Name: Victor Ruiz
Occupation: Producer, DJ
Current Release: Victor Ruiz's remix of Caitlin's ‘Freaks & Misfits’ is out now on Electric Ballroom. He will also play at the Contact Festival in Munich on November 30th.
Recommendations: Book: Daring Greatly from Brené Brown and the New Energy LP by Four Tet.
If you enjoyed this interview with Victor Ruiz and want to find out more about his work, visit his instagram, facebook and soundcloud page.
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?
Let’s start at the beginning. I got my first instrument when I was 9 from
my parents, so since then already I've been making music - or at least trying to.
Fast forward to age 16, when I first got familiar with a music production software (DAW). Since then, I was hooked and couldn’t stop. Before electronic music, I was into rock ‘n’ roll, heavy metal and punk rock, so these were my first and main influences. I have to say that I am music. I don’t know anything but that. I breathe music. I eat music. I think music. And, of course, I make music. It’s the most beautiful and touching form of art. It’s the universal language. It expresses your feelings without saying a word. It’s seeing new colours with your eyes closed.
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 used that a lot as an exercise: trying to copy other artist’s musical structures or sounds. But that was never my goal nor my finish line, but actually the opposite. I used to stretch my muscles and gain perspective on what I could do and how I would get there - it’s mapping. The thing that changed me was the moment I realized I needed to do what I love, not thinking but feeling. Learning to be myself took me years of failing, but the success only came when I started to think further. What is beyond everyone’s sight? I’m always in check with that and that drives me more than anything else.
What were your main compositional- and production-challenges in the beginning and how have they changed over time?
Gear and information. As I lived in Brazil, import taxes for products were insane. Plus I didn’t have money anyway to buy gear. Had to learn to produce using only the very essentials: computer and headphone - which I use until today.
Also, there were no YouTube, Facebook, tutorials or classes. You had to reach out to people or just try to do it by yourself - which takes longer, but I found it better. I worked my ass off in front of the computer to improve my music, would spend 12 - 16 hours a day, every day, making music or at least trying to.
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?
The only time I had a proper studio, was in Berlin for a few months. But then I decided to move to Amsterdam just recently, so then no studio anymore! It was never finished actually, so I guess I never had a proper studio that I could enjoy until today. I had a room in an apartment that I used to live in in São Paulo for 4 years, so then I had plenty of gear but no acoustic treatment. As I said previously, the most important items that I have are my computer, headphones and of course my ears.
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?
Electronic music is technology, let’s start right there. I love it and I try to be up to date as much as I can. But keep in mind that if you don’t know how to use technology, you become lazy. Very lazy! It’s too easy, so you have to push yourself harder and further. That’s something I love about old synthesizers - they’re not perfect, like people. So, you just feel it and record. It’s beautiful. Although without technology these days I wouldn’t be able to make music on the road, which is where I do the most these days.
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?
As I just said, I love synthesizers, especially if they’re older and you actually have to play them. You make an extra effort to sound great and it enhances the creativity. It’s just fucking fun, man! But I also LOVE the practicality of me having a laptop and headphones and being able to produce a bomb. It’s amazing.
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?
The first and most important thing for me, before I go to the studio with someone, is to get to know the person. A good conversation - or many - to understand and feel the artist. It’s important to connect with people you want to collaborate with, otherwise in studio it won’t flow. Learning is one of the main benefits of a collaboration. Both sides are always learning something new.
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 just moved to a new city, so things are all over the place and I am trying to find my routine. But even then, I wake up early, work out every day, and whenever I can I make music, or just research a bit. Music is everywhere in my life, so it’s all adjustments into that.
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?
Let’s take "Nimbus" as an example. I started the main melody/harmony with a Moog APP on my iPad on a flight from Amsterdam to São Paulo. After that, I opened my computer and rewrote the melody with a different sound. After that I added drums and was playing with different harmonies. It was a very fast track to produce but I loved the process. I always do. The idea came out of nowhere, I was just testing stuff.
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?
Living in the space. In the zone. Surround yourself with music and like-minded people. Talking and meeting people is a good source of inspiration. As for the state of mind I’d say meditation is really good for you. Also writing / journaling.
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 started to produce before starting to perform as a DJ, so for me it was always different. I produce music to challenge, test and play with the audience. To see how they react to the song is everything to me.
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?
I think one should be a link to the other, because with the “sound” and texture, as I can develop it and already have an idea where I wanna go. It’s very interrelated in my opinion. As it modulates I can feel the direction of the whole song.
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?
For instance, I see colours in everything. Some call it synaesthesia. For me, music has colours and visual textures in my mind and that’s how I get inspired and feel music. It’s very different but it’s how it has always been with 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?
To be an artist is to express yourself through art. At least in my case this is how I express myself and communicate with people. Art is also very personal because it’s a mirror of what I’m feeling.
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?
Thank God! Music it will always be music. Rhythm, harmony and melody. Simple as that. If you change this “formula”, it is no longer music. The only move to go beyond is music interacting with other forms of art in my opinion.