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Photo: Vladislavs Punculs.

Photo: Vladislavs Punculs.

 ‘’A person wants to play music all the time. You just have to find the right people to play with. And if it’s going to work out fine you will understand immediately. You just have to start playing.’’ 

TESA are three guys who play loud, heavy and contrasting instrumental music. The vocals that they use actually work more as an instrument rather than a story teller. TESA was founded in late 2005 by the bassist Kārlis Tone and two brothers Jānis Burmeistars – drums and Dāvis Burmeistars – guitar. Before TESA they all were playing in other well known underground bands. Kārlis played bass in the Saldus hardcore/ punk band Kriegopfer. Jānis played drums in the band When My Authorities Fall. Both brothers Jānis and Dāvis also played in the legendary Latvian hardcore band In.Stora. And Davis also played in the band Les Corte together with Kārlis.

At the time when underground music clubs weren’t found in each big city, gigs were held in rather unsuitable locations like the Riga School of Crafts or the restaurant ‘’Ciecere’’ in the city of Saldus. Nowdays TESA choose unusual of locations like these to play with different people for their gigs, too. TESA have a massive concert experience. It would be too long to name all the places they have played not only in Latvia, but in many other countries too. The most emotional experience for TESA was when they opened for Neurosis in Latvia and later in Germany. One of the greatest gigs I recall was the presentation of their album ‘’IV’’ which was held in the fall of 2012 at the ‘’Totaldobže’’ concert hall in the former VEF territory. TESA has a very big fanbase. It doesn’t matter how big the gig’s place is, every concert is well crowded. 

This Autumn TESA  will release their newest 5th full length record ‘’Ghost’’ by the local company ‘’SKYR’’. For the interview we meet early this year at the bands rehearsal space in the old industrial club ‘’Elektra’’. The room is massive, but the band has occupied only 1/3 of the place. We sit down in the middle of the room. When Kārlis, Dāvis and Jānis speak to me, they compliment each other so naturally that all I have to do is just sit there and listen to TESA’s monologue:

Photo: Vladislavs Punculs.

Photo: Vladislavs Punculs.

In TESA everybody creates everything.

The sound of the new album is loud, rough and dirty. Many people think that if your band’s sound is dirty you can’t play. But it’s quite the opposite. To create a dirty, rough sound it takes some skills. For example, Nirvana – nothing special, right? They had to rehearse three times a week to get their sound. We play post rock. That style of music is pretty ‘’in frames’’ you know. So we are trying now to break out of it.

We don’t have to prove anything to anyone. We are pretty self critical when it comes to the music creating process. It is crazy wanting to change your parts when all the music is recorded. If some little mistake is done while recording, and the musician is the the only one to notice it, it doesn’t change the quality of the whole record. The record is perceived as whole piece – nobody is listening to a specific second of the bass part. Self-criticism is everyone’s self responsibility. If you are a member of the band then respect your other colleagues and be as good in your playing as you can, so that no one has to wait for you.

No one in the band comes to the rehearsal place with ready material like – here is my song, let’s play it. That’s why we don’t have any problems with new material when someone loves it and someone just plays it without any emotions. Enough criticism occures when writing music, so we all talk it over. In TESA everybody creates everything. One musical motive can be created by different people, but every time the sound will be different. That is why it is important for the band to create their music together. This is how all ideas are filtered and become even greater. These ideas sound best for the specific band.

Through the years we have definitely become louder. The loudness is very important for our music. Of course, not as high level as the band Sunn O ))). In our concerts the power and loudness of the sound affect people physically. We are more comfortable playing loud, not quiet. But you have to know how to play loud. When you get new equipment and the sound gets more power at first you think it’s fantastic, but you learn to control it later. Roger Waters in the Pink Floyd movie ‘’Pompeii’’ mentions a golden rule in music. ‘’Everything depends on either you control your gear, or the gear controls you.’’

Communication is what reflects TESA’s song writing process. Someone may think that we play with our backs to the crowd intentionally. Actually there are some parts in our songs that we need to see and follow drummer Jānis. Are we a live band? Yes, we do like live shows! There are enough bands who wouldn’t agree to play three shows a month being afraid that the crowd would get bored of their music. We usually look at the location factor and why we play there. The people factor doesn’t affect us much.

