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Bojan Z: Stranger Sounds

By Published: July 31, 2006

AAJ: It's the same the whole world over.

BZ: Yeah, but the thing is they end up by being ignorant. But anyhow I discovered some Polish musicians, a pianist. Well, there are things happening, there are things happening. So before being able to vote as an informed man I first have to inform myself and I don't think I know everything that is going on in Europe. I would really have to think about it much more than just spit out a name. I don't have a name that pops in my mind.

AAJ: Talking about Polish musicians, do you know Tomasz Stanko's pianist?

BZ: Makita Thomas, no, Michiavic something. [Marcin Wasilewski]. Yeah. Yeah. There are definitely guys who have things to say and simply doing their shit and doing it good. But I cannot answer this question—I could have somebody who recently blew my mind and tell you but I don't.

AAJ: Fair enough. Anybody watching you playing would have no doubt that the piano is a percussion instrument. Did you ever play drums or did you ever want to play drums?

BZ: I am definitely, how do you say it, a frustrated drummer, or not frustrated, in French we say garcon manqué. You know drummer manqué. I could have been, and I was playing drums in rock bands and I'm listening to drums very much and this is really a very important instrument for the music I imagine. So, yeah, that's one of the reasons I go for guys like Ben Perowsky and Ari Hoenig you know and Nasheet Waits, because they just push me to play over my own limit.

AAJ: When you were growing up what rock bands were you listening to?

BZ: Everything. It started with the Beatles, and I still think it was a very lucky day for me when I received Revolver—I was six years old and it's interesting because the role of their music at my tender age was really opening the windows and getting pictures of elsewhere. Not that my childhood was oppressed in Belgrade, it was a very happy childhood and everything, but that just put the perspective. And no wonder when I was eleven I went to Coventry Spa to study English and ended up traveling all over Britain and really this is my first love country because of their music. Through them of course I developed in all directions. Actually I realized that I have quite a good knowledge of rock music in general. I was listening to everybody from The Allman Brothers Band to Yes. I had also albums by Rick Wakeman and things like this. I was into keyboards and keyboard players and into rock and I was going for it all the way.

AAJ: My musician mate last night at the concert said to me: "I bet you Bojan has Hunky Dory by [David] Bowie, which has Rick Wakeman on piano.

BZ:I had it. That's the one where he's flying or something, a blue cover. I don't know where they've gone all those LPs—somewhere. I was really listening to all of it, I was listening to the Sex Pistols, like, all the way. It was in '79 that I was in London—Supertramp had just done Breakfast in America, The Police had the second album, Regatta de Blanc, so it was a perfect vibe, a London vibe that I could feel when I was there at 11 years old. I was already five years into rock. Yeah, that's why underlying this side of my musical education I ended up knowing quickly that I would not be a classical pianist.

AAJ: Although I think it's clear to anybody that you have a classical style in your playing.

BZ:I had training of course but what you hear mostly is the way I'm listening to this music, and I'm still listening to this music. I don't need to spend hours in front of the written notes. I'm used to learning music by ear not by reading it on paper so that's what you hear. Certainly I made a profit [benefited] out of years—I started when I was five, so you know by the age of ten I did have the basic things about the instrument in my fingers. But I discovered how to practice by myself when I finished music school when I was seventeen. By myself I sat down, so once school was over I could really deal with it myself and find the importance of it for me.

Yeah, so for me the rock side is very important. And it's not like a sin from the childhood—far from that because quite a lot of jazz musicians keep an eye on their rock period and that's where Ben Perowsky just blew my mind when I heard the way he's playing with a rock band, and the way he approaches it is exactly the same as when he's playing duets with Sylvie Courvoisier, you know, completely improvised music. For him it's exactly the same thing. And when you listen to him play this beat, for example on Xenophonia we play two tunes which have more of a rock feel, "Ashes to Ashes," by David Bowie, and the second one is a real slow blues, but like a rock blues. The sound he's got, the way he's playing the music is just amazing. He's not going to do it because he has to earn more money playing this, no. He's into this music body and soul. Actually for me it's the same thing—I still listen to everything that can move me, you know. I was into "Buttons" when I was fifteen years old so now I'm not going to say ":Buttons, oh no!"

AAJ: It's formative, isn't it?

BZ: Yeah, and I like continuing to inform myself about machine skills and recording engines and things like this—it's very helpful. So that's my knowledge of rock music. I was listening to everything I could get my hands on.

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