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Desensitized Interview

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Newagemusic.guide is proud to bring you an interview with the people behind Desensitized, Deborah Martin and Dean De Benedictis. Here they talk about their new album “Hemispherica Portalis (Portal of 1000 Years)” and how this one-of-a-kind album came to be. 

BT Fasmer: Tell us about how Desensitized was “born”. Have you two been working on this music project for a long time?

Deborah Martin: Dean and I have known each other for many years, and have had various opportunities to talk with each other from time to time – whether it was related to his own individual projects on Spotted Peccary, or just to talk in general. About 3 years ago we were on a phone call and I mentioned that it would be wonderful to have a chance to work together on a project should the opportunity arise, and Dean was very enthused about that possibility. One thing led to another, and in December a couple of years ago we actually began the journey to work together, and Hemispherica Portalis was born.

Photo: Christopher Lemmon

Dean De Benedictis: I can hardly expound on Deborah’s answer there because she already explained it perfectly. Maybe I can add that once we agreed to the collaboration, from then on it was just a matter of scheduling in times when I could visit her to record. We are both so busy, and juggling so many different projects, that this seemly simple process of recording visits actually went on for another few years. %99 of what I performed was only on the first visit, but I still went back a couple more times to oversee and reaffirm certain minor aspects of the production that Deborah was engaged in.

Photo: Claire Raymond Photography

BT: When I listen to the album, I get a feeling that you too “opened a portal” and found the music of Desensitized there; That it was, in a sense, a journey for you too? Is that an accurate description?

Deborah: You are very astute – this was not an ordinary journey, it was more of a blending, fusing of our creative forces; it really did feel like diving into a portal of unknown territory but it became an exciting path of discovery to see where we would end up. The resulting tracks were indeed a very welcoming surprise and I felt like we had just reached the summit of a high mountain in an undiscovered land – alien, yet so familiar.

Dean De Benedictis: I think I can only really speak for myself on that particular question. The melding of both of our virtually apposing styles and approaches was indeed like opening a portal to new territory for us. That much I can vouch for, and it was an extremely interesting discovery at that. But as far as it being a journey, I can’t really use that term to describe my own experience of this particular creation, because the post-production for this first Desensitized album was not done by me. It’s a common misconception that post-production for albums and movies/films is just a fine-tuning process. This could not be further from the truth, as post-production is actually the process of composing, both for music and for film, even if not evenly. Almost a century ago this became the new normal, for both art forms and industries: editing became the new composing. There are many exceptions to this, based on certain genres and live performances, but aside from those exceptions, editing and mixing are mostly how we create content now. Post-production is how we create art. That said, I would probably describe Deborah’s own personal experience of Hemispherica Portalis as a journey, yes, because she took the reigns on producing it. I was unavailable to do so myself at the time. I will be more available for production presence on our next album, but for this one, it was all Deborah. I simply contributed my musical parts and sonic textures. So I do think this process must have been an odyssey-of-sorts for Deborah, yes, after all of that production time invested. For me, it was a discovery, sure, but not as much a journey. Believe me, I’ve produced enough in my life to know the difference, very well.

BT: Based on your prior work, I would guess that Deborah did the melodies and Dean the textures. How did you share the workload?

Deborah: We both contributed using our individual techniques and crafting styles – that’s what made this project so interesting. I do compose melodic structures a lot, but I also enjoy infusing textural nuances and acoustic sounds into whatever presents. We were both in the studio together, it became this magical dance of Dean starting a sound sculpture for me to hear, and I would right away begin playing on one of the synths, choosing a sound that felt like it belonged there. Then I would start playing something and Dean would add one of his textures to that, and so we kept at that process for a couple of weeks. It was an ebb and flow, taking turns back and forth, and when we were finished at the end of the two weeks, listened to everything we had done. It was really astonishing when we combined together what we each had separately recorded in the same room at the same time. For me it was like discovering a new planet, another world, and that I was the first to experience that place.

