The Art of Creating an Atmosphere and the Power of Collaboration

Alterkix says:

The most important thing in my songs is the atmosphere

AI will never be able to evoke emotions in listeners

I have the feeling that my Eurorack controls me

Both our Spotify accounts experienced a significant increase in radio plays

In this episode of The Electronic Corner, we have the pleasure of hosting Alterkix.
Let’s learn about her creative process, gear preferences, and the intricacies of making music in the electronic realm.

Sir Joe: Do you consider yourself primarily as a musician, meaning someone with a strong foundation in music theory who uses synthesizers to create music, or do you see yourself more as a sound creator, that is someone who enjoys experimenting with different synths and equipment without necessarily aiming to produce a song as end result?

Alterkix: Well, it’s a mix of both, because I started out as a musician, but not with synthesizers.
I’m actually a bass player, and I play in a cover band. We cover many types of songs and when we decided to do ‘Sweet Dreams’ by Eurythmics, I said to myself: “Maybe it’s a good idea if I play it on synth bass”.
So, I went to a music store and asked which synth would be good for playing bass. I ended up with a Korg Monologue and at first I was very scared to use it. I read the manual three times, trying to understand what it all meant. Eventually, I learned to play that song and I had fun doing it.
Then, I explored all the sounds in that synthesizer, not really understanding what everything meant, but that’s fine.
I can say that I have a good background in music theory. When I learned to play bass, I had a very good teacher who taught me all about it, so I know what scales mean, how a song is structured with the chords and why certain chords go well with others.
To continue my story: when I bought my first synth, I had so much fun with it that I thought it would be good if I could add drums to it, so I bought a small Volca Beats.
With it, I started making not songs yet but sounds to match, just free form, not thinking about music theory at all, just what sounded good to my ear.
To make songs, I bought a small loop station, where I recorded my tracks with the synth and the drums, so something very basic. I recorded them on my phone, I put them on my Instagram page and I got very good reactions. People said: “Oh, you have a good ear, it sounds interesting”.
So, I felt encouraged and bought a Volca Bass. My loops (I call them loops because I recorded them in my loop station) became bigger and bigger, with more synths added, and then at one point I thought: “Well, people seem to like it, let’s just go for it and turn them into real songs”.
I still have those loops, which sometimes I use as demos, when I think they are good enough to grow into a song.
When I make my tracks for Alterkix, though, I’m just having fun, I’m not thinking about music theory at all, except for the fact that when I start to play the first notes, I know it’s in C major or F minor and so on.
SJ: My first impression, listening to your music, is that you start playing with your “toys” until you find something you like, you repeat the process and then you put all the various pieces together.
However, you quite correctly describe your music as sometimes dark, sometimes gloomy and sometimes optimistic. That leads me to believe that, despite what I mentioned earlier, your current mood sparks an idea in your mind, and it’s that idea that guides the song’s evolution.
So, which of these scenarios is more accurate?

Alterkix: Actually, I just play around with my “toys”, as you call them, until something triggers a mood in me which most of the time is melancholic or kind of dark. That’s when I get really interested to turn it into a song, because in my music I think the most important thing is the atmosphere.
When you listen to a song of mine, I want it to give you a vibe, a mood, telling a story without knowing which story it actually is. The most important thing to me is that my music doesn’t sound flat.
I don’t mind the “boom boom” music, but it’s not what I want to create with Alterkix.

SJ: Your songs are not cheesy, or particularly catchy. Nevertheless, looking at your stats on Spotify and other places, you are a quite successfull artist, with a sodid fan base.
Which elements do you think draw so many people toward your music, even though it sounds as something directed to a very specific niche? Could it be the atmosphere you just mentioned or maybe it’s something else?

Alterkix: Well, it’s definitely the atmosphere. As you said, I’m in a niche, but I still don’t know which one. When you upload your song to a distribution service platform (I use DistroKid), you have to specify which genre you are in.
When you click on ‘electronic’ you see some subgenre and I still don’t know to which one I belong. So, it’s very difficult for me to fit my music into a specific niche.
On Spotify, the two most important things are the listeners who actively follow you and the algorith that suggests your music.
When I release a new track I make a promo for all my social media and for my website, to keep my followers informed. However, what brought me a big jump in the number of listeners on Spotify was doing a collaboration with another electronic artist.
I’m part of an Instagram group made of electronic artists like myself whose purpose is to grow together by sharing information and doing collaborations, in form of remixes or by building tracks together from scratch.
What happened is amazing. I had noticed a gradual growth on the Spotify algorithm, until my first album was released, featuring a remix by an artist named Silvr Sage. He remixed my song “From Darkness to Light,” and I absolutely love what he did with it.
It was the first time that I had to upload a song to DistroKid as a collaboration, and I made a mistake. Unfortunately, his remix didn’t appear on his Spotify, as I didn’t provide the correct link.
A few days later, upon realizing the error, I promptly rectified it by correcting the DistroKid link. The moment his remix appeared on his Spotify, both our Spotify accounts experienced a significant increase in radio plays—100%, 200%, even 300%. It was incredible.
While the effect has slowed down, it still persists, underscoring the fact that Spotify seems to favor collaborations with other artists.
In my personal experience, and as I’ve engaged in various collaborations since then, I’ve found that this has been the way for me to grow.
When you’re starting out as an unknown artist who has to compete with countless tracks on Spotify, how can you grow? It’s a problem…

SJ: AI applied to music is a reality. Do you see it more as a tool that will help us to release more polished songs or do you see it as something that risks to make music sound all the same, due to the elimination of the human factor?


