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Zaslišanje: The Ills - trenutno najboljša slovaška glasbena skupina?

Če bo večina od nas z obupom gledala na leto 2016, se ga bo slovaška post-rock skupina The Ills zagotovo spominjala s širokim nasmehom.

Zdi se, da smo štiričlansko zasedbo skupaj z njenim bratislavskim menedžmentom Real Something letos videvali povsod. In kjerkoli so se ustavili, se je med občinstvom širilo navdušenje nad intenzivnimi, skoraj punkovsko obarvanimi in hkrati neverjetno harmoničnimi koncerti trenutno najaktivnejšega – in verjetno tudi najbolj simpatičnega – slovaškega benda. Zaradi očaranosti nad njihovimi glasbenimi veščinami in hipnotično mešanico shoegaza, math-rocka in progresive, se odsotnost besedil skoraj ne opazi in niti približno ne pogreša.

 

Poleg zavidljivih festivalskih nastopov kot sta češka Pohoda in nizozemski Incubate festival, so s svojo karizmo letos osvojili tudi mnoge obiskovalce showcase festivalov. Ameriška internetna publikacija Consequence of Sound jih je umestila med 25 najzanimivejših nastopov na prestižnem Iceland Waves festivalu, skladba Fire Flies! z zadnjega albuma Ornamental or Mental pa je pustila močan vtis na avstrijski portal Mokant.at, ki jo je izbral za tretjo najljubšo skladbo letošnjega festivala in konference Waves Vienna. Častni seznami z njihovim imenom se tu še ne končajo. Med ostalim so bili na spletni strani Artic Drones izglasovani med 50 najboljših post-rock izdaj leta 2016 in se tako znašli v družbi Explosions In The Sky, Mogwai, Swans, Jambinai, Tortoise in podobnimi uveljavljenimi imeni.

 

V prihajajočem letu The Ills nikakor ne bodo počivali. Januarja se mednarodnemu občinstvu zopet prestavljajo na enem največjih evropskih profesionalnih glasbenih dogodkih Eurosonic Noorderslag na Nizozemskem, kamor potuje tudi slovenska delegacija s tremi domačimi zasedbami. Februarja pa se celotna karavana napoti proti naši prestolnici za domač glasbeni vrhunec MENT Ljubljana.

 

In kaj si o vsem tem mislijo The Ills? Iso in Miro imata nekaj zelo zanimivih zgodb in komentarjev.

 

Za vami je že kar dolga pot odkar ste leta 2008 ustanovili skupino. Kaj ste počeli pred The Ills? Imate še vedno redne službe ali je bend postala vaša edina dejavnost?

Iso: Že je minilo toliko časa, da se niti ne spomnim, kaj sem takrat sploh počel. Bend je bil na začetku predvsem zabaven hobi, priložnost za potovanje z najboljšimi prijatelji in neke vrste izgovor za psihopatološko higieno. Zadnja leta je postala že skoraj obsesija. Mislim, da smo vsi precej bolj zagnani in resneje jemljemo ta projekt. Sam sicer imam postransko službo z glasbenimi instrumenti, vendar predvsem zato, ker jih obožujem in bi obolel, če ne bi mogel kupiti nove kitare ali pedala vsake toliko (pa tudi jesti je treba občasno).

Miro: Hah, če bi moral govoriti o vseh službah, ki sem jih imel, bi govoril ure in ure. Čeprav ne rečem, da ne bi bilo zabavno… Začel sem kot kuhar v francoski restavraciji, nato sem se premaknil za šank in bil natakar, delal sem na pošti, bil čuvaj zaloge ipd. Lani sem kot grafični dizajner in vodja produkcije delal za različna glasbena podjetja. Tu je seveda še kopica manjših del, ki jih raje sploh ne bi omenjal.

 

Do zdaj ste izdali EP in štiri albume. Prvenec seže v leto 2009, zadnji, Ornamental Or Mental, pa je izšel to pomlad. Kako se vam zdi, da se je vaša glasba in vi, kot bend in osebno, spremenili v zadnjem obdobju? Je tudi vaš ustvarjalni proces doživel transformacijo?

