cover photo : Ivan Soluncev
Our 9th questionnaire for the upcoming compilation Ex-Yu Modular Electronic Vol. 1 is with Aleksandar Grozdanovski, macedonian electronic musician and DJ, who has released club-related music under his alias Herzel, on labels such as Uncanny Valley, Hivern Discs, Compost and Biologic, and has recently made a dive into the world of modular synthesis with his new, more experimental and ambient project, HRZL
When did your love for electronic music start? What is the first synth you’ve bought / played?
As I can recall, it started in elementary school. As you may guess, I was hooked on bands such as Depeche Mode, Front 242, Nitzer Ebb and many more. Listening to their music non-stop made me fall in love with the synth music.
When I was 16, I had Rolland Workstation as my first synth. I can hardly remember which model it was. Sadly enough I don’t have the recordings. Complete arrangements were made on the Workstation itself and recorded directly on floppy discs. Afterwards I bought Korg Electribe MX, Yamaha DX7, Novation Bass Station 2 and my favorite of all the Dave Smith’s Mopho x4.
How did you get into modular synthesis? Can you tell us a bit more about your current set-up?
The world of modular synthesis is new and mostly unknown to me, however that does not make it less enjoyable. On the contrary, I feel dragged into the working process and excited to explore all the (im)possible sonic combinations. In the beginning of the pandemic, in 2019, with a little bit of savings I had I bought Make Noise 0-Coast. That marked the beginning of entering in this new realm. In the center of my current modular rig are 0-Coast and the Mutable Instruments Clouds module. I am very picky and careful with designing the whole setup. The latest additions are the Tip Top’s Forbidden Planet and Tip Top’s Fold Processor.
You’re well established in the clubbing world as a DJ, producer, and live performer under the Herzel alias. HRZL seems to be your less dancefloor-oriented twin. When did the need for releasing under this name occur and what are you trying to convey with it? Any new tracks or projects on the horizon?
HRZL is a new project of mine that emerged out of the necessity for change. I wanted to experience sound otherwise, also to add new equipment in the setup so that the working process will not completely resemble the one I have already established for Herzel. I enjoy very much working simultaneously on both projects, as I am able to notice how they inform each other and how they communicate with one another. That truly excites me. The love for sound and music keeps me motivated and the advancement of technology – those modules, you gotta try them!
Modular synthesis is very interactive, once you dive deep into the process of making and start patching and trying things out, the sound takes you to places, it informs you. So far, I have released three albums, one was self-released on my YouTube channel (Furies) and the other one (Subtopia) was released via Sountracking the Void. The newest material was released via TEOREMA, a sub-label of Diffuse Reality on the 8th of August. The title of the album is Exoteric, check it out. There are also upcoming tracks on several compilations – can’t wait.
latest HRZL “Exoteric” on Diffuse Reality
Subtopia on Soundtracking the Void
Your multifaceted artistic persona also stems from being trained in photography. Besides your musical output, are there any audio-visual or multimedia collaborations you’d like to point out, or something you would like to participate in the future, that didn’t materialize yet?
Yes, it is true that I am trained in photography. My younger self would have spoken about art residencies from Kolkata to Alexandria, but I’ll leave that for now because it is not something current.
I would like to mention the collaboration with one of the most talented and wonderful visual artists in Macedonia and beyond, Petar John, a very dear friend of mine as well. He made a video for one of the tracks that appear on the Furies album and the video was so impressive as it was a stunning landscape animation done in 4K. Besides this video, we have an ongoing collaboration.
I am collaborating on a new project called Grains with Aleksandra Petrushevska who is a dancer, performer, choreographer currently based in Berlin. The collaborative practice we are trying to build is regarded as a space in which bodily and sound textures, but not only, meet and intertwine with a purpose to create an autonomous practice. With an intention to escape from the established hierarchies on stage where music is in service of choreography, or body is in service of choreography, we are trying to create space for all the entities that come into play to be and generate material so that they can contribute (equally) to the overall process. It is all about listening well, being sensitive to the surroundings and observant.
Can you tell us something about your track “Burst”, from the upcoming Popscotch compilation?
During the quarantine I used to go very often to Pelister mountain which is close to where I live in Bitola. The place is magical, the nature is amazing and the air is super fresh. The impression of the sound coming from nature stayed with me for a while, for that reason I started considering translating it into a track and made Burst. The Clouds module was the core instrument for making this piece. I am happy that Burst can be found on Popscotch compilation! Thank you for the invitation.
How did the entire situation with the pandemic affect your musical / professional life?
I was not able to travel and to play music, therefore my focus was on production. I concentrated on the HRZL project and on the BRAN record label, which is vinyl only label that I’m co-running with a partner. Also a full Herzel EP is coming up on vinyl until the end of the year. It was a productive period for me regarding the situation. However difficult the situation was with the pandemic, some kind of reset on global scale was needed. I hope for better times to come for all of us.