This interview was made like a partner text of the Stalinist God review that you can read (sorry, in Spanish) right here:
• So, first, I knew your project thanks to an edition of Greek Cult undeground label Sweetohmrecordings. I got really amused with the music and the powerful of the image/concept of UGFC. So, Could you tell me something about your past, where the fuck do you come from… what bands where you involved previously? And please, can you give me an explanation of your name?. I got obsessed comparing terms with Monthy Python Flying Circus so perhaps you can tell the readers something about that.
Hey, thank you for your interest and for giving me pleasure to pollute your mind and to shoot down your hat, my dear Colonel!.
Uncle Grasha is nick from Willhelm Grasslich, my eternal pseudo, the struggle, the liberation, the inner self, the master and its creature in one entity, the evil twin, which gives the sense to lifetime misery … “Uncle” represents the move to innocent/obscene archetype - western Allies used to call Josef Stalin as “Uncle Joe,” or you can see Uncle Claudius from Hamlet (the real Claudius was an uncle to Emperor Caligula), or for example pedophiles sometimes introduce themselves as “uncles”... since you prepared more question concerning this, I will be filling the mosaic step by step, there and then.
Concerning the mentioned, brexited and by death a bit sorted out MP company, that I naturally always liked, UGFC name IS NOT influenced by them. But they must have been fascinated by the original meaning like me, I guess.
The term itself, as far as I know, was bound to promotion of the early aviation, which was in fact dangerous adventure at that times. FC also meant entertainment for people in the form of synchronized flying, but soon also the war entertainment – during WWI the most famous flying circus was born - Manfred von Richthofen’s Jagdgeschwader I. This one is direct inspiration for UGFC. The bombing, bombardment, death from above, death coming instead of sun the lifegiver, that’s the issue always present within UGFC’s story.
Anyway, withing art, I started as a poetry writer, no musical skills, no cultural capital, homo novus… but my inner flame forced me to learn and to create more and more. Well, to list and describe all my projects, artworks, collaborations etc, it would be probably more pages than bodycount in For a Few Dollars More. So in short... I was always fascinated by surrealism, dadaism, existentialism, moreover I was absolutely swallowed by Maldoror concept of surreal evil fascinations, realities and dreams, which fitted to my early lifetime experiences.
...and well, I spent my teens by most at metal, punk and later hc-punk and grindcore concerts, so I was caught by that. I sing in a provocative band called Bambulkyne Dobrodružstvá. Maybe your hat would be shot by howitzer after seeing some BD live video.
Concerning avantgarde and experimental projects, I play in psychedelic poetry&noise project Karel Braun And The Black Magic as live member. The other projects into which I put my dirty hands are Surfin’ Bazooka, Theremin Quintet and Lhostejnost, now all in the state of hybernation, and an alternative band Yamabushi is already a past for me. I also played in various random improvisation groups, that were creating live backgrounds to old avantgarde movies. They are now called “Strakův Pojízdný Circus” (traveling circus, not flying), within “Pavel Straka” youtube channel you can find live short recordings, I bet you will like them!
• I think you are a Duo and your musical partner is Petr Habrych. Am I right?. Where/when do you met and what is the context that evolves to UNCLE GRASHA´S?.
We started like that. Actually my first musical experiences happened thanks to Petr, he is my longest companion, we know each other for longer than a decade. UGFC was primarily my idea. My work and my sick mind has been behind all the noises, chaos and even the compositions later, Petr acted as live member.
Later we started another project called “Lhostejnost”, that was on the contrary Petr’s idea. His compositions and doomy drone guitars were the base at that case and I played just minimal noise and drone backgrounds. But he is a musician focused on skills. He has improved himself remarkably and he wanted to move on, this kind of stuff like UGFC, based mainly on atmosphere with minimal and even primitive compositions, can hardly be satisfactory for him now.
So now we practically don’t play together, but we are still in contact, in one collective.
• Czech Music was an important step in the controversial movement of underground culture in Prague. In fact, I am here writing this to you cause I am a lot into The Plastic People of the Universe and all that strong period of time. Do you have a direct influence of industrial acts like DG307 for example?. That was Avantgarde but, where is Avantgarde Culture in your country now and what artist have influenced in your style?.
Underground movement from 70thies is strong influence for any band/project dealing with such kind of issues, I guess, moreover the people behind and their behavior nowadays, that’s is even more disputable and evocative for cultural reactions.
