An interview with Kara Conway (singer, songwriter)

Kara 4

After a long break I’m back with a brand new interview. I talk to Kara Conway – a young, beautiful and incredibly talented singer and songwriter from Scotland. She does not only record awesome covers of greatest hits by famous artists, like Amy Macdonald, Birdy, Bruce Springsteen or Adele, but also writes and sings her own songs. We talk about her inspirations, her favourite music, writing lyrics and unforgettable concerts. Kara will also share with you some ways to keep both your body and soul warm during winter. Check this promising artist because she definitely deserves more attention. I’m sure we’ll soon have a chance to hear about her more often.

The Christmas time is over, but here, in Poland, we traditionally sing Christmas carols till the beginning of February, so let me go back to Christmas for a moment. Do you have your favourite Christmas carols or Christmas songs? Do you sing any?

Ah, in the UK it’s the opposite; Christmas songs start playing right after Halloween and stop soon after Christmas day! My favourite Christmas songs are “Walking in the Air” and “Fairytale of New York”, though I used to sing in choirs so I know my fair share of carols!

We’re talking at the beginning of the New Year. Did you make any resolutions when the clock struck twelve and 2018 began? Could you share any of them with the readers?

I didn’t – I don’t really do the whole “New Year, New Me” thing!

And what about 2017? Were there any moments in music, any outstanding songs, albums or performances that will stay in your memory for long? Did you discover any interesting artists last year?

The album I listened to most was Lorde’s Melodrama! I also got to see a couple of my favourite artists live! Interesting artists … Kathryn Joseph and Jade Bird.

Kara 1

It’s my little tradition to ask artists about their beginnings. It may be a little difficult question, but maybe you’ll manage to find the answer in your memory: who was the first artist that impressed you when you were a little girl? What was your first favourite song back then?

I loved The Sound of Music so anything Julie Andrews!

And what about now? What are you mostly listening to? Which artists are the most often guests on your playlists?

Most often on my playlist would have to be: Graham Nash, Neil Young, Joni Mitchell, Amy MacDonald and Gabrielle Aplin.

Do you remember the very beginning of your musical journey? When was the first time you thought you would like to sing and make music?

I’ve played piano since I was little, but it wasn’t until I went to high school that I really got into music. While I was there I had two great music teachers that were really encouraging about the singing.

You sing, but you also play the guitar. Do you remember the first piece of music you learnt to play on your guitar? When was that?

It was Oasis’ “Wonderwall” and that was two and a half years ago!

Kara 6

And what was your first ‘bigger‘ performance like? A concert at school? A performance for your family or friends? Or maybe something completely different?

It was probably doing a solo performance at the school’s Christmas concert!

I remember that Birdy, one of the artists you cover, once sang some of her songs at Amsterdam Central Station, surprising the passengers waiting there for their trains. I was lucky enough to catch the final part of it and watch it live on Facebook. Have you ever sung in any unusual places or situations? Or maybe you have taken part in some unusual concert as a listener?

The most unusual concert I’ve been to was a Tommy Emmanuel one because we were watching him play guitar for a couple of hours – which you would think might get a bit much after a while – but he was just doing the most incredible things! It was amazing!

You’ve already covered several great songs, including “Wings” by Birdy, Amy Macdonald’s “This is the Life”or Bruce Springsteen’s classic “I’m on Fire”. When I listened to all of them one by one, I realized how diverse your choice was and how wide a palette of vocal possibilities you have. Which of the song you’ve covered so far has given you most pleasure, most satisfaction?

At the time they’ve all given me a sense of accomplishment. Some of the songs I had really liked and wanted to learn for myself, others I hadn’t been sure of but had been asked to do and ended up really liking them!

And what is on the top of your “must-sing” list as far as the future covers go?

Definitely some Amy Winehouse!

We’ve talked about your cover versions of famous hits. Let’s move on to your original songs. You’re not only a singer, but also a songwriter. What or who inspires you to write lyrics?

I’m inspired by things that have happened to me as well as people watching!

Kara 2

Could you share some of your writing process secrets with the readers and tell us in a few words the stories of the lyrics to “Dreamers in Disguise” and “Bitter”?

One was written on piano and the other on guitar! “Dreamers in Disguise” is about a couple of different things and “Bitter” is about someone I was frustrated with!

In both of your original songs available on YouTube there’s quite a lot of sadness and contemplative atmosphere, I would say (although, of course, I find also other emotional shades there). Is it the kind of mood you would like to stick to in your music, or are you planning to try also something completely different?

I think that was the right mood for those songs, but I don’t restrict myself to that.

By the way, can we count on your next original song any time soon?

Yes, there’s one going up very very soon!

Amy Macdonald, one of the artists you’re covering (and one of my favourite artists, too), won the hearts of the listeners all over the world when she was about 20. When you think of young Scottish singers, who would you say can be the next such a star? Of course I wish you to be one in the near future J But what about other young Scottish talents worth noticing?

Check out Sara ‘N’ Junbug!

Some of your fans wrote in the comments on FB that you should go to “X-Factor”. Have you thought about starting in this, or any similar, talent show? What do you think about such TV shows in general? Can they give young artists a chance to get some more recognition?

I’ve auditioned for “The Voice” before and didn’t get through, but it’s not something I had set all my hopes on – I think you have to be realistic about those sorts of shows. But yeah, there are a small number of people who have gone on to achieve great success from them.

If you were to imagine your inner musical world as a magical land, what would it look like? What would a traveller to such a land see while visiting it?

Lots of glitter!

And, in one sentence, what is music for you? 

Fun.

Apart from music, what do you love or like doing? What are your hobbies, passions? What do you do when you have some free time?

I love running and spin classes!

Kara 8

Coming to an end of our interview, I’d like to ask you about something different. We’re talking during winter and in some parts of the world this particular winter is really harsh. What’s your way to stay warm and healthy during winter’s freezing cold?

Warm cadies and hot water bottles!

That’s something for the body. What about the spirit? Which song (or songs) would you recommend to keep our hearts warm during wintry days?

I only discovered this recently, but Hannah Grace’s cover of “Praise You”!

Kara 7

Thank you very much for this “remote talk”. I hope more people will get to know about you and your music and I’ll be definitely looking forward for your new original songs and covers 🙂

Check Kara Conway’s YouTube channel and like her Facebook page:

Kara 4

Kara on YouTube

Kara on FB

I used screenshots from Kara Conway’s YouTube clips and photos from Kara’s private archives – for which, and a chance to make this interview I’m really grateful – thank you so much, Kara 🙂

by Łukasz Garbol, January 2018

An interview with Candice Heiden

When the music video to “Sweet Lovin’” by Sigala immediately became one of the most popular clips on YouTube, a lot of people were wondering who the incredible girl roller skating in it was. Since I first watched it, I had been one of them, too, so I wanted to know more about this amazing person. Making this interview was really making one of my dreams come true. She’s a world class champion with a lot of experience (also as a coach), an accomplished roller skater who has been featured in hugely popular music videos, and she’s always managed to have fun and find pleasure in what she’s been doing. We talk about the beginnings of her career, her greatest successes, the unique atmosphere at the rinks, roller skaters’ camaraderie and her craziest ideas. Candice Heiden will also take you behind the scenes of the music videos we can watch her skating in and share a few words of advice for those who have just started roller skating.

image8

Remote Talk: Did you watch the Olympic Games in Rio? What were your favourite moments?

Candice Heiden: I definitely didn’t watch as much as I would’ve liked, but of course the US women’s gymnastics has always been a favorite of mine, and so inspiring. I think I may have watched them while doing the splits at some point lol. I also loved seeing Claressa Maria Shields win the gold a second time in women’s boxing.

Skateboarding is now officially an olympic sport. It will debut in Tokyo in 2020. Do you think that roller skating will ever be an olympic sport too? Would it be a good idea? I’m asking about it, because some skateboarders are afraid the organizers may not get the right people to prepare skateboarding events during the Olympics.

I’m not quite sure if roller skating will be an olympic sport. It’s been a hope I’ve carried since I began skating over 20 years ago. If organizers used viewership numbers from ice figure skating, I think it would make a lot of sense to have its counter-part (roller) be shown in the Summer Games. There is also a great movement happening now with roller skaters in skate parks (I mean girls are throwing back flips in quad skates, it’s incredibly athletic and impressive to watch), which could compliment the skateboarding sport and perhaps have a cross-over of viewers and fans. As far as organizers go, I would hope that there is a team to properly market and brand roller skating to present it effectively to the general population. As far as I know, there is very little being done to market roller skating in an effective way by a group of organizers. The best at this seem to be skaters themselves.