Alterkix: I’d go with the second option for sure because of my familiarity with artificial intelligence. I’ve had hands-on experience with it in my job at an insurance company, which may be a different field, but follows the same basic principle.
You input images or sounds into the computer system, allowing it to recognize and reproduce them consistently. It’s like building a foundation, and while certain changes are made on top of it, the base remains constant. So, the process is always the same.
When it comes to music, I’ve come across songs created by artificial intelligence, including an awful version of a song by David Bowie, my favorite artist. I’m glad the man couldn’t hear it because it’s just so bad.
However, what concerns me is the constant improvement of artificial intelligence. Will there come a point where you can’t distinguish if a song is crafted by someone pressing a key on an app, resulting in an instant creation, or if it’s the product of a real artist investing significant time and dedication? Maybe in the end, the difference becomes indiscernible. I’m uncertain.
What I’m quite sure of, though, is that artificial intelligence will never be able to evoke emotions in listeners. Sure, you can instruct a computer to compose a song in C minor, but conveying a dark, melancholic mood is a different story. Perhaps it will happen in the future, but right now, I doubt it.
Instructing a computer to create something with human-like feelings is challenging because it lacks that understanding. It’s unsettling, though, especially when you observe the advancements in artificial intelligence, like the emergence of deep fakes that bring famous people back to life on screen, appearing eerily real.

SJ: Which instrument made you fall in love with electronic music? Actually, you already answered earlier, but I would like you to go into more details, if you don’t mind.

Alterkix: As I mentioned earlier, I decided to purchase a Korg Monologue, and it turned out to be a great choice. When it comes to learning about synthesis, it’s crucial to grasp the various sound waves, such as square and sine waves.
The Monologue has a small screen with an oscilloscope that displays the sound wave when you press a note. This feature proved helpful because it allowed me to visually recognize the different waves. For instance, a bass sound looks a certain way on the oscilloscope, and this visual aid significantly contributed to my understanding.
This kind of information also helped me in comprehending the manual better. Seeing a square wave in action made it click for me – oh yes, it really looks like a square.
It’s a good thing that you don’t need to buy expensive synths to make good music. There are affordable brands that offer excellent, user-friendly synthesizers.
Brands like Korg and Behringer are known for producing high-quality replicas of more expensive synthesizers.
Personally, I found the Korg Volcas to be quite helpful. Despite their small size, they offer a wide range of capabilities, allowing me to explore sequencing and create interesting string notes.
My journey took a significant turn when I invested in a Moog, specifically the semi-modular synthesizer Mother 32. It opened up a whole new world for me due to its unparalleled depth and complexity of sound.
The experience was truly mind-blowing, as I had never encountered such rich tones before. This inspired me to explore Eurorack. Transitioning from semi-modular to modular synths has been quite a journey, and now I find myself exploring various avenues.
I’m someone who enjoys learning and studying. Playing with Eurorack is a unique experience compared to simply using preset sounds on a synth. In Eurorack, you have to manually make all the connections, wiring everything up to make it work or not work – it’s a process I find both challenging and rewarding.
It’s like a mix of trial and error, and that brings me so much joy. it’s all about experimenting and surprising myself.
When I’m playing with my Eurorack system, I never really know what the outcome will be. I don’t have all the knowledge to fully grasp what’s happening, so I just let myself be surprised.
When I move a cable from one hole to another, I get unexpected results. I do understand a bit, but there are folks out there who are more experienced and skilled at it.

SJ: So, If my understanding is correct, you’re not using it yet For Alterkix, are you?

Alterkix: Correct, because at the moment I have the feeling that my Eurorack controls me and not the opposite.

SJ: Do you play live?

Alterkix: No, I only play bass live because I don’t have a controller that allows me to put all the parts together and play live. I find it too challenging and stressful, so I prefer to stick to my own thing in my little corner.
I may do it when I have the time, but it’s not a full-time commitment for me.

SJ: Which software are you using to make your videos?

Alterkix: For my first six videos, I did all the filming myself. I captured footage wherever I went: on trains, buses, and even while strolling through the forest. I took charge of the recordings and then used Movavi, a video editing program, to piece them together into a complete video.
However, I eventually ran out of ideas on where to shoot next and that’s when I decided to explore a subscription to a video platform called VideoBold.
Here, you can choose a template for your video. Of course, there’s room for some customization, like tweaking colors or changing the title. I also add my artist name instead of VideoBold, but the editing options are somewhat limited.
I do as much as I can within VideoBold, and then I transfer the project to Movavi or other video editing programs on my phone. I try to spice things up a bit, but unfortunately, I lack the skills to create a video entirely from scratch – it’s not my background.

SJ: But you said you you like the learning process. So, does that apply also to video making? I mean, could we expect to see even more sophisticated videos because of your curiosity and your willingness to always learn something new, or is it better for you to stick to music?

Alterkix: If there were 48 hours in a day, I might consider venturing into video production. However, given that we only have 24 hours, it doesn’t seem feasible.
Video making appears quite intricate, and achieving proficiency in it would require a substantial time investment. Therefore, I do what I can within my current limitations.

(Now I invite you to watch the following video, starting at 25:59, where we can see in details all the gears that populate Alterkix studio).

We say thanks to Alterkix for the interesting conversation and her suggestion on how to win on Spotify.

Don’t forget to visit her official website

You are also welcome to check the other interviews for The Electronic Corner 

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