Name: Slon aka Marco Mercuzio Peron
Occupation: Sound artist, producer
Nationality: Italian
Current release: Slon's Majestic Mind Safari Show is out October 29th 2021 via -OUS.

If you enjoyed this interview with Slon and would like to stay up to date on his work, visit his official homepage. He also has a Soundcloud profile.

Slon is part of the artist collective around the formidable -OUS imprint. For more information, take a look at our IOKOI interview, our Noémi Büchi interview, our Sara Oswald + Feldermelder interview and our Julian Sartorius interview

Can you talk a bit about your interest in or fascination for sound? What were early experiences which sparked it and what keeps sound interesting for you?

I am quite sure that part of my affection for sound is due to the environment in which I spent my early years. Being part of a Mediterranean family means to always have lived immersed in sounds: a small but overcrowded house, neighbours, friends, people passing by for never-ending-coffees, plus continuous soundscapes from the radio, TV or vinyl records playing. Often, I experienced this environment as a magmalike stream of sound, where multiple elements are carried through space and overlap each other to create new patterns.

The early age listening routine was triggered by my parents, so I’ve absorbed tons of mainstream pop, 60s to 80s rock/disco, ancient regional folk songs and TV series. One day, we went to the circus, a beautiful day, cotton candy, fanfare, the clowns. It’s them, I think, that gave me a jelly flower, making me fall asleep. That’s when the experiments on Slon’s face started. In the end, I also had a lot of fun, I covered myself in different colors every day and played with lots of grown up tools like cameras, cassettes, video tapes, and carving tools for linocut.

Essentially, I grew up as a weird, clumsy guy in the suburbs. Musically talking, it led me to explore further, regardless of the genre. I spent ages hanging out in squats, pubs and bars mashing punk, hardcore, electronic music, Italian dance, and MTV. I absorbed music night and day, until I finally started reproducing the sound I had in my mind with the first tools I had at hand: a tape recorder and a guitar.

What's your take on how your upbringing and cultural surrounding have influenced your sonic preferences?

I believe each human being is the result of (let‘s make it easy) two different forces or group of forces, which don’t necessarily oppose each other.

The first comes from the outside, the ‘surrounding’ as you put it, and it feeds you constantly, sometimes it’s stronger some other times weaker, it can be annoying, can lead you to a comfort zone, to routines, or to enlightenment. Then there’s the second one, which comes from the inside, you feed it yourself and it can be demanding, exciting, exhausting, inspiring. The tension resulting from the combination of these two forces is what shapes you.

Choices, happenings, suggestions, or unexpected events make you move through attraction or repulsion, like a particle in a field. This field could be sound, politics, society, love. Yet we can be a bunch of quite stressed particles (have your ever met poor Cigs boy?), but it’s up to us to float, resist, fight or dance; and no matter your beliefs, faith, visions of life or that enlightenment you had after taking shamanic drugs, in the end it’s everyday life that counts. Everyday choices.

Do you see yourself as part of a tradition or historic lineage when it comes to your way of working with sound?

My work with sound is actually quite raw and dense. It’s random and systematic at the same time. I don’t perceive myself as part of a tradition, or rather, I have no idea of belonging to a specific one.

Of course, there has been an evolution in my practices, starting back in my teenage years, when I used to be that kind of green guy who spent days in filthy rehearsal rooms overlapping patterns and drones mostly through pedals, up to today, when I’m working with the same musical approach, enriched with a bit of knowledge gathered along the way, usually from my studio using a wider arsenal of devices and techniques.

I still love to create music with a ‘live attitude’, because in terms of composition it pushes me to improvise and try out solutions without thinking too much; at the same time, I recognise the potential of a ‘studio approach’, which helps to master some techniques, tools and experiment with them at higher levels.

What types of sound do you personally prefer to work with? Are there sounds you reject – if so, for what reasons?

