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Interview: GuyRo

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GuyRo has had a strong year highlighted by releases on ICONYC Noir, Krafted Underground, Magnitude Recordings, Pangea and PHW Elements. Known for his borderless approach to production, the Irish born, Spain based artist has been flexing the more progressive inspired side of his repertoire across 2020, and in doing so has been operating at his most prolific. As the year winds to a close he embarks on one of his most anticipated projects to date, a return to Paul Hazendonk's Manual Music alongside a remix from Robert Babicz. We had a chance to catch up with GuyRo for an exclusive interview just prior to the release. Enjoy!

Hi Dave, thanks for joining us. What is your current mood and what was the last piece of music you listened to?

Hi Mitch, thanks for having me 😊. Current mood? How do I distill “not enough time in the day” into an adjective?! Last bit of music would have been Photek, the Modus Operandi LP from way back.

What are your plans for the coming week?

Not a whole lot to be honest. We just recently got a Covid scare in the extended family, two family members infected, one hospitalised and my partner is now self quarantining due to close contact. So yeah, its me and my two daughters manning the fort, Disney movies, Roblox and Peppa Pig.

Talk to us about growing up and living in Ireland and then the subsequent move to Spain, how has it affected your musical taste and the music you make?

Dublin was a great spot during the 90’s and early to mid 00’s, I’ve cool recollections of student nights in various clubs around the city, each with its own homegrown superstar, pushing his/her own sound. I was into tougher stuff back during the mid to late 90’s, but then a mate gave me Sasha’s San Fran mix and Tenaglia’s Athens and it all changed really. The main club at the time in Dublin was the Redbox and they were bringing over big prog names almost every week, Deep Dish, Sander, Timo Maas, Howells and of course all the mainstay GU names, never a dull moment! It was great. I spent a lot of time in Henry’s in Cork too, they don’t do clubs like that anymore, it was the best club in Ireland with hands down the best atmosphere. Andalucía on the other hand is more EDM and though you can find clubs down this part of Spain that have a more underground sound, you could count them on one hand. Northern Spain and the islands is a different story altogether. I need an Ibiza trip once all this has passed!

Tell us about your record/music collection, where do some of your early influences lie?

I went through phases and was swayed very easily in the early days, combine that with a pretty eclectic taste back when I got interested in music, early influences were the likes of Taking Heads, P.I.L., William Orbit, then acid house mixtapes and Chicago house, DJ Pierre, Fast Eddie, Marshall Jefferson, Derrick Harris and his 303 sound. Hip-hop and drum and bass featured regularly but I’ve always returned to progressive. Thinking back, I always preferred the electronic aspects of music as opposed to the acoustic side, those 808 drum sounds in Psycho Killer, I loved them, I’d no idea what they were at the time, but I knew I loved them.

Take us on a tour of your studio, what does your current setup look like?

My current setup is pretty pissed at me right now as I’ve not powered up a synth in about 3 months for various reasons. But when I do get back and start making music, I use Ableton pretty much exclusively. That is hooked up to a 32 In/32 Out interface. I have all my machines and stomp boxes hooked up and ready to go bar a couple of exceptions. Everything is fully automatable via MIDI or CV, pedals included. It’s a cable heavy setup but having them ready to go at power up is great for getting into the creative mindset as quickly as possible. My Ableton template mimics my studio setup so that minimises start up time. The output of Ableton goes into various outboard EQs, compressors, colour and spatial processors, a sort of mixbus chain that I’ve honed over the last 18 months or so. I’ve made a lot of mistakes in my older tracks, lots of them, so I have spent a lot of the earlier part of this year in search of the sound I want and the processes required to get it. It is only now that I am starting to see the results.

People that know you well always speak to your love for hardware, talk to us about how you grew into that and what some of your favourite pieces are.

I guess the whole hardware thing evolved for me. It was a case of preferring the sound of hardware and the hands-on factor. It is a far more enjoyable, tactile experience, pressing buttons and twirling knobs as opposed to a mouse pointer on a screen. Also, the sound you get from VCO hardware is just nicer. Pass that sound through some good outboard and it just gets better. As a rule, I buy stuff that has a distinct character and a fat sound and that integrates into my workflow so must have full MIDI or NRPN integration. I also lean more towards analog VCOs as opposed to digital ones; I like to hear the voltages working under the hood. There’s a smoothness to them that I just cannot get from digital synths, though I must admit, the new Hydrasynth sounds absolutely mega for a wavetable synth.

On the mono side, Moog and DSI cover most of the bases (no pun intended), but I have the MS-20 with the Rev 1 and 2 filters for aggressive Daft Punk style sounds, the SEM for that ultra-fat Oberheim sound and then a couple of Avalons for 303 stuff. On the polyphonic side, I mainly use DSI synths and Behringer’s Deep Mind, which is such a great string synth. I had a few Japanese polys but sold them as I didn’t gel with the sound. The only digital synth I have is the Virus and in fairness, it is a weapon of a synth, would never part with it. I use a lot of pedals also. I only recently discovered Meris pedals and like Strymon they are fully MIDI customisable and automate beautifully. They sound ace too, real Sci-Fi sounding. On purpose I have avoided eurorack as I know where that will take me. That said, I always enjoy watching videos of the eurorack guys putting their ideas together, such a wonderful creative process.

What’s a piece of gear or software that always gets used when you’re writing a track?

OB-6 without doubt. It is in pretty much every track over the last 3 or 4 years. It’s the most unruly, organic sounding poly synth out there, for my own ears at least. I recently added another unit to it, turning it into an OB-12, a 12 voice VCO polyphonic monster, it really is quite special to hear it in person.

