The first in the series of producer interviews is a chat with ILYA SANTANA, who was instrumental to the warm reception of P.O.S’s first single in 2011, when his remix of the track ‘It Is Like That’ was released to a great critical acclaim. So without a further ado here is a chat with Ilya Santana!
- Hi Ilya, it’s a pleasure to start with you the new Philosophy Of Sound’s series of interviews with other artists that we admire! To get the ball rolling I’d like to ask about your very early influences, so going back to your childhood and reflecting on the music that inspired you to become a music producer and composer yourself?
The very first time that I listened to Alan Parson´s “Mammagamma – that was the reason why right now I am a music producer. My father worked in a big shop of Hi-Fi equipment, he worked in the office but from time to time he would show customers how it sounds. One afternoon he was with someone making a sound-check and I just arrived to meet him. At that moment played ‘Mammagamma’ and I was in a state of shock with that music. The sound was very familiar to me but I never heard it before, it was amazing. I knew from that moment that the music will become an important part of my life.
- How old were you then?
4 years old, and I was very frustrated because I didn’t know more about that kind of music, and I felt that I needed more and more of that marvelous sound. Eventually my uncle showed me the “Synthesizers” compilations that included re-versions of the classics like Moroder, Vangelis, Faltermayer, etc. I never stopped listening to that CD.
- Are you classically trained or a self-taught musician?
The moment when I got my first midi controller and my computer in 2004 was when I started to play for the very first time in my life. I was quite surprised that I knew how to play basic melodies and that was what I needed at that moment. Then I started to study by myself to learn some harmony, tension and some scales like pentatonic and it helped me very much. But I also had to study how to use a DAW and the soft-synths, you know all that computer stuff, but yes, it was all by myself.
- Are you interested in or practicing any other forms of art, apart from music?
Nice question, I love art in general – painting, photography (my father was a photographer), but the music is my way, even in another parallel universe.
- When you reflect back on your career, what events would you consider the most important milestones?
Meeting Daniel Wang was the event that gave form to my musical career. I don’t know if I would be who I am if never had met him. Who knows…
He helped me in some very important ways, much more than just releasing my very first record or rejecting the second one. He wanted to proof than I can release out of the blue on Balihu Records, he wanted to check if I could release also on other labels. He was like a father guiding a son through the real life.
- Can you tell us about the release of your early material on Eskimo, how did that happen?
At that moment I wanted my music to go far, and reach the biggest possible audience. That was my plan, but Eskimo wasn’t the label that was meant to be, and I took another musical direction. The music that I released on Eskimo was very important, one of the songs even has the name of my daughter. As the time goes by my music grows up, and I think I grow up too. In my time with Eskimo I was experimenting with some musical changes.
- It would be great to get an insight into your production methodology. Are you keeping things in your studio pretty simple or do you use a lot of plugins and outboard gear?
Yes, as simple as possible. There’s a computer with the VSTi´s that I always use. It is better to know very well 2 or 3 soft synths. I use things like the Arturia CS80, Novation V Station ( the 3 osc are killers) Korg ms20 (mostly for efx). I also like very much orchestral parts and for that I use the Garritan Gp4 and spend much time arranging the stings part. I use Battery 3 for drums and a personal bank of Kicks, snares, hats and percussion. I make music only with software but try for it to sound as real possible.
- What DAW and plugins or hardware synths are you using most of the time?
Cubase 5 and Logic 9. I like Cubase for the Midi, it’s easy and stable. And I use Logic when I get bored of Cubase, mainly for not getting tired by always using the same work environment. Sometimes making music only with computers can bore you, it’s not the same as when you get your guitar or bass to play, which is more fun and the music flows in a different way. But I grew up in the software era.
- Do you have any recording, composing or production tips to aspiring producers?
The best way to do it, is to make things that come from your heart. The next factor is time. Allow time to discover who you are and what the music wants of you, because we are only instruments for music.
- When you work on a new track, how do you go about it? Do you have a typical way of composing?
It always starts with a melody in my head. I allow it to play and evolve through days or sometimes weeks. When it has some good variations, I start working on the computer. The percussion part is the first that I work on. It takes me some time to choose the samples of drums that I need, after that comes the bass and then everything else. The last are the synths and effects. I like to make every song unique, with something special and if I have to put more than one good idea in I do it. When I finish, I try to listen on some different sound systems, like car, friend’s house, etc – to decide what kind of sound it will have.
- Do you work with any sessional musicians or singers or do you normally work on your own?
No, I always work alone. The music for me is very personal and I want to discover it by myself. I also want to have all the feelings going in one direction and learn about it, which has to come from me.
- Are there any artists that you would like to collaborate with in the future?
- When you perform your music to an audience what approach do you take, what equipment do you use? Do you use a computer or midi controllers?
In this area I also try to keep it as simple at possible. I use a laptop with audio interface going into the mixer and nothing else.
- Do you travel a lot to perform or do you prefer to play local gigs?
Prefer local gigs. I don’t like to travel far from home. I know, this is rare for a DJ, but now that I have a daughter it is hard to go far. I also don’t have that “hunger” for gigs and travel around the globe. I’m more of a producer and I prefer to stay at home making music.
- And speaking of the future, could you reveal what it holds for you, what are your musical plans for the next 12 months?
Maybe some relax time. I have the feeling that I need to take a break on the way. It’s not good to get obsessed with anything and life has many fantastic things to offer. The music is always with me, in my head and never lets me go. If I won’t release something that wouldn’t means that I am not making any more music, because it’s always inside of me 😉
- Thanks very much for the interview! Can’t wait to hear your future tracks!
(Interview by Martin K)
Ilya’s remix of Philosophy of Sound’s ‘IT IS LIKE THAT’:
Ilya Santana links:
– Soundcloud: http://soundcloud.com/ilya-santana
– Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/ilyasantana
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