Studio on the move

My musical endeavours are currently, and until further notice, on hiatus, as in the middle of June the studio in its entirety ended up in boxes and cases:

A few weeks after all the gear had been placed on a truck and then a transport ship container, accompanied with my desperate petitions to the unforgiving universe that it refrain from making someone drop a particularly precious piece of equipment or causing any sort of disaster, everything made it to its destination in one piece:

Now I’ll just have to deal with the trifling matter of finding a suitable place for it all, and then I’ll be able to resume my fabulous career as a studio rat. Hopefully that happens before I’m too old to move on my own, let alone lug all of these damn boxes around…

Video by Orazio Ferrari & Giuseppe Guarrera

I’ve recently had the pleasure of doing a field audio recording for the video of Orazio Ferrari (double bass) and Giuseppe Guarrera (piano), performing “Le Cygne” by Camille Saint-Saëns. Even though we kept complications to the minimum (the duet was only recorded with two overhead mics), I’m very happy with the result. The video was directed, shot and edited by Giulio Tarantino.

The “SUR” retrospective

As I’ve recently exhumed the musical archives of the two bands I worked with back in the 1990s, Ground Zero and Juice Connection (described in more detail here and here, respectively), I decided to also come up with a short “retrospective” of the band we founded at the beginning of the 2000s, SUR.

The group SUR started to take shape at the end of 2001, when Stojan Kralj and I were writing music for the dance theatre performance Lust by Sebastjan Starič:

Together with lyricist, dramatist, theatre actor and former Ground Zero vocalist Marko Djukić we got an idea for a more “poppy”, “trip-hoppy” project with (preferably) a female vocalist. The idea gradually came to life. As it soon turned out that the collaboration between lyricist Djukić and the first vocalist, Urška Samec, would unavoidably be severely impeded due to insurmountable creative differences, Neža Trobec joined the band and we started tinkering away. Initially, SUR was exclusively a studio project with a few full members and several guest musicians. The material was recorded in our home studio, and in May 2004 we self-published our first (and quite successful, relatively speaking) album, entitled “Na jug” (Southbound):

In 2005 we started working on our second album, “Druga stran” (The Other Side), which was released in July 2007:

Both of these albums also saw the light of day in a “tangible” form, as CDs.

In 2009 we released a digital EP called “Kadar mesto spi” (When the City Sleeps), after we’d managed to pull off a successful prank: thanks to a bizarre twist of events, the track “Prav ti” from this album appeared at the 2008 Slovenian Eurovision Song Contest – quite unsuccessfully, of course, in terms of votes… But qualifying for this type of contest with a song written in a relatively complex time signature (verse in 6/8 and chorus in 2 x 10/8 + 8/8 + 2 x 6/8) must be a special achievement in itself. The track was obviously an experiment in the “peculiar pop song format” that we found extremely entertaining, and, to our surprise, the shenanigan worked unusually well:

After our first album had been released, we adapted most of the material for live performances and performed at quite a few concerts. Ultimately we also released a collection of live material, played in Kreatorij DIC in Ljubljana in 2005. Most of the tracks on this album, called “aLiVE in 2005“, are live versions of the material released on the 2004 album “Na jug“. Jure Praper’s instrumental composition “Eqsqueezeme” has never been released anywhere else, and this is its only recording in existence. The studio version of the live track “Ples vampirjev” later appeared on the 2007 “physical” release “Druga stran“. At that time the band lineup was as follows: Neža Trobec – vocals; Monika Fritz – backing vocals; Jure Praper – guitar; Gregor Karer – bass guitar; Martin Smerdel – keyboards; Andrej Hrvatin – percussion; and myself on drums:

Live performances have not become our main focus, though, mostly due to impossible logistics involved in rehearsals (the band members were from all over Slovenia), as well as because of everyone’s neverending work on other projects. Thus most of our efforts remained confined to the studio, where we also kept writing original soundtracks for audiovisual works. During its active period, SUR signed soundtracks for fourteen theatre performances (2002 – Sebastjan Starič: Lust; 2003 – Borut Bučinel: Who Draws Me; 2003 – Branko Potočan: On Our Own Land; 2003 – Nick Pickard & Gareth Boylan: Monolads; 2004 – Boris Kobal: The House of Bernarda Alba; 2004 – Sebastjan Starič: Pepperoncino; 2005 – Tomaž Štrucl: Che Guevara; 2006 – Dušan Teropšič: Dimwits; 2008 – Jure Rudolf: Where Do You Live?; 2008 – Dušan Teropšič: An Event in the City; 2008 – Borut Bučinel: Lullaby of Death; 2010 – Dušan Teropšič: The Upsidedown World; 2010 – Borut Bučinel: Shining; 2012 – Matjaž Šmalc, Aja Zamolo & Sam Sebastian: Sharlatanus Maximus), a short film (2003 – Marko Horvat: Happiness on Sale) and a computer game. Between 2008 and 2012, the SUR collective published a collection of digital releases, featuring all of its original soundtracks for theatre performances:

The Slovenian press imaginatively characterised the music of SUR as “ambiental-rock-jazz-electronica”. This may even be mostly true of our first album, though we preferred to call ourselves “alternative ambient anarchistic hippie progressive psychedelic metal-munching jazzy trip hoppy funky beer drinkers and spritzer aficionadoes”. The full-time members of the last stable live lineup of SUR were: Neža Trobec Teropšič – vocals, Monika Fritz – backing vocals and lyrics, Jure Praper – guitar, Aljaž Tulimirović – guitar, Samo Pečar – bass, and myself – drums and additional lyrics.

