Name: Ádám Mészáros
Occupation: Guitarist
Nationality: Hungarian
Current Release: Jü's III is out via RareNoise.
1. I’m Thinking Of Ending Things by Charlie Kaufman – I saw the movie first then I read the book by Iain Reid. It raised some very interesting questions for me. I think I succeeded in not trying to understand the story and I'm pretty sure that was the key.   
2. A friend just introduced me to the work of Australian painter David Griggs. Amazingly vivid and pretty chaotic.  

If you enjoyed this interview with Ádám Mészáros and would like to stay up to date on the music of Jü, visit their homepage. They are also on Facebook, bandcamp, and Instagram.

When did you start writing/producing music - and what or who were your early passions and influences? What was it about music and/or sound that drew you to it?

Like many other guitarists, rock music made me pick up the guitar. I was 10 and early attempts to create my own riffs came shortly after. I still remember the first phrases – it’s so uplifting to see how fearless and free I was of concepts and how much I wasn’t bothered by the lack of originality for example. That is a state of mind I still try to return to and maintain even today – being thoughtless and trying to put intellect aside is a key form of consciousness  for me when creating.

With improvising this is more obvious. Then it’s easier to be in the moment and not to think about what happened a few moments ago or what will come after the present moment. This is something I try to trick my mind into also when composing – though I don’t think it is fully achievable but I'm trying, and trying is already doing.

I’m not sure what drew me to music. I remember certain instances like drawing long-haired guitarists standing in front of mountains of guitar amps. As a village boy in Eastern Hungary this image was so powerfully symbolising something utterly different from the life that surrounded me that it felt somehow dizzyingly free.    

For most artists, originality is preceded by a phase of learning and, often, emulating others. What was this like for you: How would you describe your own development as an artist and the transition towards your own voice?

I believe that the child-like approach of imitating others is essential in learning music. Or what I think is even more important is getting back to the beginner’s point of view – being free of thoughts of a mind polluted by expectations of others and my own-, free of different contexts and premeditated intentions.   

How do you feel your sense of identity influences your creativity?

For me trying to establish a creative mindset means purifying myself from the diminishing thoughts I tend to deal with in my life. To stop overthinking and to try to turn the aimless noise in my head into simple systematic forms so I can release this kind of energy without it doing harm in there. I don’t try to spread my personality over creativity but I try to cure my personal defects with creativity.

What were your main creative challenges in the beginning and how have they changed over time?

The aforementioned overthinking has limited my creative outputs from time to time. Recognizing this problem has already led to improving my processes. Coming up with strategies to treat this has also resulted in a more positive way of dealing with my personal issues.

As creative goals and technical abilities change, so does the need for different tools of expression, be it instruments, software tools or recording equipment. Can you describe this path for you, starting from your first instrument? What motivated some of the choices you made over the years?

For me, attitude and mindset are primary and tools are secondary. I might be sounding old fashioned, but it’s still about channeling the music I hear with my inner ear. This probably comes from the fact that I started discovering and learning music pre-internet. I started evolving in a time when that ridiculous amount of information wasn’t available. I didn’t know I needed stuff.

Of course anything that helps me with this process has some importance. For example when I started playing out my ideas by making sketches on my laptop, it seemed like a revelation until a few years later when I realised that I needed the input from my fellow musicians.

Even if sometimes I make music alone like let’s say a film score or music for a commercial I try to involve people whenever it’s possible.   

Derek Bailey defined improvising as the search for material which is endlessly transformable. Regardless of whether or not you agree with his perspective, what kind of materials have turned to be particularly transformable and stimulating for you? Have there been technologies or instruments which have profoundly changed or even questioned the way you make music?

I think it’s truly a great definition!

But I doubt that Derek Bailey would apply this in terms of technology. If I’d have to then I would say that if you have something, then technology can help you pour it into form just as much as you would without involving technology. But if you don’t have anything but technology, then you don't have what is essential in the creative process.  

Collaborations can take on many forms. What role do they play in your approach and what are your preferred ways of engaging with other creatives through, for example, file sharing, jamming or just talking about ideas?

Making music with others is a very high level of communication. Trading ideas and methods is extremely beneficial to your music or how you think of your own music or music in general and what is even more fruitful is that it gets you connected on a personal level that is very pure and valid.

No faking or second thoughts or egoistic intentions. For me that’s an unquestionably valuable way of bonding.

Take us through a day in your life, from a possible morning routine through to your work, please. Do you have a fixed schedule? How do music and other aspects of your life feed back into each other - do you separate them or instead try to make them blend seamlessly?

