Pedro Vian: “All humans have this attraction to the unknown – we try to find the unknown in the obscure”
Barcelona born, Amsterdam based artist Pedro Vian is about to release his new album “Ibillorca” on his own label imprint Modern Obscure Music. “Ibillorca” a beautiful deep journey into ambient music, not without negating his origins in club music.
Pedro, what is it that you search in music?
Making music for me is like meditating. A way to disappear from the real world to connect with other dimensions. Music is my tool for self-expression. It’s my way to communicate and express what I cannot say with words.
Do you only find this in music?
No, I also find this feeling of pleasure and stillness when I’m connected with nature or when I’m in front of a painting.
I ask this to the beginning as for me your music is not only very atmospheric, it is very pictorial, opening up a narrative landscape of an imaginary world. I assume that you go through some time of emotional research before starting to write the material for an album, right?
Sometimes before I start composing I do this exercise where I’m looking at a panting and I try to translate it into music, or I do it the other way around and I ask myself: “How can I draw this song?” And I guess I do a different kind of research every time. Before writing an album I need time to figure out what I need. Which will be the palette of colors (instruments) I want to use or how I’m going to explain the feeling I want to express. Because of my background and my major in Audiovisual Design, I know that both image and sound are highly connected. And that’s why artworks are of high importance in my discography and for all the records I release on my label Modern Obscure Music.
During a residency at MACBA (Museum of Contemporary art of Barcelona) I studied the analogies between music and architecture –that’s something I started to investigate a long time ago – and I continued to develop it in my last residency at Het HEM (Contemporary art center) in Zaandam, The Netherlands. I’m always looking for new ways to get inspired and to make my compositions. I also like to just get carried away by the energy of the moment, I simply connect the machines and start improvising.
Can you go a little bit deeper in the way you produce music?
As I mentioned before, I use different techniques to produce a track. Every track has a different story because I like to change the place where I produce my music, this is something connected to the fact that my music is pictorial. c
Coming back to the landscape character of the music, the cover underlines this feeling. Who did draw the beautiful cover?
The cover describes an utopian place, an island in this case. The name of the album is a composition of the two mediterranean islands, Ibiza and Mallorca, “Ibillorca”. From a living room, somewhere in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea, you can see through two different windows: one for the typical architecture and nature of Ibiza (left) and the other for the one of Mallorca (right). This magnificent piece of art is an artwork by Blanca Miró Skoudy. She describes perfectly the feelings I had, the images I viewed through my mind during the process of elaboration of the album. The first track of the album, the opening cut, is recorded in the middle of the island of Ibiza. I wrote this song surrounded by nature. The other tracks were written in Amsterdam, trying to capture the feeling of nostalgia, specially the light and all the flavours and memories of the Mediterranean.
Pedro, you are originally from Barcelona. What does the city mean for you as an artist?
I love Barcelona and I miss it terribly. Barcelona is a small city with a bohemian vibe, home of great artists, plus there’s always good weather, and great food too. I’ve always felt very connected to the fact that is a city that’s surrounded by the Mediterranean Sea, and therefore, it’s directly connected with other cultures.
My family lives there, so I’m still very connected to the city. Specially now, with the current situation we are living, I wish I could be there to support them.
But you moved to Amsterdam a while ago. Why?
I was searching for new inspiration, as I had been living in the same city for all my life. I felt the need of discovering new places, new cultures and I also needed to step out of my comfort zone. I also felt that in my country, there weren’t many opportunities for me to grow as an artist, at that moment. So I decided to move, and I felt very connected with Holland instantly because it’s a country surrounded by nature. We arrived in Amsterdam by car, and I remember on the way here my girl and I were watching all these green fields full of sheep running around. And before arriving into the city, we already knew it would be a magical experience. I also think Amsterdam has the strongest electronic music scene, great clubs, festivals and record stores. So, what else I could ask for?
How do you experience the current Corona situation in both your town of residency and your original home town.
The situation in Spain is really scary… catastrophic almost. Luckily my family is okay, but It’s really a stressful situation as I keep on receiving all this bad news from my country. Here in Amsterdam feels like we are living a totally different situation. The government has approved a “clever confinement” policy, which means we can go outside with a maximum of 2-3 people while keeping a secure distance between us, and everyone is taking advantage of this and enjoying the good weather in the parks. All my friends and family in Barcelona are stacked in their apartments in the city center, with no chance of going out not even for a small walk. I feel so lucky to be here in the Netherlands because the government is also supporting the “cultural sector” with incomes to cover their first necessities (rent, supplies, etc) which is something that is not happening in my hometown (Spain).
