Architectural is an alter ego of Juan Rico which he uses to channel his effervescent spells of creativity and deliver genuine and effective techno music. We got the chance to speak with Architectural about his Metropolitan Opera LP, and he also spoke about his vision of techno and the term underground. Enjoy!
Hi Juan, how are you? Let us start with the highly expected Architectural LP “Metropolitan Opera” that will be released very soon. What inspired you to make it and what story did you wanted to tell with this album? Does it have a message?
Almost two years ago, I was able to visit New York for the first time, after my gig in Detroit. I was in awe of its immensity and its constant movement, and how this generated a constant buzz people call “rumble”. It’s the sound of the big cities, but in this case it is so noticeable that it is quite incredible. We felt it everywhere we went, even in the quiet part of Brooklyn where my wife and I were staying for the week. Such a strong sound made me think of what it would be like to make a record like that, and what would inspire me to compose it. I wanted to express the range of sensations I had exploring a city with as much energy as New York, and do it from a very cinematographic approach. As soon as we were back in Barcelona, I put aside everything I was working on just so that I could concentrate on this album. For some reason, I really have no idea why, when I finished it, I left it sitting in a drawer and forgot about it until this last September, when I listened to it again and thought it was finally time to publish it.
After listening Metropolitan Opera I think it’s brilliant, powerful and moves boundaries when it comes to production of ambient techno. How would you describe the sound of this LP without using genre names?
The sound is very cinematographic and in some cases it’s even retro-modern. Very atmospheric, orchestral, dark and sentimental. It could very well be the soundtrack to my New York experience.
Which emotion do you want to awake in the listeners with Metropolitan Opera?
The album will only be released on vinyl, and all the tracks are practically mixed together so there are no breaks between the songs, no silences that aren’t intended to be a part of the music. That way you can listen to it all in one go. The idea is to help you ease into the concept: a trip through different scenarios of a big metropolis and what you may feel walking its streets.
Metropolitan Opera is in a way very cinematic, at least I experienced it like that. Have you thought about the making film music?
Yes, of course I have! Last year I composed the soundtrack for the teaser trailer of a film called Malware. That was only a taste, and yes, it’s something I’d like to do. I’m very keen, because I believe that the combination of images and music is the best way to express feelings. Nowadays a lot of electronic music is being produced for films, which is an advantage for people already working on this genre.
When it comes to you releases, I have to mention Cubismo EP that has two track more dance floor-driven perfectly combined with ambient ones. What are your thoughts about combining something that seems so diverse at the first glance, but as a whole sounds just right and how are managing to do it? Do you follow a feeling or is it something else?
I think the trick is to prove to people that dance music is not the only type that can communicate stuff to the audience. A track can be intense in a variety of ways and sometimes you can even turn the dance floor upside down with an ambient track. That is not only possible, but it’s what I try to prove again and again. That’s why I think it’s the best combination for an album, as well as a chance to create something without any pressure, just working on a feeling.
What kind of sounds are you searching for your releases? What king of gear are you using?
I used many real sounds so that I could fuse ambient with classical music. I used an old Roland JV1080 for the more instrumental parts; it’s a great sound module that has very good instrument simulators. To tell you the truth, I made the most of it. I hadn’t used it for a very long time and I’m convinced that the record would have sounded very differently without it. I also used a modular synthesizer in some of the tracks, for a retro touch. Naturally, all the sounds are processed. I used endless reverbs to give the album a more atmospheric feel.
Are there any creative challenges you are dealing with?
Releasing a whole LP of experimental music, and on vinyl to boot, is already quite a challenge.
What’s your vision of techno? What does it represent to you?
As I see it, techno music has to fulfil one requirement: making you dance in a dance floor by means of cyclic sounds that respond to a hypnotic concept. Aside from that, I think techno must allow an exploration of new sounds. This seems basic, but it isn’t always like this at all. Techno has many variants and, in my case, this is the style that has always motivated me to spend my every day doing this. To me it represents a lot more than just a type of music; it represents a very important cultural movement, something that ancient tribes were already doing ages ago. It’s the same concept, but it has obviously evolved in a different way. If you really know and get to the essence of techno, it can be very intense and gratifying, capable of communicating an intensity that other types of music aren’t able to. It’s just a matter of getting rid of the bad stuff.
What is underground to you?
In my opinion, underground is a way of remembering the true roots of techno. As many other types of music, it was born mainly in the suburbs, had no economic aspirations and it was made for a very limited audience. It’s only logic that with time it has become something so massive, but I still think that the word underground is sometimes misused. By producers, DJs, promoters, etc. we all do sometimes. To me it refers to non-commercial stuff, but not-commercial even for techno.
As one of the most innovating producers, what advice would you give to people who want to create their own sound?
First of all, what I would say is that anyone wanting to create a personal sound is already ahead of most producers. There is a massive amount of producers who simply sound “techno” and who base everything on their tr909 or 808, acids and some synths that are a bit too basic for my taste. A lot of those tracks will be very effective on the dance floor, but producers that lack an identity are boring. So the first step is wanting to sound different. I would tell them not to limit themselves in their search for new avenues, and that once they know how to handle the machines and have acquired enough audio knowledge, they should put all manuals and notes aside and do stuff that any teacher or engineer would tell you not to do that way. Because that’s how you often find new and different flavours and learn how to make the best of your hardware. At least that’s my personal experience.
What can we expect from Architectural in the future? What is the next step when it comes to your sound?
It’s very hard for me to answer that right now. Especially because it’s not good to try to guess where your sound is going; I think your life experience decides that. One day something takes your fancy and you suddenly get a new idea that you’d like to develop. Sometimes you don’t get anything out of it, and others you turn it into something. All I can say is that I still have a lot of territory to explore and to experiment with.