Suzanne Ciani: "Work intuitively and enjoy the process"

suzanne ciani
(Image credit: Xavi Torrent/Wireimage)

Dubbed by The Guardian as "America's first female synth hero", Suzanne Ciani is a pioneering artist and composer known for producing experimental new age soundscapes that boldly explore the possibilities of synthesis.

Starting her career in the '70s working with Don Buchla, she faced a myriad of obstacles in becoming recognised as a female artist working in electronic music. However, her talents ultimately prevailed, and she's since released over 20 albums and earned five Grammy nominations, inspiring generations of musicians throughout the decades that passed.

Her latest project, Milan, is a collaboration with noted pedal steel maestro Greg Leisz and Detroit-based techno producer Alister Fawnwoda. In true new age fashion, Milan is something of a sonic daydream, hazily drifting through five tracks of ethereal sound and otherworldly ambience.

Suzanne joined us to answer a few quick questions on the new record and give us an insight into the studio equipment and software that shape her sound.

1. Tell us how you got into music production in the first place?

“I got into music production to make a living. There were two avenues for my productions, one was for advertising and film, and one was for my artistic albums.”

2. When did you start to feel you were getting somewhere?

“When I got paid.”

3. What is your overall music and production philosophy?

“Work intuitively and enjoy the process.”

4. Tell us about your ‘computer music’ production history?

“I started with computer music in 1969. However, I didn’t record into a DAW until the technology became available in the late 80’s and have worked in that medium ever since.”


5. Tell us about the rest of the gear in your recording studio.

“I have a Universal Audio Apollo with a full set of plug-ins, Waves plug-ins, Eventide plug-ins. For hardware I have the Buchla 200e, Moog One, Prophet 6, Moog Harmonicon, and an Arturia Keystep Pro. I also have a Yamaha MIDI Piano, a Bode Vocoder, a Focusrite Preamp, a U87, and a pair of Schoeps mics. I try to keep it simple.”

6. What are your favorite plugins?

iZotope, Universal Audio DreamVerb and Eventide Generate.”

7. How do you tend to start a track?

“Choosing an instrument to start with and start exploring.”

8. How do you know when a track’s done?

“When it feels right.”

9. Do you have any production tricks?

“Using the Buchla for spatial control.”

10. How does your collaborative process work as a group?

“Usually remotely sending files back and forth and occasionally Zoom calls.”

11. Who were your primary influences for this latest release, musical or non-musical?

“For this release, my primary influence was the guitar tracks by Greg Leisz.”

12. What studio tech would you like to see being developed?

“Better spatial sound control.”

13. Any advice for those looking to start making their own music?

“Keep it simple and have fun.”

14. What have you picked up from being in the industry that you can pass on?

“Keep your publishing.”

15. What other projects have you got coming up?

“I’m going on tour in October.”

Suzanne Ciani, Alister Fawnwoda & Greg Leisz's Milan is out now on AKP Recordings.

Matt Mullen
Tech Features Editor

I'm the Tech Features Editor for MusicRadar, working on everything from artist interviews to tech tutorials. I've been writing about (and making) electronic music for over a decade, and when I'm not behind my laptop keyboard, you'll find me behind a MIDI keyboard, carefully crafting the beginnings of another project that I'll ultimately abandon to the creative graveyard that is my overstuffed hard drive.

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