Vasi Vallis (sounds, keyboards) from Frozen Plasma
“In my opinion, making too many plans in life, hunting too many fixed goals, based on standard conventions of a society, prevent you from making unexpected experiences. Prevent you from discovering what you really desire. What you really want. My attitude is, to dig and dig and dig deeper in the shallows of life, without knowing, what to expect. It is a metaphor. If you stop digging, you lose the chance to discover new grounds.” On the occasion of the new release by FROZEN PLASMA I had a chance to ask Vasi Vallis a few questions - about choices, changes and decisions - both artistic and personal that gave a fine result in a brand new album ‘Gezeiten’.
Reflections of Darkness [RoD]: The new album ‘Gezeiten’ - in English it’s translated into “tides” - provokes many associations on the spot, like with the things that come and go, with change, with inevitability, accepting temporary matter of things… What is it that you meant by the album’s title?
Vasi: Exactly. It describes what we went through during the last years. Felix and I had a lot of ups and downs in our lives since the last album was released. More than usual. Private life, business life. Questioning nearly every aspect of our artistic and some aspects of our private life. A huge, never-ending rollercoaster. Like Tides. Also, when it comes to the making of the album, we faced the same issues. Lots of demos, never sure which songs to choose. I deleted some almost finishes songs and began to work on new ones. Again, and again. Special times…
RoD: Thinking about the album’s content - you include both rhythmical, danceable pieces you’re renowned for, but also quite a few melancholic tracks. Do you feel any side prevails in you as an artist? Or are you both a thinker and a person who likes good fun?
Vasi: As maybe every person in the world, I am both. Depending on time, place, people around me, weather, and other circumstances. Although I would describe myself as a nonstop thinker, often melancholic, very emotional, sceptical about everything I am doing (even though lot of people think, that I am selfish or even self-opinionated.) But as good fun is also an emotion, being emotional and making club music is not a contradiction.
RoD: You are really efficient at promoting your music - what do you think is the best approach to reach the largest audience possible? Do you think services such as Bandcamp or Spotify and online shows are the future of music industry?
Vasi: The best approach is to work like hell. Actually, I am a big fan of digital distribution. All kind of. I do not demonize the new platforms as they help us to reach fans all over the world. I am talking to a lot of musicians about this issue and most of them criticize the low income per stream. But this is often a misunderstanding of the concept, the benefits, and some maths. Look, in the past, we released CDs. In Germany. People from other countries had to import the CD except if we had some license deals with export/import companies or local labels. This worked for some countries but not for all. Nowadays, from day one of a release, nearly everyone with internet access can listen to our music. This is a gift. Not because of any monetary thinking but because this is what we want. In the past, people from south America from example had to get burned CDs on a black market or had to purchase extremely expansive originals, imported through the USA. Now they can listen through Spotify, apple Music or other streaming services from day 1 of the release. This is equal rights to listen to global music despite your income or in which part of the world you live. I love it.
RoD: FROZEN PLASMA’s music is in majority very energetic and danceable - do you feel it’s worth taking life from a lighter, a more distanced way? Could music or a good party be a remedy for all the negativity that surrounds us? How do you find your way to stay balanced in every day rush?
Vasi: Oh absolutely. That is why I am doing music. That is why I left everything else behind, to focus on an artistic life. It is like a self-therapy. Like my own remedy to as you describe it. So, it is of course a big privilege. Of course, not without deprivations when it comes to secure income, financial stability. But it pays off in a different way. I am sure a lot of people have already used this explanation but doing what you love as a job is a big fulfilment. For me, the biggest one as I have a direct comparison from my past where I was a successful banker with all benefits you can imaging. But I was never as happy as today even if I am not able to plan more than 2-3 months when it comes to financial planning.
RoD: How does the new album differ from your previous releases? Some artists keep experimenting, searching new lines in their music while the others find their place quite quickly and create within some set motives. What is it like in your case?
Vasi: As mentioned above, this time it was hard to find the right direction. Everything in our question was part of the creative process. A lot of experiments. New sounds. Different approaches when it comes to arrangements. We drove a winding road with cliffs on every side, always in danger to lose track. So, I ended up with more than 40 songs, not one of them finished but already in a late stage of production, completely desperate when it comes to choose, which one will make it on the album. At the end I tried to choose songs which sounded a bit like our songs from the past, some with completely new elements and some more experimental. A good mix if you want. What happened is, that we have a lot of material now to release an EP very soon…
RoD: “You gotta keep on keepin’ on. Life’s a garden: dig it. You gotta make it work for you.” Why using that particular fragment from Joe Dirt in ‘Rivers’? Then lyrics go “And the rivers will guide me home”. What is home for you?
Vasi: Look. In my opinion, making too many plans in life, hunting to many fixed goals, based on standard conventions of a society, prevent you from making unexpected experiences. Prevent you from discovering what you really desire. What you really want. My attitude is, to dig and dig and dig deeper in the shallows of life, without knowing, what to expect. It is a metaphor. If you stop digging, you lose the chance to discover new grounds. I am aware, that not every human being is able or willing to live that way. I am also aware, that having responsibility, for example for a family or kids, also prevents you from walking on unexplored paths. The other metaphor, the river: If you follow a river, from the mountains until it flows into the sea, you discover a lot of different landscape during the journey. But you always have something intimate on your side. You will never get lost even though you don’t know where the river exactly leads. Balancing between the familiar and the unknown.
RoD: You seem to be using lots of film quotes to open some of your songs in general - again at ‘Chameleon Love’ you use ‘The Matrix’ sequence:
“Neo: You ever have that feeling where you’re not sure if you’re awake or still dreaming?
Choi: All the time. It’s called mescaline, it’s the only way to fly.”
Are movies important to you? How do they complement your creative process as a musician?
Vasi: To be honest I rarely watch movies. Most often I read books on which movies are based or even transcripts. This might sound strange but it’s a spleen of mine. But in general, I am not a movie guy and even less a Netflix - series guy. It is just a waste of time for me. Weird I know…
RoD: You are known for strong political and social approach - how do you demonstrate it your music? Is ‘Badlands’ such a demonstration?
Vasi: Not very often to be honest. Less than in the past. On the first album, we had with ‘War / Flashbacks’, ‘Generation of the lost’ some political songs. Later also with ‘Warmongers’, ‘Earthling’, or ‘Tanz die Revolution’ which was an anti-capitalistic track but often misunderstood as the opposite. Most recent stories / lyrics are about, love, pain, getting older, life in general, sex, erotic desires. Badlands is about a person in the last weeks of his life, visiting his hometown one more time, taking a stroll down the memory lane, but he realises, that nothing is, as it used to be. But it is not really about a real hometown, a city. It is about his complete past. His memories of his early life. His young ego. He is longing for home, but he realises that home lies not in the past but in the future. In the end of his life. Where his soul can wander free. Without past, without future, without time.
RoD: You use classical piano in intro to ‘Badlands’ - when do you decide to use such a fragile instrument in your overall electronic instrumentation?
Vasi: Most songs I write, are written as piano songs. Even most of the club songs. Not all of course. Good melodies work in different styles of music. With a guitar, with Piano, produced as electronic songs, as Rock ballad / songs. I am not a highly professional piano player, but I am able to play some Classic or even Jazz standards. And I love it to be honest. So, whenever I think that a song “deserves” this, as you perfectly describe, fragile instrumentation, I proceed with the piano arrangement.
RoD: Your music is a lot about love, like in ‘Exit’ or ‘Chameleon Love’ - does love make us stronger or more vulnerable in your opinion? What’s your very own idea of love you represent in your songs?
Vasi: I am sorry to correct you but ‘Chameleon Love’ is about drug addiction. Not easy to recognize in the lyrics but this was my intention. Take the part: “drunk on your breath, come play with me operate me operator...” It’s about losing control. The drug operates you. The drug is the operator. A chameleon can transform itself. That’s what often happens with people on drugs. They transform. They see the grey world more colourful, more exciting; they feel more exciting themselves. our life’s a thrill.... the high gets low... ‘Exit’, yes indeed a song about tragic love. Love is full of tragic. A lot of people will disagree but real, deep love, for me, needs some tragic, some melancholy, little disappointments, mental fights, trust... Of course, harmony too. Don’t get me wrong. But to be honest, an intense, deep love, needs a little bit of everything I mentioned above. And here is the controversial thing: I don’t talk about love within a relationship.
RoD: In 2020 you’ll be present within the alternative stage for 15 years - how would you summarize your work so far? Do you even do such summaries at all or take life as it goes and don’t turn back and prefer to look into the future? What do you feel was the best, the most important, what the most challenging and what do you still plan to achieve? How have you changed as an artist or a man creating music? Do you find people you meet changed as well?
Vasi: The last 15 years have been especially important for me. I learned a lot about human beings, through the fact that I travelled a lot, met all kind of different people, different kind of fans, of artists, technicians. It made me humbler to be honest. But I also learned to hate the egoism in every part of our society of the western world. What really changed over all the years is, that I learned to enjoy the fact of being a musician much more, than fearing all the negative aspects as financial insecurity for example. I am happy that I have made the decision years ago to leave everything behind and go for an artist life. People I met at the beginning of my “career” changed a lot. Most of them. Most of them reached a professional level (which I highly respect) but - some also lost this wild inspirational character I loved during those years. Maybe it is just a normal personal evolution while getting older. But I miss this kind of non-professional, unplanned, wild part of doing music, touring, creating something. Without any commercially thinking behind. Maybe this is very naïve, but it is how I feel. I try to keep this feeling as long as possible and I am aware, that I might not reached 100% of what is possible but maybe 70% only. But with a lot of fun and without being grimly.
RoD: Has Covid-19 pandemic influenced the way you plan the future? What can we expect from you?
Vasi: Absolutely. While producing the album 2019, the plan was, to go on tour early 2020. One of the most important moments in a musician’s life is, to play new songs a new album in front of an audience, watching the reactions. It feels strange to have a new album in the market, after so many years, getting great response so far but only through emails, social media and other digital sources. Very strange to be honest. It does not feel real. Well it does somehow but in a different way. What you can expect in the future is, that we won't wait that long to release an album. We will dramatically increase the release speed no matter if a tour is planned or big festivals or no show at all. As soon as we are happy with our songs, we will release them. As EP or album or Single. No strategy...