Unpropped, Plastikman, Aphex Twin, Autechre, Lorn
Unpropped, Plastikman, Aphex Twin, Autechre, Lorn

Interview with exploratory producer Unpropped

Image credit: Chiara Bellamoli

Unpropped came to music somewhat accidentally. It is more like the craft found him. Without a musical upbringing, he tinkered with the medium until it led him to where he is today, having released his second-ever single, ‘Nousle’ on digital platforms. An apocalyptic record that ripples with distortion and echoes with the haunting sound of tolling bells.

Stream ‘Nousle’ on SpotifyiTunes

Unpropped will continue to establish himself in the coming year, as he prepares to release his debut EP next month. With more to offer, the artist answered a few questions.

If someone has never heard your music, which keywords would you personally use to describe your overall sound and style?

Evocative, curious, textured, rather minimalistic, slightly dubby with ambient, drone, and techno elements. I like to think about it as somehow eclectic. 

Tell us about yourself. How did you get into music?

I don’t come from a musical background. Never really learnt to play an instrument or a lot about music theory besides the limited stuff that we were taught at school. As foolish as it may sound, I started experimenting and crafting beats when I was a teen just to impress somebody. Not sure it really played out well, but I kept on messing around, on and off.

At some point, several years ago, after having been living around the world and securing a way to sustain myself, I decided to step up and pursue some formal training in music production. I had understood by then that all I needed to feel fulfilled, to keep some sort of a mental balance, was to make music. Everything else had become noise, stuff that one must deal with to eventually figure out what really matters.

When you compose and produce tracks, do you make music for yourself or do you make it with others in mind?

I do it mostly for myself, as a way of expression. But I also believe in the idea that art is a great, if not the best, legacy for the coming generations, so there you have some outside-in motivation. And, of course, there’s a certain element of critique too: if you want to put your music out there for others to experience it, you need to be honest and realistic about what you are releasing. Could it touch people in a sincere way? Make them engaged? Make them feel that it was worth their time and attention? I think that those are important questions to bear in mind when deciding about publishing your work.

Comfort the disturbed or disturb the comfortable – what is your aim with your music?

Both! If you feel disturbed, my music might provide you with an escape route, helping to drift away and get to places where your perspectives could change (for the better, I hope), even if only for a few minutes.

But in any case, my main goal is to disturb, or rather challenge, the comfortable. Try to take you out of your safe zone to expose yourself to the unexpected. In my opinion, that’s what makes us move forward, so the more comfortable people that I disturb, the better.

Has your arsenal of equipment changed much since you first started? 

Yes, mostly towards hardware. A couple of synths have made it to my desk, and I also have updated, several times, my basic equipment: laptop, monitors, sound card, headphones… It’s mostly a process in which you go experimenting according to what you feel that you need, keeping and discarding along the way.  

Three favorite tracks of all time?

‘Disorder’ by Joy Division; ‘Under Pressure’ by Queen & David Bowie; Billie Holiday’s interpretation of ‘Gloomy Sunday’

But if you ask me next month, I’ll probably tell you something different… except for Joy Division, I think they’d definitely stay.

What inspires you outside of music?

Good cinema, in the sense of observing simple, well-told stories unfold. It can be contemporary or classic cinema, never mind, as long as it helps me to think about routine stuff which happens in our lives and which we usually overlook.

Going out people-watching while sitting at a bar drinking a coffee or whatever is also very effective. It kicks the brain out of its train of thought.

And simply lazing around. Not doing absolutely anything is one of those vilified things which tend to work wonders in certain moments.

What is the best or strangest reaction you’ve had to your music this far?

I consider the best reactions those that trigger an active exchange of impressions, whether positive or negative. It shows me that the track did have some effect on the listener and is also leading him to spend his time sharing and discussing about it. That’s, by far, the most fulfilling for me.

On the other hand, the silent treatment is perhaps the most confusing one… did the music not have any effect? Or maybe it had a huge impact? It doesn’t happen so often, as people tend to speak out their opinion with more or less enthusiasm, but when it does, I prefer to take it as a reality check and remind myself that indifference is indeed a possibility.

What, in your opinion would be the perfect genre fusion?

Very cool question. I thought about it often, and am not sure it has ever been tried, but I’d love to hear some techno-flamenco. I’m not speaking just about electronic flamenco, but very dark, underground, 130 BPM techno fused with the elements of the purest, rawest Spanish flamenco. Perhaps some sort of a techno-Rosalía, but far less commercial. I would be fan number 1.

Do you consider the Internet and social media as fundamental in building a career in music today, and what is your personal relationship with the new technology at hand?

Internet probably yes, social media I seriously doubt it. I’m fine with the former, never in my life used the latter, and I wish I could keep it like that.

Internet allows the use of great tools that decisively help you to build a fan base and expand your reach towards scenes and places where you’d otherwise require the support of big money. It’s very difficult nowadays to take off just through live shows and the sale of vinyl, CDs, and merch. Basically, because that means that you’re competing against the internet itself, which can be admirable, but also very naïve. Not saying that it’s not possible if you happen to live in a place like London or Berlin, are extremely good, and have loads of luck, but your chances are way slimmer.

In the case of social media, I understand things differently. To me, the main point is that all these networks are very powerful to communicate with your fans, but you must already have that following to maximize their usefulness. And still, you can choose to communicate differently. I’d argue that a very small fraction of your fans will come from an interesting tweet, or a catchy photo shared somewhere else. Most of them will get to know you and your work through other channels. On the other hand, social networks may help down the road in word-to-mouth, to create some buzz if used properly, but I don’t consider them a fundamental factor in building a career.

What can we expect from you in the near future? Any upcoming projects or releases in the pipeline that you would like to tell us about?

Well, besides the EP, Acausality, which will launch at the end of June, I’m already working on the first full Unpropped album, which I expect to finish during the first months of 2024. I’m very excited about this one because it’ll be a full display of the Unpropped sound and universe, something that has taken quite some time to mature and develop, which is finally coming to life. And after that, I’ll be able to dedicate more time to the design of a live show, which I plan as an immersive experience based on sound and visuals. It may take a while until it hits the road, but I’m confident that when it does, it’ll be worth checking out.

‘Nousle’ is an intense record. What was your goal when creating it?

I always have the same goal when creating a track, which is to generate some surprise or curiosity in the listener, push him to want to know more about how the track evolves. I usually don’t start producing with an idea in mind but rather begin working on the sound until interesting things start to appear. And even in those rare cases when I sit down with an idea in mind, it often gets diluted after spending a couple of hours messing around.

Once interesting bits are better defined, then yes, a goal commences to take form in my mind. In the case of ‘Nousle’, I found it attractive to balance a textured, gentle, and yet hard, bassline and the coldness of a rather cold and straightforward beat. The sample that runs through the whole song helped to create a sense of continuity, adding mysteriousness and a bit of uneasiness. In the end, I was striving to drive the listener through different moods in about five minutes, like in a condensed film.

Let’s get creative. If your song was a physical object, what would it be?

Let’s: horse reins.

Listen to ‘Nousle’ today!

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