The 230th episode of our 12 Questions segment features producer Nicolas Agudelo.
1. How old are you, where are you living and how long have you been producing and Djing?
I’m 33 years old. I currently live in Bogotá, the capital of Colombia. I have been deejaying since 2004 as a bedroom dj and since 2007 in venues, clubs and festivals. As a producer I have been releasing music since 2010.
2. Where do your musical roots lie, what are your first memories of electronic music and when did you know you wanted to pursue it seriously? Are there any particular productions or artists from the past that really made you think to yourself ‘this is what I want to do.”
A lot of my musical background has to do with my infancy and particularly my mom. She always had a “party spirit” and she had a fair collection of dance music: Latin and Colombian genres such as salsa, merengue, son, vallenato, cumbia… but also had great stuff from the anglo world, mainly 70s disco music and early 80s synth pop. So I grew with a strong inclination towards music that make people move.
This was reinforced by the arrival of the euro-dance trend of the early 90’s (89-93) and radio presence of acts like The KLF, 2 Unlimited, Inner City, Technotronic, Black Box and others. This stuff struck me really hard because I really had no idea where did those alien sounds were coming from, but also felt them warm, charming and human.
Two of my greatest influences were the Mortal Kombat movie soundtrack (which literally shook my foundations), and a couple of cult tv shows of that era: MTV’s AMP and Ozono / Mastermix (the equivalent of AMP in MTV Latin-America) I used to stay awake religiously every Saturday until 2 or 3 am watching and recording dozens of videotapes (that I still have today) with great music from so many different acts such as Autechre, Aphex Twin, Air, Orbital, The Prodigy, Fluke, Chemical Brothers, Front 242, Atari Teenage Riot, Bjork, Portishead, Gus Gus, Crystal Method and many, many more. I remember saying to myself “I don’t know what the heck I’m listening to, but this is MINDBLOWING”. Then I started to buy several of these artist’s albums and became a hardcore electronic music lover in many genres.
3. How difficult was learning to produce for you in the beginning? Did you take any Audio Engineering programs or production courses to help you out or are you pretty much self taught? And did anyone give any advice early on that really helped?
I’m 80% self-taught. As a producer I’ve been empirically experimenting with audio tools since 2003. Back then, I believed you had to have a $20k studio with analog synths, rhythm boxes and compressors to make great sounding music but later I found out it wasn’t necessary. In 2007 I took a short but productive course in a local academy, Deejay Academy, which helped me to understand some possibilities of the DAWs and then started to make my own ideas a reality during the next couple of years.
By the way, I have a self-released free download album from that era with nice experiments in genres such as IDM, ambient, and electronica. (Search for Nicolas Agudelo Lifecycle 2007-2009). Is a bit crude for today’s standards, but I still believe it rocks. I started releasing music professionally since late 2010, after trying, trying, trying (and being rejected countless times), polishing my ideas, techniques and developing the “professional” sound that was demanded by the industry. I had the luck to share a good friendship with the guys of Liluca, who heard some of my material and somehow “smelled” my potential, and gave me some great production advice. It came to the point that they took the risk of working some serious stuff with me, which resulted in a Liluca & Nicolas Agudelo EP. It was my first release, and it landed on a major label: Particles.
4. What parts of the production process do you find the most difficult and what comes easiest for you? When you do hit a creative block what helps you through it?
For me the most difficult process is related to the musical theory itself. After all, I’m a graphic designer and never had a formal study in music, so when I started I had no idea about what were musical scales, major, minor, chords, semitones, chord progressions and related stuff. I’ve always enjoyed melody, so I had to sit down and learn extensive musical theory. Luckily, dance music is more sequential and you can do a lot with the understanding of the basics. I still think I have a lot to learn in that aspect, but I’m working on it. What comes easiest today: the technique. Making everything sounding professional and mature.
When I hit a creative block and I count with enough time, I put the project “on the fridge” and open it a month or two later, and then rediscover what was working, and what need to be rewritten. I’m not afraid to mercilessly erase the whole percussion of a tune, or rewriting the whole bassline, pads or melodies in a single stroke. I keep a copy of the original project just in case.
