Imagine sitting outside of the club in Warsaw with some beers and a bowl of fruits, talking with a band that’s about to play a gig there. Sun is shining and warm air makes it even more pleasant. People in big groups are talking and laughing around. You feel nice and comfortable. Seems like at least half year ago, right? Well, actually that was more than half year ago, while we interviewed Wreck and Reference in the wake of their last album „Absolute Still Life” and right before their set in Klub Chmury. Now it’s a good time to unearth that interview and see what where the biggest fears that humanity had at that time according to these two super-nice guys. And of course what inspired them to record such an album!
Imagine that you’re recording an album today. What would it sound like?
Ignat Frege: (eating grapes) Just the sound of us chewing grapes (laughs). Mmmm!
Felix Skinner: It might sound different because we’re having a good time.
So it’s not usual for you?
Felix: No, we do have a good time, but on tour we’re free from a lot of things that cause us to write songs. You can forget for a couple of weeks. You’re just travelling, moving, having fun, meeting people, playing shows…
Sounds fun, but also exhausting.
Ignat: It is exhausting, but… it’s like 95% exhausting and 5% pure fun.
Felix: It’s hard to write music about being exhausted.
Ignat: When you’re exhausted you don’t want to do anything.
Felix: Fugazi did it but I don’t know anyone else…
Ignat: I guess when you’re depressed it’s also very hard to do anything, but if you reflect on it later, you can use it to make your art.
I asked that first question, because you are known of huge differences in approach between all your albums. Aren’t you afraid that this process of chasing changes will lead you to eventually to the dead end?
Felix: I don’t think there’s one direction we’re heading in. Just everytime we want to do something different or what feels accurate at the time, we do it. We don’t put too much thought, like: “This album sounds like this so we gotta do this”. That’s just what feels right then.
When are those decisions being made?
Ignat: First you get really stoned (laughs). I shouldn’t said that – now I’ll be in trouble.
Felix: We take a long time writing our albums and they change a lot in the way, but not always in the way which we talk about it and make decisions.
Ignat: It happens really organically.
Felix: Yeah, like the last album was written in two year period and it only became clear in the final stages, but it wasn’t planned.
This new album (“Absolute Still Life”) lyrically drifts between realism and abstraction. Was it a conscious decision to make it like this?
Ignat: It’s about wanting to refine your style of writing and then also make it something that represents who you are at the time of writing, which is really challenging, because you want to portray the things you feel accurately and in the way that seems good and sounds good. And the things that sound good to you, change overtime, because of all the stuff that you’ve experienced and all the music that you’ve been listening to, what you’re reading, etc. People change as they’re getting older.
Felix: I also think that what sounds like an abstraction to anyone else, to us makes a lot of sense. Even if the lines make no sense to the listener, to us they have a meaning – referential, symbolic… Hopefully the feeling gets communicated even if the language isn’t exposé. And we don’t want to be exposé anyway.
Ignat: Being exposé is kind of stupid.
Felix: You can go too far with that really quickly.
Ignat: But I guess too much abstraction is also stupid.
Felix: Yeah, we’re just trying to be stupid. (laughs)
I was talking with someone about the new Tool album the other day. A lot of people are making fun of them now, because all that ideology around their albums like the fibonacci spiral, etc. Now it looks kind of stupid and cheesy, but it was so cool when we were 15.
Ignat: They probably still didn’t grow up.
All I’m trying to say is that sometimes it’s good to be mystical etc. but there’s a thin line there.
Ignat: At some point it just gets meaningless.
Do you know where that line is when it comes to your music?
Felix: Yeah, i think there’s always an impulse to be clever in art. There’s a lot of visual art that’s clever and conceptual but lacks any emotional resonance and depth. You see it and say: “Oh, it’s cool, interesting. They spent a lot of time figuring out exactly how to draw a thousand rectangles or write an album around the number. But what does it mean to me and how I feel about my life?” I think that a foundation to a good art and our effort to imitate good art is… well, not imitate, but you know…
Ignat: Steal from!
Felix: Yeah, sample, rip off, plunder… (laughs) When you want to make some reality in your art, the feelings manifest first and if you did that in a clever way, that’s cool. But if it’s just cleverness without substance, it’s… trivia.
“Absolute Still Life” reminds me a bit of “OK Computer” in a way it portrays humanity and it’s fears. I wonder how do you think the humanity and it’s fears changed between 90’s and now.
Ignat: That’s a pretty insane amount of change. I guess you can say that about any set of two decades, but you know – we had a fall of communism and fascism and then it’s resurgence – at least in America. There are autocratic tendencies that were wiped clean after the fall of Soviet Union and there’s resurgence of it right now.
Felix: It’s almost impossible to keep up with all those bad news everyday. There’s more than you can handle. And it’s getting faster. Your phone is a “Paranoid Android” – it’s always listening, always trying to anticipate what’s going on. They probably weren’t thinking about that when they were writing that song, but it’s hard not to draw on the terrors of reality.
Ignat: I guess the reality was always terrible. We’re just more aware about that now.
Felix: Yeah, you wake up and your phone is yelling a million terrible things on you. We were going to name our album “Climate Change”, but Pitbull did that first and we didn’t want to end up with a lawsuit.
As i read in your interviews, you speak a lot about internet – about your music being anti-algorythmic, etc. How the internet influences your music?
Ignat: We rip off all the samples from the internet. You just go to Youtube and type any song or sound you want, download it, convert it to Ableton file and there you have it. That’s a perfect continuity from the internet. And also the ideas, the writing – internet is the primary source of stimulation for humans at this point. It’s inescapable and permeates into everything we do. It’s got positives and negatives.
So there wouldn’t be Wreck and Reference without the internet?
Ignat: There definitely wouldn’t be Wreck and Reference without the internet, because we make our music through the internet too, because we don’t even live in the same city anymore.
Isn’t it harder to make music when you live on the opposite sides of the United States?
Felix: Definitely, yeah. But we do it. There were bands that did that before the internet – via postal service. But we can do it instantly, and it makes it a lot easier actually. We can be like: “Hey, can you add vocals to that song?” and it’s not so challenging as it would be if we were a traditional guitars/drums band. Everytime we work on new music it means more time in front of the computer for me. I already spend a lot of time in front of computer because of my work and the thing I do to escape the rest of my life is still… at the computer. But I wouldn’t have it any other way, because I don’t want to be in a guitar band.
You moved to New York, right? Is it different than Los Angeles in terms of influencing you as a musician?
Felix: It’s really hard to say. I don’t think so – I haven’t been there that long and they’re not that different. And I am talking to Ignat all day because of the internet, so the distance isn’t a real problem. I just don’t spend time in a car, which is the biggest difference and I’m cold for half of the year. But there’s no way it shapes the songs.
Los Angeles seems to have a huge noise underground scene. How about New York?
Felix: There’s also a ton of music. Lots of electronic music, house, techno… There’s more stuff then I can stand on top off. I don’t actually get to see that much music but anyone who’s playing in LA is also playing in New York, so we go to the same shows in a week apart. It’s still America – that’s cool.
Another thing that I’ve got from reading the interviews with you and listening to your music is that you seem to love observing people. Is that a part of your writing process?
Felix: Yeah. I think, at least on my end, the music is about myself and people I know or people in general. I don’t think I’ve ever made a song about (points on watermelon) slices of watermelon. I should, but I just wouldn’t know where to start it and I would turn it to the song about people (laughs). Do you have any songs about watermelon?
Ignat: Not really. The thing about art is it can’t really exist independent of people. The whole perspective is anthropocentric, but obviously objects play a huge role in the environment of human being. For me, I’m never thinking about observing others as much as I am thinking about what’s going on with me inside my head. Felix spends more time thinking about people in general.
Felix: Can’t avoid that.
Talking about objects and still life – in one interview you said that there’s a lot of irony in still life and that you love irony. Don’t you think people are too ironic these times?
Felix: Irony poisoning is a real thing. Some people are severely irony poisoned and can’t take anything seriously, but that’s obviously a defence mechanism. They can’t look at themselves in a mirror straight and so they have to be ironic all the time. That’s like the opposite of what we’re doing.
Ignat: The context of the word “irony” in that specific interview was more about inherent contradictions in the entire concept of still life and less about being clever and tongue-in-cheek or something. Irony is something that you don’t expect or runs counter to what you would expect basically. Still life is ironic because there’s nothing still about life. You have a picture of something that is living or was living…
The cover of “Absolute Still Life” reminded me of the time when someone with synesthesia told me that my bands’ music smells like rotting orange. How would your music smell like?
Ignat: (laughs) Probably like when you left a few beers out at your house and waited from friday to sunday. It probably smells like that.
Felix: You should invite that person to our show. I’d be curious to know what people think our music smells like. I doubt anyone would say it smells good.
Ignat: Worth doing a Twitter poll on that.
You’re in The Flenser. I always thought about that label as a group of people with the same, a bit dark approach to music and maybe life. How do you feel as a part of that bunch?
Felix: Everyone me’ve met through The Flenser is a really sweet person. We don’t know everyone so there may be some hidden jerks, but we didn’t met anyone mean. Bosse-de-Nage guys, Street Sects, Tom from Planning For Burial, Jonathan himself – they’re all lovely people.
Ignat: Everyone is really down to earth. There are no big egos there.
Felix: That makes it easy and nice to work with all these people.
So it seems event though the music that’s coming out of The Flenser is really dark, people there aren’t necessarily grim.
Felix: Yeah, I mean – probably everyone on that label and for us as well have not a rosy outlook on life, we’re not human labradors running around. We’ve all had our own struggles and have our own perspective that drives us to make music in first place, but we’re not one-dimensional. We all live pretty rich lives… It’s a good group. We’re lucky.
Check out our other interviews – HERE!