24 hours in Prague – Part five

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

Continue Reading

Will Happiness Find Me? An interview with Maria Minerva

Will Happiness Find Me? An interview with Maria Minerva Maria Minerva is easy to like; friendly, chatty, smart and funny. We met on a rainy afternoon smoking cigarettes and talking about Adorno. It was the last day of the Creepy Teepee festival, a worn but elated atmosphere pervaded the air, and she was just about to play a gig before Excepter unleashed their trance-enducing bonanza. Since releasing her tapes on 100 % Silk, and primarily, her much-lauded album Cabaret Cixous on Not Not Fun, Minerva has cemented her position as one of the foremost figures of the contemporary lo-fi avantgarde dance/pop scene. Her sophomore album, Will Happiness Find Me?, is out on 4 September on Not Not Fun.

Electronic Beats: Where have you just come from and where are you off to next, both physically and mentally?
Maria Minerva:
I’ve just come from London, and I’m going back there. Which is good, because I’m writing my dissertation, so I’m mainly trying to be in London for the summer. That was the initial plan anyway, but now I’m doing shows instead. I like this chaos. Chaos reigns.

What is your dissertation about?
It’s about glossolalia and vocal music. It’s about the Italian composer Luciano Berio. For some reason I’m procrastinating and listening to rap music all the time.

How do you combine the worlds of theory and practice?
At the moment the combination is a bad one. When I’m supposed to write, I can’t do music, and vice versa. I can’t do either, so I keep procrastinating and feeling guilty. It’s human nature—you have one thing to do and then another, and then you just end up doing the third or the fourth thing on your list beforehand. Usually when I’m at a better place, something might ring in my ears and I build a song around it or get an idea which I recycle into a song.

Don’t you get more self-conscious because you’re aware of all the context that’s surrounding music?
I think nowadays everyone has a personal history of pop music that they dive into and consume stuff online, but I’ve also studied a lot of stuff. I was studying art history in Tallinn, stuff like 16th century Dutch architecture, which I wasn’t so much into. Then I went to London, and I started writing and reading about music. I was interning at the Wire, and now I study music at Goldsmiths. The two professors who are teaching me are actually writers at the Wire, so it’s like a very small scene of people in London who are into the same kind of stuff. I kind of squeezed myself into it. When you come from places like Tallinn or Prague, you don’t have any connections, so you have to appear at events and talk to people and be a bit pathetic, and at some point they know who you are. And finally I started making music myself.

So you think had you stayed in Tallinn, you wouldn’t be able to be where you are now?
So many people have left their homes to go the big city to pursue their careers in arts, like Ezra Pound, etc, they all went somewhere else. I think I could go back home in the future and still do what I’m doing, fly to places and live a quiet life. But I wouldn’t want to go back to Tallinn; I’d go to South Estonia or to some island and live in isolation.

What about the East/West divide, that’s still permeated in society and culture? It’s probably still harder to break through if you’re from Eastern Europe.
I think it only makes you more interesting. I read an interview with this girl in the Fader magazine. She has such a strong accent, which is something I’ve always been embarassed about when I sing. That was interesting for me, that she didn’t give a fuck about the accent and she sings like someone from the East. It adds an extra layer, and you don’t know if it’s comfortable for you or not, but you can hear that there’s a certain amount of otherness in her voice.

When I want to be more cute, with men or something, I sometimes emphasize the fact that I’m from Eastern Europe, but they never care because they are so politically correct or they just take me for who I am. But it’s a good thing to sometimes throw out to the world that I don’t care that I come from where everything is shit (or was when I was growing up) and the music scene is awful or non-existent. You have to find another reason to be vain, because people do leave home. But there aren’t too many people who have come out of Tallinn making music, though. The focus is still on the Anglo-American world, big time. Even though I want to say that it doesn’t matter where you come from, you have to have steps to the world, and in terms of that maybe it’s better to be where it’s happening. But I don’t go out in London much.

We all go out on the internet these days.
I’ve been online as long as I can remember. I realized what a difference it makes when I was applying for my US visa. You can be in correspondence with Americans every day and night, but when I want to go over it’s such a pain. The Internet is getting smaller, but it seems like borders are getting more strict. It’s a virtual thing, where it seems like an open, nice world full of ideas and people who can communicate, but in practice it’s expensive to go where you want and it’s hard to settle down in a new city.

What are your plans in the US?
I’m doing a lot of shows there, but what I’m looking forward to is that I get to drive. I’m jealous of myself when I think of it. For me, just to be able to play three different shows in Texas is a dream come true. I also think I’m going to record my next album in New York.

