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|Interview with Czech newspaper BURINKA 01/2003|
|Phil, why did you come to Prague?
I first came to Prague in 1991 as a tourist. I immediately felt comfortable here. I don't know why, but the atmosphere here seemed much more sympathetic to me than the atmosphere in London, where I was living at that time. I lived and produced music in New York from 1979 to 1984, and continued to produce CDs in England when I returned there in 1984. But the music scene in both The USA and the UK has become very commercialised, and depends very much on fashion. In the Czech Republic, people still seem to have a natural feeling for music which appeals to the heart, the head and the soul. I think this quality has been lost in the west, because of commercial pressures and marketing. In 1991, I gave one of my CDs to Radio One in Prague, and it became very popular. In 1994, I got the opportunity to play a tour in Czech Republic with Ticha DohodÃ¡, and on the last day of this tour I met the woman who is now my wife. I returned to London for one year and saved money, then I moved to Prague on a permanent basis in 1995. I got married to Jolana in November 2000. My marriage, my band, and the feeling I have for the Czech Republic are the main reasons I stay here.
Where do you like to play and for what kind of audience?
We play mainly in Czech Republic, but also in Germany, Austria, Slovakia, Switzerland, Denmark and Greece. We have a large number of fans in Greece, where our records sell quite well. It's great to play in Athens, as the audience is so emotional and intense. They also know the words to all our songs! It's sometimes strange to play in Germany, as the audiences there are a little cold, and even when they like you, they prefer to analyse your music instead of dancing to it! I love playing in the Czech Republic, because even when times are hard, and people have many problems in their personal lives, they know how to drink and have a good time. That's the type of audience I like: an audience that knows how to drink, have fun and forget their troubles!
What's new and interresting in your new record "Ecstatic"?
I think "Ecstatic" is the most "rock" CD I have done. I have a reputation for being a little melancholic in my songs, and maybe this is because there is an element of American Blues music in them. But Blues music is all about expressing your sorrows, then forgetting them and having a good time! And remember that Blues music is the foundation of all rock music, from the Rolling Stones to Led Zeppelin to Marilyn Manson and Ministry. Ecstatic means "extremely happy", and I think "Ecstatic" is our most positive CD so far. It's "heavier" and more danceable than any previous CDs we have done, much more "rock", though there are also a couple of melancholic ballads.
How did you get together with the men from SOUTHERN CROSS?
I met the bass guitarist of Southern Cross (Pavel KrtouÅ¡) and the drummer (Jarda Kvasnicka), in 1994, when they were playing with Ticha DohodÃ¡. When I moved to Prague in 1995, they left Ticha DohodÃ¡ and began to play with me. We called ourselves Southern Cross (JirznÃ Kriz), and in 1997 we were joined by the virtuoso violin player Pavel Cingl. Previously, Pavel played with Ivan Hlas, and many other famous Czech musicians. Now he also plays second guitar and mandolin, in addition to violin. My band are all very talented musicians, and I feel very lucky to be playing with them.
What's the message of your music?
The "message" of my music is: "Don't forget how to think. Don't forget how to feel.." I think that in these times, with all the terrible things that are happening all over the world, it is very easy to become numb. We perceive everything through television, and many of our experiences are second hand. It's almost a "virtual reality" world, at least for people in the west (which now includes Czech Republic). I hope our music helps people to connect with their feelings, to maintain a sense of emotional reality , and to reject the false and phoney values that are being programmed into us all the time.
What do you like in Czech Republic and what you don't like here?
I like most of the people I meet here. I like the Czech attitude to life. It's true that this attitude is a little fatalistic and sceptical, but it is also quite relaxed and full of black humour. I like the beautiful Czech countryside, the forests and the hills, which you are allowed to wander through freely. This isn't possible in England or America, where land is owned privately and you are not allowed to go onto it. Either that, or it is a national park and you can only walk through certain areas. I like Czech beer (of course!) and Czech girls (of course!!), and I like Czech literature, music and art. I don't like Czech politicians, who seem to be a particularly sleazy bunch of people, even more sleazy than English politicians. But then Klaus, Spidla, Kavan and the rest of the Czech political mafia seem only small evils when compared to George Bush!
What do you think about Czech music and Czech musicians? What kind of Czech bands do you like?
I actually think the standard of musicianship is higher here than in England, though maybe not as high as in America. I like a lot of Czech "underground" music. Bands like Plastic People Of The Universe; Garage; DG307; Psi Vojaci; Uz Me Doma. I think that these bands have a unique sound and attitude that cannot be found anywhere except in the Czech Republic. In other words, they reflect their culture, which is something that all art should do. I also like younger bands like Tata Bojs, Skyline and KryÅ¡tof. I saw a great Czech rap band on cable TV the other day, but I can't remember their name! I remember the name ended with "homeboi" and the song was called "Praha". It sounded like DG307 mixed with Eminem! I quite like Lucie, I think they make excellent pop-rock music. Others bands I like are November 2nd, Mnaga Zdorp (is this how you spell it?!), Jolly Joker and Plexis. Most of all, I like the "live" music scene here, which in the small clubs is much more vital than in England, America or Germany.