Robert Soko: You were running a Project Rakija ten years ago, which was somehow linked to the Balkan Beats, Balkan culture. Then at some point you dropped it. The first question would be why? Then the next step, which is a current project of yours, which I find quite interesting, is Bosnia meets Tropical. This is something that I never heard of someone else doing. These two questions. Back to Project Rakija. How long? Why? Why did you stop? And then…
Lovski: Well, before Project Rakija I was doing more of this adapting stuff. I was a guitar player, I was practicing a lot and I wanted to audition for two of the most famous conservatories in Holland. There was one in Rotterdam. There was one in Tilburg. That was the highest level. I really wanted to go to one of those two schools. So I auditioned them both. And I could go to both schools. So I chose Tilburg. Then, I was making music which was common here. Everything that came from America and the UK. I hated those bands and everything. And then it hit me suddenly, I think when this Balkan thing came to Holland, that was through this Shantel, Disko Partizani.
Robert Rigney: Around 2007.
Lovski: Something like that. So before that, I wasn’t even connected with the music or anything. I was just playing the guitar. And at some point the track came on TV, and I was like, wow, man, holy shit, dig this nostalgia and all that kind of stuff. What am I doing? I should make this kind of music. I wanted suddenly to get in touch with my roots. But I didn’t know how. And then, in the end, I had to graduate from my school. And that was actually 2011. And I just started looking for some horn section to try to make this a graduation project. So I did that. And it was really fun. We did three, four tracks. It was really cool and I always tried to make something different out of it. And so I started listening to Himzo Polovina, this sevdalinke, really old traditional songs. And then we started to mix them into some ska-punk.
Robert Rigney: How successful were you at that?
Lovski: We played Sziget and Lowlands, Sarajevo Beer Fest, we went to England and Denmark and stuff like that.
Robert Rigney: But, I mean, Himzo Polovina with beats seems to me a difficult feat.
Lovski: It was really funny because Himzo’s songs are actually love songs, really slow.
Robert Soko: Longing. Whining and dying.
Lovski: Ha-ha. Yeah. But they were really beautiful songs. And musically, I was really attracted to them. And it turned out to be not so much party music, but rather seventies rock, kind of like seventies psychedelia. And that was actually quite fine. I don’t know if you know Altın Gün?
Robert Rigney: Yeah, sure. I like them a lot.
Lovski: Yeah, actually, he is one of my students, the saz player. I was coaching him. Yeah, so we did something like that. But we didn’t have a good enough theme to proceed to the next level. That’s why I quit the band.
Robert Soko: When did Project Rakija end?
Robert Soko: Yeah, that seems like the time when the whole trend was waning.
Lovski: I wanted to do something different with it. So the first thing – I was the band leader, and it was my project – and I was like a Dutch guy singing in Bosnian. It was really cool. But in the end, I was like, ok, but the first thing that needs to be done is to start writing lyrics and my own songs, and stuff like that. And the rest of the band – the dynamics were crazy. We could embark on a lot of adventures, and stuff like that and we went to some amazing places and festivals. But I wanted to have something with real identity. And there was a big fight. And then I said, I think it’s time to move on.
Robert Soko: Who was the biggest asshole?
Lovski: I’m not going to say that. I don’t think of them as assholes anymore.
Robert Soko: Why the fuck Bosnia vs. Tropical? It sounds super tantalizing, right? But what is the idea? How to blend the tropical sound with the Bosnian sentiment?
Lovski: Actually, it’s not that big of a difference.
Robert Soko: Come on, the one is Oriental. The other is…Tropical. The way how they are happy or sad is different. This is why I could never understand South American music. Because they are differently happy and differently sad. And it was never my frequency somehow.
Robert Rigney: Although cumbia works well with Balkan.
Robert Soko: Cumbia is just rhythm.
Lovski: For me, I really loved the Balkan melodies and I love when they get rhythmical. I love it when you can play it on guitar. It’s just a really cool instrument to play them on. But I don’t love the vocals in Balkan.
Robert Rigney: No?
Lovski: They are also whining and wailing. Always like big vocals and stuff like that.
Robert Rigney: I like that actually.
Lovski: It’s very light. The melodies are very light, actually. When the melodies kick in they feel very light. But when the vocals come in, I’m like, oh man! No, I don’t like that. It should be light. Music should be always light.
Robert Soko: But this is the snake. You are trying to mix up two big sentiments. One is the Oriental – this longing sadness – and the other thing is the Tropical – it is also sad, but at the same time they are happy. The happiness is different. That’s why it was really like, wow, how are you going to achieve something new? Because you are really putting apples and pears together. Or, I don’t know, really different worlds, which are not easy to synchronize to some extent, right?
Lovski: That’s true. Right. But this is the thing: does Balkan music always have to be sad? I don’t think it has to be.
