It’s quite a while since I discovered the music of Agustín Mena who is producing ambient music under the monikers Warmth & SVLBRD. The Valencia-based producer runs the labels Archives and Faint. We lately got in touch, that’s why I asked him a few things you’ll find here…
J: Your label catalogue(s) are really impressive. The design of the CDs/cover are consistent and recognizable. As I saw you always work with the same person for the visual part of your labels. How was this connection established? Can you please explain how it developed that you found Archives & Faint, and what made your decision to run 2 labels instead of releasing all the music on only 1 imprint.
W: Most of the pictures are from Alexander Kopatz. I remember that I saw an entry with photographs of him in ISO50, Tycho’s blog and I started following him on social networks and later wrote to him. His pictures are magnificent and my idea, from the beginning, was that the image of the label was linked to nature, so they are always perfect.
As for the labels. I had some frustrating experiences when releasing my music. There was a time when I started to receive a lot of requests to make tracks for compilations and remixes, but most times, it would take a long time until these were published or simply did not. I had to find time to work on things that were never released and when they did, I ran into problems, like I couldn’t even hear the mastering before it was released, or some of my stuff was even cut, to make it shorter and some other really crazy things. At first, editing my own material was not the main idea, I imagined that many other producers were in the same situation. I was following people who sounded great and were obviously having a hard time to get a proper release somewhere, so that’s what made me started Archives and over time, it became comfortable for me to edit my own stuff, to make an album and being able to have more control over the release is always the best. With Faint, well, it’s more focused on a darker type of sound. There were people who I wanted to work with, but who were a bit far from the Archives tone. As happened with my own material as SVLBRD or things closer to dub techno or a more experimental ambient, like the works of Midnat or José Soberanes.
J: Are your labels CDs available “only” on Bandcamp or do you work with another distributor to offer the music ?
W: Basically in Bandcamp, although you can find some copies in Juno and maybe a couple of japanese stores. To be honest, I have also suffered some surreal situations with these types of stores, I don’t know what it will be like for other labels and I imagine that slightly bigger labels don’t have these kinds of problems, but as a general rule, they expect you to basically send them the material at factory prices, anything else it’s a problem for them. Most are not even willing to pay shipping costs, so while it may be more convenient for some buyers, most only take advantage of the fact that small labels have dozens of copies that they know they won’t sell on their own.
J: What kind of gear do you mainly use in your studio? Is it important for you to search for new tools for producing music or do you prefer to limit your gear to be familiar and used to your setup? I also would like to know if you recording your music mostly live (when it’s set up) and picking the most interesting jam out of it?
W: I have an old Moog, an Access Virus, a Minilogue and some other synths, but I also use plugins, especially Reaktor and Kontakt. The truth is that I’m quite out of date in that regard. My tools have hardly changed since I started producing. Right now I’m more interested in working with what I have and know, than spending time trying new things. I have my own work routine and it works for me, as long as I am more or less inspired, which it’s not always either. I really like working with audio files and experimenting with them, so I usually make small recordings, very simple things.
I improvise with some pads, some piano notes or whatever and then I manipulate them until I find something that is interesting to me and I can keep working adding layers. Sometimes I quickly come up with an idea that I want to develop and sometimes I don’t. It’s like a trial and error process, I suppose it sounds really chaotic and random, but in my head it has a certain order.
J: Are field recordings a usual inspirational source to create your music?
W: For me, they are more of a complement. I tend to use very low tones, very low frequencies, it is the spectrum that I found more interesting and it’s easy for my music to sound brightless. Field recordings fill that space in the high frequencies, so they have a technical role, but of course they also add some life to the music.
J: Do you also play live sets or DJ performances, or you prefer to work “hidden” in the studio?
W: Well, I would say I simply enjoy making my music. For me it’s something very intimate. It’s all about the process. I could just work on an album and not release it and I would feel exactly the same about it. I think, especially the last ones, have been very therapeutic. They have served me to channel experiences and emotions in a different way. It’s also exciting when it’s time to share a new work, but I turn the page very quickly. I’m usually thinking about the next step, the next project. Also, I started producing quite late and I think that I have never seriously considered play live. I’m quite shy by nature and I think I suffer from a certain stage fright, so just imagining it stresses me out.
J: You live in Valencia. Do you believe the location you are influences your music, and if so, how ?
W: I live on the Mediterranean coast. Here there are around 300 sunny days a year and I imagine that, in part, it may make you feel less like… You know, locking yourself in the studio. The truth is that, normally I work on my music between October and February, March at the most. The days are shorter, the weather is a bit colder and I’m more in the mood that my music usually has. The rest of the year, I can work on some single tracks or some remixes, but I don’t usually start a complete work, especially because, if I start to work on an album, I’m quite impatient. There is a moment when you see that everything is taking shape and I guess I get a little obsessed with finishing it and I really prefer to work on one album per year, two at most, if I work on a SVLBRD one.