The guest musicians and contributors on the first two albums and frequent collaborators in the other projects of the SUR collective included: Marko Djukić – lyrics and vocals, Rok Predin (lyrics, vocals, acoustic guitar), Dušan Rebolj (lyrics, vocals, acoustic guitar), Matevž Šalehar – Hamo (vocals), Vasko Atanasovski (saxophone, flute), Stojan Kralj (bass, fretless bass, guitar), Andrej Hrvatin (percussion), Janez Vouk (trumpet), Marko Zorec (guitar), Jelena Ždrale (violin, viola), Nino de Gleria (cello) and Tomaž Štrucl (vocals and beer-fuelled battle plans).

After our last concert in Slovenj Gradec in July 2007, SUR as a live band was disbanded, as Monika and I had relocated from Ljubljana to the Slovenian coast, and keeping such an “inter-regional” band fully operational had become impossible. In late 2008 Monika and I founded our current band Cynicism Management; while SUR as a creative group that wrote original soundtracks for audiovisual works kept working until 2012. By that time this aspect of my work had been taken over by my “instrumental music & soundtracks alter ego”, Ray Kosmick (and His Porn Groove Crew).

The name SUR may mean many things, most evidently “south” in Spanish, though we liked to tell people it was actually an acronym for “samostalna ugostiteljska radnja” – “independent catering service”… Which also remains the name of the studio where I keep pondering my “masterpieces” to this day.

“Juice Connection” archives released on Bandcamp

I’ve recently had loads of fun rummaging through the ancient Ground Zero material (cassette tape recordings of my first band from the 1990s), which I’ve then uploaded to Bandcamp so that all of us former band members could drift down the memory lane a bit. I also took the time to write a brief biography of that band and posted it here. As the whole undertaking has stirred up a lot of pleasant memories as well as a few enthusiastic responses, I kept digging and also uploaded all of the Juice Connection soundtracks, recorded between 1998 and 2002, to Bandcamp.

Juice Connection was the main creative outlet for me for a while, after the unfortunate if completely prosaic demise of Ground Zero. The yarn of Juice Connection started out back in 1998 when my former Ground Zero bandmate, Marko Djukić, invited me to write and record music for a theatre performance he would be appearing in. As it was clear to me that I lacked the necessary knowledge as well as equipment to pull this off successfully by myself, I approached a fellow musician Stojan Kralj with the idea. He agreed and became my trusted mentor and associate, most intensely so during the next few years. We formed the Juice Connection music production team with only us as its full-time members, and went on to produce – between 1998 and 2002 – original soundtracks for twelve full-length theatre performances, a couple of shorter theatre pieces and a TV show about contemporary dance theatre. Later the extended Juice Connection lineup (with myself on drums, Kralj on bass and guitar, plus Aljaž Tulimirović on guitar, Samo Pečar on the second bass and Andrej Hrvatin on percussion) also prepared an extensive setlist of live material and performed at a couple of live gigs. Unfortunately those adorably peculiar sonic excursions have never been particularly “commercially successful” (go figure), nor have they been documented – it would have been a real treat if any recordings of that musical experimentation, sound terrorism and downright jokery existed, but of course we haven’t recorded anything. No – I don’t know what we were thinking.

Be that as it may, while working on various theatre performances, Juice Connection has collaborated with a diverse assortment of guest musicians, depending on what was required for a certain project. Here are the twelve original soundtrack albums that have been compiled almost ten years ago, and now – nineteen years after the creation of the first soundtrack – republished on Bandcamp:


1998: Sebastjan Starič: THE TUNNEL

The original soundtrack, written and recorded in 1998, for the full-length physical theatre performance “The Tunnel” by the director and choreographer Sebastjan Starič. This is the first project of the Juice Connection team. Much of the material for this performance was recorded live. Almost exactly half of it was composed in advance, while the other half consists of impromptu jam sessions. A sequencer and quite a bit of electronics were already used for this soundtrack – back then still hardware samplers and synthesizers.
MUSIC: Stojan Kralj & Borut Praper. Co-authors at impromptu jam sessions: see below for details
ARRANGEMENTS: Stojan Kralj & Borut Praper. Co-authors at impromptu jam sessions: see below for details
MUSICIANS: Stojan Kralj: keyboards, programming, bass, guitar, vocals; Borut Praper: keyboards, programming, drums, vocals; Zmago Turica: violin on 02, 13; Marko Zorec: guitar on 03; Janez Vouk: trumpet on 04, 05, 12, 15; Branko Rožman: accordion on 08; Miran Stergulec: guitar on 11, 12, 14, 16; vocals on 17; Andreja Pak: piano on 13; Rok Predin: vocals on 17
IMPROMPTU JAM SESSIONS: Kralj (keyboards) / Praper (keyboards) on 01; Kralj (bass) / Praper (drums) / Zorec (guitar) on 03; Kralj (bass) / Praper (drums) on 06; Kralj (bass) / Praper (drums) / Stergulec (guitar) on 11, 12, 14, 16
PRODUCED BY: Stojan Kralj & Borut Praper


1999: Branko Potočan: AS LAST YEAR’S SNOW

The original soundtrack, written and recorded in 1999, for the full-length physical theatre performance “As Last Year’s Snow” by the director and choreographer Branko Potočan. This is the second project of the Juice Connection team. Much of the material for this performance was recorded live, although a lot of electronic instruments were also used – still mostly hardware samplers and synthesisers back then. The basic material was often recorded at jam sessions, while additional elements were added afterwards, as the material was processed and edited.
MUSIC: Stojan Kralj & Borut Praper, except Stojan Kralj & Aljaž Tulimirović – track 08. Co-authors at impromptu jam sessions: see below for details
ARRANGEMENTS: Stojan Kralj & Borut Praper. Co-authors at impromptu jam sessions: see below for details
LYRICS: Branko Potočan on 04; Sebastjan Starič on 12
MUSICIANS: Stojan Kralj: bass, guitar, keyboards, programming, various toys; Borut Praper: keyboards, programming, drums, percussion / various toys; Sebastjan Starič: vocals on 04, 12; Aljaž Tulimirović: guitar on 08; Branko Rožman: accordion on 06; Andrej Hrvatin: percussion on 06
IMPROMPTU JAM SESSIONS: Kralj (guitar, various toys) / Praper (drums, percussion, various toys) on 04; Kralj (bass) / Praper (drums) / Rožman (accordion) / Hrvatin (percussion) on 06
PRODUCED BY: Stojan Kralj & Borut Praper