Robert Soko: I see when it comes to Balkan music, you are more inclined to the Bosnian musical world and heritage, which is based on sevdah mostly, slash, rooted in the Oriental sounds. You are not necessarily into this –
Robert Rigney: Truba.
Robert Soko: Hop, hop, hop, truba, Serbia etc. This is not your cup of tea. You prefer – which is also Balkan music – both are Balkan music. And it’s a bit confusing when you say “Balkan”, because we have a few faces in there. Right? That’s why it’s good that you say “Bosnian meets Tropical” and not “Balkan”.
Lovski: Yeah, maybe. Because in my music I use more of this Turkish, Bosnian melodies. They are kind of different.
Robert Soko: Is it because your mother is a Muslim, or?
Lovski: No. Because they sound more romantic.
Robert Rigney: And when you play guitar, what guitar are you using?
Lovski: I have a custom-made guitar for this. It’s a blues – a Fender Telecaster electric guitar.
Robert Soko: The one that was stolen in Curaçao?
Lovski: Ha-ha. But I mean, the funny part is – but I do love the Serbian horn part as well, to listen to.
Robert Soko: Don’t worry we are not going to make you look like a kind of –
Lovski: But I really do. Because I love the way Goran Bregović did the thing with a really good orchestra.
Robert Soko: Even if you don’t, it’s all good. Why not?
Lovski: No, no, I would say if I don’t. But I really do. Because it’s very intense and very rhythmical. And if you listen to Goran Bregović you will see African beats in it. If you listen to Goran Bregović’s albums, actually, they were a big influence on me rhythmically. Not so much melodically. Because it just doesn’t work on guitar. The thing that they make on trumpets and saxophone you can’t replicate on guitar. The things that they make on saz and gusla, they do work well on guitar because they are both string instruments. That’s the only thing. I can’t play the whole beauty of the horn section. Because it works with air, it doesn’t work with strings. So you have all this gusla and saz from the Turkish era, also bouzouki and stuff like that. That’s from Greece, and it’s coming also to the Balkans. And for me that’s the inspiration for the melodies. For rhythm, if you listen to this Alcohol album by Goran Bregović, that’s North African, West African beats. It’s copy-paste.
Robert Soko: Yes, but he also did a couple of songs with Rachid Taha, who died a couple of years ago. He was also jumping on this wave as well.
Lovski: And what I really love now for a couple of years is this South American Columbian sound. Not the cumbia, but the electronic sound that they have. And that is for me so rhythmic. I try to combine those two things actually.
Robert Rigney: And you made it down there as well, didn’t you – to Curaçao. What drew you there?
Lovski: I did a track with a big soca artist. Soca is a kind of carnival music. It’s this music from the Caribbean. It’s very fast, aggressive and African-based. It came there with the slaves. It came from West Africa. It was shipped together with the slaves. So the soca music is Caribbean music centered in the Grenadines, an English colony. So obviously, they killed all the aboriginals, shipped in some West African slaves and they started making music now for many years now.
So they have these very cool soca festivals as well. It’s. very fast and very upbeat. Like Goran Bregović, it’s very upbeat. And everybody starts dancing and they paint themselves black and throwing color at each other, while painting themselves black, even blacker than they were to begin with. That’s actually soca music. I teamed up with one of these artists, Wetty Beatz from St. Vincent & the Grenadines. And he is one of the biggest producers in that scene, and it is growing. It’s growing internationally as well. And he really loves to combine as well. So he came to the studio and said, “OK, let’s try and create a new sound.” So we met and then we went to Curaçao to shoot a video. And out of it we released a single and a video. And it’s actually a very popular track in the scene. It’s different, because they have this steel drum in the Caribbean. I don’t know if you can hear it, but they play everything on the steel drum. And they have all these sounds from synthesizers and they all sound like steel drum. So what we did was – he did a really cool soca beat, like a very fast rhythmical thing. And instead of all these synthesizers that sound like a steel drum, I play guitars. Acoustic guitars, electric guitars. A This is Lovski sound, a Caribbean sound. And everybody really loved it because it was really different for them.
Robert Rigney: What was your impression of Curaçao? What’s it like down there?
Robert Soko: And how was the collaboration with them? Because often collaborating with musicians, no matter where, Germans with Germans or Yugos with others – it’s often a disaster.
Lovski: Yeah, this guy, he started to be very famous. And obviously – just like with reggae – everything starts off in London. Soca music is very big in London. There is a lot there. But sometimes it is hard to get in touch. But, yeah, we went for the video to Curaçao. It’s a really beautiful country. And still there is a really big difference if you are white or black. Very big.
Robert Soko: In what sense?
