CHINO: COMBINING APPROACHES FROM DIFFERENT ERAS IS THE ONLY THING THAT PUSHES MUSIC FURTHER
Growing up in Katowice and now living in Krakow, Chino is an exceptional example in the contemporary Polish electronic scene. His first acquaintance and overwhelming obsession with analog synthesis quickly led him to create his own material, reflecting the post-industrial landscapes of his childhood, his immersion in the counterculture of the 90's and passion for classic electro.
For almost ten years Chino has tested the sustainability of most of the Polish clubs, driving the dancefloors to madness with his blazing lives and DJ sets. This time was also fruitful for his constantly growing catalog, which has now accumulated an impressive number of releases on various labels.
For the first time, the musician announced himself with the EP “Early Days” in 2013 on the Polish techno-imprint Recognition, which marked the self-sufficient strong voice of subsequent releases. It is noteworthy that already on the debut you can find a remix from the synthesizer psychonaut Legowelt. Since then, the producer has released 5 more EPs and one full length, working with Holger, Shtum, Syntetyk, Altered States Tapes and Uncanny Valley.
Last year Chino launched live project Radiation 30376 with his girlfriend and creative partner Olivia, with whom he also curates Radar, now defunct club, preserved as a series of parties and podcasts. Among other things, the Polish producer is a talented designer responsible for the visual part of his own releases and the Radar, as well as a teacher at the Academy of Fine Arts in his native Katowice.
The reason for the conversation was his latest and probably the most personal release on the German imprint Uncanny Valley, which includes works recorded over the past five years. To delve deeper into the story behind the "Autostrada" EP, we asked Chino about the beginning of his journey and the formation of his project, also asked him to share the music that saves him from the hardships of 2020.
Hi, Artur, how are you doing today?
Hi, I’m quite good. It was a busy week, but it makes me feel good when there are more things happening. Especially that nowadays everything seems to be in slow motion.
I would like to learn more about Krakow in which you live and work. For almost ten years of your work, you have not succumbed to the temptation to move to the same Berlin. How has your relationship with this city changed since you started your career? What makes you stay part of the Polish scene and participate directly in its development? In your opinion, what are the internal changes that have helped to develop the local scene?
I already moved once in my life — from my hometown Katowice, which I still really admire. I have lots of great friends in the city and I work twice a week at Academy of Fine Arts there. I'm this kind of person that gets attached to people and places in a very strong way, so It's not that easy for me to change the environment. I had to move to Kraków, because I met a great girl here, so I hope you can understand that I didn't have any choice? :)
But the truth is that I always really like the idea of moving to Krk, as it was one of the most busy cities in Poland in terms of music and culture and it's very close to Katowice. Also people here are very special. It's a small but very dynamic city, because we have lots of students and tourists here, so the audience is constantly changing. I think it's the main reason that makes the scene so special. There are so many great people that I have had the chance to meet during 10 years of my life in Kraków. Most of them moved to bigger cities, but there are new great people every year.
So I think I didn't move to Berlin or whatever, because I really enjoy living here. I also think it's more important to build the local scenes than just move to Berlin and be one of 10000 DJs in the city. I really respect people that are trying to create their own story in their natural environment, especially when it's not as easy as just being connected to the freaky techno train of Berlin at some point. I don't want to say that I don't respect people that moved to BLN, but for me it's not as exciting as doing something local.
How did it all start? How was the community to which you belong today formed?
As I mentioned before the scene here is very dynamic. Some places are closing and some are opening every year. Olivia, Kinzo and me were doing parties together in different spots even before I moved to Kraków. Then we decided with Olivia and our friend Ola to open Radar which was a club, gallery and restaurant. We were running the place for more or less 1 year and I think it was the moment that we built our audience and met lots of great friends that are supporting us. That time we also became close friends with the Unsound crew which consists of so many great people. And I'm not talking only about the main core of the festival, but also about all volunteers, technical crew, advisors and so on... Also the festival itself is a great moment to meet people from the farthest parts of the world. The people that know what's going on in terms of music.
