Asymmetry festival audience knows him very well. It is hard to find musician that would occur in so many musical formations of a such wide spectrum as Balázs Pándi. This year he will come to Asymmetry in more than just one group and will lead the workshops as well.
Jakub Knera: Do you like playing on festivals? What are the differences between solo concerts (or solo with band) and festival shows?
Balázs Pándi: I am more a “packed small club” guy, and chose quality over quantity, but I like to play in general to any crowd that pays attention. I don’t care if its ten or ten thousand people as long as they care, and to be honest whenever i play the last thing i focus on is the audience presence. still, i like to be as close as possible to people. The music i play fortunately doesn’t make its way to the huge festivals like Glastonbury, Sziget, etc. so i don’t have to play music that accompanies beer sales in order to survive.
Festivals are a good ocassion for audience to see new things they didn’t see before, isn’t it? Does it change something that you can play for audience which doesn’t know your music?
In a musicians perspective festivals are more important in a way that its a great opportunity for likeminded artist to meet, and exchange ideas / inspire each other / do any sort of networking. For me it was a pretty nice thing to see Kevin Martin aka the Bug watching us playing with Merzbow at Supersonic from the side of the stage and the next day running into each other in the hotel having a great conversation. To me things like these are the essence of a festival. i met some really great people at festivals who became friends / collaborators. one great example is Otto von Schirach who is a really close friend, and who i play shows with for almost 7 years since we met in Berlin at CTM.
I think you are the right person in right place to say that because you’ve played with lots of artists, such as: Venetian Snares or Otto Von Schirach, Kilimanjaro Darkjazz Ensemble, Last Step, Obake, Bong-Ra, Blood of Heroes, Metallic Taste of Blood, Zu, Merzbow or Mats Gustafsson. Are there any of them who you liked most?
I dont want to pick any, because they were / are all important at an important stage in my life. i am lucky to play with so many great artist, a lot of them who i’ve been listening to since my teens. One thing I still would like to emphasize is the band Slobber Pup, who will be released in 2O13 on Rare Noise Records. It’s a quartet of Jamie Saft, Trevor Dunn, Joe Morris and myself. The record turned out to be a real monster and we knew it a second into just doing the soundcheck. i played things i never did before, and used techniques that became ever since integral part of my solo material / other projects. but again, everyone is important the same way, and couldn’t imagine anyone off the list off the people i was fortunate enough to work with and i could go on forever about each person i played with.
What are the differences between jazz, electronic or metal/rock musicians for you?
I cant really look at musicians this way at all. except for some early local bands, i am fortunate enough to play with people who doesn’t give a flying fuck about playing jazz or electronic music or any of that, but they rather rely on the energy one player can create. its all about skills and creativity. to put any label on anyone is for selling a product anyway and i don’t look at my or my friends music as a product.
I remember Tom Smith from To Live And Shave In LA on a tour together, when we played and someone started the genre thing on our set as a compliment. He said then: „I dont talk about music like this unless you work in a bookstore or a library” (laughs). i still quote this from him ever since.
I know that musicians hate to talk about music genres, which is a journalists’ duty. You’ve studied classical percussion for 10 years, but now you’re far away from classical music. How much did it influence your way of playing?
I had to play with 60 other people, and when I understood in my early years that we dont practice for 3 hours the same piece because I can’t play the bass drum notes, but because the conductor need to get the reeds right, that was a pretty magical moment and helped me with working on music with people and fixing things ever since. that said, i wouldn’t say i am that far from that world. as for music i enjoy, i listen to some classical composers still who i got to know back in the days.
I played accordion for 6-7 years too, and I haven’t touched this instrument since my grandfather – who inspired me to pick it up – passed. he survived a russian prison camp and returned after 4 years, bc he played for the guards who gave him cigarettes that he traded for bread. this was one of my earliest influence ever, and one of the first memories i can recall of him telling me about those times. Recently i started to pick it up and use it for some records. I used it on the new the Blood of Heroes, and got asked for a feature on the next Gator Bait Ten record, which i am stoked about since i loved their recent full length! and its Ted Parsons on drums, yo!
Many times after playing classical music musicians escaped to avant-garde or experimental genres. How does it look in your case?
I dont know man. I never really wanted to escape anything except for fundamentally wrong or boring music.
