Polish electronic-dub, production and turntablist duo Earth Is Flat make music by combining raw sounds, field recordings, instruments and vocals. Now based in the UK’s West Midlands, Kamil Boguslawski and Kamil Ilcewitz have have just released their debut mini-album Away From Here And Now on Bit-Phalanx Music. We caught up with the pair to find out more about how they create their unique blend of Poland’s underground dub heritage.
Our music is like an animal, anyone and anything, experiencing life.
What music projects were you involved with before forming Earth is Flat?
Kamil Ilcewitz: Believe it or not, back home in Poland we were closer to grindcore-metal music scene. Electronic music was, for me, more of a side project or hobby, and a way to discover something new. Personally I’d never really thought about doing any other particular music genre other than metal because there was my soul at that time.
However, Bogus was a DJ investing in hip hop, DnB and dub as a way to connect to a wider audience. But at the time we both were mostly concentrating on a band project where I played the guitar and Bogus was a DJ and vocalist. It was fun.
How did Earth is Flat come about?
Kamil Boguslawski: After our first few years in England, I’d had my first experiments creating electronic music using various software. We were both learning and making tunes individually at the time, but as far as I can remember we always had in mind an idea for a joint project.
We were jamming often and slowly things came together between what we had both been working on, and it wasn’t long until the first ‘Earth Is Flat’ material was born. Shortly after we met our first vocalist, Mari Pettersen, who sang to most of our early material.
Why the name, Earth is Flat?
Kamil Ilcewitz: We live in a world made up of opinions. We Worship other people’s opinions like our own - like it’s the highest truth - and we fight in the name of them. For example: Today we live in an era of digital information. It’s a different sort of “God”, and these are created daily. Basic information gets taken for granted and may be out of date by tomorrow. Truths of generations are clashing with each other to reveal some kind of sad Machiavellian disorder.
Yesterday’s planet was flat. Today it’s round(ish). Tomorrow we might find out that reality is just a piece of data in some computer and has no dimensions at all. But really, what difference does it make if we still live in conflict?
So I guess a flat Earth is a reminder that opinions and truths are all too common and distracting, but a present moment is only for the here and now. That moment is the only time when it’s possible to live in peace without giving up on humanity, which is personally important to me (and why we named our debut mini-album ‘Away From Here And Now’).
It seem to me that artists like to copy themselves and each other. Plenty of sheep and not enough shepherds.
We all know the Earth isn’t flat, but for a long part of human history everyone thought it was. Do you think there are any misconceptions the general public have about more intelligent electronic music that, if explained, would give the genre a wider audience?
Kamil Boguslawski: It’s hard to say what is “intelligent music” these days. Everyone has different and opinions on that. I’d like to think that when I’m listening to music I can recognize something that was created with feelings and emotions and not just as a mass product for consumers. Pop and a large majority of most mainstream music seems quite soulless to me.
I get really bored pretty quickly when I’m listening to generic music, even in the genres that I actually like. It seem to me that artists like to copy themselves and each other. Plenty of sheep and not enough shepherds.
For example, the first time ever heard proper dubstep I fell in love with it. I remember the old tune with the flute in by Skream called ‘Rutten’. But after a while listening to a lot of UK dubstep genre (especially after spending sometime DJing in the UK), most of the newer artists started to sound the same. Same beats, same patterns, same routine but different name.
I wanted to get as many good tunes as possible so I searched round DJ shops a lot, and the longer I spent looking the harder it became to find something that I have not heard before. Don’t get me wrong, there is still a lot of good, original music on this planet, but you really have to have the will, commitment and time to find it.
What would you say makes your music unique?
Kamil Ilcewitz: I think our unique quality is that we do what we are not tied down to anything, anyone or even any particular sound, or forced to please anyone apart ourselves. If we feel like we want a change a sound, structure or whatever, we implement that on the go and know each other’s broad background and tastes enough to know how and when it will work.
Good new music in the UK is a lot easier to find and is much more appreciated than in Poland.
If you had to describe your sound as a personality, how what would it be?
Kamil Boguslawski: Our music, for me, is like an animal, anyone and anything, experiencing life.
Kamil Ilcewitz: For me, a gypsy travelling and collecting instruments from around the world.
How do you create your music? Is there any kind of routine that helps?
Kamil Ilcewitz: Yes! Doing a mix-down without smoking pot ;) And taking regular breaks away from current projects we’re working on to try keep a necessary judgement and impartiality. That’s a good routine to embrace. But when we start on an initial build for a track we are spontaneous and natural as possible.
You’re from Poland, but now live in West Midlands UK. Why did you move to the UK?
Kamil Boguslawski: In Poland our band was progressing in the right direction, but it was hard to find enough time for the actual music. We’re from small city called Braniewo which doesn’t really have many opportunities. General work was taking a lot which could have been spent in more creative ways, but were necessary to get by.
When we did have time, we had to share rehearsal spaces with other bands and just didn’t have the finances for the equipment we needed to really commit ourselves to music (Earth Is Flat, or any other musical project). Most people from our town eventually move away to big cities anyway.
One day I just decided - I’m going to UK to earn enough money to buy the software and hardware I need, and then I’ll go back home to Poland and continue working on projects there. That was it. However, I soon realised that the UK could actually offer me more flexibility and opportunity, and I could spend far more time on what I actually want to do and more of a balance between that and what I needed to do to get by.
Also good new music in the UK is a lot easier to find and is much more appreciated than in Poland. It has changed a lot now in the era of internet you can find whatever you want anywhere you are.
How does the electronic music scene here compare to Poland?
