Name: José Medeles
Occupation: Drummer, songwriter, improviser
Nationality: American
Recent release: José Medeles's Railroad Cadences & Melancholic Anthems is out May 20th 2022 via Jealous Butcher.
Recommendations: Book: “Drawings & Observations” by Louise Bourgeois; Music: “Fur Alina” by Arvo Part

If you enjoyed this interview with José Medeles and would like to find out more, visit his official website. He is also on Instagram, and bandcamp.

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 playing drums when I was 9 years old and instantly connected to the instrument. I’ve been using it as a vessel to escape, create and connect ever since.

I loved how music, especially the beat, affected my mom and dad. My memory was when there was music on, there was calm and peace in the house.

The main draws for me was feeling of control in the moment when playing and the challenge of making all of my limbs work to produce a rhythm.

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?

Music is emotion. I feel all that entails … joy, sadness, hope.

When writing a piece I know when I’m on to something when it hits me in my core. If it makes me laugh, smile to be moved to tears.

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 think my biggest developments happen when I do a “micro” reinventions of myself.

Example, I love drumming and philosophy, so why don’t I write a book that combines both passions. Or when asked to perform a solo show, I execute and complete the “challenge”.

This naturally becomes my own “personal” voice and gives me confidence for the next creative endeavor.

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.

My sense of identity comes from speaking my truth, both in life and in any creative situation I’m in. I think this heightens your awareness as a listener and practitioner of music.

What, would you say, are the key ideas behind your approach to music and art?

Being confident and believing in my work. Being proud and standing behind it. I think all the roads and ideas lead to Freedom.

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’m not a fan of perfection in any art form. I’ll always root for the underdog attempting some new or interesting. Like many, I’m happy to be a part of this ever flowing river.

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?

My drums, percussion, library, records, pencils and notecards. Showing up everyday to practice, write, read and listen.

Take us through a day in your life, from a possible morning routine through to your work, please.

I love routine ...

5:30 Wake
6:00-7:00 Meditate and journal
7:00-8:30 Coffee talk with my wife. Breakfast.
8:30-9:30 Go for a walk.
9:30-10:30 Return emails, texts, calls, get ready
10:30-4:30 Practice, write, read, music, walk, free play, lunch, errands
4:30-8:00 Prep/cook dinner, family time
8:00- Read, settle

Could you describe your creative process on the basis of a piece, live performance or album that's particularly dear to you, please?

My latest album. It was a beautiful experience making music with friends and musicians I truly admire. It was all improved, so no hiding behind anytime. The record celebrates honesty, love, joy and connection.

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 don’t have a preference.

I enjoy the challenge of just looking into that musical mirror when working on solo pieces … terrifying and exhilarating. I also love getting into a room with others (especially those I trust) to see what happens. The volleying of ideas, the push and pull usually produces some favorable results.  

How do your work and your creativity relate to the world and what is the role of music in society?

I’m reminded of what a friend once relayed to me, that drumming is the heart and soul of music, a sacred tool for human expression and healing.

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?

Just simply that you are not alone. There is always a song, poem or piece of art that can help you cope, celebrate and persevere.

Drums and drumming has always been the thread that help keep my life together.

How do you see the connection between music and science and what can these two fields reveal about each other?

The physical (body) and the emotional (mind) reaction to the vibrations of music and sounds has been around for a very long time. Gongs, bells, singing bowls all help in healing. The bell symbolizes wisdom and compassion.

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?

No. How you do one thing, is how you do all things.

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 wish I could!