As a member of the national team, you represented USA in World Championships many times. You also took part in World Games 2001 in Akita, winning Silver Medal in artistic roller skating. How did it feel like?

Its funny you ask about that one. The Silver Medal from the World Games has been the only medal, trophy or reward that I have ever shown to my students as inspiration. It’s quite impressive and represents so much to me. That competition in particular was very memorable because of the skaters that were on the US team, the closeness of the rest of the international competitors, our performance, the condition of the floor, and skating while injured… an experience I’ll never forget.

A lot of people have discovered you thanks to music videos. Music videos featuring you include Avid Dancer’s “I Want To See You Dance”, Chet Faker’s “Gold”, “Sweet Lovin’” by Sigala and “Make Me Like You” by Gwen Stefani. I’d like you to lead us behind the scenes and share some secrets of making these videos. Let’s start with Chet Faker’s “Gold” you made with April Corley and Appelusa McGlynn. Where was it recorded? Did filming at night matter? Did it make the ride more difficult?

We shot the “Gold” video on a highway north of LA over night. Filming at night was ok for us once we made sure our path was clean and free of debris. There was a large light attached to the bottom of the truck we were chasing that lit up everything we needed to see.

Is it true that the road wasn’t actually empty, but there were cars driving past your group?

We had the road locked down by local police, but yes, cars were allowed to pass through between our takes.

gold-screencap

There are many theories on what the story in the clip is about and who your characters are. What do you think?

We were given direction on our roles and characters by the incredible director Hiro Murai and translated by the incomparable choreographer Ryan Heffington. From what I understood we were sirens coming in and out of the light, but with a constant type of forward progression.

”I Want To See You Dance” looks like a scene from a movie. Did you feel a little bit like a star of the 80s roller skating film?

This was the first time I had done a music video that featured me solo and honestly it was a little intimidating at first, but I quickly warmed up to the freedom that the director gave me as choreographer, which inspired me to try things that I would do if I were just skating alone by myself. It was really fun. I love how that one turned out because the crew was literally 5 extraordinarily creative people that worked together beautifully to create solutions and ideas on the spot that read so beautifully on screen.

Where did they film it?

This one was filmed at the famous Moonlight Rollerway in Glendale, CA. Minutes from Hollywood. Half the skating work I do is shot there, it’s a beautiful facility and the owner, Dominic, is a sweetheart.

By the way, do you have your favourite movies about roller skaters?

Hmm… My favorite movie that features roller skating might be Roller Boogie just because my competitive coach taught Jimmy Bray (the main skater) and I love that he does a full competitive routine almost as if it were a physical monologue… and it’s technically a really difficult routine, which I’ve always been super impressed with. No one told him he needed to do a loop combo, but he does, just because he’s a badass!

”Sweet Lovin’” is the biggest hit among the ones mentioned, at least so far. Where did you make the clip? Who accompanied you on roller skates?

“Sweet Lovin’” was filmed all over LA, various locations including the downtown arts district, the LA river, and a Beverly Hills neighborhood. Some of my best friends and star roller skaters skated with me on that one: Nicole Leonard (4-time World Champion), Ali Stravino (National Champion), Michelle Steilen, Chelsea Traille and an incredible jam skater Tony Zane.

Were there any onlookers moving around when you were filming, any strange reactions?

For the most part, we were shooting with locked down locations, but when there were onlookers they were loving the smoke on my skates.

Can you say a few words about the techniques and figures we can admire you doing in the video to “Sweet Lovin’” (and, more or less, the time in the clip we can see them)?

While I don’t do much that I would consider technical in this video, as they wanted me to just have fun freestyling around LA, I do a shoot the duck at 0:27-0:28, a full 360 jump around 1:53, a spiral happens around 2:47, me and Nicole hit the splits as Chelsea and Michelle roll over the top of us, a 2 person move that I used and created with Danielle Hawkins in the DJ Fresh “Louder” music video. We actually had some pretty awesome choreography created by Chris Downey and Matt Cady (amazing choreographers and so fun to work with) that we didn’t have time to shoot more than once that day and unfortunately was left out of the final edit.

Did you expect such huge popularity of that clip when you were making it? At the moment it has more than 172,1 million views.

I honestly am the worst about gaging which videos will do well and which ones will stay smaller, had no idea when shooting that this or “Gold” would become so popular. I feel extremely grateful and honored to have so many people see me skate.

“Sweet Lovin’” is definitely a summer hit that’s going to stay popular for a long time. What about your favourite summer hits? Do you have songs that remind you of great summer / holiday moments?

I love the Gwen Stefani “Make Me Like You”, it’s a perfect skating song and I heard it for 2 weeks straight while rehearsing for the video and still love it. That means something. I also love listening to “Love Never Felt So Good”, the lost Michael Jackson hit that they released with Justin Timberlake. I’m also really into “This Girl” by Kungs, definitely a summer fave.

The music video for “Make Me Like You” that you’ve just mentioned was special in two ways: firstly, because obviously Gwen Stefani herself is an exceptional artist, secondly – because you made live music video for the song! How was it? Did you have a chance to talk a little bit to Gwen Stefani?

I’m still blown away by what was pulled off for that video to happen. I’ve definitely never been a part of anything with so much risk and moving parts. It literally had to be executed with military precision lol. The planning and coordination involved was beyond comprehension, what we did in our skating scene was literally nothing compared to what the dancers, crew and Gwen had to do perfectly at the right time. Our biggest challenge was moving around one another smoothly at speed, while dancing in a confined space, while letting Gwen take the lead and hold down the front comfortably. She’s such a rock star! And yes, we did get to spend time with her and even met her boys, they are all super sweet.

Did anything funny or unexpected happen during making any of those music videos?

In Sigala’s clip, the smoke canisters were falling off all day and you can see it in a part of the video where I look down at my skate because it shook loose and I quickly put my foot in front of the other to hide it falling off and to save the shot.

Reading the articles about filming the music videos you took part in, I’ve got the impression that there’s no rat race among roller skaters, but rather mutual trust, respect, camaraderie. Is that true?

I’m extremely proud to be a part of the roller skating community because that’s exactly what it is… a community. As I’ve done larger projects, I have seen how different we are from other performance communities and although others are friendly, we definitely are a different breed, a bit goofy, and very supportive of one another. Even when a dancer has to throw on skates for a scene, you’ll see the professional skaters stepping right up to help and support that dancer. I love the camaraderie that we share, it’s inspiring and has led me to co-create an entertainment company that supports and creates work for roller skaters.

image6

As you’ve just mentioned, together with other accomplished world-class roller skaters, you founded LA Roller Girls (the photo above). When did an idea to set up such a group appear?

Me and the girls have been working professionally in LA for years and were being contacted frequently about finding other skaters for castings. We finally realized we were already doing the job we wanted to do so we got organized and created something we are really proud of – a unified front really, where people can go to find the best skaters.

Your group combine training young girls with working in entertainment. Can you say more about it?

Yes, this is one of the most important parts of what we do, and I hold it so close to my heart because I love teaching and helping others accomplish their goal. When I started working professionally as a skater, there was no one to help you learn how to take your training as an elite athlete and somehow present it in the right way for entertainment purposes. One of the most exciting parts of LA Roller Girls Entertainment is that I get to work with girls that I have coached as competitive athletes, and watched grow up. I love being able to advocate for them as they get started in professional skating and put their years of training and incredible skills to use.

Have LA Roller Girls been busy this summer?

We’ve been unexpectedly busy this summer, to the point that work became so frequent we had to cancel a trip to Europe to teach at the BCN Roller dance festival. We had been looking forward to it all year and were so disappointed to have to back out.

image4

On YouTube, in the comments to the videos we’ve mentioned, some people, especially ladies, admit that they started roller skating after watching you and your friends. Have you had any messages or comments from such people?

When I receive messages or comments about people returning to skating after seeing me or taking up roller skating because of something they’ve seen me do, I get a little emotional. I’m such a nerd. I feel like I’ve won somehow, I’ve accomplished something important if I’ve inspired someone. I literally read the message to my boyfriend and get all sappy. It’s funny.

