If your favorite way to spend a rainy weekend is a 1970’s and 1980’s horror movie-thon, then you will appreciate the latest offering from South America’s own Cristian Bergagna. Hailing from Argentina, he takes us to hell and back with the O.S.T. inspired “The Nightmare”.
I had a brief chance to have a chat with Cristian about his exploration of the underworld hidden deep within the darkest recesses of our psyche. How the struggles we face while our eyes are closed and we cannot escape can intrude into, and shape, our waking lives. Ironically, as i write this, I am in a provincial area of the Philippines where myth and legend surrounding the creatures of the night, and those demons that visit us as we sleep are common place.
Thanks for taking the time to have a talk with us Cristian, i know the upcoming release has been keeping you busy. I know you had some success in your late teens in the minimal techno scene. But as the scene evolved more into tech house you moved in a darker direction with your melding of horror and synth music. Initially, how technically did you construct your productions. Would you say you were more a hardware based producer, or focussed on a DAW in the studio environment.
I would love to be a more hardware based producer, but I’ve managed to buy my equipment (midi controllers, a good powered Mac and two lovely KRK rock it 8 monitors or my electronic drum kit) in a matter of almost 8 years. Before today, hardware equipment was too far from my budget (I’m thinking in buying some in the near future). So I work 100% software and controllers.
I use Ableton as my DAW and I’m too used, since the techno scene, to work in that way.
In this album I’ve worked a lot the sounds I’ve chosen for each track and tried to maintain “the look” between them. I wanted the album to feel or sound as a whole, and that’s why some principals sounds, like the distortions and some Leads, are the same in almost every track, varying only the theme and melodies, like a band who play with the same instruments and all of them sound the same, but each song feels completely different. I, also, tried to not rush myself into finishing a track as soon as possible. Paying more attention to details and trying to have a most coherent structure in each track. With the intro, verse, maybe some part that works as a chorus, and so. Not only trying to generate a “horror” ambient but also giving a catchy part that can stay with the listener after the track is finished. It is the first album that I mixed and master by myself, which took a lot of time because I had to learn a lot of things that I didn’t know about it, with the help of a Tech House producer friend of mine, Do Santos from Brazil. I think that I’ve mastered the album 3 or 4 times until it took the form that I wanted.
In listening to your material I can feel a definite Fm synthesis influence, particularly DX7 and D50 type textures, perhaps the richness of some Korg pads and choral elements. What synthesizers in particular do you employ?
I use the KORG Analog and Digital plugins a lot, some Diva sometime, and the Native Instruments vst (less than the others) like Massive. But I love too much the Arturia’s plugins so, they are always there. The Midi controllers I use, mostly my Ableton Push, a generic keyboard controller and my electronic drum kit. I have my beloved Ibanez G-150 but it was used in the previous albums, not The Nightmare.
I can also sense some trance and house stylings (perhaps the lighter side of drum and bass) to some of your soundscapes, particularly the use of side chaining or tremolo pumping type effects that provide a rhythmic underscore that is very mesmerizing and pulls you into the overall feel. It seems to feature prominently, so do you have a love of the dreamy, psychedelic forms of trance?
Well, I’ve never liked trance, and i’ve learn a lot about using effects and small sounds or hats patterns with minimal, because, with a few sounds you gotta be able to not bore. I think there is a lot of things that kept inside of me, you can call it “composing behaviors” that could have been there since techno, minimal or house production that were the way that I’ve learnt to use all the tools I use now. Some kind of unconscious things that I embrace because in some way, it defines me.
Also, the horror synth genre gives you a big spectrum of sounds an experiments that if you mix the right sounds, you could create a pretty creepy atmosphere. There is a lot of horror soundtracks that uses percussions with delay, and play too with the location of sound. I think that can gives you the scary sensation that something is happening around you, and that is a thing I like to play with
You mentioned some passages from Jorge Luis Borges’ works. I like many of our readers may be unfamiliar with his work, so give me a rundown of firstly, what he focuses on, and secondly, what draws you to his work, and appeals to your creativity.
Jorge Luis Borges is an Argentinian writer that has become one of the most important figure in literature in the XIX century. Nominated almost 30 years consecutively to the Nobel Prize in Literature. I would recommend to all to read some of his work, it is really interesting. He wrote short stories, poem and literal analysis or essays.
The connection with The Nightmare is not direct. I knew since half of the album that nightmares will become the “theme” of the album but I wanted to give to it some mystery or some context or a nice description of how I felt the album, and almost by coincidence I found the seminary that Jorge Luis Borges gave about the Nightmares, with a philosophic historical, and psychologically analysis of them. Reading it I thought it was perfect and described exactly the way I felt about them and I use that as a context of it. If you want to look for it, it is called “J. L. Borges on Dreams, Nightmares and the Supernatural: A Psychoanalytic Approach”.
There is a poem from him about Nightmares, that translated from Spanish says:
“There are dreams at the bottom of other dreams.
Every night I try to lose myself in the dark
waters that wash away the day, but in stark
rivers that grant me a glimpse of the extremes
of oblivion, an obscene wonder throbs in the night.
Sometimes it’s a mirror in which my own face shows.
Sometimes it’s the prison of a labyrinth that grows.
Sometimes it’s a garden. But it is always full of fright.
Its horror is not from here. Something without a name
comes to me from yesterdays made of myth and mist;
the foul image in my retina continues to persist
and sap my wakefulness, and bring darkness shame.
Why, when my body finally finds repose,
and my soul is alone, must I sprout this senseless rose?”
Pretty dark right?
Finally, you’ve been involved in some collaborations recenty, and have a number of your own releases under your belt, if there anybody you would like to mention, thank, or shout out to.
Yeah, the last official collaboration was with “Nightcrawler” from Spain, in his album “Beware of the Humans” with the track “Nation of Trash”. I thank to George (“Nightcrawler”) all the help and critics he gave to the album in order to make it what it is. Also Jody Coombes (“Starnoir”) and Gregorio Franco gave me feedback about it and I’m so thankful about that because they do so much great work. But I don’t want to forget to mention the compilation “Memories From Giallo” by Synthspiria in which I composed the track “Annegati Nel Timore”. And obviously to Nani Sarmiento, my girlfriend who made the artwork.
Thanks for you time today Cristian.
Thanks to you! I’m so happy about (doing) this.
The album gives an overall impression of a soundtrack. It certainly opens up a world of our deepest dreams and nightmares. Rather than suggest whole pictures to us, it guides us on a journey into the abyss and leaves it up to our own fears and phobias to weave our own stories. This at times can be unsettling, but it makes for an album that will never grow old, as there is always something new to discover.
My favorite track without a doubt is “Old Hag Syndrome” and to me it brings images of a demonic dance party, where ritual sacrifice and pagan festivities build to a frenzied celebration of everything dark and mystical.
This release would sit perfectly on the shelf next to soundtracks by John Carpenter (The Fog, Escape from New York), Ennio Morriconne (The Thing), and Charles Bernstein (Nightmare on Elm Street). It’s very obvious that the slasher style horror movies of the 70’s and 80’s are a huge influence. But there is also a melodic feel to many of the tracks (see Le Couchemar) that offer a different angle on the nightmare, evoking feelings of the reflective aftermath that often follows the gore-fest we came to love in the 1980’s.
The Nightmare is out now on Bandcamp, and there is a potential vinyl release to be announced soon.