For example one of the legendary underground gurus Čuňas Stánek become a secret police officer right after Velvet Revolution and now he spreads ultraconservative ideas (he is a fan of Pinochet etc.) ... well... “evolution” of ideas, indeed. And the whole community is now more like “nostalgic veterans movement”, seldom dealing with contemporary avantgarde.
But there was a second movement, younger, labeling itself as “alternative”, with bands like Máma Bubo, OZW, MCHBAND etc, despite they are also quite stuck in the past, many of them are active as avantgarde musicians with new projects. And they are far more inspiring for me personally, with some musicians from that bands I was even honored to share stage or even band/project....and then there are names like Paprsky Inženýra Garina, Oldřich Janota, Pavel Richter, or Veselí Filištínové...check them, I bet you will be fascinated!
Anyway I feel more influenced by Yugoslav new wave scene from 80thies, the inspiration from Laibach is quite obvious, but there are even greater names for me, especially O!Kult (fetishizig the death of marshal Tito), Marzidovsek, SexA, Satan Panonski…
Coming back to Czech avantgarde once more, we cannot forget the first, interwar one. Especially the rare poems of Vitezslav Nezval blew my head when I was teen. One also cannot forget Karel Teige or Emil František Burian, great avantgarde masterminds.
• Prague Spring was an impact for your country and an intesting period of history that really interest me. Sametová Revoluce or Silk Revoution came later. We can´t deny this as a substratum of music influences but I don´t really know if that influences are in UNCLE GRASHA´S…
Well, yeah, it is, the idealism was very inspiring, until it was uncovered that it was first of all the restoration of capitalism. The elites of economic sector of late socialist state waited in the shadow, to get silent deal with “velvet revolutionaries”, then becoming rich, later ruling oligarchs like our actual prime minister Babiš.
I am younger, so hadn’t experienced that days, but the “evolution” of that idealism was quite a blow. President Havel, first velvet revolutionary, former humanist/pacifist, advocated NATO bombing of Serbia, later even George Bush’s militarism.
Bombing for humanity, cluster bomb peace keeping, that’s the kind of real dark humor mirrored within UGFC.
• After 1989 world in Prague changed, so musicians changed. Ideologies got into simply music and the poetry of Egon Bondy got dissolved into a Jazz Rock Zappa Style in Plastic People that is not of my interest. So, I mean… when people/musicians/writers are oppressed, they are able to make extreme things. After that, people forget pioneers and all is more easy. I think you are “son of all that movement” so, what kind of scene in the undeground exist nowadays in your country?.
Well, we have underground/alternative scene operating since 70thies/80thies, more nostalgic, not much collaborating with young artists. Then there is hipster-like scene, sometimes supporting also DIY underground, but in its typical “coolness” approach.
Then we have artists and groups funded by grants, which are often elitists glorified in their social bubbles. Finally there are punks/hardcorists/grinders and extreme metal groups…
... we may say that in all of above mentioned scenes some avantgarde-underground coexists, but it is marginal. It depends how open-minded the particular scene is, and that changes constantly. In fact it does not matter from which scene some independent/outsider artist like me comes from, nor whether we are inspired by Zappa, Mayhem or Hanatarash. We are very few in fact. The most important point is whether we are able to collaborate and support each other or not. And we must have some open-minded labels and most importantly open-minded venues.
And that’s a question, who and how will he/she survives this siege and lockdown...
• ¿Can you explain the spiritual o idea message behind a title so controversial as “Stalinist God?. I am sure there is a good story there.
Oh yes, many stories, but I must warn you, Colonel can go even greyer because of them! Basically, I am trained historian, so many of UGFC issues are driven by my education and needs to interpret history in my specific way. But of course all of that is permeated by my personal stories, emotions, state of mind…
I usually start with this example – in the hatches of small soviet people, usually peasantry, when religion was not in the curse, they simply placed the portraits of Stalin or Lenin instead of icons, but using them in quite similar (or even in the same) way. This is fantastic example – the people were on one hand so indoctrinated to do it, on the other they simply used this new cloak to dress their own old habits to an actual need. You find your freedom of expression, but in fact you absolutely concurs with the power over you.
