Interview: Federico Durand

Federico Durand

1. Quite recently, came out your new album, In The Open, that you recorded together with musicians Asuna and Tomoyoshi Date. How did you guys meet and how did the idea to record something together come about?

I have known Asuna and Tomoyoshi Date for many years. We are very good friends. During March of 2017, the three of us along other friends did a tour of the west coast of Japan. Asuna lives in Kanazawa, which is a beautiful and ancient city. One can feel there, in its gardens, castles, fish markets and the streets, the spirit of the old Japan. As we had a free day in Kanazawa, we wanted to go for a walk, but also to record music together. So, Tomoyoshi, Asuna and I decided to do both at the same time. We carried in our bags a battery-powered digital recorder, small toy keyboards and objects that we were finding, pebbles, branches, etc. We recorded music while walking, in a tunnel, near a river, in a garden, in a castle and even when we went to lunch at an old Soba house, while we were waiting for the delicious food to arrive.

The album is about deep empathy and interaction with everything that surrounded us during those magical hours in Kanazawa: not only its sounds, but also people, animals and non-living objects such as stones or buildings. The free spirit of all things. For this reason, the album title is “In The Open”. It was an extraordinary day of music, friendship and total freedom. Now (I am writing this as of April 19, 2020) listening to these recordings, they acquire not only a deep poetic character for me, but also a revealing one.

Dauw, the label from Ghent, Belgium, that just released it made a remarkable work of art: an edition with screen printed cover, made by Flemish artist Femke Strijbol, both on cassette and vinyl.

2. Tell us about your solo album, Alba, on 12k. How will it be different from anything you’ve done before?

All my work, I think, is tied to continuing and deepening a relationship with simplicity. Alba, my new album, was recorded in my house, in the attic where I have my small workspace and during a trip to the Patagonian Andes. A while ago I got invited by my friends Bruno and Victoria to play at the Agostino Rocca mountain refuge. This place has electricity, which comes from a waterfall of glacial water. So I was able to do live music there. It was a wonderful hike through forests of incredible beauty. Part of Alba, my new album was literally recorded in the Andes Mountains.

I made a song in my next album Alba, inspired by Otti Berger's embroidery work. I tried to replicate needle movements and the simple line loop of Berger's work by manipulating a simple melodic line from a cassette recorder. There are recordings of my daily life, simple melodies, inspired by my favorite books and illustrations that I like.

Federico Durand - Alba 
3. Much of your audience has noticed how original the graphic design for this release is. Who was it made by and what kind of idea is behind it?

All 12k design work is done by Taylor Deupree: in addition to the music, the label's graphic identity is clearly recognizable and one of the most beautiful in the ambient scene. The cover art was done by artist Emer Tumilty, who lives in Glasgow. I invite you to visit her Instagram page to see her beautiful work.

I wanted the artwork for Alba to be like a melodic composition with simple shapes, lines and color. Each shape in the illustration overlaps with another one in the same way my loop-melodies do.

4. How did you meet Taylor Deupree, and how did you first come across the 12k label?
I have known the musical work of Taylor and his label for many, many years. It is completely exquisite. Under 12k I have released albums that I love very much. In fact, some of my favorite albums are a part of this label. The first time we had contact, I think, was through Nao Sugimoto, publisher of Spekk label in Japan, who released Taylor’s music and also mine. But our friendship began, without a doubt, when we shared a series of concerts in Japan in 2014, together with other friends who are Spekk and 12k musicians. It was a wonderful experience. More than an experience: an adventure for all of us. From then on, we became very good friends. In fact, we hope at some point, soon, to launch a project on which we have been working for a while.

5. The titles of your albums often contain the word Magic: El Libro De Los Árboles Mágicos, Magical Imaginary Child... What kind of magic are we talking about? What is magic for you personally? What does this word mean for you?

