Interviews: Toto Miranda of The Octopus Project

The Octopus Project
Jeff Pearson, October 2, 2010
Originally published by Life’s Sweet Breath

Toto Miranda of The Octopus Project was gracious enough to take some time off while on the road to answer some questions in anticipation of Halloween’s MoogFest. They are currently on the road getting crowds warmed up to material from their forthcoming album, Hexadecagon. Here we find out what he enjoys most about getting to bring music to the world, along with what to expect from the album and the band’s big MoogFest set.

Tactile Tracks: Your new album, Hexadecagon, is right around the corner. What can the readers expect from it?

Toto Miranda: I’d say that one could expect an emotional journey through a mystical kingdom of crystal towers and rainbow magma.

“Working with sounds we could literally put into motion was pretty inspiring, so once we figured out how to make that work technically the songs came relatively quickly.”

Tactile Tracks: What was the writing process like for the new album? Your music has always had a very concise vision through means of exploration and pushing boundaries. Do the songs come about as freely as they sound?

TM: This album began as a concept for a different kind of show for us – we put together an eight-channel surround sound system and wrote the songs to take advantage of this setup. So we wrote with a lot of layers that we could manipulate spatially around the circle of eight speakers, but each song also has a more focused core within the piles of orchestration. Working with sounds we could literally put into motion was pretty inspiring, so once we figured out how to make that work technically the songs came relatively quickly.

Tactile Tracks: What is your favorite sound that you’ve ever incorporated into your music? Is there a sound or specific piece of equipment with which you could never live without?

TM: My favorite sounds tend to be the accidental/improvised fucked-up noises that come from experimenting with equipment…the noise crescendo on ‘Catalog’ was pretty fun to work on – kind of a festival of accidental/improvised fucked-up noises. I don’t think we’re too attached to any particular piece of gear as we like to use new sounds all the time, but that said I’ve been pretty excited about the Yamaha CS10 we bought to use on this record!

“Of course creative activity is hugely important to keeping a city alive and interesting – we’re lucky in Austin that such a strong base exists for music as it allows for a pretty amazing depth and diversity among musicians.”

Tactile Tracks: At almost eleven years together, you’re among the veterans on the MoogFest bill. Do you find inspiration in new music to build upon the sound that you’ve created and claimed as your own?

TM: Our slot at the festival has us playing right before Devo(!), who I think have been together a little longer than us, so longevity is relative…but yeah, new music is very inspiring! Have just recently gotten into Emeralds, for example – really looking forward to seeing them play in Asheville.

Tactile Tracks: Speaking on the longevity of your careers, has one particular part of your job emerged as a clear favorite? Do you prefer the writing process, touring, or recording?

TM: While there are a lot of tedious aspect to touring, I think traveling, meeting people and seeing friends in different places is the most rewarding part of working as a band…all the hours in the car provide a lot of time to write music, too, so that’s two jobs at once. Whee!

Tactile Tracks: Is there a specific career-defining moment for you, as an artist?

TM: We’ve had a few moments that feel especially significant: getting to play Coachella, being invited to play All Tomorrow’s Parties in England, and the debut of the Hexadecagon show at this year’s SXSW are on the short list. In general I’m amazed and grateful that we get to do any of the things we get to do…it’s all fun stuff! Except for loading gear. That is not fun.

Tactile Tracks: Shifting gears, you will be kicking off the Festival for many MoogFest attendees. Do you have anything special planned to set the mood for the weekend?

TM: We are planning on melting some faces – hopefully having a melted face won’t interfere too much with the rest of anyone’s experience.

Tactile Tracks: Coming out of Austin, a strong local music scene is no new thing. To you, what role does the music scene play in shaping a city’s culture?

TM: Of course creative activity is hugely important to keeping a city alive and interesting – we’re lucky in Austin that such a strong base exists for music as it allows for a pretty amazing depth and diversity among musicians.

Tactile Tracks: What are your thoughts on an event like MoogFest and its effect on Asheville’s music scene?

TM: This will be our first time playing in Asheville, though a few years ago we did have the opportunity to visit the Moog factory (when they were still Big Briar) and were introduced to Bob himself! Definitely a highlight for us as a band! Excited to see everything that’s changed with Asheville and Moog since then.

Tactile Tracks: Who are you most excited about potentially seeing at this year’s MoogFest?

TM: Definitely the aforementioned Devo and Emeralds – also Caribou, Four Tet, Big Boi, Dan Deacon…really the whole lineup looks pretty stellar, very very excited to be a part of it!

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