A man, his voice, vintage analogue synths and a beatbox, diy, gloomy raw minimal synth music, travels all around Europe, intense and devastating performance, new frienships and experiences, joy and pain…this and much more is Goran Lautar a.k.a. Neon Lies, he just released his second album, simply titled “II”, via the ever inspiring Berlin’s Black Verb Label, one of the most immersive and intriguing dark synth release so far. I had a nice chat with the man, check it out…
- Thanks so much for the interview. Can you let us know where do your musical roots lie, your early artistic influences and inspirations?
I’ve quiet been lucky that i had a little circle of friends from my neighborhood living in big concrete solitaires of Zagreb, end 80’s, and we discovered together in our early teenagehood outfits as Ramones, Clash, Sex Pistols and even started at 15 with first band with those friends, was called Vandali… Name pretty self explanatory 🙂 Later on, we all together were deep into bands like Joy Division, The Fall, even Sonic Youth… was the era of their LP ‘Sister’ who really opened my musical tastes. Also bands like D.A.F., Suicide and early Tuxedoomoon.
- Since the early 2000’s you were guitarist/vocalist and songwriter of the garage punk band The Babies, you looked like Johnny Rotten in a video, and more recently with the synth-punk trio Modern Delusion, how about those experiences?
The Babies were my first more exposed band, but sort of hyped up answer, by Croatian journalists to so-called r’n’r revival in early 2000’s, meaning all doors were opened for us through one Croatian major label. Experience is mixed. Had lot of fun and great tours around region and Europe, but often involved in tensions with that major label and eventually, we were dropped out when we didn’t want to participate in some stupid scam with Croatian sort of Grammy, which we ignored. I learned never to deal with people who don’t appraise and understand your art, but just stick around you because of your sort of plain success.
Modern Delusion and some other bands before it, like Welcomin’ Committee In Flames and Dykemann Family were sort of natural transition for me. Specially Modern Delusion was some kind of return to more gloomy, synth oriented music that I grew up with. And also chance enter whole another social and musical circle around d.i.y. label Doomtown Records in Zagreb, and also to known d.i.y. club/community of Medika which is run by new generation, and i’m really privileged to be part of it in my ‘’gentle older years’’. It’s really important to be involved in local scene. Putting up shows for another bands, also helping new coming local bands through my project XXX Tape Sessions where I record them live on 4 – track tape Tascam in sort of Peel Session concept.
- Do you recall how and when did your passion for synths start? When did you start to feel the need of a completely new adventure? just your voice, vintage synths and a beatbox…
It was kind of a need for a new challenge. I never played keyboards before, and also playing guitar in ‘normal’ band was somehow too much repetitive experience. As I said, my passion for synth oriented music was from very early days, which I first tried to introduce in my band Modern Delusion. So this Neon Lies story start to develop three years ago, and real start in mid 2016. Also was big moment for me to do something very personal and plain opened, at least having feeling of doing that way. Challenge of being alone on stage and perform still wakes me shivers and excitement which I didn’t feel before in any band ever. Also, it’s fucking easier. To produce, to tour, to have some sort of plan where it leads. And it can lead in any kind of direction, because, not being in a band you’re free of context of genre and people’s expectations. Still I have a feeling I just started.
- Please, let’s talk about your approach to the song composition, how the songwriting and recording process evolve? What have been the differences between your 2016 debut and the current one?
My technical knowledge of producing and making electronic music is very rudimentary up until this day. For instance, I never bothered to learn to use computers in that process. I still record live playing keyboards and record them directly on tape recorder Tascam, 4 or 8 channels, which I wide up in headroom with two extra channels recording PA system through 2 ambient mics on big old school 3 Inch magnetophone. That’s whole wisdom of it, to play it as possible organic, without much programming of sequencer or rhythm machines and to do it analogue up until end product. And speaking of structure of making music, somehow I imagine it as building it as a brick structure to some point, and then let things to happen by it’s own will. Usually to let it collapse 🙂 In most of the cases, I record first takes. So there are many non-planned things in final recording, I let song to happen by it’s own will at that point. Simillary, I do it in live concerts. Why to mime recording, because this revealed creative process in front of people is far more exciting for me, guess for audience too. In that sense, approach to recording of both albums was quiet similar, with main difference that I used more channels and more experimentation on album ‘’II’’.
