Damien Duque is the artist and mastermind behind the glorious City of Dawn. With the ability to construct healing and contemplative arrangements, Duque is a prolific ambient musician that keeps progressing in his art. His material is transcendental and mystically powerful, with a knack for leading the listener into healing places. Duque answers my questions about his latest full-length, his collaborations, equipment, the history of his project, and much more.
Hello Damien! Thanks for answering some questions for the blog. First, can you introduce yourself to our readers and let them know where you are from and how long you’ve been recording under the City of Dawn moniker?
My name is Damien Duque (The soul behind City Of Dawn) from McAllen, TX which is way deep in South Texas and I’ve been recording for about 5 and a half years.
What drew you to making ambient music as opposed to other genres? What is it about ambient music that you find really expresses who you are as a musician?
I’ve been drawn to ambient music when a friend of mine introduced me to this project called “Hammock” and after I first heard of them. I remember I felt this emotional uplifting vibe coming out of this music and how it really reflects this scenery in my mind which It helped me pull through. After I discovered Hammock, I began to discover more ambient artists like them which I caught up with Lowercase Noises and many other Ambient Artists. That particular type of music really brings a stillness into your mind, and it gives this full listening experience which basically gives you the time alone with yourself and around you. Bringing Sound movement in depth. Before I discovered Hammock or even the genre Ambient. I’ve been doing roughly demo recordings with my guitar and my iPad recording kit off the garage band app and continued to record clean rhythms, leads and other interesting stuff, trying to capture a slow melancholy uplifting mood. Then going back to Hammock / lowercase noises subject is where I decided I wanted to create this particular type of music, and this particular sound I’ve been looking for. So I observed an amount of tutorials of Andy (Lowercase noises) on how to create Ambient sounds through guitar pedals, the techniques and the recordings. Really learned a lot from him and the video tutorials. Even though I wanted to create something interesting, different and unqiue, and create art but at the same time I know it fits within my personal emotions, feelings and thoughts so I can able to express in this fashion. As I began recording ambient music, I go into a deep state and reach in whatever I need to express, It can be from my battles with Depression, Anxiety, Loss, Hiraeth or more. Also Inspirations from anywhere with friends, family, places, viewing the clouds, and reading. I got to take that space where I record a few chords then loop it, meditate on it and let it speak for me. It can be uplifting, Melancholy, tragic or anything that I truly felt in those deep states. It really saved my life and I find this as a way to express myself rather than keeping it silent. Plus it tells a story about my Autism (High Functioning Autism) through sounds. Life is truly a mysterious ride.
You’ve been releasing a number of collaborations and splits. Can you tell me how those came about and what if there are more coming?
Indeed there is plenty of Collaboration and split album releases. I love to collaborate with artists. It’s quite interesting and yet you learn the different ideas of each other’s artistic vision, plus getting to know them. The more you collaborate with others, the more learning experiences you or other artists can able to expand the ideas, improvement, and inspiration within the art. Also expand their listener base and provide the exposure for each individual artist. There is more collaboration and split albums coming very soon. Soon, I will be releasing a split album with my amazing friend from Dallas with his project called “ATOP”
How do you go about composing a track? Please talk about your process.
Mostly I record some tracks during the late evening and sometimes around early afternoon, it varies though. Before recording I usually get into a deep state and find this particular emotion or inspiration. I record chords and loop them, once I meditate on the sounds and let them speak to me, I begin to construct a few swells, chords, leads, and mellow tremolo. Making interesting touches within the song based on that particular feeling or inspiration, I will sometimes will record some synth stuff through ipad garageband app if it needs some textures. Once I record the chords in a loop and add some touches within the song on my recording software, I began to mix them and find the right balance sound for it. Adding some Vst plugins, phaser, or filters, whatever it needs to match the exact sound that I want.
Your last full-length was Hymn of a Voyage Wander back in August, correct? Can you talk a bit about that album and how it came about?
Yes indeed. Hymns of a Voyage Wander is a personally written album that I wrote and produced within a week of May 2018. Something I just needed to express and let go of stuff during my moments where I want to disappear and be left alone, wander, processing and such when dealing with the outside where it’s filled with loud noises. It’s a hymn of processing, embracing the solitude, and being still, which the front cover it conveys. Sounds combined with textured, emotional, vibrant synthesis to evoke the depth of experience, not just on the artist like me but for anyone who listens to this record. Make it a emotional healing I would say, but make it on your own interpretation. It’s weird to say that after I completed the release the same week of May, before I announced the release. My Great-Grandmother passed away and mostly the song titles from that album represent loss. So basically I recorded an album dedicated to my great-grandmother before she left. Interesting fact is that on the song “Capturing the pattern of your silence” when I was recording that piece, the recorder picked up a blender in which one of my family members was making food for my great-grandmother. Until this day whenever I hear this song, it really brings loss for me.
I really love your split with Theatre Romance. Can you talk a bit in depth about the tracks “The Gravity Pulls Us in Different Directions” and “Dance with Me before the Night Falls”?
The Gravity Pulls Us in Different Directions is about the changes in life. I read a poem that reflects that including the “Dance With Me before the Night Falls”. In life everything changes, it’s very mysterious and somewhat beautiful at the same time that when you see this person that you recently met or had connection with them or even hug a family member then the next second they are no longer here. It’s by generations and generations and it’s going by very fast, with family members aging. It gives me somewhat anxiety that everything around is changing that you want to fully enjoy the small things and moments before they are gone. Sure, we make mistakes, stuck in overwhelming situations. Which in the end either you get to accept the your mistakes or you can deny them. It’s a matter of embracing the change for the good or for the bad. Life is a never-ending story. It will continue until our hearts slowly stop humming. Of course “Dance with Me before the Night Falls” is a similar continuation for “The Gravity Pulls Us in Different Directions”. Mostly they all have to do with the mystery of life and the soundtrack within our life.
If you had one goal concerning your music, what would it be?
I would like to record with an orchestra. I’ve been planning to do a special full-length album with an orchestra involved, usually I program the orchestra through the iPad apps such as Thumbjam and wanted a real in person orchestra feel and sound of it, but we will see.
For the gearheads that read the blog, what sort of gear do you use? Do you use the same gear live and in the studio?
The gear I used in my home studio and Live performance are Boss ME-70, Strymon Big Sky, Strymon El Capistan, Electro-Harmonix POG 2 Polyphonic Octave Generator, and Line 6 DL4 including my iPad for additional synth sounds, field recordings and samples
So, what’s next for City of Dawn? Any upcoming releases or live dates?
There are more split albums and collaboration albums to be announced soonish. I am currently working on a collaborative album with a friend of mine who wrote a short story which I will contribute a soundtrack as readers follow the story and working on a new album which hoped to be release this year.
For live performances there will be a few shows that I’m going to put out during the summer time and in the fall going on a small tour with some friends of mine around the Texas area.
But please follow us on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and even we have a website already so we can post updates, news regarding live performances and album releases.
Thanks Damien for answering my questions.