Interview: Lotto

PHOTO BY AREK BLOMKA

At a certain point, the music of Lotto takes the wheel. The players are no longer the instigators. The idea gains autonomy through repetition, responding to the resonances of the room as it grows, sending subliminal commands back to the trio of guitar (Łukasz Rychlicki), bass (Mike Majkowski) and drums (Paweł Szpura) who then adjust their approach accordingly.

Last year, the band released VV via Instant Classic. Pick up the CD and vinyl here. Once again, duration is used as a means of unveiling detail and modulating the experience of listening, as my focal point floats around the frame – over the snare drum brushes, across the intricately finger-plucked strings, into the shadowy pools of bass frequency. Below, Mike Majkowski and I discuss Lotto’s recent live shows, the process of stretching time and the band’s experiences at Tonn Studio.  

I’ve seen an interview with Łukasz [Rychlicki, guitar] about your last album Elite Feline, where he noted that many of the rehearsals were spent learning to be patient in the attainment of a trance state. What did the rehearsals look like for VV, and to what extent were they informed by your experiences recording Elite Feline?

The rehearsals for VV were a bit different, due to the fact that we were developing a greater number of individual pieces. We also had more material pre-set before going into the studio. Despite that, the process of working the pieces was similar to that of Elite Feline, in the sense that we would take one piece and play it for a long time, getting deeper into the essence of it, and making adjustments along the way until we felt it was ready to be recorded.

VV was recorded at Tonn Studio, which looks like a gorgeous space. If Google Maps can be trusted, I see that it’s in a rural setting too. How did you find the experience of recording at Tonn, and how did the space shape the material?

We recorded our last two records at Tonn, which is in a rural setting on the outskirts of Łodz. Both times we spent a few days there, living at the studio and being fully in the zone of the recording process. It’s a great space for that. The sound of the studio and just being in that zone has an impact on the way we play the material, for sure. We would also make further adjustments to the tracks just based on the sound in the studio. There’s also a track on VV called “Hazze” which wasn’t pre-set at all before going to the studio, and was constructed around particular frequencies resonating from various parts of the drum kit. The resonances in the studio shaped that piece completely.

There seems to be a greater use of FX in the shaping of sounds this time – for example, how the snare on “SOIL” is turned into a traintrack clatter. The modulation of reverb/echo seems to be a recurrent theme. Was there any reason for opting for this more dynamic treatment of sound this time?

It wasn’t so pre-conceived. Listening back to the takes in the studio, we would hear subtleties in the music which began to give us ideas for possible FX or overdubs to add, or certain things to highlight, or a mood to follow. And certain ideas would organically develop into a more dynamic treatment of the sound. In a way, the pieces themselves proposed the way the sounds could be shaped. We also did some preliminary experimenting with the mix in the studio, which gave us ideas for directions of sonic possibilities with this music.

Photo by MACIEK BĄCZYK

You recently did a six-date tour around Poland. Were you playing the music on VV? If so, how was the experience of trialling this material in front of different audiences, in different spaces etc?

Yes, we played material from VV. Each night it would turn out differently. Focusing on the same pieces a few nights in a row, digging deeper into the pieces, new things would pop up. Also the sound in the spaces we play in has an influence on what we do; the way the instruments resonate in the space also brings up new and different aspects within the pieces. Having the flexibility to allow for these things to happen and to go with them is an important factor for us. Sometimes a piece would be held for longer, or certain segments of a piece would get stretched out, or other sections within the set would become more and more open. If something popped up, we would go with it if it felt like the right thing to do in the moment. The material was allowed to evolve.

I understand that you first took up the bass after hearing Charles Mingus. Have there been any other musicians that have particularly impressed upon the way you approach, or thinking about, playing your instrument?

True, I took up the double bass after hearing Charles Mingus for the first time. That had a major impact on me. And yes, over the years there have been other musicians that have made particular impressions on the way I approach my instrument. Quite often not bassists, for example: Sachiko M and John Tilbury.

The word “trance” comes up frequently in descriptions of your music. As a listener, it definitely feels appropriate – I felt like I was sinking through the floor when listening to “OTE” for the first time. Do you personally connect to the idea of the trance in relation to your music? If so, do you have any idea where this interest in trance states derives from?

I think trance does have a special role in music, but we don’t think about it so much in relation to our music; we just try to focus on the playing and the sound. Of course, there are times where the music completely takes over. We’re not consciously trying to make music that puts people into a state of trance, but if someone relates to that, then that’s fine.

What records have you been listening to lately?

Early Sähkö Recordings: Hertsi, Mike Ink, Sil Electronics. Also Ahmad Jamal Trio at the Pershing.

What’s on the horizon for yourself and Lotto?

More recording and more live shows!