Federico Durand interview in Subcultura

(Translated from Spanish)
Original interview page here

Federico Durand creates collages and landscapes in an ambient key, through small, subtle, dreamlike and repetitive melodies from the mountains of Córdoba, Argentina. Specialized and prestigious labels such as Spekk and 12k, to name a few, released their music in Japan, the United States, Belgium, Luxembourg, among others. We contacted him to chat about his beginnings, desktop publishing, influences, travels, and learn details about his recent albums: “Alba”, “Flor Imaginaria” and “This Valley of Old Mountains”, along with Taylor Deupree • By Leandro N.

In many cases, the first connection with music, the first interest, comes from what was heard at home at an early age, how did it come about in yours? What artists, sounds, physical formats were part of that first approach to music?

My first memory is in the patio of my grandparents’ house, with whom I lived for many years, listening to AM radio. The voice of Héctor Larrea. Music coming out of the little radio speaker. Toy instruments. My aunt had a recorder with which I began to record all kinds of sounds. The engine of my grandfather’s Renault 4L. The passing of the bottle rack car and the watermelon seller, announcing the quality of the fruit from a megaphone: a harsh, rich, textured sound. An airplane informing the arrival of the circus. I bought my first cassettes in the late 80’s at a record store in San Miguel, which of course no longer exists. Later, many cheap, virgin national cassettes with which he made music, radio collages, invented stories that were set to music live and imaginary trips. I am part of a generation that discovered the aesthetic possibilities of analog and lo-fi recording in a completely natural way. The memory of those first sounds is linked to other sensations: the delicious, acidic taste of tangerines; the smell of sizing on freshly ironed clothes; my grandmother’s kitchen and coffee with milk in my favorite mug; Play cards; the house of my neighbors that was connected to ours by an iron gate in the garden; my grandfather’s fishing rods; my first stamp collection.

In a recent interview with Pablo Reche, I mentioned Carlos Alonso from UXU as a local pioneer of electronic music, who lives precisely in the San Miguel district (northwest of the Buenos Aires suburbs) where you grew up. Did you have any connection with Alonso? How influential was it for you?

We always talk with Pablo about the concerts we attend, we agree on many. And we always talk about Carlos Alonso. I met Carlos personally in the mid-90’s, he is from Muñiz like me (those of us from Muñiz name the town and not San Miguel, the municipality) and we lived very close to each other. I would go to his recitals and then I began to rehearse in his La Cabeza Recital studio, which was in the garage of a raised chalet, as if it were located on a hill, surrounded by hydrangea plants. Over time we started to see each other more and between 2005 and 2006 I ended up playing for about a year at UXU. It was a wonderful experience. Carlos called me to play synthesizers and my friend Jerónimo to play electric guitar. The group at that time was completed by Héctor Ongarato on bass and Maestro Horacio Contursi on percussion. Two exceptional musician. Héctor had come from playing historically with Carlos, Contursi in the 60’s had been part of the musical experimentation group of the Di Tella Institute. Few times in my life I saw and heard a group like that, it was a real privilege for me to rehearse for hours and hours and give recitals together. Above all, he enjoyed the improvisations we did, which could be long and intense. I almost always played a Minimoog and sometimes an accordion. There were no rules, no list of topics. I went many times to listen to UXU concerts with my friends from Muñiz and Bella Vista. Muñiz is a lower-middle class town, with houses faded by the sun, modest gardens, it has that magical and at the same time hostile thing of Greater Buenos Aires, waiting on the platform and trips to the Capital to go buy books and records, with the discman always in the backpack. Carlos’s music is linked to those memories of the suburbs. The album “Japanese Flowers” by UXU for me is one of the most beautiful in Argentine music. Carlos Alonso, Willy Pérez and Quum, who are also from my area, are always spoken fairly as pioneers of Argentine electronic music, but Alonso is also a great lyricist. There are moments when his lyrics soar very high: “A white crab would dawn in a sea of ​​oranges / a white crab / would dawn on a sea of ​​oranges / languid stars on the sand.” That song makes me think of the novel “The Time Machine” by Wells, when the time traveler reaches a distant future, a sort of eternal pale evening and the only life there is is cold and silent.

Before the release of “La siesta del ciprés”, your first “official” album, I read that you had already been self-publishing your music and making fanzines that you distributed to your friends. There is a very punk imprint, very do it yourself, where does that come from? What artists at that time in your life motivated you to make your zines, your own music and solo?

