Hungarian drummer Balázs Pándi is a remarkable musician. He’s involved with several different projects and bands covering a whole range of different styles including jazz, breakcore, doom metal and even some avant-garde. Reason enough to sit down and have a friendly chat with this versatile musician.
Hi Balázs, thank you for doing this interview. You’re a busy man with a whole range of different projects and bands. Can you give a quick introduction, please?
Hi! My name is Balázs Pándi, and I am a drummer from Budapest, Hungary. 28 years old. My more vital projects are Obake, Wormskull, the Blood of Heroes and touring as live drummer with Merzbow for the last three years. In Hungary I play with Chief Rebel Angel and Drünken Bastards or ad-hoc groups of local improvisers.
Another remarkable thing is sheer diversity of the artists you’re playing with. It’s basically anything between Kilimanjaro Darkjazz Ensemble (dark jazz), Venetian Snares (breakcore), Obake (doom/avantgarde) and Merzbow (noise). What’s the common link between all these different collaborations?
I played for 9 years in a youth orchestra. Around the same years I studied classical percussion for 10 years and accordion for 7 years. With the orchestra we covered a huge variety of music. Marching music, opera, ragtime, Morricone scores, contemporary music etc. So I basically grew up with playing and being surrounded by all kinds of music. Back then it was Morricone, Verdi, Bill Haley now its Merzbow, TKDE, Obake, etc. I continued to play with the orchestra even after i started my first punk bands in high school, so sometimes I would play Dead Kennedys songs on a Friday night, and the next morning i would play Slavonic Dance no. 8 by Dvorak on timpani.
One gig with Merzbow in New York even made it to the New York Times. That is quite feat in itself. What happened and how did it influence your career as a drummer?
It’s definitely nice to have a positive feature in NYT. I was happy that Ben Ratliff – the author of the article – liked our gig. I like his books a lot. Also it was cool for Ohm Resistance – who released a record of that gig on CD and vinyl – to have an article like this, as promotional material to support the release. Oh and someone did a Wikipedia page for me, and I guess the only reason that it’s still there is the reference to the article.
What is your musical background?
I guess I pretty much described my musical background above. About the time i finished playing in the youth orchestra I started to attend shows connected to the hardcore scene. Around the time I could go to concerts, these shows turned pretty much into musically diverse nights with the same people where indie rock, crust punk, death metal and basically anything could happen. I purchased tons of great records at these gigs at distro tables that I still listen to a lot. For heroes, I would say my first drum teacher, who I reconnected with recently. He will turn 99 in May, so you can imagine, when I found out that he is still alive, I made a visit the next morning.
I’ve heard through the grapevine that you did some recordings with Colin Edwards of Porcupine Tree fame. What’s the deal on this?
The record is finished, and its out in May on Rare Noise Records. We are called Metallic Taste of Blood. I started to play gigs with Eraldo Bernocchi 1.5 years ago. We already have the Obake record out, and by the time we’ve been working on that record, he told me him and Colin Edwin are working on a record where they haven’t decided on the drummer, so I joined the unit pretty soon. I recommended the multi-instrumentalist genius and long time friend Jamie Saft as the 4th member so we worked as a quartet on the record. 3 tracks are already on the soundcloud page of Rare Noise, feel free to check them out.
You’re also taking it easy after a decade of continuous performing and touring. How come?
Well, some really intense shit happened, but I don’t really want to go deep into this. Lets just say I had a lot of trust in someone who took advantage of me. That’s intense to deal with in itself, but if you have 5 projects going on with this person at the same time it definitely has an effect on you as a person making a living by playing music. You need to start your schedule from scratch, and take a pause, since you can’t just jump into other things the next morning.
How do you approach all the different styles, like jazz, doom metal and avant-garde from the drummer’s perspective? How do you make all these styles float?
There is nothing conscious about it. I just listen to the basic stems and play whatever comes.
What is your stance on the ongoing technique vs feel debate?
The problem with extreme technique equals mostly cheating. All these modern metal bands with the same sound and the triggered drums drive me crazy. It’s super disappointing to hear a record where the drummer plays like a mad fuck and then you check out a live video, the guy is barely touching the kit and let the triggers and the sound guy do his work. Fuck that.
Being on the road for long periods of time does affect your social and private life. How does it affect your personal life and what is your remedy to combat the negative effects?
I am 28 years old now and all time I spent so far in relationships was like 1 year and 3 months total, so I never really had to deal with that kind of stuff. With music I always get energy back when I put any effort into what I am doing. With relationships I have the feeling that it just sucks out all the energy, turns you into a schizophrenic person and gives nothing really back. I probably met the wrong people for this, but I am happy for my life and the people I make music with, so its ok, life balanced it pretty much out.
Some drummers feel more at home in the sterile environment of a recording studio and some feel more comfortable on a stage behind a drum kit. What is your favourite habitat and why?
I like both, and I can’t choose because some people are better to tour with, some people are better to record with. I would say I wish I could work more on music in person. I miss working on music with Aaron Funk aka Venetian Snares, and also can’t wait to jam around again with Luca Mai from Mombu.
Time for the final question. What is next on your list as far as projects and touring goes?
Plans for the rest of 2012: Obake feat. Trevor Dunn on bass (tour late April to early May) playing the amazing Asymmetry Fest in Wroclav, hopefully Metallic Taste of Blood gigs later this year, Merzbow + Mats Gustafsson gigs and record in 2 weeks, Loops Haunt, Imaginary Forces, album with local thrash metallers Drünken Bastards that I start tracking next week. Full US tour in the works starting on Scion Rock Fest in Tampa, FL on June 2nd where I play duo with Merzbow. After that I get a Greyhound pass and tour all over US to write and record for approximately 8-9 new projects over there and play shows wherever possible. I have an official Facebook page that is not flooded with shit, gonna put the dates there as soon as I have them plus all the projects I will work on meanwhile I am there. Some really cool stuff is under talk, so definitely worth to check it every once in a while.
Any final thoughts or remarks?
Eat fruits, its full of vitamin!