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    "Good Music Matters!"

    Interview with Arms and Sleepers about the new Album "What Tomorrow Brings"

    Interview von Anne
    16.02.2024 — Lesezeit: 10 min
    Deutsche Version lesen
    "Good Music Matters!"
    Bild/Picture: © Arms and Sleepers

    I recently posted my review of the new Arms and Sleepers album, "What Tomorrow Brings", here on Sounds Vegan. There are only a few days left until the release on March 1st, and I'm sure you're eagerly awaiting it! To sweeten the wait a little more, I'm sharing my interview with Mirza Ramic in its entirety with you today. The artist behind Arms and Sleepers shared many exciting details about the record, his life and his new collaboration with Pelagic Records.

    Anne: Hi! Thanks so much for taking the time for this interview! How are you doing today? How is the promo for your new album "What Tomorrow Brings" getting along?

    Mirza: My pleasure. Thanks for asking me to do the interview! I'm doing well. Lots is going on, but it is also a bit difficult to get back into work mode after the winter holidays. The new album campaign is going well. I feel like it's a tricky digital age these days to promote music and arts. So, I can only really go with feeling and instinct in terms of how the new music is being received, and so far, I feel optimistic.

    Anne: I recently published my preview and listened to it several times. It's actually spinning here right now. It really translates our uncertain times into music—I love that! How did you manage to do that?

    "Music helps me to express what I am experiencing"

    Mirza: Thank you very much for the nice album preview, and I'm glad you're enjoying the new record! Music has always been a way for me to process and express what I am experiencing, both in the past and present. Music is an essential therapeutic mechanism for me to find clarity and seek healing, whether that's my own personal issues or the world around me. I think before—when I released music that's been vocal about its political and social stance (such as the 2017 album "Life is Everywhere")—it turned off some folks, and I definitely lost listeners. But for me, music is about honestly expressing my feelings and translating the chaos and absurdity of life into something that makes sense to me and communicates that message to the world. So, it's a great compliment that you feel that the new album reflects our uncertain times because it means I've successfully and honestly transmitted my understanding of the world to others.

    Anne: Your escape from Bosnia during the war in the early 1990s, the tragic loss of your father and others in this conflict, and the connection to the terrible war in Ukraine inspired you to record this album. Dealing with all those heavy topics must be quite complicated and saddening. Would you say it's some vent to turn them into something creative like your wonderful music, and does it help to reflect and leave some of the dark shadows behind?

    Mirza: Yes, for sure; as I mentioned before, music is definitely an important way for me to process my own past traumas and to try and find healing. I always say that music is not something I choose to do, but something that I have to do for my well-being. And if that resonates and potentially helps someone else, then great, but first and foremost, my music is for me and my mental health. Leaving dark shadows behind, as you say, is a lifelong process, but every bit of music I write and through which I understand myself better is a path toward some kind of solace.

    Anne: Which one of the 17 pieces on "What Tomorrow Brings" do you like best?

    "'Belfast' might be my best track so far"

    Mirza Ramic – Arms and Sleepers – Interview. Bild/Picture: © Arms and Sleepers
    Mirza Ramic – Arms and Sleepers – Interview. Bild/Picture: © Arms and Sleepers

    Mirza: I'd say the track "Belfast" is the most special piece of music—not only on this album but in my overall discography. It's nice when you can fall in love with your own creation, and I tend to be very self-critical, so it's not something that often happens to me. However, I truly fell in love with this song. The melancholy and the gentle mood of "Belfast" really captivated me while I was working on it, and Sofia Insua's vocals struck a nerve. I think because it's more of a "live" song, with acoustic drums and vocals, it was a welcome break from the usual electronic music I make, and the organic and warm feel of it is something I'm really happy with.

    Anne: Your home base is now Berlin. What drew you there?

