The Mojave Desert, while beautiful, is also one of the most arid, unforgiving places in the United States. Home to Joshua trees, salt flats, ghost towns, and of course Death Valley, the Mojave is also the stomping grounds of Abner Rios, who has a special connection to the energy of these vast, wild spaces.
When Rios is back home in Long Beach, he produces electronic music as Mojave Airport, and hosts a weekly radio show, ‘Music of the Spheres’ on KLBP. Read on for our interview, and listen to his ‘Meditate’ mix below, featuring Meitei, Teebs, Alice Coltrane and more.
Name: Abner Rios.
Hometown: Los Angeles, CA.
Where do you live now? Long Beach, CA.
Home away from home: Leon, Nicaragua.
Last great thing you read: The website Synth History made this zine that has different interviews with artists and their gear and it was a great read, it featured some of my all time favorites.
How long have you been recording tracks under the name Mojave Airport? What was your musical background before this?
I’ve been seriously making tunes as Mojave Airport for a couple of years now. I grew up playing instruments in school but was always drawn to creating sound using technology and computers. It wasn’t until college that I was able to start experimenting with Ableton and beat making. Being a regular at Low End Theory out in LA definitely solidified my desire to start producing music.
Any sign of an album or EP on your horizon?
I am hoping to have an EP finished by the end of the summer. It’s definitely going to be a lot more dance influenced than my previous stuff.
Can you tell us about your radio show, ‘Music of the Spheres’?
I’ve always wanted to have a place where I can just share electronic music that I come across, mostly with the hopes of finding people with similar tastes. There are so many different types of music that inspire me: ambient, footwork, video game music, etc. I thought it would be cool for people to be able to tune in and hear that kind of stuff. It also helps push me to explore and hear new sounds that I might not have heard otherwise. I originally got the name from an old BBC TV series that Delia Derbyshire did music for but then I learned that the name comes from this old idea that connects celestial bodies with sound and harmonies, which I thought was fascinating. I thank KLBP for giving me the opportunity!
Your Instagram makes it clear how much you really love exploring nature and hiking. What are some of your favorite local (or nonlocal) spots?
I have always been a very anxious person, so I depend on things like music and the natural world to ground me and help me find some level of peace. I am especially drawn to the deserts out here in Southern California – they just have such a mysterious energy to them – it definitely attracts a certain type of person. I try to visit Joshua Tree as often as I can.
These explorations have led to some really great photography from you – can you tell us a little about the “integratron” photo you chose as the mix artwork?
This building was made by this guy, George Van Tassell, who was really into aliens and UFOs, and claimed that it used magnetic fields to re-energize the human cells or something like that. It’s just so strange that this thing exists in the first place. Of course it would be out in the middle of the desert.
Let’s talk about this mix! It’s called ‘Meditate’ – what mindset did you have towards this collection of tracks?
Right now there is just so much uncertainty looming over us, I find it’s becoming increasingly important to find space to allow yourself to take a break from those anxious thoughts.. It’s something that I have been trying really hard to work on but I still find it hard to shake off those worries. Although I definitely wanted moments of bliss and tranquility I also wanted to include moments where those feelings die down for a second and the anxieties sort of peek through.
Boards of Canada, it should pretty much go without saying, is a long time favorite of mine. Yet when I saw the track title “Spectrum” I couldn’t place it, and after looking it up realized it was from their A Few Old Tunes release. Any particular reason you picked this track?
I wanted to have at least one track with more of a beat and I’ve always liked how hip hop this one is. There are so many gems on their Old Tunes stuff, this one has always been one of my favorites.
The Ocean Moods track “shining lotus” has kind of a Boards of Canada vibe to it too…a beautiful, whimsical melody with nature samples alongside. In general, I think the mix does a great job with these kind of cohesive combinations.
Can you tell that I’m a Boards of Canada fan? :0)
I often think back on my experiences in the outdoors and even try to record what I hear on my phone so I can listen and bring myself back to those places and what I was feeling at the time. A lot of those sounds end up informing the tracks I create and I feel like they inform many of the tracks in this mix as well. Ocean Moods (David Blonski) recorded that track out in Joshua Tree in the 80s so there’s that connection as well.
Could you pick 2 tracks and say a little about them?
Laurie Spiegel has been on heavy rotation for me lately. Her album The Expanding Universe is very near to my heart; She uses a lot of pure sounding synth tones in her music and it sounds cosmic and warm (the connection between sound and celestial bodies was also an influence in naming of Music of the Spheres).
The last track, Delroy Edwards’ “I Love Sloane” is such a cute little track, I definitely wanted to end the mix with a certain level of optimism.
Emeralds – Candy Shoppe
Susumu Yokota – Long Long Silk Bridge
Pauline Anne Strom – The Unveiling
Beverly Glenn-Copeland – Winter Astral
Boards of Canada – Spectrum
Raymond Scott – Wheels that Go
Teebs – Prayers i
Meitei – Chouchin
Laurie Spiegel – Old Wave
Ocean Moods – Shining Lotus
Flying Saucer Attack – Make Me Dream
Faten Kanaan – Rêve-Rivière
Meemo Comma – Murmur
GAS – Pop 1
Upper Astral – Journey to the Edge of the Universe
Alice Coltrane – Turiya
Kara-Lis Coverdale – Touch Me & Die
Suzanne Cianni – Flowers of Evil
The Field – From Here We Go Sublime
Delroy Edwards – I Love Sloane