Arovane: Fifteen Questions

Arovane about Collaboration

Name: Uwe Zahn aka Arovane
Nationality: German
Occupation: Producer, sound artist, composer
Current release:Skal_Ghost, Arovane’s collaboration with Taylor Deupree is out November 4th 2022 via 12k.

[Read our Taylor Deupree interview
[Read our Taylor Deupree interview about collaboration]

If you enjoyed this interview with Arovane and would like to know more about his music, visit his official soundshop. He is also on Facebook, and twitter

Over the course of his career, Arovane has collaborated with a wide range of artists, including Porya Hatami and Mike Lazarev of Headphone Commute.

For many artists, a solitary phase of creative development precedes collaborative work. What was this like for you: How would you describe your own development as an artist and the transition towards your first collaborations?

My first collaboration was a long time ago. 2003 Kazumi sent me a DAT tape from London, with her singing along to one of my tracks. I invited her to come to my Berlin studio. 

It was a very interesting experience for me to work with her. On the one hand because of the different languages and the exchange of ideas between us. On the other hand, to adapt my workflow to the production. To integrate the singing into my existing concept. 

With this collaboration and all following ones, I have developed significantly as an artist, as a person. It made me look at myself and my workflow differently. I have become more critical of myself and have refined my workflow.

Tell me a bit, about your current instruments and tools, please. In which way do they support creative exchange and collaborations with others? Are there obstacles and what are potential solutions towards making collaborations easier?

I work with the computer and software. I see the computer and a DAW more as a digital tape machine and the possibility of editing and arranging audio. In the studio I use hardware and software equally. 

Loopers and samplers are used, various pedals, hardware synthesizers and sequencers. I love to use delays in my music. Both software and hardware delays are incredibly flexible and feature-rich these days. Asynchronous looping is an important technique that I like to use quite often. The EHX 22500 a dual stereo looper and Monome’s Norns Shield are used here. 

In relation to the collaboration with Taylor, it was nice to use the same tools and exchange ideas. For example, we exchanged presets for the Nonlinear Labs C15 synthesizer or we both used the same pedals, e.g. the Strymon Volante to create loops.

[Read our feature about the Strymon Magneto]

One obstacle was the incompatibility of the different audio DAWs we use in our studios. But we found a way to exchange our ideas as audio files. It is important to think outside the box here.

What were some of your earliest collaborations? How do you look back on them with hindsight?

One of the first collaborations was working with Kazumi for the album Lilies and then a collaboration with Phonem (Elliot Perkins) for Vertical Forms

The collaboration with Elliot in particular was characterized by technical difficulties in the studio. It failed to sync the computer and software (reactor) with my MIDI hardware equipment. So we decided to break away from the MIDI clock and to develop rhythmic and musical structures independently of each other.

It was a great experience working with Elliot and Kazumi. They enriched my music with their character and ideas.

Besides the aforementioned early collaborations, can you talk about one particular collaboration that was important for you? Why did it feel special to you? When, why and how did you start working on it, what were some of the motivations and ideas behind it?

One particular collaboration is the first thing that comes to mind here. The album Resonance on Eter Recordings with Porya Hatami and later Kaziwa (n5MD/ Time Released Sound). 

Kaziwa was very special. Porya sent me a short, very melancholic piano improvisation. It inspired me a lot to create more piano recordings and to send them back to him. It was very special because his recordings touched me deeply emotionally. 

Another very important collaboration is the album by Taylor and me, Skal_Ghost

The idea of a collaboration came up after Taylor mastered some of my albums. At the end of 2021, long conversations made it clear that we share a common love for unusual sounds, art and music. The motivation was to let our sound expertise flow into an album. 

Taylor had the idea of swapping presets for the C15 synthesizer (Nonlinear Labs) that we both own and to use these sounds as a basis and starting point to record an album.

What are some of the things you learned from your collaborations over the years?

I have learned to taking myself back, leaving space for the other person. To allow a balance and to have patience. To listen very well and put myself in the other person’s music. 

How do you feel your sense of identity influences your collaborations? Do you feel as though you are able to express yourself more fully in solo mode or, conversely, through the interaction with other musicians? Are you “gaining” or “sacrificing” something in a collaboration?

I have a strong personality. To be honest I prefer to work solo in the studio. But certain constellations, certain collaborations, challenge me. It pleases me how a certain collaboration brings out its very own musical aspects. In „solo mode“ I can of course express myself freely musically, but working together brings completely unexpected sides to the light. 

Whether I “gain“ or “sacrifice“ a certain aspect of the musical collaboration depends very much on the composition, the project, the partner and the goal that is being pursued. But basically I work very spontaneously and concentrated.

When it comes to the collaboration with Taylor, there was of course a large back catalog from 12k with many top-class artists and releases in the background. There was a certain amount of pressure (on my side) at the beginning, but I was able to relieve it very quickly while working with Taylor.

There are many potential models for collaboration, from live performances and jamming via producing in the same room together up to file sharing. Which of these do you prefer – and why?

During the pandemic, there was no other model or option than file sharing in remote collaboration. 

I often discussed with Taylor whether our album would have sounded different if we had been in the studio together. I think so, since a personal exchange has more quality than a chat on the Internet.

I would have loved to fly over to the US to work with Taylor on the studio album, yes. We have planned live performances for a longer time, but the Covid situation has made this impossible again and again.

Is there typically a planning phase for your collaborations? If so, what happens in this phase and how does it contribute to the results?

Sometimes a longer planning phase precedes the collaboration, yes. But that is not typical. Usually everything happens very spontaneously and quickly. 

Planning can sometimes be helpful when working remotely to clarify technical aspects, for example. But mostly it is a flowing process in the development of the collaboration.

What tend to be the best collaborations in your opinion – those with artists you have a lot in common with or those where you have more differences? What happens when another musician take you outside of your comfort zone?

It can be very exciting and challenging to work with an artist that you don’t share very much with. But I have found that the best results come when there is at least a common basis in terms of musical taste. 

I like to be taken out of my comfort zone in order to have new experiences. I leave my beaten path and deal with things that I have never considered before.

Do you need to have a good relationship with your collaborator? Or can there be a benefit to working with someone you may not get along with on a personal level?

I personally need a good relationship with another person with whom I make music. 

Some artists feel as though the creative process should not be a democratic one. What are your thoughts on the interaction with other musicians, the need for compromise and the decision making process?

I think in a collaboration it’s important to strike a balance between the creative process and the weighing up of decisions. 

Personally, I would also like to be able to make compromises. I want to give my partner as much space as I do myself. 

What’s your take on cross-over collaborations between different genres?

That can be very interesting, but I haven’t done it personally. 

The only exception was a remix for a Japanese rock/ pop band, Sangatsu.

In a live situation, decisions between creatives often work without words. How does this process work – and how does it change your performance compared to a solo performance?

That is very interesting indeed. The wordless communication during a session. 

I think it has a lot to do with your own behavior. Am I listening carefully to what the other is doing? Does he show me something to react to? Something I can respond to musically.

There are many descriptions of the ideal state of mind for being creative. What is it like for you as part of a collaboration? In which way is it different between your solo work and collaborations?

It is inspiring in itself to work with another artist. It makes me leave the beaten track and try new things.

When I make music solo, it’s more of a self-absorption, a self-contemplation.

Collaborating with one’s heroes can be a thrill or a cause for panic. Do you have any practical experience with this and what was it like?

What matters to me when working together is the quality of the interaction and the music. Names, even famous names, are not important to me. 

I give equal respect and attention to every artist, whether well known or not.