Leandro Fresco & Rafael Anton Irisarri: Feelings are engraved in the groove of the vinyl

June 20, 2017

Kompakt & Pop Ambient legend Leandro Fresco teamed up for the first time with our favourite Rafael Anton Irisarri (Room40, Ghostly) for a ravishing album ‘La Equidistancia‘ on A Strangely Isolated Place. We spoke to the ambient giants about their first collaborative record, working together while being thousands of miles away and letting go of controlling everything.

Collaborations are always fascinating and yours is even more special, since you two got introduced by Ryan at ASIP, so you did not know each other before. What was your first thought regarding working together and what was the reason why you felt like you really want to work with each other?

Leandro: I remember contacting Ryan long ago because I’m a reader of his blog about ambient. When it came with the idea of this collaboration, I was very happy and accepted immediately. In my electronic project I work alone, so having the opportunity to collaborate and abandon the idea of wanting to control the whole situation is always welcome. I felt curious thinking about which method of work we were going to choose and how the interaction between the two would be. On the other hand I am an admirer of the work of Rafael, and I think that somehow we are related at the musical level. Soon after we started we had a feeling of enthusiasm and good vibes with the music that started to emerge. I believe that the feelings are engraved in the groove of the vinyl.

Raf: What Lean said, Ryan connected us. I knew of Leandro’s work on Kompakt, as a regular on their annual Pop Ambient compilations, which I like very much. He is an amazing musician and artist, and I’ve admire his multifaceted output over the years. Kindred spirits on that front! His most recent album, “El Reino Invisible” was on heavy rotation at Black Knoll Studio when it came out in 2015. Lovely work! As Lean mentions, part of my immediate family hails from Argentina, so of course, there is much kinship and connection between the two of us. Lean worked with one of my favorite musicians growing up, which in part was a huge influence when I was developing my own early musical vocabulary. All these great threads and connections can certainly be felt throughout the music we made together.

Just by listening to the record and not knowing the background story, my ears would definitely swear that this harmonious unity of sounds could not have been created by two different persons who haven’t even met. Rafael, you have plenty of collaborations behind you, while Leandro you work alone. In this case, how did you relax and let go of wanting to control the situation?

Leandro: In my project on ambient I work alone. Luckily for a long time I worked in the rock band of a great friend called Gustavo Cerati and I learned a lot from the work he did in the recording studio and during his tours, so I have experience in working with other colleagues. I am not a classical musician, in fact I do not play any instrument well, I always manage in the field of ideas. I do not think it’s necessary to be friends with another person to make music. In Rafael’s case, I knew and I’m an admirer of his work and I had the feeling from the beginning that we were going to generate good chemistry to achieve a good album. We started to work and everything went naturally, it is always a good exercise to leave room for the other to express and not try to want to control everything.

Leandro Fresco

Rafael, even though you have tons of experience with working with others, I guess each and every collaboration is a different story. What is the biggest challenge when it comes to compromising your rules and methods and take in someone else in your creative process?

Raf: To be honest, I don’t really see compromise as a challenge, but rather an opportunity to come up with new methods of working. I don’t really have many rules, other than “no limitations” or “turning a limitation into an asset” I’m pretty open to anything goes in the studio. There are no bad ideas. Just ideas and things to try out and experiment.

Leandro, you are based in Argentina, Rafael you’re living in the US. Please tell us a bit about the creative process behind the album. How did you make it work, how much time did it take?

Leandro: Thanks to the advantage of having internet the files traveled from the Argentine Patagonia to NY without problems. Raf was spending the winter in his studio in the middle of the snowy forest. And I was in San Martin de los Andes, a small town with lakes and mountains lost in the summer of Patagonia Argentina. By averaging the sessions of the album We made a session of Skype where we finally had a talk to organize the work and we met a little more. I was in charge of sending sound material that Raf ordered, and added his part and mixed everything in his studio. I think the process took us about 6 months and was very relaxed, the stage of mastering was also important, I love the sound and art of the album.

Raf: I used a lot of harmonic distortions, effect pedals, and made many tape loops with my 1/2” tape machine I have in the studio. I really love that grainy aspect you can hear in the music, degraded in a way, like it’s been through some rough patches (as both Lean and I have been through over the years).

Rafael Anton Irisarri

What was the very first step once you started working on it? How did you decide on what sound material to ‘order’ from Leandro, how did you get started?

Raf: I have certain kind of sounds I gravitate towards. I love layering things in the studio and creating sonic environments. Sometimes Lean would compile things of old mini discs recordings and they were great to work with, but other times, perhaps not the best palette for me, so I would write back and tell him more or less what I had in mind. Honesty is so important when working with somebody else. You have to be able to tell it exactly how you see it and know there’s a level of respect that it’s OK not to like something, and perhaps continue on with another idea. This is all part of the process.

I was thinking about the title – Equidistancia means ‘equal distances’ – was this meant to symbolise the distance between the two of you or was there also more profound thought behind it? It’s a beautiful word. Same goes for the rest of the titles, ‘when the mystery is too impressive, it is impossible to disobey’. You write poetry without even uttering a word.

Raf: Well, yes, there is certainly more than one meaning to all of my works. And this one is no exception. “Equidistancia” is also a Spanish political concept, one that is extremely relevant to us today in this post-truth world we are living in the US.

Leandro: When writing instrumental music, the moment of title is very important because one lowers a concept to the listener. Also the titles in their totality can give a concept to the album if it wants, or not.

With Raf we had the premise of using the book “the little prince” as a source of inspiration, other titles came out spontaneously, we both proposed ideas until we achieved the final titles. There was another possible name for the album, but “La Equidistancia” is perfect, it is a metaphor that contains the idea of geographical distance and sensory closeness at the same time.

What do you think the biggest challenge was while working on La Equidistancia?

Leandro: To achieve a certain feeling of closeness with Rafael, on the way I discovered that he is a magnificent musician besides that he is very fast working and I am a little slower, haha!

At the artistic level there were no major challenges, I think that question comes from the human side, I wanted to achieve a feeling of comfort with Rafael. The question was what kind of relationship can be put together in this way to achieve a certain purpose that is to produce an album

Raf: Things are way faster when you are able to be in the same room. Perhaps we get to do that again one day!

I would say that you’ve achieved this feeling – at least this is what I can sense from the album. How do you feel about it after having it finished and released?

Raf: I enjoy this record very much and have been playing some of the songs live, watching how the audience reacts to it, the emotions it can bring out. It really warms my heart seeing it unfold in this setting.

What would you say you learnt from each other during the process?

Leandro: All work was without pressure. Sometimes I think I’m a bit slow but it’s very difficult to hurry up when I’m in the state of making music. There are issues that I can see with the passage of time, unfortunately. Of course one has a deadline, but Ryan gave us total freedom in that regard.

What I discovered and confirmed is that Raff is a genius of music, he is very good in the role of artistic producer, and like most colleagues, we only know a part of his musical universe

A friend says that discs have to be abandoned because if there is a cut, one can become obsessed with them and they will never end. Now that the album has come out I think it would be nice to present it live and I’m sure I would like to do another album with Raff in the future.

Rafael, you already played a few songs from the album while you were on tour. Could you imagine going on a tour and performing the whole record together?

Raf: Yes, that’d be lovely of course.

Do you have a dream collaboration that you would love to make happen one day? If yes, who would your dream partner be?

Leandro: Yes, there are many incredible artists, the list is very long! One of the things that I do besides my ambient project is singing, I would like to collaborate in that aspect.


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