The interview with Grzegorz Lesiak by Rogelio Pereira Conde was published in Oro Molido net-magazine (Spain) nº 49, April 2018.
Hello Grzegorz, congratulations for your dedication to music and, specifically to your work as a composer and arranger in the band TATVAMASI. The pieces that form the first album of the band „Parts of Eternity” arise after your period of convalescence from an accident in which you saw yourself involved. What did it mean for you to return to music? What was the circumstance that made you compose pieces that reflected a situation of uncertainty?
Thank you for appreciation. My return to creating music has been a very long process and has lasted about 10 years and it has been something like coaching myself. It took me a long time to accept the consequences of what had happened. I lived like a blind man during those years. I know now, that in that time my brain thinking processes focused mainly on the second, maximum third neurological circuit. To cut it short, I fought for survival. Setting up the band and realising our first album was a step to break through to perceive reality from a different perspective. Perhaps this is the reason why my melodies and grooves which I composed on our first album have so much uncertainty and nervousness. It was an experiment. It was a new, unknown area for exploration, which I groped for. It was like reprogramming myself.
Could you tell me what is the tie that maintains the spirit of this project that seeks the freedom at all times through the forms derived from jazz?
Seeking freedom in all forms of artistry is the core for our band’s existance. The ways of looking for it depends on our openness and creativity. Awareness that each of my friends has total artistic freedom in our band produces energy, thanks to which we inspire each other. Because of this each of us can fulfill their ideas. In particular Tomasz Piątek ( the saxophonist) and Krzysztof Redas (the drummer) have incredible talents to arrange our music. We try not to be limited stylistically. Everything is important: grooves, melodies, arrangements, trance, improvisations. The spirit of our band is the kind of exlosion of creativity and respect for each other.
Within those guidelines is perceived a way of creating closely related to the scene of Canterbury, specifically, by progressive jazz. Do you feel somehow included in this scene?
According to me, Canterbury, Krautrock or Zeuhl as well as other more contemporary styles has been created by the most versatile musicians of all times. Some of us have been listening to these kinds of music all our lives, so the influence of such music is definitely present in our subconsciousness. It is unavoidable. Fortunately most of my friends from the band listen to and perform different type of music, thanks to which, there is a specific shape of sound on our albums. The variety of experiences is very important and intentional. Personally, I feel most influenced by the Slavic culture.
Precisely, where this trend is most appreciated is on the album „The House of Words”, recorded live on Żmigród Hill in Lublin. In this beautiful disc it is also worth the graphic design of the digipack panels. Do you think that as the illustrations in collage form reflect, the music that is heard can have several readings?
This album is the result of a one-shot music experiment to which I invited a new trumpeter. All tunes which I composed on this album were supposed to help to creative more open impovisations. I was inspired by the formula that Jodorovsky invented in the 1960s in his act “ephemeral panic event”. So far, this method is for me one of many ways to develop creativity in a band. I also used this formula on our third album. The albums covers were created by my friend Rafał Kucharczuk, who is like a member of our band. While he designed the covers he really identified with his work. We want our music, the cover and the multimedia to form a multidimensional whole, where we can explore new, unknown spaces, where we can get to different depths and discover new teritories.
Since we are talking about the pleasure of the senses, I would like you to tell us what your literary and musical tastes are. Are they somehow even with each other?
I think that everything in the world is important and is connected to each other. Both forms of art and social life influence me. All branches of these domains overlap with each other, both outside and inside me. The scope of perception, absorption and conversion of stimuli through my brain depends on my “tunnel of reality”. This tunnel has been imprinted in my brain by upbringing, education and life in the society of my country and its history. I believe that the influence of any form of ambitious art that arises from a natural need, i.e. without a specific reason, allows me to ridle this vicious „tunnel of reality” and free myself from the trap of restricting convictions. When I experience art, I become more open. I mainly read psychological literature, coaching books, biographies, non-fiction literature as well as world fiction, poetry, philosophy, sometimes fantasy and books written by crazy mystics and occultists. I guess everything except for detective stories and thrillers. Researching for interesting books, films and longplays is a real adventure to me.
And within that relationship between texts and music; What role do the titles of the pieces on the discs?
At the beginning when I compose new tunes I do not give them target titles due to the fact that I do not know in what form they will be recorded eventually. Only when we listen to the final versions, we give them titles which create a kind of a tale. My friend, the bassist Łukasz Downar, helps me with this. We are often inspired by our friends’ poems.
Of course, the music you perform with the other members of TATVAMASI gives rise to reflection and coordination of the parameters that can be established when improvised music is composed. How do you assimilate the field of improvisation where you let yourself be carried intuitively?
Our music is like a road. Man in nature is a wandering being and a mistake is inscribed into this path. Composed melodies and groovs are for us, above all, a proposal for a collective improvisation, in which the mistake is one of many of its elements. Arrangements are like stops thanks to which we can find the way after improvisation. They are also elements thanks to which we can change the directions and dimensions of this path. I mentioned here the mistake, because it is very important in our music, it is very necessary. The mistake that is made triggers creativity. It allows us to create in our minds a different way of perceiving what we perform.
