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Monthly Archives: October 2012

The Olympics hysteria has now ended – a vanity fair of pride, joy, sweat and tears accompanying ceremonial moments of glory, reaching deep into the heart and soul of each nation participating in the event. I didn’t notice all this Olympics hysteria, letting it all to pretty much pass by – despite consistent enthusiasm and exhillirating posts on the Internet, about the ceremony opening, medal scores and breaking world records. One thing did make me smile though – several olympic contestants from North Korea have disappeared the moment they reached London. May they be well and safe and find a new decent life elsewhere on this gloomy planet. Now let’s get back to reality check and enjoy its most popular moment – called “crisis”. There was a group called Crisis once and in recent years someone decided to put their collection of “Holocaust Hymns” back on the map. Mankind continually hopes – and hoping can be so physically and mentally exhausting when, as it turns out, every once in awhile – nothing happens. Except more warfare, hunger, unemployment and good old demagoguery from governmental (and its conformists alike) set-ups. In the end we’re left nothing with but time.

Except time is such a bitch, and it drags like a whore – but then again, it is the only thing that crisis cannot affect or take away. And once we are aware there’s only time, and there’s nothing left to lose, then it’s the right moment to rip it up (and – as someone once wrote – start again). Time is money – and yes, it’s also a bastard according to one and only Mr. Gira, but it can also be on our side. So let’s be optimistic – we cannot change the world and its little intrigues, but we can just as damn well participate, contribute and subvert. Eventually. Without subversion, thought isn’t provoked, there is neither motivation nor enthusiasm. In a crisis situation we learn things aren’t as horrible as the outside stream of fear campaigns wants us to believe. In the end, crisis IS just a campaign and – as Throbbing Gristle once pointed out – it’s got nothing to do with art.

1/2, Oct 2012

Where are they now? A curious question popular with nostalgic masses, provoking the inevitable – a reunion.

To this day, many have resurrected their former selves, effectively deciding to kill off the legend. Even some of the most obscure of these legends return for a pleasant haunt. In many cases, however, it is sadly a travesty – appearing after decades of absence from public spotlight, it can get quite disappointing to watch a bunch of respectfully aging men and/or women, once again brought together for their own memories re-lived and milking their past glory.

The mutual experience of reunion being as pleasant as it brings back also the good old bittersweet reasons due which the split occured back in the day. The media continue to provoke the endless hunger – by maintaining the image of long-gone big ones, their omnipresence either in the flesh or in terms of an influence. VH1’s “Bands Reunited” series probably brings out the worst of it – sensationally hunting down members of groups they choose to target for a one-time reunion spot – an act of unscrupulous intrution of certain people’s privacy, resulting in partial talking into, then a period of thinkover and finally, consent by those they asked to participate. Of course, it’s the money issue – makes one wonder how much each of these bands were offered just for a one night stand? Mark Stewart once provided a fascinatingly eerie line, screaming “we are all prostitutes, we’ll do anything for a price”. Today, The Pop Group join the reunion bandwagon. Not that it’s entirely a bad trip – some of these reunions are welcome and happen to shake off the ungrateful label of cashing in. The Pop Group’s spirit is forever carved in society affairs and Mark Stewart being the face of the oppressed, regardless of his past and present groups’ line ups, maintains his presence and the spirit of fighting injustice with his amazing trademark  shriek. I guess, even despite their “capitulation” signing of being “prostitutes”, The Pop Group do make a certain point of reminding that nothing really changed – among other things, in the music business itself. It’s still business, music is of no relevance; it might change individual perception of the world around but it doesn’t change the world. For that – according to Dave Ball of Soft Cell (also reunited) – you have to be either a politician or a terrorist. So, where in the world are Claudine Caule and Gemini Forque now? And how do they fit into all this?

The two sad girls once sharing their tragedy and love of music, resulting in some of the most beautiful soundscape one wishes to hear and carry forever in his/her heart.

Deux Filles were a mystery duo, brought together due their intimate sadness caused by a painful loss; both, Gemini and Claudine met during their pilgrimage visit to Lourdes, when they were teenagers. During their stay, Claudine’s mother suddenly died of lung collapse, while Gemini’s parents suffered a grisly car accident to which her mother died while her father ended up being paralysed. Brought together by this undescribably disturbing set of circumstances, they started expressing mutual sadness through beautifully crafted instrumental music, with prevailing shades of grey, enveiled in sadness and melancholy. Although this move lit a spark at the end of a dark tunnel, resulting in critical acclaim and concert performances, after only two albums – “Silence & Wisdom” and “Double Happiness”, each released within a year from eachother during 1982-83 period – Deux Filles once again vanished into complete obscurity. The rumour had it, they went for a trip to Algeria, after which mysteriously as they appeared, Gemini and Claudine vanished without trace somewhere in North Africa around 1984. Various stories on their disappearance were made and forged – including the black scenario of abduction and murder (even planned disappearance, according to various official channels), but no such story was ever fully confirmed.   At one point, supposedly a mysterious letter appeared – written by Claudine – saying, the pair journeyed to India on a spiritual quest, only to meet with further hardships.

What’s left from Deux Filles is the legacy of two beautiful records and a deserved cult following. Since their mysterious disappearance it been almost 30 years now and their fans are still expecting to hear from the two in all good faith. As if by some miraculous hand, during 2012, an initiative by BDFDHQ was brought on schedule – they are organising a search party in Algeria, to find Gemini and Claudine and form a reunion. At the same time, at the end of this year, a vinyl re-release of their masterpiece debut album “Silence & Wisdom” is to be released on Black Moss label.

Awaiting a possible – if viable – reunion, we can only hope Deux Filles found their peace and (double) happiness and that they overcame the horrific shock experienced at the time of their innocent youth. Life experience no matter how hard and sad is to learn from and if this reunion is to be true, it will definitely make one of those very few exceptions where music and conceptual wit wipes away the cliches and predictability of what is one such reunion expected to sound like. Deux Filles were as enigmatic, remain a mystery, and without doubt they might return just as full of surprises.

Last year a group of enthusiastic individuals decided to investigate a “crime scene” whose body of evidence continuously slips away through society’s fingers. Hidden away from daily torments of mass consumerism and commercial and socio-political trash culture attack, the idea of Belgrade’s underground resistance sparked off into a documentary, covering only partially some of the scene’s true alternative fragments which suffer great deal for keeping away from the daylight – but just as deservedly gaining much public spotlight. According to one of the film’s participants, Mileta Mijatović of the superb guerilla-force loose collective “Klopka za pionira” (meaning “Trap for the pioneer”), there is no “undeground” as such – there is “a hole under the basement”.
Thought-provoking and constructively demistifying, this scene is focused on various media but even more so – on comics culture. Pančevo, the Belgrade’s nearby epicentre of underground’s artistic fancy, provides the ideal space for gathering local and international individuals to contribute creatively.

“(On the Quest For) Beograd Underground” is the actual name of this currenly released documentary, now widely presented through Europe, along with the music project Alone by Nikola Vitković and an exhibition called “Distorted Mirror”, supervised by Vladimir Palibrk. Its intention is not to patronise or solve any mysteries but maintain the basic interest and most of all, point out the legacy and importance of one such cultural institution. With Muriel Buzarra and Carlos Lopez also in mind, Nataša Šarkić provides the main pleasant tone for this interview, with tiny contribution from one of their mutual colleagues, Tobias Strahl. Here is how they saw it, experienced it – and delivered it.

SD: What is the link between your personal choice of profession, and passion for exploring the underground scene’s unknown? Nataša, you’re an archeologist. How close is discovering and exploring historical remains with discovering and exploring the modern society? NŠ: Actually, it is very close. In both cases you are “digging out” something that is hidden and you can’t be sure what you will discover. It takes a lot of time, but the moment you discover the treasure is really priceless.

SD: How did you all meet and greet the idea of making a documentary together? Who else was involved in the very project – in terms of assistance? NŠ: It was really like we said in the beginning of the documentary – Muriel Buzarra (the director) and I met by pure chance in Belgrade, and we were just hanging around for two weeks, all the time going on concerts and alternative places, and I introduced him to my friends. And he was recording all the time, everywhere we went to. But at that moment, there was no idea of making anything concrete of it. Later on, he gave me a call, saying – I watched the material, and some of it is really cool. How about making documentary of Belgrade underground scene? And I was like – yeah, cool, let’s do it! So in January he came along with his friend, Carlos Lopez (second camera , director assistant) and we started shooting. But for me if it wasn’t like that, so spontaneous and maybe even frivolous, I wouldn’t do it at all. Because, only later I faced severity of my task – I had to choose people and places and topics and in a way that was supposed to represent Serbia. I was terrified, but it was too late to give up… : )  Once when we decided to do a documentary, we wanted to do it in very serious way, BBC wanna-be style,  but soon we realised that wouldn’t work for us and for the topic that we are dealing with. You can’t be objective when you are making a movie about underground art scene, because for most of the people that’s not art at all. For them, art is in museums and galleries. So even choosing that topic means, we are not objective at all. And I don’t want to pretend to be that cold, objective observer – I knew from earlier on, most people showing up in the documentary, some of them are even close friends of mine, and I love the stuff they do, so there’s nothing objective about it. So we tried to keep that spontaneous manner in the whole movie and to show how it really was, and how our digging was going deeper. At one point we even switched to Pančevo, but that was the part of the result of our “quest for Beograd underground” Someone else, doing the same, could come up with completely different result – this is just one point of view.

SD: Tobias, before you and Nataša met, were you familiar with the underground scene in the Balkans, both past and present? Can you name a few of your personal favourites, either in terms of comics, music or otherwise? TS: Actually, I wasn’t; I didn’t even know that such a thing was existing at all, although it is pretty logic that it must; let’s say, I was not aware of the phenomenon. An active underground scene is usually not the first association if it comes to the Balkans in the so called “west”. I knew Nikola Urošević from “Kinovia” but for other reasons – beside that, I don’t know if Kinovia is talked about as underground at the Balkans. My contacts to the Balkans were – and are – more to other branches of the cultural life; first an foremost cinema; Rajko Petrović from Slobodna Zona filmski festival is a good friend of mine as Veton Nurkollari from Dokufest in Prizren, Kosovo, too. I appreciate the work of the Cultural Center Rex in Beograd. But the project “Beograd Underground” really fascinated me. I want to discover this part of the Balkans since I usually spend at least half of the year in the region. Especially I am interested in the Nacionalna Asocijacija Za Umetnost i Kulturu (The National Association of Arts and Culture), the NAUK-project in Serbia.

