It is with great pleasure that we introduce you to the creators of ‘La Equidistancia’, the album by Rafael Anton Irisarri (based in New York) and Leandro Fresco (based in San Martin De Los Andes) released last year on A Strangely Isolated Place, one of our favourite labels. Rafael Anton Irisarri is a composer known for his highly immersive minimal experimental works that he has released on Room40, Ghostly International, Touch and Miasmah. Leandro Fresco meanwhile is renowned for his textured and distinctive ambient work that he has released on Kompakt, Fragil Discos, and Casa del Puente. There was a connection between them: Irisarri knew Fresco’s works on Kompakt, and was a fan of one of the most prestigious bands that came from Latin America: Soda Stereo. It’s not a minor detail that Fresco worked with them also. Now we are honored to feature their first interview together.
Cyclic Defrost: Now that it’s been a while since the physical release, what are your thoughts on ‘La Equidistancia’?
Rafael Anton Irisarri: I still love it and it’s been an incredible opportunity to be able to befriend Leandro and make music with him. He’s a kindred spirit.
Leandro Fresco: The album made a long way since we finished it until we could have the actual release in our hands. It was released digitally in April 2017, but the vinyls came out around December. Besides this, I think it’s a great album, first one that we made together. I’m very happy with the result and the music, also love the picture and the design on the vinyl.
Cyclic Defrost: Did it get the kind of reception you thought it would get?
Rafael Anton Irisarri: I’ve never expected anything from any record I’ve released. If people enjoy it, great. If they hate it, great. I don’t release music waiting to hear feedback. I release music.
Leandro Fresco: Yes, I think that Ryan (Griffin, the creator of ASIP) had a good idea when putting us together, and the LP was very well received by our own public. It’s my first collaboration making ambient music. Specialized press said it was among the 10 best releases of that genre in 2017. And I also heard a lot of good feedback from a varied range of listeners.
Cyclic Defrost: What’s the best about working with Leandro/Rafael?
Rafael Anton Irisarri: Working together has been quite the magical experience. There’s a certain connection that I can’t quite explain but whenever we are working together, I feel I’ve known him my entire life, both musically and personally.
Leandro Fresco: A very good aspect about working with him is his speed. His enormous capability of working and the constant search for the best result. I don’t think that you need to have a close relationship or be friends with someone to make music together. Regardless of that, on this case I already consider him a very good friend. I’ve confirmed what I already suspected: he’s a great musician, producer, and also has a very good sensitivity towards the arts. I’ve discovered a great musical partner and our field of operations is expanding to places that were not planned in the beginning. I admired his works before starting our project together.
Cyclic Defrost: Was the content in ‘La Espera’ recorded at the same time as ‘La Equidistancia’?
Rafael Anton Irisarri: No, we made “La Espera” as we waited for the pressing of “La Equidistancia.” Lean sent me a new batch of sounds, and I worked on the EP fairly quickly, over a long weekend actually.
Leandro Fresco: A few months later. When the label informed us about the serious issues that were happening with the making of ‘La Equidistancia’, and that the release would be delayed for the third time, we just wanted to give a hand with an EP that was conceived quite fast. The idea was to sell it and help to recover some of the invested money that went straight to the trash.
As a musician, you are used to waiting. There’s always a considerable amount of time in between the work is ready until it reaches its audience. So we just had to be patient. And in the middle we kept working with Rafael on some other projects that hopefully will see the light soon. Later on, Ryan Griffin was able to recover part of the money from the factory, so we invested that in making this 10¨ EP that was in distribution together with the ore-orders of ‘La Equidistancia’, as a way of saying thank you to everyone who has been waiting since April to get it.
Cyclic Defrost: Have you got a personal favorite among the tracks in the album and EP?
Rafael Anton Irisarri: I love “Entre La Niebla” and “Bajo Dos Siglos,” though I reckon “Un Horizonte en Llamas” has been a favourite among listeners for quite some time (since the time it was un-released and only available to listen to at my concerts in 2016).