Since I was a kid I made publications that I used to give to my family and friends. In truth, although I am a fan of memorabilia and I keep everything, there are publications and albums of mine that my friends have that I do not have. For me recording and editing is a great happiness. See the finished work, coming to light. Where does it come from? I dont know. I really enjoy the process of dreaming, imagining and making: a souvenir cassette for a series of recitals, a mini-poster, a vinyl record. Without trying to sound exaggerated, I am convinced that we are here, in the world, to create. When I was a boy I thought that the maximum aesthetic satisfaction could be given in the case of being alone in a completely virgin place, on a mountain, without traces or traces of others. Now I realize that I was completely wrong: that hypothetical landscape is much better if one can see smoke from a chimney coming out of a cabin, signs that someone is quietly living and working. Making bread, music, tending a garden, writing. Nature has a human face.

In April, it was 10 years since “La siesta del ciprés” released through the Japanese label Spekk. Retrospective feelings, memories, anecdotes, ways of recording, we will tell you what you want about that work.

Five memories and impressions: a) my first album, released in Japan: sensation of magic; b) I recorded it with a very old PC, almost a cart pulled by horseback. Very simple audio processes that lasted all afternoon. Wait in the backyard of the house drinking tea, mate or coffee; c) the cover art was made by the Japanese artist Satoshi Ogawa. Cut paper cypress trees, then photographed and photocopied. Lo-fi; d) the vision of Nao Sugimoto, the editor of Spekk, to whom I will be forever grateful. Every time we visited Tokyo we met, drank coffee, walked and chatted. Spekk is one of the most beautiful stamps out there. Beautiful, austere, intelligent editions. Just as an album is made up of a collection of tracks, Spekk is a great work in progress whose catalog has a unique coherence; e) a quote from John Keats, the first verse of Endymion: “A thing of Beauty is a Joy for Ever”.

“Alba” marks your return to the 12k label. I would like you to tell us some details about the recording: I understand that part was in La Cumbre, Córdoba, where you live and another part in a mountain refuge in Patagonia.

Yes, half of the album was recorded at La Cumbre in my little studio in the loft at home and the other part in Patagonia. My friends Bruno and Victoria, after a long concert trip in Japan, organized a recital for me at the Agostino Rocca mountain refuge. My family is marked by fire for the love of the forest and the mountains, so it was a great surprise to receive that invitation. There are many stories to tell from that trip to the South. The ascent to the refuge began early in the morning and lasted much of the day. We climb through forests and streams of frozen water. Around the fallen logs were lichen and extremely dangerous or edible fungi: the green and ocher landscape of the Andes Mountains. I would have liked to know the name of all the plants I saw. The air of the Andes is fine and crystalline. Upon reaching the refuge, from the viewpoint, I saw a condor pass so close that I felt I could touch it. The shelter has electrical energy that comes from a small turbine fed with meltwater. I brought a very small set of instruments: music boxes, pedals, a loopera, cassettes. The sound system for the recital was an Aiwa music center, a luxury considering we were in the middle of the Cordillera. Much of the concert was recorded on my 4 channel looper. This is how I gave a recital for a group of mountaineers and also recorded half of “Alba”.

The mastering was done by Taylor Deupree (artist and director of 12k) and the cover was in charge of the Irish visual artist Emer Tumilty, what was the idea or concept of the album, both soundly and aesthetically? Are these decisions worked together?

Taylor Deupree and I are friends, he knows my music very well. Taylor’s hallmark 12k catalog is exquisite. His own music is of great beauty. Being part of 12k is a great joy. The design of the discs is also very beautiful. I really like to think about tapas. For this album I knew that the cover had to be a work by Emer Tumilty. Her geometric compositions look like scores of imaginary music. I discovered her work by chance: a while ago Emer had written a comment on my album “La Niña Junco” (12k, 2017) and I followed the link to her illustrations. I immediately fell under the spell of their colors. Some time later, I asked her to collaborate and I sent her a demo along with some impressions of her own work: she gave me back the work that reflects the spirit of “Alba” with great imagination and beauty.

What instruments did you play on the album?

This is the complete list of instruments I used for “Alba”: Sony TCM 200-DV, cassettes, Organelle, music boxes, contact microphone, crib toys, CT5, Dark World, Roland Space Echo RE-201, ARP , electric and toy piano, Fostex X-18, Sony Minidisc, EXH 2880, DD-7, sampler and acoustic guitar.