There were also a couple of legendary clubs here. Rozrywki 3was definitely the place. The manager of R3 is my good buddy Discomule, who was also taking care in the beginning about bookings at another amazing spot Szpitalna 1. Then they exchanged the role with Olivia. Times of Rozrywki and Szpitalna when both bookers were running these clubs, were definitely the golden ones for Kraków's scene. We had a chance to invite so many great artists to the city and realize really weird concepts. Really, really cool time. Then the pandemic started.
How did the path that led you to who you are and where you are now begin? How and why did you get into music and still do it? Or for what?
I was always into creating things. As a kid I was building some constructions, making some wooden sculptures, drawing and painting all the time. At some point I was really into graffiti and the music in movies on this topic just blew my mind. Loads of really bad-ass electro and hip-hop tracks. At the same time I got my first computer and realised that it's possible to make music on the PC. Since then you can't stop me. It's the most important thing — fun, therapy and way of living at the same time.
Which of your records made you realize you are on the right track?
The 1st one "Early Days" on Recognition. It was a big thing for me to get my tracks on the vinyl, also very special for me to release this 1st record on the label of Jacek Sienkiewicz who was always a big influence for me. My sound has changed since then but I still like the record. I actually like and have sentiment to every next record, it reminds me of different periods of my life.
How did your origin and the spirit of Poland influence your development as a producer? I know that you are a big fan of brutalism in Polish architecture. Was it somehow reflected in your music and the approach to its creation?
Poland has changed a lot since we're part of European Union. It used to be a really scum place when I was a kid. There were a lot of fucked up brutalist, communist and weird 90's post-soviet buildings. I also grew up in Katowice which is the greatest post-industrial city of Poland. Landscapes of my early days were harsh, but I really enjoyed it. I think it naturally reflects in my music. I feel comfortable with harsh, distorted or obscure sounds. It's kind of weird, but melodies and harmonies that make me feel good or positive, usually sounds a bit dystopian to other people.
In October you released the EP "Autostrada", the seventh release in your catalog. What is the main message of this recording? What experience did you want to convey with this EP?
It's hard to send the exact message with music that doesn't have any lyrics. For me it's more important to make people think about the artwork, or titles. It would be great if they could read the release insight or the description of the record, but probably not all of them will do it. But anyway, the title "Autostrada" (highway) is about A4 highway that connects Kraków, Katowice and Dresden (where Uncanny Valley is from). I spend a lot of time on that road, there are also a lot of favourite spots, which i love and hate at the same time. It's a huge part of my life I'd say. It's also a kind of tribute to Kraftwerk's "Autobahn", so the cover I designed is based on it's composition.
In the release description, in addition to indicating the things that inspire, you criticize Polish politics. Do you consider your music a statement? Do you give your tracks a certain "voice" and do you want them to be a kind of reaction to global events and problems?
We have in Poland the worst government since communist days at the moment. It's so sad that it happened in such a bad moment which is the pandemic. It's just unbelievable what they are doing nowadays. How they treat women rights, how much of public money they have stolen and other incredibly bad things that I could speak about for hours.
I would love to think that music itself could change something, because I'm sure these politicians and people who vote for them just don't give a fuck about music in general. I think they just don't give a fuck about anything instead of their own business. But I believe that we as the artists can smuggle the message to our audience between playing and making music, with our attitude and when we're talking in situations like this. We can also be a part of public protests. Music, especially electronics, is something that connects people from different backgrounds, so dancing also might be a kind of group demonstration. It's happening here in Poland increasingly. I think the anger included in the music might also be a reflection of the global problems.
On "Autostrada" there is a track called "Dyscyplina" which is sampled from some 80/90 polish punk bootlegs. People that recorded and were listening to that music were also in the kind of similar position that we are now. The only difference is that they were on the other side of the turning point. They were living in the authoritative reality and looking into the future with hope that something might change soon and we're living in the free, democratic reality looking into the future with incredible fear.
In "Autostrada", and in principle in many of your entries, you skillfully combine the past, present and future. How important is it for you to build your tracks around elements of different eras?
