Martins Strautnieks (Martinez Gonzalez)

Martins Strautnieks (Martinez Gonzalez) - Hi. Please introduce yourself. What’s your name?

My name is Martins Strautnieks but my stage name is Martinez Gonzalez. My friends call me Gonzo. :)

- Could you please describe your first experience in the world of music?

I was born in a musical family so I was destined to become a musician. My grandma used to play the piano for three-four hours a day.

When I was six years old and at school I learned a song that I had to perform in the congress house... it was a little children's song. During the performance I pissed my pants and I was embarrassed. It was just the beginning... my first experience on stage.

- When did you become aware that you want and can record music? When did you understand that you’re doing it well?

My first experience in recording music was with my choir, some Christmas songs. I recorded my first music on my brother's tape recorder...I used to borrow a guitar and effect pedals from my friend, Santana. I would record harmonics and atmospheric improvisations.
Recently, after getting some positive feedback it became obvious that I am good at making music.

- When did you establish yourself as an independent artist? What kind of period of your life was it? From our information, you’ve been working for a long time with different bands in Riga. What was the reason that you started to perform and work independently?

The first band I was in started in 1996, Lolita’s Wonderbird. I played the keyboards and sang... we were playing acid jazz. We played at festivals and shows.

Then I made friends with Gosh. He showed me a lot of things about how he was producing music, how the computer works with audio, and eventually I started to make my own music. At that time I didn't have a computer, but I was working with my brother's computer. He showed me that it is possible to make my own music.

In 1999 I was invited to play my own work at the electronic music festival, Water Pieces in Riga made by the musician Selfish. I didn't play from the computer but a double deck cassette player, on which I was recording my stuff on earlier. The music was made on a program called Fasttracker II and Jeskola Buzz. It was dreamy, rather positive and melodic music.

- Who mostly influenced your musical personality? What are you listening to right now? Please tell about your musical taste – what musicians, projects, bands you’re interested in?

Honestly speaking, I don't have any band that I am following. Music comes and goes, and most of the time I am listening to myself.
I am surrounded by, and enjoy playing with some very talented musicians.

- Please tell the history of your first album Dakstins. What does Dakstins mean? What is it about?

This album was brewing in the period of 2002-2004. It was many nights and days of work. Every song on my album is a little story about how I was feeling and thinking during that time.
I was spending a lot of time with my friends, and we were having a wonderful time in autumn... But sometimes I was alone in my room, making these tracks... Feeling alone and empty...
My band Kuba was a great support to me during this time, every Thursday we had rehearsals, and I was able to play together with other musicians.

The name Dakstins means 'tile'. They are the tiles in between many tiles, and without these tiles the roof is incomplete. Each tile relies on the other tiles in order to provide protection. Support and shelter. The songs are emotional. During this period we made friends with Android. As he was showing me his techno stuff, and all sorts of sounds, I was getting the inspiration, but was playing with my own ideas. Sirkeremix: it is almost a remix, but it was never released. It is melancholic, repetitive, and has a very nice bass line.

In 2004 I met Technosa. He was leaving to Moscow and was making all sorts of dark, ambient, electronic, experimental shit. He was also collaborating with Android since about 1996 - together they are called Alexandroid. He asked me for my demo. Every demo I had at this time was different. I gave him one of the originals and he took it to your record label.

- Are there any particular tracks on your album which you think are central, the ones that hold together the whole album? Tracks that have some personal meaning and content.

One of my favorite tracks is Dubish: is about autumn. It has some hidden melodies. It is melancholic. It is a very simple song, simple bass line, simple keys, a few additional instruments – which help to point out some phrases - intro and outro. It starts somewhere in nowhere and goes somewhere far away.

The second song, is translated as The Hedgehog's Knife. It has some improved piano parts and the main solo is played on a steel drum.

Most of the songs are in the same tempo. The goal wasn't an album, each song was created individually. These songs represent my taste of sounds. I like the way it sounds, it has some deeper bass and some sharp drums, but it is never aggressive or dissonant.

- Do you listen to your music often or are you more interested in the creative process then the process of playback?

There are such tracks that create positive emotions when I am producing them. Making music is like going diving for clams. Sometimes you come home with a bunch clams, sometimes you find a pearl. I look through old sounds I have made, tried them out in new tracks, and they fit... and that is interesting for me.
After the work is resolved, I like listening to the track because it reminds me of the process of creating it.
I listen to my tracks and I am surprised. The production process is interesting in itself; but you cannot produce without listening to the tracks you create. It is like going shooting and in the shooting ground leaving right after the shooting is done without checking your results, because you don’t really even care what you were shooting at.

- What kind of musical instruments can you play? What instruments, devices, and programs do you use for making your music?

I can play the piano, guitar, base, whistles, vargan , kalimba, Indian banjo, etc. Mostly the album has been made on the Pc software Reason. For recording and sound editing I usually use Sound Forge.

- You’ve been studying music at school, at the Institute of Arts. Elsewhere?

Yeah . For 9 years I’ve been studying at the music school. I got piano and choir singing specialties there. Graphic arts are one of my talents which I would like to develop further.

- Every musician has his/her own style. What is your style? Where does it lead your music roots?

Difficult to answer. My music is electronic, however there is no definite direction in creating the tracks. I would love to say that I am making electronic blues, but what is that? Some tracks are more house music, and some are techno. From a harmonic point of view, my tracks are very simple. I don’t have many tracks with dissonance…But I have a big future ahead. My close friends say that all my tracks have my own sound, which is unlike anyone else. However, there are other people that are saying that this track is similar to that other one, etc. etc.

- Tell about yourself. What have you been doing a few years ago? What are you doing now?

A few years ago I decided not to make music anymore. I applied for job in the theater as the light designer. After about a year I went to Ireland to work as a building assistant. There I started to compose again and giving concerts in Berlin and Latvia. That’s how I'm back. It’s possible that I’ll stay.

- Could you tell us about the Latvian electronic scene? What’s happening in the field of experimental and club music?

Guys produce electronic music; girls are mainly promoters – it is a kind of successful modern creative cooperation. Then the music is being created really well, especially bedroom music.

- What bands and musicians from Latvia would you like to point out?

There is lots of good music that is not released yet, but will be soon.
NGC – 5128, Sellfish, Cat From Japan, Wheelchair Discotech, Avio Lainers, Sistema – these are all worth checking out.

- What kind of events, parties, and festivals in Latvia have you participated in and remember?

The last event I took part in and I really enjoyed was an event at my friend’s countryside house in Pure. It was not a commercial event. It was a three day summer festival/names day party. The main stage was in the apple garden with three video screens, where different music groups and techno djs performed. The second tent had only videos with a water theme. The third tent was filled with hay on the ground that smelled so nice and music was played by various djs. Hurdles in the nearby forest, free fall sensations with all the alpine gadgets. Tent city. The bar was on a small pond on a slightly insecure raft with two bar tenders providing alcohol for democratic prices. That was fun. :)

- In the recent past on label Kolka, the cd Turbulences was released. You were participating in this project. Please tell us about this project. What kind of record is it?

Turbulence was Voldemars Johansons’ idea. One nice summer day he decided to record a set with live instruments in the WWII catacombs (a chemical storage room in metal). The acoustics were overwhelming. We took different clappers, guitars, a violin, glasses, and more. I didn’t know that it would be Turbulences.

- How do you see the future situation of electronic music in Latvia?

Everything will be fine with electronic music.

- What that conglomerate Dirty Deal? It’s a net label, cafeteria or something else? Please tell us about that all.

First of all, I came up with the name Dirty Deal. As we all know, names make the spirit of anything! Dirty Deal doesn't mean it is not any dirty business or deals. Dirty sometimes is a thing...some work you should do, or go through. It is like you are dealing with the dirt, and the dirty is the main thing on earth that contains the nutrients. And our deal is to make – through this dirty deal – something clean to give to people. Recently in Dirty Deal: there are theater groups that rehearse and perform; there is music all the time, exhibitions, photos, workshops, different community (activist, etc) events. There is a bar that is open sometimes (weekends). During the summer there were Thursday night movie nights. You can sit outside of Dirty Deal and view the river Daugava, the String Bridge, the ships, the boats, going, it is the perfect location, almost in the heart of Riga.

