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Ricardo Donoso

Photo: John Pham

In the few short years since moving to Boston from his native Brazil, Ricardo Donoso has become one of the most dynamic figures in the local experimental music scene. He’s organized an ongoing series of shows at the historic Piano Factory, put together an ambitious all-local music festival, and founded his own record label, Semata Productions. A percussionist by training, Ricardo is involved in a dizzying array of musical projects, playing everything from intense, minimal drones to free jazz to 12-tone death metal.

On Thursday, August 13, 2009, Ricardo will perform a live solo set on Rare Frequency.

Could you tell me about your musical background and what brought you to Boston from Brazil?

I started off playing alto saxophone for 4 years beginning in the 5th grade; I’ve been playing percussion for twelve years and started composing acoustic and electronic music around 7 years ago, right around the time I moved to Boston for college to study composition and music synthesis. I’ve remained here as I’ve grown kind of enamored of this city, and a place like Brazil doesn’t really offer the same opportunities for this kind of music.

I know you have a fair amount of traditional musical training—what drew you to experimental music?

Irrationality?? I guess growing up playing jazz in school and playing in rock/metal bands with friends at some point the interests intertwined. Being exposed to free jazz really opened the flood gates for me—it had the energy of metal, yet had the finesse and intimacy of jazz & improvisation. Then I got a drum machine and a synth, and it was all downhill from there. What drew me into “experimental music” then was really stylistic mashups, technical proficiency and complex arranging, like the music of Naked City & Mr. Bungle.

What draws me now is the characteristics of sound itself, and chemical imbalances in my brain.

You’re involved in a substantial number of very different musical projects/groups, etc. First off, could you list your current musical projects? Second, do you see any common thread running through them—other than the fact that you’re in them, that is?

Certainly. I play drums in experimental twelve-tone, death metal unit Ehnahre, electronics in Perispirit, a drone/noise duo with Luke Moldof, and percussion in the Epicureans, which is a trio with Dave Gross & Ryan McGuire focusing on “acoustic noise,” I guess you could say. For me, playing solo is a culmination of all the elements I get from these different projects, i.e. composition, atonalism, harsh noise, drones, improvisation, sound design, extended techniques, etc.

All the projects influence the others, it’s a very incestuous affair.

How did the Coup d’Etat series at the Piano Factory start and what do you find most interesting and/or challenging about running it?

The series started as a means to create space for shows in Boston, and to give up-and-coming artists a chance to present their work. It’s expanded beyond that now, but we still try to heavily promote local artists. For me, the most interesting part of the shows are the social interactions; getting musicians to talk to each other is a very good thing. The most challenging aspect is definitely consistency—making sure each show runs smoothly and efficiently, audience attendance, “vibe,” etc….

What upcoming releases, live shows, and other projects do you currently have in the works?

Finally getting the new Semata batch out on Sept. 1st, which will include a solo 7” of mine entitled “zerovinteum” and a Stillbirth / Prurient 7” split entitled “The Mirror of Purification.” Currently mixing new Ehnahre tracks for an upcoming 12” that’s coming along quite nicely. Perispirit recordings should be surfacing soon, probably another tape as well as a split LP with Brendan Murray due out before the end of the year. There should also be an Epicureans CDr on Absurd sometime in early 2010.

Perispirit will be playing live this Saturday 8/15 at the Axiom Gallery with Aaron Moore & Howard Stelzer. The following day 8/16 I will be playing a solo set around 8pm as part of the Weirdstock Festival at the Cambridge YMCA; and on 8/31 at Weirdo Records I will be battling it out with the great Chris Strunk as part of our ongoing drum duo.

Planning on focusing on label duties for awhile as I have a slew of releases forthcoming. Thanks!

—Susanna Bolle


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