Lovski: They have one city, it is called Willemstad. It’s like Amsterdam, because the country was a Dutch colony. It’s like Amsterdam, but in color. It’s like if every house in Amsterdam would be purple or yellow. It’s copy-paste of Amsterdam. In Willemstad there is a lot of crime and they have a lot of gang wars. They are all black. And if you go from Willemstad into the hills, which we did in order to shoot this sunset shot – it was a very beautiful hill – it’s the first shot of the video. So this guy, he was from Curaçao, the film maker. And he said, I know the perfect spot to film the sunset shots. So we went up there at six in the morning, something like that. And that was like, villa, villa, villa, villa, one after another, everywhere, all fenced in, beautiful houses. Houses like you would see in movies. Beautiful. You can’t even imagine. And then it was six AM, seven AM, people started jogging, right. Some people go off to jog in the morning because it is kind of hot in the daytime. And it was just: white guy, white guy, white guy going past.
Robert Rigney: Dutch?
Lovski: Yeah, most of them are Dutch. Yeah, and that is still going on: only white guys have money.
Robert Soko: So the white guys are jogging and the black guys are playing music.
Lovski: Yeah, so it was really shocking to see.
Robert Soko: Such a massive difference, you mean. So clear-cut. Like in South Africa, I guess. I witnessed something like this in South Africa.
Lovski: Yeah, probably. I went to this no-go zone for whites to shoot this one shot. And then the director said, “Are you up for it?” And I said, “Yeah, baby, let’s go.” We were driving this really big Mustang because we rented it for the movie. And we went to this place where no white people ventured into. It’s kind of a no-go zone, right? I was surrounded by black people. I was the only white guy. We had a big-ass Mustang with two big sub-woofers installed. And I had this JBL box to have the music for us to dance to, to shoot the movie. This guy, who rented us the Mustang, he went with us as well. He was a really big black guy, and he said, “Yeah, man, I’m going to go with you guys. I don’t have anything today.” And he went with us, and he said, “Fuck this JBL box, man. Give me your phone. You got Blue Tooth?” Yeah, I got Blue Tooth. Then he pumped this track full on the speakers, and then the whole neighborhood came to watch. They saw this big rasta with dreadlocks and a white guy with guitar, jumping together. I mean, it was a rasta neighborhood or something like that, and they came on over to see who the fuck, but they heard the track and they saw the rasta guy, so in the end, it was like, “This is good. We are accepting the white guy.”
Robert Soko: Why didn’t you play some sevdah tracks there to see what would happen? Ha-ha.
Lovski: This is the problem. They would say, waaa, what the fuck is this? They want to dance, right? I love sevdah, but you need to go and dance, otherwise music is useless.
Robert Soko: Sevdah is not music to dance to. I went a couple weeks ago to a concert by Amira Medunjanin and people sit. Everyone is sitting and singing. And they love it. I have to disagree with you. That music as such is for dancing. I love the rhythm and 4/4 and upbeat in the club and you name it. And jump. But then again, sitting and listening to music is also magic. You know what I mean? And this is what you are trying to combine – these two energies, right? Let’s see how far you make it.
Lovski: Yeah, I love all sorts of music. I love rock and I love stuff like that. For me, I don’t listen to it anymore. But I can appreciate everything. But as I am making ever more music, and as an artist, creator and songwriter, for me the essence of music is to sit around the fire and dance and forget your existence or your sorrows and some stuff like that. Just live the moment. The most beautiful way to live the moment is to start dancing. And this is where Africa is number one in rhythm. Even blues came from Africa. Even disco came from Africa. I don’t know why that is, but it’s very inspirational. I always got the link for this African stuff. So Tropical – that’s kind of the sauce you put on it. It’s like, when you start making sound, then you are going to start thinking of palm trees.
Robert Soko: What does it mean, soca, at any rate? Does it have a meaning?
Lovski: I don’t know.
Robert Soko: For instance we are talking about sevdah, which has its roots in sauda, which means black. Like Sudan, for instance. And it stands for melancholic dark-spirited mood. And it’s also actually coming from Africa by the way, when we really put it under the microscope. And now you are hitting on this with soca. And therefore, I am asking, does it mean something?
Lovski: I don’t know.
Robert Soko: We should check.
Lovski: The funny part is I had these guitars and everything. And at some point this track was getting picked up by radios, and at one point there was this girl who had a Youtube channel for dance moves. I don’t know if you have seen how soca girls dance. Look it up on Youtube and then you will see what is happening. So for me, it would be my dream –
Robert Soko: What, shaking asses probably.
Lovski: Yeah, shaking asses, and they have really big asses. And that’s what they are proud of. And they are totally grinding anything. For me, my dream is to make this Balkan melody and –
Robert Soko: Sevdah with soca dancing. That sounds amazing.
Lovski: Actually, when this track came out I got this tag on Instagram and I clicked on it, and it was this Youtube girl showing new moves on our soca track. I was like, “What the fuck? This is so cool, man.” As a Balkan guy, I can say I have written a track where black girls are shaking their asses on. Ha-ha. That’s so funny. I was like, yes, my mom can be proud now. Or Himzo.
