Miro Snejdr is the talented pianist who accompanied Douglas P. on the Death In June album Peaceful Snow and its accompanying piano-only cd Lounge Corps, which came out back in November 2010. Since then, Miro has been very busy with several musical projects including his very own, called Spitting at Pigeons. The album came out in June 2012, and is a wonderful mix of contemporary classical music and neo-martial-folkish-industrial music. Hard to describe, really! Here is an email interview I did with Miro, which I hope you will enjoy.
YouTube channel: https://www.youtube.com/user/spittingatpigeons
Helene Burkholder – Before we get to your current project, Spitting at Pigeons, I’d like to hear about your experience playing a few songs with Death in June when they played live in London on Dec 23rd 2011. Tell me how that went for you – How was it to meet Douglas P., how was it to play on stage with him?
Miro Snejdr - It all started when Douglas published the tour dates. I knew there was no chance in the universe that I wouldn’t meet him, so I decided to go to the Lisbon gig on the 15th October. I sent an email to Douglas saying that I would be there, so we can finally meet in person, but got no reply, so I though he’s busy dealing with the tour and assumed that he knew I’d be there. Then Joao from Extremocidende contacted me couple of days before the gig, asking if I’m up for playing few Lounge Corps tracks at the gig. I instantly agreed, although I got quite nervous. On the day of the gig I went to the airport about 10 hours earlier just to make sure I wouldn’t miss the flight, I was so looking forward to it!
When I arrived in Lisbon, it was a beautiful sunny day, so I walked around for a while. It’s a beautiful city, I have to go back. Then I made my way to the venue, where I met Joao, Ana and Jose, and also devoted DIJ fans Dan and Claudia, whom I’ve known from the DIJ Facebook group. Such nice people. We stayed at the venue, just waiting and chatting. At one point Dan said: “Douglas is here”, I turned around and there he was, going straight on the stage to do the sound check. Me and Dan went up there to meet him. He knows Dan, so they formally greeted each other and then Dan introduced me to Douglas. He just looked at me, I said “Hi, I’m Miro” and he said something like “Oh my God”. Then I realized he somehow didn’t get/read the message I sent him about going to this gig, so he wasn’t expecting me to be there at all! We hugged each other like old comrades and for me it was just such magical moment. I could see he was very pleased too, and surprised by my presence; well I guess this meeting was long due as the Peaceful Snow came out nearly a year before we met. We then sat in the backstage and had a lovely chat. I still couldn’t believe I was sitting there with Mr. Pearce. He’s very courteous person, a true gentleman. I got him to sign my gig ticket, CD, driving license, poster, passport (which was later classified as “defaced” and therefore invalid and O had to get a new one, but it was worth it!)
As venue started to fill up, I went on the stage and played Jesus, Junk and the Jurisdiction, My Company of Corpses, A Nausea and Hail! The White Grain. I felt very nervous as this whole event was overwhelming, but felt very honored to share the stage with Douglas. After I finished, I joined the crowd to watch the excellent Die Weisse Rose. This was also the first time I saw them live and it was very atmospheric. After their performance I met the frontman Thomas and also Nicole and Max from Jannerwein, lovely bunch of people. By this time we were all very excited about DIJ due to play any minute. It didn’t take long and Douglas appeared on the stage, wearing his signature mask. It was a wonderful moment seeing him live for the first time. The whole performance was brilliant, there was a nice positive vibe in the venue, and the weather was still summery, what else could you wish for?
After the performance, we went backstage to meet Douglas and have a glass of wine with him and get merrier. The atmosphere at the venue was very friendly, everyone taking pictures, Douglas signing CD’s and LP’s, chatting and meeting fans in person, it was a very nice touch. Then we all made our way to a Tikki-themed bar downstairs, where we could all relax, have a drink and chat. I realized that Max had his accordion on him and didn’t mind me playing it for a bit, so I started to play some DIJ songs. When I started playing Enemy Within, Douglas stood next to me and started singing! Unbelievable! I will never forget that moment. After this bar closed, Douglas and I said bye to each other, hoping that this won’t be the last time. He mentions to me that there’s a date in London in December and I am more than welcome to play some Lounge Corps tracks. Heaven!
The after party was at the Club Noir, just a couple of minutes’ walk down the road. So Thomas, Max, Kai and me went there to check it out. Cool place, like something from the 80′s, and great music too. After we all had enough, we said bye to each other, they went to hotel and I went straight to the airport to get an early flight back to London. Mission accomplished!
