Name: dZihan & Kamien
Members: Mario Kamien, Vlado Dzihan
Interviewee: Vlado Dzihan
Nationality: German (Mario Kamien), Bosnian (Vlado Dzihan)
Occupation: Producers, Multi-instrumentalists
Current release: dZihan & Kamien's IV is out now on Couch Records.
Recommendations: Pauline Marcelle - painter; Sasa Stanisic - author

If you enjoyed this interview with dZihan & Kamien and would like to know more about the project, the best place to start is their official website.

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?

I was twelve when I started playing around with my brother's Juno-106 synthesizer. My brother, who is 6 years older than me, was already playing in a band. A little later he took me to a recording studio session where they were finishing their album, and I was absolutely blown away by the vibe and energy of a studio recording environment.

At that early teenage age I was drawn to punk music and a little later to jazz - rather odd - but that was because my father was a jazz drummer, so those two worlds were constantly colliding.

So music was around me all the time, and along the way I went to music school and studied piano.   

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?

Every artist has a "unique voice" from the beginning - their own understanding of rhythm, melody and harmony, but it takes quite a while to filter all that together with the influences into an essence.

My evolution has been varied, from becoming a studied (and studio) musician and multi-instrumentalist to trying to ignore everything I've learned in order to process only the music and nothing else. It's been a challenging task, but being a DJ has helped a lot. You get to mix the music, rhythm, melodies & energies that you probably would never come up with on your own ...

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

It's an vital part of anyone's creativity, you can't separate these two in any way.

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

Well, in the beginning you strive for more, more of everything. More energy, virtuosity, uniqueness, acceptance, and eventually success. But with that energy - and while instinctively making art - you can also achieve outstanding results.

Over time - and I think that's the beauty of it - you don't care about all that anymore, and everything that matters gets filtered into the essence. The artistic essence.   

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 studio/first instrument? What motivated some of the choices you made in terms of instruments/tools/equipment over the years?

As I said, I started with my brother's Roland Juno-106 and later with a Roland 727 drum machine and an Atari ST2. That was enough for me to discover the beauty of producing music. I had the Juno-106 for almost 35 years, but only recently replaced it with a Juno-6. It’s an upgrade. (laughs)

Different artistic concepts require different equipment, and these are just the tools that help you achieve the sound you want. But it's also about the process - some equipment limits your options and forces you to approach your work differently than others.  

Have there been technologies or instruments which have profoundly changed or even questioned the way you make music?

With all the tools we have today - and I mean DAWs with all the great-sounding preloaded sounds and grooves - you can achieve instant gratification very quickly. That's tempting. But I don't think it's something that will be remembered. Sampling was and still is my favorite tool because you can layer things together that you probably wouldn't play on your own. Controlled discovery!

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?

Playing together. Recording together. Interacting with other musicians, producers and DJs is one way. The other is learning from everyone else who makes or teaches music, music forms, orchestration, and so on. There's so much to discover and learn, to re-discover and re-learn, and it's incredibly satisfying.   

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?

In the morning, it's family time. After that, it's studio time. Being a professional musician means you're actually working all the time - if not actively, then working in your head, trying to find the best recipe for the material you're working on. So my life is music 24/7.

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?

The biggest challenge was a live performance with the Dzihan & Kamien Orchestra "live in vienna". A challenge on so many levels, but the most important one was to translate the music we made into a live setup - that is, to translate the whole essence of the sampled, layered, chopped and somehow impossibly stacked sounds into a live setup and amplify that with the energy that a live performance brings.

Also, we were 24 people on stage and the orchestration of that thing was a monument.

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?

It's like the "runners high" - there's a state where the flow is so perfect that the music flows out of you and your hands. It often happened that I can't even remember how I did something. The only thing I can remember is the feeling I had, that magic moment of being high, the natural high.

One strategy is to not give up. Never give up. Sometimes it takes hours of work where nothing really works, and then all of a sudden a sound, a chord, or a single note gets you into this flow ... That's magic.

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?

Music can heal, and it does. Whether music can hurt - I'm not sure. Noise can hurt. But as far as healing - I just read recently that Brian Eno did "The Quiet Room" project for a hospital in Southern England, and although I haven't heard the music yet, it makes sense. There need to be more projects like this.

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?

Filtering influences and art into your own musical expression is great. Nothing should be copied, but experienced.  

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?

One of the greatest things is the fact that you can't escape music. That power is just so incredible, and it's unstoppable. It overwhelms you without ifs and buts and touches you on the deepest levels. Magical.

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?

Art encompasses different aspects of expression, but in my case it's the need to make music - it's as simple as that. There are other sublevels, but it's about the absolute need. There's just no taming that.  

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

Music can be a collector of experiences "between the lines." There are a lot of things that music can express very subtly or super directly. And once done, that musical snapshot, "frozen," can be experienced at any time in the future.