SD: Comparing Serbian / Belgrade underground culture to the one that exists in Spain, what would be your impressions so far? To you, what are the similarities and what are the differences between the two?
NŠ: For the scene, it is very important to have a place for gathering. Musicians need a place to play, painters and comic drawers need a place to exhibit their artwork and so on, but what is most important – people need a place to hang out. Because that is the only way to create a scene – if you have a lot of young, enthusiastic people, gathering around the same idea, that spontaneously decide to make a band, installation, performance… In the mainstream art, if you wanna paint you have to finish the academy, they teach you how to do it, they give you a diploma and voila! you can be a painter now! In underground it’s all about your impulse and your need for creating. That’s why it is so important to have a place with that kind of spirit, that will liberate you and stimulate you to create. In Spain, in any bigger city, there are many squats and alternative cultural centers that exist for very long time. In Serbia there’s always a problem with space. It is always something private that you have to pay for. But if you are making non-commercial art, where will you get the money to pay for the space and the bills? But, on the other hand, I think that DIY principle is much  stronger in Serbia, precisely because you know that no one will help, so you don’t count on that. I moved to Spain in the beginning of 2009, just when the crisis started, and I had the sensation that everything was frozen. Suddenly, there was no donations and help for the projects, so people didn’t know what to do. They were so used to have that external support, or to make things with solid budget, that they were just doing nothing, except waiting for the crisis to finish. But now it seems to me that they got used a bit on the situation, once that they realize that crisis will not end up soon, so they learned “how to create with small budget or no budget”.

SD: In the self-financed documentary about the comics/music underground scene of Belgrade and Pančevo, called “(On the Quest for) Beograd Underground”, a number of participants and/or observers from abroad are also being introduced in the film. In your opinion, how did the European audiences react to this project and how aware are they of the actual underground scene in Serbia? On the other hand, how do domestic people accept and react to this underground movement? NŠ: Most foreigners that are part of the movie are part of the scene as well, and they know perfectly what is going on. But for the rest of the European audiences, we met people with very different levels of knowledge – from those who can’t even find Serbia on the map, to those who are really interested in it. But what I was really glad about was that many people got interested in the topic after watching the movie, they asked lots of questions about the scene there and the situation in general, and we even got a couple of e-mails from people who decided  to come to Serbia, only after watching the documentary. And that is something that I’m really happy about. I’m glad to show that there is more then wars and Kusturica. Off course, it was easier part, because for most of them it was interesting to see at least something that is coming from such a strange place as Serbia. But domestic public is harder to please. There is always a lot of ego in it and everyone has their own vision of who should and who shouldn’t be in the movie. I think that everyone’s free to make another movie with whomever they want. This is not our final conclusion or only one perspective.

SD: Do you believe there is an actual “scene” or is it the fragments – how fruitful do you find these actions are on social terms – regarding change, reason, initiative, creativity, the sense and acceptance of multicultural and national values…? NŠ: The moment when we started shooting, I believed there was a scene and that it was strong and important, but I guess, I was just overenthusiastic. In the last few years, everytime I attended some concert I saw the same faces, but everytime less and less. Some of them found jobs, others got kids, it’s all normal, but there is no young people that will bring  fresh blood and revive the scene. But all of this is changing very fast, in both positive and negative way. You just need one new place or few new bends with good energy and immediately the flames will flare up. Or maybe again, I’m overenthusiastic. : )  So – are these actions fruitful and do they have some real echo in the society? No, they are not. Do I think it can get better? Yes, I do.
And about multiculti… there is no such thing in Serbia. We are all from the same tribe. We can even except some rare foreigners who stray and decide to stay, but only when they undergo the initiation.  Most of the people from Serbia don’t travel, foreigners are very rare, Serbians who immigrate usually do not come back, so there is no cultural flow. And that is perfect ground for nationalism. It is easy to think that your country is the best and the most beautiful one if you haven’t seen anything else.

SD: What was the experience of making the interviews? Which participant in the film do you find most interesting and which one do you find most eccentric? NŠ: For me that was priceless experience. I learned so much from it – how to ask the questions, how to get what’s really important and how to adapt the form to sensibility of the one that I was talking to. But I learned much more from the content of the answers. Even with the people that I know for a long time, we never touched those topics before. But then again, you have that moment in the presence of the camera, that completely blocked some people, while the others got more stimulated, so I got surprised in many situations when people who are normally very loud and extrovert became  shy, once you pointed the camera to them and vice-versa. My favorite interview in the movie is the one with Nikola Vitković, and it had a strong impact on me. After that I reconsider my relation to Serbia, and it motivates me to act, to do things here and now. But I have to mention the interview with Wostok too, that was also very encouraging and motivating. The way he is doing things, his persistence and stubbornness (in the most positive sense)  should be a positive example for all of us. The most eccentric was the one with Johnny Račković. He simply didn’t want to answer to any of my questions and he was just talking about things he found important, so after a while I gave up trying to take over the control of interview, I just let him do whatever he wanted, and later we cut the parts that we found relative for the topic. But it was very funny, though. We stayed there for hours and we got so much material that we could make a new documentary only about Johnny : ) And the strangest experience was with Zastranienie. I’ve never heard of them before, but when I asked Nikola Vitković for his opinion, which bands should be in the movie, he told me that I had to talk to Zastranienie, they are so great and productive. So I wrote them an e-mail, but they responded only when we already got back to Spain. So, I told them that I’m really sorry, that we have already finished with shooting and they offered to record something themselves and send us the material. I had to admit that I was very sceptical about it, especially about the quality of the image, but then we got this fantastic short movie whose quality was even better then our movie. Unfortunately, it was a bit hermetic, so finally we used just a little part of it, but it is a great representation of the band and the ideas they support.

