You’ve mentioned that your most recent album is about fences. Would you say music in general is about crossing these fences and borders that we encounter in life? Constantly pushing boundaries?
Well if you put out a track that’s not pushing things a little bit it’s a nothing track, it’s a useless track. That’s in theory anyway, how much we actually succeed is debatable. For me there’s no point of perfect equilibrium, I’ve never seen it in my life, you can either go forwards or you can go backwards, I’d rather go forwards.
Which bands then, when you were growing up, do you think were moving forward, progressing music?
Well there’s been so many. The thing is for the first 15 years of my life getting music was impossible. Censorship there [in Romania] was something else, the sort of thing you’d get today in North Korea, the Middle East states maybe. Getting any decent music was a fucking achievement! I was stuck with the worst quality Europop from the 70s and 80s. When we discovered the new music I got into pretty much everything, from black metal to classical, I listened to so many albums that it really changed me, the way I listen to music. People often ask me to make a list of my favourite 10 albums, I could never manage it, there’s too much!
When did the kind of music that you produce arrive in Romania?
Quite soon after the change of regime in ’89. I was part of one of the first free radio stations in Romania which was awesome, fully concentrating on quality, just arts, nothing political, nothing social, no bullshit – just quality music. Radio Nova 22 it was called. So a lot of people associated with this helped to build up the electronica scene in Romania, we got access to an awesome music library from France, sending us all their underground records and there were also some music collectors who’d build up some immense collections. I just sapped music from everyone I could. Back then I was really into guitar music but then there was a point when I realised that although I couldn’t really play an instrument I wanted to do more than just talk about music. I tried to play bass guitar but I was really short and thin and my hands couldn’t even hold the neck properly! Then I realised that the computer could do all the things I’d been missing. Back then it took a couple of weeks or so to make tracks, now it takes two days or so, and that’s better as I find the best tracks are those I do the quickest as it allows me to capture everything that I’m thinking in one moment.
When and why did you decided to make the jump from creating your own music to creating a record label which brought other people’s music together?
Well it was after some of the work I did in media, originally I was a producer and then a DJ and whilst doing that I made a lot of connections with people who were doing some good stuff, especially from Eastern Europe where I found a lot of quality music that didn’t get any attention from the Western media. From my point of view this was the place from which I saw some fresh blood coming. So I started a label called SoundKraft, the predecessor to DubKraft, we found a few guys who became stars – about 60-70% of them got on the Drum and Bass charts. After a few years it became obvious that we were still quite a small underground label and these guys had outgrown us. So I decided it was kind of pointless to carry on, we reached a point when drum and bass stopped being so exciting, my motivation to bring Eastern European music to the world was achieved. At the same time we saw the arrival of dubstep, in around the summer of 2006, and this was something so fresh. I’d finally found a style that was much less formulaic than techno or D&B. I could be freer and there wasn’t much of an audience yet in Romania, but I felt there definitely was one. Also the best thing about dubstep is that it’s so adaptable, about 2% of the stuff we do is actually real, standard “dubstep”, this suits me really well as I don’t like to be tied down to any one thing. You can’t keep all your eggs in one basket, you need a lot of baskets. In general these terms such as dubstep, drum and bass are just limits invented by limited people, it’s all just bass music now.
Why do you think it took so long for dubstep to take off here in Barcelona compared to places like London?
I was quite surprised because I thought that in my hometown Bucharest, or in Barcelona, dupstep wouldn’t really catch at a mass level, it felt a bit unnatural. The people in both places have similar Latin mentalities. I was always relying on the expat community to bring it into Barcelona. And that’s what happened, they were the ones who moved things, people like the B.Low crew in the clubs to begin with it was about 40% expats and 60% locals. It was amazing how they moved from small places to clubs like Razzmatazz in one and a half years though. Incredible really.
You seem to have a certain disregard for “mainstream” music, is that what you’d describe as music not progressing?
Look at trance music. It’s been stalling for about 15 years now. I used to love it a long time ago, now it’s pretty much the same thing, just a tiny technical alteration from what we heard 15 years ago. But it survives like this, because its accessibility keeps it popular and there's always a new generation of kids who are getting hooked on it. So you’ve got to remember there’s not a direct relationship between popularity and quality, or it's rather an inverse one.
Do you feel that we’re close to, or that we indeed have, seen the end of the guitar as a musical instrument?
No. Well, contemporary guitar music is finished but the guitar as an instrument, no. It can still be used but the thing is the guitar is competing with the computer, a computer means unlimited options, a guitar is just one limited instrument with only so many ways of producing a sound. Nowadays a guitar has become simply another input source. This formula with 2 guitars, one bass player and a drummer … I don’t see how it can say anything new anymore. For me 80-90% of the most popular of these bands have been doing rehashes of something I’ve heard in the 80s or 90s. There’s just a handful of bands who really contributed something new, like Tool or Radiohead.
Though Radiohead have moved a long way from their original guitar music…
Exactly. That’s why they are still such meaningful artists. They realised that after their first album that had to hybridize a bit to keep their sound fresh.
A regular question that we ask here at Relevant is what is your favourite thing about Barcelona?
Apart from climate which is a given it’s the people I have around me from all over the world, it’s such a cosmopolitan city. I don’t feel that I’m living in a city from a specific country. It’s a scaled down replica of the world. If London is the European New York then Barcelona is the European San Francisco. The more bohemian of the multicultural pair.
Where do you see music going from here?
Well I’m not really sure I have an answer for this question. I have a few hopes, music has to discover a new dimension pretty soon before people get bored of it. I hope music comes back to its spirit, becomes more of an art than a craft, something that explores more of the emotional side of things. The thing is people will always need music but I’m really not sure where this next direction will come from, perhaps from 3D sound. The good thing is that the creation of music is becoming more accessible. If you put it in terms of maths, the pyramid base is larger so logically the peak will be higher. And that’s an encouraging thought.
*For more from Silviu check out any of the following links:
*Photos made by MINU at the interview location.
*Keep your eyes peeled for forthcoming DubKraft / RelevantBCN Collaborations!!