We’ve talked about LA Roller Girls and extremely popular music videos you performed in, but it’s just a part of your career. Do you remember how it all began? When did you put on the roller skates for the first time? Why did you decide to try roller skating?

The earliest picture I have of me roller skating, I must’ve been about 5 years old walking around my backyard in them with my most special backpack on. They were plastic skates that probably didn’t even roll lol. My mom and her sisters dabbled in roller figure skating as young girls and my parents knew I needed something to do with my energy. Luckily for me, my aunt was still in contact with their old coach who happened to be coaching the reigning world champion, so I trained with the absolute best from the get-go… The stars were seriously aligned for me.

candice-2

Some people say that roller skating gives a special sensation, that you can feel like you were flying. Is it so? What’s so unique about it?

For me it’s complete freedom, floating, flying, it’s very ethereal. I used to close my eyes sometimes during competition in big overhead lifts, just to feel more like I was flying. Having the music playing as you float really creates a feeling almost as if being out of body. It’s great!

People who used to spend a lot of time at roller skating rinks in the past, for example in the 80s, say that friendships were born there, that they fell in love at the rink or came there looking for consolation after breaking up. Have you ever experienced something like that, for example making friends you still stay in touch with?

Most of my best friends are roller skaters, first kiss was a rink rat like me, my first job was in the snack bar of the rink, and definitely when I’m feeling empty I go skate alone (usually at the tennis courts near my house). Even though I’m in skates about 6 days a week for work, my friends and I will still go skating as a hangout activity. It’s hilarious.

Talking about hanging out with friends, I have to ask about jam skating. It’s something that looks absolutely amazing. For those who don’t know the name, could you explain what it is? Why do you think it’s so special?

Jam skating I would describe as break dancing meets roller skates. There are several different styles, some are big power moves that require all kinds of upper body strength (see my buddy Tony Zane in Sigala’s video) and other types of jam skating progressively move around the skating floor with amazing shuffling footwork integrated with tricks. I think this is very special because it is very stylized and you will almost never see two jam skaters that look the same, everyone has their own identity, the best ones look like amazing dancers with skates on their feet, you almost forget they’re rolling.

You’re working with young girls. If you compare the situation of roller skating (its popularity, the access to the rinks, the atmosphere at the rinks) at the time you started your career to the present, when they start training, do you see any big differences?

I’ve been coaching skating for about 14 years now and there has been a significant change in numbers of skaters, and quality of skating, even in my years as a coach. I try not to compare today with yesterday because the world is a completely different place now, children are different, families are different, the things that motivate people, children and adults are very different, the emphasis on family physical activities has changed so of course skating has changed. I’m trying to find ways to show the benefits of skating for your health, mind and development as an individual. The roller skating I grew up in, is an individual sport where almost all of my life lessons were learned. I was very fortunate to have it as a positive outlet for me and I would love for others to get out of it what I did. I feel that even with the differences in society now from then, roller skating still has a place to positively affect people’s lives.

03bedb54dc3fd1c10a8ff5933dbc1397

You do incredible things on roller skates. Did you train dance in the past? Or were dance moves just a part of your roller skating training?

I would love to say I have a background in dance, because I desperately wanted to be a dancer growing up. I danced all the time, but always chose to skate rather than pursue any of my other passions and in my house there was hardly enough money to skate, let alone do anything else.

You don’t only roller skate, you also ride on rollerblades. You once mentioned that you took up rollerblading as an addition to your training at some point. From your experience, what are the main differences between roller skating and rollerblading?

Yes I turned to blades as a kid as a way to practice outside, my parents wouldn’t let me use my good equipment outdoors, but I wanted to skate all the time so on days where there was no practice I would put on blades and skate in the driveway. The biggest difference was how they fit, they don’t hug your feet and react at all like a roller skate. Spinning is quite tricky too but you learn to make adjustments. I like how much lighter they are, it makes jumps feel quite different though.

If you were to choose three most important moments of your career so far, what would you pick?

Hmm… I would have to say as a competitive athlete, earning the Silver medal at the World Games was definitely one of the best moments. Another stand out career moment for me would be earning my first John Wintz award for coaching a National Champion, and professionally it would have to be realizing how many people have seen roller skating by way of the Chet Faker video and now the Sigala video as well. It blows my mind that people can now see what roller skating is.

candice-1

Apart from being an accomplished roller skater, you have other talents, too. While watching your roller skating videos, I came across your “Boxing combos” clips – and they were pretty awesome! Haven’t you thought of combining roller skating and fighting – for a movie or a TV series episode?

I have trained in boxing and kickboxing and love learning about the technical aspect of those sports. I haven’t thought of gloves and skates at the same time.

And, in general, if you could guest star in a movie or a TV series, which series or what kind of movie would you like to play in? Maybe some director or producer will read this interview, who knows? 😉

I would love to do anything physical, I love learning and training in a new medium. Wrestling cracks me up and I think my size would be hilarious in a role like that.

Apparently, one of your favourite movies is Amélie. The title character of the movie “sends” a garden gnome on a journey and asks a friend, a flight attendant, to send the pictures of it, taken in different parts of the world, to Amelie’s father. Have you ever done anything as crazy as that? Or maybe even crazier?

I do love Amélie! One of my favorite little pranks has definitely been taking embarrassing photos of friends that would otherwise be throwaways and having them turned into wrapping paper, then giving them gifts in their paper, it’s great!

And what movies do you like watching in your free time? What books do you like reading? What bands and singers do you listen to?

While I don’t get to the movies often, I try to make it a point to see the ones that get nominated, I love good acting and aesthetically pleasing directing. Tarantino films are always a favorite of mine, and Lawrence of Arabia is in my top 3 of all time, its aesthetically gorgeous. My go-to reading is definitely spiritual guidance books because I can read them in pieces and it will completely take away my need to worry for the entire day or maybe longer, it’s like a reset for my perspective on things, it’s magic. As far as music goes, I’m a classic rock and soul girl so 60s and 70s are my easy listening genres, but I love finding new music with a classic feel: Alabama Shakes, Aloe Blacc, Jack White, The Black Keys to name a few.

What about other pastimes? Do you have enough time for any?

I design and create costumes, it costs me so much time but I love how I feel when I’ve created something from an idea in my head, put it on paper, cut some material and created a garment, it really is creating something physical from something that was not there before. There’s something magical about it. I also started to learn to play piano, I would love to spend more time on it, because I do love it and it forces me to sit still, it requires discipline, which I love. I practice yoga and I’m trained in stilt dancing. I do yoga about 3-4 times a week (thank goodness I have time for that).

image5

What advice would you give to the beginners, those who are just starting their adventure with roller skating?

Don’t give up or be discouraged, if something becomes frustrating or stagnant, move on to another skill and then come back, a fresh perspective makes all the difference.

Where can we see you live (solo or with LA Roller Girls) in the nearest future? Are you going to work on any new music videos (or movies)?

I just finished shooting a video for Norah Jones and shot another video for Hardwell featuring Jay Sean. They should be out shortly (RT: Both videos are already out now: Norah Jones “Tragedy (Lyric Video)” and Hardwell feat. Jay Sean “Thinking About You”). I’m also working on putting out a lifestyle video partnering with High Fidelity Pictures and HQ Avalon Studios where we will get to create the roller skating music video of our dreams! Im also excited to share that the LA Roller Girls will be skating in the “America’s Got Talent Christmas Special” over the holiday season.

We talked about summer hits, summer events and summer sports. At the end, let me ask you one more ‘summer’ question. Three things you like about summer?

I love when the weather is so hot that you have to be in water, I love the water! I also love that people seem to be more social in summer and want to do more things as a group, it’s hard to find time to connect with people these days. I like that I can get away with wearing shorts and sandals every day and not doing my hair is more acceptable because it looks like I might be going to or coming from the beach at any given time lol.

Thank you very much. I’m so happy you’ve managed to find some time for this interview 🙂

by Łukasz Garbol, September – October 2016

As usual, some links worth checking:

image10 Candice Heiden on Instagram

Candice Heiden on YouTube

LA Roller Girls – official page

LA Roller Girls’ Instagram

LA Roller Girls’ Facebook

Most of the photos from Candice’s archives / Instagram, photos 1 and 11 by Elaine Reid, photo 2 is a still from the “Gold” music video, photo 3 by Michael Wise, photo 7 is a still from DJ Fresh’s “Louder” music video .

