Name: Unnayanaa aka Prashanth Pallemoni
Occupation: Producer, DJ
Current Release: Unnayanaa's Eski Dosew Yewta EP is out via Borders of Light.
Equipment Recommendations: Izotope Neutron: For mixing and mastering (Software); Ornaments & Crime Hemisphere (Modular Synth)
If you enjoyed this interview with Unnayanaa and would like to stay up to date on his work, visit him on Instagram, Facebook, and Soundcloud.
What was your first studio like?
My first ever studio was a computer with Sonicfoundry Acid and Fruityloops on it back in 1999. It went from something that basic to a 32 track studio in Manchester while I was studying sound engineering in 2003.
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 setup evolved based on my GAS (Gear Acquisition Syndrome). I still suffer from it greatly but keep it under control thanks to the pressure of having to use what I already have with me.
Right now my laptop and plugins are still the most important gear especially to get started with an idea. But I do have some modulars and the most prestigious right now is the Korg Arp Odyssey.
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?
Knowing basic synthesis is key to eradicating a lot of plugins. If you know how to tweak a plugin and get the sounds you’re looking for, then it’s easy pickings. If not, you can get lost in that world and never conclude what you really want.
In my case it’s been a process of elimination. There’s only a few that I absolutely need till the day I die and the rest change based on the style of music I'm making.
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?
A laptop is great to start an idea on the go or when you’re traveling. Most of my ideas start on the laptop and move to my desktop in the home studio.
I like the laptop because it helps with being in the creative flow even in a coffee shop or a cafe. Being in different environments enhances my creative thought process for some reason. Working in a closed room for hours can give you ear fatigue faster than working out in the open I feel.
From traditional keyboards to microtonal ones, from re-configured instruments (like drums or guitars) to customised devices, what are your preferred controllers and interfaces? What role does the tactile element play in your production process?
It’s still the good old keyboard for me. Although you can get away with using the computer keyboard and editing the MIDI notes after. But I need the velocity sensitivity of a keyboard to add to the musicality into the playing. I’m not a virtuoso keyboard player anyway so all I need is to put my ideas down and if something more complicated needs to be played, I get a musician to come and do the job.
I'm using a CME 3 octave keyboard for the music production setup and an Arturia Beatstep pro for the modular.
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?
For me, technology is another medium of expression, an amazing tool and a great extension for creativity.
Wavetable synthesis is the new rage as the possibilities to manipulate a sound on the fly is endless. You have parameters that offer 3-dimensional modulation which you hear a lot in dance music these days.
I used it a lot on the track "Reflexion" in the last release Eski Dosew Yewta EP on borders of light.
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.
Well, my archive is luckily quite a small one. It’s not a huge pile of ideas it’s only a handful of them. I believe in finishing what is started and if it’s not going anywhere, to delete the idea and start over.
I believe, keeping things on the back burner takes up unnecessary space in your mental creative vaults. I always treat my archive as work in progress only because there’s a lot of musician recordings on them.
Sometimes a certain style of music is out of trend, and you might want to rework the idea. So, I try to look at the fundamental idea and change the sound library first and then the arrangement if necessary.
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 endless ways to achieve the element of surprise. For example; vocal style, language, a unique instrument etc. Having these recordings in your projects might be the conventional way and to achieve this, musicianship is still very necessary to keep all the elements doing the right thing.
A combination of the conventional studio recording and the use of plugins that you swear by is a great combination. I like to mix digital and analog because they both offer a great textures and possibilities. With digital the harmonics and overtones in an instrument are artificially generated. With analog it’s based on the mood of the musician and the instrument quality. When the idea goes into a space that even you didn’t expect it to, that’s the element of surprise.
Personally, although I’ve made tracks that are completely digital and electronic. I like the challenge of using worldly elements and mixing it with the otherworldly sounds.
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?
All or most of my compositional ideas are on the fly. I need to be “Noodling” with equipment and software for a while before I lockdown on one idea.
I go through many combinations and permutations before I conclude what I like and what works. This is always a battle within myself. That’s why I always come up with two versions of any track. One that I want and one that works for the current trends.
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?
It’s definitely very important for me to know what the end product sounds like. That’s why I like to mix the tracks myself if possible. If not, except for the Equing and frequency separation between elements in the project, I’d like to oversee everything else. I feel that you can get too attached to your work but it’s always good to get an opinion from someone you trust.
I don’t have the room or the equipment to master my tracks. And also it’s good to have someone else more professional to do the final touches.
Have there been technologies which have profoundly changed or even questioned the way you make music?
All DAWs have changed the way music is made over time. Especially in the last 2 decades it’s grown exponentially. Anyone anywhere in a room with a laptop and speakers can make a hit these days.
The question is not about what being made because it’s very easy to do it with what’s available. It’s about the consumers and what they’re willing to accept as professional and not. Quality over quantity is the current dilemma in the industry.
And this is in every aspect of music especially in the compositional and content area.
To some, the advent of AI and 'intelligent' composing tools offers potential for machines to contribute to the creative provess. 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?
I feel that day is not far when you mention your idea and you get a bunch of basic combinations to choose from in your software. It may or may not speed up the process depending on what one is looking to create.
About co-authorship, if the company is ready to share my electricity and food bills, yeah why not.
All of my hardware tools have been paid for, even the DAW and most plugins. That better include anything creative that comes out of them based on my ideas. Credits are due to the company and the brand no doubt but co-authorship maybe not.
Do you personally see a potential for deeper forms of Artifical Intelligence in your music?
Yes definitely, who wouldn’t want a music making Jarvis at your service.
What tools/instruments do you feel could have a deeper impact on creativity but need to still be invented or developed?
There were many one-off third party freeware super cool plugins that I guess were hoping for a capitalist latch on but never got it. If some of them could be reinvented with more features and brought back to life, it would be amazing. I’d really like to interact with granular synthesis plugins with hand gestures.
The future of live music performance in 2010 researched in STEIM (Amsterdam) was remote interaction with live instruments. Steve Mcmillen came out with some good options too but somehow it never caught on in a big way.
I’ve had the good fortune of performing with one such artist (Andi Otto) with his invention that he turned into a live performance instrument. Artist name: Springitgut.