Part 1

Name: LIUN + The Science Fiction Band
Members: Lucia Cadotsch, Wanja Slavin
Interviewee: Wanja Slavin
Nationality: Swiss (Lucia Cadotsch), German (Wanja Slavin)
Occupation: Saxophonist, composer (Wanja Slavin), Singer (Lucia Cadotsch)
Current Release: Time Rewind on enja/yellowbird records
Recommendations: A great book: The Kindly Ones by Jonathan Littell
A great record: 14th Symphony by Shostakovich conducted by Kyrill Kondraschin

If you enjoyed this interview with Wanja Slavin of LIUN + The Science Fiction Band and want to find out more, visit the info page of the project on Lucia Cadotsch's personal website. Wanja also has a homepage of his own.  

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

I started playing piano and clarinet at the age of six and that’s also when I started improvising and recording on some tape deck in my room. My father was a musician as well and there was always music around me. Mostly jazz and classical recordings. When I was around 10 years old, my father bought a Mac with Logic on it and I've been playing and trying out stuff with that program ever since then.

For most artists, originality is first 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? What is the the relationship between copying, learning and your own creativity?

It feels to me as though I was always following my inner voice, but at the same time I was absorbing any kind of music I found interesting. I think it's more about the process of freeing oneself from expectations from outside and it took me many years to become more self-confident with myself as a musician. It's still a struggle sometimes.

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

Fortunately the creative process has never been a problem to me. But I had to learn a lot about mixing in the last couple of years. Mixing my own music was definitely my biggest challenge.

What was your first studio like? How and for what reasons has your set-up evolved over the years and what are currently some of the most important pieces of gear for you?

I had a couple of little home studios over the years, but with a lot of breaks. I always sold everything and started from zero again. For a couple of times the whole studio thing felt too time-consuming to me and I was more into playing live. Since eight years or so I have a little studio at my house in the woods and my most important gear is actually my computer (boring) and some analogue synths and drum machines, but nothing spectacular. At the moment I love working with a Dave Smith OB 6 a friend gave to me.

How do you make use of technology? In terms of the feedback mechanism between technology and creativity, what do humans excel at, what do machines excel at?

Today technology has made the equipment so cheap that everyone can experiment in his or her studio without running out of budget. I am using my computer as lab where I can try out things I would never be able to do in an old-school studio. My goal is that I can play everything I program.

Production tools, from instruments to complex software environments, contribute to the compositional process. How does this manifest itself in your work? Can you describe the co-authorship between yourself and your tools?

Sometimes weird things happen while working on some sounds that inspire my compositions. I am not sure if my tools contribute to my compositions, though. To me composition is way more than just designing a sound.

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?

I play live with so many different musicians every year that I can not count them. To me this is one of the most important things in my life. It keeps me sane and motivates me. Of course it's nice to sit in a studio alone and working on my own stuff. But after a week or so I can't take it anymore and I have to take my saxophone and play something real.

Could you take us through a day in your life, from a possible morning routine through to your work? 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?

I am travelling most of the year playing gigs. So there is no daily routine at all. When I am at home, I usually sleep very long and practise saxophone in the afternoon. Usually I start writing or producing music around 8 p.m. until the morning around 6 or 7 am. I found out that
I am most productive in that time slot.

Could you describe your creative process on the basis of a piece or album that's particularly dear to you, please? Where did the ideas come from, how were they transformed in your mind, what did you start with and how do you refine these beginnings into the finished work of art?

For Lucia’s and my album LIUN & The Science Fiction Band “Time Rewind”, movies played a big part in the process. For example I tried to restore the vibe from certain scenes that I liked. Sometimes even just for a blink. I also made many very different versions of a song until we decided on one.

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?

If I would know, I would be very happy! Practising an instrument and the meditative state doing that helps me to get there though. It's one of the big mysteries in life and as music is.

How is playing live and writing music in the studio connected? What do you achieve and draw from each experience personally? How do you see the relationship between improvisation and composition in this regard?

Working in the studio helped me a great deal in finding a better feeling on form in general.

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?

My music is political in the sense that I don't give a s… about any expectations from the so called market. I don't try to please anyone when I am writing or playing music. I believe we would all live in a better world, if we would do things because they are good and not because we want to earn as much money as possible. I am still very happy if someone likes what I am doing though. I think that´s human.