This is quite interesting, as Majestic Mind Safari Show (MMSS) is the result of a personal process aimed at avoiding preconceptions. Let’s say that my mind prefers to work with sounds that I know I’ve created myself through field recordings, foley and processing.

At the same time, I think there shouldn’t be any sort of hierarchy, as sound is everything and everything = sound. That’s why, while working on MMSS, I played and recorded anything that passed through my mind, no matter the musical dignity of the instrument itself or my previous knowledge of it.

Well, at the moment, I have to say I’m not too much into readymade sound libraries or similar, but who knows.

Where do you find the sounds you're working with? How do you collect and organise them?  

As mentioned above, I also work with field recording and foley, especially for documentaries and films, which I archive on madam.cloud. In order to do so, I usually rent some shotguns, XY, and dynamic microphones, combining them with my digital recorders, PC  and interface. For musical instruments, I mostly record guitars, samplers, synth, and vocals directly through my DAW, sometimes processing them through amps and effects.

I force myself to try not to mess with the files and have them organised in folders on hard drives, even if it may occur that some of them end up being recorded and getting stuck for years inside an unfinished project.

But yeah, I have to say that it is quite funny to bump into them later on and to get new inspiration from work that may date back several years.

Some artists use sounds as a means for emotional self-expression, others take a more conceptual approach or want to present intriguing sound matter. How would you characterise your own goals and motivations in this regard?

I’ve never really thought about this, but reading the question, I recognize myself in the first part of the sentence. As someone once told me, I’m better at letting the sonic composition drive me to create a narrative, than to visualize a track in my mind and shape it through instruments. I'm pretty sure my non-academic background plays a role in this, but I’m aware of it and I play with this sort of intuitive approach, trying to improve it and reach a point which I recognize as a peak, the end of the main composition process. Then, usually, Slon is broken.

From the point of view of your creative process, how do you work with sounds?

Talking about MMSS, I decided to work in a new and probably not very common way: I set a series of rules, and stuck to them in order to find new inspiration. It reminded me of a movie by Peter Greenaway, called “Drowning by Numbers” in which various unusual, invented games are played by the characters as if they were ancient traditions, strictly following a list of  relatively odd rules.

In my case, I composed one layer after another, continuously muting the previous layers, all to one same click - the only point of reference. Relying on my brain’s memory and a natural need to harmonize, once the blind processing came to an end, all of the layers were combined to reveal these sort of dense-multi-layered compositions.

To me, this method forces fragility into rigid shapes, while limits and rules become fluid for the body’s balance to shift and reach a new equilibrium.

Someone called the results ‘hymns for solitary dances’, and I kind of like this definition.

Which tools have been most important and useful for you when it comes to working with and editing sounds?

The tool I mainly use to edit sound is Ableton Live 11 and even if there are tons of other possibilities, I found it perfect for my workflow. Another tool I often use is Organelle, which I find quite surprising in the way it can manipulate samples and lead to unpredictable results. Sometimes, I also edit them directly through the SP-404SX, but this is usually not my first choice, even if some effects are great.

What I quite often do is  route the samples from my DAW through sends, and process them through a chain of pedal effects I’ve collected over the years. Let’s say Slon carves sound the same way he carves linoleum.

The possibilities of modern production tools have allowed artists to realise ever more refined or extreme sounds. Is there a sound you would personally like to create but haven't been able to yet?

I consider all of our senses somehow connected  to another, they trigger themselves, interact and generate feelings. Certain situations can lead to altered states, like meditation, drugs, or a sudden shock; and then senses might be processing differently.

Sound is not just a matter of hearing, and I have memories of sounds that I can’t describe even if I kind of can imagine them, since I could have been half asleep or completely anesthetized for some reason. I’ve always had the feeling that altered states like these could resemble the way sound is perceived by embryos in the womb, but of course I’m not sure.

There we go, this would be a “sound sensation” I'd like to be able to reproduce.

