Frank Riggio (35, France) has never been one for conformity when it comes to musical production and composition. His music cannot be pinned into one genre or label and has been featured through various respected labels including Hymen Records, Tympanik Audio, Enig’Matik Records, and Spoonbill‘s Omelette Records. He’s admired in the sound design community, but still largely inactive in the social media world and somewhat of an enigma. Upon hearing about the release for his upcoming album, Psychexcess II – Futurism, we contacted him in hopes to discuss this album further as well as unveiling more about his history, influences, ideas, and techniques. Fortunately for us, he agreed.
Lost In Sound: Your music is a far cry from the typical “Electronic Dance Music”. What’s your music background?
Frank Riggio: I just love orchestral and melodic music. I have no music background at all in term of music school, just listened to a lot of different type of music since I’m really young. I’m a self taught for everything technically, and musically I never learned music notation or how to play music, it’s in me from the start I assume. Don’t really know why, it’s just in me for a long time & I stopped trying to explain myself why I’m good at it and why I’m doing it. I like to think producing music is just one of my task on earth for now, everyone has his own duty and it’s always in movement…
LIS: Orchestral is a perfect word to describe you sound. Another would be “cinematic”. Do you have any experience composing for film/TV?
FR: Oh yeah did the score for a feature called RAZE back in 2013, it was directed by Josh C. Waller. Josh is also the co-founders of LA based film company SpectreVision along Elijah Wood & Daniel Noah they focus on horror film, and they’re are very good at it. Speaking about RAZE, it was a very intense creative period, the score turned out nicely. The movie is so brutal and powerful and the violence was not glorified for once. It was well produced, directed, and looked real. This is what interested me the most. When people say RAZE was so violent, sadist etc.., I don’t really understand it because to me every video game they play or movies they watch are way more violent or at least equally violent; but like I said violence is most of the time glorified so it’s maybe more easy to digest. That being said, I understand someone that can’t stand watching RAZE. I was myself almost in shock when I watched the first raw cut. It’s very intense.
LIS: Who and what inspired you to become an electronic musician?
FR: At 15 or 16 I was part of the rave party. I started producing music when I was 15 with my brother. I remember I bought this tool a clone of the Roland TB303, the TEEBEE, used it in midi with an Atari and Cubase, I just wanted to play some Acid, I was a huge fan of the Acid Fever label back then. After that I took the golden age of IDM in the face, I was 18 or 19, act like Aphex Twin, Squarepusher etc… I found it cool and new got me interested in that type of music so I started experimenting. Then at 23 a good friend of mine introduced me the music that I unconsciously always wanted to listen and produce, this epic music was by Amon Tobin. I’m a big fan of his music since then.
I just love technology & electronic, I use technology to create something vivid and organic out of it, this is a great motivation for me since technology is not really organic thing.
LIS: It seems most of the EDM world is a contest to see who can do the same thing better. What are your thoughts on the trendiness of electronic music and the stagnation of genrefication?
FR: yes it is indeed, but I don’t know…it’s up to everyone to do whatever they want to do. It’s just a matter of passion and will. If someone want to go trap music because yourself & everyone think it’s cool and all then it’s a choice and I’m OK with that. No offense but on the other end unfortunately I tend to think most of nowadays producers run out of ideas and are looking for success so they emulate each other following the hype instead of thinking about music a bit before producing it. I’ve been heavily influenced myself, but like I said it’s a choice and it’s really open. It’s not that complicated to develop your own style. It’s just a matter of passion and will really. Arts is definitely just a matter of ‘choices’ in my opinion.
LIS: We’re in a time where technology is so easily accessible and heavily integrated into the world around us, that the music experience has evolved. How do you feel about the Audio/Video movement, such as Amon Tobin’s projection mapped performances, 360 degree projected rooms, etc?
FR: I think what’s Amon, his crew & Ninja Tune did with ISAM is something huge and influential. I loved it, and the most important thing to me is that it was done on purpose. No random shit! This is maybe why the audio only of ISAM without the visuals may sound a bit random or abstract. Using 360 degree projected room just for the sake of it to just somehow enhance your DJ/live performance is pure nonsense to me. Better go with nothing. Just light and enjoy the audio experience only. It’s like the current state of blockbusters movies; the CGI is, most of the time, not really well used in my opinion. It should be used because you needed to use it and not the opposite. I mean, you don’t need CGI to make a movie. You need to use CGI to help you achieving something supported by great ideas and meaning; or otherwise, use CGI to emulate reality; I mean perfectly. It’s really sexy when you can’t tell it’s CGI. Like when you can’t tell it’s a virtual instruments that plays the violin or the drums. I also see a correlation with a lot of nowadays producers. There’s tons on soundcloud They are extremely good sound designer and impress you at first listen,
But after that you never go back listening to it again because there’s almost no emotions.
It’s really poor musically-wise; these perfect sound designer unconsciously became the tool of their tools, if this makes sense. I think there’s a great balance to find out of these things; to let the technology be lead by your ideas and not the exact opposite.
There is a trick I often use when I get lost in the process and start to not really feel what I’m doing because it’s too based on textures, sound design & stereo, I export the WIP in WAV format and switch it in super compressed mp3 format, like in mono 32 kbps 24000 hz. Then I listen to it and try to feel it; to feel the musicality, the emotion only without the awesome textures, etc. If I feel nothing then the project is most of the time deleted. I mean you can compress “White Rabbit” by Jefferson Airplane or whatever others songs you like in super poor audio quality; you’ll still feel it when you listen to it. When it’s good it’s good. Having it in very good audio quality is just bonus.
There’s a video I often check out when I get lost musically. It’s a video on youtube of Angelo Badalamenti speaking about & playing some music from Twin Peaks; about the Love Theme he composed for Lynch. It always put me back on the right path. This is what music is all about in my opinion. So intense.
LIS: France houses some of the most developed and unique electronic composers in the IDM world from Syl Kougaï to igorrr. What would you say it is about the culture there which spawns such creativity?
FR: Syl Kouagï is definitely a real forward thinking musician indeed. His music is epic in many ways; I love it. Igorrr too, but I’m not really into his music. It’s maybe too much for me, but I admire the composition and it’s definitely his own music; very unique. Nebulo is french producer too he’s signed on Hymen Records as well I recommend to check out his music; he’s very talented. A friend of mine introduced me the work of Qebrus lately. I believe he is French too. This guy is insane; almost sound design only, but it’s a choice and it’s very well done.
Don’t know, maybe here in France we are unconsciously or consciously influenced and inspired by all these great avant-gardiste; creative genius like Pierre Schaeffer, Pierre Henry, Bernard Parmegiani, or François Bayle. I think they left behind them superb legacy. I’ll always admire these artists. Just check out ‘De Natura Sonorum’ by Bernard Parmegiani it was done back in the 70’s and it still fresh nowadays; simply incredible! This is what avant-garde is all about in my opinion.
LIS: Riggio doesn’t exactly sound French. Are you native to France or is there other native cultural influences in your music?
FR: I’m French. I was born in France at Epinal, but my parent are mostly Italian. My mother is Sicilian and my father is half French half Italian. I took my artist name, Riggio, after my mother. Weird things is that I don’t speak Italian. Still have to learn it. They always spoken in French to me. They wanted to adapt to French culture in my family.
Some of my favorite composer are Italian; Ennio Morricone, Angelo Badalamenti, and Dario Marianelli. Just check out ‘Eye Reborn’ by Marianelli. It’s one of my favorite track ever, goose bumps each time I blast it.
But I listen to a lot of different music from everywhere in the world. I guess I’m influenced by everything, and not only musically.
LIS: What are some of your influences outside of music?
