Alonso Rivero's musical journey began in the bustling streets of Mexico City, a vibrant hub for artists worldwide. Starting with percussion at eleven, his passion evolved to encompass piano, guitar, and synthesisers, crafting a unique sound in the electronic music scene. His upcoming EP releases this month and promises to showcase this diverse background, blending experimental beats with an immersive listening experience. Alonso Rivero shows us behind the veil of his upcoming release talking collaborator Ilhem Khodja and balancing the organic with the electronic.
Your biography mentions that your affinity for music started at a young age. How did your childhood in the vibrant metropolis of Mexico City shape your musical journey?
Yes, the art scene in Mexico City is vast. It's a must-stop for almost any artist on tour. The access to all kinds of shows is incredible, so I had the chance to see many different approaches to art and music.
Starting with drums and percussion at age eleven, you later expanded to piano, guitar, and, ultimately, synthesisers. How did these experiences influence your approach to electronic music production? Are there techniques from your early days that you still use today?
Producing electronic music is a multidisciplinary activity. You have to conceive the tempo, texture, melody, and harmony between other musical concepts, so any skill you develop on any instrument will help you. It doesn’t matter what type of instrument you play; it all counts. For me, all those years of drumming brought a sensitive understanding of rhythm and groove. Fills and rhythm are already there; you just replace elements with different sounds to create a rhythm. A great thing about producing electronic music is that there are no rules. You can create a hi-hat figure using a synthesiser or sample noise from the street and turn it into a loop with proper rhythm and groove. So, I had to reinterpret and completely change my approach to traditional drumming.
In the 2000s, you were in the alternative music scene and worked with some notable pop acts. Who were some of these artists, and what did you learn from those experiences?
I played drums for a pop artist who went solo after being in a girl band called Jeans [now called JNS], which was very popular in the 90s. It wasn’t my kind of music, but I just wanted to play drums, and sometimes, the price for that is high. I knew it wasn’t the music I wanted, but I still managed to have fun. We played all around and did some TV shows, music videos, and concerts. My takeaway was to soak up the good things and get rid of the bad ones. A music career is a long journey made of many steps, and that was just one more step.
Describe the energy and atmosphere of the electronic music scene in Tulum and Playa Del Carmen, which made them ideal for musical experimentation, and how they shaped your identity as an artist.
My first approach to electronic music in Mexico was in Playa del Carmen in the early 2000s, which hosted The BPM Festival for many years. There, I began to understand the vibe and energy it created. Then, I started going to Tulum often, and this place really captured my attention. It was unbelievable — the best parties ever! Later on, in 2013, I started producing beats, which was a turning point for me.
I realised the power and immense possibilities of synthesisers, and a new era for me began at that point.
What can listeners expect from your new three-track EP coming out in July 2024 on Roderic and Matti's Dafne label, and how does it build upon or depart from your previous releases?
Sleepless is the result of my insights from these last few years. I went a bit more experimental with these sounds and liked the result. You can always dance to the tracks, but this time, they're a bit more oriented for listening. It's a combination of a downtempo, soft, and sexy track like Vanish, some indie vibes in Don’t Come Back, and some psychedelic sounds for Sleepless. I hope you guys like it.
The track Vanish has a very suspenseful and immersive listening experience. How do you achieve this level of immersion? Who did you collaborate with on the song, and how did their contributions shape the final product?
I started this track at the beginning of the pandemic lockdown. You can perceive some nostalgic elements. The immersion is achieved through a time-stretched synth that goes faster and slower, taking you away from the original beat for a moment, and that's the intention. The singer is Ilhem Khodja, a talented French artist. She immediately understood the vibe of the track and helped with the lyric composition too. It was a beautiful collaboration as she made the track her own.
Sleepless feels like a fun night out with a bit of mischief. What mood were you in when creating this track, and what atmosphere were you trying to capture? Is your creative process in balancing the upbeat, danceable, and introspective elements in the track more about strategy or feeling and intuition?