Can you tell me about the upcoming record?
It’s more like hippie music. You know you can fuck up with the second album. I don’t think that I’ve fucked up, but it’s just funny. First and foremost it’s psychedelic pop music, proper songs but really weird ones.

You have a strong feel for song structures. Could you imagine becoming more poppy, crossing over to the mainstream?
I’m a dreamer. Right now I’m reading a book about the music industry and music publishing. My American dream would’ve been to get into the song-writing business, but I’m not sure that it’s ever going to happen. It’s not like you just go and start writing for Beyoncé. I’d be interested to see if it’s in any way possible to write songs for people, and keep doing my underground stuff on the side. I can’t even see myself becoming the Grimes type of performer; she’s pretty huge in terms of the underground.

The question between experimental and popular is that you can’t be both. You can be to some extent, but there are compromises to be made. I read an interview with Grimes where she said that when she played her ambient witch house sets, she got booed all the time. Just the fact that she admitted that she felt she can’t get booed any longer, that she’s so tired of being the vibe-killer, is cool. I might kill the vibe tonight, I don’t know yet [note – she didn’t].

Do you prefer recording or playing live?
I prefer just making my albums. It’s private time – you work three hours, take a break, work three hours. It was like this for me last winter, when I was making the new record. It was like paradise, especially since I was living in Lisbon. Every day I walked over the hill, the sun was shining, the view was amazing. I went to my studio hoping that there hadn’t been burglars taking all my shit.

Has the environment influenced the sound of the new record? You mentioned it was more dub-heavy.
Maybe a bit. It was more a mental state. In general it was a nice, quiet time. My best friend from university was there, and she was like my substitute mother. I got taken care of, so she got a credit on the new album.

Why is it called Will Happiness Find Me?
It’s from a Fischli and Weiss book. I just liked the idea of not finding happiness, but will happiness find you? It’s a bit banal when you think of it first, but turned around it’s quite nice actually.

Photo: © Sarah Faraday

Continue Reading

Creepy Teepee: DIY Weirdness

Creepy Teepee: DIY Weirdness “Festival” is a word with wide-ranging semantic connotations, be they flower-power gatherings as a form of communal political stance, gigantic commercially-driven happenings for complacent youth, or snobby boutique events for yuppie parents. Creepy Teepee falls into none of these categories: it exists solely to share music.

Established in 2009, Creepy Teepee was born when Prague-based collective AM180 got invited to curate a music event at the Central Bohemian Gallery in Kutná Hora, a picturesque historical town about one hour from Prague whose most famous feature is the utterly unique, bone-festooned Sedlec Ossuary. Since 2011, Creepy Teepee has continued as an autonomous entity, a DIY festival foremostly manifested through avantgarde, thought-provoking and eye-opening programming and a chill-out vibe. Earlier this year, the festival was voted the event of the year by Czech music critics.

Electronic Beats: What is the philosophy of Creepy Teepee, and how does it differ from other festivals?
Št?pán Bolf: The festival is one of our activities at the AM180 Collective, which is active in music, organizing various concerts and running the AMDISCS label, as well as arts through our own Prague gallery. So it’s necessary to perceive Creepy Teepee within this context, which contains the crux of the philosophy of the whole collective: contemporary art with an emphasis on interconnecting music with visual arts, shown for and made by creative people. We have to believe in what others do; that’s the most important thing.

When it comes to music, Creepy Teepee has become the annual culmination of everything we do. This year the preparations have been strenuous bordering on the impossible because we also have day jobs. At the same time, we’ve arrived at a consensus that we don’t want to professionalize things because we feel it wouldn’t be fun anymore.

Like last year, the lineup is a combination of new names, up-and-comers and some older legends. Can you talk a little bit about the programming of the festival?
Building a festival on new names only would be insane, especially in the Czech Republic, where this kind of music still has a niche audience. That’s also one of the reasons why we try to invite bands that resonate outside of the relatively closed fan communities. The main issue is money, since part of the booking business revolves around bands who haven’t even released their debut EP yet, but have been name-dropped by Pitchfork’s “best new track” column. These type of bands usually cost a ridiculous money, which they themselves might not even realize…it’s usually the booking agent who makes this price. First and foremost, Creepy Teepee is a meeting of talented artists and a smart audience, not a show-business project for easy money-making.

