Your last interview with us (Soundhead) took place four years ago; you have been shrouded in silence ever since, despite being one of the most successful Hungarian producers on the international scene of the past years.
Maybe I’m not interesting enough… (laughs). The truth is, besides a few close friends and music industry peers, I have not kept in touch with anyone and have cut ties with the Hungarian underground in the past few years. Besides my work and actually living here, there isn’t much that links me to Hungary. This may explain why I have stayed out of the spotlight.
Is it true that you have not taken on any gigs in Hungary with your solo projects for years? Why?
It is no secret that the Hungarian underground music scene is stuck in a rut, and I feel that the lacking elements render my work more or less futile, and certainly not viable in the long run. One could point fingers and blame so and so for the current state of the scene — a ten-year intellectual and cultural lag, despite the efforts of numerous artists and project managers, but that wouldn’t get us anywhere. I’ve simply lost my patience with always being lenient, ready to compromise in terms of lineups, musical concepts, quality or ethic, so I decided not to take on any more gigs in Hungary.
To a certain extent, I am also responsible, because I am not contributing to progress by withdrawing from the very scene that I am criticising; however, I have tried by best, and I think this is the best solution for everyone. I produce music as a Hungarian artist, I am known as a Hungarian artist, which is my form of contributing.
Are you saying there are fundamental things missing from the Hungarian scene? What are you referring to exactly?
What is lacking overall is mutual and unopportunistic respect towards both other people and their work — this applies not only to the music industry, but also beyond. We are missing efficient collective cooperation, professionalism, innovation, the open-mindedness of the community, but above all, the will and guts to shake things up on the scene and shape taste in the long term.
As always, there are a few exceptions. For instance, A38 is a world-class club, with a solid background; the Technokunst clubnight also tries to fill the gap that I was referring to. So from a distance, things do not appear completely hopeless, but what we have is still very little to what we could have if these ideas were subscribed to by more people.
Your raw honesty might disgruntle quite a few people…
I am lucky enough not to owe anything to anyone. I am not being critical just for the sake of making a scandal or because I feel superior in any way. I believe that I have proved myself sufficiently to express my views, but my intention is not to offend anyone in the process.
Most artists are loath to discuss these issues openly, or try to conceal their disappointment; I, on the other hand, want to remain objective and frank about my opinion.
Now for your releases — in 2012 alone, you had three releases on recognised international labels Thema, Archipel and All Inn. Could you tell us the back story behind these releases?
Following my release on US label Thema under the Laurine Frost moniker in 2009, I decided to go on a hiatus and lock myself up in my studio. I wanted to test my limits in order to grow as a producer and release better music than ever before. Some of these releases came out last year. A special jubilee record came out on Thema, entitled “Vanagloria”, marking their 30th release; I was also signed by Archipel for a four-track EP called “Olive Aleif”. However, two of the most important milestones are still ahead, and are set to be released in the first quarter of 2013.
I was also contacted by All Inn Records in summer of 2011, who were interested in my work. I was familiar with the label’s concept and did not want to release under my Laurine Frost moniker, but it was the perfect opportunity to revive my Coldfish alter ego. By the time, I already had half an album ready, but I felt like I wanted to do something much more exclusive, so I made an EP of entirely new material — “Revelations”. This release, characterised by a somewhat experimental, dubby, broken techno sound, turned out as the weirdest All Inn record so far, but it sold out in two weeks, to my greatest surprise. Everything went smoothly and quickly, and the label handled everything very professionally. It marked the beginning of a long-term collaboration. We concluded an exclusive contract, so all Coldfish material will be released by All Inn in the future, in a vinyl-only format. The second record, “The Invisibles” was released in early November 2012.
2012 has been your most productive year so far. You have played in Russia on numerous occasions in recent years. Is there a correlation between the two?
Definitely. My first Russian gig was a Nervmusic labelnight in Moscow. I was blown away from the first minute from what I saw and heard there; I had already played in Berlin, Barcelona, Amsterdam, but none of these places compared to Russia. From the outset, I felt completely at home; this was the vibe I had always dreamt of, one of constant inspiration, bringing out the very best in me throughout my entire performance. My first time there left a lasting impression; it took me several weeks to process the experience.
Nervmusic signed me on for an EP with no set deadline; I promised them my best work to date, no matter how long it took to make. I worked for nearly two years on the EP, which was wrapped up in autumn of 2012 and will be released this year on Nervmusic.
Now, as to your original question: my Russian gigs, the close work relationship from the outset, the mutual respect and inspiration that surrounds me there have become fundamental elements of my work.
How does the Eastern European scene differ from the Central European scene?
I have my own theory on this: the “limitation theory”, which applies not only to Russia, but all countries situated to the East of Hungary. In my opinion, if an artist creates in an environment that is somewhat segregated and only has access to limited resources, these factors increase creativity and boost self-expression, and the probability that the artist will come up with a unique sound, style and profile is also much higher. These limited environmental factors, plus a strong personality provide fertile soil for the creation of distinctive values that can mould a genre or even an entire artistic branch.
