Substance 03_ Kosmogonik are a duo from Romania who are emerging with a fresh voice from the fertile Bucharest underground. They will release their debut album on our sub label Pariter, In the latest of our Substance interview series, the duo is happy to nerd out about their studio and tell us about the ways in which they handled lockdown, including how their listening habits changed and some of the challenges they faced.
Like many artists affected by the pandemic, back in March 2020, the pair were just about to lift off, with shows at our favourite Fuse in Brussels among the highlights as they built their burgeoning reputation. Their upcoming album, entitled Polyverse confirms them once more as real “ones to watch" and is due to be released in autumn 2021.
Hey guys, so as we start all our interviews, how has the last 12 months in the Pandemic been for you?
B: The Pandemic was not that bad for me, as I’m used to be all by myself doing stuff at the computer. Sure I miss gigs, but it was a good time to spend in the studio and come up with a lot of new stuff.
F: It's been quite a ride for me personally because I have entered the pandemic very optimistic, strongly believing that isolation will naturally lead to productivity but in fact, it did the opposite for me to a point where I was gradually feeling less creative & inspired.
Without clubs, a city is a very different place… Are you from Bucharest originally?
B: I’m from Ploiești, not that far from Bucharest. As I cannot stay for too long in one place, Bucharest was the closest option for me. I was coming here pretty often to work on tracks with my boys from Lisiere Collectif, so moving was the best option.
F: I was born in Bacău so I can say I am continuing an electronic music legacy, haha. I moved to Bucharest 10 years ago because I found the chaos and the liveliness of the city to be very attractive.
Did you suffer from many canceled shows in the past year?
K: We actually didn't have that many gigs planned, but we both felt like we were going somewhere with this project until the pandemic put us on hold.
Despite this and not being able to connect directly with fans, what has inspired you musically recently?
B: I think this period inspiration came from other places like reading or taking long walks around Bucharest. I’ve discovered lots of nice streets that didn’t knew they existed.
F:I have listened to a lot of jazz lately but one album really stood out to me in this pandemic: Yussef Dayes Trio - “Welcome to the Hills”. The musicianship on this live album is absolutely inspiring to me. I am listening to it once every 4 days since it first came and I am still to grow tired of it!
How about things outside of music?
F: In this pandemic I stumbled upon Robert Pirsig's works and read both of his books in a glimpse; his Metaphysics of Quality really clicked with me on a deep level.
B: My occupation lately is building myself a camper van so I can travel around Europe.
You will release your debut album on Pariter soon. It’s sounding amazing, a really fresh take on classic sounds. Can you tell us about an album you really love that has really inspired you?
K: We are very honoured to have been invited to release our debut album on Pariter and to be part of this incredible team. Since we started the Kosmogonik project, we wanted it to be conceptual and having to release an LP really enabled us to do just that - to depict the birth of the cosmos in sound. All of the songs on the album were produced with us having this idea in our minds at every step of the process. The biggest influence for both of us have to be Drexciya and Carl Finlow/Silicon Scally. We had the chance to open for Stingray in Bucharest at Club Guesthouse which was a really big deal for us. Another incredible thing was to have our song "Circuitry" featured on the “Yossi Amoyal Presents Fluere” compilation, the track being on the same vinyl as Carl Finlow's song "Relay".
At Sushitech we are really into sound as you may have guessed! Tell us about a sound system you love to play on or a special club room you love.
B: Here in Bucharest there are few places that sound right and one of them is Guesthouse. Other than that, Fuse in Brussels was nice to play. The small room’s sound system felt super nice.
How did you get into electronic dance music?
F: It was quite a musical journey for me. I started as a drummer in a hardcore punk band in high school and slowly drifted towards post punk, dark wave, indie electronica, that kind of stuff. This was the point when I decided I wanna make music on my own from now on. So I started producing uninteresting music in Reason 5 for a couple of years until I finally discovered Drexciya and started getting more & more into electro.
I knew Bogdan from his other project Lisiere Colectiff and we started sharing solo productions . I remember telling him that it was the first time I was listening to something so fresh coming from a local artist and that I would like to start a live project with him. The next month we had our first gig and the set was a combination of stuff we were working on separately but it turned out pretty decent in the end. We then decided to start writing music together for this project. It's funny that for us the gig came first and the music after.
B: I always listened to music since I was little and I was also interested in computers. I remember playing with a demo software called Dance eJay where you could add some ready-made loops in a timeline. It was fun.
I met Filip at a party he was hosting here in Bucharest and few years later we clicked and started doing music together.
Tell us about your sound and your influences?
B: It's kind of hard to describe our sound as we are interested in many areas of electronic music but I can say I like things to be melodic.
F: Our musical tastes are somewhat different and we always try and meet each other halfway through music. I think this is what really gives structure to our sound.
The Substance series is a place for artists to go really in-depth, so we want to really share lots of studio love.
Tell us about the evolution of your studio, what did you start with?
B: Of course it started with a PC and a mouse. My first drum machine was a Dave Smith Tempest which I like a lot and after years I still discover new things I can do with it. Nowadays I have a small collection of old & new gear which I use in every studio session. I like the new stuff that’s coming out like Elektron gear with all the possibilities but the old gear is what I find most interesting. I got a Roland JD990 a couple of years ago and I love that retro-sounding vibe it has.