SD: The European tour that you guys undertook in recent months seemed quite demanding, in terms of travel, booking and accomodation. What are your personal impressions and experiences during the tour? NŠ: Like Nikola said – “The strangest thing on the tour was that nothing bad happened.”  I was really prepared that so many things might go wrong, but then everything was fine. Even when Muriel lost his bag with a wallet, mobile and passport, the police found it and gave it back to him. Incredible. And on this kind of tour, when there is no booking agency and nobody standing behind you, unpleasant surprises are very usual, like – sorry, guys, but we didn’t earn enough so we can’t pay you. Opposite things happened to us – we got payed more that we asked. I think that people liked the whole idea about DIY organisation so much that they were really happy to help us with tour.

SD: With this documentary, did you also apply for bigger festivals? Did you get any response in that matter? NŠ: The problem with big festivals is that they usually ask for HD format. But the movie was projected already on few festivals like DORF, Beldoks, Sombor Film Festival, Underhill and Grossmann. And next year, it’s gonna be on Primed in Marseille.

SD: Do you consider going for another tour in the near future? NŠ: Oh, I wish my life was a tour.  We didn’t even finish the last one when I already started thinking about the new one, but in reality, it’s a bit difficult, because we are living in different parts of Europe (even the three of us – Carlos, Muriel and myself, are living in three different cities) and every one of us has their obligations, so it’s hard to match all that. But I hope we will do it again  soon.

SD: Will there be a sequel to “Beograd Underground”? NŠ: I hear that question very often. Or suggestions like – “next time you have to record that guy or that band”, but I don’t see the need for that. Sure, it’s good to have lot of stuff documented, but then value of it is only a historical one. I think that this movie is transmitting one universal message and that is the true value of it. Maybe with some more people it would be even better, but in general I think that the message is clear, so there’s no need for repeating it.

“(On the Quest For) Beograd Underground” is produced and self-released by Muriel Buzarra, Nataša Šarkić and Carlos Lopez.

Images: group image by Tobias Strahl, from left to right: Carlos Lopez, Nataša Šarkić, Muriel Buzarra, Nikola Vitković and Vladimir Palibrk; “Wostok 666” borrowed from online featured article by Pionirov glasnik, pionirovglasnik.com; title page from 110th edition of “Krpelj” (The Tick) – the episode titled “Mućak” (Rotten Egg), by Lola & Wostok, image borrowed from komikaze.hr; Zastranienie photographed by Martina Mihaljević; Image still of Johnny Račković – Silver Surfer, borrowed from borderdisordernetworkofartists.blogspot.com

For details, including information on availability of the DVD or digital download of the film, please visit beogradunderground.com

Colin Lloyd Tucker and Simon Fisher Turner have a long history of music activity. Both are well known and respected, yet eyebrows are raised when some of the regular admirers of Derek Jarman films are asked about these two individuals. Meaning, it’s somewhat strange, if not confusingly, how those familiar with “The Last Of England”, “Sloane Square (A Room Of One’s Own)” or “Caravaggio” haven’t got a clue about the principle soundtrack composer. Simon Turner was a teen star in both, film and music years before turning from a swan into a beautiful ducklin of experimental music. His downright bizarre excursions from pop to avantgarde and back again, through a variety of guises – among them, brief stint with The The, then Deux Filles who stripped down to become Jeremy’s Secret, then The King Of Luxembourg and finally SFT or plain Simon Fisher Turner back again. Along the way, Colin Lloyd Tucker crossed creative paths with Simon, also through The The (whose frontman Matt Johnson contributed to both Colin’s earlier amazing groups – Plain Characters and The Gadgets respectively), then Deux Filles, then Jeremy’s Secret  and then Colin Lloyd Tucker again returning on occasion to deliver another amazing album of his. He also formed a duo called Bushtucker with Kate Bush’s brother Paddy, contributed to one of Kate’s amazing albums (“The Red Shoes” that one), and keeps as quiet from mainstream, in recent years forming a tiny Samphire Records label, responsible for most of his current output.

Both, Colin and Simon are opposites in terms of their sound and vocal tones’ palette. Yet, opposites attract and these two once again agreed to come back for a beautiful, dreamy greytone match. Simon is fully dedicated to field noise and sound installation at the moment. On regular terms, he displays various found sound archives on his Soundcloud. The one featured in this issue is an exclusive, comprised mix of “DEADMENCANTRUN” – originally performed as collaborative effort between himself, Mira Calix and Laura Moody. When asked about the nature of this recording, Simon kindly explained – “DEADMENCANTRUN” is an on going concern of mine. It started at home and this recording is also from my home. It is a beginning of a piece which eventually was performed by Mira Calix, Laura Moody and myself for a Mute Records happening at the Roundhouse. We performed the full version only once. There is a recording of this and also a studio version, but I’m afraid they’re unavailable, so this is just a third of what it really sounded like live. It is far better with Mira and Laura, but I feel strongly that given the chance to put this out somehow I had to let this extract go, without Mira and Laura. From another listener’s perspective, “DEADMENCANTRUN” is best experienced in the late night hour. While at first listen it offers too much vacancy in the headphones, with repeated listens it occupies the mind successively, captures the listener with juxtaposed sound images. You can hear voices, you can hear noises and then all of a sudden you can hear the very silence.

The soundtrack from within the head – glitchy and psychedelic, ice sharp cold and distant, this is a perfect definition of haze. At times scary, at times soothing. Geometrically strict and no drugs. Optimistic still.

