Name: Andy Schiaffino
Current Release: Fragments on October 23rd on Track Number Records
Recommendations: The book “Mean” by Myriam Gurba was the most relatable and validating piece of literature I've ever read, please please please read it, I can’t recommend it enough. Aside from that, this song.
If you enjoyed this interview with body / negative, visit the body / negative Instagram and/or bandcamp store for more a more personal look and more music.
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?
I first started writing music when I was maybe 17 or 18 … those early forms of experimentation usually consisted of field recordings which I’d add to with a keyboard I’ve had since childhood.
My earliest inspirations are dramatically different than how my music sounds - Julian Casablancas was a huge influence on me, his use of texture in The Voidz is magnificent, as is his sense of melody with The Strokes. I spent a lot of time in my teen years trying to emulate what he did.
As for drawing me in, music has always been part of my life. As a child I took piano lessons which I loved and despised equally. I also grew up being forced to listen to classical music as I fell asleep … EVERY NIGHT! Part of me likes to think Tchaikovsky has somehow seeped his way into my music.
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?
Absolutely! As I mentioned before, my first musical pieces were certainly me emulating my influences, trying to somehow recreate the sounds and textures they were able to create with their seemingly infinite amounts of gear, with the few things I had at my disposal.
When I was (unintentionally) recording my debut EP, Epoche, I spent a lot of time with my incredibly talented friends Kris Esfandiari, Sera Timms, Iphi of Foie Gras, Jennie Vee and Tamaryn amongst others who urged me to keep creating no matter how scared I was of releasing my creations. Eventually, after recording heaps of demos that would never see the light, I found my own voice. I think one day it just kinda happens. Being surrounded by artists you find inspiring who are happy to act as mentors is so essential when you’re just starting out. Otherwise, I don’t think I would have found the courage to pursue body / negative.
What were your main compositional- and production-challenges in the beginning and how have they changed over time?
I had no gear! I still kinda don’t. I prefer to work with as little as possible. It makes me more creative.
That being said, I found whatever free things I could get to help me out in creating what I needed. I’ve got slightly more than just a recording app on my phone and a cheap earbud mic to help me out now, but I think sticking to a negligible amount of gear will remain a motif within my music.
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?
I started out making music in the most DIY ways, recording vocals in my shower and recording straight to my phone. DIY or die, you know?
My set-up now is still extremely minimal but a couple things I can’t live without are my telephone mic and my looper. Pretty much everything I use are things that were lent to me or given to me by friends, shoutout to Justin Maranga of Ancestors / Dune Altar Records and Terra Lopez of Rituals of Mine / my wonderfully supportive place of work, Terrorbird Media.
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?
Technology is awesome; my very first demos were made using some recording iphone app that no longer exists. But at the end of the day, machines cannot produce the same emotions that human-made music can.
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’m sworn to Logic for life. I will never use another DAW. It’s the very first one I started with and the one that makes the most sense to me. The freedom and ease of use makes it so much easier to make my ideas reality. Beyond that, I think beautiful music can be made without fancy gear in fancy studios. Look at Deathconsciousness by Have A Nice Life, for example. You don’t need a bunch of complex gear to make something timeless.
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?
I hardly ever do co-writes but there were a few on the upcoming album, which I think added something really nifty. They were pretty much all remote co-writes which I find so much less stressful than in-person sessions. Just sending off a snippet of a stem to have a friend fuck with as they wish is so liberating. Use it, don’t use it, they don’t care. I’ll probably start doing more co-writes in the future.
Aside from that, I collaborate regularly with multimedia artist Xavier Vasquez who creates most of my visuals for live shows and otherwise. Music is such a visual thing for me and I want my project to reflect that.
Could you take us through a day in your life, from a possible morning routine through to your work? 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 usually work from 10AM-6PM and record / work on music at night (sorry, neighbors!). I don’t have much of a fixed schedule aside from that, other than taking a midday break to catch up on Tik Toks, hahaha. I’ve actually been getting a lot of inspiration from there lately, as wild as that may sound to some people. Folks are making some absurdly surreal things on there, it’s really astounding how creative they can be. I’ve also found a ton of really rad music on there!
