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Future Nuggets: haunted by the past while forging new sounds for the future

Published October, 2014
by Easterndaze

Future Nuggets is a collective based in Bucharest, Romania. The sprawling capital, the last bastion of self-contained anarchy spiced up with oriental flavours and post-communist malaise. Have a taste of past-future!, says the catchphrase on their Facebook page. Their music, an amalgam of manele – the Romanian hi-octane Turkish-influenced music – with Western electronic elements, harks back to the hazy days of the 90ties, freshly emerged from the brutalist regime of Romanian communism, when new-found freedom enthralled and excited. Steaua de Mare is their main band, headed by Todd Rundgren lookalike Andrei, the son of one of the leaders of the revolution and poet, Mircea Dinescu. The past, present and future indeed collide in the oeuvre of Future Nuggets.

Here, you can read an interview with Ion Dumitrescu, the mastermind of Future Nuggets, which was created for their A2larm mixtape.

You claim that you want to create a new scene in Romania. What kind of scene would you like to create?
I: The expression that I generally use is to invent a scene, meaning that from the beginning we assumed that this endeavour would contain a fictitious dimension and an imaginary ground zero. Inventing projects, names, it already implies a certain level of self-assuming obscurity that we share in the outernational sphere (behind the former Iron Curtain). In this area that lacks a fully developed industry, no niches nor scenes exist for that matter, just a flagrant mainstream, Future Nuggets’ claim is already self-ironic.

Are you becoming a successful in this task?

I: In the 3 years of our existence we have spread the word, our sonic progeny were disseminated locally and internationally. At a small scale, uneven in terms of visibility, without a regular output, carrying all these typical features of labels from the margins of the international (Western) realm. Although I cannot asses the impact on the Bucharest scene in general. I don’t think the Rodion G.A. story or Steaua de Mare’s sounds have gone unnoticed. Also I think through projects like Steaua de Mare and now recently with Raze de Soare, we have contributed to the manele debate in contemporary Romania. In this respect there was always a distant, not fully articulated or stated, political position.

I think that its evident that post-communist countries are somehow stuck between Western world and their own past. What kind of hybrid did this situation create in your country if we speak about culture?
I: I call it the outernational condition. Although primarily it concerns music production and distribution, the syntagm stands for other cultural fields as well. I elaborated more on this “condition”. It extends beyond the former communist region. The Western way (international industry) functions as a mirage while the local conditions demand and force a totally different approach towards cultural production, visibility and continuity.

In your previous interviews you talked about visual art as an necessary part of any label/project/band in the era of video. What is your visual concept? From my point of view it looks like an ominous, but haunting images of Romanian early post-revolution past…
I: It depends, not all projects featured on Future Nuggets are concerned with this direct reference, Steaua de Mare debut LP is indeed dallying with this kind of images and sounds, but there is no commitment to this particular ghost. We embrace other spectres as well and on the upcoming album we might take a different visual trajectory, together with new distinctive sound fusion. But of course it is intrinsic to the Future Nuggets initial concept to be haunted by the past while forging new sounds for the future. As a strategy the visual dimension will follow wherever the music will go.

Can you name three images that embody the nineties era in Romania for you?
I: That’s a hard one. There are several phenomenona that reflect the nineties for me. One of them is that after the revolution, the first wave of merchants and grand commercial entrepreneurs came from further east, more precisely from Turkey. While all the country had in their mind and in their hearts the Western image of capitalism they were fulfilling it via the oriental route. We had jeans, bubble gum, fast-foods and supermarkets, just like we saw in Western movies on video tapes in the eighties, yet in the beginning they all came from Turkey, or through far-east business men. At least for the first half of the decade we were totally immersed in bazar-like atmosphere but dreaming the Western dream.

Romania is going through social and political turmoil as it goes in every post-communist country nowadays. Growing income inequality, political scandals, people alienated from politics and their identity etc. What’s your view on the current situation in your country?
I: As it happens I am involved in a performance project called “The Presidential Candidacy”, part of the post-spectacle practice initiated by Florin Flueraș and myself a few years ago. The elections are in one month and as we speak we (the staff) have a tent in the center of Bucharest, a tent for the purpose of raising signatures. So, in a way, politically we fancy ourselves! But then again our main slogan is “Give up hope”… Since 2008 the turmoil is global, somehow that brought a cluster of crises on multiple layers, our focus was on representation, on the omni-spectacle that has engulfed and absorbed all political behaviour. The concept developed naturally from our clear intention to leave the theatre, to exit the conventional stage and try to access “the big stage”, the stage or the spectacle that counts. To intervene, hijack and disturb the big show, to continue the work of the situationists let’s say and to go beyond, as today’s circumstances require. The Postspectacle practice concept was devised exactly for this purpose, to navigate as parasites in the society of spectacle. The Presidential Candidate is a campaign performance that was deployed in Romania and elsewhere in the world. We went straight to international; national attitude seems obsolete and inoperational especially within peripheral countries as Romania.

