Name: Davide Compagnoni aka Khompa
Occupation: Drummer, composer, producer
Current release: The new Khompa album Perceive Reality is out April 29 2022 via Monotreme.
Gear recomendations: Sensory Percussion; MaXForLive
If you enjoyed this interview with Khompa and would like to find out more about the project, visit him on Facebook, and Instagram.
What was your first studio like?
24 years ago I rented my first studio with my band Stearica. It was a narrow and filthy basement, one of the worst studios I've ever seen in my life.
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?
Since the very beginning I started experimenting using my drum kit in several ways, incorporating a loop station (classic boss double pedal), an AKAI MPC 1000 sampler and drum pads in my live setup. I used to launch samples and sequences in live gigs. Then I started working with triggers and everything changed, as electronics became a fundamental part of my approach.
I designed a custom step sequencer with the help of two friends and I started working on my solo project KHOMPA. This project is all based on a custom step sequencer that allows me to do melodic orchestrations, 100% live. My first record The Shape Of Drums To Come was entirely made with that step sequencer.
Check my interview on the Ableton website.
On the software side, on my new upcoming album Perceive Reality (out on Monotreme Records 29th April 2022), I make massive use of several MaxForLive devices. The most important one is the Envelope Follower. I use a simple dynamic mic to capture the live sound of the drums and run it through the envelope follower to control several parameters in Ableton Live, following the natural dynamics of the drum kit. This allows a more organic production of the electronics, better blending with the drums.
The most important pieces of gear that I am now using are Sensory Percussion sensors and software, manufactured by the New York based company Sunhouse. This ground breaking technology is totally changing the world of drum triggering, and beyond. These new sensors are completely different from all standard drum triggers and are really opening a new world to drummers / percussionists all over the world.
I started a partnership with Sunhouse a few months before the pandemic started and after that so many things changed in my life and in the world. Can't wait to release this new album, entirely made with these extraordinary devices.
The digital studio promises endless possibilities at every step of the process. What is it that you actually need from these potentials and how do you go about selecting it? How do you keep control over the wealth of options at the production stage?
I don't get control, I get lost every time!
A studio can be as minimal as a laptop with headphones and as expansive as a multi-room recording facility. Which studio situation do you personally prefer - and why?
After so many years of making music, I now have a home studio that I am patiently developing. I've recently finished setting it up, even if having a studio is a sort of an endless journey, trying to make it better day by day.
Talking about studios in general, as a drummer I think the acoustics of the recording and control room are fundamental, and gear is pivotal too. But lately I also think that the best studios are the ones where you feel at home. I mean that also the environment, the location, the amount of light, are all very important aspects.
And one other super important thing is the people you are working with. A great engineer, inspiring musical collaborators and friends are the basis of the whole journey.
How would you describe the relationship between technology and creativity for your work? Using a recent piece as an example, how do you work with your production tools to achieve specific artistic results?
My new single "Objective" was entirely made by triggering synths and samples live through Sensory Percussion and through a drum pad. This is a live performance, with no overdubs (just like all other songs in the album).
The whole electronic part is full of LFO/modulation devices that are modulating several samplers/synths with Ableton Live. The combination of Sensory Percussion, MaxForLive and Ableton Live is extraordinary, and drastically changed my way of doing music compared to my first album.
And if you consider that with this equipment I will also control the videos in real-time during the AV show, well, this is pretty exciting.
Within a digital working environment, it is possible to compile huge archives of ideas for later use. Tell me a bit about your strategies of building such an archive and how you put these ideas and sketches to use.
Having a wide range of musical approaches and preferences, during my creative process I tend to write musical compositions that are quite different from one another. Then, at some point I choose a more defined path, develop those ideas and then I suddenly find myself with a whole album ready to be released. That is always a great moment. A sort of cathartic resolution of a long musical journey.
Then I can use unreleased pieces for live gigs or future extemporary releases.
For example, for the recordings of my new album Perceive Reality, I rented a studio in Torino (Nomad Studio) and I was super fast in finishing the recording process (recorded 8 songs in one day and a half (including setting up the studio, desk, mics, etc.). So I had time to record an additional song I was working on in that period. This song is going to be published later this year, aA few months after the release of my new work Perceive Reality.
At the moment, I am working on the Perceive Reality AV, an audio-video performance in which I will control audio and video at the same time through the drum kit. To make it happen as I have in mind, I need to have different musical atmospheres during the show, so I will probably incorporate songs from the album and new pieces that I will develop starting from some of my unreleased songs in my HD. That's another way of using your personal archive.
Despite the aforementioned near endless possibilities, many productions seem to follow conventional paths. How do you retain an element of surprise for your own work? Are there technologies which are particularly useful in this regard?
I think the element of surprise is fundamental. I mean, isn't that why most of us make music? Constantly discovering and learning something new?
Probably, the musical ideas I enjoy the most during the creation phase are the ones that come about by chance, even by accident. I've always improvised a lot, I think it's the basis for everything, it is so visceral and spontaneous. I've also played, and still play, in live bands / projects that are totally based on improvisation. Every time we go on stage we play something different. And I think this approach is still visible in everything I do.
Production tools can already suggest compositional ideas on their own. How much of your music is based on concepts and ideas you had before entering the studio, how much of it is triggered by equipment, software and apps?
I think technology can be a very important part of the compositional process, it can really trigger new ideas. A new instrument or a new software can open up endless possibilities. I won't go deeper into that because this would take ages to discuss!
To some, the advent of AI and 'intelligent' composing tools offers potential for machines to contribute to the creative process. Do you feel as though technology can develop a form of creativity itself? Is there possibly a sense of co-authorship between yourself and your tools?
I think this is probably the future for some kind of music, especially in avantgarde electronics. Many people are already doing it, also in the code art/visual scene.
I will definitely look deeper into it as well, even if I am not currently working on that.