FR: Arts in general, for instance DZO the guy behind the artwork of the new album, is very inspiring. I regard him as a genius. I have no idea how he does it; it’s just incredible. [view the making of DZO’s artwork for Psychexcess II] I’m also inspired by films obviously, whatever the genre. Nature as well…where I’m living in the mountain, there’s a lot of mushroom to pick up around October & November. I really don’t know why but picking up mushroom is inspiring to me; like I’m connected to the nature…I think about almost nothing just feel, and when I’m back home I feel inspired. Very weird…kind of meditation state maybe. Same thing with astronomy We bought an almost pro telescope with some friends. We’re still pretty amateur, but it’s really inspiring hobby. There’s a couple tracks on the new album influenced by astronomy. I guess universe is common source of inspiration for producers. Otherwise life in general influence my music.
LIS: You’ve mentioned to me not performing your music live. Are there any reasons in particular as to why you do not like to DJ/perform?
FR: My life is very simple life. Like I said I live in the mountain south of France. Very connected with the nature. Also play basketball seriously at good level. I love being a daddy too. Spend a lot of time with my family; as much as I can. Never been obsessed playing live or DJ so far, but maybe this is going to change in a very near future. Things are always in movement.
LIS: Are there any newer music projects that have impressed/inspired you over the last year or so?
FR: Didn’t check out that much music the past years, but the new Syl Kougaï album out on Schematic and Hymen Records is really a masterpiece! New Spoonbill album very dope too. Hecq, aka Ben Lukas Boysen, always delivers the very good. Loved that You’re Dead! album by Flying Lotus; very short but nice. Also that ‘To Pimp A Butterfly’ album by Kendrick Lamar, was very advertised of course, but it’s indeed nice Rap/Jazz/Hip Hop album. LORN‘s stuff; his EP series ‘THE MAZE TO NOWHERE’. Clark – Clark was super enjoyable music as well. Still waiting for his new album to drop, but Dark Jovian by Amon Tobin was very good EP. Not a big of Hans Zimmer usually, but the Interstellar OST was nice too. Too much things to check out…
When I’m working on an album, I try to keep away from what other do, so I can stay focus on my music only. Same thing with plugins and technology. Once I start the production of an album, I keep away from what’s new and stay focus with the setup I chosen for the project.
LIS: One thing that stands out in your music is the distinguished concepts being portrayed.
FR: I like to present something that tell a story; to follow a concept using specific atmospheres. Random stuff is when you experiment only. I surpassed that step for a while now.
I write, sing, and think about music all the time; always stuffed by ideas.
LIS: Do you have any sort of technique when it comes to turning an idea into reality?
FR: Yes, I always tell myself to be sincere; to follow the idea despite the fact people can hate it, love it, or pass on it; that it’s not important to please people; that it’s not important for now. I’m doing it for myself first! I’m more and more accurate these days. I usually end up musically very close of what I have in mind initially. In a more eccentric way, I dream a lot of music and I try to follow these ideas when I wake up.. The last track of Psychexcess II is based on a dream. I still had this song in my mind when I woke up; the structure and all…but it’s not that simple to remember exactly your dreams. I don’t do lucid dream that often, but I’m kind of practicing. It’s interesting.
FR: I used hardware/analog stuff and all last couple years, but did a lot of digital only mastering lately. The tools are impressive and accurate nowadays; Ircam/flux, brainworx, or UAD, to name a few; but depending of what kind of warmth you are looking for, of course hardware, analogic especially, will probably always be the best tools for mastering. There’s no best setup in my opinion. Everything is driven by your ears, so a great pair of ears may help a lot. I barely analyze…just trust my ears. I love mastering. It’s like helping an almost new born baby to found life; the last step of the production process before being unleashed to the world.
LIS: Are there anything tricks, perhaps unorthodox, that you’ve learned to help improve acoustics in the room?
FR: If we speak about studio/home studio here, not really, better save some money for a while and go pro afterward.
LIS: What are some common mistakes you’ve found when it comes to setting up the most ideal music workspace?
