Name: Raúl Villamil aka Techno Para Dos
Recent release: The new Techno Para Dos album Drama is out via Nadaville.
Recommendations: El golpe maestro del leñador-duende by Richard Dadd; Piedra de sol - Octavio Paz and Bitches Brew - Miles Davis.
If you enjoyed this interview with Techno Para Dos and would like to find out more about his work, visit the project on Soundcloud and Facebook.
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?
My first approaches to sound were thanks to my father who taught me how to use a cassette recorder.
Since I was 4 years old I recorded the sounds of my house, recordings that I still keep and listen to. I was very interested in the sound of television, and recording it was a kind of obsession for me since I was 4-5 years old with my recorder fishing for sounds. My mother says that they used to lull me to sleep with Latin American protest music; Violeta Parra, Soledad Bravo, Silvio .... music that I still listen to with great nostalgia.
I started playing music at 7 years old (guitar) and I was always attracted to distortions, loud things, noise. When I was a teenager I had an accident and I was unable to move the little finger of my left hand properly, that's when I discovered making music with the computer, at 17 years old to be exact. At first I did it in a very rudimentary way with an old PC that I used at home, some old iPhone ears and cracked FL studio.
My first great influence is and will always be my father, who tried to be a painter but gave up, in that context I learned and was close to art and in learning, I became stubborn.
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?
For me, it's like Diego Rivera said “Food for my nervous system”. It is something I need to do, just like eating. As for the influence on creativity, there's another great quote, by Pascal Quignard: "Ears have no eyelids." We are listening all the time, therefore it is not only about listening to things that we like.
In Mexico it is very common to take the subway and listen to street vendors offering you the mixtapes they made of Banda, neighbourhood reggaeton, salsa ... and the format in which they play it, is these speakers without any low frequencies, pure mids and highs, something very noisy. Perhaps it could become a kind of sound installation, street vendors have inadvertently begun to experiment with noise and popular Latin American music, so all these things that we listen to in our routine, in our day to day life, have a great influence on the approach to creativity.
Now I live in Stockholm and it's another kind of sonic grind I'm faced with, all these aesthetic experiences are mixed with what we like to listen to and so the mix of these two experiences makes me generate a "own" way of producing sound.
How would you describe your development as an artist in terms of interests and challenges, searching for a personal voice, as well as breakthroughs?
For the average Latin American artist, the first great challenge is to be able to eat with your art, pay rent, basic needs, the creative process is interesting when you are in an adverse situation in artistic creation, perhaps we begin to create not so much with the heart but with the intestines, with the liver.
On another stage, I am increasingly interested in noise, electroacoustic music, but I cannot leave music of protest, of resistance aside. The music of my country.
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.
We mestizo Mexicans do not have a “pure” identity. We are neither Spanish nor indigenous. When you ask me about the sense of identity, it is an extremely extensive topic in Mexican culture, perhaps it would be better to read The Labyrinth of Solitude by our Nobel Prize winner Octavio Paz or The Cage of Melancholy by Roger Bartra, to get a brief idea.
But just like the title of the latter book, I think melancholy is something that makes me think about my “sense of identity” and greatly influences what I listen to and what I produce as an artist. I have an obsession, for example, with looping records. ambient melancholy, for example William Basinski's Melancholia (right now while I'm writing I'm listening to it haha).
What, would you say, are the key ideas behind your approach to music and art?
Never having had solid support with resources that make it easy to work, produce and create music/sound in precarious ways with what you have at hand.
To create you need a single second of inspiration, everything else is hard work. Labourer, peasant, craftsman, farmer.
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'll share these two quotes: Stravinsky "A good composer does not imitate, (s)he steals." And Charly García: “The music is already done.”
The only thing that will always seem fascinating to me is the art of recording, capturing sound over time is something that will never cease to amaze me.
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?
A very important tool is learning to crack production programs, when you don't have money or material resources. This tool can be the difference between starting to create or not. And as a strategy it seems incredible to me, too.
Sound and music are for everyone. It is impossible to think of acquiring a music production tool that costs $200/300 if the average salary in Mexico is $200 per month …
Take us through a day in your life, from a possible morning routine through to your work, please.
I'll tell you a bit about my routine now in Sweden.
I get up early, I take the train, I arrive at the EMS (art residency where I'm currently working) and I spend 12 hours listening. I take a lunch break and have several cups of coffee!
Could you describe your creative process on the basis of a piece, live performance or album that's particularly dear to you, please?
Of course! I made an EP that I released, called HOPE, that work was done after my father died.
Everything was a process which I began 3 weeks prior to the last day of my father's life. I dedicated myself, in a slightly perverse way but also to appease the pain, to recording all the sounds of the hospital, the last breaths of my father, the oxygen machines. I wanted to transmit a little the smell of a hospital in sound, which is something extremely terrifying for me ...
Later, I worked with all those sounds, distorting them at times to the point of the inaudible, and I started to create this EP called HOPE.
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?
To create I need to be alone.
There are periods of time when I'm making a record or something like that that I isolate myself for a few months. However it seems to me that much of the work I do alone comes from me living with others, from human relationships.
How do your work and your creativity relate to the world and what is the role of music in society?
I don't know the relationship with the world, but as soon as I finish a piece it belongs to the universe and has nothing to do with me …
Music is a universal language.
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?
My father died two years ago in a very violent way and if it weren't for music I might be going even crazier …
Violeta parra is very important to me. “Volver a los 17” is one of those songs that makes me feel a lot of love and melancholy. It is also fun to laugh at life through music, it is something that we Mexicans do a lot.
How do you see the connection between music and science and what can these two fields reveal about each other?
It's a double-edged sword just today at lunch I had a conversation with several teachers about this. We talked about how many people have the best technology and science and forget about ethics, about art ...
Sometimes you just need a guitar and a voice to convey a deep message, however I also believe in the importance of implementing new technologies to the process of artistic creation.
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?
I don't know, maybe not in my music. But I feel that the sounds I create totally absorb my mood, the synthesis has a strong dose of psychoanalysis.
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 any explanation for this question, and I think you don't need it. Just transmit them and that's it.
But I can remember Jon Cage saying:
“There was a German philosopher who is very well known, his name was Immanuel Kant, and he said there are two things that don’t have to mean anything. One is music and the other is laughter”