Oh, it’s totally Jekyll and Hyde! I have small kids and family is always first which means a serious amount of juggling between being a father and being a musician. Without exceptions, mornings are the opportunities for me to shine in the father’s role. Late afternoons and evenings are when the musician steps up.

A weekly routine is more representative: on Mondays and Tuesdays I have classes. My students help me maintain the beginner’s perspective and basically that’s when I try to keep my guitar playing muscles in shape. Wednesdays and Thursdays are for rehearsals. With Jü or I have 2 projects which I founded recently: started practicing soukous music with a collective and I also have a punk rock outfit. Weekends are for gigs.

When new work pops up, I try to squeeze it into this schedule.

Can you talk about a breakthrough work, event or performance in your career? Why does it feel special to you? When, why and how did you start working on it, what were some of the motivations and ideas behind it?

I’m pretty sure there were a bunch of these (like starting to make a living off music, playing in front of huge crowds, travelling to exciting places, or pocketing some nice words from people I look up to) but I try to avoid nostalgia or feeling satisfied by what happened in the past.

There are many descriptions of the ideal state of mind for being creative. What is it like for you? What supports this ideal state of mind and what are distractions? Are there strategies to enter into this state more easily?

As I said, a clean mind and trying to keep a beginner’s perspective is very helpful to me. No expectations. No speculations. Just you being in the moment. This state is pretty similar to the phenomenon in psychology referred to ‘flow’ as it was named by Hungarian-Canadian psychologist Mihály Csíkszentmihályi. If it works the music will play itself and one phrase will lead me to the next.

This is what should happen. But in reality there's a lot of trying and failing.

In Hungarian the term for composing music could be translated as ‘acquiring’ or ‘obtaining’ music which I find interesting because it assumes that music already exists somewhere else. You just need to be receptive enough to bring it to the world.

Music and sounds can heal, but they can also hurt. Do you personally have experiences with either or both of these? Where do you personally see the biggest need and potential for music as a tool for healing?

I don’t know much about music therapy and especially about how the different soundwaves effect your body physically or biologically.

In a city we live in constant noise and we are not even aware of that and what it can do to us. Lots of unwanted sounds can mess with your well-being since it has a physical effect on your body. Sometimes I can feel sudden relief when a disturbing kind of music or noise stops which reminds me that I should be more aware of my sonic surroundings.

We have to actively look for opportunities to experience real silence. But real silence is not always easy to bear. For me it is not simply the lack of sounds but something that is very present and dense and can almost cause vertigo when experienced first.

One of the greatest qualities of music is that if you encounter music regularly at an early age when your brain is in the stage of development, it helps establish connections between your neurotransmitters which actually makes you smarter or at least your brain will be able to identify patterns on a higher level. So when people label challenging music as noise it tells that their brain is not capable of identifying complex patterns beneath the surface.
There is a fine line between cultural exchange and appropriation. What are your thoughts on the limits of copying, using cultural signs and symbols and the cultural/social/gender specificity of art?

I think this is the question of the nature of the relationship between the representative of a cultural heritage and the one who is influenced by those cultural characteristics so greatly that one feels the urge to integrate it into the culture of one’s own: if it’s done with respect and no harm is done then it can create value.

Exchanging culture is understanding each other and realising that, despite all the differences, we are all one on a level.

I’m a great admirer of Norwegian jazz, Thai funk and Nigerian psychedelic rock, the amazing Belgian gypsy violin player Tcha Limberger who plays Hungarian folk music in a way only a few can. Just to take a few examples of the field of music but the list is endless.

Our sense of hearing shares intriguing connections to other senses. From your experience, what are some of the most inspiring overlaps between different senses - and what do they tell us about the way our senses work?

The other day I was talking to some friends about if I had to lose one of my senses, which one would I choose. I said the sense of smell but then I realised how powerful smell is with bringing back memories so vividly. I guess it’s all connected.

When I had the chance to play music using graphic notation, which looked like painting actually, it was very exciting to translate colors to sounds. Some music feels cold. Some feels warm and humid. If you’re associative enough and open for synesthesia then there’s a whole world for you out there.

Art can be a purpose in its own right, but it can also directly feed back into everyday life, take on a social and political role and lead to more engagement. Can you describe your approach to art and being an artist?

I think using art for making your voice heard in a social or political context is very valid and important, especially nowadays when political rhetoric is deeply impregnated with lies. But I make music mostly for the sake of music. Music and art in general make dealing with the apparent futility of life easier.

What can music express about life and death which words alone may not?

I don’t think that we have a word for every single feeling we might experience. I don’t think that cognition is the only way to deal with what we go through in life.

When there’s a dead end for the intellect, then we can find some ease in accepting things as they are without finding an ultimate answer.

Here’s a list of things music can express but words cannot: