Interview to Daniela Slezáková
EA - How did it start with you and music? DS - It was a bit unexpected. I was 19 and studying language school in Prague. One evening I went to a small local concert of my friend. He told me he was preparing a big music project in O2 arena, which is the biggest stadium we have in the country. I knew his work, the effort he puts in it. Also he seemed very busy with it and I had a lot of free time on my hands, so I told him if there was anything I could help with, I would be happy to do so. Next day he called me and said “you made the biggest mistake of your life – you offered me a help and I’m going to use it.“
I had no previous experience and no idea what to expect, but being young and naive I was full of optimism. Things started to snowball and from little tasks here and there I went to 6 months of sleeping 4 hours a day, going to school, after that running the production and PR errands, going home and there working until 4am again. Think it was the moment I learned not switch off my phone at night. There was a team of 80 people working on this project and an incredible spirit in the air. We put our lives on hold to make the show happen.
The concert was sold out and I managed to see most of it from the audience. By the end of the show I was overwhelmed by emotions, tears rolling down my cheeks – knowing we all put everything we had inside ourselves in it and remembering the blood, sweat and tears, I was so proud of everyone involved. Then I looked around and I saw the whole stadium getting on their feet applauding. The energy went through – by giving our souls into it, we touched people’s souls. A feeling money can’t buy. That moment I realized this is something greater than us and I it’s something I want to carry on doing as long as possible.
EA - Among your prestigious collaborations, Ian Ritchie, Harry Waters and Larry John McNally, with a focus on the jazz scene, which is considered by many people as music at its finest. How is it to be working in the Jazz field, since - I guess - the dynamics might be pretty different from the ones of the rock scene? DS - There are different aspects of work as mostly jazz is played at smaller, more intimate venues, the band requires different sound to a rock band, the structure of the concert differs. But at the end of the day it’s still music, only in a different form. And I have always enjoyed both big stages as well as small clubs. Each one has very own magic. In fact one of the most memorable concerts for me was Gilad Atzmon’s show in Prague that I booked a few years ago. Gilad played with great local players in a small place called A Maze In Tchaiovna. It was crowded over the normal capacity and there was so much energy coming from the band and crowd too that it wouldn’t let me sit still and it felt like something inside of me was about to explode. Incredible moment.
EA - What do you like in particular about jazz?
DS - I heard people say,“I don’t listen to jazz because I don’t understand it.“ Well, what does it mean to understand jazz anyway? I was never trying to understand it myself. I’m fairly happy with the fact that it touches me. Jazz is beautiful and emotional music. It’s like a conversation with tones instead of words and there’s enough of room for own imagination to tell what those say.
EA - The Music Industry has dramatically changed in the last decades, on top of it the introduction of streaming audio has widely modified consumers’ habits. The visual element has also faced profound changes, cover albums and booklets have almost disappeared “killed by the videos”. How do you adapt your work to the changing times, and how do you envision the future of music industry?
DS - That’s a tough one. When I started to work in music, MySpace was one of the biggest social media platforms and mp3 players were still very rare. Today people who are five years younger than me have no idea that anything like MySpace existed. The evolution of social media platforms and streaming services is extremely fast. On top of that it’s not universal for all countries. There isn’t a recipe that would get the artist covered really worlwide. It’s important to listen to your audience, their habbits, preferences and follow that direction. Luckily I still witness people buying CDs at concerts. Streaming services are handy, but there’s nothing like holding a record in your hands. The comeback of vinyls gives a little hope, but in a long term I’m afraid there’ll be less and less physical records released. Printing any record costs a lot of money and these days when you have music available online basically for free, there’s no guarantee for artists that the sales of physical records will at least cover the costs.
“Music has the power to channel ethics values within our culture”. Would you agree?
Yes, I would. But I believe that goes for any form of art in general. The world around is shaping us. That job is never finished. As either a musician, an author, a sculptor – you are expressing yourself and your beliefs aloud and your voice gets heard by many. Then it’s only up to you how you use that voice.
EA - How has music - and working within its Industry - impacted your life? DS - I have always loved music and it always seemed to be one of the priorities in my life. I remember traveling around Europe for shows, when I was a teenager. I recall skipping school for concerts or in other cases going back to school after concerts and falling asleep on the desk. I made up an evil excuse to postpone my leaving exams just to be able to go to a gig in Vienna instead (I do hope my former class teacher doesn’t get to read that). It always felt like school was dragging me away from something I found truly meaningful.
Shortly afterwards joining the industry was one of the best things that ever happened to me. I remember and treasure every single concert I worked at. The job can be extremely stressful at times with lots of pressure on one‘s shoulders. But then all the amazing people I met along, the friendships that developed, the music I heard, the excitement and adrenaline I experienced, that outweights it big time. It’s a way of living driven by passion.
EA - Do you think that music may be considered a universal language or, on the contrary, it may have a lexicon and a jargon that divides people ethnographically?
DS - I certainly see it as a universal language. There might be different dialects here and there but those don’t stand in a way of mutual understanding and connection.
EA - Given your expertise in music, what could be your ideal list of top 3 songs and why? Between sound and lyrics, could you choose one of the two first or do you consider them inseparable? DS - I guess I’m not able to pick top 3 songs, but maybe random 3 songs from a long list that are on my mind now... These Arms Of Mine by Otis Redding: because soul music has been a big part of my life and there’s almost palpable urgency in this one and the way Otis sings the lyrics, that sends shivers down my spine. Shadowplay by Fish from Marillion: I have always admired his use of language and how he precisely describes feelings everyone knows but are hard to put a name on. Pompadour by McNally Waters: it’s a song from an upcoming album of the band. One could say I’m biased and maybe that‘s true. However, first time I heard the song, I really liked it but it was not until I heard it live recently when I realized how powerful it is. It amazes me how much pain and love at the same time is possible to concentrate in one piece. I think guys did particularly wonderful job on that one. Choosing between sound and lyrics is like Sophie’s choice. I need both in my life.
EA - You’ve recently discovered a big passion for photography too, having your pictures featured by artists such as McNally-Waters in their press-kit and website, and by winning a photo contest. What do you like about music photography? DS - I have always liked photography and graphic design and I have quite a few friends between photographers. My home is decorated with their photos from gigs I have worked at. This spring, when we were on the road in the UK, the band wanted me to take some footage so we would have some material to post on social media. So I went and took some pictures of moments and angles I found interesting, the emotions I liked when I saw them. I hugely enjoyed that. However I would never guess those would get such a strong reaction. But obviously I’m very grateful for that and also glad the photos seem to be useful.
The thing I like about music photography is the unspoken emotional dialogue between the musician and the photographer. The person on the stage radiates certain energy, emotions which say something about themselves and the person taking the photo, based on which emotions they pick and how they capture it, they project into it something from themselves too. I find it very intriguing.