After their frenetic concert we successfully interviewed the bass guitar player of the Dubioza Kolektiv. Vedran Mujagić answered all our questions and by the end it was rather a friendly conversation than an interview. Meanwhile a girl also joined our conversation, let’s call her Dorka…
MK: “Da li vjerujete federalnu vladu?” (Do you believe the federal government?)
Vedran: Nikad! (Never!)
MK: What did you know about Szeged before you came here? Did you have any expectations about this festival or the city?
Vedran: We knew about Szeged. Our sax player is from Sombor, this is his neighborhood, so he’s been here many times. But to be honest, I was expecting a much smaller festival and less people, so it was a good surprise when we saw how many people came and how they reacted. It also made us happy that there were a lot of people from Vojvodina, Serbia, it was a mixed crowd with a very good energy.
MK: In the end of your performance you mentioned the problem of the migrants and the fence. What is your personal opinion about this question?
Vedran: The problem is that these people are called migrants at all. They are refugees, they are escaping a war, they didn’t decide to go and live somewhere else because they didn’t like the place they left. You know, they are running for their lives. Therefore the only normal and humane thing is to accept them and help them; not to fence them and throw tear-gas against them as we saw for example the Macedonian police doing it several days ago. It’s not a political question but a question of humanity. Most members of the band are from Bosnia, and we know how it looks like – In the beginning of the nineties when almost one million people were displaced from their homes in Bosnia, they escaped to Western Europe and they tried to fit in. Everybody had somebody, like a relative or a friend who escaped the war, and many of these people became valuable parts of the community that they got to. You have a lot of people, who fit very well in Germany, Sweden, or somewhere else, and they became for example doctors, engineers; educated people or less educated. But you know, if you give them the opportunity, they will adjust, they will become a very good part of any society, and the same applies with these people from Syria. If you look at their profile, you can see that they are not like what the right wing media is trying to represent them, that’s a totally wrong picture. They are young, educated people with their families who are fleeing from the war – that’s the truth and it’s wrong not to help them. You see their pictures from the last weeks and months, and every time you go somewhere and have a good time, you have the thought somewhere in the back of your head, that just a few kilometers from here there are these people without food, without any idea where they gonna sleep or where they gonna end up the next day. It is very important to talk about this and try to make people more sensitive about this issue and to make more people do something about it. It is very important to make people talk about this problem, because it won’t go away, but only get worse – the winter months are coming, the weather will get colder, and they are going to have even more problems than they have now.
MK: Are there any more issues that you communicate through your music?
Vedran: There are, and we really try to be informed and react to things which are important at the moment. This is why we maintain this band, not because we want to be rock stars. We are trying to use this influence to talk about issues that are important to us. We really use any opportunity to talk about these things. In Bosnia there is a lot of problems and we try to support civil society to take part of any protest, communities like workers or who need to fight for their rights – we will try to help them. We would probably do it without the band like ordinary civilians…
MK: We are also non-profit media, just in case you didn’t know.
Vedran: If you weren’t non-profit media you probably wouldn’t be asking these questions.
MK: Was it a planned performance in the end of your show? Was it spontaneous? Did you expect anything from the crowd?
Vedran: You cannot plan this kind of thing, you just react to the energy of the people. It was just a good opportunity to try this thing and it worked out very well! People were very enthusiastic and I hope they went home thinking about what we said and I hope that tomorrow at least a few of them will do something about it, and try to help somebody they see on the street.
MK: You mentioned that you don’t want to be rock stars, but to talk about actual problems. Do you stay in touch with your fans to discuss these problems and topics?
Vedran: For starters, we don’t consider people who listen to our music a „fan” at all. We really like to talk to them with mutual respect on equal grounds. This is why our presence on social media is very important for us, because we can stay in touch and we can share all this stuff, all the ideas. All the messages of these people are really valuable, because you can get really good ideas and you can start good conversations there.
MK: Are you planning to go out tonight, to get to know new people, to have a good time in the festival?
Vedran: I think we first have to pack the equipment 🙂 This is the real rock’n’roll life that nobody sees. Everybody thinks that you go on stage and then you go to party, but in reality you go on stage and you have to go and pack everything. It’s not a complaint, it’s just like that. We have to manage this and after that we’ll probably go and see how the festival looks like, because actually we haven’t seen anything except the stage.
MK: So let’s say that you will stay for tonight. What will you drink and how much of it?
Vedran: Who knows? There are, like nine people in the crew, so everybody will choose their own „weapon.” 🙂
MK: And what is your personal weapon of choice?
