Jersika records chronicles. Episode 3. Stanislav Yudin.
We’re at ‘Jersika records’ studio. Stanislav Yudin or Stass?
– Stanislav is my full name. I call you Stass. Many know you as a great jazz double bass, session musician. The most popular project you are currently involved in is ‘Tautumeitas’.
– Also as a free improvisation musician. Two great albums have been released in the last two years. The first was released by ‘Jersika records’, published by Stanislav Yudin, Asnate Rancane. We will talk about that in a moment. Recently released Endless roar, “Rush hush” with Arvydas Kazlauskas – Baritone Sax, Soprano Sax, Looper, Effects. Jachin Pousson – Drums. This is a fresh project and we will talk about it also. On my way here, on the Island Bridge, I am in a traffic jam and I think – what people do not know about you yet? Then I remembered – you’re a hit author that is still played everywhere. ‘Uzmini nu’ by band H2O. You’re the author of this song. Then the unique thing that came to my mind about you is that you’re probably the only musician I know who has simultaneously worked on liturgical chantings with the words of St. Silouan, performed by the choir ‘Latvia’, on the centenary program. In a nutshell, you’ve been to the Eurovision scene representing Latvia in Israel, Tel Aviv.
Between the liturgical chants and Eurovision, you agree that there is an ‘abyss’ in between. It is you who draws this ‘abyss’ together. There is no doubt that everything you do is real and genuine. Therefore, talking about you we could start with your childhood, and how you started your path to music, and how you came to being in so many places. About you, where did the road begin?
– It started in my hometown – Ventspils. Honestly, I don’t remember how I started making music. My mom is a musician, she teaches piano at Ventspils College of Music. I was born and immediately I had a piano at home and my father had a guitar. I always wanted to play the guitar. I don’t really remember how I learned to play the piano or what the notes are, because it happened naturally. At first my parents didn’t even want to take me to music school, but I always liked to play the piano. I wouldn’t say I’m a great piano virtuoso, but I like the process, the sounds. At home there was a small guitar that I liked to play, and with time came a real guitar. My father, when he was young, made a guitar himself. An electric guitar. It’s still at home somewhere. I remember that the guitar had one string and I tried to play some songs on that one string. My parents saw that I was interested and took me to study. At that time, unfortunately, there was no jazz department or rhythm music department. – That was in Ventspils?
– It’s in Ventspils. There were none at the time. There was an optional group. Mom had a friend there who ran it. She brought me there and said her son wanted to play guitar. I came and he gave me a bass guitar, but I didn’t really know what a bass guitar was. He gave it to me because, of course, there is always a lack of bass guitarists. I really liked the instrument, its function. Later, when I was in ninth grade, I was thinking about what to do next. My mother came up with the idea that I could try playing a double bass, a kind of related instrument. There are also very few double bassist. In ninth grade, I went to music school to give it a try. In the first hour, I almost fainted because it was very heavy, big. It requires physical endurance. I continued to learn with the teachers. Of course everyone at school learned that a double bassist had appeared, but I didn’t even know the notes. I was, of course, very honored and immediately realized that double bass was a highly sought after instrument. I remember standing in the orchestra with professional musicians, the first piece was Sibelius – Waltz. The conductor gave a sign nr.1 and you have to give the first impulse. I liked that feeling so much, it is so important that you give the first impulse. I like all the vibrations coming from the double bass. I started studying with Ariman Štrauss, a cello teacher, because we didn’t have a double bass teacher. They already had double bass students before. Later, I started taking private lessons in Riga with Professor Sergejs Brīnums. He taught us at the academy. Emīls Dārziņš Music School. I went to him for private lessons and he said, “Why do you go there and back all the time? Try joining Dārziņš Music School. I have one student there. ” This student was a very good double bassist who now plays the Berlin Philharmonic. Gunārs Upatnieks. I came and was very impressed by the whole environment. I picked up my documents from Ventspils and enrolled in Dārziņa Music School. The first friends, that I’m still friends with, were Aleksej Bahir and Artis Orubs, Georg Sarkisjan, who also are great musicians now. That environment was very inspiring to me and I decided to be a real musician. I figured it would take a lot of work. Previously, despite my mother being a music teacher, I didn’t go to music school in my childhood. I didn’t learn from the age of five, six, I didn’t go through it all. I knew it would take a lot of work. The environment at Dārziņa music school helped with that. At that time there were very good musicians, drummers, who are still in top demand. The same Artis Orubs, Kaspars Kurdeko, Rihards Fedotovs who is Rick Feds, Martins Milevskis, Reinis Sējāns. We were all friends, played together. We even had a band together. – What did you play?