An interview with Aleksandra Rudzińska

The person I’d like to present in my newest interview showed, more than once, that she can rule on a climbing wall. Ola Rudzińska is a three times World Youth Champion (female B, A, junior), the 2014 Bronze Medalist of World Championship and the European Vice-Champion from 2012. If you don’t know what sport climbing is about or how fast one can get to the top of a climbing wall, you must read this interview. If you already know all this, it’s even better, all the more reason for you to read it 😉 You’ll get to know how it all began for Ola, what her favourite place to compete is and which superheroine she would become if she had such a chance.

12534345_189825748044638_1342678164_n

RT: When I read your posts on the FB page that you run, I have the impression that you don’t need any managers or journalists, because you can perfectly handle covering the competitions you take part in. Have you ever thought about becoming a sports journalist in the future?

Aleksandra Rudzińska: No, I haven’t really thought about it. I don’t feel I’m good enough at it. I still have a lot to learn. I keep learning how to write FB posts, prepare sports coverage and in general run my FB page. All this is a completely new experience, because my FB page has appeared quite recently, in the second half of July, but it’s really nice to hear that I’m good at handling it

My little tradition is starting the interview with the question about the beginning. Do you remember how it all began? I’ve read somewhere that you started from swimming. When did you become interested in climbing? When did you think, “I really want to take it up, to start treating it seriously?”

My climbing adventure began in September 2007, so that was about nine years ago. It’s a great amount of time. I got my feet wet on the climbing wall in the school I was attending at the time. The very idea of climbing was born thanks to my older sister Gosia, who was really good at it. I remember that she would always come home with cups and medals. Once, when she returned from some competition, an idea came to my mind. I thought that I’d like to do the same thing. And that’s how it all began.

And do you remember your first contact with the mountains? For example, some moment from your childhood?

Sure, I do. That was during one of my last training camps for swimmers. Frankly speaking, back then, the mountains didn’t really appeal to me, but the truth is that mountain hiking and climbing artificial climbing walls, or even rock climbing, are two different things. I’m now thinking about coming back to the mountains to get to know them afresh and, who knows, maybe fall in love with them :).

If you take a look at the basic information about sport climbing, you can learn that there are three climbing disciplines called speed climbing, lead climbing and bouldering. Could you decribe, in short, each of them? What do the competitors do? What decides about the final score?

As you’ve mentioned, sport climbing is divided into three kinds:
* lead – competitors climb up the climbing route „leading” the rope up the wall with lead belaying and clipping the belay rope into preplaced equipment attached to bolts on the wall. The length of the routes is about 20-30 metres and their difficulty increases with the rise of the height and the weight of the particular round (preliminary, semi-finals, final). The winner is the climber who reaches the highest point on the wall.
* bouldering – competitors don’t use the rope, crash pads (thick mats) are used for protection. The participants of the competition have to overcome a few separate climbing problems. The amount of the points gained and the number of attempts taken decide about the final rank. Bouldering problems have usually high, often even the highest, level of technical and physical difficulty, unseen in other kinds of indoor climbing competition.
* speed climbing – two competitors climb up dozen metres tall, similar or identical, routes at the same time. The amount of time taken to cover the route decides about the victory or defeat. The best competitors can get to the top of a ten meter wall in 5 seconds time. Speed climbing is a very dynamic kind of climbing, most eagerly watched by fans. It sparks vigorous cheering among the audience and gives great experiences.

Can you say a few words about the equipment and clothes needed in sport climbing?

Whatever kind of indoor climbing we talk about, we always need sportswear, special climbing shoes, a chalk bag and some powdered magnesia carbonate (”chalk” used by climbers). Another piece of equipment you need in lead and speed climbing is a harness. You can usually rent the rest of the things needed at a climbing gym. Of course, the list gets longer with time and a changing level of skills, but I think everyone will figure it out by oneself.

There are some sports disciplines in which properly selected equipment or right shoes can turn the tides, for example help a contestant improve the result by fractions of a second. Can such details matter in your sport? Or does the victory or defeat always come down to your skills?

I think that, after all, sport climbing isn’t on the same level as running or swimming, so the kind of equipment we use doesn’t determine victory or defeat. What matters is always the skills.

fot A Kamiński

Do you have your role models as far as competitors in your sport go? Is there anyone who inspires you?

Actually, every climber is extraordinary and can be inspiring in his or her own way. For me, it’s hard to name one particular authority figure, because you can learn something new and interesting from everyone.

Due to your great achievements in speed climbing, you’re associated mainly with this kind of climbing. Does it give you most fun and satisfaction? What’s so special about it?

What I love most in speed climbing is the adrenaline accompanying every competition. This is what keeps me going. Running up the wall gives me a lot of satisfaction – primarily because I can see my progression and realize that training is effective, I notice its results and make sure that I’m on the right track.

You have a lot of achievements to your credit. In the introduction to this interview I tried to mention at least a few of them. Which achiement was, so far, the most important for you? Which one was the most unexpected?

It’s difficult to pick one particular achievement, because each and every one of them teaches me something new and gives me amazing memories and experiences. As for the most surprising victory, that was in 2012, when for the first time in my life I won a IFSC Climbing World Cup competition. I remember that I didn’t expect that success at all.

You’ve been to China many times, including 2013 when you won an IFSC Climbing World Cup competition in Chongqing. Did you have time for sigthseeing during those stays? Did you have a chance to get to know a little bit of Chinsese culture, the mentality of those people? Which place in China do you have the best memories of?

Yes, of course. We often arrive in a our destination a day or even two before the competition, so we have some time to walk around the city or town, go sightseeing, get to know something about the local culture. Personally, I don’t go a bundle on China and their culture, but I guess it’s a matter of taste. I fondly remember my stay in Shanghai, maybe because it largely resembles a European, rather than Asian, city. At least, this is my opinion.

How popular is indoor climbing in Asia? Is the popularity of this sport there similar as in Poland or can you see the difference as far as the interest of fans goes?

During competitions in Asia, there’s always a full house. People in the audience react very vigorously. I think there’s no point in comparing the popularity of indoor climbing in Poland with the popularity of this sport in any other place in the world, because, unfortunately, not many people in Poland have ever heard of sport climbing. Still, I hope that, with time, it will start to change.

In speed climbing, all the climbing walls at competitions are the same, regardless of the place, right? If so, do you have any places you like best, for example because of the atmosphere during the competitions?

Yes, you’re right. At every competition, the wall, as well as the setting of the holds, is the same. I have my favourite place, though. It’s Chamonix, a little French town situated at the foot of Mont Blanc. It’s a beautiful place. I love it for its magnificent view and the atmosphere at the competitions. I love the local audience :).

Is climbing a sport for everyone? Do you think there’s any age bracket you have to fall within in order to do this sport, not necessarily professionally? Can, let’s say, a 50 year old person in good form give climbing a go and try his or her luck on the wall?

Climbing is a sport for everyone, for children, adults, elderly people. It’s an extraordinary sport and one of the reasons why it’s so special is the fact that everyone can try it, regardless of age and level of training. A lot of people climb just for fun.

What does climbing give you? What have training sessions and competitions taught you?

First of all, climbing has taught me self-discipline, perseverance in pursuing my goals and overcoming my weakness. I can now learn from my failures in order to use them later in my quest for becoming the best. Climbing isn’t only a sport for me, it’s also a kind of relaxation and a way to get away from it all, to take some rest.

10253991_1580797892185691_5558525909455860312_n

In our interview you’ve spoken about the adrenaline that this sport provides. What about your everyday life? When you don’t train or take part in competitions, are you a ball of fire or rather cool, calm and collected?

I’m definitely a ball of fire. I’m always here, there and everywhere. I have itchy feet.

I’m curious if, for example during holidays, you prefer to go to the mountains or rather lie on the beach ad take some rest from thinking about climbing?

Despite everything, I prefer to spend holidays far from climbing, climbing walls and training rigour. However, this doesn’t mean that I go somewhere just to lie on the beach. I like spending time actively, getting to know new places and other cultures, so for my holiday trips I always choose some new, fresh destinations. As for the mountains, this year an idea emerged to go to the mountains, but not in order to climb, but rather to hike ad breathe some fresh mountain air.