Magic is the poetry of life. It happens all the time. It is waiting for us in the pages of a book, behind a fogged glass, in a puddle of water after a rain, in an old photo of our grandparents. It can be found in the gap of a melody, in a broken cassette lying on the street.

6. Your music is by all means connected to nature and its beauty. What is music for you? What would you like to draw people's attention to with your art?
Sometimes I wonder, where music comes from and I dont have an answer to that question. It comes from somewhere. It is a wind that moves on its own.

7. What were your first serious childhood fascinations that have had an influence on you?

The garden of my grandmother's house, with its pines, orange and tangerine trees, the lemon tree. The hens, the stories that my grandfather told me, my first trip to Patagonia with them when I was six years old. On that trip my grandfather taught me a way of looking at things. I started making small books (I did not know then that they were fanzines), recordings, collecting stamps.

8. What is your professional background and occupation? Are you only busy with your art at the moment?

I never studied music, I just play by intuition. Over time I developed a way of working that is actually quite simple. I compose small melodies, in a loop, many times recorded on cassettes tapes that I found lying on the street, then I play with effect pedals, small objects, record it on tapes again and so on.

I studied literature and was a high school teacher for many years. Since we left Buenos Aires and came to live in La Cumbre, a mountain town in the center of my country, my family has been running a bookstore specialized in picture books and we also have a small guest house. The guest house allows us to meet very interesting visitors, many of whom are travelers, artists. My house, the bookshop and the guest house are next to each other surrounded by a beautiful garden. As we live in an old house, and our bookstore is really beautiful, many people come to stay here to be near our books. I also work in a museum in the mountains, the house where a famous writer in my country spent the last quarter of his life. My main occupation, and the reason why we came to live in a mountain village, is to raise my daughter María Luisa. And well, I also make music.

9. What Latin American writers have influenced you and in what ways? Jorge Luis Borges, Julio Cortázar, Gabriel García Márquez, Carlos Castaneda, Paulo Coelho? Tell us if there are any others that have influenced you in a big way!

Literature and poetry have a great influence on my daily life. I really like reading. For a long time, the work of Marosa di Giorgio, Juan L. Ortiz, a poet who lived most of his life along the Gualeguay river in Entre Ríos, Argentina, were a of great inspiration. I was also always touched by Friedrich Hölderlin, Georg Trakl (a world of great pain, but at the same time full of light and imagination). All of them accompany me as friends and teachers in my musical journey.

About the writers you named in this question:

Jorge Luis Borges: Since I was a teenager I’ve been reading his works very carefully. I think he is the greatest Argentinian writer. His work is a celebration of fantasy, full of life and delight.

Julio Cortázar: Although it was very important for the generation of 60’s and beyond it, he really does not give me what I look for in literature.

Gabriel García Márquez: A great novelist. He created a very personal world, like a closed garden, and that is worthy of admiration.

Carlos Castaneda: Many people, including personal friends, follow him. I have not had the luck to read his works yet.

Paulo Coelho: I really do not like his style of writing, which I feel like is close to a "self-help book". To me, his work is educational, moralistic and aims to create books in series as products for the shelves of a supermarket. He is the complete opposite of what I consider a valuable voice.

10. What got you into music? How did you start recording? Tell us about your experience.

I started creating music around the age of six. My aunt had a Hitachi cassette recorder that I used to make collages of sounds, manipulation of tapes and recorded toy instruments. Over time, I realized that it was a way of working and since then I continued down that path. Even without having studied music, I can intuitively approach the instruments and play them freely. That is something that gives me lots of joy.

11. Your albums have already been released on many labels, such as Spekk, 12k, White Paddy Mountain and Own Records. What was the main difficulty that you had to overcome? Did everything come together by itself?

