Name: Yamil Del Rio
Occupation: Producer, DJ
Current Release: POL Talks on Pieces of Life
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If you enjoyed this interview with Yamil, visit his facebook account or soundcloud profile for music and current tour dates.
When did you start writing/producing music - and what or who were your early passions and influences? What what is about music and/or sound that drew you to it?
I started creating my first rhythms in 2008. After a few years of mixing records I decided it was time to create my own ideas and translate them into my music and went into the world of music production.
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 the relationship between copying, learning and your own creativity?
My sound has evolved constantly since day one. After a while I felt that as you say, everything sounded like a copy of a copy of a copy and I stopped transmitting emotion. I had to slip, take a break and let myself go to other sounds that I was feeling, without pressure and leaving myself complete freedom. In these moments when I am locked in the studio, I try to not listen to much electronic music before I start the creative work. Always trying to get something unique and that my mind does not take me to sounds previously heard.
What were your main compositional- and production-challenges in the beginning and how have they changed over time?
At the beginning I remember that I threw out a lot of projects because I couldn't get the backing to flow. Then, when you discover those elements, you realise that you don't sound good yet. After a lot of trial and error you learn and realise how the mixes work. I think that's the way it is, you have to make a lot of mistakes to get where you want to go, there is no magic or tricks …
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?
Honestly, just like loads of other producers I started with a computer and some simple mini-chain speakers to mess around with for hours and hours. By the way, it sounded terrible hahaha,
Over the years I invested in some good monitors and vst and everything got better. I was there for years until I discovered the analog world … From then on I try to add new instruments to my studio constantly, it helps me to stay creative along the way.
I could say my essentials nowadays are maschine for the creation of the beat, Roland Juno 106 for melodic parts and Moog SUB37 or Novation Bass Station 2 for bass lines. I also love to record real instruments that I bring back from my travels like “Bongos, Shakers etc…”
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?
Very good question. I think no matter how good technology and machines you have, if creativity and inspiration aren't present, it is very difficult to create something solid and powerful. So it is always good to make use of your tools on the days when you are inspired or have good ideas going around in your head. It is something that all art creators must know how to combine and manage to work in the most orderly and productive way possible.
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?
I think that the good thing about electronic music is that it's an infinite universe and the limits of a producer are only in his mind. You can combine instruments and digital tools with real instruments or synthesisers and drum machines, ambient sounds … an infinite number of tools available to everybody, something that many years ago was practically impossible.
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?
I really love to work on collaborations with people who do something different than what I usually do, like rock guitarists, bands or singers from other genres. It always inspires me a lot in the studio. It's a pleasure for me to work with people who love what they do and share other ideas and ways of seeing the music.
On my current album, half of the songs are collaborations that were created that way. At other times, we also work by exchanging files, but I think the best way to make collaborations is in the same studio and working side by side.
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?
My day routine would be something like this:
I like to wake up around 9:30 / 10, take a shower and make a coffee, then sit down to answer outstanding emails, post something if there is something and I check all the stats for spotify, apple music, beatport, traxsource.
Around 11:30 I leave for the studio where I usually work until 14:30 to stop for lunch. I eat and rest my ears for a while and around 16:00, I am back in the studio to continue working. At 19:00 I take a break for a snack, then I continue working until 22:00 and then I stop for dinner and relax at home or go out to disconnect for a while.
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?
My longest and most time-consuming work was my last LP released in December 2019 called POL Talks on my new label "Pieces Of Life".
The creation took a year because 4 tracks were collaborations and they was not easy to combine. Each track is unique and is a piece created in a different state of mind. The album contains recordings of many real instruments recorded by musicians and friends with whom it was a pleasure to meet in the studio. You will find 8 original songs, 4 are full mine and flowed easily as I had quite clear ideas and I had a few good days of inspiration, so it was not difficult to create and structure them. The collaborations took a little more time to finish, but in the end we were all happy with the result.
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?
For me it influences me a lot the way I feel. If you are surrounded by joy, it always flows better, if you are in a sad state, it is much more difficult. So whenever I have good moments, I lock myself up as long as possible to create, while when it is not in that way I tend to distract myself with other things and disconnect as much as possible from the study to recover energy and strength and return with more desire.
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?
They are very different things … for me playing live is the happiness and fun part, you can play with the crowd to one way, you can test your music and enjoy the music of your favourite artists. Whereas the studio I see more as the work, the constancy, the learning and evolution of your sound.
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?
I think you need to find the balance between sound and composition when it comes to finishing a song. That it's emotional and well composed, and that the sounds sound in place. Otherwise a lot of people might like it, but not play it, or buy or listen to it just because it doesn't sound right.
Over time you understand what frequencies each sound works at and you process it and work it until it sounds in the right place. It's a matter of making mistakes many times to learn how all this works.
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? What happens to sound at its outermost borders?
Of course, when I listen to great music it makes my hairs stand on end and gives me chills and good vibes. I've also heard other people get a hard on ... but it's never happened to me with music haha.
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?
From my point of view I think that true art, the one that comes from the heart, does not think about profit, or interests, or trying to be someone or to get something ... Art flows in the veins of artists and is inside of us, it releases itself from inside you. I think that's the way to create wonderful works … no matter what is outside or what this is going to impact on your career or your life.
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?
I think music is music. You can combine it with different arts like visuals or live shows or a lot of other things. But I think music is music and will always remain intact in that format although the mix with different arts is something wonderful that has a long way to go.