In response to Simon’s fascination with the abstract, Colin provided a dance instrumental, equally hypnotic and bordering the same hazy trance-like state – “Globes (The March Of the Mole People)”. Ultimately cool and sounding like awakening from dizziness. Both pieces do reflect a sense of loneliness – not in any negative sense of the word but more from an innocent bystander’s point of view. Standing and silently watching, observing… the experience of being at conflict with the ambience – at the same time a tormenting and liberating feeling. And what about the Mole People? Who are they and what are they? Colin explains – When it comes to people living beneath our feet, I feel that I have barely scratched the surface. From deep within his underground lair, Colin pays musical homage to the Mole People.

Mole People live far below the earth’s crust, on a globe within a globe. They are never seen on our outer surface but can sometimes be heard. Some say that the 1956 film ‘The Mole People’ from which the dialogue is taken was not in fact a work of fiction, but a real life documentary.

“Globes (March Of The Mole People)” was recorded by Colin Lloyd Tucker on August 14 – 2012, exclusively for this publication.

DEADMENCANTRUN
EXTRACTDEMO by
Simon Fisher Turner
Published by Mute Song
All lifesounds recorded from
Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, and Yemen.

Images: Colin Lloyd Tucker inside the wizard’s hat from his “Toybox” photo session, late 1970s; Simon and Colin from Jeremy’s Secret film session, around 1984
both images courtesy colinlloydtucker.com

Further information: simonfisherturner.com

“Kuna Zlatica” is Martes Martes in Latin. Casually speaking, it is the name of the graphic design duo, running a respective studio in Zagreb – the nickname “Kuna” refers to Ana Kunej and “Zlatica” stands for Zlatka Salopek, both graphic design graduates from the University of Architecture iz Zagreb, starting their own studio pretty soon as they finished their studies, sometime during 2006. I happened upon them through a mutual friend, Microslav, an electronic musician and also a graphic designer – who introduced me to Ana and Zlatka’s tip of the iceberg of otherwise truly inspiring, excellent body of work.

“Kuna Zlatica” is focused on publication, offering various interactive elements – in both, visual and tactile terms of “graphic”. Already participating in various individual and group exhibitions, both home and abroad, “Kuna Zlatica” recently exhibited in Jelsa, Island Hvar – presenting a truly unique and much awaited retrospective.

SD: To you, what is independence – being creative or being rich?
K: Being creative and manage to live from it. Unfortunately, there is no independence without any income. It is indivisible.
Z: Haha, that’s a tough one! I hope there’s a small overlapping area there. Honestly, it is very hard for me to imagine being rich without being creative. Or, it is easy to be creative once you’re rich. The problems lay in the fact that a lot of really creative people who do wonderful things are having a tough time making ends meet. One can preach about art being more important than earthly possessions, but sooner or later we all have to pay the rent, and bills, and food… So, I would say, independence is in one’s state of mind, it is more of an attitude than a fact. You decide on your actions, your projects, with whom you are going to work or not, along the way, but you are always inclined to be independent.

SD: How do you balance graphic design over the contents? Which one is more important? Does graphic design absolutely always have to make sense?
Z: I do not see design separated from the contents. Design is part of the contents. In our work, we try to give our view. And there aren’t any subjects that are “more important” then the others. Everything is “important enough”. Everything that is part of our world deserves to be re-evaluated, commented on, or extended. And yes, graphic design absolutely always has to make sense, and is making sense. Sometimes that sense is not rationally obvious, but it’s there. It doesn’t mean that it always has to be functional in a modernist meaning. Emotion is also a function. If you just decorate surfaces (what happened a few years ago with the flood of floral ornaments on everything from cosmetics to clubs) without thinking or feeling, you have bad design or kitsch.
K: In our work we use design in explaining the content, so it serves us as a tool.Usually, the purpose is to communicate a message, sometimes only we know the meaning, and sometimes everyone else does.

SD: The retrospective exhibition that you just gave in Jelsa – was it unique or are you considering touring with it, in form of a guesting exhibition in other cities as well?
Z: We haven’t actually given it a lot of thought, but since you are not the first person to ask that, we are starting to think about it. But we are thinking mainly of Zagreb. At the time we were preparing the exhibition, we were only interested in having a few glasses of good Hvar wine and inviting as many of our friends to Jelsa as possible, so this is a completely new idea…
K: It is not so common for designers to put out solo exhibitions, especially not two in 6 years, but in both cases we were asked and were happy to do it. The Jelsa exhibition is not connected to the place in any way so it could tour, but we are still considering it. The only thing we were instantly certain about, since both of our solo exhibitions took place in the summer, was the title – 1st and 2nd holiday works rewieval pageant.

SD: As graphic designers yourselves, who do you find the most inspiring? Among the work you did, is there any tribute to other designers? Which design by Kuna Zlatica makes you feel most proud?
K: I always look for inspiration among the same designers – Alan Fletcher, Milton Glaser, Seymour Chwast, Push Pin Studios…This way of simple/clever thinking is timeless.
Z: Well, forgotten aesthetics interest me the most, and places of underappreciated visual significance… alternative spots, if you like, often contain lumps and chunks of something good. Then you see how you feel about that and how you feel about your project, and something completely new comes out. I never manage to make the design the way I pictured it. It always ends up something different, I do not have that much to do with it. Sure, there are some designers who I look up to, but good stuff is in everyday things and around us, and it is not where it’s supposed to be (e.g. galleries, books, etc.). I do not want to point out one of our works alone and say it makes me feel more proud of than other work. All of our work brings me joy. Maybe I could mention the book “The Discovery of the City” by Fedor Kritovac, because late Fedor was a person, an explorer and a poet of the urban, who I have great respect for and our work on the book was a partner-like experience through which I learned a great deal.

