Interview With Michal Habrda
Have you always been interested in music? What is your story and how did you start making music?
I was born on 29 December 1968 in what was then Czechoslovakia, and I grew up in a household shared by my parents, siblings, and grandma. Besides my parents, the persons who supported me the most in my music endeavours were my amazing grandma Eliška Holubová and also Ivan Holub, my amazing uncle on my mother’s side who was an acclaimed theatre actor and my wise guru and great mentor.
When I was 13, I found out that there was a gypsy band Bratři rehearsing near my home. Led by singer and bass player Josef Peter, they had a characteristic rock’n’roll sound with perfect vocals. All this was a great inspiration for me, which is probably why at first, I fell in love with the bass guitar and its sound. At that time, I didn’t have any musical instrument of my own, but I was so captivated by all of this that soon after meeting Josef I arranged my first private music lessons with him. We would meet at his home and played on his Jolana Diamant Bas. These “older” boys were playing perfect music and, most importantly, music they themselves had written. On many occasions their songs and vocals reminded me of my favourite band, the legendary Beatles. Me and Josef have remained friends ever since, and when we recently met, we agreed to arrange a session in my studio this winter and record a couple of songs we wrote together.
So, sometime in spring 1982 music became a major part of my life. Back in elementary school, when I was in the 7.C class, me and my schoolmates tried to form our very first band. Together we would listen to and discuss various LP vinyl records and cassettes – mostly foreign music of various genres. I earned some extra money mostly by collecting and selling wastepaper plus I was saving up a lot, so in the summer I could afford to buy my first bass guitar, a pre-owned Jolana Typhoon Bass which I had my eyes on for some time and which cost me about 600 Czechoslovak crowns. I also got some financial help from my amazing grandma at whose place we had our first rehearsal room. My father then arranged a proper music education for me: I enrolled in a music school, learning double bass and bass guitar from my father’s friend Josef Štochl. After 5 years I successfully completed my studies at the ZUŠ Otakara Jeremiáše music school in 1987.
I was still in elementary school when me and my schoolmates formed our first band, ATD, back in 1983. Right from the beginning I was intensely driven, composing my own music for the very first time, writing lyrics, and trying to master other musical instruments. After our band had rehearsed and perfected our first songs, we recorded a demo. Our first major success was an invitation to record two selected ATD songs from our demo for broadcast in the Mladá Vlna (Young Wave) radio programme on the Czechoslovak Radio. The recording session was held on 15 April 1985 under the supervision of Ivan Pokorný, a great musician and the radio’s director at that time. The very first song we recorded was Jediný Sen (The Only Dream), with both music and lyrics written by me. It premiered in the Mladá Vlna radio programme and then went on to be broadcasted on the Czechoslovak Radio for the next couple of years. However, it wasn’t only rock’n’roll which shaped me musically – at that time I was already into film and classical music (particularly from the baroque period) which I have loved ever since.
So, these were my beginnings which I cherish as fond memories. They influenced me heavily and I still draw on them to this day.
What are you working on now? Any future releases we can look forward to?
Actually, by the standards of our independent production company NuArt Media, s.r.o., we are working on something really big. As I already said some years ago, we are “small studios which do big things”, and now it’s finally happening. But it’s not easy at all, not only to create something this way but also to maintain one’s position and continue to develop the creative dreams. So, my next big job is to compose and record the entire soundtrack for a movie, along with all the postproduction of surround sound and sound effects. Our company is now working on completing and finishing our first feature film for which we are also the sole producer. My son Daniel, who successfully completed his film studies degree with honors at the Miroslav Ondříček Film Academy (FAMO – Písek, CZ) in 2018, has been developing this film and its story since he was a student. Now the shooting is more or less done, he works on all the postproductions. Yes, it is indeed our mysterious crime thriller SAMHAIN which features great actors and where you can also see my second son Filip, Daniel’s younger brother, who successfully joined the extras. I am very proud of my boys, seeing them supporting each other like this since early age. The leading roles are played by Kamila Janovičová, David Švehlík, and a number of other great and renowned Czech actors.
What Is Your Ultimate Goal In The Music Industry?
As they used to say at home …the higher your goals, the further you go.
My wish is to be able to create music in peace, especially film and instrumental music.
