Members: Diego Manrique (Niño Pueblo), Edgar Marún (Dorado Kandua)
Current release: Rizomagic's Voltaje Raizal is out via Disasters By Choice.
Gear recomendations: Arturia synths. Pocket Operator. Ableton Live.
If you enjoyed this interview with Rizomagic and would like to find out more about the project, visit them on Facebook, Instagram, twitter, Soundcloud, and bandcamp. We also highly recommend our earlier Rizomagic interview, in which they expand on topics like identity, tradition, and the Colombian electronics scene.
What was your first studio like?
A laptop, mic and an audio interface.
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?
To be constantly testing new equipment on the Rizomagic set is to be constantly trying new sounds and new ways of making music. We have really liked the Arturia gear and Ableton Live is a great DAW.
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 go about you selecting it? How do you keep control over the wealth of options at the production stage?
It's crazy how many possibilities there are in making music. We have found it useful to "limit" ourselves in the sounds we use. After a long exploration and deciding which elements to use, we started creating music. But we are aware of the endless possibilities.
The important thing is not to stay in the same mode by searching and searching for sounds. But also to be aware that you have to be flexible - if something doesn't work, you have to search again for the sound that fits.
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?
We started with what we had, a laptop and a couple of synthesizers. With that we made Voltaje Raizal.
We have been getting into the analog world and it is also fascinating. It requires money and space, but yes, we love the machines and whenever we can we will be acquiring more. That said, we like the thought of doing what we can with what we have. Nowadays it is totally viable to make something of an acceptable quality in your house with a few well selected pieces of equipment.
From traditional keyboards to microtonal ones, from re-configured instruments (like drums or guitars) to customised devices, what are your preferred controllers and interfaces? What role does the tactile element play in your production process?
We think every device has its virtues and its limitations. We’ve found some of these limitations can work as triggers of creativity.
Composing something with a limited quantity of elements may be a way to make your work more concentrated and even. It’s like choosing a palette of colors. When you have infinite colors available you may get lost. When you choose 3 or 4 that work well together you may get closer to a more consistent result.
We think the tactile element in our live performances is essential because it complements the rigidity and perfection of the machines.
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?
We think a machine is really good in a certain aspect. It has the capability of making really complex processes immediately, but it is also limited because it is rigid and incapable of making delicate decisions.
Humans are able to make sensible decisions. We try to build our work using the best of each part.
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.
Searching, exploring, collecting, organizing is one of the tasks we tackle first to then start creating music. We do our best to be organized with the files we have.
Sometimes the process starts with a percussion sample, then we compose by recreating its rhythmic feel and maybe trying to find unexpected accentuations of traditional patterns.
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?
We think technology and gear are important but the main substance is your own musicality. If you have a strong musical intuition and vision you can make a lot with very limited resources.
A good example of this is the work of Alostmen. He can really make you travel with a two-string kologo.
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?
We think this is an important question and sort of a definition of the way we embrace our musical vision.
For us it’s really important to imagine the music we're aiming at and have long talks about the way we want to sound before putting our hands on the instruments.
Sometimes, this takes on a more general form. For example we may say after a conversation let’s make a cumbia – an ambient track using really spaceful atmospheres; Or it may be abstract like: Let’s make a pink noise tropical-danceable track. But it is a requirement for us that we intuit this a priori.
In that sense, the machine is kind of a servant and not a master of the process.
How important is it for you that you personally create or participate in the creation of every element of a piece – from sound synthesis via rhythm programming to mixing?
We think it is important to achieve a balance between the intention of total control and acceptance and trust in the cosmos and the process.
Nevertheless, we indeed invest time into thoroughly examining the work of the people we want to mix and master our songs. When we choose them we also want them to take decisions and be a propositive creative element of the process and not just follow our orders.
Regarding sound synthesis we think it is helpful to know all the details of sound design to really get to the timbre that vibrates with our essence.
Have there been technologies which have profoundly changed or even questioned the way you make music?
Ableton Live has been a very significant discovery on our musical path. Also related is the use of the U-Bass. (Edgar) I went to the conservatory for more than 10 years to master the double bass and the similarity in tone that you can get with a fretless U-Bass made me question my career a lot.
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?
We indeed believe the latest advances in AI have generated new ways of creativity.
Pèrhaps the difference between humans and AI regarding music composition may be related to the sensibility and interpretation of territory and capacity of generating an aesthetic vision that takes these into account.
What tools/instruments do you feel could have a deeper impact on creativity but need to still be invented or developed?
Grooveboxes. Sampling is a great tool that never gets old.