Interview: Ljubov Dzuzhynska
New "Celsius" EP ~ HERE ~ Apple Music / Spotify
What do you sacrifice for your calling?
I’m actually at a point in my life right now where people are saying to me “Mate, stop sacrificing for it, you’re killing us!”. I’ve always had the idea in my mind that in order to make the most real and emotionally relevant music, then you have to be in it completely, pay attention to your feelings (especially the hard ones), let yourself lose control and then put that shit into sound. Looking at my life in hindsight, I can see that I could have made a lot of different decisions that would have made my life easier but at the same time, I’m glad I didn’t because when the shit really really hit the fan? I was writing great songs. So what have I sacrificed? Several homes, a stable economy, friends, family, nights of pleasant sleep and some parts of myself that I miss. I feel guilty about a lot of it, but I don’t have regrets.
What are you trying to convey to humanity with your work?
This is actually a difficult question, mostly because I can never make up my own mind about where I’m trying to take the purpose of my music. Many times in my life, for instance, I’ve met musicians that I would label as ‘Poets’; whenever they sit down with their lyrics they often have a clear message they’re sending to their listeners that spans their entire careers. I, on the other hand, am quite confused about many aspects of my musical direction with the exception of emotion. In my private life, I’m a very political person but that doesn’t mean I want to have a politically charged career. I’ve found myself crying to a song that I had no clue what was about and felt myself getting angry at the opposite. As such, I suppose my answer is, that
I believe that music loses its touch when it can’t make people feel anything, so I just want them to feel something when they’re listening.
Music is like books in that you have the author’s original image served for you, but you get to picture or feel anything you like, be it happiness, sadness, sexual excitement- it all sounds great to me.
What excites you the most in what you do?
Just the other day, my most dreaded and brutal critic came to visit me. He’s my little brother, his name is Pablo, he’s in his early 20s and he’s like a walking music encyclopedia. Oh, and he hates almost all my music. That’s rough. And yet, he listened to one of my new tracks and even though it was super corny and the genre was not to his liking, he ended up singing along and dancing all over my living room. That was quite possibly one of the most satisfying moments of my life.
It’s the same when I’m out playing gigs- seeing people smile and dance whilst my music is playing- what could possibly be more exciting than that? The moment when the audience gives your music the permission to give them happiness.
Who is or was your biggest teacher? What have you learned from him\her?
I’ve had 3 teachers in my life that have done more for me than anyone else and the first 2 are my parents. Ever since I was a kid, I was awful in school- not a troublemaker, just completely unable to concentrate and terrible at maintaining my workflow, let alone my grades. Except in music. I’ve been extremely privileged in the way that my parents recognized my singular desire to play and write music and they didn’t punish me for being bad in school. Instead, they fed my needs and treated me seriously and helped me develop. Given that my father is a musician and my mother is an actress, they had plenty to teach me and so they did. Last but not least was my music teacher in that school, Andy Hampton, who also saw what I was immediately. He pushed me, gave me extra homework and treated me as a musical adult. He also defended me when the other teachers complained about my lack of progress. In fact, I don’t think I would have survived so long in school if it wasn’t for him. All 3 of them are absolutely responsible for me having the confidence to keep on fighting for my dream even when I was crashing on a random couch in south Copenhagen.
What film, cartoon, or book reality would you like to live in?
So, I have a really big soft spot for Anime. I’m not a ‘fan’ by any stretch but I think it’s lovely. Often, there’s always a sense of camaraderie, a desire to stand by everyone’s ideals and totally overly emotional music to boot. Heroism is celebrated and bad deeds are judged harshly, but not to a point where the villain can’t redeem themselves. I like the idea that everyone has a reason to be what they are and that maybe, just maybe, there’s a way to understand them, even if they’re fucking arseholes. And that it’s ok to be emotional about things and then there’s some massive dude on your team who smacks his massive hand on your shoulder and just shouts in Japanese “Believe in yourself, Julian!”.
Would you like to try to live in the reality of one of the movies you worked with as a composer? Which and why?
Oof, all the films I’ve worked on are pretty hardcore in either their message or their portrayal of people. I love this stuff on film, it psyches me and gets me fired up when I’m writing on them (you should see the films I’m working on right now), but would I want to be a part of their worlds? I don’t think so, only if I could do it through some VR glasses.
What is the most challenging thing in your work and how do you try to overcome such challenges?
Another difficult question. The simple answer would be that it’s tough to make a living and pay those never-ending, awful fucking bills. But really, I think that what has always troubled me the most, is that when people ask what I do and I say I’m a musician, they always smile and then want to know what my ‘real’ job is. This isn’t exclusive to me, I know that countless others in creative professions that have to deal with this nonsense daily. Truthfully, I believe enough in myself to not let this upset me, but it bothers me that I can’t have a conversation with certain people about it because they simply don’t want to understand or believe it.
How did you get involved with music and how did your initial journey start?
As stated earlier, both my parents are artists and my father is also a musician. When I was a kid, we once saw a classical concert at my primary school (must have sounded awful but I don’t remember), and upon setting my eyes on a cello for the first time, I just wanted to play the shit out of that thing. Being the awesome parents that they are, they found a way to rent a cello for me and off I went. Regrettably, I played the cello for only a few years before I moved onto the piano. I do, however, still consider myself very much part of the ‘Classical’ school. Growing up in a home with people who either made a living or struggled to make a living through arts, it was never considered worrisome that I wanted to be a musician from a young age. I’ve been super lucky.
Why do you think music is such a vital element to (y)our existence?
I love this question. The good and, at the same time, bad (looking at you modern pop radio) thing about music, is that it can be enjoyed without you dedicating your whole attention span to it. And yet, people attribute very specific songs to very specific moments in their lives. Important moments. The whole “Soundtrack to my life dude!” is not a fucking joke. A lot of couples have ‘their song’, most people remember at least one song from the soundtrack to their first break up, being in love, losing a loved one. You can be super unhappy and although it may seem like a bad idea, you can put on an exquisitely sad song and it’ll make you feel just a bit better. Music carries us through life, sometimes completely apparently, and other times just soothing us from the background. We don’t ‘need’ music per se, but the day we give it up, we’ll feel completely empty.
What recent trend annoys you the most and why?
Influencers. Fuck influencers. Is this even considered a trend? Maybe it’s because it hits quite close to home; rock stars have been ‘living the dream’ ever since rock n roll came along and made the world a better place and people believed in it. But still, the disingenuous nature of the ‘Influencer’ trade bothers me immensely. The fact that vanity is exploding through social media is one thing, hell I’m no saint, I can live with. But do a little research and you find that these cunts are about as real as the joy you get from being antagonised by a flasher in an alleyway.
They sell vulnerable and/or insecure people an idea of a life that doesn’t even exist and I detest them for it. Fuck influencers.
Is there something that ever excited you more than music? If so, what?
This is a hard question to answer, if not impossible. Music is a continuous excitement for me, one I could never get tired of. Writing a song that I’m super happy about gets my blood flowing intensely. But can I compare it to falling in love? To the immense pride I felt hearing my little sister play the harp for the first time? I don’t think so, so I’ll just leave it there.
Abstractly speaking, if you were music, which instrument would you be and how would this choice reflect your personality?
I would have to say the guitar, as boring as that answer is. I say it because firstly, it was whilst playing the guitar (a Fender Japan 1979) that I took myself seriously as a musician for the first time. Secondly, I bonded with that instrument and had a clear picture of how he and I would make a career together and I wasn’t entirely wrong. I’ve played every genre with him, he’s been on almost all my albums and frankly, if I could choose to be an instrument, I would be him, and I’d be playing smash rocknroll. I feel free when I listen to rock and that’s exactly what I want to be.
What is the most beautiful thing you’ve ever seen or experienced in your life?
My younger brother and sister. I have many siblings, but these two are the ones I’ve had the pleasure of seeing grow up. Yes, the brother is that one who hates my music, that little shit. When I said earlier that I’d sacrificed pleasant sleep for my career, it really hits home. I’ve been worried about how my life would turn out for so many years and it feels wonderful to take my mind off such things in order to realise, that if these two are ok then so am I, regardless of how homeless I am. This means more than you might think because I can really be self-indulgent. It’s a truly wonderful thing to behold the extent to which these guys can just casually learn and achieve things. I envy them, but in a good way.
Who was the most memorable person you’ve met and why?
Well, this one has to go to Björk. Basically, when I was about 16 or so, I was going to a party at which I’d heard, that she would be attending. I was shitting my pants because she was my number 1 at the time. So of course, I was practicing all these different lines and deep musical questions that I would lay into, fully knowing that we were going to have a deep conversation with one another. The party starts and I’m shaking in my 90s baggy pants when behold, I see her across the room. I bravely gathered my Excalibur, waltzed over to her like a king and said “uhh, hi, I’m Julian. I really like your music.” She looked me in the eyes for a moment, said “thanks” and then walked away. I was fucking disappointed in myself and I couldn’t really blame her. I’d be truly surprised if she remembers me but if she does, then “Hey Björk, it’s me!”
What’s the most unexpected or bizarre thing about being a composer?
Ok, so several times in my life, halfway through writing a track it’s like I’ve received a slap from some invisible person that made me think “what in the name of fuck am I doing?” The lyrics are all over the place, the chords are apparently doing whatever they want to and I’ve completely lost control over the song. This is, without a doubt, one of my favorite moments as a composer because most times, this is what results in my favorite work. When the music shits all over my logic and writes itself, there’s a scary feeling of being out of control, but simultaneously a divine feeling of just letting it happen. All other work I’ve had to do in my life has been subject to a form of control or another but here, when system and logic fall apart, some of the best work comes to light. And that’s awesome.
What do you think really matters at the end of life?
Ok so I know this is cliché, but honestly a feeling of knowing that you didn’t neglect your own needs and went and did all the things that you wanted to. It’s a nightmare scenario for me to reach a point in my life where I grow old and realize that several of my dreams are out of my reach as a result of that. There are several paths you can take when wanting to achieve what you want to achieve and I wholly believe in taking the path that lets you be good to people along the way but one must never forget their inner voice. People often chastise me for being irresponsible, which is fair enough I guess, but I often find that though I’m not always happier, I have a calm and a satisfaction in my life that others can’t compete with. It is with this feeling that I want to go out. Naturally, driving off a cliff in a convertible that explodes in mid-air.
What’s the wisest thing you’ve heard?
“Don’t stop practicing just because you’re bored.”
I have a tendency to enjoy life way too much. As stated earlier, I can be completely irresponsible a lot of the time but one thing is for sure- I always take the music deeply seriously. Sometimes the song you’re working on won’t flourish until you’ve been working on it for days, but the moment it turns out good, the moment you wipe the tears off your face and finally change your clothes and open the windows, you feel ecstatic.
Music, on the technical level, isn’t unlike anything else in life like smithing, mathematics or computer programming. If you hone your craft and take it seriously, you will achieve results even if it’s in ways which are unexpected to you. Which is almost even better.
What question would you like to be asked in an interview and what would your answer be?
Simple. “Can you come and play a gig at all 20 of our sold-out festivals this year where all your fans are waiting?” My answer, naturally, would be yes.