Experimentation within sound is endless. One such artist whom has continued to defy the boundaries of audio and sculpture is Heinali, a Ukranian based musician whom has been creatively constructing ambient soundcsapes for many years. He has worked on a variety of projects having produced soundtracks for visual artists, videogames and even poets. His sound is spectacularly experimental, at times grand yet others minimal.
Heinali often plays and appears live using electroacoustic improvisation and layered analogue sequencing.
We caught up with him as he delivers a rather special edition of our Monday ambient series.
What does your music sound like? Can you draw what you think it sounds like for us (an image from the old internet is acceptable)?
I don’t think I’m capable of describing it, unfortunately. Two reasons: the first is that it’s nearly impossible to describe something while being located inside it, you have to distance yourself from the object to see it. So it’s probably a better task for someone with a perspective, a musicologist or a critic; the second reason is that I’m not looking for a specific sound and not interested (or just don’t believe in) in ‘finding my sound’. Instead, there’s an interest in the exploration of my personal relationship with sound - it seems like the only static aspect of it is its state of a flux.
Tell us about the Monday mixtape you’ve put together for us.
I tried to bring forth some of the names I like and I don’t see often mentioned, together with the well-established names that act like connecting links. Some of them are my friends and collaborators, some of them I've never met.
To me, one of the problems with the contemporary music distribution mechanisms is that they still act like a hype generating machine for the known, established names (brands). So, with all this internet stuff going on we have this fantastic possibility of the development of the musical discourse, but a lot of times instead of growing outwards, exploring new connections, it just goes to the same names over and over again. And it happens with niche music as well. A lot.
How has your environment in Kiev aided your sound?
It definitely had a huge effect, but I can’t really know the whole extent because I don’t travel much and have never composed music outside Kiev, so I don’t have any points of reference for a comparison. I'm a city person, though. I love cities. Yes, they're noisy and crowdy and dirty and don't smell very nice in general, but I love the complexity of experiences they offer. They never fail to produce a conflict for you to resolve.
Has Ukraine been a difficult place to produce music amidst?
I think it’s difficult everywhere to make a living producing music. There's both hard work and luck involved, especially if we talk about commercial, market dependent music. Ukraine is definitely not an exception, it’s a very poor country with the insane levels of corruption, the ongoing war and bleak, in overall, future perspectives. On the other hand, the cost of life in Ukraine is very cheap (not for an average Ukrainian, of course) and there’s this weird state of things when there’s almost no governmental or private support for the arts and music but, at the same time, because of this lack of support, you can do whatever you want as you don’t have to make compromises and produce a kind of material that would get you a nice grant or a residency. A lot of musicians here, in my personal experience, are quite laid back and don’t have the aggressive careerist thing going on in comparison to their European colleagues. Of course, I’m talking about the experimental and electronic field. I really have no idea how are the things in Ukrainian mainstream music. Seems like they’re doing just fine, though. But, in my personal opinion, one of the biggest problems is that Ukrainian media ignores the non-mainstream music. I always thought it was because of the lack of new young people in media, but with the recent new media resurgence after the Maidan revolution, it seems like they’re just not interested. The only press coverage I get is either in the EU or in the US. The same with my colleagues here. It’s a shame because our experimental/electronic scene is not bad at all, and there’s a lot of going on right now, concerts, collaborations, releases.
Who got you hooked on electronic music?
I think it was almost an accident. I just started messing around with the Jeskola Buzz music software out of curiosity, when I was 18. Back then I listened to a lot of music, obsessively. I had a friend who would record me CDRs full with what felt like the weirdest music ever and I absolutely loved it. You couldn't get this stuff anywhere in Ukraine at that time, so it felt very special, esoteric. Coil, Einsturzende Neubauten, Merzbow, Mouse on Mars, Squarepusher, Boyd Rice, Sal Solaris, Toshimaru Nakamura, Kazumoto Endo and many many more. Blew my mind. But I didn't start writing music because I was inspired by the music I listened, it really happened out of the blue. I didn’t have any musical education, it all was by trial and error. So at first I was just having fun, tinkering and having no idea what I was doing, then it became a hobby and then I started to do it professionally.
Who would you say are your biggest influences and what are you hoping to achieve with your music?
My influences change, as can my interests in music, but as for what I’m currently interested in and what I’m currently doing, I definitely can name Morton Feldman and his thoughts on artistic practice and musical practice, Mark Rothko and his color field technique, Pauline Oliveros and her deep listening practice and the way she works with the memory, Brian Eno and his studio as an instrument idea, John Luther Adams in the way he approaches the phenomenology of sound how he works with an orchestra. Also, lately, it’s spectralists, Grisey and Haas in particular. And hardware, of course. KORG MS20 mini, the first synthesizer I’ve got, completely changed the way I perform and record music, it made me switch from a laptop-based performance of pre-recorded compositions to a free electroacoustic improvisation based on a method inspired by Rothko's technique, in a span of one year, and to embrace and love the limitations it brought. Recently, I fell defeated by an ongoing modular trend (thanks to the works of John Chantler, Keith Fullerton Whitman and Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith) and I'm building a modular system mostly based on Make Noise modules. I have no idea which changes it will bring upon me, but I'm completely open and enthusiastic about it.
As for the achievements, for the most part, my music is the result of my exploration of my personal relationship with the sound. Lately, though, I’ve been interested in the liminality, a production, and exploration of a certain state which isn’t quite clear, something that’s not the thing it has been before, yet not a thing it’s soon going to be.
What would be the ideal setting to listen to the mix?
There’s no ideal setting, really, but I’d prefer headphones and no distractions.