It’s the first interview on this site since 2016. Yes, four years. For half a decade, I talked to several bands, musicians – people I admired, even. The vast majority were either fucking boring or just uninteresting. Not just because it was impersonal, but what could I ask guys who have twenty interviews scheduled a week, every time they have a record-shaped fart to put out? Or I’d do it to help promote a festival and then ask for a press pass. Oh, yes.
With Rui P. Andrade, things are different. I can’t say that I’m a friend of his, but he wrote for this website and is part of that group of people whose faces I’ve gotten used to, after attending the very same gigs and festivals, year after year. I.e., that issue of turning this into something deeply impersonal did not cross my mind.
Part of my daily routine is to visit Discogs and see what’s being released. There, in my account, I have a list with all the main active ambient labels. That’s where I found Canadian Rifles, through the Antwerp-based label Audio.Visuals.Atmosphere. I had no idea who the person behind that project was – I liked the name, I went to listen to ‘Atoll’, I liked it even more. I searched things a bit and… it was Rui P. Andrade!
At the time, I immediately sent him a message via Instagram to congratulate him. I had no idea that there was anyone in Portugal doing this sort of ‘ambient’, nor collaborating closely with labels that I have admired for several years. I felt that a closer bridge had emerged between me and that world, one where ego doesn’t have much room to thrive – seriously, try to unearth names, photos, locations of many of these projects. If you think black metal is where anonymity is king, in ‘ambient’ there is no Metallum to help you, buddy. And try to answer your girlfriend or friend when they ask you what you’re listening to, and you only have one simple name as a feeble answer.
“Yeah, but is it a band?” / “I don’t know”
“Where are they from?” / “I don’t know”
“Do you think they play live?” / “I have no idea”
There is always a they in these questions, but, for the most part, we’re talking about solo efforts. Well, we have noms de plume (sometimes one musician can have dozens), artworks and tapes. And the titles of the records and tracks. And the music, of course. But with Rui P. Andrade there is also a face, a greater proximity to that realm.
For several years now, he has been writing music and putting it out there – first, as part of the Colectivo Casa Amarela, under his own name or as 50% of Ulnar (the other half materialized in Vítor Bruno Pereira, another former writer of this house); and now as Canadian Rifles (solo) or in the duo HRNS (with FARWARMTH). Not only that, but in 2019 he founded his own label – Eastern Nurseries.
I just felt the urge to ask him stuff. I don’t know if it was something fueled by this stupid pandemic stalemate. Nah, don’t think so. It’s just that he is a really interesting and talented cat. So, here it goes.
First of all: quarantine. Are you taking advantage of ‘free time’ to write and obey the cheesy social media motivational posts, or does it have zero influence on you?
I’ve been trying to keep some routines, yes, but I actually feel it’s been harder to be creative now, even though I have a lot more time on my hands. “A Blue Wing” was an exception, one of those rare moments where you sit and come up with three or four songs in a couple of days.
How do you separate and distinguish your releases as Rui P. Andrade from those as Canadian Rifles? Why did you decide to create the latter?
I don’t rule out using my first name again in the future. For the most part, I wanted to separate myself from my previous work. I felt that I was at a point where what I was doing had changed so much that it was justified to use another name. Lots of things were changing around me, it made sense to draw a line.
Tell me about the creative process itself, almost WikiHow style. Does it involve field recordings, sampling, etc., and what gear do you use to materialize what’s on your mind?
It always starts with a melody, no matter what instrument I use. I often superimpose several layers, building up to a point where what makes sense is exactly the opposite – to deconstruct and reduce. The setup itself is relatively simple. I use both digital instruments and a couple of synthesizers I have at home. It depends on what I want in a certain context. In my teens and for a long time I only played guitar and it’s still something I use sometimes, too. I say this often, but I’m not interested in the technical/material side of it. If you want to bore me to death, then go ahead and tell me about your collection of synthesizers and how you don’t use 90% of them.
A fair share of your journey is based on collaborations. Are you still associated with the CCA? And what did those collaborations – in Ulnar or HRNS – give you? Do you think it is important to keep this little door open and avoid the often isolating trait of the ambient world?
I’m no longer directly connected to CCA, but we are still very close friends, as always. I’ve always been attracted to collaborative work. I think you can create truly magical stuff when you find that sort of symbiosis with someone. More recently, I also collaborated with Chris (Burning Pyre) for the VAAGNER/Vienna Press compilation. Personally, it has to be one of my favorite pieces. No matter what happens, collaborations will always be part of my way of working.
The literary aesthetics is something that also intrigues me. In ambient, without having lyrics to rely on, I always hover around the titles of the tracks to see if I catch something. Some of your songs, like ‘1812’ or ‘Archers at the Gate of Pavia’, make me open Google up to see if there’s some historic event related to them. Even the name Canadian Rifles makes me wonder. Where do you get these titles from? Are they random or methodically selected? Do you want nerds like me to propel the search engines or do you want simply want to avoid the quintessential “Untitled”?
