Name: Borja Flames
Occupation: Composer, singer, songwriter, producer
Current Release: Borja Flames's Nuevo Medievo is out via Les Diques du Festival Permanent / Murailles Music.
Recommendations: Ulysses by James Joyce; any Ocora record label release
If you enjoyed this interview with Borja Flames and would like to know more, visit him on Instagram, Facebook, and Soundcloud.
When did you start writing/producing/playing 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 at around 15 years old.
My early passions were punk and garage rock bands. They represented for me a way of living different that what I was seeing around me, out of the social rules, a way for freedom and intensity. And the energy of the sound, the power of the songs gave me very strong emotions, made me feel alive.
I listened to music all the time, but I felt very quickly that it was not enough, that I needed to grab an instrument and do music in a band to feel this sensations more deeply. After that, music got another dimension, to create ideal structures.
When I listen to music, I see shapes, objects and colours. What happens in your body when you're listening and how does it influence your approach to creativity?
I also like to see music composition as painting on a canvas, or building an sculpture. But regarding to my body and senses, when I perform, I feel like departing to a parallel universe, where reality, space and time are no longer as we know.
And that’s what I seek, and that’s why I did choose to live writing, playing, recording and experimenting with music. To expand time, and change space perception. Feel alive and free.
How would you describe your development as an artist in terms of interests and challenges, searching for a personal voice, as well as breakthroughs?
I’ve been choosing each time to do what makes me feel something strong and go onto paths where I haven’t been before, or that other musics have not already taken me into.
I search to surprise myself. I don’t feel alright nor satisfied if I find myself in a place where I have already been, doing things that I have already heard. I don’t seek to be original, I just don’t want to do things that have already been done, it’s boring. And I don’t like to follow the demands of the industry, or the trends, it’s boring also, it’s not art, it's business.
This automatically puts me on a precise point of action and type of being.
Tell me a bit about your sense of identity and how it influences both your preferences as a listener and your creativity as an artist, please.
Everybody is unique. Everyone can do unique things. Each one of us doing unique things, that match with how we really are, can make a much more diverse society, where we can learn from each other, respect each other, and can lead us all to imagine new ways of being in the world, of more appropriate relations with the other living organisms (humans, animals, plants).
So I just try to be myself, and enjoy knowing me, my skills, my defaults, my contradictions, my preferences. It’s a nice trip, sometimes hard, sometimes fun, always intense.
What, would you say, are the key ideas behind your approach to music and art?
No ideas, just the search of creating powerful structures that made me feel better, fell more alive. And that can be useful for other people, as music has been for me as listener.
How would you describe your views on topics like originality and innovation versus perfection and timelessness in music? Are you interested in a “music of the future” or “continuing a tradition”?
I am interested in the music of the present, but a music that I have not heard before. But we are made of the past as well, so it is normal to use elements of tradition, to make new music. The future is now. Timelessness music appears when you don’t try to follow trends, and not try to copy what has already been done.
Perfection doesn’t exist. Everything is original, as we are all originals, unless, again, you copy others' works or follow trends.
Over the course of your development, what have been your most important instruments and tools - and what are the most promising strategies for working with them?
I’ve worked with different instruments. First, classical guitar, then electric, then piano, then percussions, then voices, then synthesizers ... I’ve been changing as time went by, as I was changing myself, and each time tried to work with the tool that I felt more appropriate to me, that I felt more close to, that gave me the needed vibration, shape or color.
No strategies, I just followed my intuition, and tried to have fun.
Also, working on computers sequencers for creating structures has been very important for me, as I don’t feel like a soloist but more like composer, painter or architect.
Take us through a day in your life, from a possible morning routine through to your work, please.
It depends, I don’t really have a routine. I spend nearly every day between 6 and 10 hours at the studio.
But I can start in the morning, or just after lunch. Sometimes I wake and I need to take my time, read, walk in the woods, think a lot. Sometimes I just need to be doing, playing, recording, writing.