– We played the school program and much more. I remember we played Irish music. It’s hard to remember now.
– Speaking of music, I hear instruments – bass, double bass. You were attracted by the instrument itself? Probably also the music you listened to. What musical pieces? I have one night in my memory when we were sitting with you recently, listening to the sound recordings. We started with Wu-Tang Clan and ended with Prokofiev Ballet. A wide spectrum.
– Yes, yes.
– Did you have that as a child, because I hear you listened to Sibelius’s waltz,that it moved you. Your role in it.
– My role, yes.
– Yes, but what are the musical patterns that appealed to you? You realized it sounded good. ‘I want to play it, I want to sound like it’.
– Of course, in my childhood we had records at home. I listened to what we had. I think, plus minus everybody had the same records, just what was released at that time. We had The Beatles, Queen
– Creedence Clearwater Revival?
– No Creedance. I remember there were Beatles and Queen. The two bands I liked was listening to when I was a kid. When I was in music school, I immediately liked minimalism. I still like it. I remember being very touched by Larsson, a Swedish composer. I’ve also listened to Metal bands.
– What did you like about minimalism, what appealed to you? Musical language? Laconism?
– Yes.Musical language, mood, peace. I guess peace was the most enjoyable. How it all sounds together. Harmony.It has always been important to me in music. Later, one of my favorite bands was U2. So I created H2O and I always wanted to be like U2. I don’t know if we succeeded. – There is a hit song. Not all bands have succeeded in that.
– I don’t know if I managed to be like U2. – I don’t know if you managed to be like U2, but I know that Latvia has a lot of bands that have been making music for years and have failed to release a song that has been on the radio for decades. The story, however, is about jazz. When did you first hear jazz? When thinking of you, immediately think ‘O, he’s a jazz double bassist’. Many associate you with it. How did your story with jazz begin?
– It started during the Ventspils Music School, the same story when people found out that the only double bassist appeared in the school. By that time, interest in jazz had already begun to appear for many. There was no department , but was an optional group. In Ventspils, mostly academic pianists took a class called jazz. I remember that at that time, Kaspars Grigalis, a drummer, was also studying there. He addressed me with a request for help with the rhythm section. Then I also felt there was a demand. This instrument is rare and necessary. Of course, it is also gratifying that everyone stands in line to play music with me. At the same time, it was very tiring. I can tell you right away that I realized at the time that this might not be for me. It didn’t speak to me completely. I had heard stories of people sitting, listening to records and crying. I didn’t. – Have you cried listening to music?
– I have, yes.
– What was that music? Unless it’s very intimate. What is the music that moved you so much at that time? Jazz, you realized that was not really it. – Now it’s hard to remember how it was then. In those days, I went to the library, at that time the Internet was not so active, there was no Spotify, Youtube. I went to Ventspils Library, there was a very good disco collection, I thank them for it. It’s still there. I took everything in turn. I was also very interested in jazz, I wanted to know more. There was Charles Lloyd. I was very impressed by his quintet where Dave Holland was on the double bass.
– Published by ECM Records. This is the nineties, or early Charles Lloyd? – The 90s. That was the ECM Label. I immediately liked ECM Records. – On the drums was Billy Higgins?
– May be. I can’t say.
