We caught up with Henry Maldonado aka Sound of Sound, to talk about his production process, his evolution as a musician over time and his new EP, entitled 'No Loitering, out soon on London-based imprint Delusions of Granduer.
Henry was a key figure, involved in seminal releases on Strictly Rhythm as House 2 House, Maxi Records as Deja Vu and MAW Records as Rhythm Section. With releases dating back all the way to 1991, he has made an undeniably important contribution to the first wave of deep house. His new release, a deep, warm grooving set of tracks littered with vocal chops, features a remix from Aroop Roy will be released on the 10th of November.
So tell me about the new EP
It's on Jimpster's sub label and the name of the EP is No Loitering. It’s a New York themed EP. The track titles are very New York: 'NY Is All I know' and 'Skin Tight'. The title all came about because no loitering was a pretty common policy of the projects I used to live in growing up.
Is New York a common inspiration for your music?
Yeah the theme of my music in general is always New York vibes. It always tends to be very New York centric stuff. My city is my muse.
But other inspirations include lot of my musical influences. I listen to a lot world music, afro beat, jazz, different stuff like Brazilian funk. I come from a Latin background and my parents were really into music. My father played in Latin jazz bands.
When did you really start getting into electronic music?
Mid 80's really. I started DJing in 85 and 86 and played a lot of everything. Hip-hop was a big thing back then. It was the sound of my generation, but so was dance music, it ran in tandem. I started experimenting with production in 88 and 89. I bought some drum machines and made some noise and then after a while I actually started to make stuff that sounded good. After that I started to send stuff to people who I admired and it all went from there really.
Tell me how was your latest EP made? What does your studio setup look like?
My studio is pretty minimal these days. At least by my standards, I don’t use a lot of equipment. I come from the days of hardware and started making music before sequencing on computers. We used to use a lot hardware and tape. I fully appreciate and take advantage of the fact you can now do things with a computer, I do also have an outboard analogue console, a bunch of compressors and some outboard processing gear but most of the stuff is done on my laptop. I have a few analogue bits kicking around as well.
Any unusual bits of kit?
Nothing too out of the ordinary. A couple of basses, a few broken snares.
Do you have any traditions for writing music?
To be honest, I used to need to go to the studio to write. But now I sketch out so much on my laptop, I can be anywhere and the inspiration can hit me anywhere. I can be in a coffee shop, on a flight and I’ll sketch out a whole EP in hours and then I come to the studio and that's where I come to solidify it all. I’ve been drawn to that process as i'm not as confined. Music making can be a solitary experience and i'm used to working with people and keep getting different points of view so I like to take a laptop to someones house and lay down a vocal or instruments. I like being around people in order to create ideas. I’m inspired a lot by my surroundings, by sounds and visuals and everything around me.
Do you start out with an idea or just start jamming and see where it leads?
Since the beginning its been about jamming or experimenting, whether i'm sampling from vinyl or noodling from core progressions. I rarely starts out with a drum pattern like most people, I always try to get a cool top line and then it all tends to fall into place, at least directionally.
Is there anything you’d really like to learn to do better as a producer?
I guess probably execute some more of my ideas, maybe direct musicians to reinforce my ideas and sort of have a balance of electronic and other elements. But at the moment, I'm making the kind of music I want to make.
As time progresses for me, I might have the inspiration to try other thing. But right for this release I went backwards and I’m experimenting with samples the way I used to do with house to house stuff in the 90s. Now I want to be more musical and maybe use the samples as a backdrop and experiment more with melody and progression and using vocals.
Otherwise, soundtracks have always sounded interesting as I've never done that. I'd want to have a go at adding music to videos. I hate watching movies where a scene is subpar because of the music.
You've been producing for some time now, is there anything about the scene that’s changed that you dislike?
It’s a tough question man because things are supposed to change. No matter where you are, you and I share this common bond of being electronic music lovers. We could chat about DJs and producers all day long, but your generation understand what we should live for and create. My generation can get a little cocky about being the creators of this electronic scene, but we had purpose to create something new. Similarly your generation does what it does to preserve that which is important.
There are so many festivals and events. There are so many people interested in music these days. You see masses amounts of kids, and when I say kids I mean like any where from like 20 to 36 years old, basically they are still younger than me.
But I think with that said, within the industry I wish some things could change too. Cultivating local scenes is a lost art and that starts with promoters and club owners. People that have the power to cultivate cool local talent too often opt to go overseas to bring in DJs from other places.
Conversely anything you like a lot more about the scene?
I guess, it’s the access to music. If I could rewind time and if I could self promote like I could today that would be great. Back in the day you were kind of kept in the dark, you had to find things out. When you are putting out releases you seldom take the time to learn about the business end and how to market and promote if someone is cutting you a cheque. As long as you working its good enough for you. Now you have to do things yourself, I kind of appreciate that. It’s harder to make money these but at least the control is there.
Whats on the cards in terms of releases for you?
I'm working on some things for District 30 my own label. This new EP was actually supposed to come out on my own label but I like Jimpster alot and you have to respond when people like that reach out.
I'm always working to release tracks on my label. Lately I'm blessed to be able to allow my stuff to flourish on other labels as well. I have a releases coming on Jus-Ed's Underground Quality early next year. I'm hopeful of four or five EPs by the end of next year.
Will you be putting out music from other artists on your label?
Eventually I would love to do that. But at the moment the business is not modelled to do that fairly. I have very strict principles and these days its all pennies. In my personal opinion, I don’t think I have the leverage to get up and coming artists the profile they want and I don’t have it in me to sell anybody dreams I cant deliver on. For now it;s my own project and I self release for the gratification to get stuff out when I want to. But ultimately I would love the opportunity to open things up.
And will you be DJing out and about much?
The most immediate thing will be playing with Duane Harriott and FunkinEven in New York and some stuff in Europe which is not 100% confirmed yet.
Who are your favourite producers of all time?
That's a really a hard question. I've been a fan of many of these things for so long and people experiment and change so often things don't necessarily sticks with me.
Lately, I've been listening to a lot of Fred P. I always check, DJ QU and FunkinEven. I really love that raw underground, straight from the basement, what the hell is that sound, kinda vibe. When it's polished and you're successful then props to you, but I’m a sucker for that rawness.
I don’t really like the word lo-fi as I hate buzzwords. But if artists work till a track is done and don’t do anything extra then release it then that's cool. I come from an age where a bunch of naïve kids who wanted to make something, went into their rooms with borrowed gear and found a way to release stuff. I’ll always be a sucker for those kind of vibes. My stuff is too clean but i'm not going backwards and its cool. Everyone wants to revive House 2 House, but to do that I'd have to forget all I know about production now.