The manifesto of brutality

TESA will always be the three of us, but it is interesting to jam with other people too. For example, a very interesting collaboration was with the local noise musicians Antireality and Edgars Rubenis. Another great project is the ‘’Bigband’’ which was formed in Kuldiga underground club ‘’Zabadaks’’. We had this dream for a while, to gather several drums, basses and many guitars together. That’s why we collabarated with Soundarcade to mutate both bands songs together. But to do a rehearsal for ten people is very hard nowadays. You know how hard it was for the three of us to come together. That’s why with the ‘’Bigband’’ when we have a gig on thursday it would be good to do a rehearsal on wednesday. Those who can make it to the rehearsal come together and jam. Those who can’t make, will be told about. If there is no rehearsal previosly held with ‘’Bigband’’, playing is very interesting. Because we all know only the guidelines. However it is rather a thin margin between that everything comes out fine and that you don’t know how the whole harmony will evolve. And actually two drums without any reahearsal sound pretty lame.

Photo: Vladislavs Punculs

Photo: Vladislavs Punculs.

A friend invited us to open for Neurosis in Germany. He had been on tour with them. When we opened for them in Riga the gig was less stressful, because we knew more or less the Riga crowd. In most cases you have to say that your friend will never be an objective listener. You can play the gig well or badly, but you won’t get a direct rating. But in Germany we had to open up for one of our favorite bands, and the crowd was people who we saw for the first time. In such situations outside your unsual environment you know how good or bad as a musician you actually are. If you do a bad gig, people will go to the bar for a beer. But in our case the gig was great. Everything worked out just as we had planned. That was unforgettable – to do a gig with a band you had listened to in the same day, and even more – with a band that you’ve been listening to all the time for the past two, three years!

If we had the chance we would tour more. That is one of the best things being in a band. Physically tours are pretty tiring, but it is worth all the effort when you are on a tour and the only thing that exists is the next gig. It is a fascinating moment when you do a gig in Lithuania but rather driving back home you head to the next stop on your tour. And then we get to Poland, and you can always drive to Russia, too.

(Translation by Lauris Polis.)

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It’s hard to find the right words to describe the first “Nine Inch Nails” show on their Europe tour that took place on 6th May in Latvia, Arena Riga. One is clear – it was the highest level of professionalism that makes you hold your breath even if you aren’t exactly a fan of that type of music.

“Nine Inch Nails” are specific. It’s not like you want to listen this music every day. To understand them, you need some background knowledge or curiosity to discover something new. It’s better if you have both. Unfortunately for the only “Nine Inch Nails” show in Baltic’s Arena Riga was quite empty. Therefore – all respects to the organizers “Positivus Music” who took the risk and made it happen!

“Nine Inch Nails” spent a week in Riga rehearsing for the upcoming European tour, building up complicated schemes of lights and music and incredible stage constructions. The stage changed like a dark Rubik’s cube while stage lights showed colourful play of highlights and shadows. But still the most important element was music. Half of the concert I was listening with closed eyes to capture the contrast of sounds and beats as best as I could.

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“I’m just a copy of a copy of a copy of a” – and all hands go up in the air! Crowd goes crazy! Relieved feeling of happiness takes over your body and you found yourself melting with the crowd. “Nine Inch Nails” took the control over the crowd at the very beginning of show and didn’t let it go till the final notes.

I can speak only for myself but my favourite song was “The Becoming” played in the middle of the concert. “The Becoming” has two themes – one electronic pattern, the other one is the Trent’s voice. The specific twist comes when sudden drop transforms the song into harmonic melody, creating an irritating but at the same time pleasing feeling in your ears. During live performance this contrast was especially intense. The older fans can be pleased, the setlist includes many songs from “The Downward Spiral”. Riga’s the audience was delighted about “Closer”, “The Hand That Feeds”, and the loudest singing along happened  at “Head like A Hole”. Time runs fast and within a heartbeat concert comes to a magic encore – “Hurt” – when audience attempted to breath together with Reznor.

Setlist:

1. Copy of A

2. 1,000,000

3. Terrible Lie

4. March of the Pigs

5. Piggy

6. The Frail

7. The Wretched

8. The Becoming

9. Gave Up

10. Closer

11. Find My Way

12. Me, I’m Not

13. Came Back Haunted

14. The Great Destroyer

15. Eraser

16. Wish

17. Burn

18. The Hand That Feeds

19. Head Like a Hole

20. Hurt

Photo gallery rocknphotos.com

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Last week Riga resounded in each club, store and front yard. Speaking in numbers – In four days I managed to hear around 14 bands playing in five different locations. And I’ve got something to point out:

1.If you’re into folk or metal and you also enjoy the sound of a foreign language, you got to check out Green Novice. They have the right balance in between thrashy riffs and sonorous folk melodies, energy loaded, technically precise guitar solos to be enjoyed not only by metalheads. Green Novice is singing in Latgalian – one of the most significant Latvian dialects.