– Their group composition changed. – That album appealed to me a lot, I listened to it often. After joining Dārziņa Music School, Sergejs Brīnums inspired me a lot for academic music. I really wanted to play in an orchestra. My dream was to play opera. Maybe play as a soloist after that. I had huge ambitions associated with academic music. The first evening, when I entered Dārziņa Music School, I met Artis Orubs on the street. We talked for a very long time, we got to know each other better. He asked me if I would want to play jazz. I was open to this idea, I was interested. I said yes, of course. We had a trio where Artis played the vibraphone and Kaspars played the drums. I didn’t know the theory then, I had no idea because we had no department. There were also no teachers, it was very difficult to find a tutor for private lessons. I play everything as I hear. – There must have been some records you listened to. Which bassists, double bassists have impressed you? – I really like and still one of my favorite double bassists is Niels-Henning Ørsted Pedersen, a Danish bassist. Dave Holland, Christian McBride. Later I liked Ron Carter, and I often listened to him. Now I also like Anders Jormin, a Swedish double bassist. He is one of my favorites. – We met at the Matthew Church in Riga, the Baptist Church. Many musicians went and played there at church services at the time. Several famous jazz artists have gone through the Riga Matthew Church. I remember the conversation we had, and I probably haven’t heard any such reflections on jazz. You said you were playing jazz, you were playing the American standard, you were going to jam sessions at Hamlet. Have you played there?
– Yes. You said jazz didn’t make you happy, or you had a stalemate. When you played jazz, it was like a road to nowhere. You said you didn’t have a root feeling while playing, but you were looking for roots in music. Once you said “Jazz is not this regions music and I’m looking for the roots of this region”. What led you to that reflection and where did it take you?
– I would like to say that this is a very subjective opinion. I don’t want anyone to be offended. It’s my experience. Maybe it’s something radical. Playing jazz was like a job to me in the beginning. A friend of mine said I could earn with it. We played somewhere, and that was my first money. It stayed for me as a job. I went to play jazz because there were few double bass players and I could earn with it. I think the most interesting thing is that when we were learning jazz, the teachers always said we lack something. We were lacking something all the time. You don’t understand what. Who can tell me what I need to do to have that swing. All the time. Even depression comes because of these comments.
– You were told by others that something was not right, or did you feel it yourself? – Both. Our teacher from Estonia, Taavo Remmel, came. He showed you how to find yourself in music, your language. Secondly, we had an invited teacher from America, Lynn Seaton. He was one of those people who set a good example of how to fall in love with music. I fell in love with jazz, at that time jazz was very close to me. I started to want to be a jazz musician. I invested the most time in it. He showed us how, as he loved jazz himself. He was a true jazz double bassist. Then I thought , there is a man from America, and he feels so free, so free in all this, he had no carefree. He felt free in communication because it was natural for him, I think so. Of course, probably, he went through a lot. Through him, I understood a lot more about jazz. I understood about the line, about swing, about phrases. At the time, there was also the opportunity to play with the wonderful saxophonist, Seamus Blake, in a jazz club. He came and played with us all a full time. There was this feeling that you were touching a part of New York. I played with him and I thought that they probably do it like this there all the time. There was that feeling. I don’t want to offend anyone because everyone has their own way. Of course, we have jazz musicians in Latvia who are undoubtedly deep into music. I have no doubt about that. They are the real ones. I’m just talking about myself.
– Yes, that’s clear.
– Then I had a question. I play in other genres as well, and in pop music people are always saying they want to be like someone in the UK or in the USA. If you ask a person if they are interested in someone from Latvia, they will close up completely, go away and do not want to talk to you at all. – Was it important for you that you were from Latvia?
– That is interesting. I remember that once with you, with group of friends, we were sitting down and somebody said, ‘What do you think, is anyone interested?’. No, you were asked if you are interested in a r&b band from Uzbekistan, and everyone started laughing. You said ‘Do you think someone would be interested in r&b band from Latvia.’ Out of interest, I later looked at r&b band from Uzbekistan, and by the way, it was very good. During Lynn’s time, we also had a very good project at the academy called ‘Ethno and Jazz’. There I met Asnate.
– So, the story of Asnate.