1999: Sebastjan Starič: OH IT’S SPRING AGAIN

The original soundtrack, written and recorded in 1999, for the full-length physical theatre performance “Oh It’s Spring Again” by the director and choreographer Sebastjan Starič. This is the third project of the Juice Connection team. The material for this performance was roughly half electronic and half live recordings. Work became much easier with better software, especially software samplers. Like before, material was often recorded at live sessions, after which additional elements were added and the material was edited.
MUSIC: Stojan Kralj & Borut Praper, except Andrej Hrvatin – track 05. Co-authors at impromptu jam sessions: see below for details
ARRANGEMENTS: Stojan Kralj & Borut Praper, except Andrej Hrvatin – track 05. Co-authors at impromptu jam sessions: see below for details
MUSICIANS: Stojan Kralj: keyboards, programming, guitar, mandolin; Borut Praper: keyboards, programming, drums; Zmago Turica: violin on 04, 07; Andrej Hrvatin: percussion on 05; Miran Stergulec: guitar on 09
IMPROMPTU JAM SESSIONS: Stergulec (guitar) / Kralj (bass) / Praper (drums/percussion) on 09
PRODUCED BY: Stojan Kralj & Borut Praper


2000: Dušan Teropšič: THE FLIES

The original soundtrack, written and recorded in 2000, for the full-length physical theatre performance “The Flies” by the director and choreographer Dušan Teropšič. This is the fourth project of the Juice Connection team. The music for The Flies was mostly electronic and experimental, and some of the sound effects were recorded in the field. Since the soundtrack for the actual performance was a bit shorter than usual and because some of the less interesting sound effects were removed from this release, this album also includes several bonus tracks, consisting of the material recorded around that time, which was not used in any of the finalised performances – what the team called the “outtakes”.
MUSIC: Stojan Kralj & Borut Praper
ARRANGEMENTS: Stojan Kralj & Borut Praper
MUSICIANS: Stojan Kralj: keyboards, programming, bass, guitar; Borut Praper: keyboards, programming, drums
PRODUCED BY: Stojan Kralj & Borut Praper


2000: Branko Potočan: THE DOORS

The original soundtrack, written and recorded in 2000, for the full-length physical theatre performance “The Doors” by the director and choreographer Branko Potočan. The fifth project of the Juice Connection team. Most of the music for The Doors was electronic with live elements, recorded at jam sessions. A part of the soundtrack was performed live on stage by Andrej Hrvatin (percussion) and Borut Praper (drums). Unfortunately, no recordings of the material, performed live on stage, exist. All of the tracks on this album were written and recorded for The Doors; however, the final version of the soundtrack for the actual performance did not include all of them.
MUSIC: Stojan Kralj & Borut Praper. Co-authors at impromptu jam sessions: see below for details
ARRANGEMENTS: Stojan Kralj & Borut Praper. Co-authors at impromptu jam sessions: see below for details
MUSICIANS: Stojan Kralj: keyboards, programming, bass, fretless bass, guitar; Borut Praper: keyboards, programming, drums; Barbara Šantl: vocals and lyrics on 03; Katja Turica: vocals on 04; Aljaž Tulimirović: guitar on 05, 09, 13; Sebastjan Starič: vocals on 05; Zmago Turica: violin on 10, 15; Andrej Hrvatin: percussion on 11, 15, 16; Janez Vouk: trumpet on 14; Miran Stergulec: guitar on 18
IMPROMPTU JAM SESSIONS: Kralj (bass) / Praper (drums) / Tulimirović (guitar) on 09; Kralj (bass) / Praper (drums) / Tulimirović (guitar) on 13
PRODUCED BY: Stojan Kralj & Borut Praper


2000: Sebastjan Starič: THE RECYCLED

This album actually contains soundtracks for two full-length theatre performances: “The Recycled” (2000) and “Planet DIC” (2001) by the theatre group POZITIV, directed and choreographed by Sebastjan Starič and produced/mentored by Drago Pintarič. The collection also includes a couple of tracks written and recorded at the theatre music workshops in Izola, mentored by Stojan Kralj and Borut Praper at that time, which were not used in either The Recycled or Planet DIC. The Recycled was a joint project of Borut Bernik – Torulsson and Juice Connection, while Planet DIC was written and recorded by Juice Connection.
MUSIC: Stojan Kralj & Borut Praper, except Borut Bernik – track 02, and Aljaž Tulimirović & Borut Praper & Samo Pečar – tracks 03 and 08
ARRANGEMENTS: Stojan Kralj & Borut Praper, except Borut Bernik – track 02, and Aljaž Tulimirović & Borut Praper & Samo Pečar – tracks 03 and 08
MUSICIANS: Stojan Kralj: keyboards, programming, bass, fretless bass, guitar; Borut Praper: keyboards, programming, drums, darbouka; Tomaž Nedoh: soprano sax on 01, 03, 08; Borut Bernik – Torulsson: keyboards, programming on 02; Aljaž Tulimirović: guitar on 03, 08; Samo Pečar: bass on 03, 08; Andrej Hrvatin: percussion on 03, 08
PRODUCED BY: Stojan Kralj & Borut Praper, except Borut Bernik – track 02, and Borut Bernik & Borut Praper – track 01, 04