FR: If you have the choice then avoid incorporating a bed on your music workspace or some gear in your bed room. In other words, just don’t sleep where you are producing music. That’s not good at all because of the non-stop connection with the technology and electricity; it’s not good for your body, so possibly not good for your ideas. Also, keep away from the socials network while producing as well; it just kills creativity. Be an unsociable piece of human for some time and let grow a beard. You’ll have plenty of time afterward looking at the comments on internet saying that your album is too good and all. My studio is like a sphere, where almost nobody, physically or not, can enter. I do use internet for my mastering works, but that’s pretty much it. No phone call and shit in my workspace; I’m hyper focus. There’s a lot of wood and some plant in my studio, also. I need it.
LIS: With the growing number of DAWs, a big debate is which is better, and why. Are there any particular things which stand out to you when selecting a Digital Audio Workstation?
FR: I’m a Cubase user for a long time now; I’m feeling it more than the others. I don’t like Ableton Live for instance, but it’s all about the ideas and ears at the end. You can achieve interesting music whatever the DAW you use.
LIS: Hymen Records and Omelette Records seem to far from adjacent in the electronic music spectrum. Psychexcess II will be released on both. How did you find yourself working with two labels simultaneously for the same releases?
FR: Jim Moynihan, aka Spoonbill, is a good friend of mine, and I released some free music on his label Omelette a while ago. I needed additional support for this new album, so I naturally asked Jim for a co-release; it’s as simple as that. I don’t really care the two labels are releasing different type of music. It’s all about the music; and they’re professional, kind & patient with me, let me do whatever I want to do.
LIS: What can we expect from this new album?
FR: Something sincere, extremely dynamic in every possible way, original, and also immersive. This is not a collection of tracks at all; it’s a story from start to end! I just hope listeners will listen to it entirely. I hate listening to just one track off this album. When I listen to it, I listen to the whole thing, each time.
LIS: What is your intention behind the title of the trilogy, “Psychexcess”?
FR: Don’t want to sound weirdo, but this is really personal stuff here. I’m deeply interested by psychology and esoterics, which are kind of related, yet antagonistic thing at once. The word ‘Psyche’ represent the psychology, the cartesian; and the word ‘Excess’ represent the esoteric, the imagination, the eccentric. It’s a made up word, basically; it sounded cool to me. There’s nothing religious though, because esoteric tend to have always been connected with religions. I’m not really interested by religions. I find it rather boring and not funny. I’m more interested by mysterious and eccentric things. I try to produce a mysterious, mystical, and eccentric music actually. Other than that,
I’m just trying to show up via the word “Psychexcess” and the audio of the trilogy that you can think by yourself; that everybody is able to feed his brain by whatever we want; to define our own limits and reality and it’s limitless at some points; to forgot what we learned at school or by someone else that is totally useless in your daily life; that is not you finally. To stop a moment with dualities and fears; to enjoy the gorgeousness of the unknown; The Psychexcess!
LIS: How long did it take for you to create Psychexcess II?
FR: It was such a long process. Started the production in 2011 and I completed the album in 2014, but it was done on purpose. I wanted to spend a lot of time on the production. That was in part with the concept of the album actually; to explore my own mood, live experiences, and progression. This is why there are different sounding tracks on this album; it’s pretty wide.
LIS: Were there any particular tools which helped significantly in the production of Psychexcess II?
FR: Had to learn a tool called Kyma for the production of this album. They promote it as ‘supercomputer for sound’. Took me a lot of time. This tool is insane in many ways, but very hard to handle. I spent like 5 or 6 months experimenting only, and I feel like I handle 6% of its capacity. Kyma is all over that new album. I used a lot of different tools and techniques for this one too. We added a little something about it on the sleeve & booklet of the new album, by the way.
LIS: What are the differences and similarities between each part?
FR: From the very start I wanted to make sure that each album will sound coherent and different from each other; also to build a logical continuation between each album. So, to answer your question, they’re differently similar.
LIS: You’ve already begun working on part three. How far would you say you are to completion?
