Name: Ricardo Donoso
Occupation: Producer, Sound Artist
Current Release: Calibrate on Denovali
Recommendations: Both of these continue to be powerful sources of inspiration:
The Divided Mind / Book by John E. Sarno
The Worm at the Core: On the Role of Death in Life / Book by Jeff Greenberg, Sheldon Solomon, and Tom Pyszczynski
Website / Contact: If you enjoyed this interview with Ricardo Donoso, visit his website for everything you ever wanted to know about him and his work.
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’ve been playing music since a very young age. I started writing music around 20 years ago. Around this time I was in a concert/jazz bands in school and our teacher bought a drum machine and synthesizer for the music department. I explored those machines in and out and began taking them home to work. At that time I was already interested in and playing rock & metal, and jazz music that we had been learning in school with friends in bands. Around this time Napster & Audiogalaxy was exploding so it really become a launchpad of discovery for my friends and I. We could not consume enough music. Learning about Mr. Bungle, Naked City, John Zorn, Nobukazu Takemura, contemporary classical music, death metal, etc. was all so enriching. At the same time I was starting to frequent rave parties in remote and beautiful locations across Brazil, this really nurtured my interest in electronic music and pushed me towards the machines. What really drew me to electronically produced music really was the element of total control. I did not need 3/4/5 other people in a room to tell them what and how to play. Endless control, both sonically and practically.
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 the relationship between copying, learning and your own creativity?
I think all those things are implicitly linked. When you’re young, you want to sound like things that move you - to the point that it can almost be a replica, but never as good of course. For me it’s vital that I am engaged in the process of creating music, more so than the resulting end music itself. I have been in improvisational groups, death metal bands, free jazz ensembles, noise bands, etc. It all gets boring to me, quickly. As a composer, if I’m not challenging myself to do something differently each time, there is no point. There will be threads of my own voice in everything I do, naturally, I am the one making it, but if I’m not constantly stretching some kind of limit or internal puzzle, its not worth the time.
What were your main compositional- and production-challenges in the beginning and how have they changed over time?
Production wise mixing has always been the biggest challenge. The only compositional challenges I have I would say is not having the same resource pool of musicians as I once did for recording/projects.
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?
First ‘studio’ was a 4 track Behringer mixer and cracked copies of Vegas Audio and Fruity loops. I go through phases of buying gear for certain projects and then selling them afterwards. I do not have the same attachment I once did to gear. For me it’s all about getting what I need as fast as I can. These days I am mostly in the box with some outboard processing. My most important piece of ‘gear’ for over a decade and will likely continue to be is Logic Pro.
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?
Technology is the greatest enabler I have; I am constantly in a state of trying to make what is a very clinical, cold and isolated process for me (writing/producing by oneself with machines) sound alive. Trying to either control some chaos or attempting to create it from the mundane.
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?
This varies for me within sessions – sometimes I am in clinical mode and that’s when I get my mixing done, some sound design and editing. Other times I come in and will purposely ‘break’ something that has been sculpted vigorously, to give it some randomness or discord. Sometimes the machines are in control, other times I am controlling them. It depends on the state of mind and what I'm trying to achieve. More and more I am inviting randomness & chance back into my work.
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 collaborating, it’s especially helpful for me as it helps to break me out of the isolationist / man alone in a studio in the woods vibe. My longest standing collaborator now is Daniel Castrejón who designs the artwork. It’s a really interesting process that we have; I send him a catalog of things I am thinking about, themes, colors, words, and he puts them together in a really intricate & interesting way. We are always trying to push the envelope with record design and Daniel has a real talent for distilling all the information and ramblings I provide him into something meaningful. I am always amazed at his output.
Another collaboration that is important to me is with Ryan McGuire, chief composer of avant/deathmetal/new music ensemble Ehnahre – For us it's talking about our upcoming narrative structures, the writings behind them and some of the strategies we are thinking about in how to execute them. It’s good to get perspective and feedback from musicians you trust. Talking about ideas is far more important to me than talking about music.
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?
Schedule fluctuates a great deal – sometimes I am up at 5am to write or edit, other times I have to force myself to the studio just to write something, to keep the muscles warm. Music is directly correlated to everything around me; at its base my music is the manifestation of attempting to reconcile what is taking place in the inner world vs. what is taking place in the outer world, and all the beauty & horror that surrounds that. There is a lot of push & pull in my music. I see that as these different forces wrestling with each other, trying to reconcile, never really arriving at a resolution but maintaining a balance.