2001: Sebastjan Starič: CALL ME CRAZY

The original soundtrack, written and recorded in 2001, for the full-length physical theatre performance “Call Me Crazy” by the director and choreographer Sebastjan Starič. Most of the music for Call Me Crazy was electronic / experimental, except for a couple of live instrumental tracks. Some sound effects were recorded in the field and later processed in the studio.
MUSIC: Stojan Kralj & Borut Praper
ARRANGEMENTS: Stojan Kralj & Borut Praper
MUSICIANS: Stojan Kralj: guitar, keyboards, programming; Borut Praper: keyboards, programming; Janez Vouk: trumpet on 03; Andrej Hrvatin: clarinet on 11
PRODUCED BY: Stojan Kralj & Borut Praper


2001: Dušan Teropšič: THE SWAMP

The original soundtrack, written and recorded in 2001, for the full-length physical theatre performance “The Swamp” by the director and choreographer Dušan Teropšič. This performance was inspired by the ballet Swan Lake by P.I. Tchaikovsky, and certain tracks on this soundtrack were also based on some of the most famous music from that ballet (tracks 1, 6, 8 and 11). Most of the music for The Swamp was electronic, except for certain live elements and a single live improvised instrumental track, where drums & guitar were recorded at an impromptu jam session, while bass and keyboards were added later.
MUSIC: Stojan Kralj & Borut Praper
ARRANGEMENTS: Stojan Kralj & Borut Praper
MUSICIANS: Stojan Kralj: guitar, bass, keyboards, programming; Borut Praper: keyboards, programming, drums; Janez Vouk: trumpet on 09, 10; Marko Zorec: guitar on 09; Andrej Hrvatin: percussion on 10
IMPROMPTU JAM SESSIONS: Kralj (guitar) / Praper (drums) on 12
PRODUCED BY: Stojan Kralj & Borut Praper


2001: Tanika Šajatovič: SUPERSEXY

The original soundtrack, written and recorded in 2001, for the full-length theatre performance “Supersexy” by the writer and director Tanika Šajatovič. Most of the music for Supersexy was electronic, except for some live elements.
MUSIC: Stojan Kralj & Borut Praper
ARRANGEMENTS: Stojan Kralj & Borut Praper
MUSICIANS: Stojan Kralj: bass, keyboards, programming; Borut Praper: keyboards, programming; Janez Vouk: trumpet on 08; Andrej Hrvatin: percussion on 08
PRODUCED BY: Stojan Kralj & Borut Praper


2001: Branko Potočan: PERKMANDELJC – THE VANISHING SPIRIT

The original soundtrack, written and recorded in 2001, for the full-length physical theatre performance “Perkmandeljc – The Vanishing Spirit” by the choreographer and director Branko Potočan. Perkmandeljc – The Vanishing Spirit was a performance inspired by the life of miners in a small industrial community where the director used to live. The concept of the soundtrack was that it should be reminiscent of a small brass band of suspicious pedigree, therefore most of the music for this performance was performed by brass and woodwind instruments. The soundtrack also includes a few electronic / programmed tracks and atmospheres.
MUSIC: Stojan Kralj & Borut Praper, except Andreja Dajčman – track 08 (arranged by Borut Praper)
ARRANGEMENTS: Stojan Kralj & Borut Praper
MUSICIANS: Stojan Kralj: keyboards, programming; Borut Praper: keyboards, programming; Miha Vavti: sax; Janez Vouk: trumpet; Matjaž Rebolj: oboe; Zdenko Korenjak: clarinet; Iztok Kološa: tuba
PRODUCED BY: Stojan Kralj & Borut Praper


2002: Nick Pickard: WALKING ON EGGSHELLS

The original soundtrack, written and recorded in 2002, for the full-length theatre performance “Walking on Eggshells” by the director Nick Pickard, written by Michael Pigott. Walking on Eggshells was an intriguing collaboration with the Australian director Nick Pickard. The performance placed a lot of emphasis on dialogues, so the soundtrack featured many atmospheres, experimental sound design pieces and sound effects as well as several melodic tracks. Many sounds were recorded in the field (in the basement where this performance was first staged) and used for the soundtrack, either raw or heavily processed. The director wanted to include some hints of folk song themes in the performance, so a small choir performing folk songs from the Koroška region was recorded, and then heavily processed in the studio. These pieces were entitled “Zee Koroshka Sessions”.
MUSIC: Stojan Kralj & Borut Praper
ARRANGEMENTS: Stojan Kralj & Borut Praper
MUSICIANS: Stojan Kralj: keyboards, programming; Borut Praper: keyboards, programming; Matjaž Rebolj: oboe on 02; Zmago Turica: violin on 03; Otokar Praper: vocals on 04, 07, 13, 14; Peter Praper: vocals on 04, 07, 13, 14; Jože Praper: vocals on 04, 07, 13, 14; Zdenka Praper: vocals on 04, 07, 13, 14; Marjan Popič – Ožbej: vocals on 04, 07, 13, 14; Zdenko Korenjak: clarinet on 08; Miha Vavti: sax on 12
PRODUCED BY: Stojan Kralj & Borut Praper


