Igra Staklenih Perli interview with Drasko ‘Drak’ Nikodijevic
Thank you for taking your time for this interview! Firstly I would like to ask you about you childhood and teen years. Where did you grow up and what were some of your early influences?
I grew up with my grandparents in Sremski Karlovci (population: 7 thousand), near Novi Sad, in Serbia, at that time part of the fmr. Yugoslavia. I remember a small town, I was surrounded by love, I knew everybody and I had all the freedom in the world.
Then, when I was seven, I was living with my parents in a small apartment in Belgrade. I went to school, and I did well in school, but had difficulties accepting authorities, so I often got in trouble. I was beaten up a lot, by some teachers, by school bullies, by my own parents… I was the only child so got lots of attention, but lots of beatings, too.
My father got a temporary job in United States, so the three of us lived in New York City for a while in the early 70’s. I went to high school in New York, mostly with black and latino kids, and that experience widened my cultural horizons.
My first “psychedelic” experience happened in 1967, I was ten years old, when I first heard the Beatles’ “Sgt. Pepper” album. Some shift happened there. I had never heard music like that before. I was very inspired by the Beatles.
Later on, as a teenager in New York, I listened to heavy bands of the time, you know, Deep Purple, Black Sabbath, Led Zeppelin. On the radio I was exposed to the American hippie music of the time, like Greatful Dead, Jefferson Airplane, the Doors, etc… And then in school I was listening to black and latino music, too. Rolling Stones, Jimi Hendrix everywhere.
Later on, punk came along and I was totally into punk and new wave in the 80’s. In the 90’s, for the first time I started listening to American bands. Lots of good stuff: Nine Inch Nails, Marylin Manson, Rage Against the Machine, Soundgarden, and many more…
In the 2000’s, not so much, I do not really relate well to contemporary music. I like the Thievery Corporation, I like some Eminem, and I try listening to stuff like the Modest Mouse or My Morning Jacket… and that is all fine, but guess I am not quite into all that stuff. Radiohead are pretty cool, though.
I would rather listen to some Miles Davis or Thelonius Monk…
Were you in any bands as teenager? Any releases from then, perhaps?
In 1974 I graduated from high school, and everyone was asking me what I wanted to be, and the only thing I wanted was to play in a rock band. So, I used up all my savings and bought a bass guitar (I still play that same Fender Precision bass) and an amp. My father’s term had expired, my parents were getting a divorce, so my mom and I returned to Belgrade.
At that time (mid-seventies) in Belgrade there were many rock bands, but they all played the same songs and competed with each other. The standard band repertoire was: Sunshine of Your Love, Jumping Jack Flash, Paranoid, Tobacco Road, Born to be Wild, etc… I played in a few of those bands, but soon got tired of that nonsense. I wanted something else, but I did not quite know what it was that I wanted.
You were in one of the best bands from ex-Yugoslavia called Igra Staklenih Perli. How did you guys got together?
So, I heard of these guys that were looking for a bass player. I met them, they were very cool, kind people. They said they are into freeform jamming, and they exposed me to a lot of music that they were listening to at the time, like Can, Tangerine Dream, Pink Floyd, Popol Vuh, etc. I loved jamming with them, there were no fixed formats, and (unlike other bands) the sessions were very relaxed, unhurried…
Do you remember some of the early sessions you had?
Yeah. In the beginning, in 1976 there were just the four of us: Joe the guitar player, Kraut the organ player, Wolff the percussionist, and me on the bass. The Kraut and I also used our voices, too. (Shole, the drummer, came later. Shole is a cool guy, it was great hanging with him, but as a musician, I do not think he ever grasped what was going on.)
We smoked lots of hash, we did acid occasionally, we did not drink much, and we stayed away from hard drugs. (Hard drugs came much later.) We explored the world around us, we were into Tibetan medicine, Buddhism, Timothy Leary, art, Jungian psychology, literature, flying saucers, the Illuminati, Aleister Crowley, you name it… Music was an important part of the whole thing.
At first, I did not know what to play on my bass, so I tried imitating the rhythm sequencers of Tangerine Dream, and that initiated a specific style of playing bass, which became the signature of the band, later on….
In 1979 you released your debut. What are some of the strongest memories from producing and releasing this LP?
I remember it as a very frustrating experience. We recorded for a Yugoslavian government-controlled record label. The producer and the sound tech were totally NOT into us, and did very little to accommodate our needs. We were a great band live, but we did not quite know how to make good studio recordings, and the two of them did not help much. In spite of everything, the first album turned out surprisingly well.
At one point, during that week we spent in Studio 5, the 24-track recording studio, a higher-up official came down to discuss my lyrics for “Lyzzard Square” with me. He wanted me to understand that as a vocalist I am in a position of responsibility; that by saying
“The Earth is round or is it square,
well I don’t care…”
etc., that could be interpreted in a wrong way, and blah, blah….
Basically, what had dawned on me was that the upper management of PGP (all members of the Communist Party) had listened to our music, reviewed our lyrics, evaluated the whole package, and – fortunately for us – they evaluated us as “non-threatening” to the system and decided to go ahead with the album.
So, we were practically the first band in the fmr. Yugoslavia to play our own original music that had nothing to do with the system. At that time, all other bands were either playing Yugoslavian folk songs, or doing covers of music coming from the West. We did our own thing, we even sang in English, we showed a total disrespect for the system, and – not only did we not get arrested – we were even admitted into the world of mainstream events. We turned down invitations for festivals; we preferred to create our own atmosphere in smaller clubs and theaters.