SD: Throughout the last twenty years, graphic design became popular to the boiling point of excessive kitch. Professionally speaking, is there a way to save graphic design from piracy?
Z: No (ha, ha)! There will always be kitch. Aiming to live in an omni-designed world is a sick thought. In this earth, we need poorly made, undesigned, kitchie things also. Well, to some extent, anyway. What I am saying is, there always needs to be a balance. By practicing graphic design, we are striving to achieve that balance, in a way. It is an endless job, but someone has to do it (ha, ha).

SD: How do recognized institutions, like Croatian Designers Association (HDD), ULUPUH, or others in that matter, react and therefore tend to deal with the public’s rather diminished responsibility for visual culture?
Z: Professional institutions have made, and are making, huge effort with minimal resources to popularise design in general as the foundations of economical growth and as an activity of public interest. Although they didn’t succeed (yet) entirely, some shifts have been made. The biennial exhibition of Croatian design has a lot of visitors, Croatian designs and designers are in daily papers and fashion magazines and are treated as stars of the cultural scene. However, the number of hours per week that the visual culture is being thought at elementary schools is scandalous. Croatian industry is still not using Croatian designers (a lot of them internationally renowned), but rather manufactures ugly and nonfunctional items instead.

SD: Of course, there are autodidacts who devotedly contribute to graphic design on professional level. What are your views regarding non-proffesionals who only happen to learn the “trick” technically and exploit this type of “graphic design” commercially? Do you feel endangered by such competition?
K: Competition is never a bad thing. It can be inspiring if you let it. We hope that we build something throughout the year that distinguishes us and that we are recognized for it.
Z: Definitely not! There is no difference for us between institutionally educated practitioners and the other ones, there is only difference between good and bad design. However, the importance of a high-quality educational institution responsible for raising young generations of good designers has been proven again and again. A non-institutionally educated good, or even excellent designer is more of an exception than a rule.

SD: Most commercial clients seem to be confused about graphic design – they accept it formally but refuse to understand the professional background of it, dismissing it by saying – anybody can do it. In your own words, can anyone really be a graphic designer?
K: Of course not, but the problem with our profession is that it is so available, and anyone with any awareness of colour and composition, and no professional education think they can do it.
Z: Without proper education, either institutional or “home-made”, no. However, the process of educating the clients is, in fact, a real challenge and a responsibility of every designer. That situation does not apply only to Croatia, it is a worldwide thing, and is also something that has always been like that, and it probably will remain that way. It is simply a clash amongst different professions.

SD: Would you agree the professionals are sometimes too self-indulgent in delivering specific work? In your opinion, how much pretentiousness is there in the professional graphic design field?
Z: Well, there is a flood of conceptual work of dubious value going on for the past few years. We have a paradoxical situation that the conceptual work seems to be more appreciated publicly than other work. Although we need “The Concept” (or, The Thought) before “The Practice”, a lot of those projects are stillborn in sense that those are nice ideas that never get developed in practice and do not really help this world. A real effort in real situations that need to be solved is something we see more rare.

SD: By provoking subjective thought, graphic design continually seems to provoke the general public, dismissing it either as “too abstract” or “too arty” – on the other hand it is the same with cheap and so-called “safe” design. In order to reach the client and the consumer, where does that leave people like “Kuna Zlatica”? How many of your projects pass this test immediately and how many actually fail?
K: Many of them pass, but some of them we often like the most, don’t. Throughout the years, we learned where to stop and where to let go, but passion is always there. Where there’s a will, there is a way to show a project or a way of thinking, maybe in some next project or in a self-initiated one.
Z: Ha, ha, that is a good one! Well, we kinda can estimate how far we can go with which project. The goal is to get the maximum out of every one. By maximum, I mean maximum of thought provoking and perspective shifting. Also, to get the maximum out of it visually in a sense that it stands out of the mainstream visual constants or trends.

SD: Can you say, you have the freedom of choice regarding clients you’re working with?
Z: Sure. That is one of the reasons we have our own studio.
K: Depends on the client and of course on the project. While building your career, you are building experience, the freedom becomes more natural, and you stop questioning it. When you’re certain what you are doing, you build confidence that becomes contagious.

SD: What medium do you personally find most accessible but at the same time, just as effective to work with?
K: During the creative process, I think through illustration and for me it’s the easiest way. It is not suitable for everything so it doesn’t always end as one, but in a way it is always there. One thing that we try to do in our work is when using a photo, illustration, sometimes even typography, we try to do as much as we can by ourselves.
SD: How do you balance stress and creative energy during any process?
Z: With faith, coffee and a lot of cigarettes! The curse of the white paper still terrifies me deeply, every single time. But I just act like it’s not there (I am not seeing the white paper, the white paper is not there, white paper doesn’t scare me, kill the white paper…).
K: We are our own bosses but without fixed working hours there is no way to avoid stress. It is sometimes hard to be creative in specified time, that’s why it is so good that there are two of us.

SD: When do you feel best ideas come about – of the moment or through research, arguments, and further brainstorming?
K: Usually while doing something else, while riding a bike, listening to the music or whatever. Sometimes the idea comes instantly, you just know what to do. Most common technique is joining brains in the kitchen, that lasts until one of us says – I KNOW!!!

