RSS feed RSS Twitter Twitter Facebook Facebook 15 Questions 15 Questions

Interview with Lokai

img  Tobias

Hi! How are you? Where are you?
Florian Kmet: Hi ! I am fine, just back from 4 weeks of vacation with my family. We are back in Vienna now.

What's on your schedule at the moment?
Florian Kmet: Doing release-related work for lokai, like getting the website ready, spreading the word about the release, doing lots of finetuning with the live versions of the pieces. With this program, it is an even more refined and live process. Next to that, I am finishing my second KMET soloalbum, doing some live Shows in Spain with Fatima Spar & the freedomfries, and also working on the trio exklusiv album.

There were four years between „7 Million“ and „Transition“. How much were you still in contact with each other over this period of time?
Florian Kmet: A lot, but with pauses. After the release of "7 million" we played just a few concerts over the next years. The new album was done over a period of maybe two years. I can´t say exactly.

You could have just continued down with your solo efforts. What made you come together for a new Lokai album nonetheless?
Florian Kmet: I like to work with Stefan a lot. For me it´s a very unique way of creating music. At the same time, we are both continuing with our solos. My second solo album is almost ready. I am looking for the right place to release it right now. It is called KMET and it´s an electronic Singer-Songwriter project. In the studio I write, record, play and sing it all. Also on stage, it works as a one man show with the support of a little live sampler.
I think with "transition", lokai have found their very own sound and aesthetic. So that alone offers to me something no other project can. We have very different personalities (even though some people think we are brothers) and this can be quite fruitful. With lokai, it´s is clear that certain sounds or structures will not fit. So it is a restriction that makes the world a little smaller and for me that is a great way to work. Complete musical freedom and variety are aspects I can entertain as a solo artist.

The approach of „7 Million“ was anything but predictable or stale. Why was it important for you to move into a different direction nonetheless?
Florian Kmet: We both had the wish to go into a more structured and warmer sound. So the acoustic instruments, the new studio, the freer time structure just led to where we are now. This second album was really a lot about getting our own "lokai sound". Transition is really where we are now. 7 million was where we where four years ago. For me it´s natural that it sounds pretty different. My whole live is completely different that four years ago, and so I guess the music had to come along a little bit too.

Aside from this natural evolution, you've also stated that „after years of experiments with electronic sounds and different forms it became necessary to deal with traditional elements“. Why?
Stefan Németh: My personal feeling was that I had to listen to different kinds of music. I was very much into electronic music for a long time now, so it was quite normal that a lot of new records became quite predictable for me. To focus on sound qualities has also become something relatively common in general (a natural development, of course).
I was looking for something, which was not so much dependent on styles, fashion or aesthetics. Something which goes back to the basic functions of music (for instance rhythm). Something where I could find a different approach to build structures or to establish melodies within a song. Finally it was just an adventure to discover music, which I did not know before. This was an inspiring process.

In a way, it may have been this inspiring because you approached the sessions without too much pressure, happy to recording „nothing“ if nothing presented itself. How do you balance this attitude with the underlying idea and perhaps even urge of recording an album? Would it have been an option to actually end up with „nothing“?
Florian Kmet: I guess it would have, yes. At some point we stopped pressuring ourselves to get it out and ready. This was just because it didn´t happen that way, and not because of hours and hours of zen practice... And you're right, that contained a certain potential for "nothing". But we are lucky, and we have a new album out, with a label we really like a lot !

The cozy and inspiring backdrop of Vienna is almost a cliche in itself now. Still, how important is the influence of this city, where you can always take a break from the hermetically sealed-off world of a studio for you?
Stefan Németh: There are several reasons. But for sure, Vienna is a quite relaxed city, therefore you are not so much distracted by your surroundings. The quality of life is relatively high, which makes it easy to work without too much pressure or concerns. And it is a slow town ;)
I cannot exactly define how much it influences the music itself, but I am sure it does. Plus I am sure that we would do different songs in another town. For instance, Berlin is much faster for me, more parties, more concerts, more life-style. I could not do music there, which has an intimate feeling. It would not feel right to me.

Florian Kmet: My studio is an open space, daylight, quiet, sometimes you can hear it does not have the sealed of feeling to it at all. Vienna happens to be the place where we live now. For me it has a good mix of high living standard, family, friends, nature and cultural scene.

With these surrounding and the relaxed approach you indicated, were you working on a lot of ideas at the same time or were you systematically progressing track by track?
Stefan Németh: It was both... somehow. We started with 2, 3 tracks which we already played for the live-shows and where we felt that it could be a good starting point for the new record. From that moment on it was more a progression from one track to the next one. At least up to a certain level, where the basic idea of a piece was clear. When we were about to finish the album we had most of the tracks in a rough version. This means in the last two months we had to work on several pieces at the same time.

Next to electronics, you used a lot of objects from your immediate surrounding. How did building rhythms from the heating system work, for example?
Stefan Németh: This was relatively easy. I was usually sitting next to the heating system, when we had a rehearsal. By accidentally hitting it, I found out that it gives a nice sound, similar to an oil barrel. And that´s what it actually is: a big metal tank with a nice resonance body. One just needs to use a fine drum stick and you can play a rhythm. That´s what we did. We played it live and after some editing (we are not drummers) it was done. In addition we made an overdub with a few single hits to make the rhythm a bit more organic.

In which way exactly did you prepare the Rhodes you used on „Transition“?
Florian Kmet: Lots of prepared Rhodes piano can be heard in the opening piece for example. It has a top you can easily remove. It then kind of looks like a pianino, with the hammers and mechanics - but instead of strings you have flat metal rods. The Rhodes was not prepared in a "piano"like way. I played on and "inside" of theses rods - mostly using a thick and very heavy metal piece I once received from Tetuzi Akiyama, when we played together at the Klangspuren Festival in 2007. So I had to play very carefully not to destroy anything. I also used other hard objects to play on those Rods. This always went through a great tube Preamplifier made by Universal Audio, that pictures the overtones in a great way.

With all these aspects in mind, would it be correct to say that you were discovering production as a compositional tool for yourself?
Stefan Németh: I don´t think that we discovered it right now. During the work on "7 million" it became clear that we wanted to tie together the process of production and composition. At that time we had another rehearsal space, but with only a few instruments of our own. It was a bit of a struggle. I often thought "now it would be good to have this guitar or this synthesizer or that instrument" and it just was not there. Also it is great to record each idea in a good sound quality, which is perfect as a sampling source - and very often we started with a sample from an acoustic instrument! And at this point composition and production have already become one process.

In how much were the experiences from your solo- and collaborational efforts directly beneficial to this process?
Stefan Németh: I think I have learned from some productions that I should try really hard to be satisfied with what I do. This sometimes means that you have to find out where the weak points in your track are. Basically it is about being honest to yourself and if you are not happy than you have to do it again and again, even if it is not always a pleasant process to discard some parts of the music or even a track. But in the end this gives me a much better feeling with the final version.

Florian Kmet: I refined the recording process, improved my gear and the use of different instruments during the work on my last solo CD and other projects. Personally, I come back to lokai with a clear head, when I have done something fruitful with another project.  Then I feel more open to go into this special sound cosmos, and enjoy to work on those details and structures.

With the possibility of directly changing all elements of a piece yourselves, did the element of improvisation become more important than before?
Stefan Németh: There is a little bit of improvisation, but not much. Being able to change everything by ourselves also lead to the opposite: we were able to listen carefully to each part. It made it easier decide what sounds good and try to bring an idea into a nice shape or even do it again by recording another take of one instrument.

To me, „Transition“ is an almost tender album, which very much relies on a sense of breath and a precise placement of elements. How do you see the possibility of recreating this mood in a live setting?
Stefan Németh: The precise placement is hopefully something we can achieve by simply practicing. This special mood is for sure another question. With this kind of music it seems it is important that you are pretty much aware of where exactly you perform it. We found out: Some locations are just wrong. It must be a room and a light setting which helps to create this intimate feeling. Think of a theater stage: the audience sits in a convenient way and is not distracted. Their focus is on the stage, the lights go down, your senses are sharpened. Under these conditions it can work. For sure, you don´t find this everywhere.
In addition to this scenario, we play with a drummer - Bernhard Breuer, from Vienna - on some occasions. This gives the whole set an extroverted effect. For me it is always interesting to see that the same piece can work in two versions. There is no good or bad version, it seems it is about the actual situation - between the audience, the room and the musicians. And I am happy that we can choose between the trio and the duo version.

Florian Kmet: With the new approach without the laptop, everything is very transparent and evolves completely  live. With the guitar I go through Stefan's mixing board and a good preamp I bring with me. This mostly creates a very homogeneous sound. Sometimes the signal can be routed through Stefan's Synth as well, so he can modulate the sound live.

The title of the album indicates that it could be a passage to something even different. So where, do you feel, is this „transition“ leading to?
Stefan Németh: Hmmm, I think for me it is too early to talk about that. I guess there will be new questions and new directions a bit later. So far I am enjoying to be in is not exactly clear where this could lead to, which makes it exciting for me. Maybe it is about the movement itself.

Florian Kmet: One the one hand I see it as a transition to where we are. And sometimes we talk about doing a real acoustic set, where even less material comes from electronical sources. Maybe two guitars, or bass and guitar and maybe melodica. In the very beginning of lokai, I used only nylonstringed acoustic guitar. So we´ll see, if this will ever be materialized...

By Tobias Fischer

7 Million (Mosz) 2005
Transition (Thrill Jockey) 2009

Lokai at MySpace
Lokai at Thrill Jockey Records

Related articles

Amberhaze: „Then we saw the Stars again“
No emotional filters: Post-Rock, Electronica ...
Interview with Radian
Radian's current whereabouts sound like ...
Brim Liski: "Brim Liski (EP)"
Shimmer-guitar arpeggios: Daft Punk redrawn ...
Interview with David Daniell & Douglas McCombs
Merely by listening to the ...
Kitchen: Label Profile
Over the past four years, ...
Beauty #1: Halogen Envelope
The way you present yourself ...
Interview with Olafur Arnalds II
At the earliest stages of ...
Interview with Dinky
"I was there!", Dinky says ...
Giuseppe Ieleasi: "(another) Stunt"
Energy and humour: The aspects ...
Lokai: "Transition"
Beautiful rehearsals: A return to ...
Troum: "Eald-Ge-Streon"
No sidethemes or fillers: Troum ...
CD Feature/ Tortoise: "Beacons of Ancestorship"
Wipes the slate clean: Itching ...
CD Feature/ The Sea and Cake: "Car Alarm"
Demonstratively laid-back: An Indie-oriented blend ...
CD Feature/ Németh: "Film"
Often, the drums are the ...
15 Questions to Stefan Németh
With so many egos running ...

Partner sites