2.This year Valka/Valga Rock Night headliners will be two legends – Estonian folk metal band Metsatoll and Latvian rock band Pērkons. Valka/Valga Rock Night will take place on 7th June, and the ticket prices are really low – from 5 to 10 euros.

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3.Give him some extra euro or put him in the spotlight! His name is Ratmir. He is young and gifted street musician, spotted between music record shop Randoms and Riga’s Museum of Decorative Arts and Design. His voice has warm timber, he has artistic charm and obviously he has learned from the best, like Tom Waits.

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Bērnības Milicija was playing at record store Randoms

4.April 19th was the Worldwide Record Store day that also happened in Riga. Latvian musicians were playing at record stores Randoms and Upe. Due to Easter holiday and the great weather outside it looked like the listeners were mainly musicians themselves, and it reminded the warm, friendly feeling of Tallinn Music Week.

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9Horizon 

5.And yeah, the location matters – the concerts at the rehearsal place in Admiņu iela are always particular with their back to real underground feeling. On Silent Saturday black metal band Eschatos and sludge metal band 9horzion played there. But on May 1st, there’s already going to be two stages and 10 bands: Kritiskā Masa 2014 pēc ballīte

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IMG-20140401-01059When being a music journalist at a music industry conference abroad, you mainly focus on checking out those acts that you’re not likely to hear on your regular Friday at your local club back home.

Yeah, it can be a bit annoying if you don’t know the city so well, but to avoid such unpleasant circumstances, Tallinn Music Weekorganizers had thought about their international visitors and organized shuttle buses that would take you from one music venue to another. Tallinn is a beautiful city and my time there ran out way too fast.

During my time at Tallinn Music Week I managed to hear around 15 different bands, but these 6 bands impressed me most:

Hungarian progressive rock band’s Grand Mexican Warlock singer has an amazing and expressive voice. The band line up includes two guitars and also keyboards that allow them to experiment with song texture, dynamics and create catchy melodies.

Another great vocalist can be heard in an Estonian electronic duo Faun Racket. They have mixed the exaltation of computer music with pathos of a baroque music vocals making it a unique and entertaining combination!

Talbot is a duo from Estonia – a drummer and bass player who also operates with the keys. Aside from playing their instruments, both men also take care of the vocal parts. Talbot music has the tentacles of an octopus that creates monstrous and hypnotic soundscapes like there was a sextet playing. It simply blows you away.

Finnish band Death Hawks are playing psychedelic rock and creating hypnotic rhythms that makes you wanna dance, but if you look to their ‘black metal facial expressions’, you find yourself in a middle of mysterious Walpurgis Night Sabbath. Beware, you might enjoy such hypnosis!

Death Hawks surely have the potential to become huge as musically they have everything it takes to make it in the industry. As well as that, their performance at Tallinn music Week was noticed by many keen local and foreign promoters.

King Sleep from Lithuanian play atmospheric chill out music that brings you to a peaceful state of mind. During their performance you might find yourself hypnotized by one of King Sleep transcendental video projections.

All-girl seven piece Sus Dungo from Latvia embodies all of the feminine qualities – lightness, tenderness and beauty, but their music represents different shades of the Baltic landscape. Their first album was in Latvian, the upcoming will be in English, although Sus Dungo is the kind of band when their Latvian lyrics sound just like one of the instruments.

Tallinn Music Week’s 2014 line-up included around 250 artists, and 145 of them were from Estonia. To participate in Tallinn Music Week next year is a nice challenge for Latvian artists, isn’t it? But then again, it’s not about rivalry. The majority of attendants don’t care what country you came from, often they don’t even care about the music, they do care about good story behind the band. It’s a thing that is often missing and prohibits the possibility for an artist to break out. So what is your story? I will have to tell it in English, because as cliché it might sound, only together as Baltic States we’re really strong.

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 SEMC 3MP DSCI had the chance to participate in online media journalist seminar ‘’Speak Up Europe’’ in Paris, hosted by Cafe Babel. Being music journalist, my senses was sharp to discover the music bar scene in Paris. Yes, I got a solid impression and the taste of Belgium beer still touches my taste buds! Divided in groups for ‘’Reporting on the ground’’, I got in the right one. The subject of our group was ‘’Backstage life of Montmartre bars’’ (the article is in French, written by Thomas Laborde. I still need to finish mine). We got five hours to get our information for a story.

Bad weather brought us down the earth – you can hear some good world music stuff or  sweet soul music in metro for some cents. Otherwise you search for shelter and for a cafe la creme in a bar. The sound of Paris bars in daytime is retro soundtrack from the forties to seventies. Well known international stars like Bob Dilan or Elviss Presley or Beach Boys goes along with the best of French musicians Serge Gainsbourg or Jacques Dutronc.

In the afternoon, specially on Monday, cafes and bars of Montmartre are peaceful places for work or to have a smalltalk. And also the waitress of bar Clair de Lune has free time to join the conversation. She explains that the soundtrack of Paris is changing during the 24 Hours: it’s depending of the person, that works behind the bar. Early in the Morning we try to put jazz, but then in the afternoon it’s going to be more cool, but in the night something completely different. In the evening people need some energy as from their drinks, and also from music. If suddenly a buss stopped and the bar become full with party people willing to dance, of course the soundtrack would change immediately. Yeah, waitress has sense for different kinds of vibes.

The leader SEMC 3MP DSCof our research group was Thomas – Frenchman who lives in Paris for seven years and knows the bar scene well: Paris is getting older. The people are saying – there are too much noise in the streets, so the bars should be closed. I knew a lot of Bars in Pigalle that never close. You could come at 6 in the morning and stay there till 11. I got to know, where to have party and where will you move after it. Some of bars opens only at 5 in the mornig and are welcoming the party people. But Paris is not the right city to go, if you wanna have great nightlife. Louder, louder, louder, but then it stops. People prefer to listen to music rather to make the strangers their new friends or people are just too stoned to make friends.

Paris shares love for indie rock music and electronic. You can also easy find a rock’n’roll or reggae or jazz bar, ifSEMC 3MP DSC you like. It’s quite often that famous indie band musicians like Graham Coxon from ‘’Blur’’ is doing his undercover DJ set at one of Parisian bars. If you’re at their right place, you can hear them or meet them or just see them. Like near the concert hall ‘’La Cigale’’ you can find a bar ‘’La Fourmi’’, sometimes visited by famous musicians like ‘’Radiohead’’. Are you excited? Let’s go for a walk!

And I did. Later. On Tuesday. I was hosted by ex indie music DJ Gonzalo. Right how he is daddy and passionate by different languages. But back then his indie club life was very intense and colorful. Back then luck was on his side – he received tickets again and again, that brought him contacts and good relationships with the club owners. Paris is a small city, everybody knows everybody – he told me. Although last year he managed to hear 340 concerts!

Gonzalo has a lot of amazing stories in his pocket: Once around the end of year 2001, band ‘’The Strokes’’ gave a concert in one of Parisian indie clubs. Julian Casablancas was crowdsufring and lost his driving license. He was angry and disappointed, because he needed it to get back to the States. The club owner told him – don’t worry and went for some phone calls. And Julian’s driving license was found and the finder received life long ticket for ‘’The Strokes’’ concerts. Other time Gonzalo and his buddies was ‘’babysitting’’ Bjork during her visit in Paris. And then he got the surprising opportunity to fly to NY for Rolling Stones concert. All for free! Gonzalo advised me to check out the famous indie music clubs: ‘’Pop in’’, ‘’Truskel’’, ‘’The Motel’’, ‘’The International’‘ and played me some indie stuff – French, Belgium, American and so on. You must hear Emilian Torini or ‘’Noir Desire’’!

But did you know, that the duo ‘’Air’’ isn’t so popular in France? French people do not understand, why they have to sing in English. But still there are a lot of foreign newcomers, that hope to find their success under Parisian indie lable. Paris will teach you, how to enjoy yourself! Are you ready for this challenge? Can you manage yourself a gig in small Parisian bar and play for relaxed crowd. Yes, dear, you can!

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I’m relentlessly fascinated by music journalism, although in Latvia it’s a low rated activity. If you manage to find your place, then more or less you’re connected with certain auditory, in my case – listeners of hard and heavy music. You can divide writing activity into – PR and critique. I have noticed the tendency that Latvian artists choose one person – journalist or radio DJ to work with. Therefore accepted the challenge: I spent two months together with Latvian heavy metal band ‘’SIA Radikal’’, collecting information, feelings and vibes to form them into a story. We already had our history. All of my creative channels were open, so I made seven articles, that’s quite enough to form a point of view and to entertain the readers who already have their attitude.

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 ‘’SIA Radikal’’ are five individualities, with certain attitude and point of view about musical expression and life overall. ‘’SIA Radikal’’ has caused a lot of discussions and the band isn’t the cosset of main audience (but they still have their loyal fan basis). That was one of the main reasons for me to write about them, to let the readers discover the band from a different angle, without the stereotypes. I really don’t like superficial judgment and superficial articles. You need time to get acquainted with facts, opinions and real situation. You need to live it out.