- What kind of instruments and equipment do you use at your performances?

I use my desktop computer with a pretty bad audio card. A midi controller keyboard is connected to the computer, and so is a microphone. The program I am using is usually Ableton Live. Sometimes I invite some creative people to play along with me. Then I bring my Rhodes stage piano, and use my Indian banjo or my whistle. Sometimes Zagga plays the keytar!

- In your opinion, where is creativity, art, and music at the moment?

Art doesn't mean anything, above all it is professionalism. You can call yourself an artist, but it doesn't mean you are good or bad. It doesn't mean anything. Maybe it is the 1st opinion about a person: Oh, he wears some interesting clothes, he is an artist. I think real artists don't call themselves artists. I see very great potential in creativity as the tool of self awareness, and sometimes creativity goes beyond the strict lines of reality, which sometimes encourage people to make their own environment, or circle of people which think similarly.

- What else besides music do you like to do? What interests you?

I like to do construction work, I like to help my friends, I like photographing, I like to cook, make my friends happy, I really like long walks and hiking in the woods. I like mushroom hunting and swimming.

- What do you read, if you read? What kind of films are you watching?

Most of the time I read reviews, interviews, or short stories on Internet portals. If there is something I am interested in, I am normally reading about it on the Internet. Mostly crazy European avantgarde.
Cartoons and series. Also short films, feature films.

- What is the source of your inspiration? What kind of inner mood do you need for work?

Sometimes for musicians, all they need is a great emotional experience, like love, death, or... It is not about the inspiration, but it is a feeling that – this is the moment that I have to sit and make something. Then it changes and transforms and it becomes a musical track. It could be in various emotional states. I could be lazy all day, and at the end sit and make music. Or sometimes after a really hard working day I get home and make music.
Maybe I wake up at 3am, and think, "I should record something..."

Sometimes inspiration comes after I hear a really nice melody from another artist.

- What kind of creative ambitions do you have? If you do have them.

If say no, 'I am not ambitious,' then perhaps I would be lying. Maybe I don't aim to be a rockstar or world famous touring performer, with a manager... with stuff. I do what I like to do. It is making music, and performing it.
As a musician I feel a big need to release records. But, sometimes it is I don't have any of my albums released yet. As they say, the first one is always the hardest to get out. Right? What do you think? I hope after this 1st album I will release more and more of my music.
Perhaps that is one of my ambitions, which is sometimes contrary to my real actions.

- What are your plans for the future? What would you like to be doing in the nearer future?

I wish I could be a freelance musician as I am right now. I hope to participate in a lot of creative projects, with film and music... I hope to be able to work on my own, in my own space.

It seems that these goals are quite possible. This summer I made two soundtracks for two short films, and I gave many performances around Latvia.
In the future I see myself giving concerts not only in Latvia but throughout Europe. If the promotional side of my work goes well, that will get me performing more and more. I will always be a musician. I hope.:)

- Who is someone you would like to create or record something with? Does the popularity or unpopularity of a person makes any difference? Or it depends on only personal sympathies?

It doesn't really matter if the person is famous or is really unpopular. All that matters is the spark between, and it is not just the personal sympathies... It could be something in a totally different level. Like when you are talking and you understand that the other person is talking and thinking similarly, or if the other person has musical talent.

- What would you like to gain from this life? Is everything satisfying you? Would you like to change something?

Well... First of all, I must say that I am quite satisfied with my life. Of course, there are some areas to improve. From this life, I see that many things depend on money, contacts and power. If you have more contacts then you have more power and then more money. But this is silly.
To really change the world we, 'think global, act local'.
You have to change yourself to change the world. People don't like to change, so the world is slow in changing, but of course, the universe is never still!
Today in Latvia, cultural movements, activities, and such are obviously going in a good direction.

- What is the message you would like to bring to listeners with your work?

The basis for my music is musicality and harmony. I would like my music to provoke positive vibrations in people. I am not really sure what I would like to say, the music is speaking.

- If there was a choice to start life over, would you do the same or would you chose a different way?

If such a choice would be...

- Lagunamuch records

march '08

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