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The Zvukovina lable & Smrznik project Interview [2010-05-23]

Neven Smrznik(real name Neven Misaljevich) runs the Sarajevo  based, excellent quality bound and   mainly HNW label Zvukovina with Andreas Brandal( Flesh Coffin, Hour Of The Wolf, Drevne Bolesti and many other projects) and Ela Vuk (Idlness Distribution duo and Nevens' wife). He’s also is the exellent cold  sounding HNW project Smrznik. Neven kindly agreed to answer my interview questions by email.

m[m] What first got you interested in noise and in particular the Harsh Noise Wall type of noise making?
Neven I was playing guitar/mandolin in few free form jazz/noise bands, but at the same time always kept working on my solo stuff with analogue harsh electronics. In late 90's I was into the sounds that Mego and Mille Plateaux records had put out and works by Zbigniew Karkovski, Francisco Lopez and Kevin Drumm. At the same time I was crazy for bands like The Flying Luttenbachers, Don Caballero and Ruins. Somewhere around 2006 I become interested in more pure underground harsh noise stuff and building personal noise equipment. Todd Novosad (Novasak) was great support and friend in that. His work is beautiful.

Neven In my early recordings I was mostly obsessed with video signal hiss and damaged tapes . I was exploring how static harsh blocks work with math-dynamic formulas. But more and more I was interested in constant, endless and monolithic audio. I called it "frozen mountain noise". Later I heard by others recommendation some Harsh Noise Wall (The Rita, Ramirez and Vomir ) insanity and concluded my work really fitted  the name and my taste. Finally, I become victim of some sick HNW propaganda. Now, I'm inspired with some of other people's HNW experiences and rules; so mixing that with my experience of what HNW means to me and what I think should be considered for good static audio fact.

m[m] In 2007 you formed the Zvukovina label with Ela Vuk and Andreas Brandal- first off how did you first come in contact with these two & why did you decided to form  a label with them?
Neven I’ve know Adela-Ela Vuk for more than ten years and we had an other small DIY label before Zvukovina, called Casasaur. We have been together for years in harsh noise/experimental project Idlness Distribution with heaps of releases put out. We also had radio show and workshop for kids where we introduced improvisation music and noise to the future noise-heads. Few of the best kids recorded a nice album and it was one of the first releases on Zvukovina. She is also my wife, my best friend and great intelligent person with who I work on some sick stuff that nobody likes here. We are living, drinking and hanging on together for ten years so we have almost the same brain and same taste in everything.

Neven Andreas became part of label in 2009 soon after his Hour Of The Wolf release and few trades. I met him on HNW board but never in real life. We have great communication and vibe, he is just great guy and smart as hell. I love his work, his taste in noise and graphics. I wish I've met him earlier, than will all Z. releases have his beautiful WHW-painting on cover! Also, he came in the time when we switched more into limited editions of (almost only) HNW releases and he recommended to me some great projects like Gomeisa and Unearthed. It is wonderful to talk with him about HNW and anything else.

m[m] who does what in label and do each of you deal with a certain side of the label? And who decides what you’ll release on the label?
Neven  Andreas works on artwork design, promotion and some technical stuff for label that is complicated to do from Bosnia. Here and there he digs some great artist that we immediately contact with release offer. He is also part of Norwegian Twilight Luggage records and we have together project Drevne Bolesti. It's great to have him and his knowledge in Zvukovina. He made that excellent new Z. logo.
Ela is not working on something specifically. She is really busy lately with her day job and travelling so I am not expecting anything more from her than just to be with me as much as she can.

Neven I dealing with label "philosophy", budget, internet promotion, some design, printing/preparing covers/discs/trades and ever thing else that I can.
I always had an idea that more great people would be part of this label which would give better quality to final product. But three people is enough for what we do now and what we have planed.

m[m] Where does the labels name come from & what does it mean?
Neven I made up that name based on Bosnian word "zvuk" which mean "sound" with added extension "vina" that we adding here when we want to describe what is something made of or make word sound more rough.

m[m] With each new release on Zvukovina you seem to improving/expanding the quality of the release presentation and our one of the few HNW labels that really pride yourself on the look of your release- why is this so important to you? and do you hope in the end to release ‘real’ CDs with large pressings?
Neven Pressing a few CDs could be exellent for future developing of label for sure.
Mostly because quality of pressed CDs. But on other side I'm interested in very small editions of different artists for now.

Neven Our "fancy looking" releases became like fun and bizzare mix of filthy sick sound and "glossy-fancy" cover sleeves with Andreas's great graphics which are not fancy at all. There isn't any pride in that, just fun and simplicity of uniformed pro-look. I love any kind of covers that have good sounds inside. I dont think about it much lately as I am satisfied with how they look in this vibe.

Also, pressing CD's, like vinyl too, does not exist in Bosnia so we will need a lot of money to print it somewhere else and import it. I would like to see more HNW on CDs for example but it's for now out of my financial possibility.
There are people who can do much more for CD quality of HNW than we can do right now.

We are not in a hurry, and next step is to finally have a good Zvukovina site with more info and sound samples.

m[m] Why did you decided to purely put out your releases on CDR and not tape- which is a big favourite of the noise scene?
Neven Well, it is just technical issue, I love tapes but I can't do quality tapes right now. There are no pro-dubbing factories here so again I would need to do it somewhere else and than costs would be too much. I am not satisfied when I am dubbing them at home, so I don't want to play with other people's material. CD-r's are fine to me as simple media, they are good enough if you know how to use it best.
The first Zvukovina release was my split-tape with Clockwise Terror and sound was not so good. It was dubbed at my old recorder that is broken now.
Surely, some releases will fit better on tape and I will give my best to have here and there some good tape releases somehow

Neven Also, I am just putting out one tape release right now, but it's my project as I bought some crazy old tape recorder that do silly stuff to sound. I recorded some static that I mastered specially for that recorder so the final result is some funny sick static madness. The reproduction of tape have nice quality on other people's players, but difference between original master and final tape master is fucked up and weird. When I put it under control completely I would like to see somebody's else material done that way. He/she will need to follow some of my instructions how to record master so the tape can sound best it can.

I am also preparing tape that will be recorded on microcassette and than dubbed with mentioned process on normal tape. That needs special mastering too as the difference of recording process between these recorders is hilarious. It will be some kind of very edgy and experimental side of static audio fact.

m[m] What have being your five favourite releases on the label so far & why are they your favourites?
Neven Five?! ouh..well..last five! They are just better than anything so far, ha, ha.

m[m] Who decides what Zvukovina will release?
Neven All together  or if just one of us like some material. We are not open for submissions; if we like the artist we contact him or her if they are interested to be on Zvukovina. As the latest releases are limited on around thirty, artist/s get full six copies before release is publicly out

m[m] In 2009 you formed you own HNW/ Harsh noise project Smrznik- was this your first ‘noise’ project & what does the name mean?
Neven Not first, I had few, but mostly beside being part of Idlness Distribution duo, I worked under name Crnich. But Smrznik is my standard name now and I don’t plan to change it as it has desired "name vibe" for what I do with static sound.
Smrznik on Bosnian means something like "Frozenville".

m[m] Can you tell us a bit a bout your other project Idlness Distribution duo? Was this HNW or HN based and did you put any releases out?
Neven It is mostly harsh noise with junk pedigree, but some blocks have a really harsh and static moments. We started somewhere in 2006 and released out first material as a net release. Then we released second material on our old «Casasaur» label. Since then there are some seven releases with different vibes. Last one is «Eduardo» on Zvukovina.


m[m] Smrznik sound often concentrates on a very cold, brooding & throbbing machine like HNW- what equipment & source elements do you use to create your sound?
Neven I use my Throatblain machine which I designed with my basic electronic and circuit bending skills and luckily it is perfect and inexhaustible for cold and crunchy sound sources that I need. It is simple black VHS box with some demon inside. I just make it sometimes dirty with few distortions and keep it controlled from possible changes in static behaviour. But some bleak tape hissing experiments are also interesting to me for a long time. "Two Evil Arguments..." material is made from super-gained empty microcassettes. 

m[m] How long did it take you to make  and perfect the Throatblain? And could it be something you could make for others so they could experiment with it’s sound?
Neven Actually, Throatblain is not finished jet. There are few more circuits that I need to put out and holes ready for equalizers but I'm still exploring possibilities I have for now. I still don't know how much time will I needed to complete it. It was very primitive at the beginning and now it's just a bit improved. I'm making one similar for my friend but for now I don't have time for making «busyness» of it.

m[m] How often do you record stuff for the Smrznik project?
Neven One corner in my flat is always made like some small studio. Especially in my new flat where I have much space, better monitor speakers and acoustic. So I play/record whenever I have time. I always have some ideas trying to realise through my set up and here and there I put it out as a release or upload it on my blog. A lot of stuff I keep for myself but if some label want my release then I do some new recordings.

m[m] What influences you to make HNW? Ie any particular films, books or art in general?
Neven Just winter nightmares and other people's HNW. I like that my releases have nothing to do with anything. But I love to check out movies and books that other artists found interesting. Also, upcoming «In Girum...» box will be some kind of tribute to Guy Debord who I like so much.

m[m] What the noise/experimental scene like in Sarajevo ? and was or helped or worsen by the troubles the country has had over the years?
Neven For last few years there is nothing special here in any kind of "experimental arts". Some underground spirit does exist but in very tiny circles of few metal, HC or grind projects and concerts.

Neven There are also few ambient, some IDM bands but its all in the circle of 5-10 people around Oscilator net label. For harsh noise it's even more difficult if you are organising a show. Few people will come but they will never be interested in what is behind. Years after Zvukovina existence, I had just one order from Sarajevo for some Zvukovina releases, so I met the guy and give him stuff for free. Later we organised couple of harsh noise shows and on one of those performed Fukte from Italy. He was first pure harsh noise artist from other country that played here. But I got some really negative comments from some people that think about themselves that they are "open minded". But I guess it's hapening everywhere. There was better response from local girls, they had some really nice comments on "all that harsh noise". Maybe because they saw so many ugly rock-posers on stage and than saw very hansome and cool Fukte doing so much noise with elegancy like he is preparing morning tea.

Neven Some five-ten years ago, things were much better. Mostly around guys from Kolektiv group and bands Temple Texas and New Faraday Collision (harsh surf noizik) and some others that had influence on me. They booked a heaps of experimental/free jazz/math rock shows, put out couple of releases, four cool done paper-zines called Neuro. But they all moved from Sarajevo. Sadly, but creative people are slowly leaving from here each day.
I started my first diy label "Casasaur" with big influence of their work and I have put out some thiteen cdr's in that time with projects like Jed Whitaker (very brutal militant glitch/noise) and also some other dark ambient stuff by Nordin, Temple Texas, my own projects solos, with Ela Vuk in Idlness Distribution and by my free jazz band Luxusmahr.

Neven Right now there are just few active harshnoise projects here. It is Mrtvaja who is also working as Clockwise Terror (some nasty anarchy old school industrial) but lately he is doing more HNW's, Warm Emission (some static ambient/glitch very digital based), Ela Vuk (trash-circuit-bent-guitar noise), than guy from grind band Mother Pig and his not too much active Arachnofobia Asylum (junk noise) project.
About troubles? Well, mixture of post war depression and some shock of different styles of modern values that came here with a very harsh capitalism in already war ruined Bosnian society is mostly reason why people here finish mostly in drugs, suicides, uncreative stupidity or just leaving the country. Result is sad place ready to be exploited by companies who have nice oportunity to destroy what is left for cheap - rivers and forests. Culture is mainly dead or messed in bizarre fake image - that everything is just fine with each new shopping center.

Neven War did not help anything except spreading capitalism and stupidity here. People from my generation and I had lost in war many members of family and friends. Beside that, everything else is pretty much fucked up in the same way same as everywhere!
To quote Guy Debord: "This civilization is on fire, the whole thing is capsizing and sinking. What splendid torpedoing."

m[m]  Are there any underground or experimental music shops or Mail orders in Sarajevo?
Neven No. We have monopoly on that, ha-ha. But if someone is interested in some Bosnian metal, can check out Walk Records, they have some nice stuff.

m[m] What’s due out next on Zvukovina & for Smrznik?
Neven Seven cdr's Bag-box of seven pure-static HNW artists in really different approaches with title: "In girum imus nocte et consumimur igni" which is palindrome sentence that pretty much have vibe of "static-palindromic" upcoming material. It is also title of great Guy Debord's movie from 1978.
-Smrznik tape with title «Welcome To The Standard Nightmare» and few more tape nightmares

m[m] Can you tell us a bit more about Seven cdr's Bag-box "In girum imus nocte et consumimur igni" – what artists are involved and when is it due out?
Neven It should be out in fall 2010. It is seven cd-r's in individual uniformed covers with one main-bag-box. Artists are:
Die Reitenden Leichen, Placenta Lyposuction, Terminal Erection, TFT, Ptomain, Namazu Dantai and Drevne Bolesti.

 Thanks to Neven for his time and effort with the interview and also the great pictures. Zvukovina website is here and their My Space is here where you can hear samples of the wonderful and pain ‘walls’ they have on offer.

Roger Batty
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