I wanted to tell the story step by step, introducing the musicians one after another. The background of ‘’SIA Radikal’’ is very interesting. Rhythm guitarist Gustavs Terzens is well known journalist with great knowledge about media, music, people – both audience and artists. Vocalist Dainis Rijkuris is serious person and also businessman with creative thinking and work experience being in the team of ‘’Metallica’’. Bass player Matīss Elsbergs, drummer Artūrs Kupčs and solo guitarist Alvis Bernāns are educated, talented, creative and hardworking musicians. All of them share the same musical background. Musically you will recognize the influences of thrash metal grands, appreciate the preciseness in technique. The lyrics are in Latvian – social realistic and social political pointed: ‘’SIA Radikal’’ captured the moment of crisis five years ago – economical and also ethical, but the new songs are more about inner world, fights and hopes. And the performance is an outburst of energy.

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The ‘’SIA Radikal’’ gave me good and interesting content (also new fact about the history of Latvian alternative music), my form was an interview enriched with my comments. I also asked the colleagues, friends and ex band members, what are their memories. Lack of critique, yes I agree. But the Internet is so full with negations and ‘’I know it better’’ attitude, and I’m fed up with it. I was caught by the promotion of Clutch’s newest record ‘’Earth Rocker’’ and I’m really excited about the story under QOTSA promising forthcoming record. Yes, that’s my kind of entertainment – purposefully developed story!

The result of my collaboration with ‘’SIA Radikal’’ will approve in the course of time. In my opinion, the organizing of publicity should be very systematic and regular, and then it makes sense. You create a sort of tradition that is open for interactions. Music journalism as publicity tool is still has to be developed in Latvia.

Although it was the silent Easter Saturday, the 5th Anniversary of ‘’SIA Radikal’’ expanded into intense evening. ‘’SIA Radikal’’ caught their audience into heavy metal loop and didn’t let them away for two hours. Topless fans rampaged near the stage. Close friends on the stage and heavy, replete set list. Debut of Alvis (it was his first ‘’SIA Radikal’’ concert) was observable – he has skills and he has charm. The most interesting part for me was the premier of new songs, which I have heard in the rehearsal in their creation phase. The celebration continues in Liepaja on 13th of April in club ‘’Fontaine Palace’’ together with the Italian band ‘’SNP’’ and me playing rock music disco. See you there, you, metal head!

Photo: Oskars Kupše

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„Nude of Sand’’  is a duo from Norway, that will perform on 13th of October, festivals ‘’Sound Forest’’ third day devoted to experimental music in sacral space. Concert venue is a Church – Anglikāņu baznīca. Some days before I had digital chat with the singer Jenny Vhal to get her know a bit better.

 Can you give us a short interduction with ‘’Nude on Sand’’?

Nude on Sand is a duo project consisting of myself and Håvard Volden. The music is somewhere in-between acoustic folk/blues, spoken word and free improvisation.

 ‘’Nude on Sand’’ is your colloboration with Håvard Volden. How did you find each other?

I heard Håvard play at a concert series here in Oslo, and I really liked his approach to improvisation. Later, he ended up in my band (with my solo project), but we wanted to do something else, something more improvised, so Nude on Sand happened.

On festival ‘’ Sound Forest’’ you will be performing in a Church. What’s the most strangest concert place you ever played at?

Last year, we played (with my band) in a huge cave on a practically uninhabited island in the north of Norway – in front of 1,500 people. Nude on Sand have played many churches and galleries, but generally small venues. Somehow a small room never feels strange, no matter what’s happening.

What can we expect of ‘’Nude of Sand’’ performance at festival Sound Forest?

Unusual structures, unusual lyrics, and an unusual sense of dynamics that still sound melodic and vaguely familiar.

You’re a multi talanted artist. Does your writing influence your musical expression or the other way around?

My work is very firmly centered around words and the way words sound, no matter how it is presented. I don’t think of myself as multi talented at all! I think I would have become lazy if I didn’t feel my work was one project, unable to constantly move in different directions.

 What ist your latest inspiration?

I’ve been reading a few books by the artist Chris Kraus recently. She’s amazing.

You also write music criticism. Is it easier to assess music when you’re musician?

I don’t think so. I’m not a trained musician, and I think that makes it easier to listen to the flow of the music I’m reviewing, instead of minor details and craftsmanship. Sometimes when I write about an album, I wish I knew even less.

Are there artists on Sound Forests programm you have planned to listen to?

I’m a huge Islaja fan, but I generally don’t plan to see a lot of other acts when I play, because I’m busy with my own show. It seems like a great festival, though, and I hope I get to see and hear something I haven’t heard before.

You seem to be very buisy artist. Have you got free time and how do you spend it?

I’m a nerd, so something is always happening.

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