An interview with Piernikowski: “Emotions are not so clear. Sometimes you cry and behind you is a Pokémon poster.”

Few weeks ago, Polish rapper and producer Piernikowski, also known for project Napszykłat or SYNY, have played his concert in newly opened club Altenburg 1964 in Prague. In 2017 Piernikowski dropped his first solo album No Fun which was presented in smoky raw space of old iron boat – the venue. Piernikowski showed the concert full of dark, magic atmosphere and deeply touching sound made by floating electronic music and rap inputs.

We did an interview with him before this stunning performance. We talked about creative process, movies, interpretation of his music and much more.

Photo by Solovsky-1

My first question is about your debut solo album No Fun. For me, it seems really serious. Why did you decide to do it this way? 

  • I think it’s been always this way. Maybe, at first, I managed to express it with music. ‘Cause you know, I started with hip-hop and there was not a lot of space for emotions. There was a different attitude. Mc’s rapping “about life” were looking like pathetic uncles giving empty advices.  I was trying to express feelings and find my own language. “No Fun” is the deepest shit I’ve made.

So, it was also your first big personal step in a way of your inner expression?

  • That was not my goal. It just went like this. “Saying something” through music is not my motivation of doing music. Doing it how I feel is the motivation. And I was thinking how to do it without being pathetic and dramatic…

Yes, absolutely. I like that your songs and texts are so simple but also with a sense of humor. 

  • There is a kind of humor on top of it but it’s not the point. It’s a kind of black humor or something like this. Maybe it keeps me away from being pathetic, but this element is not premeditated, it’s instinctive.

I just see the reality this way.

  • Somehow it reminds me Ferdinand Celine’s books full of drama stories which you can look at in funny way. The same thing is Jarmusch’s movies. The best example, which I have seen, is movie “Stranger than Paradise”. Sometimes you watch it, you feel the tragic situation, the loneliness, utopia dreams, but another time you watch it and you have fun with these characters. Sometimes it is funny, sometimes it is sad… you know the deal.

What you’re saying feels like you are trying to be in position which is a bit above. That you are still in it but have some distance from it.  

  • I don’t know if it’s the matter of distance. In fact, it helps me to be inside. I see world like this. I’m not into being judge or saying what is right because I don’t know what is right. Maybe I’m wrong. It is the same with listeners. They have to deal with a border situation, which sometimes is not clear for them, when they cannot recognize if it’s funny or deadly dramatic.

For me, from a position of a performer it is like walking on the edge of the cliff. If you are too distanced from the story you are just a comedian.

  • I like the kind of stuff when people cannot catch something too clear. People have to deal with it.

What is this border for you? Is it even clear for you? 

  • No, it is just an intuition. Journalists sometimes try to write about No Fun as if it was a joke and some of them took it as my emotional stuff only, but somehow, I’ve tried to put people into position where they have to make their own interpretation. What can I say? I’m very serious but I tell my stories in my own way.

How long is your process of creating one song or track? 

  • Sometimes it takes one month, sometimes one day, but mostly it is a process. I’m trying to make it better. Sometimes I’m trying to build it up and then I realize that I sent it too far and I have to start from beginning. I don’t write lyrics on paper. I am just standing in front of the microphone and pushing the record button.

So, maybe that is also the way of working with the emotions. That you listen to music and react to it by words.

  • Sometimes I record sound really rough, as sketches, and then I decide to record these parts as professional versions and suddenly I cannot catch the primary emotion which the first take have had. So, in these situations, I had to use first take again which was not recorded on my fuckin’ best mic. 

Specific way of working. 

  • There is another thing – emotions. I know artists who deal with music in a way that they do something like science, they are really conceptual. But in my way of dealing with music, emotions are the base. Maybe I’m wrong but I cannot differ emotions from music.

Are emotions the most important element for you in the process of creating a music?  

  • Every producer is working on sound to make it better, make it massive or make it colorful, but I don’t have any of this kind of ambitions about sound. I don’t need sound which sounds nice but sound which moves. Good production is not a goal, it’s a side effect. Emotions are not so clear. Sometimes you cry and behind you is Pokémon poster. It is not so simple.

Photo by Solovsky-3

For me, your music sounds as a big mixture. In your album, there are combined many different styles, genres and periods as well. Sometimes it sounds like music from the ‘80s, the ‘90s but sometimes the sound is so actual. What is your music background?

  • In production part I’m inspired by Lee Scratch Perry, the dub pioneer. In his work you feel every move of finger on mixer, it is very lively and irrational. I’m deeply rooted in hip-hop and this kind of flow. My background is also a mixture of old Bristol things or sometimes from old German music, like band called Malaria! from the end of the ‘70s, ‘80s and they went through the ‘90s little bit. Their music is a clash of punk, dub and weird electronic. So, these are the things that inspire me. For example, Vangelis

Yes, I really like the Blade Runner, soundtrack composed by Vangelis.

  • Actually, one of the biggest inspiration for No Fun was Clannad’s Robin Hood soundtrack. I also wanted to say that music that inspires me as well, but in other way, is music of Haddaway and Michael Jackson and this kind of sound. It is something personal for me because I was hanging out in Świnoujście as a kid. It is a touristic city by the sea, full of the disco clubs, and we were rappers, you know, we hated it. I hated Haddaway but recently I realized that it influenced me so much.

What are your tools for creating music? 

  • It is normal MPC by Akai. I record synths on it. I carry outputs to mixer and put effects on it. Mostly I use delays but I’m not equipment orthodox. I made some tracks on iPad as well. The tool is not my point, it’s just a tool.

I also wanted to ask about your music videos, I find it really interesting, especially the “Antari M-10” with a great b-boy. The visuality of this video is radically changed in the middle of it. How are you thinking about visual part of your music?

  • I recorded “Antari M-10” track and I knew that there has to be a b-boy dancing in the video. Recently I was watching a lot of C-walk dance videos and this track reminded me this kind of vibe. Intuitively, I knew that I need a b-boy dancer on verses and a film situation between them. I asked my friend EmilOne, the pioneer of b-boying in Świnoujście – my home city and multiple Polish champion, to dance on it. He said that C-walk is not his style but he liked to dance, so finally he started to dance and Piotr Macha was filming it.

Cool that it is originally filmed and not found footage material. 

  • Yes, Piotr filmed it on VHS camera and we co-directed it together. As we talk about visual part I have a dream to make a movie on my own. I want to do something what is in between music and film.

Photo by Piotr Macha

You have some other projects you play or played in, like Napszykłat or Syny. Is there a big difference in a way you are working on it?  Is the approach different?

  • Yes, it is different. Project Napszyklat is not existing anymore. We were group of 5 people from different backgrounds. First, we were friends. We didn’t listen to the same music. It was the thing which was out of control. When we talk about Syny it is different thing, because we met with 1988 and from the first meeting we had absolutely same flow. Sometimes one of us started sentence and the second one finished it. So, we really have trust in our intuitions. We don’t need any concept because the concept comes in the end of doing something together.

How long you know each other?

  • It is six years since we started to do improvised electronic together. We did small album which was live improvisation. We were rehearsing this project and during coffee breaks we were playing hip-hop stuff, because we were rap heads from the very beginning. For me and 88, hip-hop was the first music we’ve ever deal with. 

I think that your style and 1988 is really similar.

  • Yes, it is similar, atmosphere is similar but we have different styles of production. He uses a lot of fades. Fading sounds, the sound is flowing, the track is evolving. It evolves very smoothly. My sound is more chopped. It has a different feeling. 88 is more delicate but I need to crash it also. We have different styles of the beats, the rhythm.

Do you currently have some plan to do?

  • Many many many…

Questions: Klára Mamojková + Krištof Budke / Photos: Piotr Macha and Solovsky

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