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Machine Woman investigates… with Rose Bonica

Producer, DJ and label boss Machine Woman catches up with Rose Bonica about life, studio setups and breakfast.

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A couple of years back an email landed in my inbox, polite and easy to digest with a link to a private SoundCloud playlist. I like these kinds of emails, while I am working I just press play and listen. Unfortunately for me, no work would be completed for the next 30 minutes while my attention was brutally snapped by the music I was hearing in my headphones.

I emailed Rose back and said who are you? Tell me more… This was the foundation of a beautiful friendship that is still developing in these Covid-influenced times.

Fast forward to March 2021 and Rose Bonica has been busy. Her release Tears for the Tea Maker through her own imprint Roses Are Red featured in Bandcamp’s Best Electronic Music: November 2020 list. Marcus Barnes, the Guardian’s new music critic, ranked Tears For The Tea Maker as one of the best albums of 2020. Mixes by Rose have been in demand and stations such as Rinse France, Radioraheem.Milano, The Other Radio Cape Town and Foundation.FM to name but a few have been sliding into her DMs.

From her SoundCloud bio, “Rose’s private production process happens in her studio overlooking the ocean in the small coastal town of Hout Bay in South Africa”. I thought to give her a call and ask about her studio, production practice and what she had for breakfast.

Machine Woman: Hello Rose where are you in the world and what did you have for breakfast this morning????

Rose Bonica: Hi! I’m in Cape Town at my home in a little fishing village called Hout Bay. This morning, much like every morning, I had yoghurty overnight oats made by my boyfriend Aza.

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On your SoundCloud bio there are mentions of self-taught production. Let’s dive into this in greater detail, how did it start, where do you search for the technical knowledge?

Music started off as a form of escapism from a boring job and shitty relationship. I didn’t think I would take it this far, to be honest. I mean, I’ve always been creative and music became my latest obsession that I never shook off.

Throughout my life I’ve found ‘doing’ is the best way to learn new things, which is what I did with music. I started by building a set in Ableton with music from my iTunes library (it was mostly an embarrassing collection of old pop, Drake and with sprinkles of Omar-S here and there). That helped me get a better grasp of music and how to use Ableton’s interface. From there, I would just search YouTube for how-tos and watch how friends made their music.

Walk me through your studio setup…

I’m lucky enough to have a home studio overlooking the ocean, which is pure bliss!  The studio setup is pretty simple, it’s just a room with a desk, cubicle partitions as my sound treatment panels and a basket full of tangled cables that have nowhere to go.

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My MicroKorg XL can always be found on my desk, next to my laptop and Yamaha HS5s. I’ve also got this really rad Korg MS-20, I got it when I was a teenager. The latest addition to the studio is probably my favourite and that’s a Boss VE-20 Vocal Performer effects pedal.

Dream piece of hardware/software?

I just want a drum machine. I have no idea which one, but I just know I want one.

One of my personal favourite points of music production is working on vocal samples. Listening to Tears for the Tea Maker, the vocals definitely make the release (in my humble, biased opinion). What is your process for the vocal from the recording to the final production placement.

Aaah thank you. Whenever I record vocals I light a cigarette to distract myself (lol) and then just start singing random things into the mic till I have something I can work with. I switch between using an Audio-Technica condenser mic and the vocoder on my MicroKorg XL (it’s super easy to use and the harmonies it can create are really great). I keep my effects to a bare minimum, except for reverb! I love the reverb on my return tracks, on my duplicated tracks, on everything. Lol.

Because I’m often just hitting record, the arrangement of the vocals sometimes feels a bit off, but I kinda like it that way.

How do you feel about collaborations? I find it can be a labour-heavy process on many levels. I am curious to hear your experience especially as the track from your sunny chill house project Ours – ‘A Time Without You’ is a staple on my daily playlist again your vocal game just sweeps me off my feet…

I enjoy collaborating with people although if I’m honest, I am still learning how. It can feel overwhelming sometimes. Music-making is a super private and intimate thing for me but when you find people who you just click with and who also understand that it makes for a beautiful moment.

Ours has been the easiest collaboration for me. Maybe it’s because I’m in love with the guy I’m making music with. That collaboration also gave me more confidence to use my voice in my own music.

As a producer, label A&R, DJ and music performer how do you see the music industry changes post covid?

Someone asked me this the other night and to be honest, I don’t know how to answer it. I feel like at the moment I am stuck in a lockdown bubble and am struggling to see out of it.

What is your goal for the near future?

I’d like to finish up an EP I’ve been working on and also keep creating with friends. I’m also busy with a lot of 3D animation stuff which has been amazing and something I want to keep doing in the future.

Thank you and I love you!!!!!!

LOVE YOU MACHINE WOMAN! Thank youuu <3