Dean: This is the part where Deborah always gets very modest, and I love her for that. It’s very big of her to try and include me in the production credit for this album. She’s an extremely giving person, which is another reason why I didn’t hesitate to work with her. I have a thing about receiving proper credit where credit is due. I think this is a very underrated and underemphasized aspect of the music business now, unfortunately, and I hope to contribute to it shifting back at some point. In the film and TV industry, it’s always been expected that absolutely everyone contributing production to a work, receive credit for it, exact and precise credit at that. This is why you see so many credits at the end of a film. No one ever looks at those credits and says to themselves “These credits are really unnecessary.” Well, for some reason, we don’t take music quite as seriously as that, at least not anymore, and to its detriment I believe. There is a lot of unnecessary neglect that happens as a result of this lack of credit, and it affects artists in negative ways that they can’t even detect. I really hope this changes, and I will continue doing everything I can to help that change along. By my recollection, Deborah did absolutely all of the production, and %95 of the composing, for Hemispherica Portalis. I simply showed up once and performed some ambient parts, both while jamming with her and by tracking separately. That all took place during my first two-week visit with her, and not a moment more. Deborah was the one who got stuck with all of the composing and editing work, for the entire album, and I’m grateful to her for this, and I’m extremely intent on making sure she gets the credit for it. Yes, you could almost call it a Deborah Martin album, if it weren’t for the fact that my musical parts and sonic contributions significantly effected how she chose to produce it. That is the only aspect of this particular album that still makes it a collaboration. So I don’t feel at all challenged or diminished by giving Deborah the majority of the credit, because these are the many varied forms that make an overall collaborative project possible; there are endless twists and turns and responsibility shifts over the course of a collaborative life. I plan on playing a far more proactive role in producing (mixing and editing) our next Desensitized album, so yes I can afford to be honest about Hemispherica Portalis and give the credit where credit is due.

BT: What came first, the melodic elements or the textures?

Deborah: I’d like to think it was an explosion of both at once. We were both playing parts, recording them separately, and it was a very intuitive experience, like we could each sense exactly where the sounds or melodies were going and where they would end up. The process felt seamless to me.

Dean: I suppose Deb and I remember this process a little differently as well, which is okay, because our differing personalities are a big part of what makes Desensitized so interesting. I do agree that it was an explosion of both melodic elements and textures, yes, but we each remember the actual process differently. From what I recall, the majority of our instrument parts were originally recorded as a jam session. I arrived, we both sat down in her studio, I plugged in my laptop, she found a few synth sounds she liked, and then we improvised some ambient music. We improvised a piece of music per day on average. After that, I left, and Deborah began her lengthy process of mixing and editing. Believe me, and I really mean this, what Deborah ended up doing with that music is far different than how it started. Her end result differed wildly. “Hemispherica Portalis” is actually a totally different album from those first jam sessions we had. During that first visit, there were a couple of brief exceptions to us just jamming and improvising. One of those exceptions was tracking my concert flute parts alone, and the other exception was tracking Deborah’s percussion parts alone, which didn’t even make it to this album (they are for the following album). So yes, in my memory, very little of this album was collaboratively premeditated. It was a cool-and-interesting jam session, and then Deborah worked her magic on it for another few years to come.

BT: As a Sci-fi/Fantasy fan, I find your music both fascinating and groundbreaking. Did you intend for it to have a Sci-fi/Fantasy atmosphere – or is that just a bi-product of your style?

Deborah: I’m not sure that it was intentional, but the song titles and imaginative elements that they invoked seemed to lead to that arena. There are many realms, both internal and external. Whatever the mind can imagine; other worlds, other dimensions, planets, universes, nebulas, stars, things inside the center of the earth.

Since childhood, I have always thought that whatever the mind can imagine could become a reality. The discovery of undiscovered places, in itself, leads to alien thoughts – that which is unfamiliar – which lends to the theme of the realm of Sci-fi/Fantasy – both of which are in my thought processes along with many other dimensions.

Dean: Regarding a possible sci-fi aesthetic or vision inherent to Hemispherica Portalis: I fully agree with Deborah’s answer on that. It’s spot on. Perhaps I would have worded it differently, but not by much, so there’s no need. The overall understanding is there.

BT: Will there be more Desensitized albums? And will they be “portal-based”? As one of your fans, I hope for a big YES to both these questions!! What do you think?

Deborah & Dean: YES!

For more information and music samples, visit spottedpeccary.com

Also, check out the homepages of Deborah Martin and Dean De Benedictis

Photo: Claire Raymond Photography / Christopher Lemmon