STURQEN – exclusive interview for Die Elektrischen Vorspiele
STURQEN are César Rodrigues and David Arantes, a duo from Portugal that is active since 2009. Their compositions, difficult to classify, vary from mechanical post-industrial to anarchic landscapes where improvisation leaves no room for monotonous moments.
STURQEN’s first album Piranha was released on Ukrainian label Kvitnu in 2009. In 2010 they released the EP Peste and in 2011 the EP Colera and the album Praga. In 2011 STURQEN won 2 awards in Qwartz Electronic Music Awards in Paris – “The Best Artist” and “Discovery” category with the digital release Peste. In 2012 they released the album Raia, which was made available for free on their Bandcamp page. In 2013 they released the album Neophobia, a LP vinyl on Kvitnu.
Thank you to César and David for your time and interest that led us to make this interview!
What is the origin of the name Sturqen? Is there any particular reason for having choosing this maverick word to your musical project?
It was a word that came randomly. It had no meaning, it sounded good to us and there was no online registry of it. It was a virgin word waiting to be filled up with meaning.
Both of you have a background in fine arts. Did it contributed in some way to Sturqen’s musical project? Did it inspired, or influenced the music that you compose?
The visual arts contributed and actively contribute to our music. We don’t attach ourselves to music in a closed room. The greatest motivational provocations arise from visual representations, odd moments, ideas from a debate. We don’t pay much attention to what is being done music wise at the moment. Our cocoon keeps more images than sounds.
Music allows us to think aesthetically without being stuck to a visual representation, but this visuality exists and is explored and expanded through a sonic journey that builds senses and structures. But the most important thing is the impulse. It’s very rare for us to be conditioned by a concept or theme that drives our work. The ideas appear and disappear loosely and the impulses define which ones will be worked on.
I must confess that the first time I’ve listened to Sturqen’s music I felt like being exposed to an unusual and original sound. Maybe due to some sort of primordial need for cataloging everything that surrounds us, later, I’ve noticed that Sturquen fits within the same musical section/style of bands/artists such as Emptyset, Pan Sonic, Roly Porter and Dominick Fernow’s monikers. How do you react to this cataloging process?
We accept well the labels that people assign to us. This is due to the fact that we do not think much about these things. We reflect on how we make music; we do not think of our music following certain genres. This happens in an unconscious way and allows us to have a lot of freedom about our work. As we don’t feel tied to a specific musical genre, we don’t care if today we do “noise” and tomorrow we do “techno”. We see all the results we get as a free exploration of sound that culminates in a “form” that, to be better announced to the public or by intermediaries that talks about music, has to be categorized. This, however, does not obstruct our working method.
And what about the comparisons made with other musicians regarding style and sonic affinities?
Until today, all of them had a reason to exist. Some of the comparisons are set up in terms of musical style – and it doesn’t seem difficult to establish these relationships – while others focus on the approach to music, like the method of thinking about sound, overcoming technical questions. For us, these are the most interesting comparisons because they involve another kind of understanding about our work; an understanding that goes beyond the basic structure of a track and has a panoramic look at how the different pieces are combined. When comparisons are established with other artists in this sense, then for us it’s definitely more interesting to think about it.
In your international musical scene, you have been gaining recognition, as is evidence the two Qwartz Music Awards that you won in 2011. How about your country, do feel that your work is recognized?
In Portugal our work is not very widespread but is being followed by some people. Throughout the years, we see that most interest comes from other countries. Here in Portugal, there has always been a big debate about how artists are treated, as well as certain types of artistic expression. Recognition is something that depends on many variables, and most of them escape our control. It’s also not in recognition that we find our motivation to work, because if we did, the way we relate to the people who hear us, or the way we present ourselves, would be different. The way we deal with the public, or the way we use social networks, for example, is always a little “off”, disconnected. This is no disdain, it’s just a way of being. We don’t make an effort to reach a specific audience. Over time we realized that our music is followed by very different and very distinct people. There never is a specific kind of listener.
In the contemporary Portuguese musical scenario (specifically in the one commonly referred as “independent”), is there room for a dedicated audience?
There is always room for it. The size of the audience can vary depending on certain factors. Our music does not respond to the immediate needs of most existing public; it isn’t a festive mass entertainment nor exactly easy listening. However, if people feel attracted by the violence of the sound the same way they are attracted by the violence of the image, perhaps the interest would be greater. Maybe here the question of genre is important. The majority of the audience is already prepared to receive a certain type of music; it just needs to be produced and wait for success. In other cases the music already exists but has to battle for the audience’s attention.
Let’s shift slightly the subject: in the visual arts (e.g. cinema) and literature, are there any artists / authors that you consider as your favorites?
There are some fields that trigger some special interest in us, more than specific authors. In the field of visual arts in particular, we are interested in artists who explore the strangeness and ambiguities of everyday life in all its splendor, from the absurd to the unheimlich. We don’t doubt about the communicative aspect art has, but sometimes it communicates in a very uncertain and inaccessible way. That is exciting. It’s in this ambiguous communication that we find its power. We are quite interested in the work of some artists that combine art and science. The science is evolving very quickly, with discoveries that increasingly raise complex issues, especially in the field of ethics. There should be artists who, through their work, reflect upon these scientific advances.
We are seduced by the disinterested manner in which some cinema portrays the relationship between man and things in an increasingly contradictory world. This implies the sublimated violence and the absence of meaning. In an age like ours, where the information overload seems to conceal the purpose of so many things, this emptiness makes us look at situations in an active way. It is interesting that today, at the peak of this world of information, there is still room, and even more audience, for new spiritualities and paranormal theories. We have a great curiosity about these kind of phenomenas and we are enthusiasts of experiences that challenge the boundary between reality and fiction.
There are interesting authors in the field of fantasy and dystopian literature. These are always tempting places to think of alternative realities and sometimes they can also serve as instruments to reflect on our own future as a society. The stories that examine how we perceive the objects around us make us think about how we, ourselfs, interpret things. Ultimately, it might raise the question whether we are not just stuck in a fish tank.
In this context, music creates a space between the impositions of logic and the impulses that shouldn’t be restrained.
The videos that accompany your musical compositions reflect the austere sobriety expressed in your music. This visual dimension results from a regular collaboration or is it entirely conceived by you?
We try not to build the images for our music, that could close the image-sound circuit within a single universe. When other people think about the images for our work this circuit remains open, having the potential to be different every time. We have worked with artists close to us. Several ideas emerge and we enjoy getting these proposals from outside. It allows us to expand our imagination, enriching the surprises that make us understand better how our music is perceived by others.
Since 2009 you released four albums, of which, three by the Ukrainian label Kvitnu Records. Which are the reasons for this close relationship with the Slavic label?
It started as a strictly musical relationship. It even was a bit of a wild guess from them since our work was at a very early stage at that time and only a very small group of people knew us. Things kept happening and, after being with them in several occasions, now we feel we are part of a family of friends, we don’t see them just as a music label.
For those in Portugal who want to buy your discography, are there any shops where people can find it, or do they have to resign to online purchase?
Some releases are available at Matéria Prima in Porto and Flur, in Lisbon.
In the year of 2014 you released the 12 ” Zebu and the tape Riscos, is there any other release coming up until the end of the year?
There are some things scheduled but no concrete dates. Lots of music to be released and collaborations with new labels. The machine continues to work without any stop.