Name: Gabriela Jimeno
Current release: Ela Minus's Acts of Rebellion is out now on Domino
Recommendations: the story of art by e.h gombrich (book); the great beauty (movie)
If you enjoyed this interview with Ela Minus, there are plenty of places to find out more about her and her work: Her personal website, instagram, facebook and soundcloud.
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’ve been a musician my entire life. First piano, then drums, now electronics. I’ve always been drawn to it, since I was a baby. Who knows (and who cares) why - I'm simply very glad it is.
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?
I think that most of this question is better answered for someone other than myself, I think my own perspective on my own work on this matter is rather irrelevant, don’t you think? I can only say I work really hard, and I have for years. Not to get better, but for my own sanity and enjoyment, I love music. Playing it, making it and listening to it are the greatest joys of my life.
Being inspired by something and taking that something that moved you to make it your own is not “copying” that is art. that is how it happens - I think- you love something and you take it and you make it your own. It's “making it your own” that's the hard part, that is the real challenge.
What were your main compositional- and production-challenges in the beginning and how have they changed over time?
Finding my own voice. With time I've learned to trust that if I'm working honestly, my voice will inevitably be present in whatever I make.
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've never had a studio, still don't. I’ve always worked out of my home. I work with essentially the same synthesizers I've had for years now, all hardware synthesizers and drum machines. MPC 1000 would be the single most important one.
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?
Well ... we have experiences, feelings, thoughts, interactions with other human beings, the ability to make decisions - even when our brains are telling us we shouldn't, so we have a will-, the ability to ignore, to re-shape ourselves and our surroundings, and we do so constantly. We shift our attention, our perspective, we are malleable, we make mistakes, we hurt, we laugh. All those things are creativity.
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?
Hum ... I only use hardware synths. I barely touch my laptop when I'm making music. My entire compositional process happens in front of my instruments, my synths, so I would say I share the same co-authorship that one would share with a piano while writing a song on it.
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?
So far, on this project, I've tried to keep it all very insular. I wanted to get to know myself as well as I could as a producer, musician and writer, before reaching out to others. And so for now “collaboration” has mainly taking the shape of talking with friends and people I admire and taking their advice. But I do want to start collaborating more from now on.
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 don’t have a fixed routine per-se but I do have rituals. I love coffee so I take my time making it every single day with a long process that I enjoy. I also do kundalini yoga every day and I take the morning very easy, turn my phone off every night when I go to bed and I don't turn it back on until noon. Having quiet screen-free mornings are essential for me (although not always possible), but I treasure them when I have them.
And I don't try to separate anything, I mean ... of course I'm not working all the time, and there are different times for different activities, friends, family etc, but I think it's all connected. It is all my life, all I am, feel, think, experience, becomes what I make.
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?
“Acts of Rebellion” is the piece of work that I am the proudest of. I made it all with very little musical equipment and no expectations or fixed ideas, it all took shape as I was making it. The only thing I knew when I started it was: “I want to make a full length album.”
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?
Turning my phone off is key, and usually working in the evenings and nights, where it is naturally quieter, more still. Also working out, stretching, doing daily yoga, feeling centered and light, extremely light. Whatever helps me get to that stage is what helps. I think being present every single day and accessing what works for each specific day is a good strategy.
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?
For me they are two completely different artforms, and I've been trying hard to fill the gap between the two as much as I can, while approaching them as different art forms at the same time. That is why I always improvise live when I'm writing, and also why I use the same setup to write/record/produce as I do to play live. My approach to recording is very oldschool, almost as if I was a jazz band recording live albums.
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?
For me they are one. I get extremely inspired by sound. Even though I make electronic music, the nature of the way in which I work is similar to writing on an acoustic instrument, like a piano. So the sound is everything, the room, the way you play it, it all affects the sound, and it all inspires the writing. They are one, really, to me.
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?
Well, I think in a moment like this no matter what one’s profession is, we all have to own our existences a bit better. Have more responsibility for our lives and the ones of those around us, we have to actively make more decisions instead of waiting for others to make them for us. We are standing at a huge and important shift and we all need to take a part in it.
There is no choice anymore, I wish things were different and I didnt have all this shit in my head and heart about the world around me that comes out in my music. I wish I didn't have to make a “resistance” record to make an honest one, but here we are. I am a human being alive in 2020 and I think there is no real option but to speak up and revolt.
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?
Is it though? Remarkable? Music precedes almost everything, it is so primal, absolutely powerful and a life source, I'm in awe of it everyday, I'm sure it will keep changing forms. But I'm even more sure it will always be here.