INTERVIEW with Electronic Music Wizard SoundQ

SoundQ
Photo: Michal Czekaj

Krakow, Poland-based alternative dance/alt-pop singer-songwriter and producer SoundQ unveiled the music video for “Bad Lot” not long ago. SoundQ is the brainchild of Kuba Kubica whose sound blends potent elements of bass, house, old-school IDM, and alt-pop into galvanizing dance music discharging hefty sensations of industrial energy, along with pushing rhythmic pulsations compelling listeners to get up and move to the groove.

The video, directed by Lukaz Czarnecki, opens on a brick plaza covered by prostate bodies amid remnants of a battle. At first glance, the bodies might be corpses. But then, one by one they get to their feet, followed by getting into vintage cars and cruising through the streets of Krakow. They stop to dance in underground parking lots, observed by the bobblehead of a pug mounted on the car’s dashboard. Featuring Kuba Kubica, Agata Kamykowska, whose dazzling dance moves electrify the screen, and Mateusz Kufel, the visuals depict a dark, portentous quality.

XS Noize caught up with SoundQ, aka Kuba Kubica, to talk about how he got started in music, his influences, and the status of the music scene in Krakow.

What’s your favourite song to belt out in the car or the shower?

Hi XS, thanks a lot for inviting me for a chat. I don’t usually sing in the shower, as that’s when caffeine kicks in and my mind starts drawing out world domination scenarios. Too precious a time to waste on singing. In the car, I often do vocal warm-ups. I do prepare extensive playlists for when I go on bike trips though. The playlist always changes as I tend to add fresh tracks whenever I hear something cool, but it still usually starts with “Earth” by Lapalux. Whether I reach the end of the playlist or not, I always love to finish the listening session with “Stars” by Jacques Greene. The playlist is public by the way, it’s called GOLDEN SAMOVAR and you can access it on Spotify.

Who is your favourite music artist?

I don’t think I have just one. I love Charli XCX, The Knife, Rob Clouth, Stephan Bodzin, Thom Yorke and a lot more, but I would have a hard time picking just one record I could take to a desert island with me. II by Moderat maybe, or Jon Hopkins’ Immunity, as they had a big influence on me at the time when I was literally banging my head against the wall of creative block.

How did you get started in music? What’s the backstory there?

Music was always really there somehow, as I come from a musical family. My dad plays the piano and used to play the clarinet in a jazz band. Some of my early childhood memories are of going to my aunt’s place to ski in the mountains. My aunt and uncle were both pianists and academic teachers and so are their daughters – they had this glazed, spacious music room with two grand pianos sitting there. I would sit by the piano and doodle out stuff on the blank score paper or hammer one chord out repeatedly on the keyboard. The “one chord repetition” routine stuck with me I guess, as I’m not big on sophisticated chord progressions.

What musicians/singers influenced you the most?

My first big music craze was Metallica. Then came Guns n’ Roses and next thing I know I’m knee-deep in glam, metal and rock. Depeche Mode came to the rescue at some point and from then on it was Aphex Twin, Faithless, Massive Attack, and Future Sound of London. Specifically Selected Ambient Works by Aphex Twin had this huge impact on me. I remember thinking “what the fuck dude, is that what a synthesizer does?” I mean, mine had the fucking bell sounds, and choirs and freakin pizzicato strings, whereas what this guy was doing sounded like it came from another planet. That’s when I first bought a Yamaha CS2x, which I very quickly replaced with an Access Virus. I still own it today.

What’s the story behind the name – SoundQ?

I was a huge fan of point and click adventure games from Sierra and Lucasfilm, so early on, in the vein of King’s Quest, Space Quest and the likes, I thought Sound Quest would be a perfect name for whatever music I would be making. But when that day came, I thought it’s cheesy as hell. Sound Quake on the other hand sounded tempting, but it didn’t cut it either. Both started with the same letter, notably absent from the Polish alphabet. Moreover, the sound that the letter Q makes, is the sound both my name and surname start with. Enough evidence that it’s the name SOUNDQ that chose me, and not the other way round.

