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"(F)or now I enjoy living under a rock" – Interview with Bogdan Raczynski

Bogdan Raczynski was a big name in the IDM scene of the early 2000s. After his most famous Brainrave-releases came out on the now defunct Rephlex label, run by fellow musician Aphex Twin, his latest record "ADDLE" was released via Hyperdub last year. It is an introspective, calm and balanced record that delves into ambient spheres as well as airy rhythmical textures, moving away from the fast-paced breakbeats that he's known for. The musician talked to us about the freedom of creativity, social awkwardness and hiding away on an island.

When someone is part of the IDM scene for that long, are there many colleagues left that are still active? How is your network built up? You’re actually very active in the modular synth community.

Bogdan Raczynski: I am not in regular touch with any of the old Rephlex crew. But that says more about my hermetic nature. For better or worse, I am one of those people who would be perfectly content living on an island; as long as there's an internet connection, mind you. I have always done my best work and communication through machines and computers, that extends to my recent work with modular synthesis.

"(T)he less I think the better"

ADDLE is really a deep record that is also quite sensitive. Where is the melancholy coming from? Is it a mood that you’re especially interested in? It also sounds comforting and conciliatory in a way.

Bogdan Raczynski: My music is something like dreaming, where you are working things out in your life, but almost without consciousness. Of course I am awake when I compose, but the less I think the better. In that sense, I haven’t really given much thought to where the sound is from. I’d guess that the darker component of my sound has always stemmed from this innate negativity that I carry with me. Perhaps these are things to unravel one day with a therapist.

Is the quietude and calmness a direct reaction on the velocities of our society, the growing pace, the pressure?

Bogdan Raczynski: I hope so. I read a fair bit of news, and am as troubled as most about our collective direction. This awareness, combined with a desire to be as creatively thoughtless as possible, I hope, means that reality seeps through.

"Calm has always been the aim"

You stated in the context of the record "Calm is great". Did you think the same way when you were, let’s say 25? Your record back then – "My love I love" is quite ambient and subtle as well. So you always had that side in you. Can you name for yourself personally, the moments when it felt right to take this direction?

Bogdan Raczynski: Calm has always been the aim; elusive, but the restful state that I yearn for. The sound is not so much a desire to be different, so much as work out my internal dialogues and find a rock to rest on.

The record is not only more calm, it’s also a more intimate, introspective record than the releases you put out the years before. Was it challenging for you to put thoughts and feelings and atmospheres into sounds, rather than rhythms or was it even easier?

Bogdan Raczynski: I find composing to be a balm. It’s the kind of craft in which people are completely willing to give you space to breathe. In real life, I am horrible at talking to people, something that creates social awkwardness and discomfort. But in sound, everything is permitted. This is why I feel the most comfortable and at peace partaking in sound. This is also true of any creativity really, I yearn for it and feel lighter when in its presence.

The artist statement to the record reads very poetical. Do you have an affinity for language? Does this relate somehow back to musics, rhythms, images, sonic fictions?

Bogdan Raczynski: It relates to the anxiety of being an English as a second language foreigner from an early age, mixed with deeply lacking self-confidence and discomfort with being among people. Even when I didn’t understand the words people said to me I was always hyper-aware of their tone, vocal and physical. Language, as an extension of that, was another place I could hide and use to find comfort in. To this day I deliberate over words and structure and vibe. Though, never for long due to my inability to focus, but that's another story.

You were always referred to as Brainraver, a Rephlex affiliate. Now you return with a new style on Planet Mu. How does that feel? To leave the ground you’ve had your feet on for that long? Also when it comes to labels, I mean after Rephlex stopped, you went on to release on Disciples, a daughter label of Warp and now Planet Mu. Do you feel part of the label family already?

Bogdan Raczynski: It sounds cold, and I mean no ill will, but no, I do not feel part of any family. Sonically, there is crossover, I’m sure. However, I actually listen to very little music. This isn’t to be intentionally weird or difficult, I am just incredibly easily influenced. And I would prefer not to be. So I abstain as a way of forcing myself to breathe more freely in the sonic sense.

But you’re in good company with Hyperdub. Their roster contains many forward thinking producers like Vladislav Delay or J-lin. You see a relation between their aesthetic approach and yours?

Bogdan Raczynski: I haven’t listened to their work, nor the work of Richard or Tom or Mike or practically anyone else from this sphere of sound for about the last 15-20 years. I’m sure most of it’s decent, and maybe I’ll one day regret it, but for now I enjoy living under a rock.

"Every time I try to sound like something, and that’s very often, I fail"

You’re not believing in gear fetishism, you state that it is an illusion, that you can achieve more by owning a certain tool. That shortage of mean is actually something inspirational. This sounds like you don’t usually have so much of a sonic concept in mind, but maybe more like a mood, that you want to translate?

Bogdan Raczynski: I don’t consciously think about a concept, but instead focus on unfocusing. This sounds absurdly pretentious, and perhaps I am. Every time I try to sound like something, and that’s very often, I fail. Interestingly, these failures have probably resulted in some of my more popular releases (i.e., SMB). That’s quite funny of course. And there’s probably something for me to deduce from that. There again though I’d rather not stick around long enough to think about it.

"(M)ost of us still think of music as some kind of competitive sport"

You worked with Aphex Twin and Björk, remixed Autechre, you were quite successful in the 00s. How did the music industry change? What’s your relation to social media? To the mechanisms of the current market?

Bogdan Raczynski: It’s interesting to hear that. From where I sit, I am a massive failure in the sense that I had great ambitions and goals and failed at all of them.

I’m terribly unqualified to comment on how the music industry has changed because I am mostly plugged out. I will say that I’m disappointed that people, the listeners, haven’t changed in the important ways. Meaning, most of us still think of music as some kind of competitive sport; a pyramid in which there’s only room for a few at the top.

Bogdan Raczynski: Instead, music now exists on a flat plane. I wish more people understood this, but I will explain more in my upcoming book, titled

Already Aphex Twin has called you an "underrated" artist and cited you as a key influence behind 2001's Drukqs. How do you deal with this labelling?

Bogdan Raczynski: I’m more than a bit pissed off that I didn’t get a royalty.

You travelled the whole planet, lived in the States, in Japan and in the UK. Where are you based now and when did your nomadic lifestyle end?

Bogdan Raczynski: I’m back to Europe after a hefty chunk of time in Canada. It’s great for now. One day, I’d like to live in Japan again, long enough to become fluent in the language, but also to absorb the vibe. The multi-sensory experience of living there will never leave me, and I yearn for it like some kind of vibrational vampire.

Have you ever had the feeling that the places surrounding you had an impact on the records you produced?

Bogdan Raczynski: Nah, not really.

ADDLE sounds very relaxed, like you’re in balance with life. Or is it a fallacy?

Bogdan Raczynski: Quite the contrary, I think. It was written during a period of time that was full of upheaval and change; not negatively so, just a time where massive change was required and it was almost like I was astral projecting into a new person.

What always fascinated me with your sounds is that they really sound sincere, which is hard to establish in such an abstract artform as electronic music. You have an explanation for that?

Bogdan Raczynski: One of two things is true - either I am a bit empty up top or … no, actually it’s just that one thing.

Thanks much for the interview!

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