Vedran: I have a beer and I’ll probably stick to it.
MK: Do you plan to stay in Szeged tonight, or come back later – not to have a concert, just for a trip to look around in the city.
Vedran: We had a little chance to see the city when we arrived today and it’s really, really beautiful… So why not? 🙂 It’s very nice.
MK: Thank you! Do you visit Hungary very often?
Vedran: Not very often but we pass through a lot of times. We played several times in Budapest, except that we had one gig at Balaton and another one in Pécs. This night was our third gig in Hungary outside of Budapest, it’s a good experience.
MK: What do you think about Hungary? A lot of people here think that Hungary is where Europe begins. What similarities or differences can you see between Bosnia, or let’s say the whole Balkan and Hungary?
Vedran: First of all, I think that every country in Europe would like to think that they are the first European country. By the way Bosnia and Hungary have a lot of connections because we were a part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire a hundred years ago. It’s also a part of the culture, most of the architectures are the same, so you feel like you’re at home. The language is really difficult to understand, but then again, we use a lot of Hungarian words in Bosnian language that are totally adapted.
MK: Can you say some examples?
Vedran: A lot of culinary terms, for example “goulash paprikash” or “shargarepa”, a lot. We don’t even recognize it as a foreign word. You know, when you go to a foreign country where everything is different – we don’t feel it in Hungary, it’s really like we’re at home, we don’t see any difference… Except the language.
MK: Do you have any plans for the future about visiting Szeged or any other town or city in Hungary?
Vedran: At the moment we don’t. We’re going to release our new album at the end of this year or in the beginning of the next one, and we are going to tour with the new album and I don’t know about the concrete plans, but hopefully we will come back to Hungary soon. 🙂
MK: Which countries do you like the most from those where you’ve traveled, considering how did people understand your message?
Vedran: We feel different energies in different countries and get different reactions on the concerts …
Suddenly, an unknown girl appears from nowhere, with huge interest in her eyes and after politely asking for our permission, she sits by us. Let’s call her Dorka.
Vedran: We have a good time everywhere and we get good reactions. If you talk about things that we are talking about, it’s starting a conversation with people. It’s a really important part, and I think we managed to do it everywhere. Even if there were language-barriers, we could find a way to communicate.
MK: You mentioned your upcoming new album, the Happy Machine. On the EP version there is a track that you also played on this stage (Free MP3), and it made me wonder: when, how and why did you decide to give your music for free?
Vedran: Actually it happened several years ago with one of our albums in Bosnian language. We really believe in sharing information and knowledge. And it’s again something that is very hard to limit, to insist on profiting and every transaction you have with people. We decided to do this just as an experiment, and people reacted very well. We really don’t believe that nowadays the old way of doing music business is valid any longer.
MK: It’s already dead but nobody seems to have noticed it yet.
Vedran: Exactly, it’s stupid that today it’s still about profit and selling music records, and you know, it’s really outdated. New things and new developments are going on, and you have to adjust yourself to them. We think it’s fair to give your music for free, because people appreciate it, and if they like it, they will find a way to get back to you. They will go to your concert, buy a ticket, T-shirts, or whatever.
MK: Also, you can spread your message more efficiently.
Vedran: Yeah, it’s like when you’re trying to sell a hundred-thousands of CD-s, a lot of bureaucratic bullshit is going to happen and a lot of time will pass until you “physically” reach out. Even if you would give those for free, a hundred-thousand pieces of plastic is difficult to handle, and for example this Happy Machine EP was released last September and it was already downloaded almost 300 000 times. So it’s a good way to get people know your music and they can decide whether they like it or not, you don’t have to sell them.
Dorka: Can I have a question?
Dorka: For what purpose do you use your music? What do you want to spread around the world, what is your message?
Vedran: Well, music is just a “vehicle” to spread the message.
Dorka: But what is the message?
Vedran: There is, like… a LOT of message. 🙂 A lot of different messages.
Dorka: Okay, so let’s say you have only one message in your music.
Vedran: Like an overall message? If you would like to sum up all these messages into a general one, it’s quite hard.
Vedran: Okay. It’s really deep. We’re trying to inspire people to think with their own head, and not giving them a ready-made opinion. We don’t tell them what to do or what to think, it’s wrong. Tonight we tried to start a conversation about the refugees at the border a few kilometers away, tomorrow it will be something else.
Dorka: Are you living consciously or you live in the moment?
Vedran: We are conscious about the moment that we are living in.