I was always fascinated by power relations. In the macro views about some dictator’s power as well as in everyday life relationships, in the basic roots of your life (family, sex…), and especially I am endlessly exploring the crossfade. I mean power over someone, the usage of it, from everyday communication, pushing someone to something in your favor, finally the existential discovery that you are just in the net of power relations, when someone you have trust in, just pushes you down, when power allows him/her to do it. Just because you can, you reveal the worst in yourself and use it for your pleasure and for possibility to gain power over someone.
Stalin created almost perfect system of power-oppression, he was a superdictator, probably the most efficient dictator in history. Changed past for some, determined the future for others. And there were also filthy sexual issues included, to have all the juicy things on one pile. Lavrentiy Beria, Stalin’s hand of terror, was in fact rapist, who forced women to have sex with him in return to save their partners, relatives, partners… Despite in our system cloaked in democracy the complex of oppression is not so tight, the experience of in fact macroscopic Stockholm syndrome is felt, when we live with our everyday power-over tactics. We learned how to use the oppressors against our brothers in misery. We love oppression, in fact.
I am trying to outreach these issues in surreal way, with a bit of empathy as well as with offensive approaches. I am not saying I am possessed by some special ability, I have never experienced war, but I experienced torture. Five years of bullying at elementary school brought me into state of mental war and permanent danger. I felt helpless, socially isolated and I just regretted I was not able to kill anyone as revenge. Extreme state, systematic power-oppression, no help… for example after such kind of experience, the victims often welcome any opportunity to belong somewhere, for example to some potential dictator’s guard…
Well...enough stories for now, I suppose, I warned you, haha! Maybe just few short points - noise music is always a bit of revenge against the society, and extreme dark humor is often the only chance to tell some hidden and heavily unpleasant issues…
• There is a powerful message of the images in UGFC. The artwork talks me about war, propaganda and ideologies. Booklet in “Stalinist God” is jaw dropping. I read in the insert: “When your propaganda reach the maximal success, and you became a god per se, you mus just sound your trumpet por apocalypse and destroy everything you have created”. War of any kind is united to propaganda so… Is UGFC a reivindicative or a provocative act?.
UGFC’s absurd and psychoanalytic approach intentionally shakes the dialectical or linear mental logic. Many has already been said before, so now I underline this - In the former eastern bloc the shadow of dictatorship is still present. Many people wish that times to come back, what can be hardly surprising, when it is revealed how the quality of their lives declined.
Simultaneously there are the others, especially in the west, who can hardly imagine, how life can slide to the dictatorship state. How rapidly can things change, how easily it can be done. These days of quarantines and anti-virus measures, which in fact, as Foucalt said, always strenghten the authorities, are the niche for dictatorship desires. It already happened in Hungary, and other countries can follow. The image how your life can be steered under such circumstances, is so absurd, so inconceivable. And to shout warnings usually does not help, because of that...so I am trying to reveal the hidden fear, the state of imagination, the potential experience, or even transgression...But well, nothing is guaranteed, they maybe already think that they would be happier under some new dictatorship.
One way or another, I think it is above any provocation or reivindication.
• “Stalinist God” is a fucking good album with a lot of really mighty samplers that goes directly to Industrial or Martial Music. Could you tell me something about them? (“Headquarters” is really amazing). I can listen speeches by Gillo Pontecorvo, N. Ceausescu, Kim Jong Il and Kim Jong Un and Emil HachaI (I can be wrong but one of them seemed to listen Easter Week (holy week) percussions!).
Thanks, hehe...well, as the meaning has been already explained, so the samples...Truly there are speeches of DPRK great leaders, two Ceaușescu‘s speeches, including his last one. Emil Hacha was president of Protektorat Böhmen und Mähren during WWII, hated by some as quisling, advocated by others that he had prevented the worst at that time. He says a prayer as his Christmas president’s speech.
But there is no Gillo Pontecorvo’s speech, he was just the director of Battle of Algiers movie, from which the sample is. The movie is so great in its almost-documentary approach, that I found it efficient to use it. And Headquarters roots from North Korean battle song, where there is sung : “thousands of lives become guns&shells, ready to defend you!”
...but well, I don’t know what you mean with that holy week percussions :-)
• Your style changes with the albums but the spirit remains the same. In terms of artwork, in “Stalinist God” there is a good photo session in Památník Duchcovského Viaduktu (of Karel Lerch, 1954) while in the Split with Kostadis you use a photo of The Bridge Builders. Could you explain both powerful statues and their meanings and why did you use them?.
