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Samčo, Brat Dážďoviek: Slovak national lo-fi uprising

Published December, 2014
by Jakub Juhás

Samčo, Brat Dážďoviek in the unconventional music waters of Slovakia, as well as the Czech Republic, is a well-known character. With the look of a perpetual nomad, he moves through various musical genres, turning them upside down, armed with playfullness of a child, bending and deconstructing them, until they reach a point where they profess the sign of “Samčo-esque” poetics. A lo-fi aesthetics, which has in the last couple of years become a trend devoid of meaning, in Samčo’s ouvre grows into a life philosophy, a lifestyle, where notions such as taste, kitsch, pathos or embarassment transform their usual meaning. Anything that congests the contemporary world: Jesus suffering for all of us at the cross, Justin Bieber pulling us from the suffering, the Slovak national hero Ľudovít Štúr or the local enfant terrible of sonic poetry Ladislav Meliško. In Samčo’s bizarre universe, everything has its unique place. The album Ani slovenské, ani nové, ani mesto as well as the project Z KØŇA A // kolektívne cenzurovaná Biblia amplify this canon.

„Currently I am based in Brno. I live in an old flat and can see authentic commie blocks through the window. You can observe people stacked right in front of you, one on another, as if you were switching between TV channels, you can look from one flat into another. My roommate Abulia or Žena is playing and recording new songs and I do the same, so each of us is making music, but at once. I unintentionally featured on his album that way, because you can hear my cough in the background. I also procrastinate on the internet and try to find the weirdest stuff available there. Create some new music with no intention. Etc, etc.“

I’ve been listening to Ani slovenské, ani nové, ani mesto nonstop in the last couple of days. What place does this album play in Samčo’s poetics? In comparison to the Slobodný nezávislý album, it is a step away from the bizarre social commentary towards bizarre pop, where poetry comes to the forefront (but if I understand this correctly, all the texts are taken from the cult community website Kyberia?). Why an allusion to the Slovenské Nové Mesto?

Well. Slovenské Nové Mesto means Slovak New Town. But the fun thing is, that in fact, it is neither Slovak nor new nor a town – it is an old village inhabited mostly by Hungarians. At this time, Slovak and Czech band like to name their songs or albums after the cities like Brno, Bratislava or Banská Bystrica, so I also wanted to follow the trend and name the album after some weird small town at the end of Slovakia.

It is sort of small-town pop, or something like that. I always wanted to record a pop album, and now I have finally done it. You know, like the animals hibernate in winter, I hibernate in summer, it is the time when everybody does nothing, everything is lazy and dried up, flowers stop to smell… During the holidays, I don’t even play concerts too much / it is nothing sort of people would want to hear on summer festivals too often. This summer I felt like recording only very simple acoustic pop songs and nothing else, and I wanted to do an entire album of that. I wanted to do the thing, but I didn’t want to give it too much time, or it would bore me. I improvised music on lyrics I found in an anti-poetry writers’ forum on the community server. Most of them were written by “fito” (his internet nick, I don’t know him by person) and it’s a deconstruction of traditional Slovak pop lyrics – it sounds like a pop music, but it is not pop music. The lyrics were very musical, so improvising music over them was absolutely no problem.

How did the recording proceed?

This way, I recorded an entire album in my living-room in a few hours, however, my audio mixer did not work and I had to use a very old tapedeck as an amplifier, which led to a true lo-fi sound with lots of crackles. The next day I had to re-record it again, because my audio mixer accidentally started to work again. Now it took much shorter time, because I already knew the songs from yesterday. However, I used also some recordings from the first session on the album, because they sounded better to me. I mixed it in a few days and then edited the final version of the album during a train travel from Košice to Olomouc. Then I wanted to upload it on the internet, but the wi-fi on the train was slow like a hell, so I uploaded it after the concert in the club where I was playing. I also made some physical copies with special collector cards with pictures from Slovenské Nové Mesto and a lyrics sheet full of pictures of Jesus – exactly the way I like it.

Your current project Z KØŇA A // kolektívne cenzurovaná Biblia is also connected to poetry. Could you speak about it?

One day I got a free New Testament at the “Brno Reads Bible” event at Moravian Square, Brno. I had already owned a few copies of the book, so I didn’t know, what to do with this one, until we sat down with a few friends and talked about New Testament as the upgrade of the Old Testament, and that today’s society is so different, that it definitely needs to be upgraded again. So I passed them my copy and people started to rework the Bible to fit today’s standards. Because there wasn’t much room for footnotes or one’s own text, it could be done mainly by shortening the actual text – therefore we called it “the collectively censored Bible”. Afterwards, I carried it all around Slovakia and the Czech Republic (from Pilsen to Humenné), and anybody could contribute to the Bible (including people from Slovenia, Hungary, Austria or Mexico). I gave it to fans at the concerts, random people in pubs, everybody whom I met.

