cover photo : Srđan Veljović / Live Soundtrack

Our fifth questionnaire for the upcoming compilation Ex-Yu Modular Electronic Vol. 1 is with Nick Cosic, electronic music producer and DJ, specialized in IDM, techno and progressive house. A master at modular arrangements and vintage synths, Cosic has decades of experience in the Serbian music scene. 

When did your love for electronic music start, and how did it progress? What is the first synth you’ve bought / played? 

My grandma made me promise I won’t listen to repetitive pop music. She’s probably turning in her grave as I create exactly that – repetitive electronic music. I was listening to a lot of classical music when I was a kid – Mozart, Bach, Beethoven. And then my best friend got a cassette with Jean Michel Jarre in the 7th grade, elementary school. That was love at first sight.

1st grade high school I met a friend who played piano. He showed me some. I started taking lessons soon after that, did so for a couple of years. My piano teacher was one of the most interesting and extravagant persons I’ve ever met. He was a very whory bi, lived with a woman, but never could have children as then he couldn’t compose music on his piano in complete silence. He was telling me all that when I was 17, with juicy details, but nothing really too much IMO. He was so disappointed when I signed up for faculty of electrical engineering after that instead of music academy.

Listening to electronic music I’ve stumbled across Velja Mijanović doing his show on YU radio. Called him up and he recorded Future Sound of London – Lifeforms on a tape. It was ‘94. I’ve ended up doing a music show on my own called “Electric Caffe” – it was in ‘95 I believe.

Velja, a big Serbian electronic music name at the time, introduced me to his electronic musician friends. One of those guys is still one of my best friends. He’s a huge fan of TB303.

My first synth was a borrowed Ensoniq Mirage. The filter couldn’t self oscillate, I was so disappointed. Before that I was making music on trackers and Gravis Ultrasound – a sampler on an ISA card. I think the first synth I’ve actually bought was a Roland JUNO 106, bought it from Isidora Žebeljan. We’ve created a soundtrack for a theater play a couple of years later.

How did you get into modular synthesis? Can you tell us a bit more about your spaceship studio equipped with vintage synths?

Modular synths were just something rich guys had, nothing for us mortals. I didn’t even consider it when I was young. I’ve been spending cash on cheap travel and cheap second hand synths like JUNO 106, TR808, MC202 – it was really cheap in the 90s.

In ‘97 I believe – I was taking part in organizing a techno party – the really famous techno stars were getting paid 4000 deutsche marks for their live act in front of thousands of people. At that point I’ve realized I’m never going to earn a living from electronic music, never going to have enough cash to buy all those gorgeous synths. My music had zero commercial potential compared to those big techno stars. I’ve supposed that earnings go exponentially down from the most popular artists.

So I’ve started a web development company. This is where the synths and modular came from. With underground music you can’t really have it when you’re young unless you have rich parents or a software company – that sucks. And if you think that there’s more to life than working to buy synths – I envy you.

Considering the music you’ve released, there is quite of a quantum leap from your bandcamp release “Interface” to the more recent “Traces”. Do music genres mean anything to you, or you would say that you are an electronic music omnivore?

The range is actually much more extreme. I wonder what would you say if you heard my ethno electronic “21 Century Music” album back in ‘99 – a collab with a Pirot based folk singer and accordion player Ivan Mushoki. That was some of the best work I’ve done. MP3.COM, biggest music platform in the 90s, released techno-folk-DNB track “Pirot Cherry” on a CD compilation “Best of MP3.COM”. And there was “Inventing Reality” before that – with tracks like “Sonic Booms” – this is more in the electronic ambient territory.

“Traces” is some recent work (past decade or two) that I’ve thought fits together. “Interface” was created in a shorter time frame so it’s more connected – at the time I was a fan of synthwave.

I generally don’t have any music ambition other than to create a good track with what currently occupies my music mind. I guess if you have an audience that you have to think about, you have to have consistent output as otherwise they’d just hate your new stuff. If you don’t have that obstacle I just don’t get the purpose of creating music within a genre. For me if I can play my track to 10 people that understand it – it’s worth it. I guess if I had 8 fingers that number would be 8.

So music omnivore it is – great definition, have to steal it.

I am quite intrigued to hear the story about your experimental short film “Sentimental Story About a Schizophrenic Maniac”. Is there anything else connected to the film world you’ve done ?

Back in ‘94, when I was 19, I’ve worked in a video studio that created commercials and folk videos on cutting edge digital editing technology of the time. So in ‘94 I’ve had the equivalent of Adobe Premiere to mess after I was done with my video editing job, with and a ton of stuff I wanted to say.

Tried to involve my best friends in my music. But they weren’t musicians at all. So I’ve just sampled them trying to be funny and creative. That’s how we came up with the text – just improvising and recording. Would love to find that whole recording some day.

Regarding music, I was an expressionist sympathizer at the moment, but also a Front 242 sympathizer. I’ve hung out with some goth-sympathizers – they were sharing some underground VHS tapes with stuff you’d get banned in a second on youtube these days. But I was generally a cheerful person, or at least I wanted people to think so.

Mix all of the above, and you get the ‘Sentimental Story about a Schizophrenic Maniac’

Can you tell us something about your track “Gallbladder”, from the upcoming Popscotch compilation?

My sister, Marijana Verhoef,  is an aspiring movie director living in Berlin. She did some great short format stuff, wrote a couple of dramas that are playing in German theatres, and she’s doing some commercial stuff for RTL these days. Her husband, Jan Joost Verhoef, is a really cool and talented computer visual artist from Netherlands. He also is a bit into music making.

So two of them came to my place and I’ve had this new Roland System-100 I’ve smuggled from Italy. I was showing it off, creating some sequences, adding a TR808. It ended up in me jamming for about an hour with them listening. When the improvisation was well developed, I recorded the track. We were previously discussing some health issues with gallbladder at the time – so that’s what you have as “Gallbladder”. Better than “Untitled” – I’d never find it if all my tracks were “Untitled”.

How did the entire situation with the pandemic affect your musical / professional life?

Last year I bought a house in Slankamen with a vineyard. I’ve created my first wine and it’s drinkable! Then I dived into renovating it and planting another vineyard. Music has been very slow since. I guess there’s just a single creative source in a person and you can shift it to various targets. But it has a finite bandwidth. I will get back to music shortly with the colder weather.