Images: “The Ballad of the Penguin”, by Lana Šarić (2009), comissioned work for New Life Theatre; “Croatian Patriotic Songs” (compact disc by LeZbor, 2012), illustrated by Helena Janečić; Kuna Zlatica cropped negative from the original photo by Ivan Dorotić (2012);

Further information: kunazlatica.com

Who is the DJ? What is the DJ? Hang the DJ? In case of “Dejavu” and its initiator Ivan Krželj, there were many “last nights” indeed, when this DJ saved lives. Still does… every once in awhile.

In 2002, or about that time, Krželj decided to comprise his club events into something that would stand the test of time – something that would bring together past and present and the ever-beloved future (that never properly is). By 2002, post-rock and electroclash scenes were just letting loose full time – all of a sudden many were hooked on glitch and the laptop culture, while on the other hand there were analogue blippers who decided to crash away from the digital (im)-perfection. Of course, the electroclash scene mixed individual artforms and DJ-ing into new divine decadence. I never really payed much attention to the genre itself – up to that point, Ivan was one of the DJs that stepped away from the regular hit-song circuit. His vision of hits was intertwined with the obscure – all of a sudden, somewhere in Zagreb the DJ started playing “Dejavu”. With a variety of synth-pop, electro, indie, new wave, no wave, industrial, avant-garde, neofolk or abstract back and forth, “Dejavu” gained a considerable following, attracting audences both old and new. In the meantime, Zagreb even got one of its first proper electroclash media darlings – then-duo called Lollobrigida. In the following years, the hipster culture spread its wings and continued to nurture its own blend of arrogance and exaggerated kitch-fashion chic.

Not that it all sounds just as exploited and hearing Adult’s version of “No Tears” for the 459309th time on the dancefloor is just causing further rift closer to dismissing it forever, but it helped maintaining the idea of “Dejavu”, an imaginative place where nostagia and actuality continually meet for their friendly loudspeaker killer track exchange. I first met Krželj around late 1998 – at the time he was already three years into his radio-programme called “Wave FM” (started in 1995 with one of Simple Minds’ songs). The place was Radio Student, at the time, people seemed like hanging out there, exchanging CDs in the main. Late 90s were still innocent times – CD-Rs just started and everyone saw it as a dream come true. We all started exploring this CD-R culture, Krželj in particular was one of the very first people I know who was able to transfer an old vinyl record onto CD-R. All of a sudden I was hanging out there every week, either listening to “Wave FM” right on the spot and exchaning music with him. We discussed various ideas and it was Krželj who gave Narrow (my former duo-project with a friend called Robi) its first proper public exposure – either via radio or live performance, at then-still active Lapidarij club, in front of a bemused, confused audience. Robi and I were part of his “Wave FM” 100th show anniversary held in Lapidarij (this event also featured Le Cheval, the provocative theatrical group and a guy called Alen reciting poetry. And of course, the music selections featured in his radio shows. While many DJs share identical taste in music and more-less the same vigour, Ivan Krželj’s attitude and communicating skills as a DJ, whether intentionally or accidentally, managed to reflect on the mood of the clubbing audience. At some level, Ivan does play it safe but that’s the actual mean little trick he performs by hooking up people through irresistible spine of ultrapopular hits interspersed with a lesser known, indie-scene’s (dark) side. All of a sudden you could hear songs you believed never had the chance beyond personal collection’s prison walls. Ever since his early 90s days at Mobilus Club and later on at Lapidarij (where he hosted “New Way Of New Wave” evenings), it was Krželj who helped reviving people’s interest in music that due underground scene’s decline on the verge of the new century, rapidly vanished – “trendy” became a necessary prefix to everything, from “pop” to “power-electronics” and you could hear it in most novelty acts’ stuff screaming with plasticity. With most late-80s/early 90s alternative music presenters gone or giving up (or staying in the shadows), Ivan remained to the present day. Parallel to his work at Lapidarij, back in the late 90s, there was also Tomi Phantasma who maintains his DJ profile to the present day with “Twilight” (then known, and far better, as “Twilight Zone”). Ivan and Tomi seem to be polar opposites of the same thing. Tomi provides “music for the masses”, while Ivan less keen on the commercial DJ factor provides something that is more “large ladies with cake in the oven”. Although it shouldn’t be a matter of clan, somehow both camps brought their tiny air of elitism.

DJs are known for their mixture of enthusiasm, arrogance and sense of competition among themselves; there is selfishness about music information, in order to keep it to themselves but also keep intriguing the outside world with its fragmentary bits. And all of a sudden, 12 years later, “Dejavu” became a fragment of itself. In the meantime, Krželj had established Muzikfantastique, sort-of summary under which all of his events hold up – besides “Dejavu”, there is also “Gute Nacht Berlin” focusing more on the grey area of drone, white noise and bleep.

Between 1999 and 2001 in search of particular identity, the idea of “Dejavu” suddenly turned up, from a song “1982” by Miss Kittin and The Hacker – and it served as the ideal platform for this new event, given full reign at then well-established independent club, called Mochvara. By 2002, exploring more recent affairs (among them the International DJ Gigolos’ and Ersatz Audio catalogues respectively), “Dejavu” rebuilt its profile and offered new club goers their ideal night-out haven. Trash electronics echoing along good old Hi-NRG, Eurodisco and EBM anthems, providing an amazing playlist of music memories and novelty acts.