If we apply this to the electronic music scene, it becomes apparent why artists and performers are far more respected in Russia and in the Ukraine, as well as art in general. The audience is much more interested, prepared and open-minded, expectations are higher, making it a challenge for the artist as well. Promoters have different commitments, which is reflected in line-ups; their goal is not to serve popular demand or to profit financially, but to experiment and innovate.
The best examples are ARMA17 and the CULT.Beat clubnight in Odessa. These are the places where I first felt that the audience is much more attentive to my set and understands what is happening, and is also familiar with the importance of a musical concept. Artists like myself couldn’t ask for a greater gift.
You rarely use the term “musician” when referring to yourself or the scene…
Because I don’t deserve the title; I cannot legitimately call myself a musician. Max Richter, Nils Frahm or Thom Yorke…now those are musicians. Techno producers like myself only create repetitive montages of rhythms and prepared sounds, meeting an idea or inspired mentality that is nowadays called techno. It is more like an exhibit, and I am a performer. Very few producers in the electronic music scene can really call themselves musicians.
Because of education and instruments?
Because of the musicality.
Do you think techno can become more musical in the future, without becoming too mainstream? Does minimal techno still have potential for development after all these years? What could be some future prospects?
Yes, I think so. The solution is jazz. If we take jazz for example — a very colourful and musically diverse genre — and create a fusion with a static and more structured genre like modern, pared-down techno, something very interesting and promising emerges. The freedom and playfulness of jazz softens the techno, without stripping it of its essence, adding to it instead, making the end-product more conceptual, elite and story-oriented. Other artists that deserve a mention here are Moritz von Oswald Trio, Villalobos & Louderbauer, Pi Ensemble, or Astup, a more obscure South American outfit making unbelievable music.
This is true for other genres besides techno. Just look at the influence of classical music on drone and other experimental genres over the past years.
Does this mean that you are most inspired by the more egocentric artists with an idiosyncratic sound?
Of course. The most interesting music is music that is nearly impossible to categorise. You might feel where this type of music originates from, its roots, but it would be hard to clearly label it as techno, house, dub, jazz or anything else.
My vision is that genre categories will soon disappear, and styles will be associated with various artists. There are more and more artists that already fall outside the usual categories — Shackleton or Vladislav Delay —, that are a huge inspiration and considered legends by the entire electronic music scene. They are impossible to pigeonhole, and labelling them seems completely irrelevant once you listen to them, as their music is totally unique.
Does this mentality guide your work as well?
My work set for release and upcoming efforts are all more complex and experimental than what I have done so far, which is no doubt a consequence of the inspiration that these artists have given me.
Your past releases are characterised by a focus on a story, to use your words. Is there an underlying message? How would you define this?
I have always strived to think outside the box, to be different, to depict a given subject from an alternative or several perspectives, and I have in fact tried to inject a story or attitude into each of my works. The underlying theme and message are the most fundamental elements. Human behaviour, irony or self-irony, mind and soul and their metaphors are all perfect subjects, and music is the ideal medium for expressing them. When this highly subjective and somewhat chaotic atmosphere is organised into a relatively structured concept using musical tools, something special comes to life.
The name “Not So Secret Diary” has recently been making the rounds, linked to your name. Tell us more about this.
I founded my own label in January 2013, which coincides with the first release. This is the realisation of an old dream and the end-product of years of planning. The label, as the name implies, will present the music of artists — artists that I respect both for their work and who they are, who have inspired me and fundamentally shaped my work — as a sort of diary.
As an expression of my respect, I will try to present a much more personal side of them, my own perspective, at the same time giving them all the artistic freedom to they need to fully let their creativity flow in the form of a record. They are very unique and timeless pieces of music, and I am extremely proud to finally see the label come to life, after all the effort invested. Our first release is by Andrey Zots, who contributed four brilliant tracks. The record is available from the second week of January.
What will be the format of Not So Secret Diary releases?
Strictly limited-edition vinyl.
What artists can we expect to see on the label?
Let that be a surprise.
Is there any link between All Inn and Not So Secret Diary?
No; Not So Secret Diary is my own project, totally independent from All Inn.
Besides working with three different alter egos, you have also taken on the role of label manager. How will this affect your daily routine? Aren’t you afraid that the business aspect will encroach on your studio work?
No, on the contrary. I have gained a lot of experience in this domain over the past year. I am involved with All Inn Records as more than a mere artist. I now take part in managing the label, and am delighted to be able to work with such a professional team. I have learned a lot of things that will now come in handy with Not So Secret Diary. So no, I don’t feel restricted at all, and instead feel motivated to release even better music, both as a producer and label manager.
Translated by Kata Paulin