Gnome Beats aka Timo Ceniceros

 

We’ve listened to “Gnome Lyfe”. It’s a solid, no-waste 13 track record. The compositions consist of samples, ethereal and pitched vocals, stringed instruments, synthesizer jabs and ambience, tropicalish syncopated percussion, and fat 808 bass hits. The album even has a knockout verse by Myka 9. Slays the track. Timo’s skills provide many resources and those which he chooses are interlaced pretty masterfully. A track with balanced tools doesn’t necessarily mean that it comes across conservatively - there is a lot more Avantgarde, experimental, sweat-room DNA within Gnome’s sound. As many sound sources as he uses, you’ll be blessed by a holistic composition greater than the sum of its parts. no cap

A Los Angeles native, Timo Ceniceros, aka Gnome Beats (@gnomebeats), and his two children currently live in Ventura, California. He studied music formally, focusing on World Music & Composition at the California Institute of the Arts.

Thereafter, he spent quite some time producing musical compositions and beats. Concurrently, Gnome was designing visuals like record covers and concert posters for San Francisco and Los Angeles underground scenes. As the producer & bandleader for United By Sound, he toured with Little Dragon & Mad Professor while receiving media placement in TV and Film, including Fox’s “New Girl” & NBC’s “Smash”. His latest original music project and debut LP, “Gnome Lyfe”, was released on LA-based record label Dome of Doom in 2016. As Gnome Beats, Timo has performed at music festivals including Lightning in a Bottle, Lucidity, and Bamboo Bass Festival in Costa Rica. Additionally, his consultancy, YELLOW ELECTRIC MEDIA, allows him to help others with creative direction and production of media.

GNOME BEATS. Photo Credit: Jeriel C. Pablo

What follows is a brief conversation about sounds, life and more:

SNP: First off, thanks for taking your time and dedication to creating art and opening yourself up to an interview.

Please take as much time as you need tell us who you are:

TIMO: Thank you for the conversation! My name is Timo Ceniceros aka Gnome Beats. Native Californian & senior citizen of the millennial generation. I choose to spend an outsized amount of my time making music & playing with sound. 

How are you doing? Have you been recording lately?

Yes! I am nearing the final stages of my new LP. It’s been almost two years in the making.  

Damn. You really take your time with creating. We can’t wait for your next release. How did you form an interest in music?  

Music was always a big part of my home life when I was a kid. My dad exposed me to a wide range of different styles from a young age & he also played a bit himself.

At what age did you want to create your own music? 

I started at 9 years old. I got a guitar, a 4track cassette recorder, & some 5-gallon buckets for drums & immediately began writing songs & making tapes. I even did artwork for them and pretended like they were real releases..lol.  

Who were some of your early influences? Current influences? 

Too many early influences to list, but here is a small sampling… Michael Hedges, Talking Heads, Weather Report, Massive Attack, Prefuse 73, Timbaland, Freestyle Fellowship. 

Some current favs are Chancha Via Circuito, Tsuruda, prΛΛh, Joseph Liemberg & pretty much everything that my homies on Dome of Doom put out. 

How did you gravitate toward your current sound? Is it different than your past work?

I spent the first decade of my adult life primarily making music for and with someone else in a collaborative situation. We were binding ourselves to fairly rigid standards in vocal centered pop music. By the time the project dissolved I was craving a more free-form, instrumental & experimental creative experience. I feel the need to be responsible for all my own choices. My current sound inhabits that spirit of freedom but I feel like I am able to re-purpose some skills I earned from those more narrowly focused years.

What drives your desire to create?

At this point, it’s a reflex I can’t stop. If I go a couple weeks without proper work on one of my projects I get grumpy & am not very productive in general. I guess creativity is like an essential form of nutrition for my soul…

That’s an interesting trait, but I think readers will understand the lifestyle. What inspires your sound?

