Hi Angel. I’ve discovered your music while researching experimental music from Bulgaria about two, three years ago and came across your project Mytrip. Could you start off by introducing yourself?
Hey, Gianmarco, thanks for finding my music in the first place and staying in touch all these years. So, I’m Angel Simitchiev and Mytrip is currently my main musical outlet. Actually it’s been like this since 2007. I consider that the actual birth year of the project as that’s when I started playing live. Throughout the years I’ve played and written a lot of music in many genres. I’ve toured most of Europe, not only with Mytrip but with a hardcore band as well. Even though this year I kind of got back to playing hardcore punk and released a new LP with a bunch of friends, I’m mostly interested in electronic and experimental music. Some of the active projects I’m doing now are Dayin and Leaver. I also teach “Sound Art” in the National Academy of Arts and I’m about to start a PhD at the Institute of Art Studies this October. Exciting times and a lot to do.
Presumably you are from the post communist generation, or at least you came of age, musically speaking, after the fall of communism, in the kind of grunge music era. What was the “state of affairs” with experimental music in Bulgaria back then and what or who would you say got you into drone and ambient music?
Yes, I was born in ’88 just a bit before communism crashed all around Europe. I don’t have that much of a sense of what it used to be, but I have a pretty good sense of how we’re still recovering from all bad that it did to Bulgaria and all Eastern European countries around us. What got me into music was black and death metal and my first exposure to experimental music was through netlabels in the early 2000s. A local online community of mostly Bulgarian artists called experement.org played a huge part in it back in the day. It’s now sadly gone and many of those people have moved to other things in their lives… or just decided to keep low profile.
It was stories about the Sofia ‘Ambient Festival’ that I would find online that really got me into researching this field. Eventually this music became my main way to express myself. I’ve always liked that creating and discovering music always walked together in my life. I would mess with sounds, I would download releases, find online radios (darkambientradio.de forever) and then I’d realize what I’ve been doing to sounds was actually a type of electronic music that other people are already listening to and appreciating. Electronic music is all about freedom and I feel like people nowadays seem to have forgotten about this. We’re now all following some stereotypes just so we can sell 50 tapes or 100 downloads on Bandcamp so we can get a new piece of gear, pay the rent or just find the motivation to move forward. We tend to forget that likes, shares even sales don’t really matter. It should not be about what the audience expects me to do. It should be about what I want to say.
What is your studio set up and how did it evolve over the years? How many different types of gear have you changed? And what is your current favorite piece of hardware/software?
It all started with the computer for me so that’s still the core of my setup. I believe in keeping it minimalist, taking the best of a piece of gear and getting rid of it once it no longer inspires you. That being said my studio is a centred around an Ableton-running computer. I have a small selection of synths, among which are an Elektron Monomachine, a few Volcas and a MicroKorg. However, I use tons of apps, field recordings done on my phone, anything that I find worth dissecting.
Right now my favourite piece of gear is a brand new audio interface I’m testing. It’s the Zen Studio+ from Antelope Audio and so far it’s killing it for its insanely detailed sound. I have to admit it’s a bit embarrassing to review older works on such a pro piece. It sounds like nothing I’ve owned before and for a (mostly) ambient producer like me it will allow me to add a lot of depth to my music which is basically all about layering and playing with textures.
With your latest album “Filament” you seem to have cleaned up your act. I am saying this in a jokey provocative way, but you seem to have dropped the murkier, more distorted side of deep ambient of your earlier work in favour of a crisper and even, dare I say, more luminous touch. Although “Filament” still sounds menacing, it is not as claustrophobic as “Lifeless”, say, or “Low”. How would you say your work has evolved in terms of sound over the years?
It’s totally true. My tools have been changing with the years and so I kind of refined my own sound. ?hat’s also a matter of learning I guess. Looking back at old music of mine I’d totally still do it the same way. With time you learn more and more about sound. You discover a lot of music, both new and old. You also learn how it affects people. Especially when you’re actively performing live. I mean, creating the lowest possible drones, the meanest possible pads and the scariest sound design has never been the purpose. It’s emotions that have always set the direction for Mytrip or whatever I’ve been doing. It’s my intuition and emotions poured in it.
