Zavoloka interview for 15 Questions

When did you start writing/producing music and what or who were your early passions and influences? What what is about music and/or sound that drew you to it?

When I was a teenager, I listened to a lot of really different kinds of music, from jazz and trip-hop to guitar music. But only experimental electronic music blew me away. I felt that there was real freedom to be found there.

For most artists, originality is first preceded by a phase of learning and, often, emulating others. What was this like for you? How would you describe your own development as an artist and the transition towards your own voice? What is the the relationship between copying, learning and your own creativity?

I never had such a thing as “emulating for learning”. I had a few friends, with whom I always argued about this. It has been like that since the very beginning. For me, the most powerful and influential artists have always been those, who had their own voice and vision. Maybe because of that I also always hated formal academical training. Institutions will always put you in a frame or show you boundaries. it is not at all about artistic freedom or creativity to me.

What were your main compositionaland production-challenges in the beginning and how have they changed over time?

In the beginning, it was very hard to find or buy any equipment, software, or synths in Ukraine around 2001. So I started with a computer which was very slow and glitchy at that time. When I bought my first sampler back then, that was a real celebration! Over time I started to collect my favorite synths. I am happy to have now a possibility to choose.

What was your first studio like? How and for what reasons has your set-up evolved over the years and what are currently some of the most important pieces of gear for you?

My first studio was very simple. It consisted of a minimalist computer, an audio interface and monitor speakers. With time I started to buy more and more devices with knobs and potentiometers, and for example, now I collect Waldorf synths – I love the sound of the Blofeld and Quantum, they are amazing!

But I am not a big collector, I always try to get rid of a machine if I do not use it for a while. If it collects dust, I would change it for something else.

How do you make use of technology? In terms of the feedback mechanism between technology and creativity, what do humans excel at, what do machines excel at?

I see it as a dialogue. For example, it is funny for me to see that when I play with my Lyra synthesizer, the results are always in an ambient and melodic direction. But when my partner Dmytro (aka Kotra) turns the knobs – it is always harsh and noisy. 🙂

Production tools, from instruments to complex software environments, contribute to the compositional process. How does this manifest itself in your work? Can you describe the co-authorship between yourself and your tools?

I think any musician speaks a language of their own with their instrument. I like it when I can close my eyes and play intuitively with the machine.

Collaborations can take on many forms. What role do they play in your approach and what are your preferred ways of engaging with other creatives through, for example, file sharing, jamming or just talking about ideas?

We collaborate a lot with my partner Dmytro Fedorenko. Together, we founded the label Kvitnu, the sci-fi techno project Cluster Lizard, and now the art project Prostir. Whenever I have a doubt about something, I ask him to criticize or help me with the idea. I think it is always about trust and mutual respect first of all.

Could you take us through a day in your life, from a possible morning routine through to your work? Do you have a fixed schedule? How do music and other aspects of your life feed back into each other do you separate them or instead try to make them blend seamlessly?

Art is embedded in a daily routine, I can not separate it. In a way, you’re living the life of a freak. It is difficult to explain this to our parents! 🙂

Could you describe your creative process on the basis of a piece or album that’s particularly dear to you, please? Where did the ideas come from, how were they transformed in your mind, what did you start with and how do you refine these beginnings into the finished work of art?

I had an idea for my new album Ornament about a year ago. I wanted to create some kind of a sonic–geometrical conscious coding ritual. You can see it as a sonic and visual embroidery technique, where the intention is modeled by both the external forms and the internal structures, like a sacred process of the cryptography of the heart, that generates a harmonious path. I drew more than a hundred ornaments, I wanted to create radical contrasts: Sonically and visually, low and high frequencies, slow and fast energies, high contrast colours – but where balance is key. As encryption of the intent with your very own unique ornament.

There are many descriptions of the ideal state of mind for being creative. What is it like for you? What supports this ideal state of mind and what are distractions? Are there strategies to enter into this state more easily?

When I improvise with the instrument intuitively, I call it for myself “catching up after the soul”. It is like a long meditation.
 As they say, the only downside of the practice is that you have to practice it. 🙂

How is playing live and writing music in the studio connected? What do you achieve and draw from each experience personally? How do you see the relationship between improvisation and composition in this regard?

It is absolutely different energies. In the studio, you are like a monk in a cave. You crystallize every detail, you keep going back, and polish everything until it shines. Playing live is like a continuous flow, it is about being in the moment completely. I like both states of mind.

How do you see the relationship between the ‘sound’ aspects of music and the ‘composition’ aspects? How do you work with sound and timbre to meet certain production ideas and in which way can certain sounds already take on compositional qualities?

I improvise a lot, and sometimes I like to use improvised parts without any editing in my compositions. To me it is important to really keep it as fresh as possible.

Our sense of hearing shares intriguing connections to other senses. From your experience, what are some of the most inspiring overlaps between different senses and what do they tell us about the way our senses work? What happens to sound at its outermost borders?

If the question is about synesthesia, for me visual art and sound art has always been connected as one experience.

Art can be a purpose in its own right, but it can also directly feed back into everyday life, take on a social and political role and lead to more engagement. Can you describe your approach to art and being an artist?

I see art as true inner freedom.

It is remarkable, in a way, that we have arrived in the 21st century with the basic concept of music still intact. Do you have a vision of music, an idea of what music could be beyond its current form?

As Nikola Tesla once said, “If you want to find the secrets of the Universe, think in terms of energy, frequency, and vibration.” 🙂 I think it is going to be more interconnected again – music, visual arts, philosophy, science, performing arts, magical practices, as it had been in ancient times.