Martin H?la, member of the now defunct band Ememvoodoopöká, and subsequently the popular indie-electronic outfit Sporto, is a staple in the Czech independent music scene. His latest solo endeavour Bonus sees him weave observations from society into his music. On Bonus’ debut release ‘Konec civilizace’ he was branded as alt-hip hop artist using samples and rapping. His sophomore offering ‘Nám?stí míru’ might be his most approachable to date, and has been just released by Deadred/Starcastic.
Could you describe the story behind making your new record?
It was more of an accident than a concept. I brought a guitar and microphone to my workplace and recorded some ideas whenever I had some spare time. I tried to minimize the use of synths and samples. Most of the sounds I created and used, including percussion, were acoustic. After a few months I realized that I had more songs than I had expected, so I picked out eleven demos and asked my friend Gaex (who runs the fabulous label Surreal Madrid) to make the footage into a record and mix it. He added some beats and electronics and extracted a beautiful sound from my lo-fi recordings.
Why is it called Namesti miru? (The Peace Square in Czech)
The title is not related to any specific location. Every bigger city in the Czech Republic has a place called Namesti miru. It is more like a state of mind for me – I don’t want to fight in senseless wars, but I also don’t want to hide from public space, since activism and politics are an important part of my art. You could hear me kidding about street zen, too. Whatever that is.
Could you say something about the sonic structure of the album?
Most of the sounds originate from acoustic sources, instruments (acoustic guitar, piano, double bass, violin, pedal steel guitar…) or field recordings (you can hear a “percussion” loop made by a xerox copy machine on that record), but the structures are more familiar with electronic or hip-hop music – even the acoustic instruments I have recorded are combined and layered as loops rather than in the style of traditional songwriting. I’ve tried to formulate new genres to fit the record and I think some of them are so cool you could even start a whole new scene: urban sickfolk, hip-pop, flow-fi or offscene beats.
And what about the lyrics/texts? What sort of topics/life observations did you deal with? You are known as an avid sonic observer of contemporary times.
I think the new record is a lot of about passion, both on the level of personal intimacy and public space. It might sound simple, but I try to describe what it means to be 32 years old in post-soviet capitalism. Living in absurd hope, without passion. In my songs I look for something real and strong – love or life.
How is the album different to your previous release Konec civilizace (End of Civilization)?
Konec civilizace was a conceptual and very political manifesto, and also much more closer to alternative hip hop. The music was built from hundreds of samples taken from various records, like a huge supermarket robbery. The new record is not that straight, although the activism is not absent. It is much more projected on a personal level – and I think it is somehow more intense here – “the personal is political”.
Do you consider yourself a rapper, singer or a spoken-word sonic poet?
What about a musician in a subway station? Except that my instrument is not an old guitar, but a portable recording studio.
What is it in music that you like the best?
Emotions. Whether the music makes me freeze or raise both hands in the air, I am always fascinated by its power.