Everything that I do is a reflection of where I am in my life at this point. This includes the technical part as well. I could have had polished albums from the start. I could have hired a guy to mix and master it. But I’m a DIY person with a punk mentality and that wouldn’t be me. If somebody heard an early Mytrip record and came to see it live it’s that sound they would get in both occasions. The sound of my music in a particular moment is the sound I was able to achieve and the sound I wanted to achieve.
Back in the day it was all about isolation, claustrophobia, maybe even fear. Nowadays I can destroy a place with bass or my three separate sends with several layers of distortion but people would be smiling while smelling the burning cables and speakers, because the music is telling a different story. In the case of “Filament” it’s a story about self-discovery, growth and the need to exist before anything else.
You have recently played in Greece, Belgium and Kiev. How do you approach a live set, and what is the single thing you always travel with and cannot do without? And on a more general level what are the aspects you most enjoy about touring?
I love playing live and for years I’d be performing something between improvisation and performance based on free-floating structure. Doing this, you never know where it will actually take you. There are many other factors that can influence a set like this. You often don’t know what sound system waits for you in the venue, So before you do anything else you have to see how much pressure it can take.
What I do live is very similar to what I do when writing and producing music. It’s all centred around a computer. It always involves something different, be that extra synths, voices… sometimes a guitar. Unless I’m not going for an improv or a collab session, I’m with my computer. However, when playing with other people I always take only a few synths, a bunch of reverb and delay pedals and squeeze the most sounds of those few units. Last year in Poland, while touring with great friend and label-mate ate, my computer died at the beginning of the tour. So, it was a crazy ride of not knowing if the other PC I borrowed will make it throughout the set each and every night. Still, that’s what I mostly love about playing live – that you’re never fully prepared for what will happen. Even for the stuff that you’re about to play.
For the past year, since that tour in Poland in August 2016, I’ve focused on presenting my LP “Filament”. This program will be last performed in Athens on Nov 18 this year and it’ll be time for new music and new experiences for those who care to follow Mytrip or come to my shows.
You will be doing a few dates in the UK in September to promote your recent album Filament. What are the most important aspects of the album you are keen to recreate and that you believe work best in a live context?
I guess the most important thing is to make people remember it. I’m not talking about coming back home and Googling Mytrip so they can like me somewhere or send me a friend request. We’re so overfed and so used with this product-oriented mentality. Everything around us comes in a shiny packaging. It’s advertised by big words, yet nobody remembers anything because the ‘next big thing’ is just around the corner. I want people to remember the night when they sat on a chair, laid on the floor or stood nervously while a guy staring at a laptop screen was trying to make the ceiling of the venue fall. Music is not something created for a mere consumption. It’s a gesture of sharing. It’s extracting all that’s inside and exposing it through sound. And one has to realize there will never be the very same thing like this behind the corner. Because each thing we experience is unique.
You also record under the moniker Dayin, which supposedly, although I am not 100% convinced, shows a ‘gentler’ drony side to Mytrip. As I see it, it still marries clean production values with a dirty sound bordering on the harsh. What would you say is specific about Dayin and what have you tried out in your latest EP “Sequence of Characters”, for example, that you wouldn’t have applied to a Mytrip release?
Yes, Dayin is a more mellow project. It’s mostly music I make during the summer and it’s that feeling of scorching under the sunlight or sinking deep in water that I’m often trying to recreate with it. Mytrip has been with me for so long that it’s shaped itself almost into a person on its own and I’m very precise into what is and what is not Mytrip. I can’t really put it into words, I only somehow feel it. So it’s also very intuitive, which music goes where. It’s a crazy world, that of monikers and side projects, but as soon as you get to know yourself better it’s just following what your heart says. I don’t have a certain dogma or manifesto related to any of those projects. It’s all about the worlds they are creating. Mytrip for sure is colder and more distant.
Could you tell something about your choice of titles? Within a single album track titles seem to complete each other like line of poetry, like ‘Wait for me / Wherever you are’ just to give one example, although with “Filament” you seem to have abandoned this approach. Also, is narrative ever important in your work?
All elements of a release are important and yes I do pay a lot of attention to that. “Filament” was a bit different. Its track titles there were just hints of the whole story, which is also told by the visuals and the music of course. With time I learned to make full use of each and every element of a release. I tended to be very descriptive with my titles, but now I separate the narrative between the music, the visuals, the artwork and the track titles. I still try to leave some freedom to the listener. And the best part is to see how people respond to it. How they translate it into their own languages. A good example was when cosmic winnetou released the debut Dayin tape, which I kind of consider a positive record and then I read the reviews how it’s misanthropic and harsh and tense. People are so different and that’s one thing being a musician allows you to observe.
What is the aspect you enjoy the least about being a musician? Post-production, promotion, distribution, networking?
I hate waiting. I hate waiting for my performance to start. I hate waiting for the vinyls to arrive. I hate waiting for potential promoters to respond to their emails (if ever). And I hate the feeling that somehow you have to prove yourself to websites, media people, labels or venues. I mean I understand there’s tons of music and artists right now, but people should never leave anyone hanging. Never judge anyone by its country of origin as well.
You also teach Sound Art in Bulgaria’s National Academy of Arts. What kind of prior knowledge of sound art do your students have and what are their expectations? Also, what has this experience taught you?
Most of my students come from background in fine arts or something completely different. The majority of them have no clue about sound, its aesthetics and technical side. So it’s a tough job to get them to a point where they are well-informed in what’s happening right now in the world of music and to help them learn how to express themselves in a medium that’s often completely unknown. I’ve been meeting some great people for these past 4 years I’ve spent been teaching. I guess that keeps me going.
Aside from teaching you also work with theatre, video art, short films and fashion. Could you tell us something about this and what are the most challenging / rewarding aspects of this type of work?
I guess every electronic musician nowadays has done jobs like this. I find it very similar to teaching. Most of the time I have to make sure the people I’m working with know what good sound actually is. Another important thing that they have to learn is that my job is not to make something which sounds similar to something they like. I work only with people who want me to create the sound that is FOR their own projects. Working with references when commissioning an art piece of any kind is very restraining and I tend to run from this as if my house was on fire.
I am under the impression that the experimental scene in Sofia is relatively small, still largely untapped and that you all know each other. Indeed you seem to have collaborated with a number of other electronic and drone musician such as Ivan Shopov, Krāllār, Evitceles. What are the advantages / disadvantages of being such a “tight knit family”, if that is the case, dysfunctional or otherwise, on the periphery of the European experimental music scene?
It’s indeed a very small community, most of us know or have heard about each other. Audience-wise the interest for experimental music is growing, but we still have a long, long way to go. We need more events that are not so niche. We need music from various subgenres to communicate with each other. Everything is a part of one big whole and there’s no point in separating an already small scene so much. I guess the mentality of collaboration also has to become more important for Bulgaria in general. Until this happens we’ll be building our own safe havens and hopefully at some point we’ll share them with even more people. I believe people should be discovering art on their own. Forcefeeding somebody ambient is not an option.
What is the best thing about living in Sofia and what are you favourite places within the city?
I’ve lived in Sofia for 10 years now. Best part of it is that I’m surrounded by a small circle of friends that manage to keep me creative. I always have somebody to hang out, play video games or just jam with in the rare cases when I feel like leaving my place. Among my favourite spots is the park of the Military Academy, which is always so quiet. I like Sofia in mid summer when it’s empty and late at night in the winter when everybody’s at home and I go for a late night coffee in the city. Among my top spots right now is the autonomous DIY place “Fabrika Avtonomia” where I’ve been booking experimental gigs in the past few months, Czech Center, Studio 1 of the Bulgarian National Radio, the flea market on Saturday, and our rehearsal room.
Photos by Michał Bukolt