Interview: Parov Stelar

The producer & DJ and upcoming Colours of Ostrava performer speaks about his latest ablum, The Princess...

Do you see the new album „The Princess“ as a continuation of your current work, or is there something in the new album which you think makes it completely different from your previous creations?
All of my albums have a certain connection with each other of course, but it is not like you can say that this is “Godfather part 3” or anything. It is natural for an artist to want to produce something new for the next album, but it also important to ensure that the artist’s style and handwriting is easily recognizable on a new piece.

What is the major difference between „the Princess“and its predecessors?
Well firstly it took a lot longer to finish, or rather I should really say I gave myself more time to finish it….Two and a half years to be exact. It was originally planned for the album to be released much earlier, but this time I decided to wait long enough until I could happily and confidently say: “Now I am finished”. “The Princess” is less experimental than “Shine” or “Seven and Storm” were. It is important that the different stages in my life and the experiences which I have been through are recognizable in my songs. This is why there are so many different influences and approaches on this album.

Is there a closer connection between this album and the previous one „Coco“? Coco is very similar in terms of complexity and you didn’t put it in the same category as the “concept” albums….
Yes, there are definitely some similarities between the two. The double CD, which operates as a division between two different aspects of my music for example. I personally believe however that CD 1 is very different in comparison to “Coco”, and I feel very differently when I hear this album. The songs are much more atmospheric and mature.

You mentioned earlier that your music reflects certain moments in your life. The first CD from “The Princess” is not as dark as “Coco”. Does that say something about the way your life has developed in the last two and a half years?
Yes, most definitely. I was fascinated by everything dark, grimy and somber before – suffering, sexual abstinence to increase pleasure etc, but over the past few years this has changed. To use an old saying, the glass in now half full rather than half empty. I think you can hear and feel this in the new work and I am certainly a much more positive person these days. I think it is more difficult to impress and please people with something beautiful and awe-inspiring than it is to destroy something. Burning a house down is probably much more exciting and spectacular than building one, but it is also much easier as well…

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What are the reasons for this change towards the positive?
It is a development which has heavily depended on my own will power to want the change, and also self-confidence. I notice a lot when working with young artists that they often focus on the tragic side of life and they are constantly trying to process these emotions. It has a lot to do with self-confidence as I mentioned before, the confidence to just say “yes” to something which might be risky or uncertain. Under these circumstances it is often much easier to say “no”. Having a “yes” attitude means you take a firm stance on things and you have to accept that you might be criticized for the decisions you make and their outcomes, which is not always easy. Accepting criticism for saying no is much easier to take. This is how I went into “The Princess” project, in a positive manner and I remain 100% behind it.

How did you decide on the album title „The Princess“?
In my opinion “The Princess” stands for glamour, glitter and everything that people associate with life as musician. At the same time however, the title stands for much darker aspects which you might not notice at first – the pressure of being stuck in a certain role, and the need to fulfill expectations of this role, while at the same time trying to break away from it. People perceive someone the way they want them to be, while the princess just lives in her tower.

So that means the title is very much based on yourself rather than anyone else?
It is not really based on me personally, but more on my occupation and the artist that is Parov Stelar, although it is true that the barriers between the artist and the real person are rather blurred.

How would you sum up the album in a nutshell?
The album possesses a very mature melancholy in my eyes, it borders on pessimism but never crosses into it. At the same time, and especially on CD 2, the album gives you the opportunity to forget….To just close your eyes and dive into the party, to celebrate and absorb the positive energy which comes with the music.

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What has changed for you on a personal level over the two and half years of producing
the album?
A lot has changed since making the last album “coco”. The size of team has increased and I have a lot more responsibility resting on my shoulders than before. With every day that goes by I notice that it is becoming more and more difficult to go into things with the same easiness and relaxed attitude that I used to have. The more in the limelight you are, the easier it is to get pushed into a certain direction, and the more open you are to attack from others. A young artist with a debut release is pretty free from pressure as there is not that much to lose. This changes once you achieve a certain level of success, every new release becomes a case of putting everything you have achieved up to that point on the line. I felt a considerable amount of pressure at the beginning of “The Princess” project, but after a while I realized that I just had to get over it and put it to the back of my mind. In a way I am quite a selfish person and I love the risk involved in making something new. It is however pretty difficult to really evaluate one’s own music and maybe some people think “that sounds like the stuff he made before” and others think “why doesn’t he make music like he used to?” It is kind of like when you don’t notice how quickly your kids are growing up and changing, but a relative who doesn’t see them that often notices it instantly and is like “Wow, they have grown up quickly”, and you’re like “huh?”