Bird rhythms. Waves of observed noise at distance. Concrete. Stones. Ghosts in the machine. Every kind of folk music I can find. Los Angeles. The Sespe. Flutes. Harps. That scene in Star Wars (A New Hope) where Obi Won turns off the tractor beam. 

Do you currently support yourself on artistic talents?

Not at the moment. I’m in the process of ramping up more freelance work to make that transition. In the meantime I am very good at hard labor.

 Timo Ceniceros

Timo Ceniceros

Have you collaborated with other artists? Any plans? Dream collaboration? 

Yes! I love collaborations. Especially when they happen organically. I worked with one of my all time favorite MCs Myka 9 on my last record. Though we had done some things over the years in different capacities, this last song ‘Linestepper’ kinda felt like a dream collaboration for me. I am excited about some collabs on my new LP. My friend & label boss Wylie Cable will be on there. Also, I have a piece with a vocalist from Japan named Kokoro Star who is a very old friend & collaborator that I haven’t worked with in over 13 years. I could go on and on about potential dream collaborators but a couple massive standouts would be Oumou Sangaré & Joesph Liemberg.

So, how do you begin a composition? Describe your approach if you are comfortable doing so.

Every piece is different. Sometimes I’ll get an idea while doing some mundane task. Sometimes it’s forcing an idea out of stubborn will power. Sometimes a sound in Nature. Sometimes it starts with a sample or maybe a pattern I’ve been banging on my steering wheel. A lot of times it’s repurposing old orphaned themes & compositions. 

Do you mind talking gear? If not, you should skip to next question. Otherwise what is the setup you used on Gnome Lyfe? What are you planning for the future? 

Sure I’ll talk nerdy for a few.. Gnome Lyfe was primarily done on a MacBook Air with Logic Pro X. Lot’s of live percussion & various foley. Live guitars, basses & drum breaks which I played & then chopped. Lex Luger 808s. I designed a lot of sounds sampling from cassette. Had a baby in the house, so most of the time I used headphones in my closet workspace. I did get to do some of the mix-down on NS-10s in my homies studio tho. For the future I would really like to do the majority of my work in a sonically balanced room with a reliable pair of stereo studio monitors. If I have that, whatever instruments and tools that are readily available would suffice…. 

Speaking of Gnome Lyfe, how did you become “Gnome Beats”? 

Many years ago, I was in the studio making beats for this rapper from Texas. He was stoked with what I was doing, so when his homies showed up he tried to say “yo this dudes a f—ing wizard!” Except he was so high what he actually said was “yo this dudes a f—ing Gnome!” After laughing about it in a cloud of smoke all the homies agreed I should be known as Gnome Beats. I adopted it a couple years later when I started doing Team Supreme beat cyphers & needed a moniker. Now I feel a kinship with Gnomes & often reach out to them & other nature spirits for guidance. 

Yeah, that seems pretty “Texas”. I spent about half of my life there and have witnessed lit naming sessions. What do you enjoy more: performing for a crowd with homies or working in the studio with homies?

I feel like I need both for balance. The stage is visceral & energizing. It’s a tribal reckoning. The studio is all about negative space. A lunar experience. It’s how I connect with the well of my subconscious… Both can be uplifted further when you have good homies involved. 

Do you create art on other mediums? If so, does your music drive or inform what you do on the other medium? 

Yes, I am a visual artist as well. I have probably devoted more hours of my life to music, but both disciplines inform & react to each other. Kind of like checks & balances. 

What advice do you have for younger artists who want to dedicate their lives?

Be patient. Resist the urge to race toward some perceived success. Use the extra time & energy afforded by youth to hone & diversify your skills. Collaborate. Listen to your elders… lol

Where do you see music’s place in the global society? 

Pressure relief valve! 

Do you have any artistic philosophies? If so, please expound…

Art seems to be this human condition that helps guide the species to a more harmonious future. It becomes ever more complex & inclusive with every generation. 

A huge thanks to Gnome Beats for agreeing to be the first interview in a series.