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Dzijan Emin: Flood Of Ideas, Part 1-2

Nenad Georgievski By

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Part 1 | Part 2

Few people can match the experiences that keyboardist Dzijan Emin has had as a musician. Times are hard for musicians, who are expected to be proficient and versatile in a variety of genres. Those who are proficient—and available—can be seen playing with different people in various musical contexts. Examples are drummer Antonio Sanchez and bassist Christian McBride, whose services are elicited by people from genres other than jazz.

A working professional from the age of 9, when he began playing folk music in his father's band, Emin is probably best known for his collaboration with Bodan Arsovski, as a member of his Ezgija Orchestra. As part of the Skopje, Macedonia club scene, Emin and his band mates started playing in various garage jazz bands and cover rock bands. Later they started playing and recording with older artists including Vlatko Stefanovski, Bodan Arsovski, Kiril Dzajkovski, Dragan Soldatovic Labish, Arhangel, Last Expedition and Nikola Kodzobashia. As classically trained musicians they are also part of the Macedonian Philharmonic Orchestra and Opera.

All of this has contributed to their colorful musical expression in the form of Project Zlust and DNO. Its six members come from different cultural and ethnic backgrounds, reflecting the great diversity to be found in the Balkans. Zlust was founded in 1998, releasing their self-titled EP in 2000. Since then, they've released two albums under the name of Project Zlust —Live, and the soundtrack for How I Killed a Saint), DNO-Tishina. They have also recorded music for TV documentaries including The Children of 1948, and The Painter. In 2004, they played on their former professor Nikola Kodjabashia's The Reveries Of The Solitary Walker, which was voted album of the week on Radio BBC 1. This year, they have worked on scores for two films, composed by Kiril, Bal-Can-Can and The Great Water. The band DNO is another project they have been pursuing alongside Zlust, which took them in the direction of art-rock music. The presence of renowned producer Malcolm Burn (Iggy Pop, Peter Gabriel, Bob Dylan, Emmy Lou Harris, Daniel Lanois) helped significantly in the success of their debut album.

The conversation I had with Emin happened at a local cafeteria in downtown Skopje, where members of the Phillharmonic Orchestra usually take their breaks during rehersals. It was joyful as ever to talk with this good friend of mine.

All About Jazz: Last year you guys released 3 albums in a period of 2 months both as Project Zlust and DNO. Was this something you planned to do or was it a simple twist of fate?

Dzijan Emin: It certainly wasn't planned that way. Project Zlust Live was recorded a long time ago and the truth about it is that we had some offers by domestic and foreign labels that needed some consideration. But this didn't result in the way we wanted to be. Because of that the complete material remained shelved in our vaults until the right moment came for its release. We were under enormous pressure, both by us and the people that knew us. These are people that regularly attend our concerts and they kept asking us when we were going to release something. Therefore, we decided that now is the right moment. When you have done something and that piece of work is set aside, by that you aren't allowing the people to listen to it, there is no exchange of energy and no output. Actually, you have an output, but when it does not reach people that is not enough, there is no feedback.

Thank God, that period of incubation was finally over and the material was released. However during that period we worked a lot, and as Project Zlust we recorded loads of new material. It was recorded mainly during our live performances. In between we recorded the music for the film How I Killed a Saint. The time spent recording was wonderful, since we worked during the summer period. When everyone went on vacation, we worked diligently in the studio, from dawn till dawn. Working on this project was a wonderful experience as the atmosphere in the studio was very positive. To sum up, the release of these albums, which happened in a very short time, was accidental. The film had its premiere in November 2004 and the soundtrack was released afterwards.

The material with DNO was also recorded during the same period and was then handed over to Malcolm Burn so he could mix it in his own studio in New York. We waited for him to mix it and he worked meticulously on the material. In a way, the things happened by themselves. It only looks like it was a deliberate act. All of these releases were published under our own label, Chicken Madness, which doesn't have to mean that we won't be working with other labels in the future. I think it was a good decision as with these releases we brought to conclusion certain issues.

AAJ: What is it that makes a certain group of musicians to form two groups that are performing stylistically different types of music?

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