Name: Elisa Di Riccio aka APOTEK
Occupation: Singer, producer, keyboardist
Current release: APOTEK's Unknown Territories is out now. Stream the album here. Download Unknown Territories on vinyl and CD on the APOTEK bandcamp store.
Recommendations: Alva noto – Unieqav; Gerhard Richter’s works.
If you enjoyed this interview with APOTEK, find out more about her on her website, or on Facebook and Instagram.
When did you start writing/producing music - and what or who were your early passions and influences? What was it about music and/or sound that drew you to it?
I started writing music more consciously in my late-twenties. At the time, I was particularly fascinated by the work of American minimalist composers of the sixties such as Philip Glass, Steve Reich, John Cage, Terry Riley, La Monte Young. These influences were somehow present in my first instrumental piano compositions.
I was also particularly influenced by female singer-songwriters. Artists such as Mazzy star, Cat power, Shannon Wright. I was touched by their way of telling stories and talking about their fragilities and feelings.
For most artists, originality is 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?
I’m still in this phase of learning and sometimes I still do like to let myself be inspired by the work of other artists. Anyway, it took me a long time to develop my own sound, or more precisely, a sound where I could recognize myself.
How do you feel your sense of identity influences your creativity?
I’d rather say the opposite. In a way, I feel creativity has somehow shaped my sense of identity and has lead me to a better understanding of my way of working. It’s probably by exploring my creativity that I’ve learned a bit more about myself, my needs and even my values.
Unexplored parts of myself naturally tend to arise during the creative process. While your sense of identity can often be a construct affected by the idea you have built of yourself, what comes out through the creative process is pure, authentic. It’s a matter of decoding the message your subconscious is sending you. To a certain extent,I think creating gives you access to your truest self.
What were your main creative challenges in the beginning and how have they changed over time?
I’ve never really had any creative problems. I’ve always had lots of ideas, the most difficult part has always been translating them into something I could be happy about. It took me a long time to develop techniques/means to give shape to my ideas as well as lots of time analysis and study to develop a sound I could be satisfied with.
In this respect, these sort of challenges are still present and always will be.
As creative goals and technical abilities change, so does the need for different tools of expression, be it instruments, software tools or recording equipment. Can you describe this path for you, starting from your first studio/first instrument? What motivated some of the choices you made in terms of instruments/tools/equipment over the years?
I remember years ago, my apartment used to be full of instruments scattered in every room without any logic. It was when I started feeling the urge to have an organised space that everything changed. Building up my home studio put me in another state of mind and gave me the “structure” I needed to give shape to my ideas.
From that point on, the choices I made in terms of instruments have been more rational and measured. I now tend to do lots of research before buying new equipments and tools. I don’t buy an instrument for the sake of buying one but I rather buy it when I have a clear idea of how I’m going to use it in my music.
Have there been technologies or instruments which have profoundly changed or even questioned the way you make music?
My way of making music changed when I started manipulating sounds and focusing more on the meanings that the sound itself conveys. That was when I started using software as well as learning more about music production and sound engineering.
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?
There is no preferred way. It may happen by just talking about an idea or by jamming or sharing files or by a simple friendship or connection.
Take us through a day in your life, from a possible morning routine through to your work, please. 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 don’t have any fixed schedule and there’s no rule. It depends on the phase I am into. When I write music, I usually feel the need to totally plunge into the work and take a distance from the outside world at least until my ideas have taken a certain shape.
However, there are also times where I really feel the need to have a break and let other aspects of my life feed back into my musical work.
Can you talk about a breakthrough work, event or performance in your career? Why does it feel special to you? When, why and how did you start working on it, what were some of the motivations and ideas behind it?
I think self-releasing this first record Unknown Territories is somehow a breakthrough. I’ve finally managed to overcome my biggest fear: exposing one of my most personal works to the world.
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?
Any time I’m in that “energy”, I isolate myself and start improvising. To me, it’s like entering another dimension where I lose sense of time and space.
In my music, I’ve recently noticed I can better write/talk about suffering or negative experiences after taking the time to process them. So, in a way, I can say this ideal state of mind is probably supported by a certain physical and psychological well-being.
Music and sounds can heal, but they can also hurt. Do you personally have experiences with either or both of these? Where do you personally see the biggest need and potential for music as a tool for healing?
I do have experiences with both of these. I’m quite a sensitive person in the way I experience sound. There are even specific sounds that can trigger in me a certain emotional distress, or anger. Generally, music hurts when it triggers emotions you repress or you don’t want to experience at certain moments.
However, to me the potential for music as a tool for healing is undeniable. There’s nothing more powerful than that. I listen to certain kinds of frequencies when I feel particularly stressed or anxious. This is now part of my meditation practice. It’s incredible to see how quickly they can affect my mind and calm me down.
There is a fine line between cultural exchange and appropriation. What are your thoughts on the limits of copying, using cultural signs and symbols and the cultural/social/gender specificity of art?
This is a very tricky territory. I think each case should be analysed individually. However, in general, I think It’s important to allow oneself to be influenced and inspired by anything and everything in respect for the diversity of cultures, values and beliefs. This can be achieved only through knowledge.
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?
Our senses are surely strictly linked and represent the lens through which we filter and see reality. I think our perception of any phenomenon is and will always be a personal representation. In this respect, reality doesn’t actually exist, it’s a subjective construction.
It’s very interesting to see how one sense can influence or interfere in the perception of the reality perceived from the other sense and how they can compensate each other when one is missing. The one between sight and hearing is probably one of the most common overlaps for sight seems to be our dominant sense. I think most people listen with their eyes.
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?
My music is not overtly political but I wouldn't rule out that I may step out from my world and use creativity to address other issues in the future.
My approach to creativity and art is very spontaneous. I love playing, singing, painting, drawing and I’ve recently started making jewellery. Creating is a source of energy to me and I feel the urge to dedicate as much time as possible to that.
What can music express about life and death which words alone may not?
In a way, I think music has the power to unveil a dimension of meaning and feelings that words alone may fail to convey. A dimension we are not in control of and of which we are not even completely aware of.