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OWLS ARE NOT - 'from our music comes uncertain future'

The former ex-Yugoslav music was very popular in Poland, such as Zdravko Čolic or complete new-wave punk scene. There they listened to Idoli, Azra, Šarlo Akrobata, Film, Haustor,Buldožer, Prljavo Kazalište... so, Električni Orgazam was appeared 1982 in Warsaw, where recorded the famous LP live "Warsaw 82" in Yugoslavia was limited to only 2,000 copies. The Polish scene did not have a lot of rock bands as well as other countries of the communist bloc, and somewhere, such as the Soviet Union rock music was forbidden.

However, today the situation is quite different. Poles are opened wide in this regard, much of this I have already stated in my review of the second mini-album (or EP) "2" Warsaw band Owls Are Not who piled considerable international success after only five years of his career showing an example of the contemporary club live music as they do the real work. They have already completed several significant touring Europe, including in the 'untouchable' the United Kingdom, at least as far as we, the Eastern Europeans as it is generally the very British scene reduced to recycling looking for new and fresh ideas that their shabby retro trends can no longer compensate. My interlocutor in this interview is an electronic maestro Piotr Cichocki , a DJ who also handled with the synth, sampler, keyboards, production, mixing, and all sorts of weird wonders. With him, the band consists of analog musicians who are constantly changing, until recently they were bass guitarist Piotr Mazurek and drummer Rafał Klimczuk, and recently there is only a new drummer so currently working as a duo.
[ Owls Are Not 2016 ]

Owls Are Not 2016   © T.D.Dang

Something about the begining...

Piotr Cichocki: The band is an effect of meeting between me and bass player Piotr Mazurek and drummer Bartek Kamiński. Their idea was to play something between punk and classic drum'n'bass, mine - to make some crazy psychodelic music. Very soon it became comprehensive and creative. It all started in 2011. From that time the line-up have changed couple of times and now the band is me (Piotr Cichocki) on electronics with featuring Marcin Suliński on drums. Though the Owls Are Not is open project and we collaborate a lot with number of musicians and other visual and perfomative artists.

Name Owls Are Not is very funny. Is it some kind of metaphor about yours night life?

Piotr Cichocki: Actually it cames from David Lynch's "Twin Peaks". There was strange words in one of the part: "Owls Are Not What it Seems", a message from outer space. But we decided to make it short, more absurd to make it similar to nothing.

Current scene in Warsaw and Poland... Europe and World know for metal, punk and old punk, post-punk and rock artists, but what is with modern electronic, alternative and other genres? Where is Owls Are Not? In underground or somewhere else?

Piotr Cichocki: I guess the tehno scene and obviously hip-hop scene are very strong, also experimental and modern compositions are doing well. We are quite individuals, like to go our own tracks, not participate in any scene but build our own. But that doesn't stop us from a lots of cooperations with djs, jazzmen. Once we even tried to add some polish gangsta rapper to one song but… well, that was the one step too far :)

First EP "Owls Are Not What They Seem" I'm not listed. Is it was for some inedendent label or self-made? Say something about that experience, work in studio and other vital stuffs.

Piotr Cichocki: We make it by ourselves, record it at friend's nicely equipped studio and I made mixes. We have released it only on-line. But that was the first time we use a nice for us method of recording - live in studio. We make two or three version of each song and prefer not make any overdubs. I like the raw atmosphere of early studio rock albums. That's how we work all the time. We like to play and have fun with the technology during mixes, but recordings have to catch the energy.

What are you worked before Owls Are Not, I thought first on yours musical history. Do you been in some bands? And, of course, your private life. School, university maybe, professional job?

Piotr Cichocki: Well, saying just about the present line-up. I'm actually cultural anthropologists, an ethnomusicologists. So I study and work with music from many different points of view (points of listening) at the same time. I also had couple of bands before Owls - one of them was Artybishops, that played alternative pop and had some minor hits in Poland. Marcin is classicaly educated musician, drummer, who also played a lot styles like drum'n'bass and speed metal.
[ Piotr Cichocki ]

Piotr Cichocki   © Davide Cardea

Are you married, have family, children?

Piotr Cichocki: Maybe I just tell about myself, since I don't know how is Marcin with telling about his private life. I'm engaged with smooth girl, artist and designer, who also made some band photos lately.

What's socio-financial situation in Poland? Average payment here in Croatia is about 400-500 euros, but minimal is 350. So, how is in your big country? Maybe better?

Piotr Cichocki: Average payment seems to be around 700 euro (as I checked at the internet). But it says more about that rich people get a lot of money and it doesn't help the poor. The social aspect is more distressing, because there is a lot of hostility in Poland, lots of social conflicts. The future is uncertain and I think there is some unrest in our music, that cames from that feeling.

Second EP, or mini album "2" is for Atypeek Music. How are you connected?

Piotr Cichocki: The story started when after hearing on-line our debut producers from international artists network Match&Fuse contacted us and invite us to cooperation. In effect with played a number of gigs around Europe: UK, Italy, Norway and France. We enjoyed a lot of it, especially France and when we recorded the "2", we contacted with couple of cool labels from this country. At we had the best talk with Atypeek. Christophe Feray who is the main person of label is really involved into music and has also really nice cooperators.

Yours explosive mix of disorted live bass (is it through synth/noise-effects?), live drums and chaotic-psycho electronic on that EP is big, big groove. What's the name of your music? Electro-Punkstep?

Piotr Cichocki: Hard to say about the style! Punkstep was the direction for the first album, the second has little different approach with more impro, jazz and even metal all with very speeded groove. The third album - we make it now - has more psychodelic, even psychotic atmosphere.
[ Owls Are Not @ Powiększenie Warszawa ]

Owls Are Not @ Powiększenie Warszawa   © Davide Cardea

Who is vocal on "Black noise"? And what is in lyrics? I can't right or good recognize that text...

Piotr Cichocki: It says about black noise that stucks inside the brain and floods everything around with music. It is written and sung by Piotr Mazurek who also plays the bass on that album.

You experiments with the sound, compositions, complex arrangements, cutting edge aggressive almost hardcore sound, but seems, it's not hard to perception for audience. What does it mean 'Punkstep nights'? Is it totally madness on dance-floor?

Piotr Cichocki: The Punkstep Night was the series of parties we organize in Warsaw, inviting djs to play with us, sometimes improvise together. It is not easy to make something really cross-style, but that was great fun. We enjoy playing for people who expect total experiment, but then they hear it is danceable or even some kind of rave.

You been on live tour in Great Britain, Italy , France, Norway, twice in your Poland.

Piotr Cichocki: We like to play around different places, different countries. It is good to have direct contact with people also because we're nor playing mainstream music, that gets a big support from big media. But it is better how it is, when the music is personal, not just a product.

What is experience playing with Marc Ribot' Ceramic Dog, Jaga, Jazzist and extravagant free-jazz/rock french band Alfie Ryner?

Piotr Cichocki: Some of these artists we met during the festivals, so there was only opportunity to talk and party. But for example with Alfie Ryner we had enough time to prepare some unique set for the tour we got together. We played altogether couple of tunes from David Lynch's movies - like "Laura Palmer theme", David Bowie's "I'm deranged" from Lost Highway. And now Paco from Alfie Ryner will sing in our new album, with very "Naked Lunch"-style poem. Great thing, You will hear soon!
And Marc Ribot - yes, it was also great meeting. We supported him during his concerts in Poland. He came with idea of adding some guitar parts for our album but due to time and space complications it didn't happened yet.

Cooperate with Karolina Kubik... Who is she? We don't know about her works here in Croatia...

Piotr Cichocki: Karolina is great performer, from the area of modern experimental art. She travels a lot around Europe but usually she performs at places like art galleries not concert clubs. I don't know if she were in Croatia, but I'm sure she made some happenigs in Macedonia. She is unique person and has really distinctive style of art, between surrealism and political engagment. She influenced a lot our new material. If You have opportunity to see her performance, You definitely should!

Give us some live or interesting video links on youtube...

Piotr Cichocki: Ok, so something from cooperation with Alfie Ryner, little bit more melodic stuff (look over) and something new - more punk/dnb/techno thing with great visuals of our friend VJ Pathfinder:

Do you think about yourself - we are unique band?

Piotr Cichocki: I don't know if we're better or worse than other, but I guess we're very individual, having own way.

Something about your musical inspiration and influences...

Piotr Cichocki: Wow, that's hard question, because, You know, it's very eclectic. Maybe I will tell just about now. Last couple of weeks I listen a lot of "cosmic" music with the sence of outer space, science fiction. From techno, experimental, vaporwaves from 2015 and 2016, to old psych-jazz like Alice Coltrane or Sun Ra. I like the idea of producing music as producing some imaginative landscape and I think those artists work like that.

Is any chance for some concert here in Zagreb in Croatia, or other Balkans state: Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Macedonia, Monte Negro, Bulgaria, Romania, Greece, maybe Hungary?

Piotr Cichocki: We love to! We were close to visit Slovenia last year, but we have to move it to the future. I hope there will be chance next fevruary. If You are from any of those countries and You know places where our music may sounds good, let us know!

Plans for nearest future?

Piotr Cichocki: As I said we work on new album now. It will be step further, we think that every album is unique and different from its predecessor, this one certainly is. It will be total thing on some way, because all of its elements are important and meaningful. We have very special cover project, made by polish contemporary artist, there is also video in making. Music of the album will be little bit slower, much more darker, with some new inspirations from psychodelia and even new wave, no wave, whatever. There is a lot of vocal samples on the album, so the music become more narrative, but in very surreal and strange way. We plan the release for november and after that we think about a bigger tour around Europe. And actually working on all of these we have some first sprouts of the fourth album.

Maybe you have some special message for audience and public in Croatia and other Balkan?

Piotr Cichocki: Yes, first of all I would like to not only promote my music in Balkans but to know more about music and art from that region. In our work the exchange is very important, so I hope there will be chance to exchange ideas, performances, music with artists from Croatia and around. The other thing is that - maybe You don't know - music from Your region was very important for polish people in 70's and 80's. Your punk and new wave music was liked here as much as the one from UK or US. It may be very good if we somehow reestablish that connection nowadays.

Thank you very much for your time to this interview.

horvi // 12/03/2016


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