Many artists have related that certain sounds trigger compositional ideas in them or are even a compositional element in their own right. Provided this is the case for you – what, exactly, is about certain sounds that triggers such ideas in you?

What usually triggers Slon is not a single sound itself, but the way I read it in that very moment. That’s the reason why, even if I often bring a recording device with me, most of the time it is not easy to listen back to a sound sketch and recall the musical idea I was imagining while recording it.

Environment, emotional state, loudness, and tons of other factors can play a huge role in the way I perceive sound. I’m quite sure that what I could have found originally interesting in a specific sound was more related to an arrangement, a pattern, a harmonization resulting from the combination of all these components, not just a single note.

It might be my personal way of hearing, that usually focuses more on relationships and interactions than on the components themselves.

Humans are often characterised as "visual beings". In your opinion, what role does our sense of hearing play in our understanding of the world? How do sounds affect you, compared to other senses like sight or smell?

According to another theory, humans can also be defined as “social beings” that rely on cooperation to survive, but of course I agree on the importance of the visual system in absorbing and processing the stream of information around us and it’s actually the main trigger to our brain‘s evolution, as humans.

In my opinion, sound can be subtle in bringing input to the brain, on a deeper level. Even if nowadays we are used to working in front of several screens at the same time, watching a movie while chatting and maybe reading an article, there’s a limit on the quantity of visual cues we are able to process at the same time.

With sounds it can be different because they can overlap, interact, be arranged, panned, and co-exist at different volumes. There’s no limit to the possible combinations.

That’s my take on hearing: we might perceive sound on a less conscious level than sight, but it can  go deeper.

The idea of acoustic ecology has drawn a lot of attention to the question of how much we are affected by the sound surrounding us. What's your take on this and on acoustic ecology as a movement in general?  

The acoustic environment not only affects human behavior, but every form of life it contains. Being able to map soundscapes can lead people to detect changes in habitats, which is quite important nowadays, as preserving social, cultural, and ecological aspects of an environment needs to be a priority. Since the more I understand humans, the more I feel like a plant. I’m aware of the fact that, as for other kinds of ecologies, this could seem a little abstract and far from applicable to our daily routine. Anyway, there’s also a closer  and more intimate  connection.

Teaching ourselves to listen carefully, including silence in our daily routine and observing things through hearing, can help us detect some other kinds of diseases. Listening to your body could be helpful to your health, tuning in with people that surround you can help create a positive environment. Considering the impact of sound on our brain and body, we could even be able to use certain sound frequencies in order to give a response to stimuli and heal minor diseases.

We can listen to a pop song or open our window and simply take in the noises of the environment. Without going into the semantics of 'music vs field recordings', in which way are these experiences different and / or connected, do you feel?

A pop song usually follows a very specific structure, which may have originally been designed to suggest or trigger feelings or responses. The reason why we want to listen to them often lies in the desire to emphasise a pleasant state of mind already present in us, or to balance an unwanted feeling.

Opening a window and welcoming the noise coming in from the outside environment is something completely different. We have no idea what might happen as soon as we open the window. The approach is therefore completely different and implies the desire to be surprised. Obviously, we are not living in a world defined by rigid rules, and thanks to that a pop song could also contain unexpected elements or some melodic shades not previously considered by us. At the same time, opening the window, we might bump into a summer hit.

From the concept of Nada Brahma to "In the Beginning was the Word", many spiritual traditions have regarded sound as the basis of the world. Regardless of whether you're taking a scientific or spiritual angle, what is your own take on the idea of a harmony of the spheres and sound as the foundational element of existence?

What we are talking about here are once again relationships between forces. Assuming that each planet exerts a force of attraction towards other planets, I believe there are ways to highlight the presence of these forces, and considering sound as an instrument is not only poetic, but very credible, since sound is the perception of vibrations, movements.

Certainly, the limit of this type of interpretation lies, in my opinion, in the absolute sense of faith or conviction, which as such does not allow us to observe freely, but in a conditional environment.