2002: Sebastjan Starič: LUST

The original soundtrack, written and recorded in 2002, for the full-length dance theatre performance “Lust” by the director and choreographer Sebastjan Starič. Lust was the last project of the Juice Connection team. The first versions of the tracks Lahko te čutim (here entitled I Can Feel You and sung by Urška Samec), Ne premorem besed (here entitled Speechless and sung by Mojca Žerjal), Zarja (here entitled BooM) and Nosi me (here entitled Revolve) were written and recorded for this performance towards the end of 2001. While working on these tracks, the idea for the project SUR started taking shape, which is why the soundtrack for this performance is regarded as a joint project of Juice Connection and SUR. The “evolved” versions of these four tracks, sung by Neža Trobec Teropšič, were later published on the first album by SUR, entitled Na jug and released on a physical CD in 2004. After this performance, Stojan kept working on his own projects, while Borut and the lyricist Marko Djukić concentrated on their newly-founded group, which went on to write and record music for 13 theatre performances, a variety of other audiovisual works, as well as release its two “tangible” albums – Na jug (2004) and Druga stran (2007). The former members of the Juice Connection team still collaborate on a regular basis and contribute to each other’s projects.
MUSIC: Stojan Kralj & Borut Praper
ARRANGEMENTS: Stojan Kralj & Borut Praper
MUSICIANS: Stojan Kralj: bass, keyboards, programming; Borut Praper: keyboards, programming; Marko Djukić: lyrics on 01, 02, 08, 10; Urška Samec: vocals on 01, 02, 08; Andreja Žel: accordion on 04, 07; Mojca Žerjal: vocals on 10; Janez Vouk: trumpet on 13
PRODUCED BY: Stojan Kralj & Borut Praper


After the last Juice Connection project, I concentrated on the band SUR that I founded together with the lyricist, dramatist and theatre actor Marko Djukić, while Stojan worked on other things. However, Kralj and I have continued working together on various projects to date.

Stojan Kralj and I – the core of the Juice Connection team – have never limited ourselves in terms of what style we would or would not dabble into. While writing music for all the diverse performances we have worked on, we have proved time and again that we can be extremely versatile – sometimes to the point of ending up with exceedingly schizophrenic albums. One has to keep in mind, though, that it is hard to imagine what the music is for and why it is what it is if you don’t actually see the performance. However, we have also strongly believed in collaboration and kept involving other musicians in each of our individual efforts, because that seemed to produce the best and sometimes most surprising results, if done properly. Thus we have recorded a vast variety of tracks ranging from jazz to metal, from ethno to pop, from trip hop to swing, from experimental, avant-garde, atmospheric and ambient pieces to drum & bass, industrial, and even orchestral music and brass band arrangements.

Because of the extremely short development times for most performances, lack of technical and financial resources, and therefore quite a lot of creative as well as technical improvisation involved in each project, the production quality of the resulting work of the Juice Connection team may vary somewhat, especially by today’s standards, while the tracks recorded at impromptu jam sessions may often be less than perfect in terms of technical execution, of course. Nevertheless, these recordings are documents of certain times and circumstances and should be perceived as such. Ultimately we got things done: all the performances were staged successfully, we’ve certainly had lots of fun working on them, and that’s what it all boils down to in the end.

On the tenth anniversary of the first soundtrack we had ever recorded, Kralj and I decided to sift through the material and share it all on Jamendo, in order for it to be documented and perhaps used again by someone who may find it useful. Now, almost twenty years after The Tunnel, it was high time to release this on Bandcamp as well, and post the whole collection as well as a short biography in one place, so that the various facts and names of great musicians who have contributed to all of this don’t get forgotten.

“Ground Zero” archives released on Bandcamp

This has been long overdue, but I finally got around to actually doing it: I salvaged the Ground Zero archives from dusty, moth-eaten old compact cassette tapes that I’d had lying around in a drawer somewhere for aeons, tinkered around with audio forensics for a bit, and uploaded the resulting noise to Bandcamp. Here are the results…

Ground Zero was the first band I played drums in. By a sort of youthful inertia, it was formed in 1993 by a bunch of us kids who hung around the stage at what was then my secondary school. The initial lineup consisted of Aljaž Tulimirović, Aleš Kovačec and myself (none of whom went to that particular school), while the fourth founding member, my classmate Mitja Jurančič who was supposed to sing, immediately – at the first or second rehearsals – discovered that he couldn’t actually carry a tune, probably to the eternal gratitude of the band’s few future listeners. I’m not being mean: if Jurančič ever reads this, he’ll be the first to agree. Frankly, none of us – with the possible exception of Tulimirović, who was relatively good on guitar even then – could play very well at that time.

The band underwent the first permutations: Aleš Kovačec on bass was soon replaced by Boštjan Zorc, Aljaž picked up the vocal mike apart from the guitar, and with me on drums we soon made for a classic “power trio”. For about half a year or so we mostly played Jimi Hendrix covers as well as some other blues and rock tracks at high school parties and biker gatherings. When you are that young, you learn fast, and not much time passed until we were tired of vintage rock covers. Zorc was eventually replaced by Sebastijan Roškarič on bass and we started coming up with our own ideas. It soon turned out that we desperately needed a “dedicated” vocalist, and I was very fortunate to run into Marko Djukić as a freshman at the university about a year after the band’s formation. With Marko Djukić on vocals we focused almost exclusively on our own material, abusing covers only as fillers or a kind of jokery, and Djukić also stepped in as the band’s resident lyricist. As Djukić and I both studied English, using any other language for lyrics was never even a question.

