Exclusive Interview with Akos Garai


Akos Garai is a sound artsst from Hungary well know for being owner and curator of the field recording label 3LEAVES where he published sound works by artists from all over the world. He has released material at his own label but also on other places like mAtter, Gruenrekorder, Impulsive Habitat, trente oiseaux, among others.

In this interview, Akos tells us about his work with the label, his approaches on listening, recording and composing and also shares lots of interesting thoughts with us. Hope you enjoy the conversation!

So you started working with music by playing drums on Metal bands and listening to Grindcore for example, and over the last twelve years you’ve been working with field recordings and minimalist abstract compositions. Is there any relationship with your “old” listening taste and today’s interest? What do you think led you to look for the sounds you work with nowadays?

I have been thinking about this but have not found a reliable answer so far. That’s for sure that I saw music very one-sided in the way I was receiving/enjoying music at that time. I was thinking in categories for music and I thought if you listen to Carcass you cannot like Bach at the same time! Funny, is not it? Now I know that you can and how to use different reception with different music. This is a wonderful opportunity or ability which is available to me now. Anyway I still listen to a lot of metal, old and new, and started playing on guitar before I turn into the forth X. I am out of the line, not only with this, but it is very okay and it makes me happy when someone does not understand nothing:) Changes in tastes are pretty special, it is a little bit like when you re-read a book and find new details, new aspects in it. No real change I think since I was always interested in non-commercial, non-popular music and that’s not really going to change.

So you’re in charge of a very interesting field recording label, 3LEAVES. What led you to start with that project? What’s your approach on it and how you evaluate the releases you publish? Do you have any specific criteria on it?

First of all, I am glad you find the label interesting. Well, I started the label in 2009 with the basic idea to collect artists working with field recording into a small virtual creative group on my map. The idea was (and still is) to support not self-centered artists with a fine sensitivity towards their environment, our planet, research its deeper relationship with sound art and clearly present these composed consequences in their field recording based sound art. The need to offer something good to people through this music is also included. Positive moments, good listening experience and a little thought alarm. How much has it succeed? I do not think my place to judge. Anyhow, I think there is a kind of quality level which is pretty specific with 3LEAVES and I hope this not sounds uppish. Perhaps it says something about specific criteria the fact that we will release four new titles only from the dozens of demos we already received during this year. We are always trying to make a next step and diversifying releases within our lines.

akos-garaiIs there any specific thoughts you have regarding digital releases that make you decide to focus 3LEAVES releases on physical domain and not  too much on the virtual side?

Physical? What is beyond that? Actually you are probably right with the need to be recorded music non-physical… at least in some sense. However, a typical net label is the synonym of “no risk” attitude and undemanding thinking for me. I like to walk the old path as a label and to make as much effort into each release as possible. A 3LEAVES release is always a result of a collaboration and different considerations. In contrary, it is nothing easier than to put your music or others music online today. I feel nothing wrong with net labels, there are some really good, I just want to say this is not my way with 3LEAVES. Anyway each of our sold-out physical releases are available in digital format for free now. If I could, I would be very happy to work in the 80s when there was real interest in music and where record labels have made fantastic quality productions as a teamwork. The way as long as a song get pressed on vinyl or CD… how many people checked it, worked on it, added his/her opinion and skills in order to make the best and offer something that makes the audience happy and satisfied? The thing I still believe is quality in every sense and I am glad to see that listeners acknowledges this, wants this even in this era. Today’s revival of vinyl is a strong evidence of that real listeners wants real music and they not only yearns after the unbeatable audio media but they also hopes to get back something of quality of that Golden Age of Music. So, to tell a long story short, digital releases definitely doesn’t make anything good for music, for artist, for labels… so why?

Talking about your personal work, how is you approach towards it? How and what do you like to record and how you like to compose/process? How much improvisation and specific structuring is present on it?

Basically I like to work in an intuitive way. But I also like to work on concepts invented by others just like in the Audiotalaia project or a collaboration work with four others for Impulsive Habitat net label last year. Recording is always full of surprises simply because I record an ever-changing environment and it is very different from the studio work. Often, the thing is that if I have my recorder with me I cannot take anything interesting or what I planned to but if I leave my audio gear at home I will surely mind it and hear something that sure have been nice to record. Murphy. Sometimes I return to places I found inviting and press that red button and listen. I think improvisation somewhere starts here.

matter10Let’s talk about that interesting text you include at one of my favorite of your releases, Three Shaded Leaves (MATTER10), a dedication you did to the great Bernhard Günter. In there, you share a lot of interesting points, but I really would like to talk about the way you refer to field recording as a kind of activity for personal development. Could you talk us how is that way of understanding field recording as a more personal way of perceiving and conceiving reality itself?

