Vlatko Stefanovski: Until I Satisfy My Artistic Appetite
AAJ: Since Treta Majka is the last of a trilogy which started with Krushevo, how did you make the choice for the songs that have appeared both on Krushevo and Treta Majka?
VS: The choice was very spontaneous. Say, from our archives we took what he knew, what I knew, we exchanged ideas easily and made them happen quickly. The music is already there, a living and breathing thing, and one should just open his ears and eyes in order to play it. If you already know how to play a guitar and if you have a good command of your guitar skills you can easily master certain types of songs (pop, folk, rock'n'roll). You can even master more complicated reels and rhythms.
This can be learned quite easily since all of that is already in our heads, soul and genes. We carry all that stuff within ourselves. It's like passive luggage from which one can draw from, take from, which should be researched and sometimes even freed of. Your head is always swirling with plenty of ideas, ideas waiting to be given shape, and there is a moment when one should sit down and make them real i.e. you have to materialise your own dreams, ideas and passions.
AAJ: What was the starting point for Treta Majka, since Krushevo and Live in Belgrade were based on the same subject? What were some of the basic ideas of what this record should be and not be about?
VS: By principle, I love to dig up things that haven't been done before or not have been performed very often. On the other hand, Miroslav thinks that this is one of my local minded prejudices. An example of this is "Kalesh Angjo," a tune that I have played at least a hundred times before. His reply was, Yes, you have played that tune a hundred times before, but no one in the USA, Germany or England knows it and people there will really appreciate if you play it for them, and that is true.
For some people that are beginners and who are about to start exploring Macedonian music, its like you are serving them a delicious piece of cake for the first time. To me this is very interesting, intriguing and exciting. I have previously recorded "Ne Si Go Prodavaj Koljo ÄŒiflikot" (Don't Sell Your Land Koljo) with my rock Trio and I opposed by saying that I have already recorded it in another format and we should choose another tune. But, he was delighted by this song and I relented to his arguments. On the other hand, I enjoy when I come across something that I don't know, like the Turkish folk tune "Anadolu," which I took to heart immediately. This is great, because moments such as these are quite interesting, which makes playing even more interesting. The choice of material was very spontaneous and this isn't a case of selecting a song 2 minutes before a session starts, but there are things on this album that we had worked on 2-3 years prior to it.
The technology for making music can be compared to food making i.e. it doesn't matter what ingredients you will put in the pot, but what matters is how it will taste in the end. Because of that Miroslav and I are letting the music flow from our hands without much consulting or deliberating about concepts. Let's play and record and later we shall see what we have done. No one can tell in advance what the final result will look like in the end.
AAJ: How did Teodosii Spasov took part in this story? He already played with you two at the Sava Centar, Belgrade, and before that you performed with him as part of the Balkan Horses Band.
VS: In the meantime, I happened to meet Teodosii Spasov with whom we became good friends. It was logical for us to bring him on as a guest, if you take into account our friendship and all those performances we had together. He is one of my dearest friends from the Balkan Horses project. He is truly one of the top musicians from the Balkans.
AAJ: In relation to the previous question about Teodosii and the Balkan Horses, can you tell me where did the idea to make a band consisting of musicians from the Balkans come from?
VS: The idea emerged sometime around 2000, when we had a joint concert at the Skopje Fair with the Trio and the band Anastasia. For that occasion we invited a few managers from several Balkan countries among which there was a guy from Sofia, by the name of Krasi Zeljaskov. A day before the concert, during lunch with my former manager (Yvo Yankovski) we suggested that if we want to do something that will have a wider impact beyond this region, we should join our forces and do something that will promote all of us in one package and that way we could present ourselves to the western music industry. That way we could show that there is something happening here. Let's not only import music but also let's try to export it a bit. After 6 or 7 months, we received the first initiative from Sofia (Bulgaria), to create a band with musicians from several countries from the Balkans and to try and do a project. In the beginning we played concerts with this band and only afterwards we started thinking about how our first record should look like.
I think we should have done a studio record first and then went out on tour. But, we didn't have much time to gather all those people in one place and cut a record, so we agreed for each of us to suggest two songs that we are going to perform at concerts. Some interesting musical moments did happen here but we never got to realise entirely our initial ideas. All that Balkan Horses has ever done is a live DVD and a record from our performance at the antic theater in Plovdiv (Bulgaria) and a second record from our concert in Sofia. It's a beautiful recording but those are songs that I have done on other projects and the others have done them in their own projects as well. There wasn't any chemical reaction i.e. there wasn't any joint effort which would result in new music, but it only looked like sampled Balkan musicians. As long as the idea to work together and establish cross-cultural communication is sincere, this will function without any problems. But, as soon as the managers got their fingers into it, it was then when things began to dismantle. You have problems with sponsors, and having 7 musicians from 7 different countries traveling and working together is technically complicated. Because of that, the idea never managed to fully come alive.