Iso: Pred kratkim sem poslušal naš star material in bil osupel, hah. Mislil sem, da smo se predvsem izboljšali v igranju instrumentov, ne toliko v procesu ustvarjanja. Zdaj menim, da je včasih dobro ponovno obuditi svoje starejše stvari, da jih razumeš s širše perspektive. Prej sem mislil, da smo kot bend predvsem dozoreli v odrski predstavi, ampak ob poslušanju naše začetne glasbe imam občutek kot da poslušam popolnoma drug bend s popolnoma drugimi člani in s popolnoma drugačnim pristopom. Naša glasba je zdaj zrelejša in zame deluje bolj naravno- kot da je postala del mene. Upam, da gremo lahko v tem smislu v prihodnosti še dlje.

 

Miro: Glede na to, da sem se skupini pridružil šele pred dvema letoma, nisem ravno v poziciji, da bi primerjal razlike. Kar lahko rečem, je, da ima skupina z mano vred še vedno veliko potenciala za rast in z izbiro prave poti lahko napredujemo do ušes širše množice, dlje kot samo do naših prijateljev, hah.

 

Mislim, da lahko mirno trdimo, da ste trenutno eden najaktivnejših slovaških glasbenih skupin. To leto je bilo za vas še posebej razgibano. Nastopili ste na številnih festivalih, kot so Pohoda, Colours of Ostrava in Incubate, vaše ime pa videvamo tudi na mnogih t.i. showcase festivalih. Kateri so vaši najbolj zapomljivi koncerti tega leta in zakaj? So nastopi na showcase festivalih za vas kaj drugačni kot “standardni” nastopi v klubih in na ostalih festivalih?

Iso: Zame je bila najbolj nepozabna letošnja Pohoda, saj je bil festival za nas izjemno čustven. Prav tako oba koncerta na Iceland Airwaves. Oba doživetja sta bila presežek vsega, kar sem do sedaj kadarkoli občutil na odru. Kadarkoli! Po mojem mnenju je največja razlika med “normalnim” festivalom in showcase festivalom v vzdušju. Vedno obstaja tisto “nekaj”, kar naredi showcase festivale nekoliko resnejše. To bo zvenelo nekoliko klišejsko, vendar mi se resnično trudimo vsak koncert odigrati kolikor se da dobro, toda showcasi imajo zame priokus nekakšnega preizkusa, zato se nanje nekoliko bolj skoncentriram. Toda če povem po pravici, na koncu je vedno žurka, ne glede na to, če gre za standarden ali showcase festival, hah.

Miro: Vsak letošnji nastop je bil zame neverjeten in v vseh sem absolutno užival. So pa tudi koncerti, ki se te posebno dotaknejo… Največji vtis sta name naredila koncerta na Pohodi in predvsem prvi nastop na Iceland Airwaves. Ko enkrat začutiš veličino odra na Pohodi in vidiš, da so ljudje pripravljeni, da slišijo tvoj prvi zvok – naravnost čudovito! In islandski koncerti… Ko sem izstopil iz letala in pogledal okoli sebe, sem začutil čudno energijo, ki me je dvigala nekaj centimetrov nad zemljo. Zrak, okolica in seveda ljudje so ustvarili nepozaben občutek. Showcase festivali pa… Lahko bi rekli, da se nam hlače vedno nekoliko zatresejo pred njimi.

 

Slovenskemu občinstvu nikakor niste neznanka. V Sloveniji ste nastopili že trikrat, nazadnje marca v Ljubljani, in veselimo se vas zopet videti februarja na MENT Ljubljana.  Kako se spominjate slovenskih koncertov? Kakšne zanimive anekdote?

Iso: Absolutno! V Sloveniji smo prvič nastopili v Mariboru, kjer smo spoznali nekega tipa, ki je v dobesedno vsakem stavku naredil čuden “haae” zvok, kot da bi doživljal majhne orgazme ali kaj podobnega. V tem slogu smo se pogovarjali celo uro! Ampak ja, koncerti so bili super, predvsem ljubljanski s Tricot je bil kul! Edina stvar, ki ni bila tako kul je, da smo tam pojedli toliko pleskavic, da sem se počutil kot debel 94-letnik z resnimi dihalnimi težavami.

