Producer & multimedia artist Tone Ranger captures soundscapes in nature to bring something entirely new and beautiful to electronic dance. The California-born musician began using field recordings to build out full tracks, sampling the natural sounds of the jungle on a research trip to the Amazon.
Tone Ranger (Alex Simon) has an expansive background in classical music theory, film scoring & global music history, which afforded him the ability to channel the sound palettes of the red rock canyons, open roads & archeological sites to weave together pulsing, hypnotic songs that help honor the land and its indigenous nations.
As soon as he and his manager Gabriella Sonabend met, the two began working together to bring creative projects to life. Together, they founded the creative agency and label Animalia Music with a focus on bringing out the essence of artists with a unique voice. We were lucky to ask the founders some questions about the music and what's in store for Animalia & Tone Ranger.
What is unique about Tone Ranger that's different from any other clients you've worked with?
Gabriella: Alex is an astoundingly versatile composer. Diving into his work is so much more than talking about or just making music; it is a journey that seems to be going ever-deeper beneath the surface. The fullness with which he commits to these worlds is unparalleled with any other artist I’ve worked with - every decision is meticulous, every creation is full of surprises.
What are some goals for Animalia you hope to accomplish in 2024?
Gabriella: 2024 is going to be a big year for us! We’re releasing two Tone Ranger albums, which are part of a larger collection called "Peaks & Valleys’" and we’ll be hitting the road. We’ve just signed on with ETP Agency and will be focusing on festivals and more immersive shows, which blend visual art and music.
Out here in Santa Fe, we’ve built a boutique recording studio for scoring film and working with a number of artists in genres varying from neo-soul to hip-hop to indie-rock. We’re particularly excited about working with Melas Leukos, whose debut album we’re currently producing and releasing this spring.
And for Alex, what has been the most interesting sound to sample from nature that made it into song?
Tone Ranger: My friend and I recorded a rattlesnake down in southern Arizona, which made the basis of the beat for my track “Saguaro”. I’ve recorded coyotes ("Cheyenne"), horses breathing ("Mágico"), and have cacti turned into percussion. Wind and rain moving through various landscapes can be heard in many of my tracks. I have an archive of thunderstorms I’ve recorded ranging from the Amazon jungle to rural England. My field recorder travels everywhere I go!
Who are some collaborators you are looking forward to working with again?
Tone Ranger: Rob Garza has been an amazing collaborator and mentor. We’ve remixed each other’s tracks and are planning on making some originals together here in Animalia Studios. In New Mexico there are a host of local musicians (Earth Surface People, Hataalii, Lindy Vision, Melas Leukos) and filmmakers (Ben Henretig, Sahaih Escobedo, Daniel Johnson) who I’ve loved working with and are ongoing collaborators.
Who are some non-recording artist who inspire you and why?
Tone Ranger: I’ve always been drawn to the deadpan strangeness of Rene Magritte. Andrei Tarkovsky, Stanley Kubrick and Alejandro Jodorowsky have been major film influences. I’m inspired by so many artists, in particular, ones who offer a different window into comprehending reality, who bend the rules, open doorways we didn’t even know existed, provoke us into looking beneath the surface of everyday life. Ultimately that is what I’m seeking to do with my music, to reveal the magic beneath and beyond.
Which movies would you recommend work best as visual pairing for your music?
Tone Ranger: We’re currently developing a feature film that accompanies the "Peaks & Valleys" project. The film travels through realms of desert, night forest and deep ocean into the cosmos and follows a host of mysterious characters and creatures. I have always written music with the idea that I’m scoring films that don’t yet exist (or that I plan to make). In many ways I think equally as much like a filmmaker as a musician. Everything is a story.
If you were to pair my music with pre-existing films, I’d suggest Tarsem Singh’s "The Fall," "The Color of Pomegranates," "Holy Mountain," "Paris Texas," "Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas," "Baraka," "The Deep Blue," and "Spirited Away."
Tone Ranger and Animalia Music just released their own film "Through the Canyon Doorway," which features live recorded performances in Diablo Canyon from Tone Ranger. Be sure to check it out and look out for more ethereal soundscapes from Tone Ranger in 2024.
Huge thanks to Gabriella and Alex for their time and wonderful responses ✨