*Download the mix here
Ricardo Tobar is one of the many discoveries Border Community brought the world of electronic music. He was born and bred in Chile, but far from following in Ricardo Villalobos or Luciano's footsteps, he chose to translate his love for shoegaze into emotional, warm and escapist techno productions. His sound appeals to both the gut (those rugged bass lines, those frantic rhythms) and the heart (the gliding and dreamy melodies), and reaches its full potential during his very intense, noisy live sets. With a fistful of EPs, he's found his own spot on the scene, developing a sound which, even though his influences are obvious, is increasingly personal. This year he released a new EP on Natura Sonoris, “Together / Teenager”, and he's currently finishing his first album. But first, he's giving us a mix in which he simply shows us “the music I listen to and I think is danceable”. We had a conversation with him about his slow output rate, his European inclinations and his obsession with noise.
Recently, you released two new singles, but we hadn't heard from you since 2009, apart from remixes and live sets. Was that a conscious decision or simply a culmination of circumstances?
A little bit of both actually. First of all, I don't like the idea of releasing stuff just for the sake of releasing. I think there's too much music these days, and I've also been experimenting with my music in the past years, trying to make something different. And secondly, I was always all over the place, but never in a studio. Every so often I've had to change cities, because of my touring or other reasons, so it was hard to work.
You've just entered the Natura Sonoris family. How did that happen? Did you send your tracks to Henry Saiz, or did Saiz ask you?
I’ve known Henry for some time, and we always said we'd do a record on Natura Sonoris. It happened quite organically.
What's your relationship with the label going to be like? Is this EP a one-off, or are you going to be working with them more often? Also, what does Natura give you that other labels don't?
We haven't really thought about it, to be honest, but we won't lose touch, as Henry is very free, and that's the good thing about Natura Sonoris; there are no strings attached, they just make sure everything goes really well. I think those qualities are hard to find these days.
Let's go back. How did you start with music, and when or how did you do your first productions?
I've always been into music, my family is quite musical, so to speak, but my first songs I did on an old computer at home, when I was about 15.
You've always been on European labels. Is that a coincidence, or is there really not a lot of electronica business going on in South America?
I don't think there's a lack 'industry', it's just less global. Right now there are some really good labels, in Chile for instance, but I suppose it's hard for them to promote their artists worldwide, or in the European and North American press. With regards to myself, I suppose it's a coincidence, but the truth is I've always sent my demos to labels I feel closest to, and they've always been European so far.
The gliding melodies and moods play a central role in your music. What kind of emotions are you looking to transmit in your productions?
Yes, the melodies are what I think transmit the emotion in music; I can't make anything that hasn't got a melody. I try to make songs special through the melodies, I don't know how to define it, really, but I try to make something more profound. I believe techno can be something much more significant than people would think. I hope that doesn't sound arrogant.
On the other hand, your sound is also very rugged. It sounds like you prefer to leave the textures and sounds unpolished in order to maintain the live quality of the music, am I right?
Yes, of course! I'm happy you noticed that. I actually like a primitive sound, something that sounds bad but good at the same time, I suppose that's also to do with the deepness.
What are your influences? Do you let yourself be influenced by other artists or do you just go with the flow?
Music itself has always inspired me. I'm not living in a bubble where the only thing that matters is me and my music, you know? I'm always listening to a lot of music, trying to find new bands and so on. It's part of the process of making my own music. I try to combine everything.
So how do your tracks usually come about? Have you got a particular method or does it depend on the song?
It’s different for each track. Sometimes I come up with a melody first, sometimes with a rhythm that I try to combine with a melody. It's hard to get to something I really like, but it does happen sometimes.
And could you tell us about your studio setup? Do you use software, hardware, both?
A combination of both, yes. I've never been a synth or other kinds of equipment nerd. I find machines hard to understand. I try to use what I have and take the most out of it. I've got a couple of drum machines and a very old mixer, which is actually a fundamental piece now.
Do you have a synthesiser or machine you always use? Also, are there any 'objects of desire' you've never been able to lay your hands on?
I always use a MiniMoog, it's on all of my tracks. I don't know why exactly, to be honest. Maybe I should change that. There are many items I want, too many to list here [laughs].
Your live sets are very intense and visceral. How do you go about a live set, and what kind of setup do you use?
It depends on where I'm playing. My sets have often been very noisy, because I'm obsessed with noise, and when I'm playing live it's a good time to explore that. I find it much more interesting to do that instead of just playing my songs. But I've been taking it easy on the noise lately; I think I'm getting old. My setup is very simple; I use Ableton with a lot of clips and play the songs in a more or less improvised fashion, using two midi controllers so that I can direct the sounds on my computer.
As far as I know, you're still living in Viña del Mar, Chile. What's the electronic scene in Chile like? Is there any? Are there any clubs?
Well, actually I'm living in Paris, France right now, but when I go home I go to Viña del Mar. The scene hasn't changed much since I've left, and I get the impression that they're a bit behind, musically, like frozen in time. I hope that will change soon, but the people who are trying something new don't really get the chance to, nor do they have a place where they can express themselves. It's hard, and the club scene is very hermetic. I've never been a part of all that, but I would like to participate in something that would open the doors to something different. I hope it happens in the near future.
How, when, and where did you record your set for PlayGround?
The set was recorded here at home. It was hard to choose the tracks, but the idea was simply to play the music I listen to and I consider to be danceable.
What are your plans for the future, both musically and non-musically?
I'm hoping to finish my album soon, I've been promising it for some time now, and I think it's about time I finish it. And, well, I can't wait until “Teenager” and “Together” are released on Natura Sonoris.
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