– We studied the same course. She was a girl with the violin. I didn’t really know which department she was studying in, but we met in this project. At first she sat quietly with a tambourine, and then she started singing a solo in one of the songs. Just at the time when I had all my reflections on the future, and I saw that there’s a girl from Latvia who is ‘real’. Now let’s talk about the album. So, Stanislav Yudin, Asnate Rancane ‘Op.2’. The record came out two years ago. It was difficult to formulate the style when it came out, many searched for a genre for this record. Some said it was world music, folk, somebody said it was ethno jazz, whatever that means. Clearly, two worlds meet in this album. You with free improvisation – double bass and looper, and Asnate with folklore, folk music. There is a feeling in this album that Asnate is not like a folk music ‘museum’ playing from the past, it is a very modern sound, modern music. Asnate, she doesn’t undo the traditions of the past, but she continues the tradition because, as I understand it, her family has roots in folk music. She has met traditional singers like Margarita Šakina. The story of this album is about the Lithuanian, Bulgarian, Latvian, Ukrainian folklore. How was this album made? – First, I’ll tell you in two words about free improvisation, and what that means to me. Going back to my childhood, I was always interested in playing music that is in my head. I was always looking for a way to do it, and jazz was one of the teachers. Jazz improvisation is one of the important elements. 2006 was interesting, there was a crisis,there was little work, and everything calmed down, there was a lot of free time. I came back to the idea that I wanted to play what was in my head since my childhood. I thought that I just have to give it a try. It is necessary to start with a couple of notes and just continue. By the way, it was in Matthew’s church, one of the rehearsal rooms. I got in there somehow. I remember starting with a few notes then more and more. I tried to play the notes that were in my head. Melodies, sounds, everything together. The next day I did the same. Two hours ran like a minute, I really liked it. I realized that this is what I want to do, what I want to embrace. I learned so much about both the instruments and the music. Dennis Pashkevich called me the very next day. We were a bit familiar back then, but he was always a great authority for me. He called me and said ‘Hi, we have a free jazz trio, are you interested in that?’. Asked if I wanted to give it a try. I thought – I just started to do that! What a coincidence! We started playing together. First there was Ivars Arutyunyan at the drums, followed by Artis Orubs. We recorded a live concert. That album was put in the “European jazz tree” as one of the Latvian albums and it was a great experience for me, a big, new beginning. I always come back to that idea. From then on I started playing free improvisation. At that time, I was busy studying jazz at the academy, I had a lot of projects. I always think about what I do, the path I’m taking. I always had the idea that I wanted to record an album with my music. I didn’t want it to specialize in any one genre. I just wanted to play what I like and what came from me. – You were intuitively moving towards folklore?
– About Charles Lloyd, a jazz saxophonist, plays in American traditions, hard bop and other genres, but it was with the ECM recording that he started to use a lot of folk music elements in the 90s and to this day. – A different sound.
– Yes, and he also plays a number of ethno wind instruments, and this sound is not exactly jazz, but a meeting of jazz and folk music. Charles Lloyd may also have intuitively guided you there, as you moved forward with Asnate to meet each other. It is a meeting of folk music and free improvisation. – Yes. I started writing the first piece for ‘Op.2’, and that’s when I met Asnate. I was very touched by her voice, it impressed me. – Do you remember the first time you heard her sing a folk song?
– Yes, it was during a project called ‘Ethno Jazz’, it was at the Academy of Music. Project within the Academy of Music. As she began to sing, I immediately ‘woke up’. Right away I offered her, I said ‘Asnate, I started to write my music, I’ve decided I want to write an album, do you want to join?’. I did not think we will be a duo. She came and we tried.
– Here at the Jersika Records studio, yes? – At first it was at the academy. We recorded, she liked it and I offered to meet and give it a try again. She is very interested in improvisation, and I realized that there is a lot to take from folklore music because it’s also improvisation. Different, completely different, but it inspired me a lot. Then we met here. Asnate worked as a solfeggio teacher across the street from here. In a music school. At that time. She came to the studio after or before work, we met and improvised. All improvisations were in writing. Those were free improvisations with folk music. – Your composition is ‘Cik dziļi jūra’.
