It is a totally abstract and mesmerizing experience to dig into the mind of an artist and try to understand (as much as possible) how he/she experiences the world, how they channel those experiences through their creative process and how the result of all that eventually becomes “tangible” art. I had this magical chance to share some thoughts with Ivan Shopov and what I can say is that he’s a musical mastodon in a world meant for dwarfs. Enjoy this interdimensional musical journey with Ivan as a pilot.
How did you develop your love for music and arts in general??
Oh, that’s a long answer, but the short version is I grew up in my mother’s art atelier and since I was 5 I was sucked up in this art atmosphere and I knew since then that I will be doing art for a living that was my dream and my passion and that’s what I was doing the entire day (chuckles). I was trying to invent my own toys, draw and create.
It is known that you are also a painter, what made you take the musical path as well?
Music came very early with my father’s turntable and tapes. Then my brother started collecting metal (music) tapes and I was captivated by the amount of music available. After that I decided to continue with his collection after he took the decision to do something else. When I got 16 I had around 600 metal tapes and decided I wanted to have a metal band so I started learning to play the bass. Drawing and making music was wat I was doing since I was very young. Then I moved to Sofia to study in the art academy and there I met more people from the music scene that helped me develop connections, I remember that I started organizing parties together with Valery Sholevski (Ogonek).
What influenced you the most to make you decide for the first time to make music sound different from the so-called standard? Was it a conscious decision or something that came naturally?
When I was 15 I wanted to have my own beats. back then I listened to Aphex Twin, Squarepusher and Mouse on Mars as well as techno and trance music alongside all metal tapes, Goldflesh and industrial music in general so I wanted to make something similar. I remember I connected my turntable to my guitar distortion and discovered my own way to loop beats. I used Michael Jackson’s Billie Jean which intro is only kicks and snares and I used a piece of adhesive tape to make the needle skip, play it faster and run it through my guitar’s amp. It all sounded like real industrial beats. Then we played guitars over those beats with my friends, screaming on a microphone with delay. That was somehow my first approach to experimental music. I consider it experimental because I had no idea how to make music so I invented my own way of doing it. Later on I realized that it is called sampling. The music I was listening to back then, which was a very wide variety of music, was the main inspiration for doing that.
We’ve heard that you have some kind of synesthetic approach towards arts. How do you apply it to your creative process? Is this synesthetic state of mind induced on purpose by yourself or is it more like something that naturally comes from “the source” in the form of inspiration and creativity?
The thing is that I didn’t study music, thus I do not know anything about music theory, I only know about art theory so when I make music I use art theory as the backbone of the music I make. Everything I learned in art school was just visual, all about drawing and that’s how making music became my way of “drawing” but in a different medium. The synesthetic approach is based on turning my visual ideas into music. For example, when I use my modular synthesizer I travel through the sounds and start composing a graphic picture with an intro, a climax and an ending…it’s a bit complicated to explain it with words but that’s it more or less (chuckles).
Where do you think these ideas for experimental sounds come from, from inside or from outside?
For me in general good music comes from the heart. Even when I am forced (chuckles) or paid to make music I try to come up with an idea that somehow runs through the heart stimulator. You know what I mean? (Laughs).
What’s the craziest track you have ever listened to?
Oh..oh…oh my gosh! Well, Japanese music in general makes me rethink how abstract ideas come together to create completely new things…(Me: “Yes, Japanese Jazz is pretty crazy”)…I don’t know, it could be Jazz, metal or Pokemon, I don’t know (laughs) even in electronic music there’s pretty good stuff from Japan.
Where do you feel more comfortable: Studio recording or live performing?
Well, I think I like both. Maybe because I started my stage career when I was very young, I was DJ-ing in my hometown since I was 15. I remember I was doing parties every Thursday in my school and maybe that’s why I feel very comfortable performing live. In the studio…well, it also feels comfortable to be with yourself, with your machines. It’s always this moment, how to say it, a moment of going out of time that makes you a little bit anxious about the real world. Sometimes you can grab an idea for one hundred hours (laughs loud) and the reality starts twisting and shifting into what you’re doing. For example, when I make an interesting melody it does not leave mi mind for hours and, even when I meet people, they talk to me and what I hear is the melody in the back of my mind.