The first recording that still exists and has now been “exhumed” dates back to 1995. The other three existing recordings – two from live concerts and a short DIY demo – were done in 1996. During that time we changed the bass player again: Roškarič gave way to Samo Pečar. Later, in the beginning of 1997 (or maybe at the end of 1996), if I remember correctly, we had some disagreements with Djukić, especially as it was difficult for him to attend our never-ending rehearsals and rock ‘n’ roll revelry far from his home every weekend. Besides, ravenous for new knowledge and eager to complicate our lives, Tulimirović, Pečar and I gradually strayed far into the realm of alter-prog-fusion-psychedelia, rendering the ground rather unfertile for vocalists, so we and Djukić parted ways, though on good terms. Of course, as barely anyone but ourselves was exactly crazy about our setlist that ultimately consisted of ten to fifteen-minute instrumentals riddled with incomprehensible, utterly undanceable odd-time meters and other intentional listener pitfalls like malicious breaks, malevolent random-sounding phrases played in unison, syncopated rhythms, atonal compositions and beat displacement, plus ample room designated for random improvisation and on-the-spot “freeform composition”, the band gradually evaporated, without much clamour, sometime in the course of 1997 or 1998, as the band members started pursuing other outlets for their unbridled creativity.

Marko Djukić dedicated himself to theatre, and thanks to him I started writing original soundtracks for theatre performances together with another long-term “associate” of mine, Stojan Kralj. Producing music for audio-visual works is also how I eventually got into the rather arcane music production business more seriously, and I also kept drumming in quite a few other bands. Boštjan Zorc went back to playing guitar (his primary instrument), and he has since been in several bands. He is now a great guitarist and owner of a well-known guitar workshop. Sebastjan Roškarič headed into the realm of magic: he is now an accomplished illusionist. Samo Pečar has become a professional bass player and has contributed to too many bands to list. Aljaž Tulimirović has gone on to form a few bands of his own as well as take part in a number of other projects. Both Tulimirović and Pečar participated in Juice Connection (1998–2002, the music production crew formed by Kralj and myself) as well as played in the live line-ups of both bands I founded later: SUR as well as, for a while, Cynicism Management.

As I’ve already mentioned, the Ground Zero archives were salvaged from mangled old compact cassette tapes. To make matters even more frustrating, most of the material was originally recorded directly from the mixer during rather “unpredictable” concerts of dubious quality, so forget about top-notch production by today’s standards: the recordings did undergo significant digital audio restoration, as far as I could manage it… But without a functional artificial intelligence with a knack for audio forensics, magically transforming this material into anything great-sounding will remain impossible. Nevertheless, all of the former band members agreed it would be a good idea to “immortalise” these fine audio documents by digitising them before they vanished forever. Not that they will have any mass appeal, of course – but they will certainly let us, the former members, take a few trips down the memory lane.

“Pendulum Pet” released on Jamendo

For reasons I will not go into right now, my main band – Cynicism Management – has been quiet for a while. The work on the band’s third full-length album (as well as my third novel, which is supposed to accompany it) IS proceeding, though not exactly as initially planned, so I cannot yet predict with any certainty when either will be done.

In the meantime, we have released the Pendulum Pet album on Jamendo, where you can grab it as a FREE download under a Creative Commons BY-NC-ND license.

Grumblin’ Ole Geezer @ Opeth

There’s a reason – besides my being a serial procrastinator, of course – why it took me almost exactly two months to finish scribbling the following “review” (or, my personal concert journal entry) of the Opeth concert in Berlin on 24 November 2016: it was so damn good that I didn’t have anything to grumble about. I’ll try my best to find something that was annoying – but be warned, the following account may be damn boring.

This was the second time I saw Opeth live. The first time was in Huxleys Neue Welt, my favourite venue in Berlin, but this time the gig was in Astra Kulturhaus, which I was not yet familiar with. Because the place turned out to be one of those semi-dilapidated (on the outside) squats-turned-businesses that I normally don’t particularly enjoy, I was worried about the sound. Furthermore, drinks were far too expensive for its outward appearance… But all my reservations were soon appeased.

Well, maybe not during the opening act, which was a band of cute Swedish shieldmaidens singing lullabies and Scandinavian laments, thus promoting suicidal tendencies in most of us, the audience, as we had already been moderately to fully depressed due to the eternal winter doom and gloom of Berlin. In short, it was OK, but nothing to write home about: however beautifully performed (and it was fine, musically speaking), this sort of ethereal angel choir over acoustic guitar or piano (not even both at the same time) can make me very sleepy in no time. And I had got up at 5 a.m. that morning, so three tracks in I was in serious danger of prostrating myself in a dark corner and missing the whole thing.

Fortunately, Opeth soon elected to get on stage and…

Well, what can I say. Flawless musicianship, superb sound (clear, well defined, loud enough, though not brutally so… actually I don’t have any negative sound-related comments whatsoever, which is very rare for me), and first-class stage act and presence. As far as I’m concerned, Mikael Åkerfeldt is the man. Not only is he a musical genius, guitar virtuoso and top-notch singer (despite his continuous protestations that he doesn’t really know how to sing), but I especially appreciate his sarcastic and cynical ramblings in between tracks that never fail to entertain. His communication with the audience is stellar (he even made the proverbially reserved Germans sing some godawful vocal line I didn’t know my way around at all – I suppose it must have been a hit in Germany or something, which is certainly an achievement in its own right, as it was definitely not a sing-along jingle). In this regard he reminds me of Zappa, and in a very good way, too. One of the self-ironic remarks I remember went something along the lines of “I was bored, so I changed the tuning on my guitar, played a few chords, and – lo and behold – another masterpiece.” Ha, ha, ha, indeed.

What else… Oh, there was one thing that pissed me off, besides the prices of drinks: there was a nasty pillar between me and the stage, so my vantage point sucked, but it was my fault – because I had no wish whatsoever to elbow my way further into the impressive crowd. However, another positive thing: this time there weren’t many hipsters around, unlike the All Them Witches concert the other day, which was a massive relief. Opeth do attract a great, loyal crowd of sensible people, and for a reason: they’re simply so damn good. If I ever have the chance, I’ll definitely go see them again.