SD: What band or individual from the music world is on your mind the most these days? IK: Yesterday, the postman delivered a wicked French compilation, “So Young But So Cold”. It’s full of early 80s French underground artists. I gave it several spins in the CD player.

SD: Where does all this love for listening to music come from? IK: I’ve been listening to music before I could walk. I remember spinning 7” records on my mom’s gramophone when I was four. I remember listening to an old radio, trying to mix in a song by Demis Roussos by playing it along on a vinyl 7”.

SD: There are rumours that you can’t even enter your own room because of the enormous amount of vinyls and CDs you’ve been collecting all these years… IK: Yes, that is true. I’ve been sleeping in another room for a while now, and I’ve also been thinking of moving into a bigger apartment, so that everything would be in one place. Sometimes I wonder who shall inherit this pile of sonic treasures!

SD: Have you ever thought about making your own music, inspired by influences? You have had a few of your own musical experiments in the past, can you tell us a bit about that? IK: Of course I thought about it. I even managed to get my hands on a couple of instruments. Last year I started taking private piano lessons. Who knows what might happen with that? About 15 years ago, as the first PCs were becoming popular, I experimented in sound processing programs. Some may recall the project titled “The End Of The Beginning The Beginning Of The End”, for which I packaged the final CD releases in covers filled with sea water. Through a series of music and art projects I’ve collaborated with H.C. Boxer, the Le Cheval theatre group, as well as the poet Alen ŠpaniÊ. Furthermore, I’ve been an active club DJ for over 20 years, as well as the music editor on Radio Student 100.5 FM with my own show “Wave FM”. I have to remember all these club programmes and radio shows. I have to mention club nights in former Mobilus and Lapidarij clubs called “New Way Of New Wave”, as well as “Dejavu”, which started in MoËvara exactly ten years ago, and alongside those, intimate gatherings through programmes such as Gute Nacht! Berlin and De?Mode, from which the “Musikfantastique” endeavour arose.

SD: What would you say defines a DJ – a stage approach or technical know-how? IK: A DJ must love music and sound above all else, feel both the music and the mood of the audience, and communicate with the crowd, take right actions with the right emotions every moment. The technique is something that a DJ acquires for many years.

SD: Since all these years you have showered us with fresh music daily, how come that in clubs we always hear the same songs? How successful would you say you are regarding presentation of different content? IK: The DJ must spin as the crowd dances. However, thanks to many enthusiasts from the (especially underground) music scene, there is always hope, and it’s up to the audience to decide what they like and what they don’t like. For example, the biggest radio influence for me were Dinko Bažadona and Damir Tiljak. Among my generation, there’s noone who hasn’t heard of “Izvan Struje”, “Future Shock” or “Skrivene glazbe”.

SD: Ten years ago you started your own DJ event called “Dejavu”. For the last ten years, we can clearly witness a multitude of 80s “revival” sounds – where does all this 80s obsession come from? Are the 80s the ultimate be-all and end-all of the music world, undisputed so far? IK: This is logical. In the 80s I was a teen, absorbing music and music news like a sponge. My thirst for music was unquenchable. In the 80s a lot of revolutionary things happened, especially with the expansion of the independent music scene.

SD: How solid a story will “Dejavu” remain? With the lightly sarcastic caption “been there, heard that”… Regarding this, is there anything at all today that sounds different and new? Can one, through music, avoid all that has been done earlier? IK: “Dejavu” was envisioned as a return to the past with a look toward the future. It’s somewhat of a retroactive audio-visual happening. New things have been popping up all the time ever since humankind appeared on the planet.

SD: Can you name one band that introduced / innovated some change in sound at the threshold to the 21st century – and that it’s not “retro”, “synth-pop”, “shoegaze”, “no wave”, “industrial” et cetera? IK: Sigur Rós.

SD: Who do you love to collaborate with the most? What are your experiences and impressions regarding the audience and the rest of the “scene”? IK: I love young, lesser known bands which are uncorrupted and have soul, balls and heart.

SD: Is there a “scene” at all? Is there some common denominator within Croatian/regional underground music, or is it all just an illusion? As part of your club shows, you have also organized live acts. What criteria do you use when selecting performers? Can you tell us what performers you chose and what attracted you to them? IK: It’s difficult to speak of the local and the regional underground scene today. It all boils down to individual attempts to revive something we had experienced 30 years ago when the current and the vibes were something entirely different. Today the majority only looks after themselves, and back then, people would have given their lives for the scene. As I said, I am into uncorrupted souls, “outside the current”.

SD: Meanwhile, you started a new club show, “Synth-pop abeceda”. What is this about and is this segment of “Musikfantastique” different from the rest – especially from “Dejavu”? IK: I would like to educate, and I wish to present as many unknown names, both old and new, as possible. The show is expanding and trying to transfer the spirit of the good old days to these younger generations, within these recent club happenings.

SD: Where do you see yourself in the next ten years? IK: I’d like to see and hear myself behind a DJ mixing desk, just like today, with even more fantastic music for fantastic people.

SD: What is your ultimate #1 album that you would take to a deserted island? IK: When all is said and done, the queen is dead.

~

The interview conducted by 1/2 with a big warm thank you to Goran Gregor for translation help.

Images: Sigur Rós image detail borrowed from an internet source
(author unknown at the time of publishing), Alain Delon (1965) from a legendary record cover
Ivan Krželj photographed by Zagrob

Further Information: muzikfantastique.com