For me, it’s all part of the art. We can’t underestimate the impact of a title or a cover on the whole work. The music is mine, I want to bring you as a listener to my realm, I want you to feel what I feel. There’s something kind of fetishistic about this, and I think the way I choose to work the titles makes them fit the narrative. Lately, I’ve been very interested in painting, and it has definitely changed my way of thinking about this aspect, akin to when an artist signs a painting.
You released ‘Atoll’ through A.V.A., which is not of those labels that enforce their own aesthetic blueprint to every release they put out – like Holy Geometry or Vienna Press. Was there some kind of ‘demand’ from Niels Geybels artwork-wise? And how would you handle it if that happened?
That cover was all on Niels. As a matter of fact, I think the whole visual part of the A.V.A. is really his. We exchanged some messages when we both had an idea about the record and the visual association that came up with it, until we reached what turned out to be the tape’s final artwork.
And how did you come across with A.V.A.? Just a couple of emails?
Basically, yes, it was as simple as that. I’d been following the label for some time, mostly for his work as False Moniker, and I thought it would be an ideal collaboration to release “Atoll”. Recently, he invited me to Antwerp and it was an incredible night. The idea is to repeat it in Lisbon.
Still on the aesthetic , what does inspire you? I notice some similarities with Posh Isolation in the more naturalistic motifs. But, in your most recent EP, you give credit to Laura Costas for the artwork. How do you work that side?
I met Laura in Valencia earlier this year and the need to collaborate in some way in the future emerged right away. “A Blue Wing” turned out to be that first opportunity and I was really happy with the final result, she is an amazing artist. The cover of Lift Aym‘s EP was by another Spanish artist, Aniana Seara. Until then, all the label-related visuals had been almost entirely on my own. I don’t want to focus on a specific idea or aesthetics, this goes for both the music and the visual side. I want Eastern Nurseries to constantly evolve, I want to explore different dynamics. The day that it stops making sense to me, the label will be over.
Was the birth of Eastern Nurseries a matter of freedom? To do whatever you want?
It was one of the reasons, yes. I was interested in that freedom, that risk and the challenge that come with it too. I wanted to create a platform not only for the music of Canadian Rifles, but also for the work of people with whom I crossed paths and who inspired me deeply in one way or another. I want the label to have that sense of community, to bring together artists from all over, to be a kind of family and an incentive for collaboration.
EN has already nine releases, among them Nonchalant (aka Anasisana – ‘Promises Are Meant To Be Broken’ is one of the great 2019 ambient releases for me). Do you give preference to guys you know personally? Do you also establish a certain aesthetic uniformity?
Like I’ve told you, that “uniformity” is much more about an emotional link rather than a limitation at an aesthetic or stylistic level. Above all, I want to release music that makes me feel something, that is and always will be the rule. I’ve been lucky enough to meet amazing people on this journey and it makes sense to bridge the gap between art and author. No man is an island.
You told me that you were about to celebrate the first anniversary of EN with something big. But then this Coronavirus shit appeared. What can you say about that celebration, will it take place sooner or later?
It will be one-year-old, yes, in early June. I was planning two events for this spring, but unfortunately the uncertainty of the current context has thrown them out of the window. I hope I can reschedule them in the same way, for a more or less near future. There will be a compilation to cherish the milestone, that’s for sure. For now, I can’t tell you much more, but I’m very excited about the line-up I’ve managed to put together.
Life is not only good things. What’s the big hindrance to having a label? Is it the Portuguese postal services?
Time and experience are teaching us how to simplify those more bureaucratic aspects. Of course, it’s always boring when you have to postpone a release because of some delivery delay, or the tapes not being ready in time, but it’s part of the process and you have to learn how to anticipate it.
You’ve already taken Canadian Rifles across Europe. What’s it like to transpose something intimate into a live setting? Do you like Motörhead’s motto ‘everything louder than anything else’? Is it about the decibels, crushing the audience? Or do you prefer to remain loyal to the recordings, with a gentler approach?
I think there’s a distinct beauty in both approaches, and I’ll always give myself the freedom to explore both. With Canadian Rifles, the former has been more interesting. After all, volume can also be a great vehicle to convey a wide spectrum of emotions, it has a very confrontational side. I don’t like the idea that “ambient” music has to be inert. I like viscerality, I want the fourth barrier to be broken at every moment. I feel closer to that almost “punk” arrogance than to any kind of erudition.
What’s next? Will we see you at Janushoved sometime?
In the near future, there will be an extended re-edition of the first two EPs of Canadian Rifles, in a new, totally remastered outfit. It was curated by a good friend of mine and it will come out in a label that I love very much, in collaboration with Eastern Nurseries. And who knows? It would be very special.