This is an interesting track as it doesn't fit the traditional 4/4 structure. If you listen to it, you'll notice an extra four beats in every measure. The syncopated stab synths bring the energy up and keep you engaged, while the progression of the chords keeps you grounded. I like to hide a different story inside each track, so drops are the best opportunity to make this happen. The contrast between organic sounds, like the piano in the drop, and electronic elements creates a unique approach to the track.
How did your 2017 residency at Burning Man's Maxa Camp, performing there and building the sound system for Deer Art Car, influence your approach to live performance and sound design?
Burning Man is a very unique experience. It brings countless moments that take you to places you had never considered before. It takes you out of your comfort zone, and the output of that can only be positive. Being a part of Maxa Camp, my family gave me a different perspective on things and the importance of giving from the heart. Everything there is different, and conditions can be very challenging. We take many things for granted, and this place helps you realign your route in many ways. Playing there [remains] one of the best experiences of my life, as the democracy of sound is total. You have no idea who’s in the audience, and that's fascinating for me. It's a vortex of fulfilling experiences.
You’ve cited Adriatique, Radiohead, and Depeche Mode as inspirations. What specifically about these artists influences your work?
From Radiohead, I always loved their approach to sadness. Their music takes you to inner places of reflection and nostalgia that resonate with me. Thom Yorke's voice has a unique colour that really touches me. Depeche Mode is a natural reference and pioneer of electronic sounds — the kings of synthesisers for me. It's amazing to think that those sounds were created more than four decades ago. Their deep and incredible lyrics add another layer. They are the perfect balance between band or rock world and electronic elements. Adriatique takes me to very deep places with their serious yet melodic style. Their musical journey is always different, and their balance of aggressive elements in the perfect position makes them very special.
In 2017, you opened Fractal Soon Lab in Mexico City, which you call a sanctuary for musical exploration and artistic innovation. What inspired you to create this space, and can you share some examples of the collaborations that have emerged from Fractal?
Fractal is a music studio where we explore different musical possibilities and it’s always open for collaborations. I’m always happy to host different friends and musicians from all genres. It’s more oriented towards electronic music, but I believe diversity is fundamental for a wider vision. Producers like Carlita, DJ Tennis, and Guy Gerber, among others, have spent time here working on their own projects and collaborating. This space is for music exploration and learning, where we teach DJing, synthesis, and music production.
Your debut album, Rise, was released on Trajinera Records in 2019. Can you describe the creative process and the central themes and messages you wanted to convey? How did that differ from the creation of the EP?
Debut albums are always very special, and Rise is no exception. It brought out the sounds from my deepest feelings and some fears, too. My music journey started there, and the natural evolution of my music has become less dark. Now, I’m exploring more uplifting ideas but always maintaining suspense and melancholy in my compositions. Exploring new forms of electronic music is the result of this new EP. The main difference between the two productions is the combination of different elements from other genres integrated into electronic music.
Your collaborations with artists like Carlita on Children of the Future and Coss on Akumandra gave us memorable tracks. What draws you to certain collaborators, and how do you approach the co-creation process? Are there any dream collaborations you'd love to manifest in the future?
I started my career as a drummer, so bands and collaborations have always been around me. Jamming with other musicians is part of my natural workflow. Collaborations are an opportunity to see music from a different perspective, enriching your processes and giving you more tools. Working with them was fantastic. We are all teachers and mirrors of each other. I’m always up for collaborations, and yes, there are many artists on my dream list to join and play around with in the studio.
What are your future plans and aspirations within the electronic music scene? Are there any upcoming projects or collaborations you're particularly excited about?
I want to continue on this path with more shows and lots of music to write. I’m still working hard to achieve some stages I want to play, but I have no super big aspirations. I’m happy to embrace whatever is coming, and I feel very lucky and grateful for my personal music journey. Just having the opportunity to express myself through music is more than I could ask for.
What advice would you share with aspiring electronic music producers and artists, particularly those in Mexico and Latin America?
Believe in yourself. You have to be the first one to do it, and only after that will things start happening. The curve of your talent will meet with opportunities, so always be prepared. Enjoy the ride, and try to avoid free gigs.