When the London date came up, 23th of December, I knew this could be the last time to have the opportunity to see and hear Douglas. Therefore I decided to postpone my trip to Slovakia, where I always go for Christmas, a couple of days later. It was very magical meeting Douglas again. At this gig I played five songs, including The Glass Coffin, the song that started everything. Then I joined the audience to watch Vurgart and Fire and Ice. Matthias Krause of Vurgart is a very nice guy, we stayed in touch since this gig. He eventually recorded vocals over some Lounge Corps tracks, which you can hear on YouTube. Great work. The DIJ performance was as usual fantastic, the crowd was loving it. After the performance we stayed backstage with Douglas and the other acts and chatted. When the venue was about to close, Douglas and I said bye to each other, knowing that this could well be the last time, but as there are new dates coming, never say never.
HB – As many people know you played piano on the DIJ album Peaceful Snow. On stage, did you only play songs from that album, or were there other songs from DIJ’s repertoire? Did you play by yourself or did Douglas P. accompany you?
MS - I played a couple of tracks from Peaceful Snow and a few from Lounge Corps. I played on my own, and there I got the idea that someone could sing over it. And that’s what Matthias did.
HB - Before releasing your current album, you also did a collaboration with Kentin Jivek. How did this collaboration come about? Will you release a full album?
MS - Kentin sent me an email saying that he likes Peaceful Snow and whether I would be interested in a collaboration with him. I listened to some of his music, and really liked it; also Kentin has a lovely, deep rich voice. He then sent me a couple of demos, just him and his guitar. I was listening to it over and over and eventually came up with a new arrangement for Le Temps. It had a lot of energy in it, so I decided to go further and added the drums and strings to it. Kentin loved it. We then sent the files to each other back and forth few times and eventually finished the track. Same process was with Communication; I added accordion, strings and some drums again and we discussed the tracks via email. In the end, we put it out as “Dois” EP. We’re both very happy with this and the feedback was positive too. To this day we haven’t seen or spoken to each other yet, so it’s the very same approach as Douglas and I did. It’s a very interesting experience to create something with someone you don’t know and who is a thousand of miles away. We want to collaborate further and some things are already happening, so releasing a full-length album is not unrealistic.
HB – Is Spitting at Pigeons *your* project, or were other musicians involved as well?
MS – Spitting at Pigeons is mine and probably always will be. This way I can do it the way I want and feel it, as it is personal to me, and dedicate as much time to it as needed. However when I’ll play it live, I might need an extra pair of hands, as some visuals will be involved.
HB – I had heard a few songs from Spitting at Pigeons on YouTube around the time Peaceful Snow came out. That was back in 2010. You’re releasing the album now, in 2012. Did it take you that full amount of time to finish the rest of this album, or were you torn apart by too many musical plans?
MS - I was busy doing other things and also I wasn’t in any rush to put the album out, there was no deadline. There is no point in rushing anything just for the sake to have it done quickly. Also it took time to think about the theme of the album and the choice of songs. In the end, the concept of the album is a journey, where every track represents a certain part of it. For example, one interpretation could be as follows: with ‘Bye Bye Everything’, we are leaving the earth and becoming a dying star. ‘Cry Of A Dying Star’ represents this new entity in the space, ‘Till Love And Fame To Nothingness Do Sink’ is about the last moments, and ‘Every Second Is A Galaxy’ is a farewell, a funeral song.
HB – You’ve told me before (in our previous interview) how you picked up the piano on your own. Did you also take lessons? Or did you methodically studied piano composers and ‘figured it out’ by yourself? Do you write music before you play it or do you go by ear in a more freeform/improvised way?
MS - Since I’ve been playing the accordion for some time, learning the piano wasn’t that hard. I took a few lessons but wasn’t interested in playing the classical pieces and wanted to concentrate on writing and playing my own music. Also I hate school and prefer to learn things by myself wherever possible.
For the composers, I’m a big fan of Philip Glass and his piano pieces (especially Solo Piano and Etudes for Piano), Steve Reich, Terry Riley… minimalist composers. Simplicity is the key.
I don’t write scores for my music and don’t have any. I prefer just to write down the arrangement and remember everything by playing it over and over again. Also once the song is in your head, you can alternate it, make it more fluid, play with it, so it doesn’t have to sound the same twice when you play it.
HB – It is hard to point at one musical influence in the case of Spitting at Pigeons – It’s not purely classical music, it’s not adult contemporary, it’s not martial/neo-folk, nor dark ambient, but sounds more like a gigantic melting pot of all these musical genres, and more! Some songs have the beginning of industrial songs, but then they veer in another direction, and so on. Did you consciously try to meld together all the music that interests you, or did a song start one way then met upon a ‘happy accidents’, or…?
