Following on from the excellent FRUK session, we are very pleased to be bring you the brand new video for The Informer, from Antun Opic’s No Offense plus an exclusive interview.
Of Croatian lineage, but born and raised in Germany Antun Opic was drawn to the universal Anglo-American language of music from an early age, having already identified music making as his life’s goal. Living in Munich in the heart of an international artistic community, that dream has been realised to stunning effect with the CD No Offense.
Its 12 songs offer up a complex array of characters and thoughtful, involving stories that pack a punch.The songs are also brilliantly realised and the core trio of the band, with Tobias Kavelar’s nylon strung guitar and the double bass of Horst Fritscher complementing Antun’s own guitar and voice, create a vibrant Gypsy jazz setting for the stories to unfold. Some of the songs are also fleshed out with drums, percussion and brass and one such is The Informer (featuring one of Antun’s less savoury characters) and you can watch the brand new video for it here.
If you haven’t already done please check out the session recorded exclusively for Folk Radio UK, featuring three songs from the album and a brand new, unreleased song, all recorded live. It is absolutely superb.
Antun also kindly took the time out to answer some questions and you can read the interview below, as he explains more about his life and love of music. With a growing fan base in Munich, hopefully it won’t be long before he gathers the momentum to create a serious impact elsewhere, including the UK. Keep tabs on developments here.
Tell me about where you are living right now. Is there an artistic community that you are tapped into?
I am living in Munich. I have a big studio in an artist community called the DomagkAteliers. This is where I work and rehearse with my band and it is my creative asylum where I write and compose. More than a hundred artists work here. Artists of many different genres: painters, sculptors, musicians, film-makers, you name it.
The DomagkAteliers used to be the largest artist community in Munich. It is a former military area with barracks constructed by the Nazi-Regime in 1933. In the early nineties, the first artists came here as squatters. Later on they founded several artist associations and claimed the whole place. When I rented my first studio here, almost ten years ago, there were still six barracks packed with artists. Now only one is left. The city was always fighting against this uncontrollable pool of subculture and managed to sell the whole thing, tear everything down, to establish a new city district there.
Though the ‘big-time’ is over, it is still a very inspiring place. I met countless interesting people throughout the years, and worked together with a lot of them.
I also use my studio for small events. I’ve built a stage and local bands perform here, as well as small theatre groups. We organize readings here or film-screenings of students or documentary film-makers.
Is the band a stable line up? How often do you get to play together? Are you gigging a lot? Tell me about some of the others involved in the record. Are you able to do gigs with a full band?
Well yes and no. The Trio is definitely the core. I did the record together with Tobias Kavelar (classical guitar) and Horst Fritscher (acoustic bass). We worked on the songs and recorded them and then invited guest musicians. Tobias and Horst are always with me, then we have people who join us and perform on stage with us. At the moment we have a stable band for gigs but, you know, a band is a living thing, and I have to welcome this fact. Soon the drummer will be away for some months and I’m looking forward to seeing what will happen then.
In Munich we have a base here. People know us now and come to our shows, so we also get paid properly. Now that we are trying to get attention out of Germany, we have to start at the bottom again. But we have different combinations and I can play solo shows, duo shows or trio shows, we can play as a whole band. It depends on the money we get or how important the venue seems to be. SO BOOKERS, HERE IS A PROJECT THAT WANTS TO GET OUT ON THE ROAD!!!
Tell me a little about your background, it sounds like you have been through a couple of interesting bands already. You also have an interest in theatre, where does that come from?
I surrounded myself with music my whole life. Even as a small boy I was already convinced that playing and singing music would be my natural profession. So I was always working on that, always investing most of my energy in this direction. But it isn’t true that I’ve been through a lot of music projects. It’s the other way around: Countless people have already played my songs with me. My own band is the third project I’ve played in, if you want to know a number. I’ve always been a little bit of a nerd – I’m not able to jam around with everyone. Making music is for me a very intimate dialogue that is just working out with the right people.
Before I took my music to the stage I was playing in several theatre plays. I enjoy being on a stage performing. My theatre experience taught me this passion. When I say I love theatre I mean, that I love to be a part in theatre productions. I’m not going out to see theatre venues on a regular basis.
Does this explain the way that you seem to take on different voices for different songs?
Possibly. The more often I play a song, the more I want to create the right person to sing it.
The style of the songs are quite varied too, but they all seem to be in some way a parable, making a point or having some sort of moral at their core.
Well, thank you! I don’t know what to say to that. So I take it as a compliment. I’m a fan of Bob Marley and Bob Dylan and what you write makes me think of those two guys!
You’ve talked about your need to write, is it a constant process? Where does inspiration come form? Do you have a notebook with you at all times?
No. I don’t carry a notebook with me all the time. My inspiration comes from taking time for playing and singing senseless stuff. The things inside, outside and beyond come together and start to play around with each other. Sometimes all those things find an interesting dialogue, sometimes not. I can’t foresee. This is interesting for me. I do not control it. I let it happen. I’m hooked up on this.
Some of your songs seem to have a natural story to them that you can imagine beyond the three or four minutes that they last. I know you have been working up ideas, can you tell me more?
Hmm. I’m not sure what you mean here. I kind of create characters. I try to crawl into them and then they start to speak. To some of them I feel close, so they might turn up again in future songs.
The power of economics over us all seems to be a thread running through your songs. Sometimes I get the sense that you don’t want to get caught up with money, yet at other times you ask, “Can you spare me a dime?” It’s a dilemma, but it also seems that unless you are one of the privileged few, it’s getting tougher.
I don’t want to condemn money. Money is a form of energy. Energy is supposed to be in constant flow. I think money was a good idea. Or better, money is a thing, that is so logical and necessary that nobody had to invent it. It was always there in whatever form. I do not believe in THE conspiracy, but it’s obvious that our politicians gave up the power they once possessed. The only “possessions“ left are debts. The result is we’re all slaves. But I’m no different. Of course I’d like to have more money to spend it on my ideas and my family. And for the rich people I have a message: SPEND YOUR MONEY! That’s what it’s made for. It’ll come back to you. Hoarding it will do no good. For no one. Start by buying a CD.
How do you feel about living in Germany and are you an outsider looking in? Do you feel connected to your family history or are you a Rootless Tree? Do you try to speak in English a lot? Do you get the chance? Do you read much?
I was born and I grew up here in Germany. I don’t feel like an outsider here. And of course I am very much connected to the history of my family – I am the result of this history. But I always had a huge interest in people from elsewhere – and I grew up on the peak of the Anglo-American music culture. I was singing songs from Queen, Dire Straits and Cat Steven on my way home from school a long time before I actually learned English. As soon as I was old enough I hung around in Irish Pubs and surrounded myself with international people. The artist community is an example of that. When I came here, there were artists from 35 nations. For a long time I shared a flat with a guy from Canada, one from, Brazil and one from Argentina. Guess which language we used..? When I was only fifteen I discovered Tom Waits and thus of course Jack Kerouac, Ginsberg and Burroughs. I ate their books. In that time I felt like being born on the wrong side of the world. So English is not a foreign language for me. I literally grew up with it, even though my parents cannot speak it.
How do you sense the mood of the people that you know? Do you feel optimistic or cynical about the future?
Well, cynical AND optimistic. We live in interesting times. Everybody knows we need to change our ways drastically. But no one has the solution or the guts.
Interview by: Simon Holland