the music will continue. These days, there's a mixing of styles that create new styles – and they can be good or really horrible.