MS – Genre-wise, I “categorize” Spitting at Pigeons as contemporary classical, although it’s really up to the listener to put it in the particular box. I’m using samples from noir movies I like, various kind of distortion… As I said earlier, the visual element plays an important part of the music making process. For example with “Good-bye My Fancy”, I always had some apocalyptical scenario in my mind. The sound is an organ and rich strings combined together, with added distortion to make it “look” ugly. The drums in the middle bring some kind of rhythmical order to the track, but after that it becomes again fluid and unordered, to symbolize the post-catastrophic chaos. I try not to follow any rules and just use whatever instrument or sound I think is the one that fully expresses the idea of the track. Hence there is more “genres” in SaP.
HB – Are you worried that you might confuse or possibly lose some listeners, due to the fact that it is difficult to pinpoint your musical style?
MS - People who listen to classical piano music could find SaP too industrial, or not “clean” enough, but I don’t intend to make sacrifices just in order to make it easier to categorize my music. It just wouldn’t make any sense.
HB – I was impressed by how mature your album sounds, and it a bit surprising coming from someone as young as you are. Do you feel it is mature, or do you see it differently? I am wondering: could it be this music represents you at ‘your most introspective’?
MS - Thank you Helene for your compliment, makes me happy that 30 years still classifies as young . I agree this represents me at my most introspective, at this time and age. Whether it is “mature”, time will tell. Everything flows and nothing stays the same. I myself am curious what will the next album sound like.
HB – What is your creative process? Do you get inspired in the moment while playing piano, or are you inspired by sounds you hear? Or both? I have a feeling, after listening to your album many times, that you are inspired by movie soundtracks…
MS - I get usually inspired the moment I touch the keys or I have an idea, a melody, in my head for some time. Sometimes I play a random chord, then the individual notes and take it from there. And I instantly connect the melody with a feeling and a visual element in my head. This way I know exactly where I’m going and what I want to express. Every time I write a song, it has to have these two elements assigned – how does it make you feel, when you’re listening to it (happy, sad, energized, relaxed?..) and what do you see when you close your eyes. And then I’m working on the track until it fully expresses these two.
HB – In the first song, I was expecting the ‘slowly building drums’ to really explode after the building crescendo, but the explosion never occurs. Is this how you wanted it to sound?
MS - As I said earlier, the drums are there to bring the order to chaos. The song doesn’t not peak there, it actually peaks all the way through.
HB – On the album sleeve, the songs were only numbered, while the songs as they appear on Amazon have actual titles. Is this something you wanted to do, or had to do?
Initially I didn’t want to name the tracks as I wasn’t sure if the track name would fully represent what I wanted to express in the song.
MS - Some of the track names come from my favourite site, Erowid.org – Experience Vaults, where people using mind-bending substances, write their experiences with it. Good, bad, enlightening, warning… and some of these article titles were very suitable to particular tracks.
HB – You are also in a band with your ‘brother’ called Folk Grinder, in which you play accordion and piano. Folk Grinder’s music is more of a ‘rollicking good time’ type of sound, or as you guys describe it: “SeaShantyRockNFolk” . You are currently recording an album, as well as playing some shows in and around London. How different is it to be in Folk Grinder compared to Spitting at Pigeons? Do you plan to continue both projects at the same time?
MS - In Folk Grinder, I am very happy to be working with Koozie, as he is a true rocker. We met at a pawn brokers’ a couple of years ago, where I wanted to sell my accordion. He happened to be in that shop, realized I can play accordion and told me that he is actually looking for an accordion player for his band and bough it off me under the condition that I can keep it. After a little chat, we realized that we live about 5 minutes from each other, in Shepherds Bush. How funny! We then met at Enterprise Studios, where Koozie played some of his songs and I instantly loved them. Due to close proximity of our flats, we could rehearse practically anytime. Time went on and at the end of this is Folk Grinder. Take folk, country, rock’n'roll, love songs, sea shanties, put them in the grinder and what comes out is what we do.
Regarding live shows, we were recently supporting Kirk Brandon’s Theatre Of Hate 30th anniversary tour, which was a great experience, and The Damned, which was a memorable night too. When playing live, Darrin Stevens is in charge of drums/percussion and Jack Toker, the guitar guru, makes sure everything goes smooth.
The album is currently being mastered and the release is planned for autumn this year. We are very lucky to have Kirk Brandon as a producer, his mentoring during the recording was invaluable.
Folk Grinder and Spitting at Pigeons are two completely different things, SaP is my solo matter, where Folk Grinder is a “band”. These two have no connection or influence on each other, so I can work on both at the same time.
Spitting At Pigeons – VII. (The Other Place)