Vlatko Stefanovski: Until I Satisfy My Artistic Appetite
AAJ:Tell me about the album Vlatko Stefanovski Trio.
VS: The album was recorded in 1998 and for the first time we recorded something more serious in my own studio (Esoteria). There were some tunes with vocals and some traditional reels. There is a tune called "Vlatkovo Oro" (Vlatko's Reel) which was called that as a joke. I feel very emotional about it. There were some interesting tracks like "UFO," which looks like heavy metal but actually it is an imaginative instrumental track.
The inspiration for the title was taken from a newspaper article "UFO nad Å tip" (UFO over Å tip). I served the army there and all those UFO sightseeing got me interested. Those UFO's are an inspiration to many. I think there was a band under the same name. All that is intriguing and is on the edge of common knowledge is always inspiring. Musicians always delve into territories that common people rarely go into.
AAJ: Beside this, you have extended this band into a nonet. What is the difference between playing with a group as this one compared to the trio or duo?
VS: It is a great pleasure to be performing with a big band. Those people took part in a group that played the music from the Kino Kultura album i.e. the soundtrack music I've been doing. It is difficult to organise them all and to have those people for a certain date since they all have their own obligations and arrangements. It is a great privilege to gather all those musicians at one place, especially these that I work with, since they perform regularly abroad, at weddings or are working somewhere else.
I cannot lead them and I cannot look after them as a band but I can only invite them as guests for a concert. With Kino Kultura we had two concerts (one at Sava Centar, Belgrade and the other at Univerzalna Sala, Skopje). It's a demanding work but the pleasure of playing with a band, where you are making music with other 8 musicians, is great. The pleasure is truly great and the musical matrix that these people are making, i.e. the background or the tapestry that they are capable of creating is really fantastic. It's a real enjoyment.
AAJ: On your projects you had the opportunity to work with numerous musicians with different background. What are some of the qualities that you look for in your sidemen before deciding to work with them?
VS: Talent is important, and some background as well. This really is not beginner's school. I want to work with people that have achieved a certain level and with whom i can easily communicate, which means you don't have to do too much explaining so you won't waste precious time. I don't do much explaining during rehersals and we are just adjusting minor details. Simply, there is no space nor time for one to learn and each of them has to do their homework on time. That means practising, transitioning from a level to level. We cannot wait for someone during a rehearsal to learn something. You do that stuff at home or before arriving at a rehearsal, and much before going on stage.
Musicians work together according to the class they belong to. That is why you'll see famous jazz musos working with people from their own class and not with some anonymous musicians. This is not just happening in popular music but in other cathegories. An e.g. is Zubin Mehta, the conductor that conducts with the Vienna Fillharmonic Orchestra. One could invite him to work with the Macedonian Filharmonic Orchestra but it will be very costly and it would be an incompatible cooperation.
AAJ: Apart from different bands and configurations, what happens when it's just you and your guitar?
VS: I'm always with my guitar and i'm always searching for new solutions, either musical or sound solutions. I'm always searching. Not long ago, I purchased a new pedal so i'm working on different combinations with the pedals and the equipment. Otherwise, I'm looking for solutions for ideas that I've got, for certain tunes. I'm always on the look out for a moment when a certain song matures, then I'll just throw in some other ideas that I deliberately leave unfinished as I know when i work on a demo and if it is too good it will tie me too much and I won't be able to make many changes. But, if I make a scheme it will give me more space to play with it or to erase it. Sometimes, I act a bit irresponsibly towards my ideas as I often leave them to wander in my head unrecorded, and if they survive great and if they don't, no problem, we will get back to them some other time.
AAJ: Do you get frustrated by the technological aspects of music making?
VS: Regularly! The times we live in have imposed too much technology, and I get frustrated on regular basis but not by my own playing or the usage of technology but by technology itself. Not long ago, I bought a new computer and each purchase is stressful as the new and fast processors won't accept the drivers from the previous programs. It's a bloody unnerving game as new programs do not function on older computers. It's too exhausting both for the finances and the nerves, and I know that my life used to be simpler. At the time, you had a guitar, acoustic and electric, an amplifier and your job was to make music. The moment your music matures, you go into the studio and you record it. There are people, recording engineers and producers, who are there to make sure that it sounds good.
Now, you are left to the mercy of all this technology. Now you have to take care of the recording, the mixing and the post mastering all by yourself. Ok, you don't have to do that too and you can spend your life writing songs with a pencil and a paper, but I don't want to be that much archaic. Because of that, a man has to meet all the challenges, including the new age which imposes a struggle and is ignorant towards older concepts and values. One has to fight with all of that. Few days ago one of my computers broke down and fortunately it's not the one that I use for music making. The more technology there is, greater are the chances for something to get broken. On the other hand, one should not remain that analogue based and should digitalize a bit.