In “Alba”, did you experience something new, different, either in terms of sensations and / or sound, or that you had not done on previous albums?

Each album involves numerous learnings. Although there are aesthetic coincidences with previous albums, “Alba” was made to be listened to at dawn, at the moment when all things, behind the window, change color. Although everyone is free to hear it in the context they want, “Alba” points to this liminal listening. Recover at dawn in its deep musicality. And like all my albums, “Alba” is an approach to the beauty of sound through its dreamlike qualities.

‘Alba’ was made to be heard at dawn, at the moment when all things, behind the window, change color.

“The language of fireflies” (2013) edited by the Desire Path Recording label (USA) was mastered by James Plotkin, renowned underground musician and producer for his work with OLD, Khanate, Scorn and a very long list. How did you meet him and how was the experience of working with him?
“James Plotkin was introduced to me by Michael Vitrano of Desire Path Recordings.” During the time he was working on my album, we exchanged very interesting ideas about the use of certain frequencies in one or another subject and impressions on the character of 4-channel tape recording. The vinyl record sounds amazing.

Within the wide palette of sounds that one can find among ambient and derivative artists, your music is, at least for me, different from the rest and very recognizable. I am referring to those dream sounds, which present a certain fragility or delicacy, such as musical boxes or instruments, toys that belong to the world of the analog, the tangible. What is your feeling? Do you think you achieved a sound identity?

If there is an identity in my sound, it will have to do, above all, with my shortcomings. Against the light, everything I can’t do is clearly visible. As I have no traditional musical training, over the years I developed my own working method. From a very young age, I experiment with sound, with repetition. Until a few years ago, my aunt kept the Hitachi recorder from the late 70s with which I made my first sound collages. I wonder what happened to that tape recorder and those cassettes. At 4 or 5 years old, with some neighbors and my little brother, we put together an ensemble of toy instruments with which we played under the pines of my grandmother’s house. I can’t remember what that music we made was like but I imagine it chaotic and repetitive. On the surface my music is quite simple, but the ideas and work that lie beneath the surface is more complex: an investigation of the aesthetic, poetic qualities of sound, its effects and hazards. The fragile and repetitive is also the most essential. To sleep, a child listens to a melody that is sung to him, which protects him and only in this way does he surrender to sleep, allow himself to sleep. This music leads him to sleep, and before, what is even more incredible, to sleep: that territory of mists where recurring ideas appear, places that we visit only when we are asleep, through repetition. The seasons of the year follow the same rhythm. In the past, hunting and gathering fruits were accompanied by circular songs: everything was intimately linked to the cycle of the seasons. In repetition, the wonder is in the barely perceptible details. That is why the beauty of the simple is the closest and at the same time the most difficult to apprehend. My musical instruments are linked to this idea of ​​repetition, of variations, of dreams, insofar as they allow me to play small melodies, to integrate myself into that mysterious circle similar to the world of insects and plants, of children’s games and rounds. Music, for me, is a space of total freedom.

I think that your music in its instrumental essence has the virtue of being a kind of trigger towards other languages, such as literature, the visual arts, among others. What is your feeling? Is there something intentional on your part that there is a kind of circularity, feedback with others?

Yes, there is a circulation between music, writing and the visual arts. Ritva Kaukoranta, Otti Berger, Dignora Pastorello, Matsuo Basho, Friedrich Hölderlin and Minka Podhájska, among so many others, are a great inspiration. Three books that I read recently that I really liked are “The Playground Project” which is a compendium of several articles and photographs on plaza games and utopias applied to public space, “Landmarks” by Robert Macfarlane and also essays on mythology Basque of José Miguel de Barandiarán.

Eduardo Galeano used to say that we are made of stories. The names of the tracks refer me to tales of magical beings, photos of childhood, the place where you live, etc. Are they just names or are there stories behind them?

I will tell you in response: “A great storm broke out in the forest. I walked and walked, until a cabin appeared among the cedars. I pushed open the door and went inside. The roof had countless leaks. On the floor were broken pottery, some books and old pots. I put my things aside: the bowl, the brushes and the notebook. As I could, I lit a fire that lit up the place. In a corner I found a moth-eaten blanket that warmed me. The moon, from the open window, was laughing with me at the mouse without a tail that, like me, was searching uselessly for a grain of rice. ” It is a fragment of the book “The Azalea Painter” by Wang-Huā (1699-1739).

Your works were published by various labels from different latitudes and in different physical formats. You also created your own, Pudú. Is it like a return to the roots, to that feeling of freedom that exists in desktop publishing?