What films do you like to watch, what do you like to read, if you have some time for that?

As far as films go, I don’t have one favourite genre. As for the books, I definitely like psychological books best.

And what do you like listening to?

Just as I don’t have my favourite film, I don’t have one favourite band, singer or kind of music. I really like music by Hans Zimmer and Adele’s songs, but, honestly, it all depends on my mood.

The Carnival’s still on. Do you find time to go to parties?

I do sometimes go out with my friends, have some fun. It’s not that if you’re a sportsperson, you immure yourself and just keep waiting for another training session. I lead a normal life, I have my friends. We like to meet from time to time, talk, go out, go somewhere.

And what’s your favourite music when you’re on the tiles?

For me, it’s really hard to answer this question. I think it all depends on the people you party with, not the music.

If we talk about music, let me ask you – do you listen to music during your training sessions or do you prefer when it’s relatively quiet around?

I definitely prefer training with my headphones on. Music keeps me going and helps me to concentrate.

12032934_1598414833757330_4444189674795071672_n

It’s still the beginning of the year. Could you say a few words about the most important competitions that lie ahead in 2016?

The most important event in this season is the World Championship in Paris that will take place in September. As for other competitions I’m preparing for, there will be of course the whole IFSC Climbing World Cup cycle starting in April, the Polish Championship and the Polish Cup competitions.

The Olympic year has recently begun. Climbing is present at the World Games that next year will be organised in Poland, in Wrocław. What about the presence of this sport at the Olympic Games? Reportedly, there’s a chance that it can become a part of their programme in a few years’ time. Is it true?

Yes, there is such a chance, but unfortunately everything’s in the hands of the IOC commission.

“And now for something completely different.” The end of term exams at the university are coming. Do you have a secret formula that could help students survive this time without too many problems?

I guess I don’t. Unfortunately, every year, it’s the most problematic time for me, because it’s really hard to reconcile studying and training sessions. However, I’ve always somehow managed to handle it so far.

They call you „Spider-Woman” and we can say that you already have one superpower. When I watch the videos showing you speeding up the wall, I have the impression that you could easily take part in one of the TV series about superheroes. If you could really become a superheroine and possess superpowers, who would you like to become? What superpowers would you like to get?

A hard question. I’ve never thought about it, but I’d definitely like to be able to fly. And which superhero would I like to be? Maybe someone like Batwoman?

Thank you very much. I wish you you a lot of new achievements :).

January – February 2016

As usual, check a few useful links:

Facebook https://www.facebook.com/rudzinskaola
YouTube https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCoC3vCR8oA8a3GrcLoD1HhQ
Instagram https://www.instagram.com/ola_rudzinska/

Photos: 1. Mateusz Mirosław, 2. A. Kamiński, 3. Walusza Fotografia,
4. thecircuitclimbing.com.

An interview with Jamin and Kiowa Winans – the creators of “Ink”

This time I would like to present an interview from my archives. It’s a written version of an interview I made via Skype in January 2011 with the creators of the movie Ink – Jamin and Kiowa Winans. When I watched Ink I immediately thought that I would like to talk to the artists behind it some day. Although the movie was made outside big Hollywood studios, it soon became very popular, gaining millions of viewers all over the world and very good opinions from the critics. Recently, they released another great, thought provoking movie, The Frame. You should check this one, too. What film directors inspire them? Can a small budget be helpful? Is it easier to make a soundtrack when you are both a director and a composer? How was a memorable scene with Jacob triggering the series of events made? What do they know about the Polish cinema? What charity project did they support i n Bulgaria? All these and even more you can find in this interview with Jamin and Kiowa Winans (respectively – first from the upper right and first from the lower right in the picture). Please check this blast from the past 😉

Jamin Kiowa and Ink Cast at Egyptian Theatre Hollywood SmallAs far as I know, Ink has many fans in Poland, but there are probably some people who don’t have any clue about it. Could you say a few words about the plot of the movie?

Jamin Winans: It’s a good question. It is about a lot of things. It basically centers around the two worlds – the dream world and our conscious world. A lot of people asked us if we were inspired by Inception, but we actually made this before Inception. It’s basically about people who come out at night and give you dreams and nightmares and about the battle they sort of fight over your dreams.

If you were to encapsulate this story in one sentence, what would you say? What is it about?

JW: I would say it’s ultimately about redemption, I think. If we had to keep it in one sentence, that is what I would have got.

In many interviews you talked about the sources of inspiration for the whole story. I would like to ask about the particular name. Why Ink?

JW: You know, it’s funny. We get asked that a lot when we are touring around with the film. When we are doing screenings, a lot of people ask us about the name. We decided that we ultimately weren’t going to tell anybody why we chose the name Ink just because we didn’t want to pin it to one meaning to anybody, because we realized that a lot of people were coming up with their own ideas of what it was. We decided that we wanted to leave that to everyone’s imagination so, sorry, but I’m not going to answer this question. We really want the audience to determine the meaning for themselves.

Right, maybe it’s sometimes better to keep some things unrevealed. The first scenes of the movie when dreams of different people are shown probably demanded a lot of work, a lot of effort and a lot of people engaged in the project. How difficult was it to put it all together?

Kiowa Winans: The actual shooting of the entire movie was 83 days, which for a very small independent budget and crew is a lot of shooting days. Most of independent films are shot in 20 days or less, but then again most of people are not doing sci-fi films on independent budgets. So, it was 83 shooting days and the opening fight sequence, for example, that lasts about a minute, minute and a half, took, I think, five days to shoot and a lot of time to rehearse that particulat fight. A good friend of ours, Dean Bryan Taylor, and some of his friends, coordinated and designed all those fights and worked with our actors for four – five months to train them and to rehearse all the steps of this fight so that it looked really authentic and so that nobody would get hurt. So it took a lot of effort and a lot of people, just to have a really kind of passion helping us to step in. Day to day, we had an extraordinarily small crew – about ten people on set each day, which is also extremely rare. That’s why the production was so long and the post-production was so long. It was a really serious undertaking for just a few people.

Talking about complicated scenes, what about the scene that has already become very famous, the scene with Jacob triggering a series of events? Did anything in particular inspire you to make such a scene?

JW: You know, I’ve done this type of scene a few times. The first time I did something like this was in a short film that I made several years back called The Maze. It was this idea that everything is sort of connected. Then I used this idea again in a short film Spin which is about a DJ who can sort of alter the world with his turn tables. So, yes, I just keep on using this idea over and over again, I guess, but it changes. It gets more refined with every film, but then in Ink I kind of designed this character. It basically took several revisions of the script to become what it is. It took a lot of planning to get that scene down. I think it took us three or four days to shoot it, cause there are so many components to it. There are so many different elements and shots to that scene. We did an enormous lot of planning. We had to shut down a busy intersection in downtown. We basically ran through it and recorded it beforehand just to make sure that we really knew how all the pieces went together. Then I had to have the music done in advance, so that everybody kind of knew how the music was going to work. Jeremy Make, who played Jacob, had to count to the actual beat of the music, so it took an enormous amount of preparation and it’s interesting because we shot in a course of three months, but we started shooting this scene a couple of days after the beginning of shoot and we didn’t finish shooting that scene until the very end of the shoot. So this is literally about two and a half months in between some of the shots that we did because we would shoot some other scenes, then we would come back and shoot more of this. It’s really interesting to see how many components and over how very long period of time had to come together to make one scene.

There are scenes, like the one with “Jacob’s chain”, that demanded a lot of effort and probably asking for permission from the local authorities. How was it to make such scenes outside, in the street?

KW: We shot in Denver, Colorado, USA, which is not a typical place to shoot a film. That’s where we grew up, we know a lot of people there. We used every favour we accumulated over lifetime there to get the film made. Because not very many movies are made in Colorado, and in the city of Denver in particular, the people there are very nice. There is a nice film office and they were very cooperative. We had to reroad the traffic, put up barricades and hire a few police officers to help us with crow control and all of that. They were very cooperative and very nice and it didn’t cost too much. It’s a lot easier than shooting in Hollywood, Los Angeles. There’s much less bureacracy to deal with in Denver, which is very nice, so it was actually quite easy to shut down the street. That was the only time we had to shut down the street, which was nice, and it’s one of the biggest intersections in downtown Denver, which isn’t a very big city, but it’s big enough to look like a very big city, so that part of it wasn’t too bad. As for the scenes strictly with Jacob on a sidewalk and all the things happening, we just shot it in the pieces and parts in the course of about three days. Shooting these scenes was towards the end of the shoot and I think we only had a crew of four people to shoot everything in that Jacob’s sequence minus the car accident – we had obviously a bigger crew on that day. I guess, movie magic put it all together.