What inspired your new song/music video “Bad Lot?”

I came up with the main vocal line together with the majority of the words during my trip to Berlin. I was changing one day job to another one and managed to squeeze a solo trip in between. I remember I had this strong feeling of not really belonging anywhere – spatially nor socially. A young dad with an office job working on music during the night, I felt tired and misplaced. To alleviate that feeling I wanted to sing: “once a misfit you’re always a misfit, so just let go of the resentment.”

What do you want people to take away from the video?

While the song in itself may sound constricting and deterministic, I believe the video takes it to a different level, as it introduces the element of freedom. A kind of acceptance. You are who you are and while you may not be able to change it, you can still enjoy the ride. After all, it’s quite a fucking ride, isn’t it?

Is your sound evolving? If so, in which direction – more toward techno or pop?

That’s a good question. I can’t tell for sure, but I think I’ve been giving more and more narrative duties to my vocals lately. When I released Ambient Pressure, vocals were really there just to highlight some aspects of the music, or maybe shed some human light on it. Nowadays, I put a lot more focus on what it is I want to say. To the point where I’ve been throwing out all musical arrangements and recording new ones just to help carry the message better. So in that sense, it’s a pop approach to music-making rather than a techno one I guess.

Why do you make music?

I’ve been doing it for 20 years and at this point, it’s just a part of who I am. 20 years ago, I used to draw a lot, but when those depressing autumns came, I found that drawing doesn’t help take that melancholy off me. I just didn’t know WHAT to draw. With music, you could just go on and on, without leaning on any figurative aspect, so I guess it helped me discharge the tension better. And all in all, the therapeutic aspect of music-making has always been very important to me.

What is the music scene in Krakow like?

Everyone knows one another and a lot of the parties feel like it’s somebody’s birthday, which is cool. It’s a small scene. Of course, we’re currently in the “no parties and no tourism” mode, so it’s hard to tell what the scenery is going to look like in 2021. I have a bit of a love and hate relationship with the city. On one hand, it’s cool to have that distinct microclimate, on the other it’s not really a SCENE scene, as in, there are no record labels, there are only a handful of promoters and everything leans on tourism way too much in here. Nightlife is certainly no exception.

But scene aside, some really great artists live and play here: Olivia, Deas or Chino, just to name a few. My favourite 2020 single coming from Krakow was Charlie’s “Picky Picnic,” out on a compilation from Dom Trojga label (Domownicy Roznoracy Cz.2). I’m really looking forward to hearing more music from her.

How are you handling the coronavirus situation?

Oh, don’t even get me started… To put it mildly, there’s a general distrust towards the government and how it’s handling the current crisis. Essentially, what they did in March is they closed down the entire country and used the precious time they gained from this, to prepare for presidential elections. They even got to a point where in the summer rallies they were saying they DEFEATED the virus. And then, the second wave hit and how did they respond? With a court ruling, which effectively banned abortion in almost all cases in Poland. This resulted in massive street protests – the biggest I’ve seen in my life. And I’ve been around the block for a while. All of that in the middle of a raging pandemic. So, we’re far from tip-top here.

Looking to the future, what’s next for SoundQ?

2021 is going to be a busy year for me for sure. I have 3 singles ready, first of which is called “Disco Turista Antifascista” and is going to make you want to hit the dancefloor real bad. I also hope to release a full-length album in the second half of the year. Recently I’ve gotten into a routine of sharing some more immediate, not too polished music pieces throughout my social media and I definitely plan to continue doing this. It helps me maintain the connection with people during those physically distanced times. I don’t like the term social distancing btw. We should have used the term “physical distancing” from day one. And once this whole shitty situation is over, I hope to TRAVEL big time. Maybe I’ll even reach Belfast. Last time I was in your city was 2007 and I totally loved it. I still have a photo by the Big Fish which brings back great memories of the time when I lived in Dublin and had a chance to travel to Ulster.

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