We find the combination of electronic music and folklore just beautiful. It tends to take us to inexplicable altered states of mind. Sometimes we wonder if you are some kind of a modern version of a shaman that cures through the use of organized sounds. Are you a Shaman?
Oh well, I guess I’m a “Soundman” (laughs). First, thank you for approaching me this way. I believe that Folklore is the Shaman itself. Because Folklore comes from the times when people used to use the energy from the Earth that was coming in a pure state. Also they were not distracted by all the stupid stuff that we have in our minds right now so they were much more connected to the energies of the world and their ancestors. The Folklore that we have right now is thousands of years old and it have been passed from generation to generation. When I hear it I go in a journey back in time to touch my roots to which I feel very connected through my DNA. I have come to the conclusion that I have a special sensitivity for it, it makes me a different person, it changes me so, yes, I would say Shamanism has to do with it. Folklore means also connecting with your roots and the energy of the Earth to speak the true language of your land.
We carefully listened to Dhumavati and we can only say that it is a massive musical blast! Our minds were totally blown away by all that it contains in terms of sound diversity and styles. Could you tell us which musicians or music genres you were listening to (and influenced you) while working on the album?
Interesting…well, to be honest I don’t have so much time to listen music apart from my own because it takes a lot of time to create it. We did the album in 7 days during the pandemic, we made between 1 and 2 tracks every day. Back then I also was finishing my Elate album from my TRIGAIDA project so I was listen to it all day. Also I was in communication with Güldeste Mamaç (violinist in the Dhumavati album) working on another project from Germany so I was listening to some other music as well. I was also listening to a lot ambient music. In general I do not get inspired by other people’s music, it all comes from the inside.
What are your plans for the future in terms of production and creation? (Any new albums, EPs or tours coming in the near future)?
I just finished the Transcendence album with Jazz pianist Dimitar Bodurov which was released on March 26th. Also I am working on a new TRIGAIDA album with Asia Pincheva and Georgy Marinov. In this album we’re working with a big choir from Shiroka Laka as a special guest as well as connecting with a lot of musicians from all around the world to join the album. Apart from that I am also taking a whole new direction with a parallel project I have with 2 Bulgarian singers who perform Orthodox Church music and that for me is a whole new path I’m experimenting into.
What, in your opinion, is the future of music in terms of tools and instruments and how will it affect the creators, performers and the audience? What do you think a live performance will look like in 20 or 30 years?
Well, new tools and instruments, specially software, are already too advanced and soon they will be able to create music themselves. There are already a lot of AI tools for music creation but this is not something that stresses me out, actually I’m very curious how they will help me create what I want, I don’t think that these tools will make music less valuable because the most important thing is the message you want to say, even if it’s totally made by AI at the end you are the one who decides which part or which song should reach the public. Somehow you become the curator of a new form of art.
Live performances will change a lot, I guess. There will be tactile instruments like for example Imogen Heap’s gloves with which you can control sounds and make music with hand gestures. It would be interesting to see how different musicians get inspired by using such tools. With the time more similar instruments will appear and even AI will play a role in this change. The future of music I believe is that it will be made more spontaneous and with more abstract means.
What do you think should be the role of experimental and meaningful music (and musicians) in the development of the human race and the creation of a better world?
Wow! Well, I think experimental music in general shows the people new ways of thinking about their reality provoking them to think out of the box. I think it is a good message to the Human Race to think differently and find new and different solutions for the problems of the world and avoid getting stucked on old patterns and model that don’t work.
If through science we manage to prove there is a creator or great designer of the universe and you were chosen to pick the background sounds of the encounter, which song from all songs ever made would you use for such an event?
I think I think I would use John Cage 4’33. When there is such an spectacular thing happening I think you should hear only yourself, anything else would confuse you or distract you from the truth. The truth comes only from within and everyone should listen and understand it by themselves.