Ambient Soundscapes from Spain: an interview with Max Corbacho
Date: June 2005
Max, what were your first steps in music…. how did you get involved in electronic music?
During a long time, my first favorite groups were the big dinosaurs of the symphonic rock, Pink Floyd, Yes, Kansas, Genesis… and kindred bands. Besides, I felt a growing need to do this music myself. I bought my first instrument in those days, a Spanish guitar, which was followed by an acoustic guitar and then an electric one. For some years I played the electric guitar in several rock bands. Little by little, my love for the guitar began to calm down as my interest moved to other types of music, especially the ancient music, baroque in particular. I also began to listen to the classic artists of EM such as Vangelis, Tangerine Dream and some Americans like Richard Burmer. One night as I was visiting the house of a couple of friends, I found a cd with a beautiful photography of the American desert among their discs. I’d always liked those places, I usually visit them in Spain. I played the disc and in seconds I felt like “this is what I’ve always looked for and I’ve just found it”. That was the first time I heard the music Steve Roach, Michael Stearns and Kevin Braheny and the cd “Desert Solitaire”. To me it was my start in the electronic music…
How would you describe your music? Some called you “the Spanish Steve Roach” after they heard you first album….
I think that my music rises out of a desire to recreate what happens in nature, the endless source of visual and sonic richness. I try to figure out the mystery that makes us admire the beauty of natural surroundings, its simplicity, mystery of repetition etc.
I try “to amplify” the sounds, the textures of natural environments in the space and in the imagination, to discover zones that though they exist, they are not evident at first.
Thus, I don’t try to imitate real sound landscapes, my intention is rather to produce events, textures and phrases that are analogous in the richness of possibilities and variety of shades. I also intend to transmit that organic richness, the same emotion, reverence and passion that I feel for life, the world, the people…
Yes, some people call me the Spanish Steve Roach, but I honestly believe that Roach’s quality is so big and unique, of such impact in the music of our days, that any comparison is useless. His influence is evident in my music and in that of thousands of artists in the whole world. I hope to continue learning from him for many more years.
Can you tell us something about each of you albums, how they were made, what concepts you had in mind…
I made my debut “Vestiges”, with few resources but a lot of patience. As a declaration of principles, I formed my musical direction with it: atmospheric environmental sounds with driving electronic percussion.
It was privately produced and stayed unnoticed for more than a year, until Cliff Tuell (Steve Roach’s webmaster) accidentally entered my web site and listened to the audio clips. From there on, and due to the positive comments of fans in the US I began selling my cds. My second album, “Far Beyond The Immobile Point”, was an attempt to find another occult face of my music. It would have been easier to do compose another “Vestiges”, which would have sold even better for sure, but I decided the new album should be something completely different. “Far Beyond … ” was inspired by the first chapter of Umberto Eco’s novel “Foucault’s Pendulum”. Eco’s poetical vision of the universe presented in his work inspired me to do a much more introspective and contemplative work. The music breaths far more abstraction and the lack of rhythm and percussion reinforced my vision of remoteness in the universe.
With “The Resonant Memory of Earth”, I returned to the basics of “Vestiges”. My passion for natural, desolate and remote places always inspired me. With a succession of quiet sounds and harmonies I recreated my feelings on these environments. It was a very emotive work for me, it coincided with a journey to the Sahara desert in Morocco where I explored the corners of my mind in search of answers.
“Nocturnal Emanations” was a new exploration of dark and desolate territories. Here, the magic mutation of the natural forms inspired my synthesizer grooves and sequences It was a new form of composition that I had never tried and that I’m still exploring. I began to generate a series of sounds obtained from field recordings, samples, etc. From then on, I started to morph all the sounds that, as seeds, were growing and transforming into something totally different, though preserving the characteristics of the initial seed. The grooves were treated in the same way.
“Indalo” was the first work with my friend Bruno Sanfilippo. He had just come from Argentina and that was the moment we met. We traveled together to Almeria, the desert south of Spain. The place astonished us and we decided to do something to reflect its nude beauty. I believe this disc is probably the darkest of my career, but it has a supernatural beauty.
And finally there’s my last work “Moontribe”, a collection of both new and past pieces. Perhaps it’s here where I have developed more deeply my passion for morphing groovescapes and the surrounding atmospheres. It has coincided with the arrival of new equipment into, and it can be considered as a disc of transition, probably of what is forthcoming.
In this work I basically present a few compositions that were intended for collaborations. These collaborations were not produced due to different reasons, but one day, revising my tracks, I decided to use them in my new project. Fortunately everything began to take form and I completed it with adding three new pieces. I am very satisfied with the final result, especially its variety and richness.