Robert Soko: Himzo would be proud of you, that’s for sure. But who should be proud of you is Divanhana, speaking of fusing sevdah and this upbeat music. We produced two remixes which are already having Tropical elements with sevdah from Divanhana. But, ok, this is another – well, it’s not another cup of tea, but rather a concrete attempt to make it eligible, to know make it happen.
Lovski: You can listen to that track.
Robert Soko: Not only listen to it. You can dance to it.
Lovski: Yeah, it’s a good example. It can go.
Robert Rigney: Where does the name, “This is Lovski” come from?
Lovski: Yeah, well, ha-ha, when I split Project Rakija, I was finished with forming bands. I wanted to be free to work with who I wanted. Obviously I would perform live with a band, but I had a different structure. I mean, I always played with the same two guys. We made a really cool set in the corona years. And they are my buddies and everything. But creatively, it’s my thing. It’s me. And I didn’t want to call it, Igor Sekulović, so I was kind of fucking around with Sekulović. And then I came upon Lovski. And I was, like, “Yeah, This is Lovski”. This is Sekulović, but sounding cool.
Robert Soko: That’s great. Did you take any drugs to come up with such an idea? You need something quite strong to get from Sekulović to Lovski.
Lovski: The thing is everyone was associating the name with a heart. Like love-ski. I was like, that’s cool, that’s nice. I love that. Because it’s sevdah, it’s love. So we made a heart the logo.
Robert Rigney: So, what is new?
Lovski: Actually, I made an EP with different collaborators. And one of the things that I am really proud of is that I started working with the guitar player and percussionist of Fela Kuti in a really crazy Afro-track with Balkan influences, with a really good horn section from New York. Really Afro-horn section. I produced the track, and he’s singing on it. He has this deep African voice. So it’s going to be a crazy collaboration. So that’s coming up. And then we are doing these parties, “Party in No-man’s Land” where I make this heart a portal to a no-man’s land where these kinds of things are normal.
Robert Rigney: What kind of things?
Lovski: When you are connecting with different people that are out of the ordinary that can connect. For example we are in Curaçao and there are these guys on the hill and the guys down in the town involved in gang wars and stuff. They don’t meet. They would never meet.
Robert Rigney: How do you bring black people to Balkan parties? Balkan parties are very white.
Lovski: Yeah. That’s true. Well, at first, not call it Balkan. It was always a problem. Like, “Hey man, I’m Igor.” “Yeah, what do you do?” “I’m a musician and a producer.” “Yeah, what do you make?” then sometimes it’s very easy to say, “Yeah, I make reggae. Dance. EDM.” You have all these genres. But for me it was always difficult. If I say “Balkan”, it’s not true.
Robert Rigney: But what’s the response when you say Balkan?
Lovski: Then they have this Gypsy image. But at some point I just stopped calling it Balkan. They ask me, “So what do you make?” And I say, “I’m making a party”. So “Party in No-man’s Land,” that’s the concept. Very fast beats, like South American rhythms and some lost Balkan guitars, like hodjas singing from the mosque, right? That’s what I say. And everyone got interested. So the first thing you do, is you don’t call it Balkan. We are trying to make something new out of it, you know.
Robert Soko: And what’s the philosophy behind inviting this old fart DJ from Berlin to your parties in the Netherlands.
Lovski: Because it is part of the system.
Robert Soko: Ha-ha. Part of the process, you mean. Part of the decay.
Lovski: I think, as you said, Balkan music isn’t so big anymore. But it’s like reggae: you don’t forget it. I think it is very cool to invite it under different circumstances. So in Holland there would be part of a Gypsy kind of festival or something like that. And we are doing this club night. Obviously This is Lovski is not playing the kind of Balkan music you would normally associate with Balkan music. And to bring this Berlin era in another dimension. And I think this is really good.
Robert Soko: As long as you have enough drugs and alcohol to the backstage it’s going to work out.
Lovski: You just change the scenery and people start looking at it differently. That’s the thing. You change the scenery. That’s how music is always reviving itself. I mean, this Balkan hype is going to come back in another dimension, in another form. I don’t know which one. I think it’s going to come back, like eighty music has come back, like punk has come back.
Robert Soko: It becomes vintage at some point. And now we are in the gap. Right now we are in a black hole, so to speak. Because we are too young to be vintage and too old to be somehow sexy and dynamic anymore. It’s this down amplitude, the whole thing where we are right now.
Lovski: Yeah, that’s true, but still, you make it in another form. That’s what you do in a gap – you create something different.
Robert Soko: Yeah, nuclear parties, as I said the other day. Ko preživi – pričaće! “Who survives is going to tell the story!”