To have true fans all over the world, who will be touched by my music and it will stay in their hearts.
What Has Been The Biggest Challenge In Your Career Thus Far?
Every piece I’ve done for any film I’ve done has always been a nice challenge,
but I hope the really big challenge is yet to come.
How do you go about writing a song? Do you have a melody in your head and then write the other music for it or what’s Your typical songwriting process?
It won’t be easy to describe everything precisely, but I would say that, most importantly, it all depends on the specific piece in question. Each composition has a different story of how it was born. So, it depends on all those things which influence and inspire me, awakening various Muses. In some cases, I am also creating music for a certain client such as a film director or a singer, and such clients have their own ideas about the work they want me to do. That will definitely influence my way of working, too. It’s different when I am asked to write a song for a singer or a band, or when I am creating an instrumental composition or a soundtrack for a movie. When I am writing a song that needs to have a dance-music feel to it, I may start by perusing various drum sounds, samples, loops etc., which in turn gives me harmony ideas I then develop further. And sometimes it’s the other way round: I may start on the piano or guitar, experimenting with various progressions and combinations of chords. When melodies start to take shape, I continue with developing the rhythm. There are also times when I start from a bass or guitar riff, which then gives me ideas about the rhythm possibilities.
Generally speaking, the set of these activities – composing – is happening in my head as a whole, which means that I can imagine the resulting piece quite quickly in my mind. But the initial trigger may take the form of various audio, harmonic or rhythm inputs and their energy of frequencies. What’s not that easy for me is to make sure that everything turns out to sound exactly as I hear it in my head and in my imagination. That’s something I am still learning to achieve. Furthermore, my creative process is also influenced by the topic, as represented by the lyrics and the idea behind the song. That’s naturally a very significant thing to consider, and so is the specific client who ordered the work. A still different approach is needed when creating a soundtrack or instrumental composition: in such cases everything revolves around the leading topics, as indicated by the energy of the film and also the specifications and ideas of the director. For example, these days I am getting ready to create an entire major soundtrack for a feature film SAMHAIN which is intended for a theatrical release next year, in the Czech Republic and hopefully in some other countries as well. We are yet to see what kind of distribution contract will be secured. It is a mysterious crime thriller set in the present times, full of enigmatic deaths and Celtic rituals. The topic itself offers many different ways to approach it musically. SAMHAIN may feature some sort of epic music, or it might just as well be combined with something completely different. The music may be built around a certain folk-like feel, or even some minimalistic sound foundation relying on the combination of various surfaces, sound effects, and certain light rhythmic loops and energetic sounds. Anyway, that’s what occupies my mind at the moment while discussing all these things with my son Daniel who is the author and director of the film. I have already started to note down certain harmonic lines and progressions but right now, at the beginning, there is only a specific sound in which I am searching for the leading SAMHAIN motif. I am still in the initial stage and even though I have come up with quite a few ideas already I might also end up ditching them all and starting from scratch. Right now it’s also about experimenting to see what works well with the visual material and what speaks to me on some level. I will compose the music directly for specific parts of the film and its visual material, moods, and energy. That’s always kind of a challenge, a daunting task, to piece everything together through sound, to do the musical arrangements, and to match the duration and pace of the specific parts. Once I have thought everything through, I need to decide which instruments will be used, what parts will be recorded live by musicians and what parts will be created with the help of virtual instruments.
How do you feel the Internet has impacted the music business?