You have a new single entitled ‘Pata Negra’ out now on Manual Music. Tell us a bit about it and your production process behind the track.

The vocal came first, then I wanted a bad ass bassline that would fit and contrast against that haunting vocal, both in melody but also in timbre. I ended up using the Prophet 6 in unison mode as opposed to a monosynth. It was almost an experiment to see how brutal I could make the Prophet sound as it is a synth known for its tight and controlled sound. As it turns out, it can also do badass, just as badass as its OB-6 bro. I ran it through an Eventide harmonizer and the Dimension D chorus.

There is also a Robert Babicz remix of ‘Cooling The Plasma’, which is a track you released on the label last year. Tell us how that remix came to be and why Robert was such a great choice for the job.

Robert was a perfect fit given his remix pedigree but also his love for all things hardware. He has a very musical sound in his own productions, chords and melodies, making Plasma an easy fit. He is also one of the guys that I love to watch when he does studio feeds, there are always nuggets of info to be picked up in those. Paul masterminded getting Robert on board, all kudos go to him.

Where does your inspiration come from and was there anything which inspired the writing of ‘Pata Negra’?

Big, fat, analog-sounding basslines!

What made Manual Music the right home for this track?

Manual is one of my favourite labels, and always has been. Paul doesn’t pigeon hole the label’s sound, which is very refreshing, he is a fan of “different” and it shows in the music released on the label. He also knows how to make the most out of a release and provides constant constructive feedback if he feels a track could be better. Aside from that, he is a very hardworking guy and a Spotify wizard. Big respect for Paul, a real gent.

When working on music is the dance floor always something that’s taken into consideration?

Previously I would have said yes, but now it is not as important. I’ve only recently started making more atmospheric stuff and that is aimed at a different audience entirely. If it is a club track though, yes, definitely, I’ll make sure there’s some fat synth action in there, stuff that sounds absolutely amazing loud.

How much friend feedback is done before you’re ready to say a track is finished? And who is someone you share your new music with first for feedback?

I’ll be honest, I don’t get a whole heap of feedback. I feel it can do more harm than good as the creative process is such a subjective thing. I do have one person though that gets all my music before I would send out for demos. A well-known guy in these circles. His feedback can be sometimes brutal, but I always respect it and take on board what he says.

Are you musically trained? And do you think it’s necessary for success in writing electronic music?

No, I’ve no musical training. It is a regret of mine; I would love to have learned to play the piano. I have read up on theory books, but of course, it ain’t the same. I don’t think classical training is as necessity given the tools available to producers now, but it helps. Coming up with chord progressions and melodies would certainly be a lot easier. Think of all the standout tracks from the last 20 or 30 years, they all have standout musical aspects in terms of chords and melodies, that is what has made them so memorable. A lot of times, those progressions break the rules and that is what makes them work. Think 808 State’s Pacific State, part of that chord sequence is out of key, but it just works. You wouldn’t get those happy accidents using Ableton’s Scale tool.

How have you been dealing with COVID-19? How has it affected your daily life, music production and overall inspiration to write new music?

It has been a fun year so far hasn’t it? Who would have though this time last year we would be where we are now? Daily life has become monotonous, that is for sure. The irony is I have far less time now than I did before the pandemic hit. My day job is in the biopharma industry and the industry as a whole is going through one of the busiest periods in its history, a case of all hands on deck. Combine that with my youngest being out of school and periodic home schooling with my oldest, days go quickly right now. Not the best environment for music making, but like everything else, it will pass.

What is the current situation with the pandemic in Spain? Are there any clubs or small events happening yet?

Spain has been ravaged. We’re under lockdown now. We cannot cross municipal borders here in Andalucía and apart from a break during the Summer, the entire hospitality and entertainment industry was annihilated. I cannot see a whole lot of positive movement taking place over the coming months either unfortunately.

What is something you do now (regularly) that you did not before COVID-19?

Pizza and popcorn movie nights with the kids.

Once nightlife eventually resumes globally what kind of effect do you think this period in our history will have on the clubbing experience?

We’re social creatures, it is part of our DNA, give it a couple of years and we will be back to normal, business as usual. Everyone wants to get back to normal. We may have to live with SARS-CoV2 permanently, who knows how that will impact things 3 years from now. There is a lot of chat about digital immunity. Will it become part of our daily lives? Hard to say given the push-back on it, but there is a possibility that it could feature more heavily in our social activities.

Is there a movie you would have loved to have produced the soundtrack for? And if so why?

Event Horizon. Dark and scary!

What have been some of your favourite tracks over the quarantine period?

I’ve been on a GU and Balance mix binge over the last few months, the old ones and the new ones. Joris Voorn’s latest GU is something else.

What is your favourite food?

Anything Indian or Thai, any Asian food really.

Iphone or Android?

iPhone.

What does 2021 hold for you? Anything you can share with us?

In terms of new music, I have new stuff on the way on ICONYC with some awesome remixes in tow. I’ve also some really cool news on the remix front, though need to keep it under wraps for the moment. Outside of that, my main aim is to get back in the studio. First task is to remix a classic track from 2001 which I plan to start working on in December. Next year I need to get some proper studio time to work on this Sci-Fi themed EP that I conceptually started during the summer. It is an ambitious project this one, in terms of soundscape and content and will be pushing my boundaries. It is going to be a full-on Sci-Fi synth assault. That is the way I have it in my head at least. One step at a time though, let’s try get back into the studio first!

'Pata Negra' is out now via Manual Music: https://bit.ly/3qcd32I

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