Wednesday, 8 February 2012

Interview with Leonardo Rosado

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Lately ambient music has made its home here at Alternative Matter. Wolfgang Merx and John Toolan took the opportunity to have a friendly chat with Portuguese ambient composer Leonardo Rosado about his working and composing methods, his own label and his various musical projets.

The term “ambient” music has been used for a number of years now as an almost umbrella categorisation for quiet or introspective composition. Music described as “new age”, particularly in the UK, is often dismissed as whimsical and quirky. Is this the case in Portugal too, or do you feel there is more acceptance there?

I think this idea of new age and also chillout music is present also in Portugal, but in general ambient music of any kind is dismissed a lot. There are very few spaces where an “ambient” artist can play live, implying that this music as a very small impact on the music scene here.

When you set out to create a piece of music, do you have a mood or a situation that inspires you, and is the creative process improvisational to you?

I always make music based on underlying concepts. It might be a poem, a photograph, a movie or a situation in daily life. What I think might be the most common aspect to this is the abstraction process I put into it. The stimuli I use are transformed in abstractions that I use to make the music. With this mood I often improvise a set of pieces, that latter are cleaned, fragmented and then reassembled to attain a form that serves my purposes.

In my review of “Mute Words” I remarked on how that album, taken as a whole, was able to engage the listener throughout and maintain their attention. Is this something that you actively set out to create when arranging the pieces for a release?

When I make an album or a set of “songs” I like to think of them as pieces of a whole, meaning that they should tell a story but be focusing on different aspects. It might not be a linear story, but nonetheless a story.

What inspired you to create your Heart and Soul label project?

After releasing only digital music through FeedbackLoop Label for 2 years I started to feel something was missing, even though I made several projects such as the Brave New World compilation which was an invitation to several musicians to make a music inspired by poetry and photography. But even that felt short and I thought that I wanted to make physical objects, and there it is born Heart and Soul.

Where do you find artists to showcase on your projects Feedback Loop and Heart and Soul?

Normally I listen to several musicians through Soundcloud or Bandcamp and when a particular work draws my attention I check my release schedule and if it fits I invite them. But there are cases where it happens the other way around, musicians send me a demo and if I like it I release it.

The artwork to your releases on Feedback Loop and Heart and Soul appear to perfectly encapsulate the music within. Where do you find the images that are used, and how do you match them to the releases they are associated with?

The process for the construction of the covers is always to support the music. Normally, I send the demo of the EP/album to my collaborator Jessica (she is an amazing photographer) so she can listen and send me several images that she feels adequate to the specific release. With that in mind I work the design and try to keep a compromise between the whole set of releases and the particular release.

With the vast amount of music available now on various sites throughout the internet, where do you see the challenge for the artist and label curator such as yourself in selecting who and what to put your name to?

For the curator the process is somewhat easier because since there are a lot of musicians it is easier to find music I enjoy. The biggest challenge is for the artist because he needs to choose carefully where he wants to release his music, so he can have the largest exposure possible. But that is a very personal challenge, because what might be true for some might not be for others. For instance, there are a lot of musicians that just want to put their music out, not worrying about a lot of exposure, others need to have the release out so they can promote it in their live acts, and so on.

Sites such as Bandcamp that allow the consumer free or “pay what you want” access to music, one could argue, are bypassing the need for traditional record labels as such. How far do you think this is true, or do you feel there is merit in showcasing music in a certain field?

I know that there is a lot of thinking about the role of labels and how they are becoming obsolete, but when we are talking about very small niche music types I don’t think that still holds true. Labels that release ambient, drone, contemporary classical still play a role on promoting the music for the fans of the label, and that is important for an artist, because otherwise he will have to promote its music not knowing exactly who are its listeners.

Which artists in particular have you looked to for inspiration in the past?

When I make my music very seldom do I feel there is a direct inspiration, but sometimes I find myself amazed by the coincidences with some parts of other artists. For instance, “Here’s lookin’ at you Kid” (from my collaboration with Birds of Passage) reminds me of Tricky’s early work. So in a sense, surely I listen to a lot of music, particularly now, drone music, and surely you might find some inspirations there, but my muso is poetry and everyday life, that’s where I draw my inspiration from.

How important to you now as an artist and curator is social networking on sites such as Twitter and Facebook?

Social networking is the key for an artist and curator, but you have to invest a lot of time and effort in it. Because if you are in Twitter, Facebook or any other place such as that just to spam everyone else with your work, then you will not go anywhere. Again, you need time and connections to use these tools more effectively.

Are there any plans of taking your music on the road?

Yes, definitely, as soon as I have more time I will concentrate on a new piece specifically tailored to play it live, and will hopefully push it forward.

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