We’re pretty adamant about this and never overpay bands. Last year, it was with great pleasure that we invited the living cult figure R. Stevie Moore. This year we have Hans-Joachim Roedelius and Excepter playing. None of them has lost touch with what’s happening around them, so the conditions they set are reasonable. It’s obvious that aside from the pragmatic reasons, they’re attracted to Creepy as an event where they can meet like-minded musicians, witness the immediate responses to their music and meet new people. Jon from Excepter, who played a solo gig here last year, really loved the festival and we still keep in touch. Stevie Moore, Roedelius and Excepter are punks like that. I’d just like to stress that Roedelius is 77 years old, and apart from a live set, he’ll also do an exclusive DJ set this year.

Can you tell us about the Emerging Creepy Act initiative that you have started this year?
The ECA seeks to draw attention to the happenings on the local European scenes in countries that are close to us, but whose music remains largely unknown. We asked some of our friends who are active in their particular scene through their blogs, labels and other platforms to nominate some bands from their region, such as Poland, Austria, Slovakia, Germany and Croatia. Needless to say, the ECA doesn’t strive to be a competition, but a friendly gathering of bands from neighboring countries.

The festival is very inclusive – artists freely mix with the audience and party until the wee hours, which is in contrast to many other festivals that strictly separate the two groups. Why is it like this at your festival?
I think this is a natural thing, mainly because we don’t even think about it within these terms. It’s the same at our concerts that we do during the rest of the year. Our time is too precious to invite bands that behave like rockstars.

Could you describe your favorite Creepy Teepee moment?
Jon Nicholson (Excepter, SSPS) at Creepy Teepee 2011: “My girlfriend works in a small bar in New York. There is a regular, also a musician, who drinks there night after night. I get here to Kutná Hora, enter the festival area – and the first thing I see is the very same guy standing at the bar.”

You do the festival alongside your day jobs and other activities. What is it that motivates you to go on despite all the issues that you experienced while putting on the festival?
The main motivation from the beginning remains the same: encourage interesting happenings in the place we live in and work with people with whom we have something in common: an everlasting and irrational love of arts and music in particular. This has remained unchanged throughout the years, even though it often gets too much, like last year, when the previous organizer pulled out two months before the start of the festival. It was a lot of pressure.

Where do you see the festival going in the future?
We hope that there will be more and more curious people interested in arts and music, who will actively nurture their own tastes, whilst having the media as only one of the sources that can act as a recommendation channel at most. I hope our team will remain working together and that we will embark on preparations of CT13 straight after CT12 closes its gates. It’s also important to have a city that understands such events and is able to support them.

Continue Reading

Vinyla Awards highlight Czech music talent

Vinyla Awards highlight Czech music talent “The Czech Republic has lacked a representative music prize, which would reflect and reward important creations in Czech music, for a long time”, state the organizers of the newly established music award with the rather peculiar name ‘Vinyla’.

Eschewing the local “music business”, Vinyla aims to praise the few local quality independent creators who inject some originality and ideas into their music. Nevertheless, another similar prize – Apollo – was awarded in January, which might signify an increasing effort to highlight and nurture musicians who are not affiliated with major labels here. Among the nominees for the first Vinyla Awards are alt rapper Bonus, ironic/iconic duo Cokovoko, Floex, newcomers Fiordmoss as well as events like Creepy Teepee.

The winners of each category – Record of the Year, Discovery of the Year, Event of the Year – will be announced this Saturday, 10 March at the Fléda club in Brno with a live show by WWW, Gurun Gurun or Kittchen.

Continue Reading

A’M 2012

A'M 2012 The Prague-based label AMDISCS is, like its umbrella organisation the AM180, committed to a fierce DIY ethos and strong visual aesthetics. The label is one of their youngest of activities, which also includes the Creepy Teepee festival (read our review here), but has already carved its mark on the world’s underground scene with numerous releases.

This year’s installment of its annual compilation, A’M 2012, is a gargantuan 52-track sonic manifesto of synth-heavy, hypnagogic glo-fi fringes of ‘pop’, wyrdness and DIY dance as it stands in 2012 and beyond featuring tracks by the label’s roster including Teams, Police Academy 6, Dream Boat, affiliates such as Pictureplane, as well as promising new talent (including CVLTS, Men in Burka, Dubai, Sensible Soccers and others).

The compilation is released as a CD accompanying the Czech magazine Živel in March and a digital bonus download that also comes with covetable custom-made tees designed by AMDISCS and made by New York’s NVR MND.

Apparently, “A’M 2012? puts well being and pleasure constantly first!”, so sit back, relax, and enjoy a blissful journey into their audio pleasuredome.

Continue Reading