Our new interview series Circle of Questions is an experiment. It is about taking a step back and giving a bit more space to the artists themselves. It is an opportunity for artists to ask fellow artists questions, and share their reflections with the community. For our very first round Mary Yuzovskaya, Michał Wolski, Amandra, Raär and Grand River each got the chance to help shape this first instalment of our new format by freely choosing questions and interview partner, giving us small glimpses into nerdy deliberations on gear, the best snacks for long hours in the studio or practical advice when writer’s block hits. Every week for the next five weeks we will be sharing one set of questions with you – second one up being Michał Wolski and Amandra.

Michał Wolski: What inspires you to make music?

Amandra: To be honest, finding fresh ideas is becoming increasingly challenging for me. In the past I’ve had different periods of inspiration. I started making music being inspired by Latin and Mexican culture. I used to keep that in mind at least. Mexico was my first big trip outside Europe around my twenties, and I remained in that mood for quite some time afterward. Nowadays it’s hard to define inspiration as we stay almost 100% at home due to the pandemic.

Currently I’m changing my approach to making music a bit. Instead of making random tracks whenever they come, I try to focus on a story I want to express and keep heading in that direction. I would love to build an album allowing a true introspective narration. Until now I’ve been releasing music by assembling tracks that fit together, and kind of conceptualize a release afterwards. I obviously have random tracks popping up from time to time and will probably end up assembling things anyway, but at least I find inspiration in focusing on a story that is personal and dear to me, and seeing if it helps develop the hypothetical album concept. Just like you would listen to a Boards of Canada album for instance, and there is this story behind it to be understood or felt. It’s not a common thing to me to be able to sit and listen to a full album in a row without being bored or just jumping from one track to the next one. Not that I’m not bored sometimes with Boards of Canada, but I know that boring moments are there on purpose, they are designed as a meaningful part of a full and complete story. That’s what I try to reach nowadays.

How do you know when a track is finished? 

The word “finished” is a tough one obviously. But over time I learned to deal with it. There’s actually something in particular that helped me a lot. My friend Aurélien [Ovend] and I often send each other tracks for our record label Ahrpe. We would always note if there is a personal doubt considering the productions. It could be that the sound design of one of the elements of a track, a sound you recorded, a color, a reverb or whatever just feels wrong somehow. Discussing the elements that don’t feel right helped me understand that a track feels finished to me when I can listen to it from start to end without having any doubt popping up that pulls me out of the track’s mood. If something disconnects me from the feeling the track is intended to provide, then it must be reworked.

How do you deal with writer’s block? 

Writer’s block isn’t easy to deal with, but something that keeps me motivated is working on some “real life projects”, like building a table or renovating something. I have various electronic instruments that I work on. I’ve spent almost the entire pandemic restoring a very old German modular mixer. This way I can disconnect a bit. I challenge myself to learn as much as possible about electronics, so that at some point – hopefully – I’ll be able to build my own music equipment. I’m currently trying to modify my Lyra-8 by Soma so it can be sequenced, which it’s not able to originally.

All these hobbies allow me to deal with writer’s block. Not making any music for months is also a good starting point to deal with that blank page, so when you get back to it you feel a bit refreshed. I did that last summer, and it felt great to be around my machines again.

A good turnover with gear is also nice. I buy and sell quite a lot these days, much more than before. But I’ve always loved trying new instruments and eventually selling them after a few weeks just because I realize it’s not for me. This helps defining what I look for and what I don’t want.

I’ve been surrounded by artists and friends that have modular systems for some time now, and I’m glad I recently started building my own. It’s brilliant, inspiring and refreshing to be able to crosspatch everything in unique ways. The community behind this modular world is very inspiring too. Very helpful people, very DIY. I think I’ll go deeper and deeper in that direction from now on. I needed that since I came to realize that the classic drum machines and synths, which I have been using for a long time, are not flexible enough for my current taste.

What state or atmosphere enthralls your creative process and makes you go into a state of flow?

Reflection and mood are the most important ones for me. If I go to my studio with the wrong mood, if I’m tired or not rested enough, then it’s pointless to go sit around my machines. The right positive mood is needed.

What is your favorite snack during those long sessions in the studio?

Coffee in the morning, decaf in the afternoon. I enjoy some tortilla chips from time to time – the regular ones not the flavored ones – and of course anything related to chocolate, yum.

Curious to hear what Amandra wants to know from Raär? Find out next week when we share the third part of our Circle of Questions #1!

In the meantime check out the artists of our first round here:
Michał Wolski
Grand River
Mary Yuzovskaya