Miro: Oooh, Slovenija! Nikoli ne bom pozabil koncerta v TrainStation Squatu v Kranju. Ta nastop je bil neverjeten, tudi zato, ker je nanj prišla za nas zelo pomembna oseba – človek z najdaljšim slovenskim imenom, ki mu pravijo Don Nino!!! Njegovo ime je predolgo, da bi si ga zapomnili, imamo pa posnetek, kako se predstavi s polnim imenom. Zelo smo se zabavali z njim. To je bila zaenkrat definitivno najboljša izkušnja v Sloveniji.

 

Vaši koncerti so znani po posebnem vzdušju – pristnem, čustvenem, harmoničnem, energičnem. Kakšna posebna rutina pred koncerti? Imate ustaljen seznam skladb, ki jih igrate na koncertih ali ga redno spreminjate? Je improvizacija del vašega šova?

Iso: Operemo si roke. Včasih. Včasih dvakrat. Ne, mislim, nimamo neke posebne rutine ali česar podobnega. Samo čiliramo ob pivu in se pogovarjamo, kot da se nič posebnega ne dogaja. Nimamo ustaljene setliste, saj ob šest do dvanajstminutnih skladbah nimaš ravno veliko svobode pri izbiranju. Igramo, kar nam je trenutno najbolj všeč in poskušamo pustiti čim manj prostora za tiste nerodne trenutke tišine na odru. In po koncertu si seveda še enkrat umijemo roke.

Miro: Brez posebne rutine. Nekaj shotov za tresoče roke in nato se obnašamo, kot da je vse normalno, da ostali člani benda ne opazijo in prevzamejo tvoje nervoze. Včasih začutim po prvih nekaj minutah koncerta, da bomo uprizorili res dober šov. Ko enkrat ujamem ta val, ga poskušam obdržati skozi celoten nastop in ga razvleči skozi ves večer. Setlisto sestavimo na podlagi dolžine nastopa. Včasih ne vemo točno, katere skladbe bi izbrali, da ostanemo v časovnih okvirih. Pri nekaterih nastopih lahko dodamo poseben improvizacijski del, vendar mora vedno biti kratek.

 

Ko pomislite na razpon sodobne glasbe danes, katere glasbene evolucije vas zanimajo kot skladatelje, ali morda celo kot pisce glasbe?

Iso: To najbrž ni tuje marsikateremu glasbeniku, vendar sam se izogibam preveč pogostem poslušanju glasbe. Zelo vpliva name, me spremeni in nato čutim potrebo, da preizkusim nekaj novega. Trenutno recimo poslušam vaporwave in to lo-fi instrumentalno hip-hop reč. Izjemno mi je všeč, vendar tega vpliva ne želim vnesti v naše ustvarjanje, zato sem nekoliko bolj pozoren okoli teh stvari. Kontroliram svoj dnevni vnos…

Miro: Na glasbo gledam kot na vsakdanjo sestavino svojega življenja. Vse okoli mene ima nek ritem in melodijo – le prisluhniti moraš. Ne potrebujem prižganega radia, da slišim glasbo. Obseden sem s petjem in ustvarjanjem zvokov. Inspiracija je povsod okoli mene.

Kakšno glasbo po navadi poslušate, ko ste na turneji? Katere glasbene skupine zadnje čase največ poslušate? Kakšni so vaši načrti in želje za bližnjo prihodnost? Kaj lahko pričakujemo od The Ills v letu 2017?

Iso: Ko se vozimo med turnejo, izklopimo radio in se pogovarjamo. Pogovarjamo se o lestvicah in imenih krajev, mimo katerih gremo med potjo. Včasih se pogovarjamo o našem basistu Petu, saj se vedno ustavljamo zanj, da gre na stranišče ali na cigaret. Včasih pa smo enostavno tiho, vendar kljub temu skoraj nikoli ne poslušamo ničesar.

Mislim, da je plan za 2017 igrati še več koncertov. Aprila odhajamo na severnoevropsko turnejo, potem pa je že fesitvalska sezona in konec poletja bomo najbrž poskušali nekoliko pobledeti v temnih kotih naše vadnice ter se posvetiti novemu materialu. Kako se ti zdi?

Miro: Nič se ne primerja s poslušanje sveže glasbe med vožnjo v kombiju. Večinoma se samo pogovarjamo ali skupaj pojemo nadležne pesmi ali pa se jih spomnemo sami. Ko pa pride čas za pravo zabavo v kombiju, Iso vzame svoj iPad s kopico glasbenih softwarov in instrumentov, da nam pokaže svoje veščine garažnih bendov.

Načrt za 2017 je jasen – igrati še več koncertov kot smo jih letos.

 

Še zadnje vprašanje, ki verjetno zanima vse slovenske glasbenike: vas v tujini kdaj zamenjajo za slovenski bend?

Iso: Prosim? Saj smo slovenski bend! Ne, čakaj, nismo…

Miro: Ne, ne zares, vendar bi lahko. Od zdaj naprej, ko se bomo začeli predstavljati kot slovenski bend – samo v Sloveniji, seveda, heh.

 

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It has been quite a long journey since you started the band in 2008. What did you do before The Ills? Do you still have any side jobs or is the band your only occupation?

Iso: Well, it has been so long that I can’t even remember what I was doing back then. The band was first more of a fun hobby, an opportunity to travel with best friends and some kind of a psycho-hygiene. Last few years it has become more of an obsession, so I think everybody is much more into it, taking it even more seriously. I personally have a side job with musical instruments but only because I love ´em and I’d be sick to death if I wasn’t able to buy a new guitar or a pedal once in a while (and we need to eat from time to time, too).

Miro: Hah, if I was about to talk about jobs I had been doing, we would spend hours talking. I can’t say it wouldn’t be funny, though. I started as a chef in a French fine dining restaurant, moved to be a waiter, barrist, worked in a post office, I also was a stock keeper. Last years I have worked for several musical companies as a graphic designer, product manager… And of course I have had a lot of small jobs in-between that I would rather not mention.

 

So far you have an EP and four records linked to your name. Your debut album goes back to 2009 and the most recent one, Ornamental Or Mental, came out this spring. How do you feel your music and you, as a band and personally, have changed over this period of time? Has your music-making process go through any transformation, too?

Iso: I was listening to our oldest tunes lately and I was horrified, hah. I thought we’ve been making music and only getting better with our instruments, not so much with the music making itself. Now I think it’s sometimes good to revisit your old stuff to see it from a more global point. I thought we had mainly grown as a band on stage, but while listening to the old stuff I felt like it was music from a completely different band with different people and different brains. Now the music has become more matured but also feels more natural to me, more like a part of myself maybe. I hope we can go way beyond this point with some future music.

Miro: Considering that I’ve been with the band only for two years now, I am not the one to tell the difference. But what I can say is that the band even with myself in it has still a potential to grow and choose the right way that could lead us to the ears of others, not only our friends’, hah.

 

I think it is safe to say that you are one of the most active Slovak bands at the moment. This year has been especially exciting for you. You played a number of festivals including Pohoda, Colours Of Ostrava, Incubate and we have been seeing your name quite a lot on showcase festivals, too.

What are your most memorable performances from this year and why? Is playing showcase festivals different for you than playing regular festivals or venues?

Iso: For me the most memorable was this year´s Pohoda festival because it was emotionally HUGE, but also the two gigs at Iceland Airwaves – both venue and off venue shows. That was just beyond anything I’ve ever felt on stage. Ever. I would say that the main difference between a regular festival and a showcase festival is in the mood. Like there’s this kind of “something” that makes every showcase festival a bit more serious. This is probably going to sound like a cliché, but we try to play every show as good as we can, but showcases, for me personally, have this little feeling of some kind of a test or something, so I concentrate on the show a bit more. But to tell you the truth, at the end it is always a party no matter if it is a standard or a showcase festival, hah.

Miro: Every gig we played this year was absolute fun, so I really enjoyed all of them. Then there are gigs that somehow touch your heart and mind… The most memorable gigs for me were this year’s Pohoda festival and the first gig of our Iceland Airwaves shows. Once you feel the size of a stage you’re on at Pohoda, you see the people ready for your first tone – amazing. And the Iceland’s show… When I took off of the plane and looked around I could feel that strange power lifting me a few centimeters above the ground. The air, the land and of course the people created an unforgettable moment for us. Showcases, well, they always make our asses shrink a bit.

