Nil Ciuró – The Interview

Nil Ciuró is a Catalan composer and sound designer based in Barcelona who has built quite a name for himself in the world of soundtracks and audiovisual compositions. He is an electronic music artist with his own style and sound that can be described as “ambient electronica” and at the same time works as a composer in the world of advertising where he has created soundtracks for numerous companies and concepts including the famous Primavera Sound festival in Barcelona.

We caught up with him in his hometown to talk about his work as a composer, his albums and his performance at the Eufònic festival in Catalonia. Enjoy Clubbers! 

Armo: Hi Nil, nice to meet you, I guess my first question would be how you got started in music and how this interest begin for you?

Nil: When I was a little kid, my parents got me into music classes where I learnt how to play the piano. I started with one class a week around the age of 4, but the problem was, in the beginning, I didn’t have a piano and I used to go to my grandma’s house to practice a little for the classes. Later, around the age of nine, I entered to study at a musical conservatory close to Barcelona and stayed there for 3 years. At the beginning for me, the music was more like a thing that I liked but I was more focused on playing football and other sports. At 16, I started skating with my friends and I preferred to do cool things because when you are at 10 or 11, 12, you don’t want to make a rock band. It will be later.

Armo: Im sure your grandmother loved you going over to practice when you were a kid… Did you eventually join or make a band or something like this later on in life?

Nil: Yes with my cousin, we made a band, but for that, I played the drums.

Armo: Ah cool, how many instruments do you play? 

Nil: I can play the keyboard, obviously piano and drums. Yes the band with my cousin was fun, he used to sing and play the piano and he needed a drummer, I was around 13 at the time and I was thinking I don’t want to play the piano anymore so I learnt how to play the drums and played in this band with him where we would make our own songs. 

Armo: So how did it end with the band?

Nil: Being in that band was a cool time in my life,  but I felt playing the drums limited me a bit as it is more of a background beat instrument and not really something that is relevant to creating harmonies and melodies. So, I started to play the piano again and maybe around the ages of 17 or 18, I started composing music. After a few more years, I decided to leave the band and work on my own compositions, it was also around the time I started a university degree in graphic design.

Armo: Ah right. So did you continue composing music on the side? 

Nil: Yes the music became my free time activity. I feel like in the last year of university I became more creative and I started to put music against visuals. For me, music has a more artistic feeling as an art and I was always more swayed towards following my musical path in the long run rather than becoming a graphic designer. 

Armo: When did you first start to create audiovisual pieces like putting music on motion pictures, adverts and that kind of stuff? 

Nil: In university, I started to combine music and video pieces and after I finished my studies I sent my work out to studios and directors to collaborate with me, in the beginning even for free because I wanted to improve my portfolio. I think it took about 6 months to a year for me to get my 1st propper project with money. I also started to work in a studio in Barcelona as a resident composer, it was called Trafalgar 13 and it was here where I made music for adverts for companies such as Nestle. I enjoyed this experience a lot and it made me want to work seriously on my own projects and to look for my own clients. It was a slow start where I had to even do some graphic design work at the beginning to make enough money to live but things definitely got better and as I created more projects I got more business. 

Armo: Can you name me projects that you have done that you are especially proud of or one that was particularly fun for you?

One of the collaborations that I am really proud of is when I made a music video for the music festival, Primavera Sound, 2 years ago. It was actually a series of videos for different artists who were going to play at the festival and the festival team asked two different composers to make the music for different artists. I made the music for James Rhodes, the pianist, and it was like a short animation film with the real voiceover of James Rhodes. It was a challenge because James Rhodes is a very good musician and I use a piano for the soundtrack, but at the same time, I had to be a bit creative because I didn’t want it to sound classical-like all the piano pieces in this short film series. So, I made the part with a piano and another with more electronic and more orchestral parts.

Armo: Okay. And you have, this online or something?

Nil: Yes, in the website.

Armo: Let’s talk a bit about your albums now

Nil: The first album or in general?

Armo: Yes, let’s start with the first one. What was your inspiration behind this piece of work?

Nil: My first album Futuralgia is a concept album and my plan was to combine two words which are nostalgic and future and I wanted to create a sound that represents these words. In this album, the piano is very nostalgic to me and reminds me of the past, but at the same time, I wanted to express and create more contemporary new sounds with the use of synths and other instruments. I basically tried to imagine what nostalgia would mean and sound like in the future and experiment from there. This album didn’t really have strong electronic influence. It has more like an ambient and dreamy sound.

Armo: Yes I have checked it out on Spotify, I think ambient is a really nice way to describe it.  How does it compare to the new album? How do you think your style has changed?

Nil: So I finished my 1st album 2 years ago and I really felt like I have to start working on a new thing. I wanted to go for something with more power, more electronic, with a darker vibe but to combine it with some soft sounds and some very quiet and very sweet melodies. I started almost immediately composing piano melodies but I wanted to get drum sounds in there and make the overall music more energetic, aggressive and impactful. My second album which release earlier this year is an expression of my ambient electronic style. I have tried to give my songs epic and deep sounds and have used quite a bit of percussion and analogue synthesizers to achieve this. 

Armo:  I don’t know what you call this music that you make specifically I guess I would call it ambient electronic or something like this?

Nil: Yes, I have problems when someone asks me what kind of music I make because normally I respond that I make instrumental music. I think it’s also quite a but like pop music, but recorded it with classical instruments.

Armo: I guess making such music you must be asked to collaborate with local artists and creative in Barcelona, have you done any collaborations recently of this sort?

Nil: Yes actually. The other day I was asked by a dancer and choreographer, a friend of mine who has written a short art film about how a girl has fallen in love with a drone and last week she decided to make a performance of this short film ad I played my music for her in the back almost like a like performance. It’s like a science fiction story and she thought that my music would be great for it so I happily helped her out. It was a very short performance, it was like 15 minutes long and we will make another performance in Soho House in Barcelona on October 10th.

Armo: Sounds like a really cool project. You also gave a live performance at the beginning of September at a music festival in Catalonia. Can you tell us a bit about this festival and your set?

Nil: Yes sure, the festival was called Eufònic and it was for 3 days. I think it’s quite an innovative festival and it always showcases a mix of experimental and electronic music. I played my set on Friday the 6th of September at 6.30 in the evening. I performed in the church venue and I think was great because of the acoustics. The only thing is that was not ideal at that time was the light shining through the windows of the church. I usually prefer to play in the dark or the shadows because I feel my music is for that kind of atmosphere but in any case, I am really looking forward to it. 

Thanks for your time, Nil Ciuró! It has been great talking to you!

Hear Nils’ music on Spotify and follow him on Instagram to see his day to day synthesizer skills.

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