Jakub Hosek is an artist, promoter and owner of the AMDISCS label. He is part of the A.M.180 collective, and runs the festival Creepy Teepee. For this feature he is one of seven voices in our series of monologues on the city of Prague. Read more here.
5:50 pm: Jakub Hošek
It all started here at Utopia in Belehradská 45. When we were still teenagers and just starting to get involved in the activities which now define our lives, we shared this space with friends that we met at the Ladronka squat in Prague… although, in those days, I had to climb in through the window. While the squatting-scene eventually brought Utopia into the orbit of the greater anarchist movement as an information cell, it also laid the foundation for many of our future projects.
Soon after we started our gallery, we set up a show in this space with Nina Nastasia from Touch and Go Records, which was the very first concert that we organized independently. Because we felt at the time that there was very little happening in the city that was of interest to us, we decided in 2003 to set up the A.M.180 Collective as a means of strengthening alternative culture in Prague. Since all of us are connected to the art scene—two of us being painters—and we all share a love for music, our initial idea was to bring art into contact with people who are into music, and vice versa. Even though it’s still unclear whether this idea has fully materialized in a larger sense, the inter-connection between different kinds of art is definitely the main theme of our festival, Creepy Teepee. And while there seems to be more and more people experimenting with new artistic material in Prague nowadays, the audience for this kind of creative material strangely does not appear to be growing. We are still only talking about a few dozen people on the scene here. When we started all this around 2000, there was great hunger for alternative culture. We used to invite people to our gigs by passing out burnt CDs. Now we are situated somewhere at the intersection of various scenes. With both music and art, we are generally very open, and are into everything from punk and hardcore to electronic music; from video art to painting. Most of these subcultures tend to be pretty insular, so, in contrast, we try to emphasize transgression and boundary-crossing where the different genres intersect or maybe even dissolve… which is sometimes a pretty thankless position to have. Most people want to belong somewhere, but that’s not what we offer. These days people are always talking about hipsters, but they often mistake hipsters for trendsetters. Hipsters have a herd mentality, and are driven by a desire to profit. We are driven by the discovery of something unique for us and other like-minded people, something difficult to name that makes a scene interesting and worthwhile.
This attitude toward culture is different abroad, especially in places where art has a revered position in society. In Prague, however, people have the feeling that they need to show off when they go to concerts, which makes engaging in cultural activity here seem more superficial. For example, when a fifty year-old comes to the MeetFactory, people will laugh at him, even though he probably came for the same reasons they did.
In addition to the gallery space, the festival, and the concerts, we also run a label called AMDISCS. While the label is definitely a useful channel for forging contacts with international artists, we also founded it in order to release and promote more Czech acts. At first, our goal with the festivals was to help bring Czech artists into contact with foreign music, but we later realized that most of them weren’t that interested. However, some of the people who attended our gigs were inspired to start making their own music, which led to the release of several Czech projects like dné or Table, along with the local project Climatizado, our first release. It was a bit off-putting, though, that so many of the artists were so reluctant to pay attention to the international context when promoting their work—such as blog-culture, for example. I’m not saying that we won’t release a Czech act in future, but right now, we are more interested in stuff that can make it on an international scale.
We care about our small, practically non-existent scene here, and we are fond of Prague, the city we were born in and remain connected to. Everything we do—be it our own art, concerts, exhibitions or the label—is taken with equal seriousness. The interconnectedness of these projects is of the utmost importance; one can’t function without the other. And we personally wouldn’t be able to function without this in our lives as well.
This text first appeared in Electronic Beats Magazine N° 31 (Fall 2012)
Photo: Luci Lux
Every time I hear the phrase “Don’t judge a book by its cover” I cringe.
