Masks is the production duo of Max Ravitz (Patricia) and Alexis Georgopolous (Arp). Holding longtime affiliations with some of our favourite labels like Opal Tapes, Spectral Sound, L.I.E.S., Smalltown Supersound and RVNG, both artists are notable venturers of experimental club music, with each of their dance formulas often finding haven in the dreamiest zones of electronica.
Their collaboration project was first unearthed earlier this year with quality four-tracker Food Plus Drug (II), and EP2 sees the pair continue to best connect through their fascination with gloopy sonics and raw house grooves.
Out now via San Francisco label Spring Theory, we requested a meet with both Max and Alexis to find out more on how they came together and what exactly inspired the Masks project. Listen to the record in full and check out our chat below.
So where do we currently find Patricia, and Arp respectively at this moment in time? What have you guys been up to individually?
P: I’ve just been laying low, not playing too many shows, spending as much time in the studio as I can. My wife Josephine and I have started working together learning about video synthesis and older analog imaging techniques, which has been a fun diversion from music for me. We’ve even recently gotten to travel together to do a few Patricia A/V performances, and are hoping to do that more moving forward. Aside from that, I’m finishing up a Patricia LP, and just completed an EP and LP for my project with Tin Man called Ociya.
A: Yeah, we’ve both been quite busy with our own things. A lot went in to my last Arp album ZEBRA, which came out last summer. After a few years off from playing live, I decided to put together a 5-piece ensemble to play the material live. The reception to those shows has been really nice and Mexican Summer asked if we’d be interested in documenting the group with a “live” album — which struck me as so anachronistic that I thought “Why not?”. We’re in the finishing stages with that now. Beyond that, deep into the next Arp studio album at the moment, which I hope will be ready Spring 2020. Other than that, doing the occasional NTS show and DJ’in some parties, traveling a bit.
How did Masks initially come about? Was there a certain message you wanted to convey?
P: Alexis and I actually met years ago working at the same restaurant in NYC. We both shared a love of electronic music, although Alexis had much better taste than me, haha. Back then, even though I had a fair amount of technical acumen when it came to production, I was listening to a lot of garbage. Alexis exposed me to so much amazing music, and is the main person responsible for setting me on the sonic path I’m on now. We used to talk a lot about music at work, which led to us collaborating, but I wouldn’t say there was any specific message to our work. We mainly just wanted something with a nice groove 🙂
A: Yeah, I imagine we started talking about music, which led to talking about analog synths and drum machines. We got along well and I think we may have been intrigued by our differences. We were just curious what might happen if we worked together. It was clear from my end that I could learn a great deal about using synths from Max.
It’s been 5 years since your first EP together, and the last time you released together as Masks as well. I think its fair to say, over that time, your individual sounds have changed. How did you both find it returning to Masks? Did it feel easy to pick up where you left off?
P: Well these tracks were mostly made a few years ago. As both of our schedules and lives have gotten more complex, we don’t get quite as many opportunities to get together. Hopefully we’ll be doing more collaborating soon, but in the meantime, we liked these tracks, and thought they’d be nice to release.
How come it’s taken some time between your two releases?
P: There was a point when both of our solo careers got busier, and it made finding time to get together in the studio a bit harder. There’s always an ebb and flow to these things.
A: Yeah, there’s never been an agenda with the project. It’s really been organic in that regard.
EP2 is a hardware workout, recorded live. Did you face any challenges with this approach?
A: Yeah, this is the same approach we took for the Opal Tapes 12 and the Beats In Space track as well. In truth, I’m much more of a tinkerer — you know, “I wonder what would happen if I turned this oscillator” (laughs). Whereas Max understands synthesis on a deep, lucid level. So as we would jam on ideas, he would naturally sync the machines. So once we had an idea of a track, the arrangement would come through doing a few passes. His feeling was always, once we’ve composed the general tune, let’s do 2, 3 takes maximum and we’ll have it.
P: Yeah, I tend to work that way with all of my music, and on top of that, we recorded in my studio, so I was definitely pretty comfortable. Alexis was the one having to be more adaptable, especially since I change my studio around constantly, so he was having to relearn how the equipment was set up almost every time we got together, haha. I think we usually have a nice synergy in the studio once we warm up.
A: I often remember saying “Oh let’s do one more take, I think I’d like to do this to the arrangement or that” but Max would say “Nah, we got it, we’re good.” (laughs)
What hardware was used in these recordings?
P: We used a bunch of different stuff, but the main players were: Roland 808, 707, 303, Juno 106, Yamaha TX81Z, Ibanez Ad202, and a Lexicon PCM60.
Really digging the artwork. Could you tell us a bit more about the artist; Sanou Oumar, and why you got him on board for this release?
A: My friend Matt (Connors, NYC-painter whose painting is the cover art for the first Masks 12”, “Food Plus Drug (II)” on Opal Tapes) introduced me to Sanou’s work — Matt’s publishing imprint, Pre-Echo, just put out a great book of his work. Sanou is from Burkina Faso and moved to New York a few years ago. He makes these really incredible, intricate mandala-like drawings that draw on all kinds of influences. Matt just showed me his work and Max and I just felt like it was a great fit.
What’s in the pipeline for Masks, and both of you individually?
P: Hopefully we have some more new Masks stuff coming before long. Aside from that, as I mentioned earlier, I have a Patricia LP I’ve been working on for Ghostly/Spectral Sound, and an EP+LP with Tin Man for our project Ociya, coming out on Acid Test. I also hope to be doing more and more A/V work with my wife moving forward.
Masks – EP2 is out now on Spring Theory.
Buy the record here.