As for the last question, god my life is entirely music. Not much else runs my life! Outside of body / negative I work as a sync licensing assistant at a company I mentioned earlier named Terrorbird, which does everything under the sun from PR to radio campaigns. Actually, a funny thing about me is a lot of my fellow musician friends in this “scene” (what a funny word) are folks I met through my college radio show back when I was still in school. I’m totally devoted to music, man. There’s nothing else for me.
Could you describe your creative process on the basis of a piece or album that's particularly dear to you, please? Where did the ideas come from, how were they transformed in your mind, what did you start with and how do you refine these beginnings into the finished work of art?
I write pretty much everything the same way - the instrumentals are recorded on the spot as I’m writing. I’ll get into a creative mood and hit record on Logic and just go for it. I usually do everything through my looper and just build through that. My lyrics I usually pull from old poems of mine (I have notebooks from all the way back in high school, so glad I can go back and draw inspiration from all of my teenage angst, haha). From there I just fiddle around on Logic, chop things up, do whatever. My process is pretty simple.
I’m pretty stoked on one song in particular on my new LP Fragments, called “With You.” That one came about in a pretty special way - it was maybe my first or second ever livestream during the very start of quarantine, and I was just improvising with my looper with all these people tuned in and wrote a song right there with everyone watching. I feel like that one has such a wonderful connection with people who dig my stuff and were tuned in that day. I’m really proud of it.
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?
I feel like the obvious answer here would be when I’m sad, since my music is so downtempo and moody, but honestly … when I’m bored. When there’s absolutely nothing to do and my only solace is my guitar is when I'm in my most creative mindset. Can you imagine all of the great songs that have come out of artists’ boredom? Geez, I can’t even fathom it.
Anyway, I get distracted pretty easily, and once something feels done I stop. I never forced myself to keep going if I'm in the middle of recording and not feeling it. It’s always better for me to go back in with fresh ears when I’m feeling motivated, otherwise I’ll just add a bunch of unnecessary noise to my compositions and it sounds like mush.
How is playing live and writing music in the studio connected? What do you achieve and draw from each experience personally? How do you see the relationship between improvisation and composition in this regard?
Like I mentioned before with my songs being written as they’re recorded, playing live and writing music are completely connected for me. My bud Cameron of Wilshire Corridor amongst other projects (who gave me my beloved looper, thanks Cameron!) once told me that playing live shows is the best way to test out your material. If you’re not falling into a total trance-like state playing some newly written, unreleased song live, trash it. On the other hand, it’s a great way to maybe play it a little differently, do something different with your vocals etc, and then use that to shape the recorded work.
How do you see the relationship between the 'sound' aspects of music and the 'composition' aspects? How do you work with sound and timbre to meet certain production ideas and in which way can certain sounds already take on compositional qualities?
I feel a much closer connection to song than composition. Like Grouper says of herself, I'm a person who just puts sounds together. I love production and just fucking around with pedals and plug-ins to get the coolest otherworldly sounds possible. I personally don’t really vibe with traditional song structures and music theory and whatnot, I just like loops!
When you mention “certain sounds already take on compositional qualities,” I agree with that wholeheartedly. I write songs around a sound I've either heard or created ALL the time. Songs can just kind of emerge out of sounds like waves crashing or the jingling of keys. That’s why field recordings are so important!
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?
I try to intertwine a lot of my personal experiences into my music and the visual elements of it, like being a sex worker in my music video for “Figure 8” from my upcoming album. I don’t think I intentionally try to make my art as a form of representation for people like me, but if it serves that purpose for listeners, hell yeah!
It is remarkable, in a way, that we have arrived in the 21st century with the basic concept of music still intact. Do you have a vision of music, an idea of what music could be beyond its current form?
I hate to say it but: robots.