Though well-meaning, as an idiom it stopped making sense when most books (and people) ceased to be covered by whatever old piece of brown sacking happened to be laying outside the village weaver’s hut. Of course you can judge something by surface appearance. That’s why we have graphic designers. Rarely do people have time to read a book before purchasing to determine the contents; in the same way, who has the chance to read a person before having any thoughts on the subject? True, the contents are the most important things, but what makes you discover those contents in the first place? Your eyes; your sense of aesthetics. A good cover speaks volumes, and The Book’s Cover gives voice to those who wear theirs well.
Sean Bowie is a man of many talents, both audible and visual. Aside from his advanced fashion powers, he’s been crafting a brittle-sweet brand of disco-tinged electronic weirdness under the guise of teams for a couple years now, landing a spot on the equally and delightfully odd Czech label AMDISCS and touring around the world. I’m honestly never quite certain when and where he’ll pop up, though rumor has it he’s forsaken his current home of Los Angeles for my current home of Berlin. His upcoming album Sierra City Center (a demo of which you can preview at the bottom of this piece) is a completely new direction for Bowie; the strange electronics are still present, but with a psychedelic, surf rock-inspired flavor. Life in LA definitely has that effect on people. What’s Sean’s ideal cover? Let’s find out.
1. Yohji Yamamoto Men’s Pre-Washed Jeans
2. Shaun Sampson t-shirt
3. Bernhard Willhelm hat
4. Buffalo boots
5. Daniel Palillo Finger jacket
6. KTZ AW 13/14 skirt
7. Q-Ray magnetic bracelet
8. Green Guru Gear Ruckus Bike Tube Backpack
Photo: Miller Rodriguez / PrettyPuke
Welcome to our latest batch of freshly baked music video goods. This week features the likes of Julio Bashmore, Animal Collective, Fanuelle, Arnaud Rebotini and many more, so you better have a good reason for not reading on.
#1 Tara King th. – Magnetic Bounds, directed by Sebastien Tixier & Arnaud Boyer
To sum up what Tara King th. is all about I’ll give you a quote from their website: “psychedelic pop that conjures up spaghetti western delicatessen, future-gone-retro or acid rock from the early 70s”. Oh, and a little bit of Stereolab, of course.
#2 Julio Bashmore – Husk, directed by Jake Applebee & Spike Morris
Featuring weightlifter Sylvester Osborne and some creepy-ass owls, Julio Bashmore gives us the video for haunting track “Husk”.
#3 Jesse Boykins III & MeLo-X – Black Orpheus, directed by Dr. Woo Art
“Black Orpheus” is from the Jesse Boykins III and MeLo-X collaboration album Zulu Guru. Somewhat entertaining.
#3 Animal Collective – Honeycomb, directed by Dawid Krepski
Another video entirely made of GIFs for yet another tune from the AC empire. Best not watch the video while having your lunch—I lost my appetite.
#4 Monokle – Holt Found, directed by Natasha Todd
Hailing from Saint Petersburg, the eclectic Russian producer currently known as Monokle has just dropped some amazing A/V joy.
#5 Fanuelle – Body Romana, dir.?
Mysterious Manhattan-residing singer/songwriter Fanuelle drops the first video off of his newly remastered self-titled debut album of DIY bedroom pop. Addictive.
#6 Arnaud Rebotini – Pagan Dance Move, directed by Adrien Cothier
Here’s the spooky video for Arnaud Rebotini’s “Pagan Dance Move” from the eponymous EP out now on The Hacker & Gesaffelstein’s ZONE Records.
#7 Prince – Rock and Roll Love Affair, dir?
#8 Gracias –Let Myself Go, directed by Taito Kawata
Strange things happening in nocturnal Helsinki. No strings attached.
#9 Afrika Pseudobruitismus – MAMMA MIA, directed by Stanley Sunday
And AMDISCS is asking again: Trip gefällig?
#10 Unicorn Kid – Feel So Real, dir?
Somewhere between horrible and genius, on the part of the scale marked: Unicorn Kid.
