Name: Aitor Etxebarria
Current city: Bilbao, Spain
City you were born in or raised: Guernica, Spain
Tell us about growing up in Basque Country, Spain. What affect did it have on your music and career path? How did it influence you? I was born in Gernika in the summer of 1985 and now I live in Bilbao, which is actually is not so far from Gernika, about 30 minutes by car. I am aware that I live in a privileged area, where the mountains and the sea rub against each other, winters aren’t so strong and summers are extremely beautiful. It used to rain so much and back in the day, it was more grey—this may be one of the reasons why my music is so melancholy sometimes.
At what age did you turn to music and when did you start composing, writing and playing professionally? I started studying music when I was a child and started composing my first drafts when I was 17. I feel that I started being a professional at the age of 23 or 24.
Were you always interested in dance and ‘electronic’ music? How has your sound evolved throughout your life? I listen to every kind of style: I love jazz, I love experimental compositions, pop, electronic, world music… I fell in love with electronic instruments when I was a teenager and I still collect lot of gear—it is an infinite world!
As I always say, we learn everyday. That’s why my music also grows a lot—it’s true that maybe I have a connection to every album that I release, but I don’t care if I don’t have one. I just compose what I feel at every moment. As I learn about life, I learn about music .
I hear you’re ready to release new music under your given name. Why the change? What is the significance? What does your pseudonym “El_Txef_A” mean and how did you identify it? Yes that’s true, after 10 years behind my AKA, I’m ready to release my first work as Aitor Etxebarria, I don’t know exactly why, but now I’m comfortable releasing as my given name. I feel that is like a climax in my career.
“El_Txef_A” was born when I was so young and I thought that this was a good time for Aitor Etxebarria with this first work for cinema!
Your new solo project is a soundtrack for a documentary, the first time you’ve scored for cinema (congrats!). How did this collaboration happen and why did you want to do the music for Markak? Yes this is my first full work for cinema. I did some collaborations for other films, but this time I composed all of the music for the film called Markak. I have a good relationship with the Director, he has been a friend for many years and he collaborated with me on some other projects, too. We have a good art connection. I am born and raised in Guernica so I could not say no to this.
Can you tell us a bit about the documentary, which premiered at the 2016 San Sebastian International Film Festival. What is the significance of the bombing of Guernica in 1937 (largely what the doc focuses on)? Why was it important for you to be involved in this project? If it’s “marks” that we’re talking about—the bombing occurred on 26th April 1937 in Gernika—it’s a deep and lasting mark of profound symbolic value. A poignant double meaning with the title in Basque ‘Markak.’
For the creation, a number of internal symbolic norms are essential and necessary to lend meaning to our environment. The creator creates on the basis of the stories he has received, the images, the feelings. Gernika’s past is a field for creation amongst Gernika’s young people. The documentary explores what these young creators “have locked away inside them,” their emotions. The bombing is a wall in the life of people—an interruption. It is a violence that breaks away from peaceful routine, a denial of the freedom to choose that people and its inhabitants should have.
My grandparents suffered the bombing so of course it is one of the most important works of my career.
What was the creative process like for this album? How did you let the documentary and the subject matter influence you? I hear you went back home to record it, tell us about that decision: I spent almost all of 2016 focused on this project. I stopped more or less 70% of my tours. I was traveling less but although I was out playing, the director was sending me material every day so it was so nice to work like this.
Did you enjoy the process of scoring for a film? How did it differ from your past works, such as Slow Dancing In A Burning Room (a masterpiece!!)? This is not something like a objective work—like on my past albums—because I needed to adjust a bit to the film. But the director, Hannot Mintegia, believes in my music and my taste, so this was a good thing for the composition days. I got very deep into myself.
What is the vision behind your label, Forbidden Colours? How do you decide which artists to showcase on the label? We have some resident collaborators like Eduardo de la Calle or Andres Aguirre, but we don’t close the doors to anyone or any kind of music. As you can see, we release electronic music to more classic music —we just want to release music we like.
Who or what are some of your inspirations as an artist? Life and multiverse.
Who or what are you listening to in your free time? Now I’m a bit obsessed with Alice Coltrane.
Dream collaboration? Alice Coltrane in another life
Give us some tips about Bilbao and the Basque Country region. When you go home, where do you head:
-For a traditional Basque meal at a restaurant? Iñakiren Taberna, a classical Basque tavern where you can eat at the bar, drink good wine and eat excellent food.
-For a drink with your friends? Ander Etxea. Best vermouth ever!
-For a leisurely activity: Everyone that visits the Basque country needs to go and drive the coast, it’s wild and alive.
What are your favorite cities to visit on tour? Why? Mexico City. I feel extremely free there and the food and the humans are next level! Brooklyn is special always; playing in New York is so nice. I love Berlin, Austin, Guatemala …
Best room/party you’ve ever played in and why? This is so difficult, every party has its mood! I will choose from the last year: the Boiler Room set in Tulum and the after party with the full moon was so goooooood!!
What’s next on the horizon from you? Can we expect a tour soon or another record? For now I will be focused on the premiere of the soundtrack and the adaptation for the live shows with the band. And then I will start touring again…
We will play the Sónar Festival in Barcelona with the band in June and it’s going to be a very good starting point.
For anyone who wants to have a career like yours, can you tell us what some of the challenges you face? What are some of the bonuses? It’s not easy to be your own boss sometimes. You love what you do and sometimes you can’t disconnect, which can be dangerous but we love this kind of life and I am very grateful to be able to live it!
Being an artist is not simple, we know this. What keeps you pushing forward? I think I can do anything else nowadays! My mind needs this.