- How are important and where do you draw your lyrics from?
First album was more into lyrical, story telling expression manner, many themes were sort of gathering and piling up in my mind through all those years. Very personal and very intimate. Second album is more about deconstructing those stories and leave much more space to listeners own imagination, but basic emotions remaining pretty same.
- My Balkan friends talked to me about the mythical Yugoslav post punk and new wave scene of the 80’s , litterally saying ‘everybody was into something, music, comics, poetry, theater’, a period that is obviously almost completely ignored in most part of Europe. How much have you been influenced and inspired by it and by those bands?
Not that directly, as I said I always was more into foreign bands, but it gave me some kind of confidence to be rooted in that great tradition, also was important in manner that local audience understood pretty much right away what I’m trying to do, meaning, people, at least from our circles in local scenes understand and have knowledge about that kind of much very much so.
- Which impact your hometown Zagreb has had and still has on you and your music ? It seems there are plenty of electronic, synth musicians and producers at the moment like Zarkoff, Iv/an, Ikonal, Le Chocolat Noir to name a few. Just recently has been released the Croatian collaborative Lab Personnel “Recreation” LP on Medical Records in which you’re involved and few days ago I read also an good article about the Zagreb post-independence industrial scene…
Zagreb influences me as a place where I grew up, as a place I build up my life and relationships. So, definitely, it made a personal impact, which for shure can be translated into music. Recording LP ‘’Recreation’’ was great fun done in friendship atmosphere, I think Zarkoff is really doing great job connecting us all from electronic scene. And yes, we can really say Zagreb has a good scene in this moment, I would also add to that list a solo project of ManMachine and younger bands as No No Instigator, all synth oriented. And for me on top of that list for sure Popsimonova, whom I consider as great influence when I started Neon Lies. Zagreb also has vibrant new punk scene around the label Doomtown Records, to mention The Celetoids and Eke Buba with many more bands also coming all around. Not to forget, I consider myself at first place rooted in a punk scene.
- When I talked briefly with you, I felt a strong sense of humor, listening your album instead is like to be enveloped in a hazy, hypnotic, trance-inducing, claustrophobic dystophic atmosphere with few flashes of light, Can you give us some indication of the themes, a possible thread and inspirations behind these songs and how they took shape over time?
We all have multiple personalities, ain’t? 🙂 I mean, no matter how my music can be claustrophobic or sinister sounding, I think, still, celebrates life, at least, warnings how life is precious and valuable and would be such a shame to fuck it up on basically pointless things. You don’t know true happinness without knowing about true misery, it’s an old but very true syntagma. Talking about process, I just let those songs and themes to get their shape by their own organic logic and will.
- I’ve noticed that you’re tirelessy on tour around Europe and I heard of intense, cathartic and manic live performances, what do they mean for you? Maybe a way of exorcising your own personal demons?
True. It’s very much of my personal d.i.y. psychotherapy, very important to manage sort of balance in my life. And it’s fun. Up until it’s fun, I’ll do it. It’s great to travel around knowing there are some people waiting for you to give them something precious of yours. And shows are like that because, on stage I never tried to be producer just pushing buttons, I’m a singer.
- What kind of old/new music are you usually listening? Any current bands/artists are you excited by at the moment?
Sharing stage couple of times with Boy Harsher on December European tour was really special experience for me. We connected personally and musically. Much of new music I experience visiting different venues and events in Zagreb, all kinds of genres, and I do it at least two times a week, ‘cause been lucky that many interesting bands are passing through Zagreb.
- Many thanks for being our welcome guest, just the last usual question : what are your plans for the near future?
- Thank you for giving me a chance to share few thoughts to your readers. In the future? Just keeping the paiste, I know I’m doing right thing now, just to spread it around to as much people as possible.
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