The Compressed Interview #13: Enrique Figueroa

This week, I talked to Enrique Figueroa Anaya. I met Enrique when I was studying my bachelor’s degree and he was a teacher at the campus’s radio station. Since then, I have learned a lot from him, and I really admire the work he has done and all the projects he has been involved in. He is part of several projects related to movies and history, he collaborates with different magazines, podcasts, and he is also a teacher.

This is what we talked about:

Threshold: Getting Started
J: How did you get started in audio? What was your first job and how did you get it?

E: I started working in radio almost 20 years ago because of my love for the cinema, specifically by Star Wars. I began to experiment with my voice recorded on a movie trailer as part of one of my many internet websites. That was my first experience with audio. It was more formal in 2006, when, I was studying my college degree and the radio caught my attention. I carried out a radio project where I had to develop everything, production, the radio image, etc. The producer at that time, Mario Viñas from Concepto Radial, the radio station of Tec de Monterrey Campus Ciudad de México, led me by the hand and he taught me everything… He showed me an editing program (Audition) and taught me to play with different elements in the computer but also inside the radio booth… there was a console, an effects machine, the microphones and the recording studio. There, I learned everything… from being a radio operator, to be the announcer, to write scripts, and everything else because I had to do all that for my own program. I had around 7 different radio shows… I didn’t speak in all of them, but I produced all of them, I generated the idea, edited them, and I really liked it. In Concepto Radial I learned everything I know right now.

Attack: Things to discuss
J:  When you are feeling creatively blocked, what do you do to get back in track?

E: Wow, that’s a good question. I need to be alone and calm. Right now, in the pandemic when all work is at home, sometimes it is difficult (no hard feelings) when the girlfriend is present because you want to go see her, say hello, and you get distracted a bit. To focus I need to be in complete silence. I don’t like closed spaces; I try to open the window and decide to start. It sounds a bit ambiguous, but it happened to me yesterday. I started writing a text and I didn’t like what I wrote, so I decided to read a little more about it and after that I found that peace that I needed. Later, I started writing and writing. So, for me it’s about being at peace and focused. Always in the projects I work on, when I make the estimate, I consider the time it takes me to focus because it is part of my process. I can’t start writing and working if I am not ready for that. I consider probably half an hour for that. That is why I like the mornings… I am fresh, I come from exercising very early, and at 7 am I am already working. From 7 to 10am I have my peak of creativity, or at night when everyone is asleep because I need a lot of silence. Also, you need to have a discipline. Although there is quarantine, there has not been a day in which I do not bathe or dress, I have not worked in pajamas or pants because otherwise it does not work for me. The routine helps me to activate, and the exercise has helped me with that.

Release: Talking about the good stuff
J: What’s the most memorable moment in your career so far?

E: To teach classes. What I like about audio and in particular about what I do is to create worlds, atmospheres, and spaces. I grew up in the 90s and fell in love with the radio because I really liked hearing the closeness of voices. That’s what I was looking for when I was doing the radio shows I told you about in the other question. I wanted to convey feelings, it has always been important… using music, words and how the words are said, in order to create those sound universes. It is as if someone were speaking into your ears. All of this connects with the answer I told you initially, I like to help students discover that. I like to guide them to create those universes. And I love that about sound, you can create a lot with very little. It depends a lot on your imagination, and your creativity. So, that’s what I like the most… to convey the knowledge that people has taught me and all that I have been learning and that I am constantly improving.

J:  Can you let us know a little about your creative process? Anything about the technical process?

E: From the creative process, I listen to many things, I try to nurture myself as I am in continuous learning. I try to listen a little of everything, I investigate about topics that I don’t know, I listen to podcasts in English because there is a greater development of podcasts in English-speaking countries, and there are podcasts about very specific themes. I like listening to interviews with people involved with sound. I am giving a course about Godzilla and I started researching about Akira Ifukube and all the anecdotes of how Godzilla’s sound was invented. That made me think about Ben Burtt (sound designers for movies like Star Wars and Indiana Jones) and how he created sounds of things that do not exist. I like to discover all those things. In short, for my creative process I study, listen, and read.

In the technical matter, I like to experiment with what I have at hand… a tape recorder, or a cell phone, depending on the situation. I like to record soundscapes of the city; I approach different people or situations because in my head I developed stories through sound. Later, editing ends up being fundamental as part of the technical process, assembling the pieces that you have. You have the whole puzzle, and you decide what to put together and what to adjust.

The Gain
J: What are the biggest life lessons learned in your personal and professional career?

E: I’m always learning so that means I have to always be humble about what I don’t know. I do research, read, listen, and also if I am in a project, I refer to the people I am working with. And not only with people related to my discipline, but it is also interesting to talk to people who do not have a direct relationship with my work or with sound, as they have other interesting perspectives that might enrich you. You realize that you had not considered that perspective and you use it in your creative process. You are always learning but also you have to be sure of what you know. Yes, it is being humble, but also knowing what you know. You know well and you need to shake off those fears that you have on a personal or professional level. You know things, you are going to execute them as you have been doing for a long time… So, those are the lessons: be sure of what you know, always be learning and a third one would be to accept your mistakes. It does not mean failure but moving on after learning.

If you want to know more about Enrique’s project you can visit his website, social networks, or listen to some of the projects he has work on such as the podcasts: ¡Luces, cámara, Ninxs!, CinemaNET, ¡Clack! Un podcast de Le Cinéma IFALCinema Tempo – Historia y Enrique Figueroa MX.

Hope you enjoy this great interview with Enrique, and we’ll read each other in a couple of weeks.

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