– This is an original composition, yes. This is folk text where the melody, unlike the rest, is composed. – In the time when this record came out, Asnate was taking part in ‘Tautumeitas’. ‘Tautumeitas’ was an explosion in Latvian popular music. For me, at times it seemed like the albums were coming out in parallel, and ‘Tautumeitas’ was a louder event. This one is much more nuanced. It seems to me that this album has yet to gain its listeners, more broadly. There were people who heard and appreciated it. I wish this record a long life. I suspect the real listeners will find this album. With regard to the style or mood of the free improvisation, one can hear the presence of academic music. Arvo Pärt, Giya Kancheli – have you listened to them?
– Yes of course.
– Story about Arvo Pärt. About his music, because I’ve heard a lot from you that he’s a very important composer to you. While coming here, I was thinking about our conversation, about the role of Arvo Pärt among the listeners who listened to Rock music. We are the 90’s generation of rock music. We listened to Radiohead, Sigur Rós, post rock. Then, at the turn of the century,Arvo Pärt suddenly appeared next to Radiohead. I mean, how did that happen? The radio choir, Zigvards Kļava, Sinfonietta Riga, there also was the ‘Arena’ festival. For us, as children of the music school, the academic music is by Mozart, Schubert, even Stravinsky and that is yesterday. It’s music from the past. Then, suddenly, we noticed that there was academic music that has the sound of today. Which is as timely as Radiohead. Do you have a similar story? Are you from that generation, and were you introduced to Arvo Pärt in the same way? – I’m from that generation, but I encountered minimalism through composer Larsson.
– You already mentioned him. There was a concert – a double bass with an orchestra. Also during Latvian Music Literature classes. We listened to Pēteris Vasks at the Dārziņa Music School. We all fell silent in the classroom, and I think the music appealed to us all.
– Which one of his composition was it?
– Musica Dolorosa. One girl even started crying. Pēteris Vasks, by the way, was a lecturer at the Dārziņa Music School. He was often with us, working with students. I even asked him for a lesson. It wasn’t even a lesson, I just asked for a consultation. It was very important to me. Later I learned about Arvo Pärt. He became my biggest music impression. – How did you get to choir Latvia? Choir music, Text of Silouan – Orthodox Holy Silouan, his prayer. Arvo Pärt also has a composition he dedicated to Archimandrite Sophrony, also called ‘The Song of Silouan’. How did you get there? Because alongside the band H2O, with the song ‘Uzmini nu’, which is a very good pop song, you suddenly did choral music, liturgical lyrics. Is it parallel, or was it the way forward?
– Yes, I have always been interested in composition, am still interested in it and want to enter the composition department. To develop in this area. I am very happy to have requests and that was a request. If I have something to write, I am happy to do so. I was addressed by the Choir Latvia for the centenary project. There were a hundred composers and I was lucky to be one of them. I chose the texts of Silouan as the lyrics for this song. My family has always been a religious. Maybe not everyone, but my great grandmother was. My aunt is now a nun. It’s important to me. – A fresh album that was just released, made with friends – Arvydas Kazlauskas, Jachin Pousson and you. ‘Rush Hush’, while listening to this album, the genre is hard to understand. Free improvisation, something from jazz, from contemporary music. Then I saw the album design and there are stylized cave markings. Such as the paintings of the Altamira caves before the Neolithic Revolution. It was linked to the music that was ahead of its time. Before civilization. Listening to the album you get a feeling that a man is facing nature, facing eternity, struggling with himself. Is the album about that? What was the path to this album, this project?
– It’s an interesting story, how we met. Some time ago, I made my own Ltd., I had to name it and I called it the ‘Free Music Center’. The main thing I wanted to do was free music. I’m interested in that, I’ve played jazz a lot, but I’m also interested in meeting friends from academia. To play with them free improvisations. Then I decided to meet my friends regularly because I am open to everyone, I want to play with everyone. To this day, if there is time and desire I do. I meet friends and record all of it. I have a lot of records. Arvydas and i met and it turned out that he and Jachin have been doing the same thing for some time. We organised to meet. We met. They had a duet – ‘Endless roar’. They also played free improvisation. We met and played together. Jam session. Recording everything. We really enjoyed the result. We continued to meet regularly. All this lead to such an album. Analog recording, because before that we had a digital album. It’s free improvisation. We were looking for ways to improvise, to try both conceptually and simply by the feel of the day. Unconditional. We formed two parts – the city and the forest. Peace, which could be minimalism, sound had a great role, silence and peace. On the other hand – madness, you could say noise. This record is the result of our collective, this band. Two sides. Noise and peace.