Most of the people chose some form of censorship/text shortening as their creative method, often giving the text new, often rather strange meaning. Others wrote or drew over the text, so the book is also full of illustrations and large slogans over the pages. It took me 1 year and 1 month to find enough contributors, so no page was left untouched. It was like a very bizarre sociological survey – about 1,000 people participated, but half of them rejected to do so – mostly not for religious, but “I don’t know, what to do with it” kind of reasons. About 50 pages were lost, because people took them home as a souvenir, about 5 pages were used to roll a joint, and the pages which remained, are in quite poor condition. Also, the text was drastically shortened, but the final transcribed version of the book is still about 150 pages long (the original one had about 600 pages). The name “Z KØŇA A” is actually a modified title of the original book “Nový Zákon, žalmy a přísloví”. After the book was finished, I started to transcribe it, and then to record the lyrics with musicians. The album will be finished in half a year, I guess. Soon I will also publish the transcribed text and scanned book. I already post a bits of transcriptions to the Facebook page. If you don’t understand Czech, here is some translated sample:


Full Jesus led him and devil hungered him.
3 Devil said to him: “If you are bread, he shall not live by bread alone
5 Then devil took him up and said: “Thou shalt worship the Lord thy
God, cast thyself down from hence, so thou shall not dash thy foot
against a stone.”
12 Jesus answered: “Goddamn!”

You also have a theoretical background of sorts. You’re still studying Theory of interactive media in Brno? Has all the knowledge had any influence on you?

Well, I studied three semesters of interactive media theory, and did not make it past that. Speaking about the influence, I suppose, it quite fulfilled me as a sci-fi/cyberpunk fan. But then again, maybe I would say the same about studying informatics in Košice five years previously. I’ve learned something, but I’m not quite sure, what (sounds like the perfect description of a student life in Brno). You know, it was like receiving new interesting information, which you do want to receive even if it can be useless. I’ve always felt as a never-ending source of useless information, and maybe I’ve learned some in an institutional way, too. I just feel a bit more comfortable and socially acceptable with that.

You also explore various bizarre and subversive projects. In eastern Slovakia, where you come from, the catchphrase – Šaľene vyhodňare (Crazy Easterners) is often used. Do you think it’s also the case with music? Are there any projects from this area, which you would like to talk about?

I suppose, Eastern Slovak music is mostly everything, but crazy. First of all, if it accidentally is, it is often kept in secret – I know some really original musicians, who are afraid to play live, because here almost nobody listens to such music. It’s happened a few times, such as a noise concert in Košice, that the only people who stayed until the end were me and my brother. When we began to have concerts with the living-room band Vyschlí Sysli, in Prešov, they cancelled us during the gig a few times, and once we even had a police raid at a concert (that was pretty funny though). If you want to hear something interesting from the local scene live, you mostly don’t have much of a chance – the most interesting musicians here either don’t play live too often, or stop playing too soon, or you have to dig into some often very secret half-private events.

An electronic musician from Prešov once said: “In Prešov if you don’t have guitars and choruses, you can go fuck yourself. Plus it’s great to be a salesian”. Currently you don’t have many experimental projects in the East (I, for instance, like Turbosampler,, a crazy audio-video live plunderphonics – though he is not from Eastern Slovakia, but currently resides here), but I also quite enjoy the relatively common local approach to alternative rock/folk/songwriting with heavy use of Eastern-Slovak accent or dialect all cloaked in a happy rural atmosphere of the end of the world. I enjoyed the last album of Košice songwriter and conceptual artist Džumelec – goddamn catchy minimalist songwriting (only bass with vocal, recorded in bathroom), or the live shows of Pankpoper (also known as Moski) – a guy with a guitar mixing Eastern-Slovak folklore with punk/folk. There is also a bizarre noise music scene in Spišská Nová Ves (Suprafon Family, Sedem Minút Strachu,..). Or the creative homemade “bricoleur” multitrack recorder Pas Mech Aliby. Sure there is more of them.

You can read more about the music scene of Eastern Slovaka in Samčo’s extensive article here.

Do you perceive a border between experimental music and pop, where you place your latest record, for instance? The difference between playing at the Bratislava Next Festival, or playing in god-forsaken Svidník?

It is all the same. If you play some weird pop in Svidník, I would say, it is the same bizarre experience on a similar level as smashing old VHS tapes somewhere in Bratislava. Anyway, I liked the medium of recordings as a kid, because you could record anything and make it into music. Before I got my first tape recorder, I created music only in my own head, alternating songs with sounds of the street or other non-musical sounds. I can see sounds (it is called synesthesia), and on this level, my mind just doesn’t differ between music or non-music, I just see everything. I like sounds of all the kind, not only those made by musical instruments. It is not neccessarily “experimental” – in experiment you don’t know, what you get. If I smash old VHS tapes live, I exactly know, what I get – and that’s why I’m doing it.

This article was supported by the Intenda Foundation.