I am going to start with the most obvious question. Is your name really Hamlet?
You can call me this way, yes!
The term multi-instrumentalist is a tad vague. Can you tell me what instruments you can play? Would it be easier to list the ones you cannot play?
Well, within Transport Aerian, which is my main unit of bringing some music to this realm from the realm of shadows on the cavern wall, I play every instrument that you hear on studio albums, mostly doing everything myself, from writing music to recording and production. I see music as a whole dynamic picture, rather than from a position of one certain instrument. The thing is, most guitar players or bass players or singers or anybody who operate from the position of their instrument – they often master their instruments to the higher level than people who play a several instruments, but at the same time, they mainly profile their own sound and their own voice within the composition. It is a different perspective. I try to build the entire picture, play only what is necessary and and the instrument required at the needed point. So I sing, I play guitars, basses, keyboards, I often use sampled or electronic drumkits (and I actually love the possibilities they open to the sound design if one knows how to cook them right!) but I also used some hybrid techniques with accoustic drum kits on some points on my two last records (see, for instance, jazzy and ambient sections in Triangle Town on Sand Horizon, Imperial, etc) and it worked pretty well. Being a multi-instrumentalist is a consequence, or an equivalent of being a control freak, willing to maintain a full control on every aspect of the music-making and knowing how to. Sadly, I don’t play many of unusual things I wish I did, so the list is not that long and my affair with wind instruments didn’t go as smooth as I hoped it would.
How would you describe your music? It seems to be very open to any and all sub-genres if they fit what you are trying to convey.
It is very hard to describe any music, not only mine. I admire the work of good music journalists, because they really deal with a difficult matter! I think the most important thing that I could say instead of the direct answer is that I don’t artificially or superficially limit it. The genres, the sets of used instruments, the patterns, structures – all that are merely the ways of bringing the certain ideas into the physical existence, into our world. If the given idea requires a certain physical representation and is encoded within a certain dialect of Music – hence the genre or a method, if you call it this way – I would use it. It may and, in most of the cases, will indeed shift limitless even within one song or one fragment of the song. Playing something defined is utterly boring at the first, and pretty much nonfunctional for my goal at the second.
Who or what are you influenced by musically?
I don’t allow any influences to enter my private space and infest what I’m doing. I focus on the certain idea and use any possible fragments, elements, details, tools – all I know from the systematized music history, culture history, philosophy or more practical technical displines, such as sound design. I think naming an influence kills the individuality.
I would give the same answer as above, with the difference that I would mostly employ modern avant-garde poetry, not really musical poetry, but the literature. Lyrics are essential to represent many ideas, so I’d look for the right context within literature rather than within music.
What inspires the direction of your projects? Since you really can basically go in any direction you chose, you must need somewhat of a plotted course.
I think this question already somewhat contains the answer, paradoxically. If talking about Transport Aerian, the direction is dictated by all the personal experiences, demons, visions on the cavern wall, fragments of knowledge that hurt, nightmares of possible outcomes, predictions – both false and real. I don’t really plot next steps until the entire piece falls to place by itself. The best music is the one that writes itself, asks to be brought here and the luxury of being a non-commercial artist is in the possibility not to write when I need something to sell but only when I have something to say. Largely unpredictable, but always deeply personal. I also will not record anything that sounds like what I already did before or will not say the same thing twice – such ideas go to the trashcan before I even lay first notes or first lines on paper. Regarding other projects I’m involved in, I don’t dictate directions there – those are mostly guest appearances and collaborations and I’m actually very open for such and love doing different things with different people. It often brings curious results.
The response to “Darkblue” has been quite positive. How has it been for you?
I’m really happy to confirm this statement, indeed, it has been very well-accepted. “Darkblue” is pretty special, in fact. First of all, its our first full studio album not released independently but by a really open minded and amazingly supportive American grass-roots label Melodic Revolution Records. Another radical change that have been made was the decision to include a female singer, beautiful and wise Rachel Bauer. Finally, its the entire idea of how this album is made, as it is more of a sort of theatrical or literary piece than purely musical: it is not much of a collection of the songs or a conceptual album – it is a story recited by two actors with matching set of musical constructs in different genres and styles, forming one plot canvas. So it was deeply personal, quite experimental and I’m really happy that it worked out well.
Do you have a favorite track off of “Darkblue”?
I don’t think I can separate one from the entire thing, because these are the parts of whole picture, you can’t listen to one without knowing the others and you can’t take one away without ruining the plot. I, however, think that Happy With The Future contains possibly the best lyric I have ever written. Or at least it feels like the most relevant one.
I know that you generally dislike the increased popularity of progressive music and/or prog. How do you balance that again your own desire to be at least popular enough for people to enjoy what you do? It seems like a tricky dichotomy.
