Multi-instrumentalist. Feels existential emptiness. Stepmother Ljubljana, mother Beltinci, both from Slovenia. Likes the sweet taste of sadness. His musical path started in 2000. Moves between an intimate-minimalistic-zen solo projects, imaginary-dreamy-“worldy” Širom, dynamic-playful-melancholic Škm banda, loud-expressive-chaotic Hexenbrutal and other occasional musical projects. This is his getaway and weapon. His adopted musical children are the banjo, guitar, percussion and many others.
Besides your solo project, you are a member of some well-known Slovenian bands, including SHAPE alumni Širom and Hexenbrutal. Your musical paths started 23 years ago, in 2000. Can you tell us about your musical journey?
I started to play guitar at the start of high school. My friend’s father had an electric guitar at home, my friend showed me some blues licks and I got totally obsessed. Later, my classmate showed me how to play some Nirvana songs and I was surprised that they were so easy to play but also sounded so good. Soon after that, my brother and a couple of friends from the same village formed a band, which later became the Štefan Kovač Marko banda (Škm banda). It was great, because we all learned to play instruments together and that’s why our progress was fast. We were highly motivated because playing together in a band was totally different to playing at home on our own. That was at the beginning of the 2000s, when there was not much learning material on the internet, so we quickly started to write our own music and played instruments in our own way.
A big influence on me was also the fact that the musical scene in Prekmurje at that time, which culminated around two venues (Mikk in Murska Sobota and Ambasada in Beltinci, where I also worked as a volunteer for many years) was very strong – there were a lot of bands and people involved in music. It was a very vibrant and exciting time to be a teenager in Prekmurje, my home region.
In Škm banda we played instrumental music, a kind of post-rock. I also liked a more harsh and heavy sound, so me and my friend Matej (who also made a lot of videos for bands from the Premurje scene) started the industrial noise core duo Hexenbrutal in 2004, and we toured a lot in the Balkans and central Europe.
For a short time I played in the post-metal, ultra-heavy band Plüg. That was very emotionally intense music; I had goosebumps most of the time we rehearsed or played live. I still deeply regret that that band didn’t develop itself or at least made a record, since we had enough good material for it. The break-up was quick and hard to understand, but it showed me that having a band is very complex, kind of similar to relations inside a family, but with most of the members having special needs, haha.
After creating music with electric instruments, I wanted to gradually make some changes, so I started to explore different acoustic instruments, such as the banjo, the kalimba, the 12-string acoustic guitar, and I also started to explore different tunings. A whole new world opened up with this. Following this development in 2014, Samo, Ana and I formed the band Širom. The initial idea was to play acoustic drone, but we quickly saw that we didn’t need to restrict ourselves according to musical genres and could just follow the music, so in that way we shaped our sound as imaginary folk.
I was very busy with all my bands, plus I worked full-time as a social worker and I had a daughter, so there was no time for anything new for some time. Then Covid and lockdowns began and I fell into some kind of void, which I filled with my solo project in which I focused more on the intimate, deeply personal and minimalistic side of my music. My solo projects are until now the least shaped of my musical projects, but on the other hand, I see that they are the most open for changes and musical exploration, switching forms etc.
You are a multi-instrumentalist, using various instruments in your work – from modular synths through balafon, banjo or guembri. Can you talk about the “technical” aspects of your work and your compositional techniques?
I’m a self-taught musician. I like to explore different string and percussion instruments. When you master some instrument to a certain degree, it’s easier to learn to play new instruments. When I explore a new instrument, I try to learn some traditional techniques for playing on it, but then I quickly start to develop my own way of playing that suits my musical expression. When making new songs, I gain inspiration from different sources – my personal life, relationships with other people, repressed (or not so repressed) emotions, jamming, improvising, musical mistakes made when playing on a certain instrument, self-pity, self-hate, shame, love, hope, despair etc.
Your latest album, Emptiness, was released earlier this year, and came about after a last-minute force majeure cancellation of a Širom trip to Sarajevo. Can you talk about this release of yours?
Uff, i would rather not, haha. There were complicated circumstances and repressed creative energies, and then I made a record, bla bla bla :). Listen to the music, mirror your own emptiness, hate it, love it, be indifferent towards it. This product (as with all art) is not mine, I’m just the medium.
Emptiness was also something you already talked about on your debut solo album, at least in the album title. How important is emptiness and a certain “boredom” for creative work, in your opinion?
There are different types of “emptiness”: the sad, melancholic type, the boredom kind, the feeling of loss or the end of some era, emptiness as a new opportunity, as space for something new, emptiness as some kind of ether that connects everything that exists, emptiness as a common ending point, emptiness as zero, “nothing”, emptiness as something that is impossible to talk about, emptiness as everything you see or feel, emptiness as wholeness etc.
All those “emptinesses” are important to me and I cannot live without them :).
What does your music-making, creative “routine” look like? How and when do you create? Is it part of a daily “ritual”, or more related to certain projects, etc?
You feel the itch and then you must go and create the valve, something that will release the pressure. It’s like creating a new language for things that you cannot express or think about normally with languages and thoughts that you use in everyday situations.
Can you tell us about the Slovenian experimental/improv music scene?
I would rather not because there are too many bands to talk about, and sometimes I love those bands and some days I hate them too, and some days I don’t think about them at all, and so on and so on.
What are your current projects? And how do you manage to navigate between your various projects?
Currently, I’m working with my friend Matej on a new Hexenbrutal record, and I’m creating new solo material. To be able to navigate without having too many obstacles, it’s important to me that all my musical projects are separated and not too similar to each other. It’s kind of like reading several books at the same time. The content has to be diverse so it can address different aspects of your life, because our minds are racing most of the time anyway, and our thoughts change rapidly from one second to the next. Reality and the present are things that are constantly disappearing, but they always want to take on a new form and shape.
Interview Lucia Udvardyova
Photo Klara Vrtacnik