WITH ALEX ALLER
During this interview, I change seats, place myself in front of another artist and ask him the questions I wish people asked me. Today, I speak to composer and performer Alex Aller who has just released a new solo project entitled The Shelter.
Alex, tell us a little bit about yourself?
Let’s say I come from a place opaque to music or art in general, at least when I was growing up. I started producing music as a hobby at a very young age but I found it difficult to meet people with similar interests, it took me so long and I think that is one of the reasons why music was never really an option for me. So before pursuing this career I studied telecommunication engineering and went to work in the space industry until I had an opportunity and decided to quit to become a full time composer. It has been three years already and I feel grateful every day for being able to do what I really love.
Tell us about The Shelter, your latest solo project?
I work for advertising, film and dance, also as a musician with my own shows and luckily I am constantly involved in different projects at the same time. This makes it very hard for me to spare time and mental space to write music for myself. The Shelter is just that, little moments between commissions that I was free enough to write about how I was feeling at that moment. Since I did not have to meet any deadline I decided to experiment with instruments and textures that I had never worked before and I reached out to these musicians to join the project. Also I wanted to work with Calyx for a long time and Arnold Kasar did a great job with the mastering. I think it is my best sounding work so far.
If a very short work, it is full of creative ideas — and what could seem seeds of a larger project. Tell us about your intentions and what you were trying to achieve with The Shelter?
I feel like the project, despite being short, is a closed circle in terms of music and intention. This is also represented in the visual aspect of the artwork and visualisers from Irene Saenz. My main goal was to continue exploring my production skills, to learn for example how a clarinet works, how to write for it, record it and mix it with electronic elements. How to write for choir, record it and blend it with the rest of the elements. Regarding the achievements, I make this music for myself, to let go of certain things that I cannot express in any other way, and it is magical when people come to you to say that your music affects them in any way although it was not your primary intention.
What is your creative process; how do you create and produce music?
I need to find that seed that makes the song blossom. This could be melody, a chord progression or a special sound. For that I do not have any procedure; sometimes it appears while improvising at the piano, sometimes while doing sound design with the synths (those little happy accidents). I remember talking to a friend about these discoveries and referred to them as “clicks”. It is weird but we need these “clicks” to feel motivated and continue and when you go through days of trying without finding anything interesting it is horrible and it is when the doubts arise. It is hard to explain to someone that does not work in a creative area but to find that seed is the best feeling ever.
What about production; how central is it in your creative process?
Production and composition are sometimes the same to me, while I am writing music I am also processing it and deciding where that specific part could fit in the song. Oftentimes most of the creative weight of the song is carried by the production, specially with my music where my sound, whether it is a piano recording or a synth line, is heavily processed through tape or modular; so you could say that yes, production plays a main role in my creative process.
What are some of the most interesting projects you have worked on recently?
I was privileged to have recently put music to a documentary of Alejandro Lemus, with stunning free diving images and trying to achieve a new world record. I made an original soundtrack to be performed live this September at Cibeles Palace in Madrid for the historic film Nanook of the North. And I am also working on a new dance show to be premiered by the end of September where I will be performing the music in the middle of a museum.
So after The Shelter what’s next?
I am working on a new dark and introspective album in collaboration with a composer and cellist that I admire, and we are now looking for dates to officially present it.
Thanks very much Alex. Last one for the road — one book, one album, one film —, tell us about your latest cultural pearls?
The book I would say is the last one I read, is the autobiography of Ryuichi Sakamoto, La música os hará libres. He was the reason I started playing the piano and a constant source of inspiration. Tremendous loss for music and activism in times when we need them most. I have lost myself hours on Speculative Memories by Yair Elazar Glotman, a must-listening. And the last film that comes to my mind again from time to time that I could recommend, also to get to know the spanish cinema better, is As Bestas by Rodrigo Sorogoyen, although my favourite recent, and not so recent, film is Close by Lukas Dhont — incredible score as well. Thank you very much for these lovely questions, hope you can also find shelter in this record.
Bouncing on Alex’s words, a fantastic way to honour the memory of genius composer Ryuichi Sakamoto is to dig deeper into his life and his work! Read my review of The Shelter.