Wojtek Rusin is one of those cosmopolitan artists who pursues his dreams as an émigrée, reaping artistic inspiration from the transient nature of such an existence. Originally from Poland, he currently resides in Bristol, UK after stints in Barcelona and Germany. Under his moniker Katapulto, Wojtek has produced a diverse array of music ranging from conceptual pieces to camp, experimental endeavors reminiscent of Felix Kubin, only to arrive at catchy synth-based songs. After a brilliant conceptual tape for Sangoplasmo where he used recordings in several languages about animals, Rusin returns with his latest album Bad Tourist—named so because “it could be a title of a theatre play”—out now on AMDISCS. We caught up with him to talk about subversion, angry markets and the power of high-definition.
Bad Tourist brings to mind some of those good, hit-loaded synthpop albums from the eighties in the vein of Depeche Mode, etc.
I was definitely looking for something like this. Sometimes you have these albums where three four songs are really good and with the rest couldn’t work on their own and are just there to fill up the product. I didn’t want that. I love the early Depeche Mode albums, where every song is a song in its own right. My record somehow refers to the eighties because of the synth sounds, but I guess the production has a modern twist. I didn’t want to go for lo-fi aesthetics. There are also these two songs—“Stories from Beyond the Sun”—where the computer talks about melodramatic stories taken from the tabloids. I also used some nineties loops found on some obscure blogs about obsolete music technology. It’s sometimes inspiring to work with found lyrics and sound.
How did the album come about?
The whole album is a selection of songs that I recorded over the last two years. I had been living in Barcelona, Poland and Bristol during that time. It’s a bit like a diary; impressions of different places and situations. I was definitely going for diversity rather than consistency throughout the whole thing. Every track posed a different challenge.
Have the geographical differences left a mark on the songs?
For example I went to this exhibition about television at the MACBA in Barcelona, and there was this BBC TV series from the seventies called Ways of Seeing. I included some things from it into my lyrics. Right now I’m doing a course on teaching children music and had to go through these online tests. I ended up making a song inspired by this called “Children Protection”. The album is more free form and not as concept-heavy as the Animalia cassette, that had this pseudo-educational vibe and was sonically more about the sound design and creating some kind of fake folk music. On the other hand, on the new record every song has this single, independent character. It tells a story by itself.
Do you approach your music from a conceptual standpoint?
In those two tracks mentioned before I really enjoyed the tension between the found lyrics and muzak-like elevator sounds. The rest are songs with hopefully nice melodies and well-programmed drums. Animalia was a conceptual album, and so is the music I make for theater. The last play involved me amplifying various domestic objects with contact mics and improvising around the lines of the actors. I did quite strange music years ago, the first albums are perhaps unlistenable but I think they’re quite interesting. It’s a way of finding a balance between an intriguing, original sound and putting it in a frame of a pop song. I think the record is quite contemporary with songs, conceptual pieces… It’s a bit eighties and nineties feeling but not in a retro-nostalgic way. It’s natural to quote and refer to the past. What is the contemporary sound anyway? There is this very contemporary sounding artist called Shackleton who is so futuristic that it somehow escapes the past, it’s truly music from another planet. I saw him at a festival recently and was amazed. James Ferraro on the other hand refers to muzak, ringtones, midi kitsch, sound design. Everything is happening at the same time, the references are all there because of the internet—it’s hard to escape. Hype Williams are an interesting example of filtering the last 20 years of electronic, hedonistic rave music through their lo-fi aesthetic.
The aesthetic criteria have changed too…
The lo-fi post punk aesthetic doesn’t work for me anymore. The methods that were relevant in the past with the lo-fi, rough sound have been worn out. Some musicians are going for cleaner, more futuristic sounds in order to make subversive music. It’s also a more natural method for me since I’ve always used computers rather than synths but there are still labels out there which are fascinated and a bit nostalgic about dirty synthesizers and drum machines. I can imagine that by using this stuff you can have a very consistent sound throughout the whole record which is sometimes quite tempting but it’s actually more fascinating and challenging to use the new technologies. Then you are using the same weapons as the mainstream. I’m fascinated by HD, After Effects and sound design. I did a song with a 22-year-old and she thinks the dirty punk thing is very retro. The subversive language has changed and we have to attack with HD rather than some sort of nostalgic noise and feedback.