How you see then your workshops on Asymmetry Festival? What workshops can make for people who will take part in it and what’s for you personally to teach someone to play?
The first thing that will be different from most workshops is, that I don’t want to talk at them but talk with the people. I don’t want to be a drummers Paulo Coelho telling them the ultimate truth about playing drums. I want to share with them my way of practicing but most importantly inspire them to figure out their own way of doing things as i did myself as well. I want these people to go home and be like „I think this would be interesting to try” and not „I want to play that shit as fast as he did”.
They will need to talk a lot as well, since drummers sit in the back and drummers are not usually the ones who talk except for signing a poo endorsement deal where you have to answer shit like whats your favourite cymbal or whats your favourite food / drink.
Playing on drums needs physical condition. Are you preparing or training in any special way? I mean not only playing but also any physical training of your body.
Well, I am a pretty radical person in everything in general. No exception with working out. Sometimes I go and jog 7 km a day, other times I sit in a darkened room watching Fassbinder movies for 5 days straight and the only motion I do is connected to eating, drinking and using the bathroom.
Now you are working on solo record.
Yes. The record will move on a larger spectrum. It will contain manipulated percussive sounds and also pure acoustic sounds. since i am really early in the making it will largely depend on the type and amount of coffee I drink in the morning ( laughs ), but the thing i hear in my head sounds good so far.
Drink a lot of coffee then!
Never been a problem! (laughs)
There is a duo Wildbirds & Peacedrums in Sweden. It’s quite different music than the one you make but what is interesting, they only use drums sound and vocals. How much for you the sound of percussion without any other stuff is enough?
I can’t answer this, because I have absolutely no idea about the final results of all of the ideas i have since i have to transfer them from my head to speakers first.
As for the simple drum sounds, i can get super excited about a single acoustic sound of anything not only drums and being a fan of some minimalist composers just as much as lets say late Coltrane, i can see myself being excited about even one single note. it would limit the music i listen to or make extremely if i wouldn’t.
You’ve just released live album with Merzbow being a recording of the concert in Katowice. How do you treat live recordings? Is this other side of your playing? Or rather kind of documentation of your mood, mind state or just musical meeting?
I’ve never thought about this one, but now that I think about it, I dont feel like I threat it different than any other release. If it sounds good I am happy to have the material available for other people. Of course the process is different, but for example when we recorded the trio record with Mats Gustafsson and Masami Akita, we did the same thing, but in a studio enviroment. That meant, we could do more sessions and didn’t had any time limits at all and had no preproduction stress like at concerts, but we improvised the whole time. Since there will be a live album coming out from the trio too, people can listen to both and decide wether it sounds different to them or not. For me Katowice is a special release for a lot of reasons, but thats true to most of the records I do whether its studio or live.
Why it was so special? You’ve said about this concert „It’s more unique than others, it’s more grindcore, it sounds like grindcore inspired by SBB”
I really like the solo part I play, since the kit I got for the show was just awesome and felt really comfortable to play on it. Also the next day I used my fee to visit Auschwitz, which was amongst the heaviest things in my life to experience.
In one of the interviews you’ve mentioned a lot of Polish bands. Last time I’ve spoken with Mats Gustafsson it suprised me how many Polish jazz bands he knows. How important for you is listening to new music or artists from countries where you are playing? I think normally musicians just don’t care about that.
Its really important for me, since i am constantly on the hunt for great art. Also in a way i think its pretty stupid to go to a country and not explore their culture and learn. Why bother touring then? you can just play in your own basement, and why should people care about your music / culture if you don’t care about theirs?
You are from Hungary but it’s difficult to say that you represent just Hungarian scene because you perform with so many artists and play so many genres. Do you feel that you belong to any music scene?
The only attachments i’ve ever felt were connected to individuals but never to a group of individuals, so i really couldn’t care less for scenes. also i don’t want to represent anything because that happens most of the time when something had died, has a label on it or tries to look more important that it really is.
To me its more interesting to get my 92 year old grandma to see me play an improvised show, who is singing folk songs to this day all day long. Or to get my Bee Gees fan mom come out and see me playing with Mats and Masami, or i rather recommend a japanese novelist heavyweight to a total music nerd, than trying to create a scene that evaporates in a few years.