May 9, 2014
1. In the beginning
A home-made studio, a bank of Tesla reel to reels, an East German Vermona drum machine, a toy Casio VL Tone and a small Soviet-made Faemi organ, adapted with fuzz and flanger pedals. There’s visceral, other-worldly music being made here and it will remain hidden for 34 years.
Tudor Runcanu: How did you start making music?
Rodion Roșca: The first recordings I ever did were made on a Duo Tesla magnetic tape recorder and I didn’t have much, only a guitar and some sort of drums. But I would also use my palms to create a beat by tapping my knees, where I had placed a microphone, the only one I used in the 70’s to record voices too, a small Grundig. I recorded the tracks rather to keep the melodic lines, and later, when I would have the time, to develop them. By overprinting, I taped the voice on the recorder’s other track and most times the voice and the guitar didn’t sync perfectly because I couldn’t listen to what was previously recorded. There was a time delay and I had to figure out what was the tempo’s latency memory. With time I became a pro in fitting the lyrics in the song.
T. R.: Did the tracks have a decided structure from the beginning?
Rodion: Ideas were spontaneous. What was interesting is that after I would tape the tracks as an idea, I had a great advantage with overprinting and I would seek a formula that would sound good, templates like Smoke on the Water. I had a lot of ideas and I really wanted to store them, by all means. Shortly, I taped them so that I could come back and add this or that. From 1970 to 1978 I recorded countless tracks, maybe over 60. I burned and destroyed quite a lot of them when I had a fight with the girl I composed them for. Afterwards, the ones I could still remember I re-taped. This is how tracks like Stele şi lumini or Raze were remade.
Around ’75, when I was still at the Bariţiu highschool, I had 30 tracks done, head to tail, as a structure. They had guitar, drums and voice. However, even if I didn’t have a synthesizer, I discovered some effects by over-modulating the guitar and distortion. If I had to compose a theme for a song, I would set the tape machine on recording, with stop, I would play the sound on the guitar and then release stop. This was the solo’s first sound. Then I would stop it and play the next note the same way. Although it seems ridiculous now, this is what I would do. Then I could repeat that taped sequence as many times as I wanted. It was interesting that while releasing the stop button, there would be a sort of a “squeaky “ weird sound that is typical for synths. Thing is, the tape machine wouldn’t start on time, so that’s where the sound was born, that I would later put through an echo effect.
T. R.: Did you use multiple tape recorders simultaneously?
Rodion: At first I had only one, then I started using two. Then I bought Sonet D4 and B100, with which I attained my best works. After I would record the theme, I would come back and sing a third. This way, the song would become very, very broad. Then came the beats, the voice and the choir…and then I would come back to the leitmotif. That was about it, the composing method. At the end I would double the recording, with a little shift, and I would get a flange effect or a phase shifter, all in microseconds. You wouldn’t notice because apparently everything was the same, but there were new sounds that would come out depending on how the tapes would align.
“All is imagination, because it’s not the instruments that make the music! Today a lot of people have synths with enormous possibilities, but without imagination they end up just playing the piano.”