Honestly, I do not have big issues with releasing my music. Without a doubt, I am very lucky to be able to work with artists and curators of high quality labels. Nao Sugimoto, who is responsible for Spekk’s catalog, one of the most beautiful labels there is, was the first to publish me. So, my first album La Siesta del Ciprés was released in Japan. I am eternally grateful to Nao. Chihei Hatakeyama, owner of White Paddy Mountain, is a friend with whom I have collaborated for years. In fact, I was able to make beautiful recordings with him at his house in Koenji, Tokyo. Own Records released my second album, and although it has been inactive for a few years now it still has the same aura of careful, exquisite work. Taylor Deupree, one of most important ambient artists, also runs one of the most interesting labels, 12k, and I'm lucky enough to have been released by them. I also played with Taylor in Japan along with Corey Fuller, Tomoyoshi Date, Stephan Mathieu, Celer, Chihei Hatakeyama, Ken Ikeda, Toshimaru Nakamura, Asuna, among others: an unforgettable adventure. I am currently collaborating with Taylor in a music project that we hope to finish in the near future. I have very talented friends and collaborators and that´s the greatest gift that music has given me. I have had the pleasure to work with other great labels such as Home Normal, hibernate, Dauw, Kaico, Streamline and Desire Path Recordings.

12. Are things working out for the electronic stage in Buenos Aires and Argentina in general? How would you describe the situation? What are the notable musicians we should know of?

The soul of Argentinian music, not only in Buenos Aires, is very rich. I would like to recommend you the work of Pablo Picco, Juan José Calarco and Pablo Reche.

13. Tell us about your small label Pudú. What does its name mean? What was the reason for its creation?

Under Pudú I make cassettes as souvenirs during my tours. One of the most beautiful things about concerts is to approach the table of releases that the artists put together. In general, there are special, limited albums that are sold only during the tour, along with fanzines, posters. To me, as a collector, it is really gratifying to make tour tapes.

The pudú is a small deer from Argentina and Chilean Patagonia, it is in fact the smallest deer in the world. The pudú lives under big trees in the green forests of the South. In homage to its almost secret, humble life, I used its name to accompany me in my small editions (no more than 50 copies) of cassettes.

14. Digital releases or limited editions. Which one do you personally prefer and why?

Undoubtedly, limited editions. Although I have many albums in digital format, I always prefer physical editions. Nothing can replace the beauty of the paper texture, reading information and anecdotes about the recordings on it, looking at the album cover for a long time. There is work of lots of people behind a physical release. Collecting is a way of affirming life. One collects as if life were to last forever, and although we know that at some point we are going to die, collecting gives a feel of eternity: a search for beauty through affective choices.

15. What do you like to listen to? What kinds of music are you interested in? Electronic music, classical music, folk music etc.

I listen to all kinds of music. When I'm listening to music, I prefer works that connect me with something emotional, sincere. I am not attached to genres or styles. I really enjoy when a musician is able to build a world, a kind of personal garden, with its own rules, that invites to be inhabited, as it happens with the music of Andrew Chalk.

16. What is the source of your inspiration? What gives you the strength to create?

Many things can be an inspiration. A Finnish Christmas stamp, the wooden toys of Minka Podhájská, photos of collective activities during the DDR, Swedish children books, the mountains that I can see from my garden vanishing between dense and opaque clouds, the Korean pottery, the rhythmic patterns of the crickets at sunset. In general, as John Keats said, "A thing of beauty is a joy for ever".

Photo by Samuel Mendes
17. What are some of your other hobbies, fascinations and favorite things to do besides art?

I collect non-postal stamps. The "cinderellas" are special stamps created by charity institutions, especially at the beginning of the 20th century, to raise funds for orphanages and hospitals. They are usually very beautiful. Over time I have put together a nice collection. I also like reading and with Lucía, my wife, we have a beautiful collection of illustrated books and literature.

18. Do you have a dream?

My dream is a fair social distribution of wealth among all people.

P.S. I want to thank Data.Wave for this opportunity to tell a little bit about my creative process and my personal interests. Also, thank you for reading this interview!

Questions: Ilya Kudrin / Krib