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Unsound 2014: Various Artists On 'Living The Dream'
The Quietus , October 14th, 2014 13:37

This year's Unsound Festival theme is 'The Dream'... The Quietus asked artists including DJ Stingray, Cosey Fanni Tutti, Michael Gira, Perc and Kuba Ziolek what 'living the dream' means to them. Thanks to Chad Parkhill for interviewing Michael Gira and Katarzyna Stuczyńska for co-ordinating.

Having a theme to a festival isn't something that you might consider a natural fit, especially in England where 'themes' often mean 'dress up like a bellend, roll in the mud, throw-up down yourself and lol at the selfies after'. Unsound in Krakow, Poland (from where The Quietus currently types) is a very different affair. Here, each year they have a subject that shapes how the festival is built. What's intriguing, looking over a bill that's surely one of the finest line-ups of the year (HELLO Cyclobe, Swans, Carter Tutti Void, Zamilska, Nurse With Wound, Jenny Hval & Susannah, Perc, The Bug, Kode 9, loads of talks etc), is that at first a theme like 'the dream' might seem spurious, even trite, until you read the full vision of what it means to Unsound in 2014. But as I've been wandering the streets of Krakow, pondering various panels, immersing in the music and the friendliness of the people, the idea of 'living the dream' starts to sink in and manifest itself, becoming more than some kind of idiotic YOLO cipher. In the run-up to Unsound, we asked artists including Michael Gira, Kuba Ziolek, Uwe Schmidt, Cosey Fanni Tutti, Objekt, Perc, Powell, DJ Stingray set questions about the Unsound theme, and what it means to them. <

Michael Gira, Swans

Swans play Unsound on October 18th

What does the phrase ‘living the dream’ mean to you?

Michael Gira: Absolutely nothing.

That’s exactly the kind of answer people would expect from someone with a reputation for contrarianism.

MG: Well, it’s such a cliché – how can I respond to that? It’s like asking ‘How do you feel about a sunny day?’

Has to create art and music always been your ‘dream’?

MG: I’ll just say that God put me on earth to be a butcher, and what I do is I cut meat. 

There’s probably a broader question to be asked there about the connection between creation and volition – do you feel you have to create? Is it out of your hands in some sense?

MG: Well, I look at that using the analogy of being a butcher. I was just reading about a butcher in China, in the tenth century or something, cutting meat, and once he realised how to do it without interfering in the process, to let the process take over itself, he never had to sharpen his knives any more, because he was so sensitive to the whole enterprise that he was at one with it. I suppose that’s the ideal. Once the thing is set in motion it’s best just to get out of the way.

How best to achieve your dreams? What have you learned about discipline and motivation to assist this?

MG: I just think it’s important to work every day, and to devote yourself entirely to what you’re on earth to do. I’m fortunate enough that I made that decision centuries ago, so I apply myself whenever possible to the task at hand. That’s currently to make music, so that’s what I do, it’s who I am, it’s what I am. I don’t view it as a grandiose calling, necessarily, it’s just a matter of working every day.

If you have a ‘dream’ for yourself or the the world at large, what is it?

MG: I guess that would be for all of us – all human beings and all sentient beings – to lose ourselves entirely in the moment, which is identical with infinity.

Ali ‘Perc’ Wells

Perc plays Unsound on Thursday October 16th

What does the phrase 'living the dream' mean to you?

Ali Wells: To me it means freedom, both creatively and financially. Not having to compromise my artistic output and creative thinking in order to survive is crucial to me. Time is key to this as well; creative freedom with no time to use it is as frustrating as working to a commercial brief that compromises what you stand for. Being rich or living an extravagant life has never been my goal, complete creative freedom is what I consider more important.

Has to create art and music always been your 'dream’?

AW: It has never been a dream as I have been involved in music since I was 11 or 12 years old, I can barely remember a time when I wasn't involved in bands or producing on my own. I am someone who is never satisfied and is always looking for the next thing, as soon as achieve one goal; my first record on vinyl, my first gig abroad etc I am looking for the next goal. I am not arrogant enough to sit back and think 'that's it, I've achieved my dream'; there is always something more I want.

How best to achieve your dreams? What have you learned about discipline and motivation to assist this (this is getting quite self help isn't it?)

AW: The question says it all really, discipline and motivation or sacrifice and dedication if you want to take a more romantic view of it. Talking purely about my music then being aware of what is happening in the wider scene yet not letting it overly influence my output has been key . I genuinely think if you want something and work hard enough for it in an intelligent way it will happen. My last album was partly concerned with this, the power within to make anything happen if you put your mind to it.

If you have a 'dream' for yourself or the the world at large, what is it?