FR: It’s finished while you are asking me it, actually. It took me 8 months to complete. It was possibly the best creative and the most intense period of my life so far, and I cannot wait to release it. To me, it’s bigger and deeper than the first two installments. This project is very dear to me. Besides that, third album I added a cherry on the cake in order to complete the trilogy in triumph. Everything is ready; we’ll just have to work on the artwork soon. Nobody listened to it for now, expect for my girlfriend and my daughter. I’m so proud of this thing; I just hope we can sell enough vinyls and CDs of Psychexcess II by the upcoming months so I can release the third and last installment in 2016. That’d be very cool.
LIS: Do you have any plans after the trilogy is complete?
FR: Yes, I do have a plan. It’ll be difficult for me to release common album format after that trilogy. I have a new concept for an album and cannot wait to start working on it. I should be able to start the production maybe before the end of this year.
LIS: Are there any projects you have in the works aside from part three of Psychexcess?
FR: Nope! When I can, I never work on multiple project at once; It’s just not good. I just stay deeply focused on one only. I had the opportunity to focus on Psychexcess III only the past 8 months. Actually it was a sinequanone parameter to be able to give life to this project and its concept.
LIS: Is there anything you are willing to share about this new album concept?
FR: Not so much for now. I want to keep this creation just for me. It’s weird, but I’m kind of depressed each time I release something; once it’s out I don’t own it anymore; it belong to everybody and nobody at once. It’s weird because I really want people to listen to it when it’s finished…don’t know, it’s just bizarre feeling each time, a kind of duality; but it doesn’t last that long, as I’m always looking forward and start working on something new. I’m just extremely proud of Psychexcess III; I did it in very special phase of my life, and it treats a topic that obsess me for a long time.
LIS: You’ve agreed to share a track from the album. Is there any story behind TTTT?
FR: I started working on this track when I was 16 or 17, and I never released it somewhere, I’d lie if say it’s the same track I worked on when I was 17, I just rebuilt everything following the initial atmosphere and ideas using my current methodology and techniques. I really love that piece of music, it take me everytime I listen to it.
LIS: Certainly looking forward to experiencing Psychexcess II and III! Part I has played in my car more than any other album since putting it on my mp3 player. It just won’t seem to get old. I’m thankful for your compliance and openness with us, allowing others to connect and understand more why this music sounds different. Is there anything else you’d like to say publicly before we let you go and show the world TTTT?
FR: Yes, maybe about the current music consumption. It’s almost like food consumption, we’re going nowhere doing this…
LIS: Do you mean the depreciation of music, and how consumers mostly seek the newest sounds, causing an abandonment of patience in the sense of listening deeply to an album? Could you elaborate on this subject?
FR: Yes, exactly. I mean it’s almost like food; music is just in over consummations nowadays. We need food to survive of course, so the analogy is maybe a little too much; but we eat too much, we consume too much; way more of we really need actually. Same thing with music at some points; it’s maybe even easier to consume music because you can have it free. I still buy vinyls and CD, but sometimes I’m not happy about myself when I download stuff via torrent and shit, and treat it like if it was a product only. I try to avoid leak. If I download a leaked album, I often buy it once it’s out. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t blame people using torrent to download stuff on the internet. I’m OK with that if they respect what they downloaded. It’s just the way it’s listened, and I did it myself sometimes, and it’s not cool. I mean, usually when I’m waiting for a new album to drop, once it’s out and I get it, it’s almost like a ritual; I try to give respect to the artists, a respect to his creations and his intention; I press play, shut up, and enjoy it; the whole thing, in a row. When I adore an album, I want to live with that album. I want the album to be the soundtrack of my life. Of course, and hopefully, there’s still a lot of people doing this, and I’m thankful for that.
We can debate for hours, it’s obvious the music industry is super sick and maybe already over, mainly because of the majors, not us. The streaming thing is not very cool either; just cool to quickly discover new music and artists maybe.
LIS: Thank you again for your time. I hope to have you back with lostinsound.org soon!
FR: thanks man! really appreciated doing it with you!
LostInSound.org is honored to present the world premier of TTTT, the sixth track from Psychexcess II – Futurism; available September 4th, via Hymen and Omelette Records: