IV: I have done collaborations with other musicians in the past, most notably with the Finnish guitarist Tuomas Renvall and the composer Petteri Aartolahti, and I have benefited vastly as a musician from their ideas. Working on my own, however, and having full creative control on my music, presents different possibilities, namely that I project my own inner world and vision onto the tape (or more specifically, onto the ones and zeros of a file).
E&M: Sofia is the main topic of your recent album. Can you tell us what fascinates you most about the city?
IV: I guess it's an indivisible melange of places, events and memories for me, and that is something I've definitely tried to recreate in the album. I am not sure how much sense it makes to a non-Bulgarian speaker - or to anyone else for that matter! - but I cannot walk through the streets of Sofia without being reminded of what happened there, to me or to somebody else. If I can elaborate on the places, as that is certainly the aspect that can be best explained, I adore the yellow cobblestones (although they are terribly slippery in winter!), and the fin-de-siecle architecture in the city centre. I have a penchant for particular areas where you can still see old residential houses dating from more than a century ago. I guess it would be obvious to anyone who has listened to the album that I share a certain fascination with the sense of urban decay as well.
E&M: On your website you write about other musicians that have influenced you. Do you think every musician ultimately builds on the works and sounds of others?
VI: This is a philosophical question in itself, isn't it? I am fascinated by the work of Jorge Luis Borges, who has written extensively on the topic, exhausting the relationship between counterfeit and original, and, ultimately, not distinguishing between the two. As confusing as that might sound, in the end I interpret his words as meaning that however hard you try, you'll never produce something entirely original, something truly genuine.Adapting this philosophy to music making, you're not going to reinvent the scale, nor are you going to find a new chord. The correlation is quite obvious to me - the more music you listen to, the more influences you borrow (or steal!) from, the more intriguing your music will be. It is in the way you blend and combine your influences where you can truly express yourself, and actually shine as a musician.
E&M: How do you go about incorporating influences into your music?
VI: I personally tend to 'dissect' music I listen to so that I can pick out the elements I think might fit well into my vision. That is basically how I acquired all of my mixing and mastering skills, having had no training in that whatsoever. And it's things like that that still keep me listening to an awful lot of music, even though I hardly have time for it anymore - the small, barely perceptible ideas that make it interesting.
E&M: Many people are crazy about making music while they go to school and once they start college they just don't keep it up. How do you manage to find the time and motivation to keep playing next to a busy university schedule?
VI: More arrogant musicians than me have compared the process of making music for the artist to breathing and eating. I would not go as far, as at least for me those processes are entirely separate from making music, but, put simply, I just do not feel complete without expressing myself through art. I suppose it might be different for different people, and it is about just how high do you value that. Whenever I have a sonic vision that I want to materialise, it is always on the back of my mind - an obsession, really, - until that happens. It is the most rewarding feeling I know, and one that deserves all the time I can dedicate to it, even if that means sacrificing something else.
E&M: You go to university in Scotland. What's it like to live in another European country?
VI: I might sound a bit strange, but apart from the left-hand traffic, I don't find it too different and unfamiliar. Perhaps that has something to do with the fact that Edinburgh is a temporary home for tens of thousands of students, or perhaps it is the fact that I speak the language (although the Scottish accent at times is another matter), but I don't feel it distant or detached. It is definitely an enriching experience, and one that will help me form my notion of Europe more completely.
E&M: The EU is in a pretty rough crisis at the moment and I always wonder how it is perceived in different EU countries. From your experiences, how do Scottish and Bulgarian people feel about the current situation?
VI: Both peoples see the EU as something more or less distant, something which is not immediate to them. Bulgarians are worried mostly about their own national concerns, which have lately been related to our presidential elections, but on the whole they perceive the EU as something positive, if remote. Although the Greek are our neighbours, public opinion tends to lean towards "Let them get what's coming to them" (something which I personally would disagree with). Scottish people are also more concerned about their own agenda, not least about a possible referendum on independence. Quite a few of them seem to be euroskeptic, and it is not uncommon to see a right-wing newspaper headline saying "The EU wants more of your money!", although it is not as extreme as it is said to be in England.The situation with Greece and the euro on the whole is immensely complicated, and it is obvious that it is a game where economy, diplomacy and gambling intermingle. There have been more twists and turns than I can remember in the last few months, and I think public opinion is likely to change with each of these. We're all spectators on this one.
E&M: And finally, what does Europe mean to you?
VI: It is a way of life, really. A set of values. An endless range of splendid places. And limitless opportunities for cultural delight.
For more about Velislav Ivanov check out his website at www.suzercatel.tk .