I think that in the last 10 years or so, thanks to the internet, everything has changed considerably and taken on completely new trends, which are still evolving. I think the internet is now the main and fastest distribution platform for everything. So not only music, but also information, advertising, commerce, entertainment, etc. We live in a fast-paced age full of various technological conveniences and tools which may surely affect the artistic work itself. I am definitely influenced by this, and I continuously have to learn something new because I want to master these new technologies, software and hardware. The innovations often transform our approach and mindset. I personally work with the DAW software NUENDO, including various virtual tools and audio plugins which have become the heart of recording facilities in our NuArt Studio. It was a long time ago when I first tried to combine my music with the first computer technologies. Sometime around the year 1990 I began to work on my first music computer YAMAHA CX5MII/128 which was later replaced by ATARI 1040 STFM with the Steinberg Pro 24 programme, and even later by an ordinary PC with Steinberg – Cubase. So yes, I do think the creative process is influenced by this to a certain degree, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Quite on the contrary, it may facilitate new creative as well as audio combinations which could not be made in any other way. Moreover, it forces you to think differently and, in such cases, the new influences become a possible new source of inspiration. Trends are then a specific chain of events, which is in turn reflected in promotional activities and marketing. Almost everything is easily accessible thanks to digitalisation an internet, which means that various works, results of creative process, and information often become mere consumer goods which last only seconds. This is something I wasn’t really used to. This fast age of technology is changing rapidly, influencing the latest trends. What yields huge numbers thanks to online marketing immediately leads the way for other trends. Distribution is not an issue today – what is often more relevant is the fight for numbers, to actually get a decent exposure for one’s work, which is not easy at all these days. So, I myself use these creative technologies and music software, and I am glad for these advancements which are helpful for me. However, there are times when I do worry a bit about where this is all heading and how technology often prevails over the spirit of an individual, the human being. How today’s artificial intelligence replaces humans in creating various works of art etc.
List some famous musicians currently on your playlist?
This is also not an easy question. The list of performers would be very long, but I can say that since my youth, these were among the first performers to hit me: The Beatles, Kiss, Abba, Police, Depeche Mode, Journey, Madonna, Queen, Tears for Fears, Duran Duran, Alphaville, Ultravox, Dire Straits, Johann Sebastian Bach, Antonio Vivaldi, Tomaso Albinoni, Ennio Morricone, Vangelis etc. and they are all still on my current playlist. Added to that are a lot of other artists I like to listen to, and at the moment it tends to be film music from world greats like: John Williams, Hans Zimmer, Danny Elfman, James Horner, Howard Shore, James Newton Howard, but I also like Korn, Rammstein, System of a Down, Sting, George Michael, Seal etc. But everything alternates according to time and mood. My playlist is really long and inspiring, full of different energies. As much as I enjoy listening to music, I also enjoy composing and creating music, so I like to spend many hours working and creating audio and video, I find silence and peace very important. I need silence to concentrate and mentally organize all the thoughts and inspirations, but also the combinations and processes of achieving the intended goals. It’s not an easy task, when there is constantly something playing in my head or I keep getting new creative ideas, to achieve the right sound and look which corresponds as closely as possible to the vision in my head. So there are times when even longer I don’t really listen to anything and that’s what shapes me.
What Did You Do Before You Started Making Music?
I’ve been trying to live music and create something since I was young, and I’ve performed quite live at some point. For this I founded a well-known radio station in my hometown – Radio Evropa 2 České Budějovice – 90.5 FM. I also enjoy filming with a camera and I have been doing that for a long time. In addition, for the last few years I have been teaching the subject of Multimedia at a secondary school. I just try to be creative all the time and be in the field I enjoy. In addition to that I have more than 195 compositions registered with the copyright association – OSA.
Would you have any advice for young people wanting to follow in your footsteps?
The main thing is to keep going for your goals, to create, develop and learn. To do this, respect traditions and preserve and protect them. To be able to listen, to cooperate and not go crazy, but to endure and stand by your work. Just to create and create and create what then creates us…
If you could change anything about the music industry, what would it be?
I try to take things as they are, plus I feel like vinyl LPs are gradually making a comeback, which I’m really glad for. I hope that this trend stays and gets stronger and that young people discover the beauty of these LPs that started it all for many artists and listeners. That’s what I wanted and that’s gradually happening hopefully and so other things don’t occur to me now.
How do you feel about originality?
Originality for me is personality and above all courage. It’s also an idea and most importantly keeping the taste and aesthetics. We live in a fast-paced era full of all sorts of technological conveniences and tools that can certainly influence the artistic creation itself. It definitely influences me and I constantly have to learn something new because I want to master these new technologies, software and hardware. Originality is a kind of Innovation and it often changes our approach and thinking. Originality comes in many forms and is often quite individual.
Is there anything else we should know about you? or Something that you would like to add?
I want to thank you for the opportunity to be here with you, and I hope that my work will speak to someone beautifully and sincerely and stay in their heart…
Links To Where Your Music Can Be Purchased