Dorka: So you’re living in the moment and you don’t have any plans, or do you…
Vedran: We have plans but we are always trying to think and have the context about what we’re living in now and we try to react to this context. If something is happening now in your neighborhood, you will react. The same is happening with the band – if we see something and we don’t agree with it, we will react. We are using the music to talk about things that we find important. It’s sort of manipulation, you know. It’s like you entertain people, you make them dance and then you hit them with something they didn’t expect, but I think it’s a good thing. Because people can dance and think at the same time – they can have opinions and have a good time at the same time. These things don’t exclude each other – you can go to a festival, have a bear, have a great time, but at the same be aware that 50 kilometers away from here there are people at the border waiting to get in, then you can go home and do something about it.
MK: We are at a festival right now but you often go to clubs. Which one do you like more? I mean, I’m sure you like both in different ways, but what’s the difference for you?
Vedran: They are different ways to approach: pubs are more intimate – you have a close contact with people, but there’s a smaller amount of them, it’s a different flow of energy. But a festival can be interesting in the other way. Because when you play in a pub, people who come already know the band, they want to see you live, and they buy the ticket to see you. But on a festival, the crowd is mixed, they maybe came because of the band playing before or after you – they don’t necessarily know you and they don’t know what to expect, so there’s room to surprise them, it’s very exciting. Because in a festival people who are bored will go to another stage to check it out, or go to have another drink, and it’s actually a challenge to surprise them, keep their attention and make them dance. So it’s interesting in a different level.
Another sudden, striking moment: our deputy chief editor appears from nowhere, but despite the already long interview, we fortunately aren’t in a hurry. But we decide to change a bit in the topic of our conversation:
MK: You mentioned the kitchen when we were talking about our similarities. I’m sure you tried the fish soup. Did you know that Szeged is famous in Hungary for its fish soup?
Vedran: No, I didn’t.
MK: You haven’t tried it then?
Vedran: Not here, but we know this type of fish “paprikash”. It’s good in Novi Sad, I like it there.
MK: Do you like to cook? What’s your favorite food?
Vedran: Yes, I like to cook. I’m a vegetarian, so sometimes I eat fish but mostly vegetable-dishes. I like rice with anything. 🙂
MK: Is there some special recipe that is especially yours and you’d like to share it with us?
Vedran: If you ever go to Bosnia, there are always very delicious local dishes, but they are like a combination of Turkish, eastern influences with continental, for example Austrian or Hungarian dishes. They are good combinations; you can have both sides in the traditional Bosnian meals, so it’s always good to experience some gastro-tourism in Bosnia.
MK: Is there anything in particular that you’d like to highlight?
Vedran: Vegetarians don’t recommend the traditional Bosnian food, because it’s mostly based on meat, so you have to be a meat-eater if you really want to enjoy it. Their specialties are for example the chevapi or the burek.
MK: After this festival, what feelings do you have, what thoughts you’d like to share with the participants of this festival?
Vedran: I think it’s what happened in the end with the message “F*CK FENCES!” and f*ck borders, that’s the message we tried to give tonight. Because this fence is really not a part of the European dream what all of these countries have. It’s not the way to deal with the thing – you cannot just build fences and put military on the border and try stop something from happening and not taking your part of responsibility from this disaster which is going on. There were a lot of young people who really think with their own head. It’s a question about them try to help these people – everybody can do it on their own, they don’t have to wait for a structured, governmental answer to these questions. Anybody, as a civilian can help another person, and it would be much easier. Because, you know, there are not millions of them, only about a couple thousand. For the countryside of Bosnia or Serbia or Hungary, it’s not a really big deal. They could handle it very easily, and it would be much nicer towards these people. They are not terrorists, they are not idiots; they would try to fit in any society, and they would probably succeed if we all gave them the chance.
MK: And what feelings or impressions did this festival give to you? Will it be a positive memory for you?
Vedran: Definitely! The way how people jumped over fences and got up on stage after that, really tells everything. We’re all really happy about this.
MK: How many people were on the stage?
Vedran: About a hundred, I think.
Dorka: Why did you do that?
Vedran: Why not?
Dorka: What was getting people on the stage about?
Vedran: It was an exercise for crossing the fence to have a good time.
Dorka: What exercise?
Vedran: The cross-fence exercise. 🙂
MK: Did you know that stage-diving is forbidden in Hungary?
Vedran: Nobody stage-dived. 🙂 The security was cool though.
MK: Nothing like stage-diving happened, at all.
Vedran: Yes, because the stage was too far away from the fence.
MK: Thank you very much for being here and not stage-diving! You gave us a spectacular, everlasting memory. 🙂
Hadzsy Jani, Mórocz Sanyi, Dorka