 

You are definitely not unknown to the Slovene audience. You have played three shows in Slovenia before, the most recent one was this March in Ljubljana, and we are really looking forward to seeing you again at MENT Ljubljana in February. What memories do you have of gigs in Slovenia? Any cool anecdotes?

Iso: Absolutely! We played our first gig in Slovenia ever in Maribor, where we met this guy after the show. After literally every sentence he made this weird “haae” sound, like he´s having a little orgasm or something. We end up talking like that the whole tour. But yeah, the gigs were awesome and the one in Ljubljana with Tricot was cool! The only thing that wasn´t cool was that we´d eaten so much pleskavice that I felt like a 94 year old fat guy with a serious breathing trouble.

Miro: Oooh Slovenia, I’ll never forget our gig at TrainStation Squat in Kranj. The gig was absolutely amazing, also because of a very significant person who came to see our gig- the guy with the longest name in Slovenia, so called Don Nino!!! His name is too long to remember, but I have a video of him introducing himself with the whole name. We had so much fun with him. Definitely the best experience in Slovenia.

Your concerts are known to have a special vibe – authentic, emotional, harmonic, energetic. Do you have a special routine before shows? Have you found a setlist that fits you the most right now or do you regularly change it? Is improvisation a part of your show?

Iso: We wash our hands. Sometimes. And sometimes twice. No I mean, we don’t have any particular routine or something like that. We just try to chill and have some beer and talk like nothing´s going to happen, you know. We don´t even have a fixed setlist or something, with songs ranging from 6 to 12 minutes you don´t have THAT much freedom of picking. We play what we like the most and try to arrange it so there´s not too much of those awkward quiet moments on stage. And after the show we wash our hands one more time, of course.

Miro: No special routine at all. Couple of shots for the shaky hands and just act like nothing happens, so the bandmates won’t feel and absorb any nervosity of you. Sometimes I can feel after first minute of the first song, that this is going to be a good show. Once I catch this mood I try to hold it for the whole gig and evening afterwards. The setlist we create are based on a gig length. We roughly know what song to pick to fit in time. There were few gigs we added a special jamming part to the song, but only for a very short time.

When you look at the landscape of contemporary music now, what evolutions interest you as composers, or even as musicians within it?

Iso: This is probably no surprise with many musicians but I try to stay away from listening to too much music. It really changes and influences me and then I feel the urge to try it too. Like now, I listen to vapeorwave and that lo-fi instrumental hip hop thing and I really love it, but I don´t want it in my band, so I´m kinda cautious with it. Watching over my daily doses, you know…

Miro: I take music as a part of my everyday life. There is a rhythm and some kind of a melody in everything. You just need to listen. Don’t need to have the radio on to hear the music. I am possessed by singing and creating sounds. So the inspiration comes from everywhere.

 

What kind of music do you usually listen to while touring? What are some bands you have been really into lately? What are your plans and wishes for the near future? What can we expect from The Ills in 2017?

Iso: While touring we switch off the radio and talk. We talk about billboards and town names along the way. Sometimes we talk about our bass player Peťo, because he always tells us to stop for a short while so he can go to the toilet or have his cigarette. And sometimes we stay silent but in the tour van we usually don´t listen to anything.

I think the plan is to play even more gigs in 2017, we have a north European tour coming up in April. Then there´s the festival season and by the end of summer we will probably try to lose our tan in the dark corners of our rehearsal room and write some new material. How does that sound to you?

Miro: There is nothing like listening sessions of the fresh music in our van while driving. Mostly we just talk to each other and sing either annoying songs or those we make up at the time. But when it comes to a very party time in our van, Iso takes out his iPad full of musical software and instruments to show us his skills with Garage band.

The plan for 2017 is straight – to play even more shows we did this year so far.

 

Last but not least, the question all Slovenians probably want to know: do you ever get confused for a Slovene band?

Iso: What? But we are a Slovene band! Wait, no, we aren´t.

Miro:  No, not really, but we could, from now on!! As we’ll start introducing ourselves as a Slovene band, in Slovenia only of course, heh.
Eva Kristina Filipčič