On the last album you worked with a number of independent artists but this time you chose to work with people you already knew. Why was that?
Yeah in the end the whole thing turned out to be somewhat of a “family affair”. Lilja (Bloom) was of course with me again, and this time I also worked more intensely with my live band on the album, much more than I previously had done.

Do the other musicians have an influence in the actual writing and composition of the
music or are they simply performers?
Let us put it this way, they are performers with plenty of freedom to experiment. I explain the fundamentals and the song idea always come from me. All of the musicians also have their own solo projects so none of them have desire to take centre stage in my project. It could quite easily be the other way round, where I function as a performer for one of them if need be. For my project however I am the one who lays down the foundations and the rest has to be built around this, meaning the freedom is also rather restricted. We are all good friends
though and get along very well so there are no problems. To be honest, the singers are probably the ones who have the best chance to break away from my direction and put their opinions across, but even then it is often so that we are able to agree on something easily without any problems.

Can this still be called a producer project?
Yes I think so, there is simply too much of a difference between the album and what we do live. When we are on stage there is little influence the producer can have, the rules are different out there and I can only vaguely set the direction. I trust my musicians 100% however in this situation. They all have so much experience and know what they are doing so there is no real need for me to get involved too much.

What are the live performances of the album going to be like?
We are not a traditional band that has a certain plan for each album tour and sticks to this. I still see myself as a producer; constantly making electro, club friendly music and these tunes could easily be released as singles or EPs. The album is simply a way of collecting and presenting these tunes together. We are constantly integrating new tracks and continually developing our live set and we had a completely different set list in 2011 in comparison to 2009 for example. We will be adding more new numbers to that list with the release of the new album of course, and in addition to this we will be playing almost all of the songs from Coco’s 2nd CD and a few classics as well.

What music influenced you during the development of the new album, or more specifically what have you been listening to recently?
Mostly new music to be honest, this is where I get most of my inspiration from at the moment. I really like the last Muse album and I enjoy listening to the stuff released on the Kitsune or Etage Noir specials. I don’t think there really has to be a connection between what one listens to at home in private, and what one produces, but of course you need to enjoy listening to what you produce yourself. It is interesting to take a step back and look at yourself and the music you listen to….to assess what elements have been taken out and used as influences in
the production of your own music. I also find it really exciting to find out that fans of my music also have the same or similar musical tastes as I do, even though this music might not be anything like the music I make. The connection lies in the fact that it is always emotional music with pop appeal, but still with plenty of underground character.

What has changed for you personally over the last two and a half years?
Being the manager/owner of a company was something I never actually wanted; it was more or less thrown upon me. Being in a band is easily done and you can easily get out if you want to, but this doesn’t work at home or amongst your friends, and things are much more complicated now. This is what makes the situation at the moment so difficult because a lot of the people I work with are my friends, and I hope that these long-term friendships will not be harmed by the situation. I notice that this pressure often makes me very overwrought.

Let’s talk about the concept of „home“. What is home for you? Is it a place, or perhaps more of a feeling? You are on the road quite a lot; does this also change the concept of home?
I think home is a place which is defined by feelings. Home has become more and more important to me over the last few years. One of the most beautiful things in the world after make-up sex is coming home, and I think anyone who has been on tour for long periods of time knows that coming home also means being able to be yourself again. This is also something that is becoming more difficult, I notice that people look at me differently now when I am at home …..or maybe home is just smaller than it was before.

How long are you normally at home before you start getting itch to move again?
Not long if I am brutally honest. I really look forward to coming home but after a week (at the most) I start getting the urge to travel again. We are like circus children…once you get the bug you just can’t get rid of it.

Describe a typical day in the life of Parov Stelar when he is not on tour
I play a lot of sport to keep me fit for the long tours and I spend a lot of my time in the studio. There is always something to do, not just musically. I like producing videos and graphics and I get this work done when I am in the studio. Lilja has an atelier next door so I pop by every now and then. You could probably say that I actually live in my studio when I am not on tour.

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