Last Friday saw the release of 'Liftoff', the debut EP from electronic live performer V-Stok. Valentin combines analogue electronics and soundscapes, inspired by techno, drone and IDM. Live guitar playing flies between gentle and distant space wails through to ecstatic, irresponsible shredding. As such, the record is a bold and uncompromising effort which refuses to be taken hostage to any particular stylistic ideology - combining the stern intensity of techno with a genuine playfulness.
We fired some quick questions at the bombastic Bulgarian...
1 very funny fact to introduce you to the readers...
My first musical career was as a 10 year old boy...as a Micheal Jackson impersonator. We actually had a small trio of Michael Jackson wannabes with my friend Stanislav Genadiev (from Roboknob), who was my neighbour at the time when we were kids.
If you give me enough drinks, I can still do a very convincing iteration of the Moonwalk.
What’s the appeal of industrialism?
Cheap synthesizers is about the only one I can think of.
Favourite artists who mix techno with guitars…
I quite like Nisennenmondai and Factory Floor.
Most under-rated Bulgarian producer?
Stanislav Genadiev is super under rated. He has a techno project called Hypnos ( https://soundcloud.com/hypnosgenda) and also a more bass/experimental project called Genda ( https://soundcloud.com/gendasounds). He is also a very talented contemporary dance performer and choreographer. Check one of his latest works for which he is the choreographer, the performer and the sound designer/composer:
For music…Sofia or Belgrade!?
Never been to Belgrade, but Sofia is of course better than Belgrade in everything. Come on, it’s the Balkans. We hate anything living outside a 100 km radius of our birthplaces.
You’ve been involved in a fascinating recent project uncovering London’s techno scene called ‘London 4x4’ - tell us more about this and its motives!
There is a very lively techno scene in London at the moment and we decided to try to kind of document it a bit. There is this constant fetishisation of the vintage 90-s footage from raves and I thought well...there is really cool stuff happening at the moment, so let’s make an effort there.
We basically sat down for an interview with some of the active promoters and asked them questions about their involvement with techno and how do they appreciate the scene in London, the challenges, the codes, fashions and expectations around techno; the political and social context currently in Britain. Then we overlaid footage from the club nights and put together a soundtrack comprising tracks made by various Londoners.
It feels really good to show all that diversity of people pushing and enjoying techno because right now everybody is pretty creeped out by the ‘Brexit thing’ and feels a bit disconnected...so when you show a variety of Italian, Polish, Bulgarian & Lithuanian folk working side by side with British folk, it does feel reaffirming that there is a bit of hope in humanity.
You played the LSNL party this weekend just gone at Electrowerkz. Wicked line-up. You played together with Lucien Bishop and the line-up was revolved around b2bs. How do you enjoy b2bs compared with solo performance? Different preparation?
I quite enjoy them. I find that even the fact of me being in the room with a different person makes me think in a different way from what I do when I’m simply on my own.
Yes, we did practice 3 times with Lucien. In our case it was mostly about deciding like a band: you do the drums, I do the synths and some guitar.
You play live a lot. Tell us about your setup and its evolution.
Yes, I only play live and I make my music with the primary idea to perform it live. My rig consists of 4 elektron boxes: Analog 4, Rytm, Octatrack and Heat. I also play guitar, loop and layer these parts, and run them through my effects processor. When I make ‘tracks’ I just use what these machines can do concurrently - it is my kind of self imposed creative limitation. It is also a matter of convenience and of course, self-amusement.
Favourite venue in London?
Corsica Studios and Electrowerkz...and lately also Five Miles is quite wicked.
What’s the connection between space travel and your productions?
There are many. I was always fascinated as a child and when they showed on the news those lift-offs of spacecraft there was this sense of optimism about the future and that humans would soon be flying intergalactic travels. And I think the outlook was brighter when you look at old sci-fi movies. I think by the year 2020 they definitely predicted that humanity would be much more advanced at this point. So for me, it is like a personal introspection into some kind of naïve state of optimism in the face the current state of affairs...which look pretty grim at the moment.
At the same time there is always this trepidation and tension in the air that everything may go down in a massive disaster, which I think is also reflected in the emotion of music.
There are also quite a few sonic elements in my music which create a direct link to the swishes and rumbles which the spacecraft creates.
Do you think you’ll get to space in your lifetime?
I think it will be possible to travel to Mars but this will be within the means only of the richest people on the planet. I am sure I am not going to be among those.
What’s your favourite rocket?
Obviously, it has to be the Russian Vostok - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vostok_(spacecraft)) - which flew the first man into space. His name is Yuri Gagarin. He is gloriously massive in Bulgaria. We used to sing songs about him in high school.
Do you like rocket as in that type of salad?
Yeah when it’s not on pizza. Italians have this weird pizza with fresh rocket salad on top. What do they know about pizza anyway?
One thing you’d like to see improved in London’s music scene…
I think there is much to be done in terms of policy and protecting venues from greedy property developers. They are obviously fragile institutions that can’t afford massive legal fights.