Interview with Carlos Giffoni
Brooklyn noise artist Carlos Giffoni made his way to Brooklyn from Venezuela via Miami and has spent the last decade building up a catalogue of experimental sound excursions using both digital and analog production techniques. He created and operates Brooklyn’s annual No Fun Fest (funded yearly on credit cards, I’ve read), as well as the label No Fun Productions, which put out my favorite release of 2009. His latest album, Severance on Hospital Productions passes on noise aggression and takes a more inviting, dynamic approach to sound, allowing for minimal and concentrated development. His recent work as No Fun Acid explodes genres outside his usual sound with a free, noisy perspective.
In a couple of weeks he’ll be performing for Bunker in their three-week run of untouchable lineups [note: this last show included Shed when this was written]. I had a chance to ask him a few questions about his work.
Here’s a live set of his from Vimeo:
Bijan: How has your approach to music production and performance changed over the past decade?
Carlos Giffoni: I think as far as live performance I have more of a solid structure now, there is still some improvisation within the overall structure, but I spend more time getting ready for each live show and try to make it something unique while adding familiar elements here and there for people that have my recordings.
Production hasn’t changed much, I have much better equipment and recording setup that I had 10 years ago, but for the most part I am still recording the same way, creating layers and parts live instead of overdubbing, things just end up sounding much more alive to me that way.
I also have a much easier time now throwing stuff out that I am not happy with and starting from scratch and even delaying projects if necessary. No reason to try to put everything out there, better to spend longer and finishing with something you can get behind 100%.
B: Describe your current recording process.
CG: It changes from track to track, but a lot of the time a track starts from a structural idea in my head, then finding the right combination within my gear to make it happen and experimenting and adding to that until it feels ready. Once I have the whole thing worked out as a full piece, and only then, do I hit record. This means one piece might take several days or even weeks to setup, but the actual recording is in real time, I might do a few takes and pick the best one but that’s about it.
B: What’s the No Fun Acid project all about? Have you been playing live for noise-oriented crowds? Dance-oriented crowds?
CG: Is a project inspired by parties in South America/Miami I used to go to when younger, using a classic Acid synth line approach but expanding that in many directions. Some sets have been more noisy, some sets have been straight explorations/revaluations of the early acid techno/house style.
Have been playing it in all contexts I can play it in.
B: What unique perspective/approach do you bring to this music?
CG: New approaches due to my involvement in experimental music, mixing things up with some noisy and psychedelic elements, layering some extra synths along with the 303 for example, and adding elements that are dissonant here and there.
On the other hand, for someone that is a fan of the genre there is a good chance they might really hate ‘no fun acid’ since I don’t have a deep knowledge of it and I am all over the place when it comes to ‘acid standards’, especially with the beats I use, they have nothing to do with whats normally expected in Acid. I think I might have offended some purists here and there.
B: You’re booked to play a Bunker show with Byetone and Aoki Takamasa in a few weeks. Are you going to be playing No Fun Acid material? How does your performance change depending on the context?
CG: I think I am going to something in between my solo performance and no fun acid for the Bunker show. I’ll be bringing some modular synths and keeping it mixed. Yes my performance always changes depending on venue, context and weather I am on tour promoting something or is a one off where I am freer to try things and equipment out.
B: Can you tell us (beyond the message on the site) why there’s no No Fun Fest this year? Will there be one for 2011?
CG: There is not much more to tell, the festival has grown beyond what I can handle at the moment unless I was running it like a business which was never my intention. I have other projects/ideas/jobs to take care of and I decided it was time for a break, think about re-conceptualizing the whole thing.
I will announce any decisions for 2011 once I make them. nothing new I can say on that front yet.
B: Does the title of your latest album, Severance, relate to the break in the festival?
CG: The title Severance refers to many and every break in my life, any points where I have had to make a decision to let go of something that was previously meaningful. I think as people grow older is normal to realize that instead of doing as much as possible in as many places as possible is better to narrow things down and do a really good job in the few aspects of life you really consider valuable, what other people think you should do only matters as reference point.
B: Are you able to generate money through the No Fun label?
CG: A little bit, it goes in peaks and valleys depending on the releases I have out at the moment. I have a label office that I also use a studio, and spaces in New York are not cheap so that pretty much takes all the label income.
B: New York City seems like a hotbed for noise, improv, and experimentation — any ideas why?
CG: This city always has had Amazing energy, additionally everyone plays here when on tour so you are constantly bombarded with ideas and perspectives from all over the world, and because is so easy to see live music and be exposed to art, you really get to see whats out there if you want and see where you can add something. This leads to lots of experimentation as people thrive to create something different and original while having a wide perspective of whats going on available to them.
B: Do you have any favorite NYC venues?
CG: I have always liked Glasslands in Williamsburg. The staff there is always on the ball and the owners are cool people. I’ve seen the place grow since its beginning and its constantly being improved.
I think the situation for medium size shows is pretty bad right now, however. Is getting tougher and tougher to find a place that has a professional approach and equipment and that supports far out music and that schedules lots of events. Unless somehow you can put together a bill for a large venues, a lot of the places where people are doing shows just feel like they were thrown together last minute.
We all miss having Tonic around, that was probably the greatest venue I got to play in in the 10 years I been here. Didn’t really realize it until it was gone.
B: Noise/experimental music is in many ways about exploration and discovery, but do you see any elements of stagnation in the scene?
CG: I see elements of stagnation only on people that get close minded about it and believe that experimental music should be limited to being one thing or the other. People sometimes think they are so open minded for liking ‘weird sounding’ music,noise,etc. But they don’t realize they are just being as close minded as it gets by limiting the options of what they will accept as viable or valuable.
B: What are you working on now?
CG: I am working on a new No Fun Acid track or two. I also recently finished and LP under my name that will come out on Editions Mego later this year. As well as a split LP with Oren Ambarchi that will come out on No Fun Productions.
I am also recording new synth pieces on my Buchla and Serge for a new recording project I haven’t fully shaped yet.
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