Grammy-nominee Carmen Rizzo to present an ambient set at Covelong Point Festival in Chennai

In conversation with Carmen Rizzo, the Grammy nominee from Los Angeles who will present an ambient set at Covelong

author_img Team Indulge Published :  16th August 2019 12:00 AM   |   Published :   |  16th August 2019 12:00 AM
Carmen Rizzo

Carmen Rizzo

While surfing is at the heart of The Covelong Surf Music and Yoga Festival 2019, the music stages are a big draw. This year there is an eclectic mix that includes groups like Indo Jazz Trio, The Syzygy and performers like Matt Bacon among many others. However, here to enjoy the festival is Los Angeles-based Carmen Rizzo. The producer, artiste, electronic musician, composer, DJ, remixer, and two-time Grammy nominee tells us that he was in the city last year for AR Rahman — for conducting a masterclass at his KM Music Conservatory. “I am doing it again this year before the festival which I am very excited for!” says the musician. Here he talks to us about his journey so far and the evolution of electronic music. Excerpts:

You’ve been producing and engineering records for well over two decades. Including legendary releases like Oakey’s Bunka. How did being immersed in that music back at that time affect the music you were trying to put together yourself on your artiste albums like The Space Left Behind? 
I have been very lucky to be involved in some amazing albums over my career and all very different musically which I pride myself on, never feeling safe and trying to put myself in some musically uncomfortable situations trying to be challenged. This I feel is how one creates a unique sound for themselves and divides them from the rest. Being so diverse I think helps, but can also be a curse.

Very few are aware of the fact that you are one of the major reasons why the Grammy’s now acknowledge and have an award category specifically for Electronic Music! Can you tell us how this happened?
This was not an easy task. I was lucky to have a few Grammy nominations back when and I was very involved in the Recording Academy. I was lucky to be elected on the board of Governors. I then noticed that there was no album category for Electronic Music, just as there is for Dance singles and Alternative music. I felt this was unfair and I kept saying we electronic musicians make albums as well as singles, so why is there not a category for this? They kind of looked down on me saying who is this kid (ha) and said you have to write a proposal and campaign for votes and get it past the board of Trustees etc. This would have frustrated most people and would take years to do. I took up the challenge. I partnered with a few key people who helped, like Leslie Lewis, and then called my friends, BT, Junkie XL, Jason Bentley, Paul Oakenfold and others and we spoke at music conferences around the country for four years spreading this gospel about the need for this new category. Then, I was lucky to be elected to be a Trustee and after writing and rewriting the proposal, it all came together. I finally got the opportunity at the Trustees annual meeting to stand up in from of a crowd of 100 people and pitch my case…they voted and, and it passed! Something I am very proud of! Then after that, I wrote two technical Grammys for Apple (which at the time people sent me hate-mail for!) and Roger Linn (who invented the Drum Machine).

Carmen Rizzo

You’ve remixed songs by almost everyone, from Rahman to Coldplay. Are there any other luminary artistes whose music you wish to reinterpret?
Yes, Trentmoller is one of my favourite artistes. To work with him would be a dream, and even though I worked with Ryuichi Sakamoto before on his Beauty album. I would love to work with him once again.

What’s your studio ritual like? How do you go about arranging a song from start to finish? Do you start with a drum loop, then layer a melody and then move to vox?
I usually start with rhythm or soundscapes then move into an arrangement with a pad or bass. Sound is everything to me. I get inspired by sound first before music. Rhythm is also everything for me and I don’t necessarily mean drum beats. Rhythm can also be noise or even silence in a bizarre way. We all keep time listening to music even if there are little on the beat side. Space is underrated in music.

Tell us what you’ve planned for your set for Covelong?
Well, the set is more of a live electronics set of mainly original music. It’s really beautiful. There are also a few pieces from others I admire. I also have a surprise musician from Mumbai, Vanraj Shastri, an amazing sarangi player, joining me.

You’re truly a sonic savant with an illustrious career. Grammy nods, awe-inspiring discography, a whos-who list of recording clients. What lies ahead?
Talk to us about your future projects. Thank you! I have more music to put out for sure. There are also a few side projects that I have, Libella, (we need to do a follow-up album), Karavan Sarai (which is a World Music project I collaborate on, in the middle of finishing the third album) and I think it is time to do another solo project. Besides that, I am also a technologist, so I think the more experimental I can get, the better it is, as this sparks some more interesting shows blending audio/visuals and especially performing music in interesting environments. This excites me as a music lover.

Catch him at the DoGood yogashala stage on Saturday (August 24) between 11.30 am to 12.30 pm.