Name: Frank Arvonio
Occupation: Electronic music producer, pianist, performer
Nationality: Italian
Current release: Frank Arvonio's has a new EP out on Tragedie called Close Your Eyes.
Equipment recommendations: Just two ... well I’m going to recommend everyone who can to get a modular system to mess with: it’s really fun and instructive especially because it forces to do what you can with the modules you’ve got. As plugin at the moment I love Diva and I can’t recommend it enough.

If you enjoyed this interview with Frank Arvonio and would like to stay up to date on his music, visit him on Instagram, Facebook, and Soundcloud.

What was your first studio like?

Well, I started with a PC and a Focus Rite 2i4 2nd generation and a pair of Krk. At the time I was still finishing high school so music production was a hobby.

After a while a got seriously into producing techno and I bought my Imac, Ableton push, a Steinberg UR44 and my beloved pair of Adam A7x.

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?

Over the years my system has evolved quite radically.

My first piece of hardware was a compressor: the Dbx 160a. It’s a very nice compressor in my opinion the only downsides are that it’s mono (although you can chain two and have a stereo compressor) and that you don’t really have a lot of parameters to tweak.

After a while I bought some external synths, a Modular system and a Maschine. During the lockdown I wasn’t able to make new tracks: I found myself goofing around with hardware and synths not really completing anything. I drastically changed my way of working: I stopped using Ableton, I learnt Logic and I started working 100% in the box with plugins and vst.

Nowadays I work 85% in the box and 15% with my Modular synth.

The digital studio promises endless possibilities at every step of the process. What is it that you actually need from these potentials and how do go about you selecting it? How do you keep control over the wealth of options at the production stage?

You really need to understand the synth that you are tweaking. For this reason I love straightforward clones like Monark or Repro, they are pretty simple and easy to use. The problem of synths like Massive is that you really can do everything with them so (especially as a beginner) you can feel pretty lost in a huge plethora of options.

My advice is to have a clear idea of the sound you want in your mind before touching a single knob (I love it though). In my opinion it is better to have a small selection of vst and plugins that you really use than having a huge selection of vst that you really don’t know. You really just need a couple of vst, some plugins and you are good to go.

A studio can be as minimal as a laptop with headphones and as expansive as a multi-room recording facility. Which studio situation do you personally prefer – and why?

You can really make bangers with just a laptop and headphones; you really don’t need a super fancy and expensive studio to make music.

That said who doesn’t want a huge studio with hardware, outboard, great speakers and a super powerful computer? (laughs)

From traditional keyboards to microtonal ones, from re-configured instruments (like drums or guitars) to customized devices, what are your preferred controllers and interfaces? What role does the tactile element play in your production process?

I’m a pianist and I still practice classical piano so a keyboard is a necessity for me.

For MIDI controllers, to be honest with you, in the past I overestimated the importance of the tactile element: in time I found out that I can really program any automation with a mouse instead of tweaking a knob. Of course sometime that can be really boring … but you can be more precise.

The tactile element is super important in my sound design process though: a modular system (even a small one) is a great tool because it forces you to be creative. You don’t know how many times I made a sound just tweaking a knob of my Make Noise Maths.

How would you describe the relationship between technology and creativity for your work? Using a recent piece as an example, how do you work with your production tools to achieve specific artistic results?

It really depends ... sometimes I’ve the full track in my mind with each of its component. But usually I use sound design as creativity boost.

For example I was working on this track but I really did not like it and I was stuck. So I started to design a sound on my modular synth and Eureka! My track came back to life.

Within a digital working environment, it is possible to compile huge archives of ideas for later use. Tell me a bit about your strategies of building such an archive and how you put these ideas and sketches to use.

Ehm you are asking the wrong person … sure it is possible to compile huge archives but mine are quite a mess and I usually really can’t find what I’m looking for.

Despite the aforementioned near endless possibilities, many productions seem to follow conventional paths. How do you retain an element of surprise for your own work – are there technologies which are particularly useful in this regard?

There are a lot of tracks released every week so the element of surprise is crucial. I personally try to find it using melodies or harmonies but of course sometimes you find a sound that screams “surprise”.

Production tools can already suggest compositional ideas on their own. How much of your music is based on concepts and ideas you had before entering the studio, how much of it is triggered by equipment, software and apps?

It’s 50/50 but of course apps, software and equipment can suggest an idea. Sometimes you can find an idea for your track just tweaking a synth or playing with a sequencer. I love wavetable and FM synthesis because with them you can create really unique sounds.

How important is it for you that you personally create or participate in the creation of every element of a piece – from sound synthesis via rhythm programming to mixing?

I try to do everything but mastering. I love synthesis; rhythm programming and mixing but the final master usually is done by a pro engineer.

Have there been technologies which have profoundly changed or even questioned the way you make music?

Not really, I started to make music with a computer and I’m still making music with a computer.

To some, the advent of AI and 'intelligent' composing tools offers potential for machines to contribute to the creative prowess. Do you feel as though technology can develop a form of creativity itself? Is there possibly a sense of co-authorship between yourself and your tools?

It’s a very interesting topic, my guess is that it is possible for an AI to develop a track but I’m not that sure that creativity is possible for a machine.

I was told that an AI composed the Beethoven’s 10th symphony and I listened to it: it’s remarkable what an AI can do but it’s always kind of predictable. The IA analyses every piece composed by Beethoven and then composes its symphony respecting the style of the analysed passages. The result is outstanding but predictable.

Do you personally see a potential for deeper forms of Artificial Intelligence in your music?

Not really, I want to keep control.

What tools/instruments do you feel could have a deeper impact on creativity but need to still be invented or developed?

It’s really hard to know that. I feel that right now we are in a really good spot for creativity and music.