Name: Populous aka Andrea Mangia
Occupation: Producer, live performer
Current Release: Populous's album Stasi is out now on La Tempesta Dischi. It follows his contribution to Christine And The Queens' 'La Vita Nuova Remixes'´.
Recommendations: Book: Ottolenghi "Simple". Record: Franco Battiato "Clic".
If you enjoyed this interview with Populous, follow him on Facebook, Instagram, Soundcloud and Twitter. He also has a bandcamp store.
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 programming music with an old Casio I had found in my father’s basement. My dad was a fond vinyl collector and a radio speaker, so I grew up surrounded by sounds. Kraftwerk, Tangerine Dream, Pink Floyd and A LOT of Brazilian music.
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?
When I was a teenager all I wanted to do was make noise. I was into Sonic Youth, Melvins, My Bloody Valentine and all that kind of stuff.
But I grew up in a small village and I didn’t ever find anyone interested in those bands and sounds. So electronic music wasn’t a choice, it was a need. It allowed me to produce all my stuff on my own.
How do you feel your sense of identity influences your creativity?
It didn’t have a major influence at the beginning of my career, as much as it has now.
What were your main creative challenges in the beginning and how have they changed over time?
Fighting my shyness, sonically and personally. Lately, my main challenge is to find a good concept for every record.
As creative goals and technical abilities change, so does the need for different tools of expression, be it instruments, software tools or 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?
My modus operandi has always been naive. I’ve never had a nerdy attitude, I prefer an emo approach to software and machines. I think you may be able to feel it listening to my first releases, they sound like crap. (laughs)
At the beginning I was very into vintage synths, especially Casio, Bontempi and Farfisa. I spent a lot of money on eBay. Then I had to move from my studio and I sold almost everything. So now I do all my pre-productions on a laptop, then I rent the studio/equipment every time.
Have there been technologies or instruments which have profoundly changed or even questioned the way you make music?
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?
Talking is ALWAYS fundamental. Sharing ideas is vital for me. But technically, I think nowadays Wetransfer has similar importance as every other musical instrument.
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’m super lazy. I’m afraid you could be disappointed by my daily routine, which is 99,9% based on thinking about food.
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 moved to Lisbon for a couple of months searching for inspiration for new music. Soon after that experience, I wrote "Azulejos" and when it came out I received great feedback directly from the artists that inspired the record. So I thought: "Ok, I did a good job". It was very helpful for my self-esteem.
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?
It's not easy to explain. I don't think there is a formula or a fixed amount of conditions for being creative. It just happens. I don't care if I'm sad or happy or relaxed, following the creative flow is more like a necessity.
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'm 100% convinced that ambient music has a healing effect on me. It's the only kind of music I've been listening to consistently for years now.
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?
The borderline is very very thin! My only fear is that people might have lost their instinctive and natural approach to art, thinking too much about this issue, even when there is no need.
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?
I'm into food, a lot. Maybe too much, if I consider some extra kilos. I also really like to drink, not a lot but to drink well, choosing labels and bottles carefully. So if we overlap the sense of hearing and sense of taste, the result is something potentially divine.
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 have never liked to define myself as an artist. I have always preferred to define myself as an art lover.
What can music express about life and death which words alone may not?
I think that music was born to replace the embarrassment and silence that certain words can sometimes generate.