Nov 25, 2015

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SALT CATHEDRAL’S
CRUCIAL GEAR:
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Ableton Live 9
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Lexicon Reverbs
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If you like the idea of parallel worlds, you should immerse yourself in the music of Brooklyn’s (via Colombia) duo Salt Cathedral. Their gently impressionistic arrangements and celestial atmospheres, combined with Juliana Ronderos’ angelic voice and melodies, might transport you to the closest thing to the seventh heaven you’ve ever experienced – or at least a dancey version of it. We asked Juliana a few questions about the band’s creative process.

  • MOTIVATION

How and when did you guys get into the idea of becoming musicians?

Juliana Ronderos: It was very early on for Nico. He was a big part of the metal and hardcore scene in Colombia. He was touring and in bands since he was 14. For me it was later when I first discovered Jazz at 18.

What’s keeping you going in this extremely tough and competitive field?

What keeps us going is the communication and connection with other people. That is the reason we make music. I think if you’re putting out music and people don’t connect to it you should either change your music or stop doing it. It’s also an interesting time for music because of technology and global communication.

What’s the story behind your love for electronic instruments?

Initially it was more a necessity than a love. Then, when you really get into it there is no way you could not find it absolutely fascinating. There are so many micro-scenes, it’s endless.

  • INSPIRATION

What’s been inspiring you recently? Have your sources of inspiration changed from the early releases? 

We have been recently inspired by the music that plays in our neighborhood; Bedstuy. You listen to dancehall everywhere you go. This caribbean music takes a deeper meaning for us because we are Colombian.

Is inspiration some kind of random blessing, or is it possible to set it in motion?

The only way to be constantly inspired is to be constantly curious of other people who are defining and innovating in certain scenes or generations. Definitely not a random blessing.

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  • CREATIVE PROCESS

    Most of the time we use samples of Juliana’s voice and from our sample library. Everything else is usually natural instruments manipulated in some sort of way. We rarely use synths.

What is it that most frequently ignites the initial idea for a song? A melody, a chord, words, an electronic sound, a loop?

All of the above. It is constantly changing which is a curse and a blessing. It allows us to not repeat ourselves but at the same time makes the process lacking in structure.

Do you create the electronic arrangements during the compositional process or do you have sound design sessions during which you just focus on designing sounds/patches/patterns that can then be used in future tracks?

Yes, everything is worked on at the same time striving for that “final sound”. Sounds are tailor made to a certain song or vibe and then become part of our repertoire.

Electronic music opens so many sonic possibilities that some musicians find it hard to know when a song or a section is “the best it can be.” How do you cope with the temptation of constantly trying new options?

Sometimes we don’t cope with it and keep going and going. My dad always says that books are never finished, only abandoned. It’s the same with tracks. This
one recent song we wrote, we had five different versions before settling on one.

  • MUSICAL TOYS

What is your DAW of choice and why do you prefer it to others?

We use Ableton Live. We like it because of how quick you can work out an idea. It allows us to be manipulate things really fast and efficiently.

What are the plug ins and “in the box” tools you abuse of?

Any sort of reverb and delay! The Lexicon reverbs.

There’s an abundance of synths and samples in your music. Which ones do you currently use in your songs? (samplers included, if any)

Most of the time we use samples of Juliana’s voice and from our sample library. Everything else is usually natural instruments manipulated in some sort of way. We rarely use synths.

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” The Line 6 DL4 [delay pedal] inspired our first EP […] it was really a signature sound in that record.

Has a piece of gear alone ever inspired a song? If so which?

The Line 6 DL4 [delay pedal] inspired our first EP, Salt Cathedral. Nico used it for looping so he could write parts for both the other guitar player and himself. It was really a signature sound in that record.

What one piece of hardware/software would you most like to add to your setup? 

Well, in the last year we’ve been lucky enough to add a Rhodes and a steel pan drum from Trinidad so we can’t complain, but we’ve been wanting the [Roland] Space Echo 101 for a long time. We think it’s a classic delay.

  • RECORDING SET UP AND MIXING

Are you using a studio at all to record your music?

Partially. We work from our home studio and later go into the Bunker Studio to add more instruments and mix. We try to get the best of both worlds: the
world of a bedroom producer and the world of a professional studio. It allows us to listen to the music in different contexts.

What’s your microphone signal chain for vocals? (mics / preamps / sound peripheral)

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Neuman CMV563 with an M7 capsule

At the studio we always use a Neuman CMV563 with an M7 capsule. All the vocals are demoed with a Blue USB mic, not for lack of a better mic but it’s just the one I feel comfortable with.

Is there another person that’s been important in perfecting your recording technique?

Since we moved to New York, we have been working with John Davis at the Bunker. We have a great musical understanding with him and he’s helped us grow as musicians giving us the opportunity to work at his amazing studio.

Many recording musicians find mixing extremely frustrating, what’s your approach to it and do you rely on a “fresh set of ears” (i.e. external mixing engineer) or not?

We mix up to the the point where the song feels balanced and good to us. Then we take it to John where we can listen to the mix in an adequate room and he lends us his fresh ears to get the right mix.

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  • THE LIVE SHOW

It’s often challenging to translate programmed music to a live setting, what’s your approach to it?

Our approach is to be the most expressive performers we can be with what we are playing live. Also, we have complemented our live set with a programmed light show that is midi synced through Ableton. This allows us to control the mood of a live show even further.

  • BEYOND MUSIC

    We try to get the best of both worlds: the
    world of a bedroom producer and the world of a professional studio.

Are there any vintage formats that you’re interested in pursuing for the band, like, say, vinyl or cassette? If so, why?

Yes, we want to release everything on vinyl! We love vinyl as a format because of it’s sound and its historical context. Vinyl comes from a time where
music was valued differently. It’s not the same to have a single on a 12 inch than to buy a single on iTunes.

With bands doing more of everything themselves these days (recording, performing, self-promoting, etc.) and the evermore multimedia nature of the world, how much effort do you put into the visual component of your band: fashion, styling, photography, graphic/web design, etc.?

We think this is extremely important. And like everything else, we think there is an enormous room for growth !

Any comments about the current state of music and art in NYC?

It’s incredibly vibrant. You just have to find the right places and the right people. Anyone who complaints that this city is no longer a hub for art and
creativity is not looking in the right places.

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