I’d like to ask about something that is connected with that scene, too. Jamin, is it easier or more difficult to make a movie when you both direct and write music to your film?

JW: Over those years, I worked with other composers and then I had an opportunity to compose my own music. I’m not much of a musician, but I’m enough of a musician, I think, and I understand very much what I need for the scenes that I write, that I’m able to pull off the composition myself. For me, it’s easier to know the music in advance and to know how the music is going to work within the scene. For instance, in this movie I had written about 50 percent of the music before we started shooting, so I was able to incorporate the music in the shooting process. So, I like this process. It also keeps the creative juices flowing, I guess, so I do like to write my own music, but at the same time when you do it, you don’t have the opportunity of geting other people’s interpretations of your work, so when you’re working with other musicians who are really talented, a lot of time you can get a really great stuff you hadn’t otherwise thought of. I think there are advantages to both, but for me the past couple of films I really enjoyed going back and forth between the music and the writing, and the shooting and the editing. It’s all one big thing and I like jumping back and forth, kind of wearing different hats.

The plot of the movie is jumping between the two worlds. Have you thought about making a story, or even maybe a movie, that would take place just in the world of the Storytellers?

JW: You know, that’s a question a few people have asked. The idea that we’ve created this big world that Ink takes place in gives a lot of opportunities to keep on expanding the other places. At this point, we haven’t really planned on doing any sort of sequel or anything like that. One thing we considered, that we approached potentially at one point, was doing a graphic novel. That was something we maybe thought about doing, we hadn’t considered it really seriously, but I think that door is still open. Now we are planning on making some other films. We’re not planning on revisiting this world. But you never know, maybe some time in the future…

2_1Maybe it’s a little bit scary, but when I watched the movie I thought that Ink could be anyone, someone we know or even ourselves. Do you think about it in such a way, that there is a danger that there is some part of Ink in everyone?

JW: Yes, it’s funny you say that because I was thinking when I was writing it that Ink sort of represents what I’d be afraid of becoming and I think a lot of people understand a lot of things Ink is going through. I think, especially when you are sort of a career person, when you are working your way up, it’s really easy to lose the sight of what is important in your life so I think it’s very easy to sort of let yourself be corrupted, and to some degree it is what Ink is, it’s a tale of rise and fall of one man.

What about the visual side of the movie? How much was it based on your own ideas, on the ideas of both of you, and how much did it owe to the costume designers, make-up artists and so on?

JW: Well, the funny thing is we were in charge of most of the stuff, because we didn’t have money to afford a very big crew, so the production design and wardrobe were done by Kiowa. Basically, a year in advance we started collecting images on a board, cut out images from magazines, and gather our work and a lot of different things that inspired us and we just put it all on a huge board and combined a lot of images and ideas. It’s what became the visual part of the film. KW: So, much of the look was inspired to some degree by the small budget. We couldn’t do really elaborate set pieces and elaborate expensive costumes, which in a lot of ways, I think, contributed to the look of the film. We were forced to make some unique decisions, particularly with the way the Incubi had looked. That was achieved by Jamin and post-production, hours and hours of rotoscoping, actually I should say months and months of rotoscoping shot, frame by frame, to make those Incubi costumes come together. The masks in front of their faces and their eyes – that was all handled in post-production. We had really great make up artists, but Jamin and I concepted all of the look in the art direction and the costuming, you know, just the general look of the film, basically how we said, by a lot of preplanning and just kind of culling inspiration from all kinds of places.

Talking about small budget, can it be in any way helpful? When you have less money, you have to use your imagination more – can it help in any way?

JW: Yes, exactly. You know, it’s funny when we think about it now. What if we could have had more money? We had wanted it. We look back and we think Ink is the film it is because we didn’t have very much money. Not to say that we will always be making movies for no money, but I think a lot of creative choices we made really came out of not having any money. I think it would have been a completely different film if we had had a lot of money. So we really kind of like the way that it is, we obviously want to be making films with more money and having higher production quality, but at the same time I think it’s one of the things that really make Ink unique and it gives the film some charm.

Talking about the possible ispirations. Have you seen the Russian movie Nightwatch?

JW: Of course, yes, it’s a great movie.

I’m asking about it because, like in Ink, there is also something like urban fantasy and powers of good and evil fighting over people. Could you say that Ink is in any way similar to this movie? What about other movies that inspired you?

JW: Nightwatch… I don’t remember when we saw it, I think it was during pre-production and I said, “Wow, that’s a lot like Ink”, especially the sort of the finale of Ink when they are in the hospital and theye are bouncing back and forth between the two worlds, there is some similar stuff in the Nightwatch films. I wouldn’t say it was influence because it hadn’t come out by the time we were making Ink, but I definitely see similarities, I’m a huge fan of these films. As far as the inspirations go, probably my favourite film maker is ironically Michael Mann who doesn’t generally do any sort of fantasy type of stuff, but I just really like his style and his attention to detail. As for the influences, I’m a really big Terry Gilliam fan, I’m a big Michael Gandry fan, I like Jean Pierre Jeunet – those are, I think, more obvious influences. I always say that with Ink I try to rip off a number of different people, so that it doesn’t seem like I just rip off one person. So I rip off from so many people that it looks like my own thing 😉

I think what connects Ink and Michael Mann films is intensive emotions, because this movie is bursting with positive and negative emotions. Something is always happening, not only outside but also inside of the characters.

JW: That’s a good point.

9What are your plans for the nearest future? The movie plans?

JW: Well, Ink just continues to spread, it looks like Ink is going to be opening theatrically in England in a few months, but now we are developing the next film. It’s very hush-hush so I can’t tell you what the name of it is yet but it’s another film. It’s sort of sci-fi fantasy. That’s about what I can say, but we are working on it now. Everybody is asking when the next film is going to come out. It’s still gonna be a while because it takes a long time to make a movie, but we are working on one and I think it’s gonna be great. Hope everybody can hang tight. We try to get it as fast as we can.

Ink is one of the movies you keep thinking about a long time after watching it. What are the movies that keep you thinking about , the movies that return, that are still in your memory? JW: For me, one of the movies that really did it for me, especially when I was younger, was Twelve Monkeys, which is a Terry Gilliam film. I guess, not a lot of people talk about this movie, but it’s one of my favourite films. I just remember I went and saw it in a theatre and I didn’t even know what to think after I got out. I just thought, “Wow”, so I went back and saw it again and every time I’ve watched it ever since still new things unfold for me. I remember thinking, “That’s a kind of film I wanna make”. That’s the film that is infinitely many-layered, it just always makes you think and I can even head for films like that but it’s probably top one.

KW: That’s a tough question. The film I think about year over year is Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. That was a really well done movie. That’s a rarity. I would say that a lot of films that are being made now, especially the ones that are being massively promoted through Hollywood, are by and large very forgettable. Everything is a remake or an old TV show or something that is just very unoriginal. I think one of the most rewarding things about Ink is that a lot of people say that it really sits with them and I think it is by far the biggest complement you can get on a movie: that you actually think about it and it kind of sits with you for a few days afterwards and even longer than that. It’s very rewarding that people feel that way about Ink.

By the way, you’ve mentioned remakes. Have you had any offers from anyone to make a remake of Ink, for example with their own cast and with different director or something like that?

JW: You know, it’s funny. Early on, when Ink came out , I guess we never got any official offer, but there were certainly questions about that. Agents and other people just asked us if we were interested in doing a remake. We said, “Absolutely not”. I’m not a big fan of remakes either way and the last thing I would want to see is our film remade into something that I didn’t want it to be. So, yes, the idea was put out there, but we said, “No”.

I think it’s reassuring for most of the fans of Ink that no one else is going to touch it.

JW: That’s right. Don’t worry, we won’t let that happen.

What advice would you give to people who have some scripts ready, don’t have a lot of money, but would like to give it a try and make a movie?