Do you fancy any political party in Romania?
I: It’s almost impossible to fancy any parties or political characters in Romania. Traditional ideologies have dissolved and other amalgams are now fighting for the power, hybrid-political blocks disguised as “social-democrats” or “liberal-democrats”. Of course I think this applies to other countries as well throughout Europe as the neo-liberal algorithm is implemented rigorously in European Union. I guess we are going through a sort of corporate illuminism, non-human management of everything. If it works for the stock market and social networks it should work on all levels, from entertainment to politics. This is what is being preached today.

Does the social and economical situation in Romania differ from region to region?
I: The answer is quite intuitive at this level, and it goes for all countries that are still lost in the transition towards a happy capitalist (dream) world that meanwhile has also drastically changed. The big cities are attracting all the youngsters, the manpower. Before 2008 Bucharest or Sofia for that matter, were viewed as trampolines to work in western Europe. Nowadays the global distress has changed a bit the mentalities and the drive to flee but still many Romanians are working in Italy, Spain or France. These are also Romanian regions nowadays, so to speak.

I bet you go to parties a lot. What kind of non-mainstream music shows / parties can one expect in Romania?
I: One can expect all kind of parties, Bucharest has thrived in terms of hip entertainment, yet not so many venues are regularly hosting fresh (edgy) shows and everything is changing very fast or rather disappearing. One can say that people are living in Bucharest on separate islands. Sometime they overlap, but most of the time they function in paralel, with people albeit in proximity never transgressing the cultural borders. One can go to manele clubs that are both mainstream and peripheral. These kind of paradoxes thrive in Romania

Apart from manele what other regional genres are popular in Romania?
I: All the rest, from business rock to wrongly enraged hip-hop, from drum and bass to Goa events, passing through minimal techno that still kicks in Romania with loyal legions following any Funktion One geared event. Indie rock as well, rock in general, a sort of time-capsule type of rock that younger generations still translate into seventies and eighties mega-bands vibes (Pink Floyd, Deep Purple, Dream Theatre, Yes, Genesis and so on). There are in Bucharest a zillion of cover bands, mostly very young musicians already “preserving” themselves. Sometimes I think that in Romania rock music is the most conservative kind of musical output.

Who represents a traditional Romanian music from your point of view?
I: I have strong reservations about asserting what is traditional in Romania. I go by the famous line, “The one that goes back to find one’s origins finds the origins changed”. It’s a constant struggle within the establishment to maintain an image of the archaic, of the unchanged and unchangeable. Wherever you go in history you find this associated with totalitarian regimes or in general it is so deeply mutated with ideological implants that the traditional becomes a murky becoming, constantly shifting according to the contemporary political needs.

What can you tell us about mix you made for our website? Is there some kind of interesting piece for whatever reason that you would like to comment on?
I: For starters, Îngerii Negri is an obscure band from the nineties, apparently from Ploiesti. Their cassette album was dug out by a friend during a flea-market session. He spread it around, apparently nobody heard about this group and nobody knows if they ever released another album apart from this one. The music was quite a revelation for me, I got hopellesly hooked. The information about them is less than scarce, but that’s not surprising in the outernational sphere.Then there is Albatros (with Naste din Berceni as lead singer). One of the most famous proto-manele band of the early nineties. They defined a style, a prolet-restaurant-oriental-8bit style, yielding an excruciating nostalgia. Short lived in the original formula (1990 – 1993), they continue to play even today in restaurants and at small events. One of the highlights is Adrian Minune who is truly the one that emerged in the late nineties as the first manele star, with him the transition was over. He brought manele to mainstream, to TV, he became imensly popular, and apart from other manele players, he always embraced his Roma origins publicly and with pride. I recommend also Sillyconductor. He is a very good producer from Bucharest, involved in many experimental areas related to music, sound and performance. Yet he still keeps a very low-profile in terms of releases. The last track is from Ion din Dorobanți and it is a forthcoming project on Future Nuggets!

Originally appeared on Red For Colorblind, accompanying the mixtape Future Nuggets prepared for the A2larm magazine.