The album „The Stagecoach of Seven” was also recorded live, just a few months after „The House of Words”. On this occasion, you invited Vasco Trilla and Yedo Gibson to collaborate with the band. Two musicians who often play in Poland. This recording is the result of a good understanding, whose result was a more experimental album thatseeks a symmetry between form and matter. Something that feels if we really get involved in their listening. The spirit of jazz-rock is here more present, although, the truth is that it is difficult to catalog this music. Do you agree with me in stating that the best situation to play is that which arises spontaneously?
In a sense, of course, yes, the most beautiful music arises spontaneously. However, in order for this to happen, several requirements must be met. Apart from the fact that the artist has an inner need to create of course, he should also rest and relax. In case when he is driven by the prose of life, he is overwhelmed by overwork and stressed by personal matters, creativity is unfortunately falling. What is also important are good interpersonal relations and energy between members of the band. I’ve been to a few concerts of great musicians who, after all efforts, played music that was empty to me. In case of too much stress and fatigue the human brain cuts off the neurological circuits of the right hemisphere, which have an impact on creativity and creation. Creative possibilities are reduced to zero. When I invited Vasco I Yedo to play together, I wanted to provide them with such comfort so that they could calmly co-create music with us. Besides, my concept is to introduce energy in the form of eg groove or melody as a base for improvisation, thanks to which we can look in the same direction during musical wandering.
This new jazz with elements of rock, where you use effects pedals, distorters, echo cameras, modulators or feedbacks for duplicate the octaves and harmonize the melodic lines, make you always be in a constant search for sounds. There is no doubt that by having two drums and two saxes you get a more compact sound with more expressive power. How do you assimilate these two dividing lines between acoustics and electronic devices?
I am experimenting with the sound all the time. What it means is that I keep decreasing the elements which modulate the sound and I am inviting more and more musicians. This is because, I think that the real sound of the band is created by man, not by a pedal or an effect. The atmosphere has a huge influence on the sound of the band. Man gives energy and it has the most influence on the sound. The sounds of acoustic instruments are the closest to me. In fact, all the instruments we use in the band except for guitars are acoustic.
In November of 2017 you edit „Amor Fati”, a work where string instruments are very important. Two violins and a cello join your band. Recorded in the Rogalów Analogowy Studio, a very special place with brilliant acoustics. How did the idea of recording in these studies come about? What importance do you give to the process of mastering the pieces?
The idea of combining our electric sound with a string quartet was created in 2015 by my friend Kamil Filipowski from Lublin Culture Center. Initially, I wrote the music for a double quartet, but there were some personal problems and I had to use string trio instead of the quartet, so we finally created a septet. My concept was to record a live session using the analog method from the beginning to the end without the interference of modern digital mastering. We did this in the studio of my friend Wojcek Czern in the Rogalów village near Lublin. It is a very specific place. The house is made of larch logs and the equipment there comes from the 30’s to 60’s. We used very old ribbons and tube microphones. It was a very important session for me because of the atmosphere during the recording. All the band members were very open to experiments and my suggestions. Although we had prepared material for this recordings, new ideas were constantly being created, we were inspiring each other and we were changing the initial concepts. I also did an interesting experiment to increase the creativity of my friends. On the third day of the recording, I asked each one to describe how they felt using one word only. Each of them gave my the word, which I wrote in the moors alphabet, and then I suggested that each of them play the scale given by me in this way. So everyone played their word in the moors alphabet in different configurations during the joint improvisation. We created a song that we put on the album. The analog process of making the final album differs a lot from the methods currently used. In the digital technology, we have an almost unlimited opportunity to correct and refine details. We can change the elements, we can produce an album with fragments which have been taken out. We can do everything. This ufortunately happens at the expense of losing sound and the natural effect of a living human. In analogue technology taking out fragments is very difficult, sometimes impossible. We on the other hand cared to be natural and to capture the band in action. Currently, I am not interested in music produced on computers, the homerecording method, with overtime, corrections, improvements etc. My concept is live music, the band in action, the energy of several people who look at each other, talk, argue and all these relationships can be heard on the recording. If the atmosphere and relationships are positive, music is a reflection.
On this album the melodies come from folklore. What did you rely on when adapting the pieces to the sound of the band?
These tunes were created especially for this album with the idea that they will be performed by string instruments. If you can hear folk inspiration in them, it probably was supposed to be like that. I did not think about whether these melodies are folk or not. They are what they are.
I suppose one of your goals is to play your music outside the country. What difficulties do you find yourself to carry this out?
We want to perform our music, of course, whenever people want to listen to it. Difficulties which arise are usual economical.
What surprises will the music of TATVAMASI bring us in the future? Will you continue along the path of integrating chamber instruments for future works?
Following the charakter of the last album, we prepared the new material. It will probably be recorded in the middle of 2018. These will be new compositions, more open, maybe I will invite somebody else to co-perform. I will see what the future brings.