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Top 25 Art Blog - Creative Tourist

An interview with Pati Yang plus free download of Wires and Sparks

I've had Pati Yang's impossibly catchy tune Wires and Sparks going round and round in my head, so I decided to find out more about this talented Polish musician. And what a story she has to tell.

Written by Amelia Gregory

pati yang by daria hlazatova
Pati Yang by Daria Hlazatova.

You’ve had an extremely interesting life – starting with six years on tour as a youngster with your dad’s punk band – how did that influence your outlook?
It gave me this sense of freedom that somehow clashed with reality. Poland was under an extreme regime at that point and I very early on noticed that our home and people that I was surrounded by were different; free, kind of …awakened… The punk movement in Poland was basically pop music in the 80′s and my dad’s band and the people around us were directly responsible for helping to bring Communism down, so it was risky, even though it was happening on a huge scale via the only major national censored record label. The movement was too big for the government to eradicate because the only free gatherings were allowed at gigs and churches. It was all about smuggling anti-system messages past the censors without getting the band members arrested, and that’s what people loved. There was so much passion! We had a real purpose, giving people hope for freedom, so hundreds of thousands of people went to those gigs and there was a kind of mass hysteria. I had this sense of the absurd, because I was navigating between two opposite worlds whilst I was going to school. I was always an outsider; I didn’t realise I was a kid. I’d hang out backstage when I was 3 and fall asleep under a stack of coats. So the main point is that I can’t stand barriers and limitations. The idea of the impossible just doesn’t occur to me. I love traditions but I am against systems, whatever they are, because they represent a lack of individual responsibility and choice, and sooner or later someone tries to abuse them.
 
pati yang
You have been on the music scene for some time, first as a solo artist supporting Depeche Mode, then as part of Children and then Flykkiller – how did you get to where you are now?
I just kept going; it gets so hard sometimes. I can be very emotional and I worry too much, which is helpful for songwriting but it’s also like shooting fireballs inside my mind. You have to listen to your gut feeling: don’t get attached to ideas, people or places and don’t make plans. It’s a chain reaction that looks like a string of coincidences but you actually know it’s not and when you see that, it becomes fun. I just meet people, I try to learn, things happen, and I am thankful every day.

pati yang by daria hlazatova
Pati Yang by Daria Hlazatova.
 
What’s the underground music scene like in Poland? Any other top tips for acts we should listen to?
I can’t say I follow it that much as I have dragged myself around the world for the past 13 years. But I came across a really cool electronic project called KAMP! recently, and I am a huge fan of Henryk Gorecki which is not very underground as he’s an iconic classical composer. I like all the vintage stuff, bands like Breakout who were total pioneers in the 60′s, then there is Komeda and some other awesome film composers.

pati yang
I’ve had Wires and Sparks from Wires and Sparks EP x 1 on my brain for weeks – why do you think this tune is so catchy?
Aw, thanks! You know the crazy thing about those EPs was that right from the start we just couldn’t pinpoint which tracks should lead them, as everyone we played the songs to would have different favourites. 


How did you come to shoot the video on a Warsaw rooftop? What is that very impressive building behind you?! it looks very gothic!
I spent most of last year in Brooklyn where bands would regularly set up guerilla gigs on rooftops and play until police took them down. One day I thought I’d be great to do that in Warsaw, so I rang a couple of friends who were film makers and we almost gate crashed this 30 storey office building on Halloween when it was empty, (turned out the security guy was a fan which helped I guess!) The building behind us is really iconic, so well spotted! It was a ‘gift of friendship’ from our Russian comrades in 1955 – there is a similar one on the Red Square in Moscow. Apparently there are rooms with no doors in it and it’s really magnificent: it has this gigantic old white marble public swimming pool in the basement, a purple velvet concert hall and a whole labyrinth of underground corridors used in the past for the Party leaders on the military parades. For the generation of our parents, it was a symbol of the Russian regime; for my generation, it’s an icon of change and chaos. I remember ending up on some amazing random rave parties there…
 
pati yang photo by anna bloda
Who is in your band? Can you introduce us to Kasia? Who does what and is anyone else involved?
I went through so many line ups and I really love to work with big bands but somehow it feels really good to have this self contained little combo right now. Kasia is an amazing talent, I met her years ago when she was in a band in Warsaw and we started working together last year. She plays keyboards, bass and she sings backing vocals. I operate my big pedal board with a little mixing desk, effects, a sampler and a guitar and percussion stuff. I have to give a big credit to Mikko, who is our sound engineer but also sort of a third invisible member of the band.

Pati Yang Illustraton by Asa Wikman © asa wikman
Pati Yang Illustraton by Asa Wikman.

What can people expect from a live Pati Yang performance?
The gigs are quite raw and stuff happens unexpectedly, but I get a real buzz out of them. I heard they’re quite emotional… 
 
pati yang photo by anna bloda
You are currently working on a full length album – what’s the day to day reality of this? Can you talk us through the process.
I recently moved back to London from New York so I have only just set up a studio where I spend most of my time, it’s still really fresh and exciting. I am in the middle of the writing process which happens in random places and times really. But then every day I just put those ideas down… at the moment I play all instruments and record vocals but I am really looking forward to getting other people involved. It’s always really touching to blend genes and see what happens if you let it go.
 
Pati Yang by Gareth A Hopkins
Pati Yang by Gareth A Hopkins.

What has been your biggest achievement to date?
These days just to carry on is a huge achievement. I know so many people who have way more talent than myself who put it on the back burner because it’s so difficult to sustain a life and not feel down about the music business these days. I have a lot of gratitude towards whatever and whoever makes me carry on. Factually, I guess I am really chuffed I had the chance to collaborate on some great soundtracks with some really super special people; they were my real teachers.
 
pati yang
Where do you currently live and what is best about that place? Where would you take a visitor and why?
I am based in North West London near Hampstead Heath. It’s really quiet and you have to walk a long way to a any cafe or a grocery store, it’s very green and there are not many people around. There is an amazing church in Hampstead; I walked into a Sunday mass by accident and the choir was seriously out of this world. It’s nice to discover those little random gems; these are the moments you won’t forget. If I had a visitor I’d take them there, and we could visit the beautiful old cemetery near the church. There is also a mini zoo in the park near my house with some really funny looking animals. So, you probably won’t find me in a hip cafe in East London – I’m not sure if I’d be any good as a tour guide.

Listen to the Wires and Sparks EP x 1 in full below, released in April. Wires and Sparks x 2 is scheduled to be released at the end of July. Get your FREE download of Jagz Kooner‘s remix of Wires and Sparks here. I can’t wait to hear the album.

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