JW: That’s a good question. I would say the best way I learnt how to make films was making short films and making very short movies, you know. I think that number one thing I would tell to anybody who is just getting into it is – don’t spend a lot of money early on, just practice making films making sure they’re one minute, ten minutes short films and get good at doing it first. Then, you know, expand to making a feature film. The other thing I’d say is just, “You know, shooting is very very difficult and before you shoot make sure your script is ready for the shooting, make sure it is very very good”. Writers have a good saying that if it’s not on the page, it’s not on the stage. In other words, if the script isn’t good, the movie is not going to be good, no matter what, so I think these are two biggest things: make short films and get good at doing short films first, because it’s very affordable, and secondly, make sure your script is really solid.

Jamin-Winans-Ink-Movie-StillAre you in Bulgaria now?

JW: Yes.

Are you there in connection with Ink or with something completely different?

JW: No, we are actually working with a foundation here, in Bulgaria. We decided to take some time to do some charity work here. We have some friend who is trying to do some charity in Bulgaria that we are working with.

Could you say something more about this charity project?

JW: Yes, Bulgaria is a great country in general, but one of the problems they have here, and it’s sort of leftover from the communist times, is that a lot of disabled children that were born in Bulgaria are put in institutions and a lot of institutions are not well taken care of. They are government-run, but a lot of kids are not provided for carefully and are not aided appropriately. The organization we are working with is the organization that is essentially working on deinstitutionalising Bulgaria and getting disabled children out of these institutions to proper homes and making sure they get proper care.

That’s really interesting. Probably you travel a lot. And what associations do you have with Poland? When you think, “Poland”, what comes to your mind?

JW: One of the first associations is one of my favourite directors, whose name I always mispronounce, is Kieślowski.

And what’s your favourite movie by Kieślowski?

JW: Probably The Double Life of Veronique. It’s probably one of my favorites. I mean, I like everything I’ve seen. I’ve seen virtually everything he’s made, at least everything you can get in the United States. I’m sure he has early films that you can’t get in the United States, but over the past ten years I’ve watched his films so I always think of Poland and watching his movies. We were in Warsaw for about twenty four hours and it was a very very quick trip, but we liked it very very much. We obviously plan to return some time in the future. Poland is, from everything I have heard, read and seen, a thriving country. It’s just going to be great, so we’d love to visit it again as we continue to make films.

Thank you very much, it was a great pleasure talking to you two.

As usual, a few useful links

The Work of Filmmaker Jamin Winans  http://double-edge-films.myshopify.com/

Facebook https://www.facebook.com/pages/Ink/55404284537

Twitter https://twitter.com/DoubleEdgeFilms

An interview with Damian SyjonFam

The album of the band ComeYah that he was a singer of, sold out in a few months. The band very quickly gained respect and stole the hearts of the listeners. His debut solo album “Wracam do domu” („I’m going back home”) was also well-received. “Music coming from the heart… Music that lets us move to another world”, “Great music, it’s moved my heart”, I haven’t heard such a positive song for a long time”, “Oh, this music sets my mind at rest… and this voice”, “This song makes me so full of joy that every time I hear it, I dance. This is my dance of freedom”, “This song is very catchy. In a moment my neighbours will come, cause I make them listen to one song all day long” – these are just some of the many enthusiastic comments that can be found below the music video to the song “Powstanie” („There will appear”) that has already been watched on YouTube more than 900 000 times. Despite his success and rising popularity of his music, Damian has remained himself – a sincere, true and friendly man. Here comes my next guest in the cycle “Remote Talk” – Damian SyjonFam.

syjonfam1

What was the first thing you wrote? Lyrics or maybe something different, for example a poem?

That was a song, „Chłopek” („Fellow”). I sang a song with the same lyrics later, with ComeYah, but at that time the title was “Cud Prawdziwy” (“A True Wonder”).

Do you remember the first piece of music you were able to play on the guitar?

I think that was some scout song, but I don’t remember what exactly it was, something saying that we are all one family :).

And what about the first concert in front of a bigger audience (not necessarily a professional concert)?

Once, I played the tenor flute accompanying Marek Dyjak. Those were my first experiences of being on stage. I had to cross my legs to hide the fact that they were shaking from fear :).

In 1996 you the band Natura invited you to join their team. How do you remember that period of your career?

I experienced making and playing reggae music with the people who were one of my favourite Polish reggae bands at that time. Playing together with them, talking to them and, in general, spendind time in such a company – all that was an invaluable experience and a great pleasure.

Do you have your favourite song from the time of playing with Natura?

Ragavardan was to be the vocalist on the album “Wielki Haj” („Big Kick”), like he was on the first album. Unfortunately, there was some misunderstanding during the recording session and he left the band. My favourite song from that album is “Modlitwa” („Prayer”). I would love to hear it sung by Ragavardan.

Do you remember the first Polish reggae song that really impressed you?

That was the time of my life when the wave bringing Daab, Izrael, Bakshish and Natura reached me. I definitely had played and sung before I took up Daab’s philosophy of singing. One of my favourite songs was “Nienazwane barwy” („Nameless colours”) by Daab.

I’ve read on your page that when you were working in London, you met a lot of people from different countries. Did you have the impression that there was a country people from wich are especially close to our hearts, to the hearts of Polish people?

I see it in a different way. I met some people who, because of the kind of personality they had, repelled others, but I also met other people of the same nationality who were like a family to me. In a long-established English company I met an Englishman who wanted to dismiss me because I was Polish – that was the only reason. A few other Englishmen from the same company threw their weight behind me. Later, we even spent Christmas together, in a family atmosphere. I had the same experience with Chinese, Lithuanian or Irish people. Basing your opinion on the preconceived behaviour patterns is very often disastrous. It also closes the access to many valuable relationships, and there are so many wonderful people in the world – in every corner of the world.

By the way, why are Jamaican people and their music so close to the hearts of Polish people?

Reggae is a kind of music made by ordinary people for ordinary people, not for the elites or connoisseurs. This music is very close to the rhythm of the heart and close to nature. Besides, in reggae, there is a lot of love and the defiance against everything that makes human life anguish. It’s the kind of music that gives you joy and shares your sorrow. This is the reason why it’s so close to our hearts, and to the hearts of people from all over the world.

Could you say a few words about the band Akapela, about the material recorderd with them and the concerts from that time? Who were the members of that band?

That was music created in the underground and it remained there. That project never fully blossomed, but what we managed to do back then was really cool. At that time, the song “Przewiń do początku” („Rewind to the beginning”) was created. Later on, after making some little changes in it, we played it with ComeYah.

Do you keep in touch with those people – from Natura or Akapela? Are they still doing anything connected with music?

As for Natura – Bhakti who played the bass in the band is now a sound engineer working with Kamil Bednarek, Prema who played the trumpet is now a bassist in a band Na Tak, Ragavardan, the first vocalist, lives in USA and you can hear his voice in the song „Kto tu zostanie” (“Who stays here”). I am also in contact with Mahavaraha. We see each other from time to time. As far as Akapela goes, I often see Łukasz Knap and, less often, I meet Maciek Duda. I grew up with Maciek and we shared the same playground. Unfortunately, I don’t know if they are doing anything connected with music at the moment.

Let’s come back to the time when you were starting to make music. Was there any strong team of Jamaican sounds lovers in Świdnik?

There were already people who drew me to this music. Before I even knew that there were artists like Bob Marley or Burning Spear, they had already been avidly listening to their music. I’m really thankful to them for sharing their CDs with me. The album “H.I.M” of Burning Spear or a concert album of The Third World – that music was a great discovery for me and a starting point for my long quest.

cover-vin-gold

On your blog, you once mentioned that a long time ago you thought that the descriptions in books (in fiction) are unnecessary parts. Were there any books that you gave up reading, you didn’t manage to reach the end “thanks to” the descriptions?

I don’t even try to remember such books :).

While listening to your songs it’s easy to see that real life stories inspire you. Did it ever happen that something you read – a book ar an article in a newspaper – inspired you to write a song?While listening to your songs it’s easy to see that real life stories inspire you. Did it ever happen that something you read – a book ar an article in a newspaper – inspired you to write a song?

Polish lnaguage is very rich in words and reading books is a visit to the land of words. Every time you visit this land you can get something new out of it. However, once a story that my wife told me, a story about a squat in Warsaw she saw in the programme by Sekielski, inspired me to write the lyrics to the song “Syrena” (“Siren”).

