Bruno Tonao is a finger drummer who combines his craft with the DIY tech scene. In this interview, he shares his unique approach to creating music, and how he incorporates his inventions and technology into his setup.
I’m a finger drummer so for me, a musical performance needs to also be visual. That's why for now when I'm not practicing finger drumming, I spend most of my time trying to create objects to interact with what I play.
I started to get into this “do it yourself” tech universe because of my job. I was born in Brazil and I used to work traveling with foreign musicians playing in São Paulo. But when I moved to France, I got a job in a venue specializing in digital art and electronic music, so I had no choice but to learn things like coding, 3D printing, and video mapping. Now, we host all different kinds of projects and my primary mission is to help these artists make their unusual ideas come alive. It could be a spider web harp, a disco ball drone, or a wall-mounted singing fish.
My studio setup is a mix of fab lab and a cabinet of curiosities. I have all these prototypes that I made and building these kinds of things is like making a track—the majority of time you start a new one before finishing what you are currently working on. So all these unfinished objects end up stacked in my studio. The mannequin hands are one of them. I just made them to integrate some visuals into my live performances. But for standard music gear, besides Wave, I have an OP-Z that I use for sketching ideas and sequencing lights or visuals, then I have a turntable for digging samples and finally an Ableton Push and an MPC Live for finger drumming.
It changes everything. When I was a teenager I used to play bass but I always got frustrated because it was actually very hard to find a band to play with. I quickly got into music production to record my own tracks and then I started finger drumming to be able to play everything live. Technology will never stop evolving. Sometimes people say that there’s a “right way” to play something or there's a “right tone” for an instrument. I really think this claim for purism is just a way to limit yourself.
For now I hope I can finish all my side projects and finally play some concerts when Corona calms down.