Kamil Ilcewitz: Poland is a pretty big country made up of mostly small cities. We grew up in a small one where nothing was really happening. The kind where if you farted at one end of town, the other end would talk about what you’d had for lunch. We just had to go to the bigger towns to find anything more ambitious… especially music.
I remember there was a decent DnB scene in Łódź. Poznań is not far from the German border, so a lot more Techno and minimal electronic stuff found its way over from there. Sopot has a beautiful jazz tradition. And Krakow just has one of the best music schools in Europe which produces amazing musicians.
These days though a lot more people educate themselves through the internet etc, so we are just open to everything new really. In summer there are plenty of good festivals (with electronic music) which bring together a lot of the best stuff from all across the country, and host a good mix foreign and polish artists. It’s a nice reminder that Poland isn’t behind the times musically, it’s just spread quite far and wide and we all have to make the effort for it.
What do you miss from back home?
Kamil Boguslawski: I’m not sure if “miss” is the right word to describe my feelings about home. I think any change is good. It gives us new experiences and makes life more interesting. No matter how much we are attached to someone or something, it’s sometimes best to learn how to let go.
I’m always very happy when I go back home and spend time with my family and friends, and the proper Polish food my mom cooks for me. I love Poland, but at the same time I love each and every country that I’ve visited so far and genuinely seem to feel at home anywhere where I find I have a connection with.
I do have the best night’s sleep at my parent’s home where I grew up though. I can just sleep forever when I’m there.
Your mini-album on Bit-Phalanx Music, ‘Away From Here And Now’ features appearances from MC Stefan Quarry and vocals by Mari Pettersen and Michael Hogbin. How was it working with them?
Kamil Ilcewitz: Working with friends is always very easy. Especially when all share the same sense of with fun and dedication. Mari lives in Norway now so she records everything remotely on her own, but most of the time we prefer to be present while recording vocals.
You also use found sounds and field recordings. How do you plan these? Do you go out in search of particular sounds? Any funny stories from the recordings?
Kamil Boguslawski: I carry my recorder everywhere, so when I hear something interesting I’m almost always ready to record. Most of the time when I hear sounds I like, I have a vision of how and where it could be used. But they don’t always end up where I imagined.
Often the sounds are just archived for a while until there is a need for a specific sound, then we’ll go through our library and see what we have. I don’t think I’ve ever gone out to record a particular sound. It’s just something spontaneous, as and when we hear something.
We first met when we were sharing a stage at one of the clubs in Moseley, Birmingham.
You’ve done a re-interpretation of Benjamin Yellowitz’s track ‘Blue Light’. Why choose that tune and what did you hope to bring to the track?
Kamil Ilcewitz: Ben is a friend of ours. We first met when we were sharing a stage at one of the clubs in Moseley, Birmingham. We didn’t know each other’s music at all really at the time, but we had some time before a soundcheck so we just had a beer in a local pub and spoke about some random stuff.
After the gig though we both really liked each other’s work and he just asked us if we’s like to do a remix for one of his tunes. We all agreed on ‘Blue Light’ easily.
That ‘Blue Light’ remix was so time consuming, and it developed far beyond “just a remix” for us. More of a reinterpretation, or that the original was the seed for something that just grew. We kind of felt afterwards like we had ended up with a tune that was equally “ours” as it is Ben’s, which is why we put it on our mini-album. I’d like to believe that Ben doesn’t mind that. I hope not.
What are the themes of ‘Away From Here And Now’?
Kamil Boguslawski: We were thinking a lot about the balance between nature and electronic music. Also, all of the experiences that we’ve had individually has brought something to this material. A picture of me and Ilcevitz, who we are inside. Communicating through sound, I guess.
Which track did you find most difficult to complete and why?
Kamil Ilcewitz: For me that was definitely ‘Blue Light’, only because it was meant to be a remix and I was worried Ben had certain expectations. Bogus was the one who started work on it at first. My idea for a remix didn’t really go through as it quickly became a “track” in itself that just kept growing, so there was a lot of catching up for me. Also we had to move studios at the time, so working on that one came at a particularly tedious time for me. But we’re both really proud of it, and hope Ben is too.
Often the [found] sounds are just archived for a while until there is a need for a specific sound, then we’ll go through our library and see what we have.
Can you tell us one secret about ‘Away From Here And Now’?
Kamil Boguslawski: Most of this material is between 3 or 4 years old now. Far away from here and now!
Finally, how is 2016 shaping up for you? What are your goals?
Kamil Ilcewitz: Currently we are working on some new dub tunes (or, our vision of dub), and hope to release them as an EP later this year.
We have done a remix for Kelli Ali (ex Sneaker Pimps) of her track ‘The Art Of Love’. She has just released it as part of a full remix album with loads of other Bit-Phalanx artists contributing, and we may have more stuff with her soon.
We have a tune on a forthcoming charity compilation called ‘Earthlings’, for World Animal Protection.
There’s going to be a single for the track ‘Bom Bolenath’ (from ‘Away From Here And Now’) coming out in the spring, with some brilliant remixes and interpretations by some other great acts and friends of ours – something we’re obviously pretty passionate about.
Beyond that we’re looking to definitely play some gigs around the UK soon and just start work on something fresh and new, and hopefully an album. So keep your heads up, you’ll hear from us soon.
‘Away From Here And Now’ is out now on Download, CD and Limited Edition Cassette from the Bit-Phalanx Store. (Download and stream available from all usual outlets)
Kelli Ali’s ‘The Art Of Love’ remix album, featuring a version by Earth Is Flat, is available now from Kelli’s Bandcamp Store.
Watch Earth Is Flat - ‘Natural Selection’ video: