I recently caught up with Rico Loop on the banks of the Elbe River in Usit, Czech Republic. In a spacious flat with the windows open welcoming the early evening air inside, Rico found himself in a very familiar situation: experimenting, improvising and pushing himself into new musical and (at times) spiritual places. The calm early autumn air served in the stark contrast to the fervor and fury in which arguably one of the most well-known and well-respected loop artists in the world throws himself into his work and continues to shine as a luminary in the looping community.
“Looping for me started out as creating my own venue for self-expression. After traveling the world in the 90’s I came back to find I wasn’t a good enough singer to front a band, nor was I a good enough guitarist to be invited into one. Looping allowed me to make my own band and discover my own music.” Sitting on the balcony of a third floor flat, Rico’s eyes register a far off memory and reveals it to me in the amber light of a cigarette. “When I was little, piano was my first instrument. I never practiced though.” The look of surprise on my face gave away my disbelief. “Instead I played what I could with the experience I had and the experiences that made me who I am. This still fuels my music today. My initial loop set up was small, just a single looper. Then a few years later a looper came out with three loops on it.” Rico stands to stretch and smiles, “I thought, who is going to use this?”
Rico has been visible on the international looping stage for a number years. Touring, giving workshops, school performances and street shows have all kept the native Berliner busy and releavant. This level of success has failed to cloud his vision of what brought him into the looping community, nor diminished his efforts in promoting the looping artform. “Freedom attracts people. If it is an honest thing you are doing, then it is a good thing. Performing in parks and street performing taught me a lot about being truthful with my music.”
"The heart always listens....."
“Realness always touches you. I once performed at a park and saw a lady roll her eyes at me while I was performing. Maybe she didn’t like my music, maybe she didn’t care for how I did it. I caught this with my peripheral vision. She stood up, made her way through the crowd and started walking out of the park. I finished the song a few minutes later and through the crowd, above everybody’s head I saw the lady standing behind a tree. I felt my music had kept her there and changed her mind. I pointed at her and said, “The heart always listens. Then she smiled and left.”
With technology moving at a unbelievable speed Rico has and continues to do with relatively little gear what many artists require twice as much gear, gadgets and gizmos to achieve. “I don’t understand how we can have mobile phones that can do anything. We invent these machines, but we can’t invent more peace and fellowship between people.” Many of the artists mentioned in the same breath as Rico showcase technology as the force behind the creativity. Watching Rico perform, one could gather that technology is used to reign in his own energy and creative impulses. Truly a soundtrack to putting the cart before the horse.
“I’m not much of a (gear) nerd and I don’t like having lots of effects on my voice. It isn’t honest. It isn’t truthful. My voice acts as my voice, not as something else. If I need effects for a particular venue, say an Electro club then that is where the KAOSS Pad or Micro Korg come into play.” When asked about vocal effects as a whole, “There are companies making great things for vocal effects. Many of these products are for people that can sing.” He then pauses and the replies with a laugh, “And those that can’t sing!”
The inspiration behind Rico Loop’s music is very much his own impetus. In an age of manufactured stars, reality TV and insta-celebs, Rico remains dedicated to what made looping his prime muse. “Inspiration is the biggest thing. The loop machine is a great teacher, every now is a new now. It has brought me more answers that it has raised questions and the possibilities are endless.”
I asked Rico about how a machine remains fresh and new despite it’s nature to repeat. “You have to let go of control. You have to remain open to the grace of music….open to it’s muse.” Rico has stated in past interviews that his muse can be the wide open spaces of mother nature or even those in front of him. “ A performer at times, can be only as good as his audience, But you have to groove.”
"Being flawless onstage isn’t artistry."
Watching live performances of Rico, groove is never on short supply. Performances from Los Angeles, to Berlin, Ibiza, India and beyond show this. “Groove is a mystery. Determination, love and joy…all of those make “groove.”” With improvisation such an integral part of his shows, I reflect my curiosity on making a mistake onstage. Rico’s eyes light up, “Integrate the mistake. It can lead to a deeper level of music and bring out your best.” Many musicians will have a set way of constructing a show, Rico explains the richness of improvisation, “It is a huge luxury to go onstage and not know what you are going to do! “
Telling Rico Loop that he is at an international level is met with as much belief amazement as telling him that you will get wet when walking in the rain. Humility, but not with the expense of self-awareness reigns supreme. “There are incredible musicians in every genre. Jeff Buckely and Kurt Cobain are songwriters who inspired me early on but I soon realized being a virtuoso doesn’t necessarily make you fun to listen to. Being flawless onstage isn’t artistry. Artistry is the intentions and authenticity of your craft. Performing without reflection or self-control is artistry. Removing the blocks to your own genius is artistry.”
Experiences on and offstage, traveling and being an icon in the looping community have forged Rico Loop into a focused and motivated individual yet something happened that changed Rico’s life and facilitated a transition and ruminating period for his future: Fatherhood. When asked about how fatherhood has affected his career, Rico takes care in his words and pauses for clarity, not dramatic effect. “Oh man. It has made me more self-reflective and made me strive to be a more effective musician both on and offstage.” He then admits, “I am the least professional musician I know! I am working getting more videos, tutorials and records out in the coming year.
Rico is very aware of the effect of marketing or lack therof can have on your own career when your are truly a one man show. “Beardyman is an artist who inspires me. He does things I won’t be able to understand in this life. His music inspires me. He embraces the crazy and runs with it. He takes lots of chances in his music, that really interests me. I wish he didn’t make fun of his own music, to me it takes depth out of it. He is one looper that continues to make new ground for all of us.”
With a yawn and a stretch I understand that the Czech night is starting to wrap Rico in her embrace and our time together is soon coming to an end. Rico glances over at his rig set up in fellow loop artist Endru’s flat as if he missed a stray piece of inspiration that lounged idly by. He is putting up the last invites on social media for the show they are conducting the following night in Usti. I thank him for his time and he adds one last piece for me to consider. “Everybody is a musician….just not everybody knows how to play an instrument.” I consider this for a moment, and Rico has to move to other commitments before he calls it a night. Our time is over and I am left looking for clarity on this cryptic insight, hoping that answer is somewhere along the Elbe River in the Czech autumn air.
Rico Loop can be followed on his website
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September 15, 2015
Just Alliance's Blog
Thoughts, ideas and musical musings from this Silver State Loop Artist.