5. What’s a normal day like for you? Do you have a job outside of electronic music? And what do you like to do when you’re not working on music?
Right now I’m a freelance graphic designer with emphasis on brand strategy, management and design. I work on design and branding projects and also I’m an university teacher in branding and advertising. My normal day is a mixture of doing some design work, e-mails, phone calls, client meetings, standing in front of a classroom or working some hours in the studio. There’s always time for a good movie, a nice dinner, reading a novel, doing some exercise or a trip to take a sun bath.
6. Apart from electronic music what other genres do you listen to and who are your favourite artists outside of electronic? and do these genres or artists have a direct effect on your own productions?
In the middle 90s I listened extensively to Hard Rock (Pantera, Biohazard, Ministry, Sepultura, etc) also to Hip Hop (NAS, Notorious B.I.G., Dr Dre, Public Enemy, 2Pac etc) and orchestral movie soundtracks (John Williams, David Arnold, Jerry Goldsmith, Danny Elfman, etc) and to some extent I learned a bit from the magic of those different genres: the raw power of Rock, the sheer and engaging simplicity of Hip Hop and the majesty of the modern orchestral composers.
Today I still love orchestral music, New Age and Relaxation Music, Videogame Soundtracks (an AMAZING field that is maturing heavily with the years) and I’m quite interested in the blooming Indie /ElectroRock scene with artists such as DeLorean, Chvrches, Antarctica, Delphic and similar bands. I believe they make engaging music, and that’s what I want to achieve.
7. What was the first and last physical (CD, Vinyl, Cassette etc) piece of music you bought?
It’s easy to lose track of this, but the first piece of music I personally bought was perhaps “Queen – Greatest Hits volume 1”. My last physical purchase was “Brian Eno – Music For Airports”. The last digital purchase I’ve made were a couple of tunes from Basil Poledouris, a well-known late music composer.
8. Tell us something about yourself that might surprise people?
After many years of releasing music I can announce that I’m working in my first artist album and it will surprise many listeners, because most of it will be unlike anything I’ve released before. At last I feel mature enough as an artist to be able to produce a real, interesting album, not a collection of dance singles with a name.
9. Which producers in your opinion get consistently overlooked?
There are too many overlooked talents to name here. I believe there is a serious lack of equilibrium in the industry, where the usual suspects always get the credit and recognition, and behind this recognition lies the work of hundreds of emerging artists which don’t end up being fully acknowledged as the real wizards, the creators or suppliers of the raw material: music.
10. Which producers consistently inspire you? And where else does your inspiration come from?
I get a huge load of inspiration from many musical genres. To name a few would be a daunting and quite unfair task, because probably I would leave outside many of them. I used to have a radio show named DECIBELIA (you can find the episodes easily) and I think that show reflected very good my tastes, past and present inspirations: you could find in a single episode music from 1986 or 2013, from Vangelis, Thomas Dolby, BT, Pablo Acenso, Hybrid or Underground Resistance. And it worked. It just has to be heard.
11. There are countless producers out there trying to find their way and create their own unique sound, what advice do you have for them?
I can only say: today the music market is bigger than ever, so the only chance to survive and do representative things is to give your best effort. Also, I’ve learned that is important to not accept EVERY offer you receive, for example as a remixer. If you don’t really connect with the original material, you better reject the chance of working on a version, because probably you will end up doing an average work, and it rarely leads anywhere.
I also think that is important to do what your heart tells you, doesn’t matter if you want to specialize in a single genre or if you feel inclined to explore more. For example I REALLY don’t consider myself a progressive artist because I end up exploring different genres depending on the mood I’m in, and therefore my style is impossible to define. However, I have developed a couple of signature techniques, but I guess they’re so subtle that can’t be easily identified.
12. If the final DJ/live set of your career was next week what would your last track be?
There are MANY candidates for my last track ever played, but most probably will be the track that changed forever my perception of modern dance music: HALCYON+ON+ON by ORBITAL.
‘Solstice’ is out now on Mesmeric Records, you can purchase the release: here