We inspired a whole bunch kids to do the same thing. They said, “Look, if these hippies can get away with their stuff, we can do the same with our music,” so a whole wave of original punk/new wave bands followed our example. So, in a way, we initiated a cultural revolution in Belgrade in the late 70’s, which spread all over the fmr. Yugoslavia in the early and mid-80’s.
What gear did you guys use?
Oh, nothing spectacular. I played Fender Precision and I had an amp, which blew up on a gig, and I never had enough money to get a new one, so I played on whatever I could find. For the recording of the first album I think I had an Ampeg of some sort. Joe played a Fender Strat through a Vox AC30 with a wah-wah. The Kraut played a simple Farfisa organ through several effect pedals, I remember Wolff had a Paiste gong, and I can’t remember what kind of drums Shole played on. Sonor, or something. We also had an old fashioned tape-echo machine which was attached to a 8-channel sound mixer. We had our own PA system, so we could play anywhere.
What can you say about the cover artwork?
Most of the artwork for the band was done by Wolff, the percussion player in the band. He is a great visual psychedelic artist. I love his rawness and the sense of incompleteness, which goes so well with the music of the band.
How popular were you at the time and how many pressings were made of your LP?
I think we sold about 17,000 copies of the first album, plus god knows how many bootleg copies around the world. Once I found a CD of our first album in a store in New York City in the 90’s. There is no way to estimate how many copies of vinyl or CD’s were sold around the world. I still get emails from people in South America, Germany, Japan…
The peak of our popularity was around the time the first album came out. We played for free most of the time, and the crowds kept getting bigger and bigger. People in the audience were doing all kinds of drugs. The word got around that Igra Staklenih Perli was a “band of drug addicts”. We kind of expected drug busts and arrests, we saw narcs in the crowds, but – as far as I know – nobody ever got arrested on our shows.
Why the name Igra Staklenih Perli?
It means the “Glass Bead Game” in English. I don’t know. It seemed like a good idea at the time. And it caught on. People remember the name easily.
Did you do any touring, if so please share some interesting experiences while touring…
I do not remember touring with Igra Staklenih Perli. We did not have a manager, so we managed our own affairs. We basically played if someone called and asked us to come and play. So, for instance, we would go to Zagreb, play the gig, stay over in a hotel and return to Belgrade the following day. We did not have the resources to link the Zagreb gig with other cities in Croatia, for instance, so we just went straight home.
The touring came later, in the 80’s, when Joe and I played in White Rabbit Band. I managed the band, but by then I knew more people in the fmr. Yugoslavia, so we played in clubs in the cities all over fmr, Yugoslavia.
Our concerts were always exciting, the crowds, the drugs… On several performances, the front door glass broke under the pressure of the crowd wanting to come.
Vrt svetlosti is your last album from 1980. Would you like to share a few words about it and tell me what happened next to the band?
I did not play on that album. I left the band right before the recording dates. I was not happy with the material on that album. I was unhappy with the direction the band was taking. At that point, the band was going into a “symph rock” direction, the arranged scores, neatly polished production… while I wanted to keep the raw, tribal free-form style…
So, I left the band, hoping that the band would reconsider the whole thing, but they did not. They brought in a new bass player and recorded a (in my opinion) rather lame album, after which Joe left the band, the band fell apart… and then there were several attempts to revamp the band in the early 80’s, but those were short-lived attempts. One such revamped version of Igra Staklenih Perli was recored in a movie “Decko Koji Obecava” (Promising Boy). Eventually, I got tired of the whole thing, and formed White Rabbit Band.
In the 90’s you released few albums…would you like to comment them and tell me what happened after that?
There was this German guy, Thomas Werner (Kalemegdan Disk), who heard our music somewhere, and he liked it, so he invested some money into cleaning up some old rehearsal and concert recordings into vinyls. We never made any money off of those albums, but Thomas helped us gain international recognition for Igra Staklenih Perli, so I feel grateful to him for that.
What are you doing these days? I heard rumors about band’s reunion? Is this true?
I am in Detroit right now. I just came back from the “Occupy Wall St.” and “Occupy Times Square” protests in New York, resting here for a few days, then I am going back to New York, and on to Belgrade.
Yes, the band is getting back together. The original four, plus the new drummer. I am very pleased with the new drummer, Sinister Borg, a young, very energetic kid, great to work with. We should start rehearsing in early November, and start performing at some point in December. I do not have all the details yet. Only some general ideas.
I am very excited about our new professional management that will take care of the business end, so we do not have to worry about that and focus on the audio and visual end of the work.
I am very excited about the reunion of Igra Staklenih Perli. It is a great privilege to be able to redo old songs and possibly record them all over again. We have lots of new material, so we hope the fans will like them.
Thank you very much for taking your time and answering questions for It’s Psychedelic Baby Magazine. Would you like perhaps send a message to your fans?
I am totally psyched by the Occupy Wall St. demonstrations that are going on around the world right now. You know, I was beginning to lose hope. Like the entire world was being sold out to the international multi-national corporations that are owned by other corporations… people around the world are losing jobs, and those who still work have to work more for less money, while the corporate owners are getting away with murder. I am so happy to see the people waking up to the facts about the world, every day more and more people are hitting the streets standing up for their rights.
So, my message to the fans is, think with your own heads, do what you need to do, and stand up for your rights. Keep the protests peaceful, because violence only breeds more violence. Peace generates peace. Don’t wait for the Change to happen. YOU make the Change happen. Be happy: sing, dance, laugh, meditate.
Interview made by Klemen Breznikar /2011
© Copyright http://psychedelicbaby.blogspot.com/2011
© Copyright http://psychedelicbaby.blogspot.com/2011