    Mirza: Well, since 2018, I had a feeling that I wanted to move to Berlin, and then during the pandemic, I decided to come here, and now I feel like I could never leave. I've been playing shows in Berlin since 2007, but I wouldn't say I liked the city at first. I think it grew on me over the years, and visiting Berlin with friends in 2017 and 2018 helped me experience the city differently. Now that I live here, I've finally found a place I can call home, which is something I haven't truly been able to say since I was a kid. Ever since I left Bosnia in 1992 when the war broke out, I haven't really felt at home anywhere—not even in the US, where I've spent most of my adult life. For some reason, Berlin has this mix of West and East that feels very familiar to me: my early life, coming from Eastern Europe, and my later life, growing up in the West. I feel comfortable and settled here, and it's something that feels like I've been searching for my entire life.

    Anne: You moved there from Boston—this is quite a significant change. Besides the East-West thing: How would you describe the differences between the two cities? They are both quite versatile—also their music scenes. Is this maybe what they have in common?

    Mirza: Yes, I lived in Boston for most of my life, but since 2014, I've been touring pretty much non-stop and living a nomadic life—in random countries, at Airbnbs and friends' places. So, I haven't really properly lived in Boston for a while. But yeah, Boston is a place where I spent my teenage and young adult years. While it will always be an important place for me, it's not a place where I could see myself living the rest of my life. I think the two cities are really different—Boston is an expensive place to live, excluding many people from a certain kind of lifestyle. Berlin is much more affordable (even if things are getting more expensive), allowing people of different socioeconomic classes to mix more. At least, that's my experience. I feel like I can be more of myself in Berlin because it's a place with such a diverse population. In Boston, doing what I do felt more like I was on the outside of accepted societal norms, which didn't make me feel too good. Boston has good things to offer, for sure, but it's simply not for me.

    Anne: Besides some more, some of the most inspiring projects of the late 1990s and early 2000s will always be trip-hop for me. I love all those groundbreaking magnificent projects and people like Massive Attack with mysterious and brilliant artists like Robert "3D" Del Naja, Marshal, and Andy Mushroom and Daddy G. Tricky, Faithless, Morcheeba, Moloko, UNKLE, DJ Shadow and so on. They really shook my world, and I instantly fell in love with this music and all the surrounding stuff. You're not only constantly mentioned in one sentence with all those revolutionary and exceptional musicians—you're firmly integrated into this world. Can you tell me a bit about its development, and what has changed since the early days?

    "Portishead was one of my biggst influences"

    Mirza Ramic – Arms and Sleepers – Interview. Bild/Picture: © Arms and Sleepers
    Mirza Ramic – Arms and Sleepers – Interview. Bild/Picture: © Arms and Sleepers

    Mirza: For me, trip-hop was just one of many genres I fell in love with while growing up. I have always listened to a wide variety of music, so I never felt deep in one specific scene. Out of all the trip-hop acts, Portishead was the one that was most influential to me. Max (the previous member of Arms and Sleepers) because we both loved hip-hop and also loved vocals, and Portishead combined hip-hop beats and sampling with beautiful vocals in a masterful way. Of course, Massive Attack and DJ Shadow were also big influences, but when I think of trip-hop in its purest essence, I think of Portishead. But yeah, at the same time, I was listening to early Coldplay and Radiohead and Sigur Rós and Beastie Boys and Deftones. So, I was always all over the place musically—which I think is often reflected in the Arms and Sleepers music. I believe some of our earlier releases had elements of trip-hop, which immediately connected us to this genre, even though there were only a few songs that resembled this genre. But we've always wanted to explore as many styles and genres as possible, and never wanted to be limited by any one particular scene or sound.

    Anne: Like you just said: With your music, you combine many genres and styles. Who would you say are your biggest influences?

    Mirza: In terms of music and bands, I would say Pink Floyd, Nirvana, Pixies, Deftones, NIN, Boards of Canada, Radiohead, Sigur Rós, Beastie Boys, Portishead, Air, Beach House—and many more, of course.

    Anne: When did you start with the writing process for "What Tomorrow Brings"? How long did it take you to finish it?

    Mirza: A few of the song ideas on the album started in the summer of 2021 when I was working on my previous album, "Former Kingdoms" (which I released in 2022). But then I really sat down to focus on writing the new album in December 2022 while I was alone in the dark Berlin winter. I isolated myself from about December 2022 to February 2023 and finished most of the album. Then, it took another few months to mix it.

    Anne: What is your biggest motivation in your creative process and in life?