It is not really so. First of all, I do not dislike popularity of prog, if, of course, there is such thing. Was it really that much down for all these years and decades at the first place? We have had a lot of legendary and many very artistic bands that made millions, sold millions and reached the level of popularity so high that every gawker on the street would have heard at least the name: Radiohead, Genesis, Pink Floyd, Tool, for example… All these at their times were progressive in a sense that they did move the music forward and many of them were also considered as ‘prog’ and, naturally, after their innovative efforts, myriads of smaller acts started trying to copy their style, labels started looking for similar acts, mostly going nowhere. Then, finally, the smarter, the richer and more connected musicians started successfully imitating ‘that’ sound of prog that once was progressive, playing on prog fans nostalgia and expectations. The latter, regardless of the quality – are purely commercial act, hence they have few to do with the intention of moving the music forward in anyway. It is not a raising popularity of progressive music, neither it is a raise of prog. Rather, it is a well-established and rather repetitive cycle that is nothing new, if you look at this from the historical perspective. There is nothing wrong with successful business, but such are acts of regression, and I will never like, support or, god forbid, worship it. Especially disgusting and somewhat ironic, although I would rather name it ‘cynical’, is that all this is often sold as ‘The Next Revolution’, recognized and worshiped as ‘Saviours Of The Genre’ and appear an object of insane verbal masturbation. Music from 70ies played by new musicians, with the use of new technology and promoted in terms of modern media is still music from 70ies, nothing more, and absolutely not anyhow new. There is nothing progressive about it and even less sincere. Seeing it as the solution or a raise of prog is dangerous, harmful for music and brings in the stagnation. As for second part of the question, hence, for myself, I don’t really think I’m a part of it all. I do my thing and I do what I feel like doing and say the things I find necessary to be said at this very moment. It sometimes coincides with progressive rock scene, but generally I just love the fact that there is a big grass-root musical movement raising world-wide, and it is not only prog as a genre or progressive music as a phenomenon – its folk spreading word about what they love and the bigger money machines involve in trying – mostly successfully – to hijack it. It’s really fascinating, but I’ve always felt that I do my thing, this machine is too big and greasy for me to be a cog in it.
You are easily one of the most outspoken, brutally honest people that I’ve come across. As someone who has been described that way myself, how do you keep from pissing off everyone and does that even matter?
The problem about any niche business, and especially about any culture- or art- related business – hence not the kind that produces the primary need products, is that success for an operating unit is often directly linked to exclusively right connections. What people often forget is that this success, that is based on connections only, thus with a lack of the quality product provided at the first place, is mostly very fickle.
Still, in music domain, just like in most other artistic domains, shaking right hands is essential. It seems, however, that this entire concept has moved a little further, and gentle hand-shaking behind the curtain has turned into the open-space furious ass-licking of everything and everyone in fear that they might be of use in future. This has turned into a wicked and cynical ritual that is absolute requirement part of the modern networking. I’m not doing that. It doesn’t make me impolite or unfriendly, don’t get me wrong: there are a lot of absolutely astonishing musicians and people in the circle and in the industry that I love to death and I will stand for them, openly. The only thing that I allow myself is to vocal both admiration and disgust regarding things I like or I don’t like. Can the modern world digest honesty? That’s truly the question to be asked. There are for sure people for whom it is a turn off. Obviously, some people might not like that I refuse to worship their newly polished idols and very often prefer the dusty old tapes to remain dusty and old, rather than putting extra sugar and glitters on it. It might be bad for the business, but if I wanted to be a successful businessmen I would really stay away from music, and I wouldn’t have played anything that can be described as ‘sincere’, ‘innovative’ or ‘honest’ at the first place. And these are the words that I hear about Transport Aerian most often. Well, not from those for whom the most stagnate acts are the best, or for whom the right connections are equal to musical quality but I really don’t regret a lack of those in my information space.
What’s next for you musically?
A lot is going on right now! First of all, I participated as a bassist and one of the four singers in the incoming conceptual album by international prog-metal project Fabulae Dramatis. They are really curious fellows and their next album involved some quite a sizable production and it is very promising! Second, in March comes out a new album by Marco Ragni, my MRR label brother, and I am featured on it as well, alongside with many other great musicians, such as, for instance, Durga McBroom of Pink Floyd, Colin Tench of Corvus Stone, Peter Matuchniak and many others. Finally, I’m not done with “Darkblue” yet. This album still has a lot of possibilities to play around its different aspects in terms of visuals and, possibly, live performances although the latter remains in consideration as it is not easy to come to terms for that to be reasonable. And last but not least, I am intending to launch a very curious and pretty risky project in the late spring, which has the seed of Transport Aerian and its spirit but it is something completely new and drastically different, yet in the spirit of modernity.
Thank you for taking the time to answer my questions!
It was my pleasure, thank you for your time!
Listen to “Darkblue” via Bandcamp: