Jozik Records --interview with Dmitri Zherbin

Dmitri Zherbin and his wife Sasha Kretova live in Helsinky, Finland and run this tiny obscure freak noise label called Jozik Rec. I came in contact with them for a split tape we made with Suburban Howl (the noise trio where i'm involved) and one of their soundz projectz named Songs about Pandas. We also traded more tapez and I was pleasantly impressed by the lo-fi playful style of the soundz & artworkz they produce --so i took the opportunity to send them 10 questions to kill my curiousity. Here's what Dmitri answer me.

1) Can you describe the activities involved with the Jozik collective?

I guess “Jozik collective” could be viewed as some kind of umbrella term for all our artistic and organizational activities, usually involving music. As Jozik records we release tapes and cd-rs of our own projects and sometimes also of other projects that we like. We also organize concerts in Helsinki as often as we can. Usually those are involving our own projects, but sometimes we try
to come up with something for touring artists that we like. But we're definitely not a booking agency or anything, we're just doing small DIY shows. We also do the Jozik fests. Those are supposed to be a bit larger events with lots of performers from Finland and a couple from other countries. We organize the fests in cooperation with Oranssi-club and with the help from some nice people.

2) How did you become interested in experimental music?

It's hard to say how and when exactly I became interested in experimental music. I listen to lots of stuff, not only experimental. And when you listen to a lot of music, you find out even more music. I think it was those American rock bands (Velvet Underground, Sonic Youth, Animal Collective, just to name a few) who first introduced me to experimental side of alternative music. Also, in such a small country as Finland it's quite easy to find out about stuff. Labels who release indie rock music might also release some of their weird side-projects and everyone kind of knows everyone here. You see people playing in some locally popular rock bands one day, and next day they're in some weird experimental side-project making noise.

I also got introduced to DIY culture by going to hardcore punk shows. Putting on gigs, releasing records – it's all from there. Only that at some point I realized, that I felt more comfortable playing different kind of music. So yeah, it might seem a bit complicated, but I think all those elements together somehow affected my current musical preferences.

3) Can you talk about the alt-noise music scene around your area?

If you define a scene as a group of like-minded artistic people in a particular time and place, then yes, there's probably an alt-noise music scene here in Helsinki. And that way Jozik becomes a part of that scene. But do we really feel like we're part of that scene? I don't really think so. I mean, it's just groups of friends, who go to shows to see their friends play. And the music itself is somewhere far away. Okay, maybe it's not that bad, but that's what it often feels like and that's very sad.

4) You also organize the "Jozik fest". Anectodes about it?

The idea of Jozik fests is that we just choose a bunch of bands that we like from Finland and a couple from abroad and make a two-day mini-festival with about ten performers. That way we try to bring people together, to see interesting performances. So far we have had two festivals, lots of great performances, but not too many people attending. Anecdotes about it? Can't really tell anything particular yet. Maybe in the future, when we'll have more fests behind us, there will be stories to tell, we'll see.

5) What is your dream release?

A dream release, that's a tough one. There's no big name that we're dreaming of releasing or anything like that. It would be nice to release some quality vinyl, but we can't afford it now. I guess that's a dream that we could work for.

6) What inspires the visual design of your releases?

With visual design of our releases we try to obey a few principles. We try to make the releases look good and original, but at the same time they have to be practical. The package is the package, it has to serve it's purpose well, but it can also be a piece of art of it's own. Minimalism, expressiveness and practicality – those are the key words. And of course we like to make it ourselves, material we use is the stuff we can find in local craft-shops or at home. We sometimes check what kind of designs other people have done and get inspired from them.

7) One of your noise project is called "Songs about pandas". Can you describe

Songs about Pandas is basically just me playing detuned guitars and some other instruments. At first, I just wanted to record some noise-rocking tracks I had and maybe play them live with some people. However, this idea seems to have failed, since it's quite hard and boring to just play all the rock-n-roll instruments by oneself. So I focused on more minimal noises and drones made
preferably on guitar, but sometimes with help of vocals, percussion and bass.

As Songs about Pandas I've released three cassettes, all on Jozik records: “Music for the Aerobics” C20, a split C40 with copynoisehighclassical and just recently a split C40 with Suburban Howl. There are no plans for future releases right now. I think I'll just take it easy for a while, record some stuff and see if it's any good. I'm still open to discuss splits and collaborations though.

Oh yeah, and the name “Songs about Pandas” is supposed to be some kind of contradiction. Pandas are kind of cute, but the music is supposed to be dissonant and at times quite harsh.

8) I love '80 finnish hardcore scene (Protesti, Riistetyt, Tampere SS..). Are you into it too? What about the current finnish hardcore scene?

Although I used to listen to a lot of hardcore, I never got to listen to much of those old finnish ones. And I haven't gone to a hardcore show for ages, don't really know what's happening there now. There's an all-ages venue in Helsinki, where we sometimes organize events, called Oranssi. I think they have quite many hardcore shows with young bands, but I never quite got to listen to them. I heard that there are straight edge bands, which is kind of new and unusual for Finland I guess. Hardcore is alright and it's also great that through hardcore you can really get into this whole underground subculture. I sometimes listen to some old american hardcore and also to some finnish stuff like Hero Dishonest and Frivolvol (the latter are perhaps more of a post- hardcore band), but lately I haven't been that interested in finding out what's new in that scene.

9) Recommend some good books.

Read some Daniil Harms, if you haven't already.

10) A good finnish recipe?

I don't usually cook traditional finnish food, so I don't have a recipe to
share either.