AW: I just want to keep pushing forward with what I am doing, which is to take this music as far as I can without compromise. I don't want to be underground name, I want a lot of people to know what I do, but it has to be on my terms, not taking outside advice and tailoring my sound to reach a wider audience. For the world at large it is harder to specify a dream without getting too 'We are the world', but a bit more tolerance and empathy towards others would not go amiss. 

Cosey Fanni Tutti, Carter Tutti Void

Carter Tutti Void play Unsound on Thursday October 17th

What does the phrase 'living the dream' mean to you?

Cosey Fanni Tutti: I hate that expression, it makes me angry. I feel that approach is more about ‘Living in Denial’ of the consequences of that attitude. It has such negative connotations to me, associated with so called ‘reality’ shows. Who’s ‘dream’ are they’re buying into? One prescribed by popular media and consumerism? The ‘cost’ is immense on so many levels and the media, the internet and TV etc. plays a huge role. Technology overall is an amazing tool providing endless positive possibilities. But it also can limit them if people accept and buy into the commodifying of ideas and experiences. Individuality through personal experience is key. You can’t buy that, there’s no short cut or a ‘one size fits all’. The beauty and richness of life is in living the realities, sharing, exploring and communicating. That’s how you become your ‘self’ - not by passive escapism.

Has to create art and music always been your 'dream’?

CFT: I never had a ‘dream’ for what my life would be. As a teenager I faced the very harsh reality of survival which left little time to ‘dream’ - a direct result of my persistence in asserting my creative self and resistance to conforming. I was creative from a very young age. Art and music was part of my everyday life... like breathing. It’s a part of who I am. I never entertained the notion that life would or could be any other way for me.

How best to achieve your dreams? What have you learned about discipline and motivation to assist this?

CFT: Discipline and motivation are the hardest skills to master - and I’m not sure they can be mastered without the sacrifice of some essential elements - mainly because both are like shifting sands depending on what you are focussing those skills on. In general terms motivation has to be centred on the work being true, given free reign and the discipline comes into the fore at that point - to maintain that focus. 

If you have a 'dream' for yourself or the the world at large, what is it?

CFT: In these horrendous times, what could anyone want more than universal humanity.

Lee Gamble

Lee Gamble plays Unsound on Friday, October 18th

What does the phrase 'living the dream' mean to you?

Lee Gamble: I think there are many unknown qualities to our existence as a species. But, they are what we are. The human brain naturally exists in both a conscious and subconscious state - your 150,000-year-old mammalian instincts often in contravention to your evolved, intellectualised, moralised and socialised expectancy. So, the subconscious is constant and flowing - like another simultaneously imagined version of the world. Our ability to focus and shift conscious self-aware thought into the foreground is a way to concentrate that other state, momentarily.

Literal dreams or nightmares are subconscious hallucinations, that can bleed into the conscious world. A dream doesn't always disintegrate alongside waking. My cats dream, they just don't know they are or know they have dreamt. Imagination is dream state, foresight is dream state, hindsight is dream state.

For me, the unknown is dream. Without the acceptance of a solid 'reality' the world becomes a curious, dreamlike place. The naivety of a child sticking a pencil up its nose to explore something it doesn't fully understand, then into adulthood where we learn to use the pencil to write grammatically correct sentences, encouraging ourselves to question less the unknown. In some sense, our reality is made of information, and information can be hacked. While sleeping, also watch…

Has to create art and music always been your 'dream'?

LG: No.

How best to achieve your dreams? What have you learned about discipline and motivation to assist this (this is getting quite self-help isn't it?)

LG: It is, and I'm not one to advise on such things ;-).

If you have a 'dream' for yourself or the the world at large, what is it?

LG: For us all to peter out in a nicer way than it would seem we actually will.

Zamilska

Zamilska plays Unsound on Thursday, October 17th

What does the phrase 'living the dream' mean to you?

Zamilska: First that springs to mind is throwing yourself into something unknown, which might evoke a bit of fear and anxiety as it’s associated with revolutionary changes in one’s life. We get rid of our inhibitions. Living and following your dreams is the best concept to live by.

Has to create art and music always been your 'dream’?

Z: Music has always been the best way to express what I feel and to project emotions onto others. It’s been my dream to express myself through sound and to use it to communicate with the world. I can’t think of a better way to do it.

How best to achieve your dreams? What have you learned about discipline and motivation to assist this?

Z: What I consider the most important is to be consistent in what you do, master controlling your fear as you continually have to confront yourself and that proves quite painful during creative process. At some stage I have to give up a lot: work and partly my private life. All this in order to follow my dream – music. I was called a workaholic. To me it was quite natural, instinctive. I can’t imagine creating music and not immersing yourself fully in it. All or nothing. So "discipline" seems perhaps not the most appropriate word. Motivation? Comes and goes. It’s natural in creating process. Sometimes you think that motivation and inspiration are gone forever but these days I go with this flow to avoid "producing" instead of "creating". Truth and emotions are crucial for music and you cannot force yourself.

