Studio Focus: Kalawila / Hugh on March 25th

Kalawila

For our readers who are not familiar with you yet, can you tell us a bit about yourself and what you do?

Hi! My name is Robin, and I’m a third-year student of radio production at the Stockholm University for the dramatic arts. When I ́m not doing that, I make and play techno under the alias Kalawila. Sound takes up a lot of my time.

What is your current studio set up?

I actually produce from home, since I don’t have the privilege of having a studio, and up until recently I didn’t have much of a “setup” at all. I made my first records with an old iMac, the basic Logic 9 software, and four or five external plugins that kept crashing, so I could only work for 10 minutes at a time before the computer went OAIGFJNAOIGNAIOEGABEUGABEFCA. It sounds odd, but I also think limitations is your best friend when doing something creative.

I make most of my music with samples and field recordings since I have access to microphones & recording equipment at my university. For instance, I might go down into the huge university garage and bang on a metal container, record it, then twist & turn it inside out with effects on my computer at home until it sounds like something completely different, like a magnetic frog or something. I have a small array of analogue synths as well, like the Korg Volca series, and a Semblance from Analogue Solutions, but it’s only recently that I’ve been getting into hardware. The most important thing about hardware for me is that it needs to be intuitive and easy to understand when you’re starting out. Otherwise, it’s just going to be intimidating.

When working on a track, what is your process?

It really differs. For my first records, I decided to take real newspaper headlines and make music that I thought described that scenario. For instance, my first record is “Slagsmål utbröt på Mount Everest”, which is Swedish for “A brawl broke out on Mount Everest”. Or my latest record, “Ensam kamphund tog Pendeltåget”, which means “Lonely fighter dog rode the commuter train”. I thought those were funny scenarios to try and paint. I’m really inspired by computer games as well. For instance, the other day I came across a spell called the “Hyper kinetic position reverser.” I have no idea what that means, but I started making a track about it. I don’t have any musical background with playing an instrument, so I try to come at it from a different angle.

Recently, I’ve been adding the drums at the very end because they don’t stimulate my imagination that much, they have a much more apparent function. And I ́d like to keep the track from having a function for as long as possible. The perfect scenario would be if the finished track isn’t “dance music”, but rather music that makes you want to dance. Those are two different things.

How do you normally go about sourcing and designing sounds for your music?

It’s really fun how easy it is these days to make a tangible recording unrecognisable from the original. Just that part is sometimes enough for me. So you can just go in your bathroom, take a metal object and bang it on the thing that dries your towel. Let it resonate, record it, and then sit for hours and basically mistreat the sound in every possible way imaginable; apply filters, stretch, distort, do everything possible on a computer. Later, when I start applying delays is usually where a song or rhythm starts to take shape. I trust my intuition a lot, I can hear instantly if a sound fits into my musical universe.

Kalawila

If you experience a creative block in the studio, do you have any particular rituals that get the inspiration flowing again?

I actually had my most serious one recently, where everything just sounded like absolute garbage, and I felt pathetic every time I tried making a track. That’s not good. However, during those kind of times I’m fortunate that music isn’t my full time job. If it was, I would have felt super stressed, but now I just focused on other creative stuff, one which ended up being a radio theatre piece. Focusing on other things, in turn lead me back to fiddling with music in a naive way. Feeling naive is big part of the fun for me, and if I’m not having fun, whatever I’m doing at the moment just ends up being really shitty, so whenever I get bored or frustrated I do something else. I guess what I lack in work ethic, I make up for in versatility.

Mixing down can often be frustrating when starting out in production, what advice would you give for getting tracks ready for the club?

Master the EQ. I’ve noticed when mixing tracks with more experienced studio friends, that a lot of work just goes into “cleaning up” the track and making sure each element has it’s place and isn’t disturbed by other elements. Also, I don’t use any reverb at all on the elements that are typically the loudest in the song (like drums). When you play the song at a club, you can really take advantage of the fact that the room gives you a natural reverb, rather than adding another reverb to the fictional one you added in the song.

What’s up next for you, any releases in the pipeline?

I’ve almost finished my next record “Lönnmördare fick betalt i frimärken EP” (Assassin got paid in stamps), and I’ve decided to start releasing friend’s music on my label as well, which I think is really exciting! The two next ones will be by my good friends Birds ov Paradise and Dorisburg! Tracks that I’ve been playing out for a while now, that really just need to be heard by more people.

Follow Kalawila

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