Could you describe your creative process on the basis of a piece, live performance or album that's particularly dear to you, please?
I don’t have one way of working. Sometimes the idea of a piece comes by playing percussions, other times by improvising on synthesizers, other times in reaction to a sound or a piece created by another person or from nature …
But when I have a basic pattern or a harmonic mouvement that produces something on me, I record it and I keep on building the structure with the elements I feel this structure needs to be complete, to be equilibrated and powerful.
I would say also that I write songs mostly, so I have periods of writing lyrics before composing. Texts are not written at the same time as the music in my case. In fact I create spaces where I feel I can let my voice live.
Listening can be both a solitary and a communal activity. Likewise, creating music can be private or collaborative. Can you talk about your preferences in this regard and how these constellations influence creative results?
I prefer working alone.
I’ve been working in bands, it was interesting, but it’s always a bit of a compromise, everybody has to be happy with the piece. Now I believe that for a piece to be unique and powerful, it must come from the intentionality and needs and vision of one person. A strong vital experience, with no compromises.
We can also learn a lot from the others, however. So sometimes it can be interesting, for a short period, to work with other people.
How do your work and your creativity relate to the world and what is the role of music in society?
Music and art can lead us to imagine new worlds, new forms of society. Because music is abstract, the feelings we can have can be new, unnamed, and that can really be political. They suggest new possible emotions, new visions, if the music or the art we receive is new, unique, because the person that creates it is just trying to be herself.
I think there are many things that have to be changed in how we live, but the only way I feel I can contribute is by offering sound experiences, songs, chants, structures, that first make me happy and make me feel alive.
And so I hope I will transmit this to others, open their minds and bodies, stimulate their imagination.
Art can be a way of dealing with the big topics in life: Life, loss, death, love, pain, and many more. In which way and on which occasions has music – both your own or that of others - contributed to your understanding of these questions?
Writing and playing music for now thirty years has obviously given shape to how I am now. And I feel it gave me tools to think better, to manage better or accept my contradictions, my limits, my fears. The same as some books can change your live because it tells you things in a way you needed to hear. Or a song, or a painting, or a friend.
A piece of art can open your mind, can teach you, because it is the experience of another person. And we learn from others' experiences, even if sometimes these are not described with words, even if they are abstract, with no explicit message.
How do you see the connection between music and science and what can these two fields reveal about each other?
Music plays with time, and so with space, as it is the same thing cosmically speaking. It can stretch it, make it longer, wider, it can change our perception of reality. Also, music is mathematics, and the possibilities are endless as combinations are too.
I cannot say what music reveals about science as I am not a scientist.
Creativity can reach many different corners of our lives. Do you feel as though writing or performing a piece of music is inherently different from something like making a great cup of coffee? What do you express through music that you couldn't or wouldn't in more 'mundane' tasks?
Yes, music can be like cooking, a combination of elements in different proportions that can give us totally different sensations by just changing or adding a bit of something.
And nearly all experiences, walking, eating, loving, can be aesthetic and metaphysical experiences. A song can blow your mind, a conversation too. We can be creative in every act, and must be. Or at least, try to have your thoughts in a disposition that make you grow, or feel new things, or learn something.
Music is an easier path to feel deeply because it is abstract. But we can always try to live in a way where there is no difference between life and art, between properly artistic gestures, and other ones.
Music is vibration in the air, captured by our ear drums. From your perspective as a creator and listener, do you have an explanation how it able to transmit such diverse and potentially deep messages?
I don’t have an explanation, and I don’t really seek for one. I guess there is a scientific explanation and a cultural one. There is a physical effect, and also and intellectual effect.
The vibrations can reach all points of our bodies, cells, atoms, and make reactions, but also connect with our culture, our mind, our spirits, and with our past experiences, our memory. And each body reacts differently to each different mixture of frequencies, as each body is different from the others. Also, words added to sounds can change one's entire perception.
There is also a part of mystery and inexplicability for sure. And that’s the beauty of it.