– Such opposites.
– Opposites. There it is, in the first half we have a city, that’s noise. Today’s tension.
– The noise.
– The noise. Lots of coffee. On the other hand, complete peace, nature.
– Noise and lots of coffee. Are you looking for something through music?
– Yes, music is a life teacher, of course. It teaches a lot. Free improvisation teaches a lot too. Relax, open up, I would say open up, more. I wanted to say about ‘Tautumeitas’ that, yes, it started in parallel. Asnate and I started playing together, in a duet, and she organized a group for her exam. She had a program with songs from Auleja. It is a region in Latgale. She invited me to that concert, she sang only a capella. Absolutely authentic. I was also very inspired by this concert because I saw six girls from Latvia singing so fantastic together. It seems to me that this is what would interest the world. Something that is from Latvia. When she asked me to participate in a band with my double bass,my first thought was, what would I do there? Asnate wanted to go in a slightly different direction. I didn’t understand it at first. Now, all of this has evolved and we know the rest. – You agree that this is a big challenge. Folk music, popular music, for many people it seems simple, just arrange it in popular arrangements, sound design it all, and then it will be modern folk music. Agree it’s a very slippery road?
– Also in jazz. We talked to Deniss in a previous conversation about the possibility that for Latvia this ‘meeting’ might be still ahead. – I think that it’s already happening.
– Yes, it’s happening. We are inside this process.
– Jazz is developing very fast in Latvia. Young jazz musicians are very strong.
-Can Folk music be a source? I hear from you that there is that root feeling. – I think we don’t need to radically switch to folk music now. I’m not saying that, but,
– As a source of inspiration.
– we pay very little attention to it, practically none. I think a lot of people don’t even know what our folk music is. There is a perception and people are not interested in it. I’m not going to decide what’s the reason now, but when I got to know Latvian folk music from a different side, because Asnate is a researcher, it was something completely new to me. Rhythms, harmonies. It’s not just a celebration at the table with dancing, as many might think it is. That too, of course.
– That’s a part of it.
– A lot is undiscovered in this music. A lot of it. I think it’s also a great source for jazz and any other music. We can take depth from it. It seems to me, that nowadays, we only take a small part of it. Of course we have good collectives that deal with it, with folk. I think you can go deeper into it all.
– About Uzbekistan, returning to what you said before, I don’t know their r&b, but I do know their folk songs, for sure. I have them in my record collection, and it’s unique, beautiful. The road to folk music. In conclusion, I would like to ask you a question that I couldn’t guess your answer to and I am interested in it. If I were to give you a minute to travel in time and space, what would be the concert and performer you would like to see? Alive or dead. Who would you choose? – I think it could be Gidon Kremer and Tatiana Grindenko. They performed Arvo Pärt ‘Tabula Rasa’. Maybe the second part of the concert by Alfred Schnittke.
– Schnittke at the piano? – Schnittke’s concert for Violins, which was written, as was ‘Tabula Rasa’, for Gidon Kremer and Tatiana Grindenko. -And Keith Jarrett on piano.
– He was on that record, yes, but he was playing a different piece. Manfred Eicher Records, ECM Produced ‘Tabula Rasa’, you would have liked to be present at the time of recording?
– Definitely. I was lucky enough to be at Mischa Maisky concert. I’ve been at GZA concert too.
– From Wu-Tang Clan.
– Yes, I was lucky to talk to him a little. I told him I was playing folk music. He was very tired, it was an interesting moment. Because GZA, Wu-Tang Clan is also real. I’m not a rapper, but it’s a real thing. It comes from them. When I told them I was playing folk, he instantly came to life, started to smile. He said yes, those are the roots. Just like their music.
– Wu-Tang Clan has New York roots, and Asnate sings about Latgale roots. Thank you. Thanks for the conversation.