The Think Magazine innerview with Liquid Harmony
Liquid Harmony has just released their first full length album Living in Liquid. While boundless in ambition, the group, (programmer and bass player Štěpán Tůma, singer Tonya Graves and Pavel “Bora” Kleník on drum pads) has its roots firmly planted here at home, where you can't help but get you mind stuck up in the clouds.
My contact high went a little something like this...
THINK: Just what is Liquid Harmony?
ŠTĚPÁN: It's four Czech boys and one American singer, but it's still a Czech Band, with an English name. From our first gig in Radost we were looking for a girl to sing in English. We tried out 12 Czech girls but no way. We couldn't wait any longer so we decided to play instrumental, just then Ivo from the Radost record store dropped Tanya. She was looking for someone to work with.
TONYA: He (Ivo) was always saying he could put me in touch with Ivan Kral or whatever, and I'd go "yeah well..." Then I get a call from Štěpán, and I was pleasantly surprised Ivo recommended me.
THINK: What was that first gig in Radost like?
ŠTĚPÁN: Well, the system had been checked out except for the lights, which turned out to be critical. We had prepared an hours worth of material on the computer...
PAVEL: And then when the lights went on, the midi froze, So we tried to roll through it without the click track, and eventually people forgot there had even been a problem. I thought , "If you knew what the f*ck we had prepared for you!"
ŠTĚPÁN: But we had more of an acid kind of sound.
THINK: So that night was the beginning and the end of your punk phase. Obviously you had an intention for mixing electronica in with your music from the start?
ŠTĚPÁN: I liked the English sound and wanted to get closer to the music that was coming from other countries. Not that old Czech rock sound.
THINK: Is it difficult to fuse the live instruments and the computer?
PAVEL: Definitely, it took about two years to get it right. The computer music is static so we have to keep in line with it. Our percussionist is very good.
TONYA: The tape won't make mistakes, so you have to keep on your toes.
ŠTĚPÁN: Each song has some space to play with, and each time we play a song we evolve it to fit into a live arrangement.
TONYA: Same as when you are arranging live, since you have the same 16 bars or whatever, but unlike a live musician the computer won't forget.
ŠTĚPÁN: As long as we get the feeling we are looking for, it works.
THINK: I loved your new disc, there were plenty of pleasant surprises, Are you still working with OO Bidlo?
ŠTĚPÁN: Not on this LP, but we still play live. To me he's the best Deejay in Czechia, probably the world, and I've heard alot!
THINK: That's gonna be in there for sure! When listening to your disc at home I was able to cool out to it, it seems like the electronics allow you the flexibility to really blow up a live show.
TONYA: That's the plan, to make a LP that you can chill out to at home, and bust out the energy live. And that's why we've said to the folks who've been waiting to see us "That good things come to those who wait" We're whipping up quite a little show. Next time you see Liquid Harmony you'll say "I'd have waited 10 years for that".
PAVEL: We want to play as soon as possible, shortly after the new year.
THINK: Do you think you'll be able to break it internationally?
PAVEL: That's the condition, and why we went with a major label.
ŠTĚPÁN: I said, with this company we can get out. Prague has always been supportive of us, and when we are abroad we will always represent the CZ. My hope is that with groups like Ohm Square we can start to make a big scene here. We want to be more than just a good band in Czechia.
THINK: You mentioned Ohm Square, is it just an accident that all these exciting groups are emerging?
ŠTĚPÁN: Those two bands are actually from one band. Four years ago we were called Sebastians. We made a video for "MTV 120 minutes", and after that we worked with Colorfactory. In the end Dusan and Jan formed Ohm Square, and Pavel and I formed Liquid.
PAVEL: Definitely something's going on, the stakes are being raised.
THINK: After a few listens I found Get Down to be my favorite track, any problems in getting that sound?
ŠTĚPÁN: Me and Kuba did it, the sound of exhaling smoke in the beginning was a mistake, but we decided it was alright, especially after about fifteen joints! It took us like an hour to get the right kind of blow, you can't do it right with just a cigarette. We were so stoned, that's probably why it sounds magical.
THINK: What about "Movie About Blues"?
ŠTĚPÁN: We wrote it in the practice room just like "We Can't Get No D.S". We were trying to finish the recording, and it was starting to get cold, and it ended up being about that movement from summer to autumn.
THINK: What do your lyrics mean to you?
TONYA: I try to play off the music. Other people probably sit down and think real hard and come up with these beautiful little words, but for me, it like, all about finding a melody, and then I try to take the words from there.
THINK: I seem to remember there was a song that said "I'm a Nasty Girl".
TONYA: Naughty girl, they made me change that. They didn't like the way I sung that. Now it's something like tricky girl. Tricky Smicky.
THINK: What about the live environment?
ŠTĚPÁN: I need to give people more interaction, they should feel like dancing. After the gig I want them to feel like 'What the f*ck!". At Ohm Square people were facing forward. We want to give a bigger show than the typical bullsh*t. For example, Kuba is an excellent dancer.
THINK: What is bullsh*t?
PAVEL: Real dance music is about an interaction with the people.
T; We want to give more than say Stereolab, otherwise they could just stay at home. If you don't want to give anything stay in the rehearsal space.
THINK: Would you call this house music, or what?
TONYA: No it's dance music, I wouldn't call it house.
THINK: What are the difference between American and British scenes?
ŠTĚPÁN: I am mostly listening to English and Japanese music and Deejays, like the group UFO. American bands like Smashing Pumpkins are a bore. The bands in the UK are more clever. Music comes from everywhere. In CZ it was like we had the best classic music like Dvorak, and then we had some problems with politics and we stopped for like 40, 50 years. I think we can go back.
PAVEL: We are the second biggest country music country on Earth. (TONYA: that's scary!) Most of my music comes from the States. Generating from Africa, this music has travelled all over the world. The roots of dance music are not from England, but it's tribal. Music is constantly coming back to its roots.
TONYA: The new Wyclef record is a good example of how many influences can be brought together fusing Caribbean music of a 100 years ago with the Bee Gees. Music is music.
THINK: Time is of the essence, I'm going to throw out some fishing lines. First; Safe Sex?
TONYA: You should always have safe sex.
ŠTĚPÁN: Yes you should always have safe sex or you will die as soon as possible I hope! (Laughter)
THINK: Marvin Gaye?
TONYA: I Love Marvin Gaye, he was alright.
ŠTĚPÁN: He's great!
THINK: New Order?
ŠTĚPÁN: This is good music, I think they know the way.
THINK: Spice Girls?
C: Girls for Ummm sex. Good at Business.
THINK: This leads me to the question, if Coca Cola came to you and offered you millions of crowns, what would you do?
ŠTĚPÁN: I will kill them on the street because I don't want anyone to see me kill them in my garden. When someone comes that will be the question, we would have to think hard about sponsorship. I don't like monopolys.
TONYA: I took the Pepsi challenge and I chose Pepsi. So not Coke. These kinds of people want a really big piece of you. I could spend the money on shoes.
ŠTĚPÁN: Tanya came to the practice space and saw the computers and said "How much does it cost?" I said 80,000Kc, she said "You know what that is a whole lot of shoes, baby".
ŠTĚPÁN: I think you must take good one. But really, if you take it and you feel good about it, are happy every time, then it should be their choice.
TONYA: You've gotta do things in moderation. Maybe that's not what you should say being a musician and all.