F: My first synth was an Oberheim OB12 and, even though it was buggy and a pain in the ass when trying to get something pleasant to my ears out of it, it was still a pretty good learning tool. Afterwards, I got on the Elektron hype and bought an Analog Rytm and a Digitone which we have been using heavily on this album. Being such a tech nerd makes me more interested in contemporary gear and new technologies!
Do you have a clear sound in your head before you make music? How do your influences differ?
B: There are times when I have an idea and I’m following it, but most of the time I just fiddle with my synths until I come up with something.
F: I personally never have a clear sound in my head before starting a track. I always let my machines talk to me and I just experiment and try things out until I find something solid on which I can build a song.
What about your musical background?
B: I have no musical background. I started taking piano lessons some time ago. This helped me a lot to get out the ideas I have in my head.
F: I only have formal training in drums but over the years I have learned to play guitar/bass and keyboards on my own.
You come to the studio in the morning what’s the first machine you reach for?
B: I have no specific that I start with, it depends. Most often I start with some melodic stuff like pads or melodies and take it from there.
F: my MPC Live because it is currently my sketching tool and midi brain.
Do you have certain reference tracks of how you want to sound? How do you keep sound consistent across an album?
B: I often refer to tracks that I like when I’m mixing my music. I think it’s a good way of doing it, especially when you don’t have experience.
I think using a certain palette of sounds especially drums keeps a certain vibe to an album.
"We are very honoured to have been invited to release our debut album on Pariter and to be part of this incredible team. Since we started the Kosmogonik project, we wanted it to be conceptual and having to release an LP really enabled us to do just that - to depict the birth of the cosmos in sound. All of the songs on the album were produced with us having this idea in our minds at every step of the process."
Where do you listen to your final versions to test your mix?
F: I listen to them in my home studio which isn't the best sounding environment. This is why I do a test on various headphones and also on other lousy speakers that I have laying around the house (including my phone speakers. haha)
B: Before the pandemic I used to test my tracks at the gigs I played. Other than that I like to listen in my car while driving or on the phone’s speakers.
It’s the eternal question, how do you know when a track is finished?
B: I don’t lol. Most of the time I’m forced by a deadline to send tracks to master. I have this bad habit of constantly changing things.
F: Sometimes it feels like a track is never really ready so it’s always a good idea to take a break from it for a while.
What are your go to plug-ins when you processing sound ITB?
K: All the Fab Filter plugins, some from the Waves suite and some from Ozone. It really depends on the track we are working on.
Current favourite piece of gear?
B: Tempest and JD990
What’s on your master buss at the moment?
K: We record everything in Ableton and we usually don’t put anything on the master buss except for some cases when we use Waves UltraMaximizer L2 just to have the track exported at a decent level for critical listening.
What are your two favourite EQs and for what kind of task?
K: We use Fab Filter Q2 on almost everything and for drum busses we sometimes use Ozone 9Vintage EQ and process it with Elektron’s Analog Heat.
The classic TB acid Bass is a very big part of your sound. What kind of hardware or software you use for that?
K: In the studio we mostly use Cyclone TT303 which is a pretty decent analog copy of the original 303 and for live performances we used to bring MAM MB33 because it is very portable.
What are your personal release plans other than the album?
K:We don’t really have a plan at the moment. We are more focused on coming up with new stuff.
How does it feel to be on the same label as players and influential people like Steve O’Sullivan and Norm Talley? How has the label made an impact on your musical taste and your scene?
K: Of course it’s an honour to be part of this. There are many timeless releases on Sushitech and Pariter that will remain relevant for a long time.
"As you can easily tell from the titles the whole concept is based around cosmic stuff, like the beginning of the universe as it is our beginning also. We tried to achieve a raw and mellow sound. We believe that the album is meant to be enjoyed both in the club and at home."
How was the experienced working with Yossi on the album?
B: I know Yossi for a few years now and during this time I had the opportunity to discuss a lot of technical and music industry things. He’s in the business for some time and you can tell he’s truly a professional.
Did you ever get the chance to work with a label producer in the past?
K: No, this is the first collaboration of this kind.
Tell us about the pre COVID scene in Romania, we spoke a lot to the SIT guys who are into jazz and many types of music, there’s more than this minimal sound right?
F: For me there was always more than the minimal sound which I was never a big fan of.
Where do Kosmogonik fit into the Bucharest scene?
F: Really hard to tell at the moment. Things seem to be changing for the good here and I noticed more people start moving away from the minimal scene but it is still the most influential.
Tell us about the album, can you tell us some of the thinking behind that?
K: As you can easily tell from the titles the whole concept is based around cosmic stuff, like the beginning of the universe as it is our beginning also. We tried to achieve a raw and mellow sound. We believe that the album is meant to be enjoyed both in the club and at home.
Tell us your hopes for when the pandemic ends? What are you looking forward to? What are 3 things you want to achieve?
K: We want to develop our sound and perform our music on good sound systems...
Finally… one thing in dance music that people aren’t talking about enough?
B: The struggle of getting a good mix and of course the dark sides of the nightlife like depression and addiction of certain substances.
Interview by Sushitech events manager and writer Ben Start.