Do you set yourself certain goals when composing new music or putting together an album?
Yes, I always try to improve and explore new ways in every new work. The artistic creation is a mental state that makes us feel life in all its intensity, but to come to this mental state everything must flow calmly. I practically try to revive all my experiences lived up to the moment, the ideas then flow and the mystery of the creation takes place.
How did you meet Bruno Sanfilippo?
When Bruno arrived at Spain, he contacted a record company in Barcelona to distribute his music in Spain. There he heard about me as it was the label where I had edited “Vestiges”. We met each other and we decided to join our efforts in the diffusion of our respective careers. A great friendship was born out of this professional relationship.
What made you both decide to start your own record company ad21 music? How’s the company doing so far?
Releasing not dance-oriented electronic music is really complex nowadays. The distribution channels are rather complicated and sometimes you lose the control on what you do because there are few economic resources. The big record companies do not have this problem (though they have others), they count with a great structure and they work as refined companies where everything, even the smallest detail, is under control. This is not what generally happens in the small record companies, where the artist is inevitable damaged in the end. Today, private release seems to be one of the few alternatives that’s left for us. Furthermore, the internet and the piracy have changed the concept of releasing and selling music. We are in a deep moment of change and a classic conception of a record company does not work in these days. However, Bruno and I decide to start this venture; it is not easy due to the infinite details one must bear in mind. We’ve edited “Indalo”, Bruno´s “Ad Libitum” and my own album “Moontribe” under our record label “ad21music”. In all it was quiet exhausting since the three cds appeared at the same time. But, looking back on it, it’s an experience that was worth the effort. We will try to continue releasing our music through our label, but we will also consider releasing music of other musicians. The contact is always interesting and besides, every company record has its particular network that provides a general idea of the market.
What contacts do you have with other e-musicians? Is there anyone you’d like to work together sometime?
I usually contact many artists to exchange opinions and trade our cds. I remember one of the first was Jeff Pearce; I had edited “Vestiges” and he kindly commented the curious coincidence that the name of one of his disks was also “Vestiges”. We exchanged our same titled cds and I discovered a great artist. Until then, I had never heard about him or his music. There were many other artists after him. We have even started a collaboration with Amir Baghiri; it’s on hold for the moment but it will probably come out some day.
I also have close contacts with musicians of the Barcelona scene, such as Dom F. Scab, John Lakveet, Odracir Lavid, Sergio Koval, etc. No doubt I’d like to work with many other artists, especially with the followers of the “Californian” school that I feel stylistically closer to.
Max, what’s your opinion about today’s electronic ambient music, how do you think it will develop?
There are two questions to analyze here: the artistic and the commercial one. Artistically, we are living a great moment, there are loads of artists doing big works and this is a good thing. The genre is evolving towards new forms and new ideas are born every day. Certainly, the technology encourages this bloom.
The other issue, the commercial one, seems to move in the opposite direction. The enormous amount of new music, ambient, space, electronic, etc. and the almost total oblivion of big means of diffusion of this genre make it very difficult to survive to it. I visualize this as two big waves, two big cycles evolving very slowly and, in any moment, maybe will coincide in a point, since everything is a cycle. I believe we must be ready for the moment we might benefit from the cycle.
What musical plans do you have in mind for the near future?
Right now I’m working on two new works. One continues the Techno-Tribal wave of “Moontribe”, with new grooves and soundworlds.
The second one is a project that is called “The Talisman”. I have been working on it for two years and it will probably take its definitive form somewhere this year. There will be no percussion on this disc and it will be my more atmospheric work until now. Part of this material was heard at my recent concert in Barcelona with Bruno Sanfilippo. For that occasion the pieces were accompanied by grooves, but in their final version they will be purely atmospheric.
You just mentioned the recent concert with Bruno Sanfilippo last February. Was this your first live-concert, how did things work out? Did you make any recordings of it?
Actually I had performed live before and I knew the pressure and the nerves before a performance. This was my first performance as an electronic musician and I’m quite satisfied with the outcome. Part of the success was due to having shared the work with my friend Bruno Sanfilippo.
In addition to this, we have relied on the collaboration of an excellent team of technical personnel, especially our visual effects technician did a great job.
All the pieces played at the concert were performed for the first time. Some of them are destined for new projects, others will be processed again to create new forms. Bruno and I first recreated the essence of “Indalo”, our collaborative cd. Then each one has done a solo part with new tracks. We are planning to publish sound clips, video clips and photos of this event on our own web pages.