A kind of DJ / all-terrain musical agent, who embraces and brings together various corners of dance and ambient electronic music. With almost two decades of activity, he was resident DJ for iconic Quest4Goa trance promoter, also at the famous Gare Club in Porto and has already brought its taste and selection to countless national reference booths, to Corsica Studios in London, and to various editions of Boom Festival, Sinergia, Contracorrente, ZNA Gathering, among many others. Works as a/r at Arctic Dub Records and has music released on several portuguese and international labels, such as Carpe Sonum, Spiritech, Extended, Womblabel, Arctic Dub, EdP – Editora do Porto, MiMi and Amplidyne Effect. Gabriel Mendes (Augen) presented with a track for the first AMPEFF Compilation “Remote Perspective, An Abstract Sound Compilation” and soon will present with a new EP on this label. Nomads.mk interviewed Gabriel for their magazine and with permissions to release the English version on AMPEFF. (Read here In Macedonian)
What is ambient music? Do people know about this genre?
Ambient music is a music genre on its own, i believe. On the very clear and fun definition of Brian Eno, there is crucial element implied, the act of listening.
That said, for me Ambient has more to do with a certain way of listening. Its immersive and “atmospheric” proprieties make this genre a good one for liberating yourself from archetypes or tight narratives and gives you freedom to build upon or drift in your own imagination.
Ambient music has had a kind of renaissance the last years, so i guess now more people consciously know about it. And that’s good, as it is a very spiritually rewarding kind of music.
Could you give us a bit of insight into who you are? Where are you from, how long have you been making music?
I was born a son of Portuguese immigrants in France, but i grew in the Portuguese countryside. Music has been a consistent part of my life, although my parents didn´t own that much music, just a few popular records. Some cousins and friends from the village were first triggers and of course, the TV and the radio. I had my teen amateur band, writing and playing Metal, but electronic music came afterwards. In 97 i moved to Porto and 2 years after started djing regularly. Making electronic music still isn´t the main thing i do, i always saw myself more a DJ, than a producer. I still learning how to properly produce. I played in many clubs, events, festivals and for the last decade i’ve been working with some interesting independent labels and promoters from Portugal, curating music or helping setting up events.
Who were some of your musical influences growing up? Are there any contemporary ambient artists that you’re a fan of?
I’ve been influenced drastically by crossover metal, the indie scene, some of the psychedelic rock stuff and the industrial and experimental scene. Electronic music with all its possibilities was a natural evolution for me. And then, going back and forth discovering timeless music from all genres. I sit my school in the 90´s where zillions of amazing music was done, and i grew up seeing all styles intertwine. What a gift to witness all those movements coming around and transforming people!
There are a few labels that were crucial to me such as Instinct Ambient, Em:t, Nova Zembla, Silent Records, Rising High, Fax, Touch, Mille Plateaux, just to name a very few and i would be here all day name dropping people i really love in music. Nowadays there´s an ocean of easily acessible music in the internet (mind the limited physical editions) and through Bandcamp and other platforms and labels you can find pure gold among the normality. If you are reading this and never heard about Ambient before, i can easily point you out these days to Touched, Txt, Virtual, Interchill, Ultimae, Carpe Sonum, Shimmering Moods, Amplydine Effect, Womblabel, Arctic Dub and many more labels and artists around.
I will always have that special crush for Future Sound of London eh eh.
Did you experiment with other genres before settling on ambient? What is that?
Apart from this teenhood experiences with guitar and Metal styles, my overall experience was mostly on electronic ambient music.
That´s where lies my yet little output.
But being Ambient the style i work more with, i don´t settle only to it in my music endeavours. Music is a so astronomically diverse concept that it would be sad to just stick on a little part of it.
That doesn´t work for a curious by nature person.
How long are you performing as a DJ? What music are you performing on your sets as a DJ?
I started DJing in 99. Made a little fame in the psychedelic trance /chill out circuit, for my eclectic sets, where you could listen to idm, ambient techno, ambient dub and all sorts of electronic creative music, melted into a kind of hypnotic journey. I keep the same attitude in my dance sets, where i tend to go all crossover between trippy and funky house, techno and progressive or psychedelic trancey fields. I love the challenge of mixing different kinds of electronic music and feel the sum of that mix in the audience. I see it as a way of delivering a specific energy and mood, according to the venue and concept, rather than defining a style of music for the sessions. The aim is to bring people some playful liberation.
Much of your work has a meditative quality to it. First time when I have listened to it, I was very positively surprised. Extremely atmospheric and deep tracks that are perfect for rumination, meditation or writing. Do you design the tracks with these activities in mind or do you just improvise?
I´m really glad you felt that and it means a lot since i like to explore music where you can dive in and discover at your own, with attention to essential elements such as silence, for example. But i mostly improvise and like to be loyal to the mood of the moment. I never compose with an end in sight. It´s just a fluid process that unfolds itself throughout the way. Meditation is a great thing and a tool to understand how you and reality around work together. I look for it in the music too, naturally. I’m an art lover in general and my love for music comes also from this influences and tastes in other kinds of art.
Has spiritualism or any other philosophy played a role in your style or decision to create ambient music over other genres? What is your philosophy of life?
Since very young I was attracted to the odds of life, spirituality, occult, phenomena, weird stuff, religions, rituals, art. It was indeed a big influence on my personality and on my tastes, however, i enjoy ambient music even just for the fact it makes me feel more natural, self-connected and free. I really appreciate spiritually infused music but i love the abstract factor of ambient, where you can escape all those conceptual and cultural conditioning and find new probabilities. Abstract music has a soul, too. As a philosophy of life I´m a humanist. I reach for diplomacy and mutual understanding, simplicity and harmony. And of course, great times with friends!
Do you have an album created yet?
No. I´ve been releasing some EPs and tracks on compilations over the last years and an EP on Macedonian Amplidyne Effect is due to come out early 2018.
Not enough means and material to deliver a satisfying first album, at the moment.
What do you think of the healing capabilities of ambient music?
I love them! Whether it’s electronic or acoustic ambient, you have a great potential in it for healing purposes. Music has been used as a powerful healing tool since the very beginning and today’s technological possibilities and knowledge permit to go even further in the studies and practices of its potential with outstanding results.
Ambient music in itself is a great facilitator for losing fear and inhibition and gain trust in yourself as it can be also very confrontational, in a relaxed and rewarding way.
Can’t you really make an apolitical art? 🙂 and did you know who’s quote is that?☺
In those terms you can´t even make an art that isn´t ambient, isn´t it Mr. Eno? 🙂
If some people can be affected positively or negatively by a piece of art, that´s already a political move.
We live in the same planet, so we most of the time make or feel art in relation to something else of our references and learnings.
By that perspective is impossible to not be political, even if you are making something for pure escapism.
Inteviewer: Ivana Dukovska