It's one the most important purposes of my aesthetics. As we're living in the days that almost everything already happened in terms of musical schemes and sound in general, the only thing that pushes music further is combining approaches from different eras. There is also a bit of hauntology in it. As you said there is always the past which comes from inspirations from previous era genres, that are super important for me. There is also a future element that is also a big thing for me as I was always into some technical news and imaginary scenarios. Finally the present part — I'm always trying to resonate with things that are currently happening on the scene. But what's most important for me is to not stick too much to any of these parts, but being somewhere in between.
Listening to "Autostrada", it seemed to me that the release has become a kind of hallmark of the Chino project, which best conveys the aesthetics of your project. Was that intended?
I think it's because it's my only release that is a combination of tracks from many different periods. Usually my records consist of tracks from more or less 1 year. Oldest track on Autostrada is from 2015, another was slowly growing during these years, and I think "Dyscyplina" is the newest one. I'm really happy that tracks from such a wide range of time still fit together and doesn't sound like some kind of compilation of different artists.
I would like to briefly touch upon the pandemic. Has your attitude towards music creation changed in 2020? How does it feel to write dance music knowing that it will not be played on the dance floors soon?
My attitude didn't change that much during the pandemic to be honest. In terms of genres or the vibe of my music — not really. Maybe because I miss clubs, raves and being with people so much that I don't want to focus on what's happening now. I'm just thinking about the current situation as some extra studio time. Free, extended hours that I can spend on some sound experiments and developing some musical knowledge — I recently got into the eurorack synths trap. I also started training my DJ skills a bit more than I used to before. It was also a good moment to start making videos/animations based on some old video mixers. I just finished a video for "Autostrada":
But all that things are done with purpose of use in the future, so I'm really looking forward to when the pandemic will end.
Has the global concept of music changed for you personally in 2020?
In 2020 the music is kind of frozen for me. In the beginning there was a huge boom of some streaming sessions, but there was just too much of this. I have a feeling that people got really bored of that concept. I also don't feel it to be honest. Something that I find interesting is Biuro TV — my friends from Biuro Dźwięku Katowice did a series of arranged studio sessions with live visuals, scenography and post-production/editing. It looks great, but it was also a lot of work for them.
We were lucky to take a part of the project with a slowed down live we played with Olivia and Milan on the visuals as Radiation 30376 i Mgla7:
During the summer there were some small bars open in Poland and we had a really nice open air in Krakow called Nurt, so it was possible to play some music for a couple of weeks. It was so refreshing.
Not so long ago you and Olivia launched the live project Radiation 30376. How did you come up with the idea to unite in a duo?
We've been a couple and partners in crime for something like 12 years now and we met because of music, so for me it was just a matter of time when we will start making music together. We thought about it for a while and once we shared the idea with Mat Schulz from Unsound. He agreed to book a premiere show for Unsound 2019 Solidarity — the concept really fits the theme of 2019's edition, right? So the spark was really strong, so we prepared the live show in a couple of months. We get a very nice feedback and for the 2nd show get booked to Berghain but it didn't happen because couple days before the gig the EU lockdown started ( <3 2020 ).
Tell a little about the process inside. How do you share your creative input? How comfortable was it for you to work with another person? Has the collaboration with Olivia helped you discover your own ideas?
I'm playing live for many years and from time to time I'm also playing all night long improvised live sessions with different artists: Jamaszka efte, biøs или Aheloy! It taught me how to communicate with other artists through music, so it was quite easy to start doing something together with Olivia. We share common musical tastes and inspirations so I have a feeling that the process is really natural and organic. We use hardware only setup for writing music, so usually we're recording multi-track jams, then edit it and sometimes doing some overdubs. What's really interesting is that Radiation 30376 doesn't actually sound for me like Olivia + Chino but like something totally different. I think both of us know that you have to put your ego in your pocket if you want to make things work and you can't push your vision too much. It has to be a common thing.
What drives you during the global crisis, and how do you manage to maintain a sense of art?
The only thing that drives me is the thought about the end of pandemic, moment when everything will come back to it's natural track.
I'm lucky that Kraków is not that far from Tatra mountains, so going there really helps to keep my mind in the right balance. Also having a dog is something that can help to think in a bit more stable way. When I watch his natural excitement and joy of simple things, the crisis doesn't exist.
And lastly, share the music that helped you in these difficult times of uncertainty.