On the not so bright side, I had to cancel the tour for my new album. The plan was to kick off the “Ibillorca” release tour here in Amsterdam and then travel to Barcelona, New York, Tokio, Kyoto, Poland, London, and Rotterdam. Everything was cancelled because of the Corona virus, and we are now working on rescheduling all these gigs for when it’s all over, most likely after summer.
What do you think is the impact on your life as an artist, short term and long term?
With the whole Corona situation I have come to realize how hurried and fast-paced our life was. I think we have the perfect opportunity to rethink our lifestyle. Due to this massive global lock down I’m working and living at another pace, a more organic one. I think we were accelerated in consequence of the economic capitalist system, and I really hope that after this everyone stops and thinks before jumping on a plane as if this whole situation never had happened. It’s also fascinating to see how nature is recovering so quickly in these days.
As a record label owner, I’m worried about how this will affect the record industry. I currently have three records in the pressing plant, and the majority of the record stores are closed. I’m asking myself: will people keep buying records through online stores? Is it worth it to keep on producing records? A lot of these questions come to my mind but I guess we should keep making music, now more than ever, as we are all consuming culture from our homes.
“Ibillorca“ is coming out on your own label imprint Modern Obscure Music? I find this combination of modern and obscure quite interesting. Is this stated from your own perspective on the music on the label or is this a playful a priori response to the reactions of the potential listeners?
Yes, in a way it was a chance for me to share my vision about the electronic music of nowadays. I conceptualized the name of the label with Alex Trochut, who also designed the logo. Modern Obscure Music, abbreviated MOM, which means the origin.
Listening to „Ibillorca“ I feel the obscure is mainly a geographical reference as the album is playing with sound themes from Greek, Arabian and North African cultures, manifested in titles like „Medusa“, „Un Passatge obscure“ or „Le printemps est arrive“. Why do you think we humans still feel the unknown as obscure?
This is the most interesting question I have had in a long time. “Ibillorca” is the perfect mixture of Ibiza and Mallorca, just the connection of the three cultures you mentioned. All humans have this attraction to the unknown – we try to find the unknown in the obscure. The real meaning of obscure was difficult to explain because people were confusing it with darkness. It was a constant fight I had from the beginning of the label, I received tons of demos with gothic and dark music. Hopefully that’s not happening any more, I think the audience started to understand the meaning of the name of the record label – years after it was created.
Obviously you are not afraid of the dialogue of all of these influences. What I love about your record, you manage to bring in all those elements in a very sensitive way, same with those significant contemporary moments, when the in general more listening overall impression of the album breaks into some kinda clubish and euphoric passages. How hard is it to achive what I feel as quite nonchalant?
The main idea was to do a very chilled record, a record mainly of ambient sounds, but things changed during the recording process. In the album you can see there’s different moods. I honestly wanted to do something more focused on “home listening music”, but I just couldn’t leave behind my club influence. I have been playing in clubs as a DJ for more than 15 years now and that’s something I just don’t want to leave in my past. So I think my latest album expresses exactly that: the day and the night.
You dropped Gavin Russom as a reference name for your music, I would also suggest to bring in Ryūichi Sakamoto. Why Russom?
I’ve been a huge fan of Gavin Rayna Russom since I discovered her music with Delia Gonzalez on DFA; also her work as Black Meteoric Star. “Dreamcatcher” is one of my favourite electronic music pieces of all time, which I also like to play it in clubs. Two years ago I had the pleasure to release excerpts of “No more white presidents ” by Black Meteoric Start on Modern Obscure Music.
Ryüichi Sakamoto is also a very big inspiration for me, I really enjoy his music and specially his “savor faire” in general. During the process of making “Ibillorca” I was listening to his album “Esperanto” and also one of his latest albums: “Async”. I’m truly in love with one of the pieces of “Async” called “Solari”, I highly recommend you to listen to it.
You used to release before on John Talabot’s label Hivern Discs and Jamal Moss Mathematics Recordings under the imprint Aster – how would you say did your musical approach develop since those releases and what did you learn by working with those artists and their labels?
I respect both artist and labels, for me both of them are a great reference of effort and perseverance. They created a strong identity following their ideals and intuitions, and that is something that I value and appreciate from them.
Pedro, thanks for the interview. And lets now hear your new track “The Destiny Manifest”.