Occupation: Producer, Performer
Current Release: Retrofuture LP with Ovandra on Ahrpe
Recommendations: I invite everyone to listen to the latest Ahrpe release. I made it together with my close friend Ovend, it’s an album composed of 9 tracks called Retrofuture. We released it under the contracted artist name Ovandra. Besides, keep ears around for the next 4-tracks EP on Ahrpe too recorded together with Mattheis: Ventriloquist Chant EP, out in few days.
I also recommend listening to Cosmogonie by vOPhoniQ. It’s an album released in 2012 on Dawn Records, a French record label. This is my all time favourite piece of electronic music, brilliantly produced.
If you enjoyed this interview with Amandra, visit the project's facebook page or soundcloud account for more music and up to date tour information.
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?
Music has always been present in my life. In my family everyone plays an instrument: Daddy plays the banjo/contra bass in American bluegrass or rockabilly bands for instance; Mummy the clarinet and Irish violin; Grandpa the traditional French accordion and synth, and so on, just to name a few. I started myself with playing the guitar at the age of 12 and later singing with my sister as well. Electronic music came quite late to me, I started producing it late 2011.
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?
When I started producing, I was listening to Plastikman, Ko-Ta from Stratosphere, Iesope Drift genius works on their Seico Corp label (I still do), Abdulla Rashim’s early brilliant loops from what he self-released mostly, and all these comparable classy atmospheric sounds coming from the 90s-00s. So this influenced my music, I was indeed emulating others to understand how they were building things and then I would start creating my own ideas from there, it’s part of the learning process for many musicians I assume. That’s why my Drachme Tolosate 2EP out on Ahrpe three years ago has some tints that can remind you of Plastikman or early Rashim’s work.
After this one, I started being totally free in the way I create music, but I find it harder to be honest. I have no technical fence anymore, I almost have no influence coming from outside as I hardly listen to electronic music at home but I have a precise idea of how things should sound like. So less emulating means it’s harder to find ideas. But when I find one, then yes sir, it’s fresh and new!
What were your main compositional- and production-challenges in the beginning and how have they changed over time?
I work on the feeling that rhythms give to the mind and somehow also to the body. This hasn’t changed. I look for ideas that state an interesting balance between tribal, acid-ish and industrial genres with a soft overall touch. I “specialized” more in rhythms over time, I often get asked if I’m a drummer - funny and interesting remark.
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?
My first “studio” was Ableton Live! Then I got myself some controllers to pilot VSTs. Turned out real fast to be a boring approach to me so I bought myself some drum machines and synths.
Currently some of the most important pieces of gear I have are the Elektron Octatrack, which is a brilliant machine; some 303 clones (modded x0x, Acidlab Bassline and MB33, each one having specificities) and the Tanzmaus from MFB. I also own some Eventide stompboxes (Timefactor, Pitchfactor, Space) that I find compulsory to have around.
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?
I use a lot the pots’ cracks and defaults from my machines. If you listen carefully to what I do, you hear some noise in the recordings. Usually it’s rhythm-ed noise because I process it this way, it comes from the problems machines have. If you consider this as a characteristic instead of a problem, then it becomes interesting. It makes every single electronic device unique. For instance, I own this 303 clone that I ordered while ago on eBay and that turned out to be a poor quality unit. Well it has so much character because of its imperfections that it makes quite my style in 303-like sounds, and I love it. I tried many other clones and I would never trade this one for a supposedly better one, or even the original synth. It has character, that’s the word!
I also tend to not over correct my recordings; usually I do few takes and then deal with them. The machines and software approach is nice because it allows everyone to make music easily. You don’t really need to be a musician to make techno, obviously it is a plus if you are! It is so easy to use a 909 kick and hats that everything starts sounding the same. “Soul-less perfect” is what I call it. That’s why I tend to not over correct what I record, when I play a sequence by hands, I don’t care if it’s not 100% beat matched, it’s even better, it makes this cold machine based music come alive. That’s my personal point of view at least.
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?
I like randomness, it brings freshness. Basically I jam having ideas in mind, I compute sounds through pedals etc and then my feeling for how it should sound like shows up, especially with rhythms. It’s like if my mind was focused on that only, so if I place the hat or whatever drum at another place in the loop, it wouldn’t be complete, it would even be frustrating for me! It’s a bit weird to explain, but that's for sure something machines can’t compute for yourself, it’s a human sensation.
I use DAWs for their basic functions (EQs, recording, mixing stuff etc) but I rarely use VSTs of synths or drums, not to say never. I don’t have fun using them, not that it’s bad; anyone approaches the way he/she wants, I respect that. I simply like to create based on hardware machines (both analog & numerical, I don’t pay much attention to that), I need to touch instruments, it makes me save time and energy!
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?
No rules on this, I had amazing experiences jamming in the same room with other musicians and friends, and also amazing results sharing files through the Internet. I tend to collaborate more and more; I find the process really interesting music wise. The Retrofuture LP is an example of it, neither Ovend nor myself would have come up with this piece of music being alone. And that’s what I find interesting with collaborating. The next Ahrpe is a duo with an amazing Dutch artist that inspired me a lot and still does: Mattheis from the Nous’klaer crew. We recently shared the previews of our Ventriloquist Chant EP (release date set to end of May).