Well, it is no secret that sound has a large effect on the brain. Or better say: frequency has a large effect on the brain, no less than the ones you can not detect with your ears. This part I would say is the unconscious side of listening, the passive one if you like. If you live in a big and loud city like this where I am, you suffer from noise damage every hour which has its consequences mentally and physically. But if you ever tried active listening, and I am sure you did, you know how much good is that for the brain and so for the body. Religion and other speculative abstract philosophy tell you what to think and how to live. OK, good robots make no mistake. The activity of field recording work lets you turn inward without tales of gods and energies and the purple haze, so you get better on the way of perceiving your actual reality, your limits as a human and so on. You do not have to really care when you are in the city, you can be loud and rough there… nobody really cares. Now, this is not going to work when you go outside!

In that release specially, and in other works I’ve heard from you, I can notice a very interesting use of dynamics and contrast along the composition. Some times there are long spaces with pretty quiet sounds, contrasted with strong strikes such as those bell kind of sounds you feature at that release at mAtter. Is there any reason for that? How do you think those particular ways of designing and structuring sounds affect the listening experience?

Yes, it certainly do. But I am definitely not the composer/arranger who measure everything accurately while working with sound. It is not inattention or something but rather taking into account the freedom of field recording requires in my opinion. Of course there are universal rules to keep while making compositions but checking beats and bars in every second it is something really not my cup of tea. When I think of good singers or instrumentalists, interestingly, most of the really good talents are all played with a so to speak free interpretation, sometimes wrong and false but with a particular tone that music lovers rarely rejected. In my own work, I always prefer to give place for intuitions, associations and let structuring sounds itself.

Could you tell us about the work you did for “Espacio de Escucha” at Valencia, Spain with Audiotalaia? How the place influenced you for creating the piece/work you submitted and what kind of field recordings you featured in there?

It started with an enquiry of Audiotalaia net label in Spain. The project were specifically declared by them and since I live in a city where there is underground public transport, it was quite obvious to me where the “scene of the crime” will be happen. The metro lines I recorded here are mostly rundown places with vehicle wrecks kinda junkyard remaining from the 80s. This atmosphere was so to say unavoidable and I wanted to give back something of it with my composition. I used to add some audio samples from CD as well, in order to achieve the mood or something that is in the air of those locations.

vertikale-skiftAnd what about Vertikale Skift you published at Gruenrekorder? Could you tell us how was the collaboration with Terje Paulsen on recording and choosing the material and how was processing achieved? Did you guys used any particular approach on that particular work?

It was my idea to make a collaboration album with Terje Paulsen. We were in active contact at that time and it seemed that we found that common frequency I think is needed to achieve a collaboration like this. We both had compositions that we did, not decided about them and it seemed as a good idea to use them as a starting point for our collaboration album. For my part, I wanted to create somewhat interactive music with the tracks following each others and since I had my compositions based on water recordings, I made and sent a coil to Terje to record magnetic waves in the air at his place. I think we ended with something we both liked and something that successfully derived from the original idea of the collaboration.

I see you give some importance to the pictures you integrate on your publications. Do you find any relationship between photography and your work with field recording? In that text at mAtter you say photography is the art of movement, while field recording is more about the process, about time. So, how both integrate together?

Good question. Maybe “integrate” is not the best word to say but I cannot get any better here and now, alas. Both recording techniques, pictures and sound have their similarities to me. But even when I work with images and sound I use the same word “composition” so maybe this comes from here. There are overlaps but of course just like with other dimensions there are no perfect correspondences between them and that’s just right. When I am thinking about artwork for a CD, I try to find correspondences and things that fit with music, text and conception.

What do you think about the concept/experience of silence?

What silence? There are thousands…

Do you have any favorite recordings or places you’ve listened?

I cannot tell because every day is a new day. For me the best when I am in the forest or near to a living natural water. All seasons, with or without audio recorder.

What’s coming next? Are you currently cooking something for the upcoming days?

These days I am preparing next few releases for my label. This will include debut releases and new sound works by Camilla Hannan (Australia), Bjarni Gunnarsson (Iceland), Rui Almeida (Portugal) and Stephen Cornford (UK).

Finally, could you recommend us some sounds, places, field recording releases, labels, films, books and/or artists you personally think our community would enjoy?

Browse Sonic Terrain website and most likely you find many interests 🙂

More Info: Akos Garai | 3leaves Label | Interview at Tokafi | Discogs

Miguel Isaza M

Listener, speaker.