Mnemonic45 is an ambient/drone project, hailing from Bitola, North Macedonia. Traveling and music is beautifully merged within the realm of calmness and abstraction. I had an extensive chat with Goce Gligurovski, the man behind the project and a dear friend. Here’s what he had to say, so let our voyage commence!
Karl Grümpe/Toneshift: As an introduction, please let us know some things about you, your music, your current project Mnemonic45 and whatever you think is relevant.
Goce Gligurovski: Almost 20 years ago I started to listen to non-commercial music and discovered experimental and early electronic music. Few years later, I became more aware of the “sound” in the music and later on, I tried to make my first sounds on PC with very basic configuration. No external sound card, no monitor speakers etc. In the same period, a friend went to the USA for a job and internet was a good place for discovering new music. Was the era of the rise of internet in my town, with a lot of internet cafe, where either you go to play games or to use the internet.
It was good when everyone inside were playing games and I could use the full bandwidth of internet connection for exploring and downloading some new music. Most of the reference at that time came from sites like Discogs, Boomkat, some blogs, but my biggest reference was SoulSeek (file sharing program) where you could also text chat with other users. But let’s return to the friend who went to the States. After some period, he planned to return and I discovered on Amazon a book called Computer Music Tutorial from Curtis Roads, a book published by MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology). More than 1000 pages, almost 2kg weight, uhhh! I sent an email to the friend and he put the book in his suitcase and brought it here. The book content is very nice, you can read about fundamentals of electronic music, type of synthesis, sound analysis etc. At that period I was at the university, studding air traffic engendering but I stopped reading university books and stuck on that 2kg heavy, MIT book for a while.
KG: Ambient is a genre of music that emphasizes tone and atmosphere over traditional musical structure or rhythm. What exactly pushed you into making ambient music? Why ambient over other genres?
GG: All the good noise that surround us, is sort of once-in-a-lifetime environment sound experience, because it changes all the time with the season change, with the global earth lifetime, so nature is all the time modulate itself. OK, sometimes is interrupted by humans who want to produce problems to the mother nature like making wars and using her resources. When I say good noise, I like more nature noises and not industrial, human produced noises. Once I walked near a river and above the river was some road (bridge) making small tunnel with the river. I walked near the river and I started to listen to the sound of the river. Because of the architecture of the road above the river, I heard some change of the sound. It was interesting but I didn’t have my sound recorder with me, so I decided to go and take it. When I returned, that sound was not present. I stopped for a while and started to thinking where that sound modulation came from. I noticed that in a space above the river and below the road, some electrical wires passed. Nearby I spot a small hydro station. Probably some high voltage passed through the wires and produced some sound that blended with the noise of the river. The echo from the road above added a small reverb, producing a unique drone sound in the place.
KG: Is there any central thematic that is apparent and common in all of your albums? From where your influences come from?
GG: Inspiration comes from several directions, it can be a one-day journey or a long term journey. It can be some cinema experience. I am a big fun of films with less dialogue, more visual oriented cinema. Also, some talk with a friend or a short conversation with a person you meet once (on a journey, on the road) and you will never see again. Books are also inspirational and for sure, love in small amounts is inspirational, but in big amounts, can make you drastically change the direction of your creation, hmmm.
Live At Radio Kanal 103 (CDR cover)
KG: Your first album was Live At Radio Kanal 103 and took place in the only non-commercial radio station of North Macedonia, in Skopje, transmitting since 1991. How come your first album is a live one? What’s the story behind it and the collaboration between you and Radio Kanal 103?
GG: I have a good friend in that radio called Gjorgji, he is in the radio for a long and he hosts a radio program every Sunday, where he invites different musicians to perform live in the radio. So I went there to give a performance and after few months I made my first self-release with the sound I performed. I like the concept of radio performance, you perform and don’t see the audience. Someone out there siting in their room at home, listening a performance. It is nice. Radio Kanal 103 is an independent radio that started in the period when Yugoslavia fell apart and got a lot of influence and responsibility for spreading alternative music culture across the country.
Creating Live At Radio Kanal 103 CDr
KG: Every copy of your first album (in CDr format and hand-made packaging) contains one original and unique photo showing the place where some layers of sound originated from. I assume that you do field recordings, correct? What other instruments are you utilizing besides that?
GG: Yes you are right, it contains photos from some journeys. Some of them shows places that field recordings took place, other photos show a person or places I visit. I try to combine photos with the sound and make a sound story. Most of the field recordings I use in my music are not processed, meaning that they sound almost the same as I listened them on the place. Beside the journey as an instrument, I use computer as any bedroom music producer, midi controllers, keyboard and electric guitar more as tone generator then an instrument.
KG: Your next appearance was on Between Two Seasons compilation, curated (compiled and mixed) by you and released by Headphone Commute. Can you give us more info?
GG: I follow Headphone Commute music reviews for a long, you can read nice music reviews and listen mixes by other artist there. I send some mix from time to time to Headphone Commute, one mix in 4-5 years. Last one was Between Two Seasons in 2015. This one speaks about the very slow transition of the sounds, comparing to the slow transition of the weather seasons change, especially the transition between winter and spring. Actually, this season is my favorite one, the season between two seasons. For the reader, the slow changes are here.
Planetarium (CDr cover)
KG: Can you please elaborate on Planetarium, your second album and again a live one? Where it took place? Furthermore, Planetarium is an anti-war album as it is dedicated to all the people that fled war and their nights spent under the starry night sky, hoping for peace and better life. You belong to a generation that lived and remember the war in the former Yugoslavia. What changes, besides the obvious, war brought to the social structure and relations? I mean in a more introverted or sentimental level of everyday life and in relation to arts.
GG: Planetarium is a small educational place where students take lessons about the night sky. It has around 40-50 seats. The same friend from the Radio Kanal 103 got idea to organize music events there from time to time. My performance was planned for May 2014, but just some days before the event, heavy rain flooded the place and the event got postpone for June. I was later thinking that it would be very interesting to perform there, with the water going inside while the performance went on. Performing at the Planetarium, in a complete dark space, using your midi controller and playing keyboard was a challenge. Same year, a lot of people fled from war in Syria and passed trough Balkans. A lot of them died on their way to reach some peaceful place. European politicians where little late to help them, for their journey was not safe at all.
A lot of them died on the railway, hit by trains as they followed the railway to go north from here. Planetarium was released in 2016, so all this war migration happened before and after the performance. About the war in Yugoslavia. I was a kid at that time and as a kid, the only thing you feel is the fear of the war while you see bad images on TV. What was the reason of the war in Yugoslavia? You listen your parents talking about the war and you can’t understand a thing. Poverty is the result of every war. Now as adult, I think there is no winner in war, the war only kills. Nationalism was and still is the biggest problem in Balkans, producing hate and war between peoples and we all know politicians have the biggest responsibility for the wars. Recently an unknown man on the street told me that if he was a politician, he will forbid “history” as a lesson at the primary school and he would replace it with “future”. It is a simple change that maybe will work against hate and war. I can’t speak about the arts at that time as I was not at an age to be into arts. I was more into computer video games, some sort of escape into the digital world, as every kid does.
KG: I know that you make several long walks and trips with your bicycle, even outside your home-country, North Macedonia. It would be very interesting to know your thoughts about bicycle, nature and traveling in regard with your music!
GG: Traveling alone is different than traveling with others. When you are alone, you can push your thought further and further as you travel further, but you also need to be prepared to solve some obstacles on your way. For example, from ten people on the road, one of them will not be good with you and you need to deal with that, or, from five sleeping places, one will be a nightmare to fall a sleep etc. When you travel with soulmates/friends who would not have an opposite or an conflicting opinion, decisions are easily taken. You go for a trip, you return to your bedroom studio, you recall your memory from that journey and the sound start to go on and tell the story.
KG: Your third album, Adis, was conceived after a mountain walk where you met Adis, a child shepherd. Can you please share the full story behind it?
GG: The year I meet Adis, I went to a lot of mountain walks across the country. One day we went for a walk and at the end of the day, I saw the boy leaning on the rock and observing from there. It was an organized type of mountain hike, something I don’t like a lot. After we returned from the summit, I met Adis. He was away from the path and just observed people passing by. He attended alone a big flock of sheep. I approached him and asked him his name, we shared some figs and chocolates I had, exchanged some words and before I go, I asked him for a photo. These days with the social media, people organize a visit to the mountains for a walk
easily. At the same time, industry has invented special shops that sell “special” clothes for mountaineers. This boy with his simple rubber boots and a jacket, is every day up there, comparing to the mountaineers who are short time visitors at the mountain. With his flock of sheep and the dogs, the boy walks there every day. Who is the long term mountain walker? I will keep one copy of the release for him, I need to meet Adis again one day.
Creating Adis CDr
KG: Every detail/element of your work is done by you alone, even the hand-made (and wonderful) packaging. You put a lot of effort in the visual aspect of your releases. I would like your comment on this (straight forward) DIY approach. Until which point this is a choice/stance and from where this becomes a necessity? Are you considering DIY approach a political stance in any extend? Your thoughts about politics in music in general?
GG: The words of film director Theo Angelopoulos: prizes are prizes, but I still need to tell that story and being simple is the hardest thing. When you want to tell the story, you must put together different parts from different moments in once piece, but as Angelopoulos said, have simplicity near you. So when thinking about self-release, you have your own free way to put everything in one piece. Some capture a photo moment and a memory is good for a start. With self-releasing, you don’t need to bother signing (with a label) in order to release something. If you want to have your own unique aesthetic, you stance is towards self-releasing. Hmm politics in music is hard question, popular music of today has zero politics to be compared with the pop music from the 70’s, 80’s and 90’s.
KG: Ako Nikoj Ne Sviri is a radio show of Radio Kanal 103 and the label that released Planetarium, the only Mnemonic45 album that isn’t self-released. Have you ever thought to come to an agreement with a label so someone else releases your work or self-releasing/DIY is a choice?
GG: Yes, the radio helped for that release and also Gjorgji (from the radio) had the idea about audio cassette, but still the cassette layout was half hand made. Yes, for near future some release on small label would be nice too.
KG: Your relation with photography? I’m asking because you have taken some great pictures for your albums.
GG: Maybe the biggest influence for photos is non-commercial cinematography from the world as I mentioned before. Grabbing a certain unique moment with your camera is very important.
KG: Then came your fourth, Close To Heart. Can you please elaborate on it?
GG: Close To Heart is the last part of a trilogy, if I can say that, because when I made Adis, I didn’t now that the sound journey will go in two other releases. So Adis, Close To Heart and Paprat are a trilogy and a full story. All albums are inspired by some mountain walks, short and long ones. Different mountain places are shown on the photos.
Creating Close To Heart cassette covers
KG: Planetarium and Close To Heart are released on cassette, besides CDr and digital. Would you like to comment about the cassette comeback? Your relation with cassettes?
GG: I don’t own a music cassette collection at home. When we decide to put Planetarium on cassette, I started to read something about the medium in technical way: types of cassettes, way of recording etc., actually preparing to record the tape by myself. A close friend of mine who loves music, an audiophile type of person, had a cassette deck not using it anymore. More or less, the cassette deck was in good condition, so thanks to him I started to make test cassette recording. Cassette can give more warm low bass to the recording or can add some more sharp edge noise in the recording, more commonly known as cassette hiss. Also, due to some different tape motor speed inside the deck, there can be a slight difference in the speed of the recording and reproducing between the cassette decks, resulting in some sort of difference in the sound. That sometimes gives a charm to the recording. I think audio cassette as medium will disappear with the time, as we already steeping for almost two decades in digital world, but there is enthusiasm for releasing limited edition cassettes from some new and old labels.
KG: Seems that there’s always a sentimental attribute in all of your work. Is that so?
GG: It is music. It is creativity and without a sentimental attribute, you lose your own way of telling the story.
KG: Life in North Macedonia in relation to arts? Where you see yourself in that frame?
GG: The sound I create doesn’t stay here, it goes further. Most of my listeners are from across the globe. It is nice when you are supported by someone on the other site on the globe, but local support is also nice sometimes. There is no much ears here for the type of sound, the music I do. I perform once in 2-3 years. I feel maybe it is time to make some performance outside of the borders of North Macedonia and maybe that will happen soon.
Creating Paprat t-shirts
KG: What about the hand-made t-shirts you are making? Is this something supplementary to your music work or not related at all?
GG: These are hand made t-shirts with prints from leaves of trees, old clocks mechanisms, feathers from birds, bike chain parts etc. I created them for myself, then for close friends as gifts and after a decade, I try to support my music releases with t-shirts, like those for Paprat. Yes, now it is supplementary to my music. T-shirt design and creation is a nice thing to support the artist.
KG: You have done some DJ mixes, namely Spring Rain Mix and First Of May Mix (Headphone Commute) and Secret Thirteen Mix 031 (Secret Thirteen Journal). Can you give us more info on these collaborations?
GG: As I said before, every 4-5 years I send a mix to Headphone Commute. I try to mix some of my influences and also to add one or two tracks of my own.
photo by Rene p.g.
KG: Could you please elaborate more on your appearance in Mizukage Records Compilation Vol.07 (Mizukage Records), Ambient Sleeping Pill 4 (Stereoscenic), Discovery 1 (Soft Recordings) and Broken Fragments of Memories, An Abstract Sound Compilation (AMPEFF)?
GG: Same thing as with Various Artist releases. You can be invited to join the release or you send your work if the label announces that they plan to make compilation release.
KG: From where somebody can acquire or download your albums?
GG: From my Bandcamp page, where you can listen, download or acquire. Other unreleased works can be found on my SoundCloud page. Sending some good or bad words about my music is welcomed.
KG: Any last thoughts, future plans, comments, whatever?
GG: Keep exploring your thoughts while you listen some quiet music in the background.
Paprat album was released just before Close To Heart. We hadn’t the chance to talk about it, but you can listen and imagine. That’s quite enough… Thank you very much Goce!