Rick Neidlinger releases “A Taste of RickyRock”

For the last half a year or so I’ve been collaborating with a Kansas-based singer/songwriter, bassist and first-rate guitarist Rick Neidlinger. While he was in charge of everything else, I contributed drums and then mixed and mastered the tracks as well. The resulting work has just been released on Bandcamp. Have a listen and/or grab a download:

Released November 6, 2016
Music, guitars, bass and vocals: Rick Neidlinger
Drums, mixing and mastering: Borut Praper

Grumblin’ Ole Geezer @ All Them Witches

I hadn’t known All Them Witches at all before a friend of mine with compatible music taste, whom we’ve been exchanging musical tips with for the last 20 years or so (we’d even played together in my first band back in 1994/1995), happened to mention that they were playing in Berlin on 15 October. (Yeah, so it took me a while to write my impressions about it, what can I say, I’m a world-class procrastrinator.) So my pal decided to mount an expedition from Slovenia and drop by the now eternally dark and murky Berlin for a visit, and we’d go to this gig while he was at it. A grand idea, if you ask me.

I gave the blokes in question a good listen, like I usually do when I’m about to attend a concert by a band I don’t know, and, lo and behold, even though I hadn’t recognised their name, I already knew their whole Our Mother Electricity album by heart for some peculiar reason. Raising a semi-surprised eyebrow I thought, what the hell, man?!

Later I realised that my neighbour – this demented dipsomaniac who lives next door and keeps blasting his rock ‘n’ roll through the window for all the neighbourhood to hear – might have been a bit obsessed with this album for a while, so he must have played it frequently, without my registering it, really. As his musical tastes are quite OK – even if he’s otherwise an insufferable idiot – I don’t often get back at him back by playing Meshuggah or something, for example, to drown out his tunes… At least not until he really pisses me off. So I must have inadvertently picked up the whole All Them Witches album through the wall. Excellent.

Therefore this had been my favourite track by All Them Witches even before I knew the name of the band, and they did perform it here in Berlin, which I appreciated a lot:

The rest of their albums sounded perfectly cool to me as well, a sweet combination of blues and stoner rock, so I was looking forward to seeing them live. They played at White Trash Fast Food, a place I’d never been to before – a sort of a “moderately hipsterish” fusion food joint / tatoo studio / DJ lounge / (rock ‘n’ roll) concert venue. So of course I had my doubts with regard to sound and atmosphere and clientele et cetera – you know, the usual concerns of a cranky old fart. Unfortunately my pessimism once again turned out to be well-founded, though the actual reasons for the disappointment completely eluded me this time. I mean, we’re all used to bitching about the guy who is dying a slow, tedious death behind the mixer, but this time I couldn’t possibly imagine whose fault the poor sound was. I’ll explain.

My first impression of the place was very positive:

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The second impression was that half of Berlin’s hipster population ate there, and the third was that the concert venue security was totally weird. We had to go in through a side entrance (NOT through the restaurant), where they punched our tickets and felt us up, of course, you know the routine, in order to prevent us from bringing anything illicit inside. We ended up in this neat hall, quite large, I estimated you could stuff around 1000 people in there (turns out I was close, just checked it, and the capacity is 450 seats, 700 standing). Then we were once again forbidden from vaping (this was the second time after the Katatonia concert the other day, I suppose they’re finally onto us), but we were told we could go “smoke” in a “designated smoking zone”. So we did, but it turned out that dragging your ass there meant you had to get a stamp and vacate the premises through the restaurant, so we, for all intents and purposes, ended up where we had already been before: outside, in front of the restaurant. At that point we could have loaded up on beer and suspicious pharmaceuticals… Or grown jihad beards, put our passports in our pockets for the police to conveniently find later and fetched our scimitars, AK-47s, hand grenades, rocket launchers, suicide vests and sarin gas, because nobody gave any of us evil smokers/vapers a second glance when we reentered the venue through the restaurant on our way back from the “smoke break”. Of course not: after all, we had THE STAMP. How typically German.

The gig was opened by infernally loud (hell, yeah!) Israeli stoner rockers who call themselves The Great Machine. I must admit I was impressed: the sound rocked and if this was how the rest of the gig would go, it would be one hell of a concert. As impressive as The Great Machine sounded, I was starting to feel horrendously bored about four or five tracks into the set, which is just something a full-on stoner rock setlist consisting of virtually identical three-chord tunes will do to me. Still, the sound and the band’s stage presence were a plus. I wondered how many cymbals per year their drummer cracks, because he kept slamming down on them like a deranged methaphetamine-abusing blacksmith. Nice, it makes an average rocker all warm and fuzzy inside.

After a most welcome break – because The Great Machine took their sweet time – All Them Witches finally got on stage. I’ll just get it over with and spit it out: THEIR SOUND SUCKED DONKEY BALLS. Well, isn’t that odd? Usually it’s the other way around, isn’t it? I mean, hasn’t it been etched in the great rock ‘n’ roll tradition with letters made of titanium that the sound of the support act should suck so as to underline the monumental glory of the headliners? Well, this time it was the other way around, and the difference was shocking. To sum it up in short:

The Great Machine: excellent drums with a good kick and punchy snare, gut-punching overall sound, massive and well-defined bass frequencies, radical guitar; but barely audible vocals (which nobody missed, really, as they were mostly nonexistent or consisted of tortured screams, for the most part quite gratuitously provided by the bass player for some reason – though, as far as I can see on YT, it’s usually the guitarist who “sings”?);

All Them Witches: bass frequencies horrendously poorly defined (puffy, muddy as hell, so you couldn’t distinguish between the kick, bass, and anything else), barely audible drums with non-existent kick and flimsy snare, frail guitar and feeble vocals drowning under an excess of electric piano.