You work with digital technologies?
Almost everything is computer VSTs. Recently I had a chance to play with a fantastic modular synth that my friend built and it was great, magical, but I didn’t have a clue what do to with it! Somehow I managed to slip into self-referential retro. But some people can use these machines in a very creative way.
What constitutes futurism in music for you nowadays?
We are getting into a phase where the differences are very subtle and the old methods of analysis have changed. You listen to something and have to spend more time to detect some radical novelty. When I was younger and listened to a new record, it was a totally new world, you didn’t recognize the references. In a gig environment I like it when I get lost and don’t know the references, it feels like being 18 again and listening to a tape by Squarepusher and wondering what the hell that is. Thing is, you can’t expect such massive shift in sound like fifteen years ago. I guess everyone is referring somehow to the musical past, it’s about filtering, an art of intelligent quoting, or maybe I’m totally wrong and we’ll be blown away in a few years with some sort of a totally new thing that doesn’t sound like anything else. Is this still possible?
Talking about subversion, you did a video for your song Angry Markets, deconstructing sterile stock images. You worked at a design agency so you have personal experience with the world of commercial imagery, right?
This is an aesthetic used in a corporate world. You have groups of photographs arranged under keywords like happy people, where everyone is very young with blue stripy shirts, happy and smiling. This represents a certain economic and political direction, and it’s quite interesting to use this aesthetic in a music video. The lyrics “Angry markets, profit warnings” came from the BBC’s financial news and I found this ultra-capitalist language of the angry markets rather scary. In a way it is a political song. It’s also about truth. When you look at these photographs, are these happy people? Do we believe their smiles? I don’t know who believes in this anymore. They are monsters fabricated by ideology.
But you are also influenced by other media outside of music?
I’m a big fan of Ryan Trecartin who makes these flamboyant films with pitch-shifted voices and stories about internet characters. It’s very futuristic and the sound design is brilliant because he mixes everything in such a nonchalant way. I’m very inspired by visual art. I also love the art of Joe Evans who made a large sculpture for the cover of the album. I want to make more videos, to add different dimensions to my music.
You have lived both in the east and the west of Europe. What is your view of the east/west divide, especially in terms of music?
I moved to Britain in 2004 but I was brought up in Poland and lived in Germany for a bit. With the UK, I certainly moved into a country of a very diverse culture and very advanced capitalism. I’m a bit trapped in a channel of Anglo-American music here. It’s a natural process but you have to be aware of it. When I was living in Poland I was listening to a lot of German music because Germany is Poland’s neighbor with a very strong tradition of electronic music. When I came to England, I realized they haven’t heard about certain things which were well known to me, like the Scape label, Pole, etc. I did a mixtape for a US blog recently, and I looked at my itunes and realized that most of the tracks are featured on every cool blog and how could I surprise anybody with that. I had to dig deeper into my library and find, for instance, German new wave hero Holger Hiller. I’m certainly aware that there are interesting things happening in Central and Eastern Europe and hopefully they will become louder.
Stream Katapulto’s album Bad Tourist in full:
The New Zealand duo Golden Axe released their fourth album Liquid Bacon on Prague-based AMDISCS label at the end of lasthttp://www.siward.tv year.
Hot on the heels of their buoyant European live shows, they deliver “Space Fire”, a friendly invitation into their opaque world of simulacra, coupled with a wholeheartedly humane sense of urgency apparent from the sonic side of things. A psychedelic stroll – orchestrated by director Simon Ward – through lysergic computational aesthetics as a dreamy escapism and raw, synth sounds courtesy of Daif King and Chris Cudby. What is virtual and what real these days anyway?