How DRC inspired Amos Automáticos

Manuel Guerra also known as Don Manolo is a Mexican born artist now living in Madrid. He has recently released Amos Automáticos in which DRC played a significant role. We wanted to know more about Don Manolo’s work and how DRC inspired his latest album Amos Automáticos.

Tell us a little bit about your background, about yourself, your music, and what were the motivations for making this record.

I fell in love with music in the 80’s when I watched a movie in which a guy starts singing Twist and Shout in a street parade. The movie was the 1987 cult classic Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. That got me hooked on The Beatles. Then, when I was a teenager in 1992, I saw Nirvana for the first time playing Lithium on the MTV Movie Awards and that was it! I needed an electric guitar!

I took some lessons, played cover songs with friends at parties for a few years and then we disbanded when we went our separate ways to college. I got married, had kids and pretty much abandoned music until a couple of years ago when I decided to blow the dust off of my Gibson SG and get it on again.

I’ve been working in the video games industry for almost 10 years doing audio quality assurance so I picked up enough knowledge of digital audio to realize I could record my own music at home on my spare time (usually when everybody else is sleeping) and on a local studio nearby (I really enjoy playing and recording real drums even if it’s what usually gives me more trouble). I’ve released three albums so far of really short and weird instrumental songs and a couple of covers. You can download it all for free in Bandcamp.

For the last one, Amos Automáticos (Automatic Lords), I wanted more aggressive and futuristic sounds and I was able to get them all out of the DRC synth.

How did you come across with DRC, and which of its features captured your attention the most?

I found out about the DRC synthesizer through the Bedroom Producers Blog website. The article is very informative but the video that you guys made was what really convinced me to give it a try. Everything that is said on the video made me realize that you clearly knew what you were doing and were very passionate about your work. What closed the deal for me was the discussion about the range of the parameters on a synthesizer and how you tried to design DRC so that any tweaks ‘took you to interesting territories’. I was able to discover the truth of that statement by myself while making Automatic Lords.

I also liked the fact that it has everything you could possibly need: three oscillators with different shapes, a noise generator (very important to create textures), polyphony, chorus, delay, reverb, different types of filters, LFOs… and it’s cross-platform too. I realize the target platform is iOS and a touch interface but it worked very well on my Mac Mini. I first recorded some basic notes with an M-Audio Keystation Mini controller and then configured the 16 knobs of a Novation Launch Control to tweak different parameters on the DRC and that’s how I managed to get many of the weird sounds you hear on the album.

I specially enjoyed using the Cutoff and Resonance knobs at the same time with a L4P setting, their interaction is very complex and sounds amazing, very rich and grainy.

3) How did such a tool contributed to shape the sound of your latest record, and what do you find most inspiring about using DRC?

What I find most inspiring about the DRC synthesizer is its flexibility and versatility. It is not a one-trick pony like many other virtual synths I’ve tried. You can really get wildly different sounds from it. I’ll give you a few real examples: In the song R.U.R. (Rossum’s Universal Robots) I used it to create a lead sound reminiscent of the style of Jean Jacques Perrey, with and LFO making a vibrato effect at the end of long notes. In Deep Blue versus Kasparov, the DRC takes a back seat and it’s used to create a menacing buzzing sound, giving the song a sinister ambiance.

Something very interesting happened with the song Las máquinas no se suicidan (Machines Don’t Kill Themselves)… I was playing around with the pre-configured knobs in the Novation Launch Control and the DRC started making these sounds that made me think of something like a laser cutter in a factory. That reminded me of an article I read about Chinese factory workers jumping from the top of the buildings because their working conditions are so horrible and another article about how even they will be replaced by machines because machines never get tired, complain or kill themselves. So, in this particular case, a sound coming from DRC inspired me to write a new song around it. I tried to simulate the sounds of machines failing by the end of the song by tweaking the Cutoff and Resonance knobs in a very noisy way because machines can crash too.

The theme of the whole album is the Fourth Industrial Revolution, that’s why I needed a very expressive synthesizer to convey all of the mixed emotions that the subject elicits in me.

4) Music is influenced by historical cultural, and technological phenomena, which enable concepts, aesthetics, and technical concerns related to the development of music practice. How much can DRC bring into the kind of music you make?

As a creator, I’m really never too excited about what I have already done as much as what I think I could do in the future.

I barely scratched the surface of what the DRC can do. For example: I have only used it monophonically, I didn’t even touch the polyphonic mode or the chorus and the reverb. So what I’m actually really looking forward to is the new sounds I know I will get for new songs. And if you add an Intelligent Randomizer to come up with new patches easily… Well, that would be the icing on an already delicious sonic cake!

Describe with three adjectives the experience of using DRC.

Complex (in a good way, not in a hard-to-use way), Organic (it feels like a real instrument, specially if you use a good midi controller) and Versatile (because of all the modes and sounds you can get from it).

What’s next?