The proverbial tormented person behind the mixer apparently worked on it and gradually improved the sound somewhat as the concert went on, but didn’t succeed in saving the day for whatever reason (one of which might have been that the guitarist’s amp died and the Israelis lent him their hulking Marshall stack, which made a notable improvement). Besides, at least the infernal electric piano was eventually toned down a little and the vocals pushed some more, but the morbid muddiness of the bass/low-mid frequencies plagued me until the very end.

Nevertheless, it was good to hear songs like this one live:

…though I really ached to sit down, because my back and my knees were killing me. Next time I’ll get there sooner and appropriate one of the seats. Yeah, so I’m a grumblin’ ole geezer, but due to all of the above the concert felt as long as a day at the dentist’s. To make matters far worse, it was sold out, so one could barely move, which was quite a surprise after the “relaxed” Katatonia and half-empty Leprous concerts recently. Well, at least we could secretly vape by hiding in the crowd, just like everyone else (hell, people even smoked, the criminals!). What a crowd, though… You’d think that there’s something odd going on with the stoner scene, but judging from the sickening mass of full-blown hipsters around me I immediately suspected what it was. I mean, for crying out loud: where do they put all of the woodwork that such vast quantities of these bearded, man-bun-toting blokes, preferably sporting silly hats to boot, can crawl out of?

Grumblin’ Ole Geezer @ Katatonia

Let’s get this out of the way immediately: Katatonia is one of my favourite bands, and since I moved to Berlin a few years ago I’ve kept an eye on their touring schedule to finally see them live (or rather, hear them, who cares about they look). Admittedly, they were here last year already, if I remember correctly, but that was with their “unplugged” or all-acoustic set, which I decided to avoid simply because… Well, it’s obvious why. Not that I dislike their digression from distortion (in fact, their acoustic live album Sanctitude, recorded at Union Chapel in London, is a real treat and I’ve listened to it many times), but I nevertheless decided to wait for a “thoroughly plugged” set, simply because I like it when the fillings threaten to fall out of my teeth as the band blasts away, and I love a good bassy punch in the gut. So sue me.

A couple of days ago I finally caught Katatonia on their “Fallen Hearts of Europe” tour.

At this point I’d usually start grumbling about things that got on my nerves, but this manifestation was simply too good to complain about (much). First of all, the concert was in Huxleys Neue Welt, which is my favourite concert hall in Berlin by far. First of all, it’s walking distance from my flat… Secondly, it’s exactly the right size and boasts a very handy bar… And most importantly, I have yet to hear any sound blunders in this hall. I’ve witnessed shitty sound all over Berlin, sometimes so much so that it ruined my evening completely, but to date Huxleys has been excluded from my list of grudges. So there it is: finally a concert that I don’t have any complaints about – I mean, sound-wise. And hell yeah, it was loud! Good! Great! Because sometimes I suspect rock ‘n’ roll is going down the drain simply because rock (and even metal) concerts have suddenly become too damn quiet. Health concerns in the vein of the smoking ban? (Speaking of which, for the first time ever the bastards didn’t let us vape in there, we got reprimanded despite of tons of the same shit being pumped in the air onstage already during the opening acts, VOLA and Agent Fresco, so we had to hide in the crowd where we blew vapour at the floor in the company of other clandestine vapers. I felt like a goddamn teenager again.) Or am I slowly growing deaf as the gap between my birth date and the present time is getting increasingly abysmal? I have no idea, but seeing a heap of people standing around with earplugs and goddamn cotton in their ears made me… Well, grumble a bit. I mean, why the hell do you go to a metal concert at all, then, if it’s too loud for you? OK, I get it that the waiters resort to earplugs: they have to be there on a daily basis whether they like the bands or not. But the audience?! I mean, really!?

But I digress…

And so it began:

The only thing that had me slightly worried at the beginning was that the singer’s voice was noticeably tired, maybe because they apparently played at the Epic Metal Festival in the Netherlands the day before (and who knows what was happening there, right?). However, the guy (Jonas Renkse) warmed up thoroughly after a couple of tracks and that was that. Apart from that infinitesimal hiccup that only grumblin’ ole musicians noticed at all, probably, everything else was flawless. Another thing that made me all warm and fuzzy inside was the light design – well thought-out and tempo-synced (yep, Katatonia are slaves to the metronome, no way around that if you use pre-recorded synths in the absence of an “analogue” keyboardist, loops, and tempo-based guitar effects) – which contributed significantly to the dramaturgy of the tracks. Kudos to whomever did that. I enjoy superb old-skool light design much more than (more often than not pretty lame) videos running in the background, which bands like so much to abuse these days. (Mayhaps to steer the attention away from their grim visages? Who knows.) As expected, both guitarists singing perfect backing vocals really put the “H” in the goosebump-inducing harmonies because of which I can’t get enough of this band… And last but not least, I loved Daniel Moilanen, the new drummer, and appreciated the fact that he looks like a physics professor and as such represents a heartwarming counterpoint to the rest of the long-haired Vikings. I mean, the guy can play (so can the others, of course).

And so it went on:

Speaking of long-haired Vikings – the only thing that got on my nerves in the second half of the concert was this two-point-ten-metre bloke with a huge hairdo who decided to stand and headbang right in front of me all of a sudden, interrupting my reverie… But even him I no longer registered as the band concluded the concert with one of my favourite tracks:

Anyway, to date this was the best concert I’ve been to this year. We’ll see if it stays on top of my list, though, because Opeth are dropping by at the end of November.