Nik Bartsch’s Ronin the project Nik Bartsch brings to Bucharest, offers an amazing musical experience. Catalin Toader had the opportunity to find out more about music, philosophy and life in a rather eclectic interview with the artist.
1. Nik, how much your musical creation landscape has changed since Randori and Hishiryo? What is now totally different?
We went forward to our roots. Our development has the form of a spiral. A chameleon cannot suddenly change into a cat but it can subtly change its colour. What really changed is our experience. We are ten years older – also wiser? I hope so. In our music experience is very useful. The music changes the most through patience and passion: stay committed, focused and awake in doing what you believe in, not only for a few years but for your life. Its always now.
Through repetition we can experience what’s different, what we have learned, but only when we do cultivate awareness and consciousness and avoiding routine in working.
2. How many other descriptive words do you think they have enough room between Zen and Funk?
How many colour names you know between black and blue? Words are inventions, filled up with meaning by using them. I invented the word combination Zen Funk as a riddle – paradox, ironic and energetic. I need the spiritual energy of Zen and Funk to survive: Rhythm and resonance.
3. Do you believe in democracy in a band?
I believe in democracy in general. Because democracy allows all active and innovative people to express themselves and to realize their ideas – with respect to the others in their community. Democracy does not mean that all people are the same. The ones, who are initiative and develop a natural authority respected by the others, lead the community. In this sense I also believe in democracy in a band. But luckily our RONIN democracy is also democrazy.
4. Talking about your band, can you describe it as a very empathic organism?
Empathy as an evolutionary advantage is much older then human culture. It is a very effective strategy to react fast without reflection, to think with the body. In performing arts this is like in martial arts a very interesting and thrilling momentum. We are interested in communicating with the audience, the organizers and the staff of a venue and with all the people who help to realize our music. Everything in the world is connected. Empathy is the capacity to understand this immediately without thinking.
5. Since I saw your first concert, I tried to describe your music to a close friend. The only definition I was able to come out with was “long haikus”. I mean… the art of cutting phrases, juxtaposed ideas, vertical line, free punctuation, shifting moods, freedom of perception… How wrong was I?
Your idea is great! „Long haiku“ is a paradox – like our music. I love really your words because they are wrong very precisely. Thank you!
6. Sometimes, people describe your music as a paradox. Do you believe there is a “funky calmness” and a “zen chaos” in music? Is your music an absolute paradox, like practicing iaido using a Swiss knife?
I again love your picture very much because it is poetically absurd and ironic although a good Swiss knife is as sharp as a Japanese sword and this technique probably would be even more dangerous than Iaido (also for the guy who practises it!). I experienced many paradox constellations as more natural then the so-called logic and linear ones. For example: you have to play calm, relaxed and precise to create a dynamic flowing groove with tension or you have to train a lot of technique to not use it in the end…
7. Do you, or ever did, write poetry? Is there any Japanese influence also?
I write a lot of poems but in private. I like all sorts of poetry and word games as long as they are not „professorial“ but original, deep and ironic. Poetry has a lot to do with reduction, rhythmical structures and multimeanings. That’s very related to music.
8. Bach or Beethoven? Zappa or Steve Reich?
I am not an „or“-type of person. I appreciate all of them because I can learn from all of these masters a lot about composing, performing and living as an artist. But I play mostly Bach at home. Imagine a Steve Van Zappach….
9. Do you believe there is a “golden ratio” in music, the perfect balance between melody and rhythm?
I am not interested in perfection but in precision. There is no general rule for this balance and every melody is a rhythm and the opposite. But some „rhythmodies“ have more potential than others. The composer or interpreter has to precisely find this potential. In RONIN’s music the rhythm has the function of the melody fort the ear: you follow the form and dramaturgy via the rhythms and their interlocking, overlapping and cycles. You are seduced by the rhythm.
10. Did the guys in the band ever feel like real Ronins? Are they samurais without a master, or the name is just a metaphor for a group that’s artistically adrift?
First of all RONIN means „freelancer“. All the musicians in RONIN are playing this music together because we want to. We don’t serve anybody except the music itself. In RONIN all musicians keep the spirit alive to do what you love to do in life – with respect, liability, integrity and all its consequences and with taking responsibility for all your actions. So we are poetic RONINs with a consciousness fort he dignity of our way. Polite radicals with serious self-irony and the will to work, thatțs all about Ronin and music.
11. Tell me about your summer workshop in Val Mesocco. Music, meditation and aikido. A kind of body and soul care center there?
It’s a training camp. The training itself is he topic. You learn to train without disturbing yourself with all your ambitions, fears and knowledge. You learn to outfox yourself. Nothing esoteric – just training: meditation, Aikido and mostly music training, specifically percussion and modul music training.
12. Is there any traditional groove in the Alps?
Of course. There is traditional groove and dance everywhere. Groove is a natural force and
in a cultivated form it is a basic food of us all (probably even for the animals). But we are not living in the Alps so we are cultivating the grooves of our neighborhood in our city.
13. How about the Mobile project. I heard about rituals that lasted for dozens of hours… It’s a mixture of martial arts and music in this project?
Our musical journey and aesthetics started with MOBILE with a trilogy of 36-hour music rituals in multimedia settings. We wanted to completely focus on music and its social energy. We played 36 hours live together as a group and offered the audience to join us by listening as long as they liked. They could also sleep during the ritual. We also invited guests: video artists, martial artists and architects who designed the room in which we played. It was a fantastic and inspiring experience which showed us that the energy of music can nourish as food and sleep. It was the proof for our deep believes in the force of music.
14. Ronin use to play every Monday in the Exil club in Zurich. This became a sort of ritual too?
Yes, it developed out of my tradition to invited all the people I know to my house always the first Monday of the month from 12.00 to 24.00. Sometimes many people came sometimes only a few but it was always interesting and helped to establish liability for the community. When I came back from Japan in 2004, we needed a home base to rehearse and play weekly. I did not want to depend on organizers and venues for our development and I wanted to offer also a platform for us to meet and work every week. So we rented the Monday first in the Bazillus club in Zurich, then in 2009 I had the chance to found the EXIL club together with four other partners to have a club more in our own style. Since then we play there. This Monday meetings help to establish and develop our music regularly in our everyday life. Unbelievable how much this helped to energize, specify and freshen our music and social connection.
15. Nik, what’s the most played album in your iPod?
I don’t have an iPod, I am not listening to Mp3 files. I think the most played album in my library is Stravinsky’s „Rite Of Spring“ conducted by himself. He is the most ironic, funny, deep and spiritual composer I know. And he had his style, also in fashion.
Catalin Toader– Dilema Veche – Nu sint interesat de perfectiune ci de precizie (o parte din articol)
Traducerea in limba romana a acestui material e disponibila aici.
[alert close=”true” background=”#a1a3b5″ color=”#ffffff”] Nik Bartsch’s Ronin performed at Sala Radio check here for a photo gallery[/alert]