Zarkoff Interview

ZarkoffCan you tell us about the line ups of the projects you are involved in? Zarkoff is your solo project but who’s working with you in Popsimonova, FFFC, Sumerian Fleet and Kali Jugend?

With Popsimonova I take care of the mixing, occasionally write lyrics and/or develop some musical ideas. If we both feel that my participation as an author is significant for the song, then we sign it together so there’s no confusion. FFFC is a duo with my old friend Yas (Le Chocolat Noir), he made me discover so much great music throughout the years, still does. Then Sumerian Fleet, that’s Mr Pauli, Alden Tyrell and me, a long distance collaboration. I go to Holland once or twice a year to work on new stuff and it’s easy to overdub/record and exchange files these days so I can also do some work at my own studio, of course. Kali Jugend is the freshest project, I’d say the core of this one are Popsimonova, Petar Car (from noise band Smrt i Čekić) and me, but we also had some very important creative input from Mr Pauli, and the bassist from Croatian band Baden Baden, Goran Djurich. I’m also collaborating with an immensely talented singer Iva VIs. It’s a lot, but not overwhelming yet.

In addition to that I’m trying to make a living with mastering and mixing for other artists. I recently did mastering for new Legowelt album, Marquis Hawkes, Simoncino and some other Creme Organisation releases, so that’s the direction I’m trying to take. Touring is exhausting, studio work is easier, at least for me.

Are you now able to survive off this studio work? Do you feel like you can now focus and spend enough time in the studio?

Well I never made a cent from any of my releases, so I depend on mixing and mastering jobs and live shows. I can sustain myself, since I’m really not a big spender. There are dry periods without any income and it’s very hard to keep your concentration and composure when you don’t have enough money to pay your bills. But I can disconnect from reality when I have to work and just delay any anxious thoughts or emotional reactions for a while until the work is done. I’m not complaining, this is much better than a normal job, at least for me, that is. I spend quite a lot of time trying to get new jobs and gigs, and I’m really not very good at that, sometimes it’s very frustrating, I’d love to be able to replace those man hours with actual studio work. I’m determined to change this in the future by having someone else doing it for me.

You don’t seem to be an analog gear snob as your music often brings a refreshing mix of modern and vintage sounds. It is an artistic choice or you just happen to be creative with the tools at your hands?

Oh I don’t care about analog/digital that much. Whichever sounds good. The selection of gear in the studio is quite big, since we are 4 guys who put all their junk together in one big pool so I can pretty much choose the sound I want at the source. I prefer to spend a bit more time getting the right sound before recording than having to “fix it in the mix” so it often means trying out different machines, it’s all very inspiring and fun. The analog thing has a valid point, the philosophy of having a non quantised signal, but in practical terms it would mean that you’d have to avoid digitalisation at any stage and it’s just not possible for me right now. If I had extra money and time I would like to try it, I’m really curious about the effect. I do have some doubts about digitalisation, but I also have my doubts about using petrol and I still drive a car.. So at this point – whichever gets the job done is fine, you are right to use the word “tools”, that’s exactly what gear is for me.

Working on these projects in parallel obviously allowed you to explore different musical grounds, themes and ideas. But after these experiences, for which one of these projects did you feel the most enthusiasm, with the freedom to explore the territories that attract you the most?

Well I can certainly say that I’m a bit bored with the minimal synth trend and I guess I’ll be doing less of that stuff, there’s just too much emotionally distressed bands trying to sound like it’s 198X, all like “boo-hoo, I’m so sensitive, my drums are uncompressed, weltschmertz hits me hard, my songs consist of 2 chords and I use way too much reverb..” It’s been done 30 years ago, it was very cool, yes, let’s move on to new areas, please. I’d like to pursue some new territories, especially taking elements of funk, rock and blues and trying to fit some analogue synth noise with it. Sure, Suicide did it a long time ago, also Cabaret Voltaire and many others, but I find it sounds very powerful and different with modern production techniques. On the other hand I’m very interested to make some dirty and raw electro for the dancefloor. There’s a lot of stuff I only have as midi files in my MPC, for my Zarkoff live set. I should really sit down, sort it and record, I’ll try to do that during April.


Outside of music, where do you get the most inspiration from literature, the real life, or whatever else?

Well, I studied phonetics and Russian language/literature, so I was into literature a lot. Unfortunately not so much recently. It’s big and lasting influence of course, in terms of style and form, I do “borrow” motives and templates. And the topics spring up from phrases that spring up from music. So if I can analyze my own method I guess the process starts with a sound that inspires me. Somehow I feel that the sound contains a melody in itself, at least in my mind, sometimes a rythym. It’s not a preposterous concept since the harmonics can really correlate with notes in scales. So then this barebone rythmic/melodic loop usually develops a bit until it inspires some kind of vocal phrase, that brings up a certain feeling, topic and then usually some analysis takes place, I try to be critical and delete elements that aren’t functional or lead the song astray. Real life sounds usually don’t have this effect on me, listening to music inspires me to create more music. Monkey see, monkey do, in short.

How is the scene doing in Croatia? Is there a good community to organize gigs and parties? Any fanzines or radio shows supporting the local scene?

In spite of the many saying the opposite, I think it’s ok. There was a rough period from 2009-2013 (approximately) and now something’s happening again, good parties and concerts in Zagreb every weekend, a few new places opened up, a new vinyl store, some new labels, radio shows. Dark electro, EBM, minimal synth and wave stuff a bit less, but it’s there. House, electro and techno much more, but I’m not talking about commercial house and techno – there’s plenty of that stuff on the numerous seaside festivals. I mean underground, dirty and gritty sound, half legal places, good parties. I mean it’s not spectacular, but it’s ok, there are things to see and places to go. And I’d dare say we have some real talent here and I hope our artists will get more exposure internationally.

What can we expect from your projects in 2014?

2 LPs – new Sumerian Fleet on Dark Entries, and one with Popsimonova on J.A.M. Traxx. Also a release on Zagreb’s finest DIY label 0,5 – probably an EP. I hope to find a label that would be interested in Kali Jugend as well, but maybe it’s unrealistic to expect a release during 2014. On the other hand, the release for Kraftjerkz went very fast, it was only a few months from submitting the tracks to the actual release, so.. you never know.

Would you like to add anything else or spread any other words?

Oh I better not start preaching, it could go on for pages. Maybe I could write a book one day. “Prof. Zarkoff’s guide to human condition”, something like that.