Make your mind be like fertile soil
What helps you to „fertilize” your mind in everyday life?

I’m very sensitive to falsehood, but I remember not to close my mind to different ways of thinking. I listen, even if your opinion is different from mine because it often gives me an additional point of view at the particular situation, and then it creates a more detailed picture of the whole of it. Let’s learn from one another and from everything that surrounds us. This planet is beautiful as are its inhabitants. There are many experiences waiting for us, let’s not waste this chance by closing ourselves in our tight cages of the mind. There’s nothing to be afraid of.

Maybe that was God who sent the angel ahead of me. / The angel will help me when I can’t manage by myself

Good people often appear in your lyrics. In everyday life we sometimes describe good people as „angels”. Have you ever experienced a moment when suddenly and unexpectedly such an “angel” appeared on your way? Any situation that is humanly unexplainable?

Things that happen to you are very often your desires that come true. The less fear and concern and the more faith and certainty that Someone is watching over us – God that we trust, some Good Omnipotent Power, the better things will get. Those who I call angels are often ordinary people unaware of how much they can give to others, sometimes by ordinary gestures. The energy moves around and goes into people. It’s a Good Thought that triggers actions. The actions of one person influence another person and this way the energy travels around on and on. Angels exist, good people are among us. I’ve never doubted that. Once, when I was a teenager, I went hitchhiking to Portugal. I travelled without a tent, without any food. I had just one hundred dollars, a few friends and strong belief in people J I spent a month at the Rainbow Festival.I managed to get there and to come back home safe and sound. That was a beautiful adventure. Now, when I think about it, I know that back then the Lord was watching over me all the time – that was why I met people of a certain kind and certain events happened en route.

Never will Babilon see my tears, / Never will it know how it is inside of there.

We are both from Świdnik and when I was listening to this song, a reflection came to my mind. In July 1980 a strike broke out in Świdnik that started big changes in Poland and, later on, in Europe. During the time of the martial law so-called Świdnik Walks took place here. A short explanation for those who haven’t heard about that: when the main TV news started people put their TVs in the windows and went out for a walk, walking down the main street of the town to protest against the lies of the propaganda present in the communist TV. Those people didn’t want Babilon to see their tears or, to qoute another song from your album, „raised their voices” when the others were harmed. Nowadays, those events have been in a sense appropriated by a small group of people including politicians. Ordinary people who took part in those events don’t want to speak about what they did. They think, “How did all that help me? It didn’t” while the events that I’ve mentioned are something we can be proud of. Why do you think it’s happening? How do you see our future? Can we be optimists and repeat after the band Midnite “dem can’t conquer our genealogy”? Or will that events fall into oblivion?

It would be good to learn the art of looking at the past as something that could motivate us to take some positive actions in the future. Me and you influence the present and the future and we’re aware that our lives were influenced by the actions our predecessors had the courage to take. Our future will be the same as we are, the same as our children are. „As long as we live…” there is still hope.

Go ahead, because you have light in your. / just raise it higher so that no one can cover itIdź przodem, bo światło masz w dłoni. / tylko unieś je do góry, żeby nikt go nie zasłonił
In the interview for Weekend FM you mentioned that you hoped that listening to your songs people would realize that they were not alone, that there was someone who shared their way of thinking about certain matters. Do you have any visible proofs that something like that is happening, for example when you talk to people after concerts or when you read messages from your fans?

Yes. There’s really a lot of it. My belief in people gets confirmed. I didn’t have any specific expectations, I just wanted to share what I felt with others. I expected that someone could think about certain things in a similar way, but seeing how big this wave is fills me with belief that at the end of the day the world will finally choose the right path.

May the radio emits the waves that I like
Apart from rare exceptions, radio stations don’t usually play reggae songs. Reggae music, like rap music, makes people think, it asks questions that aren’t necessarily the ones that those ruling the media would like to hear. Can it be one of the reasons why the biggest stations don’t play too much reggae? Is it better for them to “breed“ obedient, unthinking listeners?

I think so. We aren’t very demanding and we underrate the importance of our decisions. Maybe the reason is the lack of time for searching for something true and sincere. If we speak about a few biggest commercial radio stations, then it’s true – there’s no choice. But we live in the times of the Internet. You can find there a lot of music that has some message, music that’s sincere and enriches your life. We shouldn’t give up and just let it go. If a certain station doesn’t fit your musical taste, change the station. Listen to what you like, not to what you have to listen to.

Since our last interview a lot has happened in your life. One of the most interesting events was probably playing the concert as a support before Mellow Mood and a visit to the concert of Gentleman – this time you were a listener. Did you have a chance to talk, at least for a moment, to those people? If you did, how was it?

I met one of the twins from Mellow Mood. It was a very positive experience. They even offered me a chance to appear on stage if I got carried away J I also met a very nice guy called Droop Lion. He’s now the vocalist of The Gladiators. He’s a typical Rasta, he likes to philosophise and he has a lot of interesting thins to say.

And what about the festival in Ostróda? Did you make any new “musical” friends there?

The best thing about Ostróda was the chance to meet the people I had been in touch with via e-mail or through someone else, people like Ras Luta, Pablopavo or my publisher Melon. I also met K-Jah, who made music to a few songs on my album, and a few people I had heard a lot about in the past, like Jarek Hejenkowski or Silver Dread. A lot of very nice memories are connected with Ostróda.

syjonfam8

At the end, let’s talk for a moment about the music videos promoting your album. The first video was the clip to „Powstanie”. Where did you film it? Who was responsible for making the video? And, what is it like to play in a video directed by your wife?

We filmed it in different locations in Nowy Sącz, among others in the heritage park and the stud Jankowa. ProWizja Studio, a team from Nowy Sącz, did all the filming and eiditing, while my wife Magda was responsible for the script and directed the video. The best thing that can happen to you is to be surrounded by people who are in the right place and know what they do. That was the case with ProWizja, and that was, and is, the case with my wife. What I hold very dear in her is that she doesn’t accept half measures. If she realizes that something can be done – in this case something can be filmed better, she won’t let it go until her vision is accomplished. Then, how close the cameramen manage to come to this vision depends on how good their skills are. Later we have the result of that work – 800 000 views on YouTube in five months!

One of the most important characters in this music video is a horse. Did anything unexpected or funny happen during the filming because a horse played in the clip?

The horse in the music video is a symbol of freedom, and Badger really had a feel for the role. Filming the scene in which he stands on his hind legs wasn’t easy because just after doing it he went to a crazy, uncontrollled gallop :). The only thing that helped the crew to make him go into some specific direction, so that it was possible to catch him and retake the scene, was the view of two attractive mares standing nearby :).

The second music video – to to the song „Wracam do domu” – was made in cooperation with XVisuals, the studio that some people may remember from the music video to “Na Wschód” by ComeYah. It’s easy to see that a lot of awesome people with different talents and hobbies appeared on the set. Where did you find them?

Yes. The cooperation with XVisuals is a different story because in that case the shooting was spread out for more days. The most difficult and the most demanding day was the one we spent in Szczyrk. In response to the advertisement that a friend of ours showed on the local TV channel a lot of young people appeared on the set and played in the video. Besides, we were very lucky to have one of the best Polish paragliders, Paweł Faron, helping us while filming. Loads of people from Świdnik were eager to help. If there is a good idea, it’s really easy to find people help you. Again, Magda had a clear vision of how that should look. I’m very lucky for one more reason. My son Dawid feels the parts Magda writes for him and together we can strengthen our message to people even more. Having a chance to do it all together is a great power and grace.

We’re talking about your music videos. And what about you? Do you like watching videos of other artists? Do you have your favourite music video (not necessarily because you like the music, but because the video itself is special)?

One of the best Polish music videos I’ve seen is obviously the music video to the song „Tango Apaszowskie” by Projekt Warszawiak. If someone hasn’t seen it yet, I really recommend watching it. As far as foreign video clips are concerned, I often watch “Make it bun them” by Jr Gong and Skrillex.

What about the concert plans? Where will it be possible to listen to you in the nearest future?

From January we start our tour. I invite everyone to visit my page and my FB fanpage. There’s always up-to-date information.

November – December 2014

A few useful links:

Official page  http://syjonfam.com/

Facebook https://www.facebook.com/syjonfam

YouTube http://www.youtube.com/user/Syjon7

SoundCloud https://soundcloud.com/syjonfam