If you have a 'dream' for yourself or the the world at large, what is it?

Z: My dream is to keep doing what I do and move people through music. To learn and to evolve. I do not set myself any limits or heights. Sky is the limit, isn’t it? For the world at large my dreams are simple – less divisions and boundaries would work a treat.

Uwe ATOM™ Schmidt

Atom TM and Robin Fox present Unsound commission Double Vision on October 17th

What does the phrase 'living the dream' mean to you?

ATOM™: Rather than pulling visions or imaginations into "reality" I prefer to read it as converting reality into some sort of dream like state. To unlink oneself from the presence in the first place and to generate a parallel universe. The opposite, more common point of view, usually is to consider a dream some sort of goal, that by definition lays in the future - I have always found a rather dull and pointless idea since it does not give you satisfying present moment. The dream like state as a parallel or simultaneous reality on the other hand, I find a liberating and powerful idea I try to live by.

Has to create art and music always been your 'dream’?

ATOM™: In fact it never was, but simply happened to become my reality, which, looking back, was probably the most fantastic and to a certain degree "unreal" thing that ever happened to me. As I briefly outlined in my previous answer, I have always considered the desire to "make dreams come true" a questionable one and rather prefer seeing the present moment as the dream itself. The main problem of "following a dream" often is, that it is the dreams of the others we want to make true for ourselves. Implanted desires… programmed dreams that haunt us and make us vulnerable and ultimately dislocated and frustrated. Which dreams are really ours, I think, is impossible to say and a useless exercise to find out… we may never know and get lost in the process.

How best to achieve your dreams? What have you learned about discipline and motivation to assist this (this is getting quite self help isn't it?)

ATM: There are no dreams, but only single, present or "close to present" moments. Everything has to be linked to your present moment at all times… especially the near or close future. Set goals in the present, preferably difficult goals, which then make you push personal boundaries. Discipline is of great importance, obviously, however, I don’t feel competent to give advices that go beyond my personal realm.

Kuba Ziolek

What does the phrase 'living the dream' mean to you?   Kuba Ziolek: It’s a phrase invented to make you believe that somhow ‘coincidently’ your most intimate drives and goals are compatible with the requirements of the system. It’s a perfect example of capitalist propaganda combining emotions, money and freedom.

Has to create art and music always been your 'dream’?

KZ: No, I never dreamt to be like Jim Morrison or Kurt Cobain. I did (and still do) music because I really enjoy playing and what it does to me. There is no hidden dream. It’s conscious work mixed with primitive fun of pulling strings or hitting drums.

How best to achieve your dreams? What have you learned about discipline and motivation to assist this?

KZ: I have no general prescriptions for this and I don’t care about methods. I want my music to be the best possible so discipline and indiscipline must be in right balance that is to be achieved individually. For me, there are no rules. I never had problems with motivation either.   If you have a 'dream' for yourself or the the world at large, what is it?   KZ: Wise man said: ‘may you live in interesting times’. Dreams are illusions.

OBJEKT

Objekt plays the Unsound closing party on Sunday October 19th

What does the phrase 'living the dream' mean to you?

Objekt: I take it fairly literally. This creates its own problems of course: In living your own dream, is your onetime fantasy still quite so attractive? Is one dream replaced by another, and if this too is realised – and so on - then what kind of trajectory could this chain of dreams follow? I’m not sure living the dream would be all it’s cracked up to be.

Has to create art and music always been your 'dream’?

O: Not really. I don’t know if I have one ‘dream’, apart from to lead a balanced, interesting, worthwhile life. Music is a passion of mine and I’m fortunate to be able to make a living from it right now, but who knows how long I’ll be a touring DJ.

How best to achieve your dreams? What have you learned about discipline and motivation to assist this?

O: Learn your craft. Be systematic in your approach. Analyse your failings and try again with this new knowledge in mind. Maintain the right balance of confidence and self-criticism. Go to Unsound every year. Condense your motivational advice into short, punchy sentences. 

If you have a 'dream' for yourself or the the world at large, what is it?

O: Too many to list. Apart from all the obvious ones, it would be nice if the builders above my girlfriend’s flat could start work at, say, 10am instead of 7am. I often dream of a  world in which this is the case. I’m not convinced my own advice will be of much use in realising this particular dream but I figure going to Unsound and doling out motivational advice in short, punchy sentences probably won’t hurt.

DJ Stingray

DJ Stingray plays Unsound on October 17th

What does the phrase 'living the dream' mean to you?

DJ Stingray: The phrase "living the dream" for me is the realisation of a goal(s) that seemed improbable to achieve or very abstract at the time of conception. But after dedication and work the person is in the circumstances that were once thought to be very distant.

Has to create art and music always been your 'dream’?

DJS: I had always been involved in music since I was a child via an acapella group in church and some limited lessons in elementary school. My dream when I was young was to be a doctor. It wasn't until high School that I became interested in DJing as far as mixing and shortly after learning to DJ I became interested in making my own music.

How best to achieve your dreams? What have you learned about discipline and motivation to assist this?

DJS: I think a good method for most people to achieve their dreams is to be consistent in the pursuit. Understand that you will have some setbacks and doubts but stay focused. Also it's OK to modify your dreams and goals as you evolve as a person.

In some people, maybe most, the discipline and motivation to achieve objectives that seem distant are not there. They may need the support of others who believe in them, or maybe the consultation of a trusted source that has traveled or is traveling the same path. It's ok to rely on other people for motivation sometimes but the discipline has to come from within in my opinion.

If you have a 'dream' for yourself or the the world at large, what is it?

DJS: I would like to see a world that relies on the sharing of technical and scientific knowledge to improve the human condition in more than a few selected areas of the planet.

Powell

Powell and Diagonal Records take over Unsound on Friday, October 18th

What does the phrase 'living the dream' mean to you?

Oscar Powell: It means living in a beautiful hot country with a woman who never stops making me laugh, a go-kart track in the garden and a little pontoon that juts out into the sea, from which I can dive with any species of shark I want — and work towards the conservation of their ecosystems.   Has to create art and music always been your 'dream’?   OP: Nope. What I’m doing right now only became a dream of sorts when people started to give a shit about the records. Before that, doing this was never a viable option in my head.   How best to achieve your dreams? What have you learned about discipline and motivation to assist this (this is getting quite self help isn't it?)   OP: Well, like I said above, this was never an option for me. There was always something else more appropriate, more serious, more in keeping with what professional culture expected of me. So the first thing I would say, from my own experience at least (who else’s can one draw on?), is to not let go of those things that maybe some friends or family write off as just a cute little hobby of yours. No dreams can come of passions that were parked for getting in the way of ‘real’ life.

For me, the other thing is just learning to live with it in your head. Is this any good? Am I fucking shit? These are the questions I think you need to ask yourself round the clock ‘cos they drive you on and force you to dig for more. At the same time, they can run you into the ground. But I think you need some conflict in your head, in your life even, to create something better than you did before. Also, go running: it’ll give you the illusion of being healthy.

If you have a 'dream' for yourself or the world at large, what is it?

OP: More white sharks in UK waters, I think. Yep.

Piotr Kurek

Piotr Kurek is performing a score to Janusz Majewski’s 1958 short film Rondo at Unsound on October 15th

What does the phrase 'living the dream' mean to you?

Piotr Kurek: I’m afraid it's something I'm trying to avoid these days and get more on the ground. Have been living the dream for too long. It's pretty unhealthy you know. 

Has to create art and music always been your 'dream’?

PK: Never thought about it as a dream. Maybe it's a curse and I have to keep on going. Not that I don't like it. 

How best to achieve your dreams? What have you learned about discipline and motivation to assist this?

PK: Just following my dream instincts.

If you have a 'dream' for yourself or the the world at large, what is it?

PK:Oh whenever you talk about dreams loudly they sound pretty weak actually. Better to keep it for yourself and believe in their charm.

pozdrawiam,

Ted Burns

Ted Burns is an amateur performance artist and inspiration for the Unsound 2014 theme via his motto "Living The Dream"

What does the phrase 'living the dream' mean to you?

Ted Burns: The tired phrase ‘Living the Dream’ is a human verbal defense mechanism of positive reinforcement espoused when one has invested copious amounts of time and/or money into a project or lifestyle choice that is showing signs of catastrophic failure.

Has to create art and music always been your 'dream’?

TB: Yes and no.

How best to achieve your dreams? What have you learned about discipline and motivation to assist this (this is getting quite self help isn't it?)

TB: The best way to achieve your dreams is to have a lot of money. Firstly you should hire a good marketing team to promote your dream as a pure, utilitarian sacrifice. Secondly, you need a group of psychopaths to destroy anything and everybody in your path to attaining it. Once you have these two things in place, you can start working on the idea of your dream.

If you have a 'dream' for yourself or the the world at large, what is it?

TB: Every product sold in the marketplace should have a barcode that when scanned shows salaries and testimonials of the production staff and photos of actual factory conditions.

Education and health care to be free and equal.

Decriminalisation of recreational drugs with sales tax to directly fund education and welfare programs to prevent abuse.

It would also be nice to fly an MDMA laden crop-duster over the Kremlin after strategically placing bluetooth speakers around the perimeter blasting a live Boilerroom audio feed (definitely no video!).

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