From the Funky Mofo archive: Skalpel arrived on the scene without too much fuss, letting the music speak for itself, which is the first sign of greatness. My first encounter with Skalpel was in a local record shop. The opening drums of ‘1958’ caught my attention and I grew more impressed and intrigued as the track continued. Their music is a choice selection of Polish Jazz samples and spoken word cleverly mixed together giving an ambient and cinematic sound reminiscent of the Polish jazz of the 60’s and 70’s. Recently signed to Ninja Tune, Igor Pudlo and Marcin Cichy are already on their way to becoming the saviours of Polish Jazz – 21st Century style.
We caught up with Igor Pudlo, over the phone, to discuss music, Roman Polanski and Vodka.
Funky Mofo : There isn’t much info about Skalpel on the website. Could you give us a short cut as to how you met and how you decided to make music?
IGOR PUDLO : We met a couple of years ago – 97 or 98. I was working in a record store and Marcin was customer, he didn’t buy music but he talked with me about music. We would share ideas and we found that we had similar ideas about music. I have some ideas of production and he was starting some music production at that time too so we decided to work together.
FM : Are you both musicians?
IP : Yes, we are musicians, we are producing music so we are musicians and DJ’s too.
FM : Nowadays people like to draw a line between the DJ’s that are also musicians or the DJ’s that just produce music. It’s interesting to find that sometimes DJ’s who are also musicians have a different way to think about their music, do you find that too?
IP : Yes, all our albums are different to what we play as a DJ. Our music on the album is more for home listening, ambient jazz as they call it. In the clubs and in the venues people want to hear something more danceable with a beat but now we are working on connecting both sides so we are trying to do special remixes of our music for laptop sets. So it will be like dance live remixes of our music with visuals – it’s very boring to look at two DJ’s on decks only.
FM : When we listened to the album we found the music is very cinematic, for example ‘Break In’ from the very start of the track your imagination is just going wild – like a mini film in your head. If you wanted to work in films go for it… it’s very visual that way.
IP : We’ve realised that it brings to people’s minds sounds and visuals but we did not have any visualisation of our music while we were making it. Now, with our videos, two of them are made from samples from Polish documentary films:‘Break In’ from the experimental ballet from the 60’s and ‘Sculpture’ is made by our friends in film school, it’s also black and white, it’s about musicians trying to do a soundtrack to old film. So visual is important for us but when we are making tracks we don’t have any specific film in our mind.
FM : When you make the music you just concentrate on the sound?
IP : The sound, on the energy, the atmosphere and the tempo of the track. We are making music from samples so it is connecting with mixing, with DJing, it’s about mixing with very short parts of the track. Mixing on the higher level.
FM : Do you use uniquely samples or do you use other musicians? The sound you’ve got sounds very natural, it sounds like you’ve got a live band with you!
IP : All our music is made from samples. We didn’t invite any musicians to work with us, we are producers, we work at our homes making music on computers. It sounds live because the samples are from live musicians. We took samples from Polish records and other old records from Eastern Europe. They have very specific sounds, which we like very much. It’s original in the Europe and world scale, we believe that our sound is original too.
We look for original sounds, original samples – something a bit different to other producers in different parts of the world. We found that the Polish Jazz would be perfect for us. The music sounds very good and we have our own identity [the Polish] from this part of Europe. Polish Jazz is quite popular in the West. I know there is a label in England called Cosmic Sounds and they do some compilations of Polish Jazz and other Eastern countries also Compost Records in Germany – they released a compilation called Polish Jazz, they are fans of Polish Jazz and are collectors.
FM : To be honest the only things we know about Poland are Warsaw Village Band…
IP : Yea, the folk group with so much energy!
FM : …and Roman Polanski, he’s known more recently for doing the Pianist…
IP : Roman is connected with Polish Jazz! In the 60’s his friend was Krzysztof Komeda, he composed some of the scores for Polanski’s films and he made the famous record called ‘Astigmatic’ – maybe one of the best jazz records ever.
FM : You been compared to the likes of the Cinematic Orchestra and Jazzanova…
IP : We played with the Cinematic Orchestra (live) the day after we signed the contract with Ninja Tune, we are on the same label. We like the Cinematic Orchestra, especially the first LP and we understand that people would compare us to them.
FM : You’ve interviewed DJ Vadim…
IP : I was a journalist, I interviewed him for a Polish Hip-Hop magazine! Then we were touring together around Poland and now we are label mates! Not only label mates but we are also in touch, he’s a good guy. When he came to Poland we felt that he had some Slovak blood in him! And of course we drank some vodka together.
FM : The new DJ/producer seems to start life at an early age, say 20 to 25, has age ever concerned you?
IP : I am 37 and Marcin is 8 years younger so we are a little older for producers. In England people say we are old enough to know better! But music keeps us young all the time!
FM : You’ll be on tour for the next few months, what can we expect?
IP : We’ll be working on four turntables with visuals from a laptop. We are doing a kind of cinematic set, a live soundtrack with beats, ambience, spoken words and our imageries. When we DJ, it’s a bit different, we use just two turntables – we have a very eclectic style.