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Music > A Brazilian master of sound, not soccer July 6, 2006

Posted by grhomeboy in Music Life Live Gigs.

Amon Tobin set to appear at Synch Festival this Friday

‘Technology means little when the creative spirit is missing,’ says Tobin.

He’s Brazilian but disinterested in soccer. As Ronaldinho is a master of the ball, compatriot Amon Tobin is a master of the studio.

This particularly interesting composer is totally connected with newer ways in music making (samples, loops etc) but at the same time is well aware that technology is not a cure-all. Creative instinct, from as far back as prehistoric times, remains the key factor.

Born in Rio de Janeiro, Tobin was raised in the UK. He made an impact in the mid-90s with “Adventures in Foam,” an album he released as Cujo. Tobin established his fame with 1977’s “Bricolage,” an album that fused numerous sounds from old samba and bossa nova tunes, motorcycle sounds, real instruments, and sound frequencies. Just days before his visit to Athens for an appearance at the Synch Festival this Friday (at the Lavrion Technological Park), Tobin, in an interview, promised a lively and intriguing performance while also recalling how he once almost drowned in the Ionian Sea.

Why don’t you ever play live?

You named your first album “Bricolage.” Does that mean something in particular?

It implies the whole game with sounds that I’m involved with. The term is derived from anthropology and “The Savage Mind” by Claude Levi-Strauss. Strauss refers to a process where one takes a type of material from a certain context and creates a new context with it. It was a common procedure among prehistoric tribes… I work thinking along the same lines. I take sound samples and set them to a new environment and create new contexts. Without necessarily understanding an Indian song, I take the sound of a sitar and construct another type of music.

Can we talk, then, about the death of the composer and the birth of the cut-and-paste creator?

Composers change, but composition doesn’t. People must understand that equipment and technology mean very little when the creative spirit is missing.

You hail from Brazil. How much has the country’s music influenced you?

A lot during both my early years and with regard to rhythm. I try, you see, to eliminate the passages that connect me with cultures I’ve drawn elements from. I have a passion for sound and not its name of origin. And, of course, it would be an insult to place myself, a primitive musician, amid such a rich musical tradition as Brazil’s.

Even so, your rhythms remind me of Airto Moreira, as I see it.

My only connection with Moreira is a remix I did some time ago of one of his songs.

Have you been following Brazil at the World Cup?

Unfortunately, I’m neither a fan of soccer nor television.

What do you do during your spare time?

Well, right now I’m recording my new album and my mind is constantly there. Because I’m using all sorts of recording techniques, the project has proven I took lessons in the history of sound engineering and have gone beyond my old technique, this being to take samples from vinyl records. I do field recordings myself, experiment with various kinds of microphones, and work with musicians whom I invite to the studio. Cronos Quartet played some marvelous string-section melodies for my album.

Why don’t you ever play live?

My music is constructed in the studio, it’s complex, and can’t be executed by an orchestra, because it would require 40 musicians. And it would sound fake.

Can fans dance to a song as fast as “Chomp Samba”?

Of course, northern Europeans like it a lot. Ever since the jungle and drum ’n’ bass scenes, rhythms have become faster. I should say that I take care so that concertgoers experience my shows like a musical journey with moments for takeoff and relaxation.

Is Ninja Tune, the label that releases your albums, an institution in contemporary music?

I don’t think there’s a Ninja Tune sound as there was a Motown sound in the past. I’m detached from the [label’s] other artists. But there may be a specific style at the label, which, ultimately, I am grateful to because it promotes my work.

Do you still live in Brighton [UK]?

I live in Montreal, but I have a house in Brighton for holidays.

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