I always liked monuments, especially the socialist ones. I like them as the motives of historical memory as well as propagandist art forming the public space in the way of cultural negotiations or even by in fact kulturkampf approach. To embody then into UGFC’s semiotic arsenal, that seems to me even like a natural step!
• In the Split Cassette with CALF I can read: "a dada-surrealistic project. It was found on Spitzbergen, avantgard poet Willhelm Grasslich was beaten to unconsciousness by 51 nuns there. It produces style called nun-core, basically it means surrealistic noise ambient". What the fuck is this?.....
This was primarily intended as simple crazy dadaist approach. The older stuff of UGFC was strongly influenced by such kind of dynamics, it is quite recognisable when you listen to the older stuff. Artistically I am waving from this simplicity to more widespread, complex and powerful approaches.
Next release will be even more epic-lyrical. Well, I suppose you cannot walk forever with dadaism. Even the DADA founder Tristan Tzara turned his art to very deep and heavy surrealism. I always liked DADA for its state of wannabe childishness, to have this in mind you can far better see the magic behind common things. But they can be quite unpleasant sometimes.
• All of this remains me to Guy Debord, Dadaism... Are you influenced by Debordian idealism or Dadaism?. Is Propaganda a God in is own and by what terms?.
Of course, strongly! Or at least I used to articulate it more in the past, now I am back into psychoanalysis again, I would say. And the propagandist god...when “god” refers to “true”, then creating new “truth,” especially by repeating some lie strongly, it must certainly give almost divine feelings! But it is always disputable, whether propaganda is ever capable of gaining such power...if so, we are pretty fucked.
• What is Pravěk Noise Section organization and what kind of artists are involved there?. I compare this movement with other organizations like Gruppo Ungido in Spain, Protos Orofos in Greece and similar ones.
Wow, I didn’t now them, thanks for inspiration! Well, concerning PNS, I think there was nothing like an ideological plan or key idea, it was simply DIY, autonomous direct action, right here and right now, primitive step how to find some soulmates from all around.
As I said above, DIY scenes often promote just their social bubbles, and there are many “outsiders” left, without support or isolated from some reason. To that kind of people I wished to dedicate PNS. So under this mark usually some co-releases are committed, by most for the bands from poorer part of the world. And our own stuff, naturally. But as many of us lost substantial part of our incomes because of this crisis, who knows how we carry on with this in near future...well, when we cannot release music, we can release bricks and stones!
• What is the umbilical thread between Greek underground scene and UNCLE GRASHA´S? It´s only a question of labels and the Splits with CALF and Kostadis?.. cause it seems something different to me more like a union of similar ideas.
With Calf we met each other in Prague, when we played as their support band. Their show was...well, I suppose you can imagine that, Christos burned his amp and neither them nor me (as UGFC) were allowed to play in that venue again, haha!.
After the show I got the idea to do the split, so we started the cooperation, then I always helped with booking Calf in Czechia. The split with Kostadis was Christos’s idea, he released it alone as Sweetohm, he told me that it was very successful release in Greece. Then he organized a tour in Greece for me...so not just cooperation, but comrade spirit and soul mate!.
• What projects of future do you have wih UNCLE GRASHA´S FLYING CIRCUS?. So that´s all. This is your space and you can write whatever you want here.
While this interview was being filled, I released a new videoclip based on the track You Have To Be Death To Be Wise from Stalinist God. It is about pandemic anniversary and history repeating itself. As I stated in the past, all the tracks of Stalinist God will receive a video background, so I will finish them one by one, you can watch the older ones at my youtube and vimeo channel.
Moreover with Italian project Il Vuoto we are finishing a long-term collaboration recording, it should be released soon as limited edition of tapes by Sky Burial label.
And finally the new album is almost finished, I hope I will be able to release it soon! As I stated above, it will the most epic-lyrical UGFC stuff so far, based by most on ambient/drone-doom and martial industrial vibes, and finally it will be in fact reflexive issue. There will be some really old and “almost forgotten” UGFC motives reused, hüzün concept will be revisited, too. And I hope I will grow thanks to catharsis imposed on me by that stuff, as I already grew remarkably with Stalinist God.
So that’s it, flight is over for now, thank you once more, Dear Colonel! Pick up your hat and have a good aim in all the days to come!