Leandro Fresco: From ‘La Equidistancia’ my favorite ones are the opening track ‘Cuando El Misterio Es Demasiado Impresionante, Es Imposible Desobedecer’ and also the last one ‘Un Horizonte En Llamas’. And from ‘La Espera’, I choose the first one, ‘Entre Otra Parte’.
Cyclic Defrost: Which would be the ideal context to present your works together?
Rafael Anton Irisarri: I’d love to present these works inside of a nice cathedral. Then again, the Teatro Colon in Buenos Aires would be quite magical.
Leandro Fresco: Well, to start with, the technical aspect of the venue should be the right one. There are many contexts where you could enjoy music, places more or less conventional can create a special atmosphere for the listener. I really like the idea of playing ambient music in daylight, under the sun. I really enjoy performing on a natural environment. But it could also be somewhere else.
Cyclic Defrost: Don’t you think that somehow the reception to this kind of sounds got better on the past years?
Rafael Anton Irisarri: Perhaps. It’s hard to tell to be honest. From a financial standpoint, it’s been the same for me over the last 10 years. I’ve never really made a living from my own music, so I haven’t noticed an increase (or decrease). Ambient has always been an underground genre of music – you won’t see us play at Madison Square Garden anytime soon!
Leandro Fresco: We are moving forward, I’m sure that Internet and the globalisation made this type of music reach a larger number of people. When I started doing this I didn’t really think about commercial success, or about how many people I would reach. I’ve just followed my impulse, accepting the consequences without thinking too much about people listening to me or not.
Perhaps one might move along a context of people with similar interests, because without any doubt you would have a better experience sharing your own taste and experiences. But it’s also a fact that not everyone is interested in music or the arts.
Of course there are a lot more things going on reagarding this type of music around the globe, but if we think about what the mainstream is consuming, ambient is quite marginal, and some people might even find it irritating!
Cyclic Defrost: Have you ever dreamed a song before trying to create it?
Rafael Anton Irisarri: Yes, it happened a few times. I’ve woken up with a melody in my head, which I probably heard in a dream. Then I need to write a song around it to get it out of my head.
Leandro Fresco: Don’t really remember dreaming a song. What sometimes happens is that some melodies appear spontaneously, mostly walking around or riding a bike. I try to stay alert so I can register them somehow, usually recording on my phone. I already know that if I don’t register them at that moment, they will get lost and then it’s really difficult to try to get them back.
Cyclic Defrost: What’s the hardest thing you had to overcome to dedicate yourself to the arts?
Rafael Anton Irisarri: Probably my own self-doubt – a nasty side effect of growing up Catholic.
Leandro Fresco: Luckily I don’t think I’ve had that period in my life. My parents worked really hard throughout their life so I could do what I really enjoy, and that is something that one gets to appreciate with time, and I’m really thankful for it. I’ve always had total support from my parents and family when choosing this road that doesn’t really get anywhere. I think of it as a journey that will last until the end of my days, never really felt that I should get somewhere with the arts. I see the whole thing more like a resistance career. Talent helps, but to be persistent is the key.
Cyclic Defrost: Have you ever faced a situation where you thought about just giving up on music? And if so, how did you manage that?
Rafael Anton Irisarri: Oh yes, many times. A few years ago when we lost everything, wasn’t sure if making music made sense anymore. But instead, I continued for some unexplained reason. So strange. Probably a younger version of myself would have most certainly quit.
Leandro Fresco: I felt that after Gustavo’s accident. (He means Gustavo Cerati, frontman of Soda Stereo, one of the most influential figures of Ibero American music in the 80’s and 90’s, Leandro was a friend and they also worked together. Cerati had a stroke in 2010 and fell into a coma, passed away 4 years later). It was a really difficult time both personally and also regarding work. Didn’t do anything to overcome that. I just took all the time that was neccesary and finally, the desire to go on came on its own.
Cyclic Defrost: Could you pick any piece of equipment that helped you define your sound?
Rafael Anton Irisarri: Probably the Line 6 DL4. It really opened a lot of possibilities when I first encountered one 18 years ago. It really made a lot of things possible for me, as I depend on technology to create music.
Leandro Fresco: A couple years ago there was a robbery in my house, which is also my studio. They took almost everything, so I don’t have most of the equipment that I used for quite some time. I’m working a lot with the computer now, there are some types of reverbs, and plugins that I have already identified, and I use them quite frequently.
Cyclic Defrost: Latest great thing you’ve heard?
Rafael Anton Irisarri: So many things that come through Black Knoll Studio, it’s hard to name just one. But if you go through the selected discography on the studio site, you can see/hear some things that will certainly catch your attention.
Leandro Fresco: Feathered Sun, Yui Onodera, Dreems , Thore Pfeiffer, Zero Kill, Jono Ma, Melorman.
Cyclic Defrost: Plans for this year?
Rafael Anton Irisarri: Hopefully play some shows if time allows and I get invited to play at festivals. And perhaps a trip to Buenos Aires. It’s about time I go meet Leandro! haha…
Leandro Fresco: I’m working in a lot of collaborations, together with some colleagues. We just finished an album with Thore Pfeiffer, who is a friend from Germany, and also a colleague on Kompakt Records. Also some new things with Rafael Anton Irisarri, hopefully we will release that soon. Also slowly making some progress on a new solo album too.
Rafael Anton Irisarri
Cyclic Defrost: 7 years ago we had an interview and you mentioned gigs in US being quite surreal and pretty close to feel like an Almodóvar movie. Did things change in any aspect in the recent years?
Rafael Anton Irisarri: Yes, it changed…for the worst. I don’t know what to compare it to anymore – it’s completely unprecedented.
Cyclic Defrost: Now that it’s been some time since the final edition. Which are your thoughts on the Substrata Festival?
Rafael Anton Irisarri: We made something wonderful happen in Seattle, for our community. I was saddened to end it. I’ll cherish those memories and times. Made some incredible friendships in the process and couldn’t be more grateful for the remarkable displays of love we received from many corners of the world. It was a privilege to put together.
Cyclic Defrost: What was the latest record that you acquired?
Rafael Anton Irisarri: My Bloody Valentine Loveless & Isn’t Anything vinyl reissues. So good. It’s the definitive edition of Loveless, hands down.
Cyclic Defrost: What’s the best about spending time in San Martín De Los Andes?
Leandro Fresco: To be with my family, my friends, and in contact with nature. It’s a lost city in the middle of nowhere and there is where I find the time to generate the ideas of almost everything that I produce. Then in Buenos Aires comes the technical aspect of it, and things get their final shape.
Cyclic Defrost: You just performed at the Teatro Colón as a guest on Hernan Cattaneo’s shows. Was it your first time at the Colón? How was the experience?
Leandro Fresco: Yes, it was my debut in that stage, which is a renowned opera and classical music place. It was an amazing experience, especially because I had to sing in English, and because a number 1 like Hernán invited me to participate on his show, and I wanted to be ready for it. I had the chance of singing 4 songs there, and it was the best way to start the year. Unforgettable.
Cyclic Defrost: How was your first approach to ambient music?
Leandro Fresco: Doing some research on my own. Exchanging records with friends of mine as a teenager. Also, during that time, going to the Goethe Institut in Buenos Aires quite frequently, assisting at conferences, workshops.. there I got a lot of information about the genre, and also about electronic music in general. Then I was lucky enough to meet people (today they are friends) like Daniel Melero or the Dj Dani Nijensohn, who also owns a record store, they would always recommend new music to me, always good stuff. While listening I felt this connection, it just happened naturally.
You find both the EP and Lp here.