Pudú is a deer that lives almost secretly in the Patagonian forests. It is the smallest deer in the world. Their natural enemies are cougars, wild cats, and human brutality. The life of the pudúes is closely related to this mini-label where I edit cassettes and souvenirs for my concerts.

Thanks to music, you’ve visited a lot of places in the world and your love for Japan and its culture is known. What other countries or cities did you like and how was the reception of your music? Is it very different from what happens here?

“Traveling is wonderful.” Almost all the trips I made in my life were to play and record. I went to Japan twice, a country with which I have a great friendship: not only for its musicians and because I publish there, but also for its art and literature. In fact, I think, my first approach to Japan was through philately. I collect stamps (actually, “cinderellas”, charitable institutions stamps to raise funds, in small runs, almost all to combat tuberculosis at the beginning of the 20th century; the most fantastic illustrators made designs for cinderellas: it is, within collecting, something like a fantastic branch of philately) and my first impression of Japan, as a boy, was through two postage stamps: a monochromatic flower and a monster, some kind of angry god (or perhaps a masked actor). I have the immense joy of having many Japanese musician and record label friends with whom I collaborate regularly. A few months ago I released an album for the Dauw label in Belgium called “In the open” recorded entirely in the open air with Asuna and Tomoyoshi Date in the ancient city of Kanazawa. At a small stop in the concert tour we gave together on the west coast of Japan, we decided to walk through the gardens of the old city, but since at the same time we really wanted to record something together, so we decided to do both together. time: with a portable recorder and some Casio keyboards from Asuna’s immense collection we went out for a walk and record. We did sessions in the old castle, in the house of the philosopher D. T. Suzuki, we even recorded while we had lunch soba in a small canteen (I remember a woodcut hanging from the wall and the texture of the wood on the table). All of Japan is amazing: Tokyo, Nara, Kobe, Kamakura, Niigata, Kumano, Toyama. I still have to know many places, the north of the island, Hokkaido: I like the Ainu music, delicate and repetitive, of the original inhabitants of northern Japan. Europe also: Metz, Luxembourg, Brussels, Tübingen, Zürich. Last year I was fortunate to travel a lot with my music. Similar experiences today, in times of seclusion due to the Covid-19 pandemic, are even more significant and carry a very deep meaning. I went to play in Medellín and Belo Horizonte, at two festivals. Medellín is a completely fantastic city, of deep contrasts, super restless, in which I met a group of artists super committed to music and listening. In Belo Horizonte I played with my friends Bruno and Daniel Nunes, who belong to a generation of experimental musicians who update, from my point of view, that collective vision of the Clube da Esquina. I also played twice in Sao Paulo. So many places! This year I was going to do a small tour of Buenos Aires, the suburbs and the Capital. The trip and concerts were suspended due to the start of the Covid-19 pandemic.

In this extraordinary context that we are going through, how are you going through it? Are there plans for new music and / or projects?

The consequences of this pandemic are yet to be seen. I think we are entering the 21st century: what has just appeared before us, although we still cannot see it with total clarity, is the future. As for my own seclusion, I do not know what boredom is, I am always doing something: cooking, inventing songs with my daughter, recording, preparing an album release. I just shared on my Bandcamp an album called Flor Imaginaria, which was going to be the souvenir on CDr or cassette for the concerts in Buenos Aires. They are recent recordings, made before and during this quarantine. Also, the first album came out in collaboration with my friend and colleague Taylor Deupree, our duo called This Valley Of Old Mountains. It is an album that I love very much, a kind of topography of a valley and its imaginary folklore. The cover art is a collage that we made with photographs of Patagonia and the Córdoba mountains along with images of the Hudson River.

With Tomoyoshi Date you formed Melody and now with Deupree, This Valley Of Old Mountains. What is attractive to you to create this type of project?

Collaborative music belongs to a unique territory. Together with Tomoyoshi Date that place is called Melody. With Taylor Deupree, This Valley Of Old Mountains. Something similar happens during collaborative concerts: making music with another is a privileged form of communication.

What albums / artists you are listening to these days can you recommend us to go through the quarantine?

I’m listening a lot to Reet Hendrickson (Estonia) and his only album, released during his exile in Canada in 1969.

Federico, thank you very much for your time and predisposition, any final message or something you want to say and I didn’t ask?

I want to thank you for this interview and send a cordial greeting to the readers of Subcultura. Take care!