    "My journey in life drives my creative process"

    Mirza Ramic – Arms and Sleepers – Interview. Bild/Picture: © Arms and Sleepers
    Mirza Ramic – Arms and Sleepers – Interview. Bild/Picture: © Arms and Sleepers

    Mirza: For the creative process, I'd say my own journey through life is what leads me to want to express what I've experienced through music. It's my way of providing myself therapy, which is a critical element of maintaining my sanity. In life, I'm not sure—I tend to view life as pretty absurd and nonsensical, so often, it just feels like it's about surviving to the next day. That sounds a bit dramatic, but yeah, I don't have some kind of big elaborate mission. I just try to live how I want to live and make some music along the way.

    Anne: Did you work together with other artists for the recording?

    Mirza: Yes, I had a few collaborations and guests on this record, which I often do on my releases. I invited my old friend YEYEY (aka Ben Shepard) to sing on a track. He used to be in a band called Uzi & Ari, which was very active in Europe about 15 years ago. He's sung on several Arms and Sleepers tracks in the past, on 2009's "Matador" and 2011's "The Organ Hearts" albums. Then I had Sofia Insua provide vocals on a track; she's also been a frequent collaborator, having sung on several recent Arms and Sleepers releases. Sofia and I also have a side project together called ERA C.

    Andrew Nault played drums on three songs, which was the first time he played drums on my studio albums. Still, he's been the drummer of my live band for many years and has been with me on numerous tours across Europe. Andrew is also the songwriter and guitarist of Lesser Glow, another band on Pelagic Records. And then Andreas Schütz (aka Pierre Navarron of the French duo il:lo), who is a close friend here in Berlin, co-wrote and co-produced one of the songs, which was great to finally collaborate with him. He also mixed the whole record—as well as my previous album, "Former Kingdoms"—so we've worked together before, but this is the first time he was involved in helping me write and produce a song.

    Anne: While Arms and Sleepers started out as a duo, it is now your solo project. Can you imagine turning it back into a duo or a bigger band at some point?

    "I love working with other artists"

    Mirza Ramic – Arms and Sleepers – Interview. Bild/Picture: © Arms and Sleepers
    Mirza Ramic – Arms and Sleepers – Interview. Bild/Picture: © Arms and Sleepers

    Mirza: Absolutely! I don't have a big ego when it comes to who is involved with Arms and Sleepers. I actually preferred it when we were a duo, but Max wanted to focus on another career, and music wasn't his priority. But I think it's always nicer for the music if more than one person is involved—there is inevitably more creativity. And I genuinely love it when I hear something from another person that I would never think to do, and it inspires me. That's an extraordinary feeling. Of course, there is also the reality of being a more minor, independent artist, which means that the more people are involved, the more difficult it is to make a living. Which sucks, but it's the way it is. So, in some ways, being the only member of this project has helped me keep Arms and Sleepers going because I've been able to survive it. And my ultimate goal has always been to keep this project alive no matter what.

    Anne: Do you enjoy working with Pelagic? What distinguishes the Berlin-based label from others you've been working with in the past?

    Mirza: Yes, for sure, Pelagic feels like family now that we've worked together for many years and now that I live in Berlin. I have always enjoyed being independent and self-releasing, which I still do most of the time, but every now and then, it's nice to work with a label. Even though Pelagic's music output is quite different from what I do: I feel like there is a joint ethos that we adhere to, which makes sense—we both listen to and appreciate a wide variety of music, and ultimately, good music is what matters. I think what distinguishes Pelagic from others is their work ethic—they're staunchly independent, and they have worked hard for what they've built. It's admirable, and I can deeply relate to it.

    Anne: If there were one thing in the world you could choose that would change in the way you'd wish to. What would it be and why?

    Mirza: A total ban on weapons in the US.

    Anne: You will release "What Tomorrow Brings" on March 1st. What's up next after that big day? Will you start touring afterwards?

    Mirza: Yes, I have some touring planned for April and May, including stops at Roadburn, and Dunk!festival. I'll be bringing a live band for these shows, which will include Sofia Insua and Andrew Nault—I'm excited about that, as it's been over five years since I've played a show with a live band. Besides that, hopefully, there will be some more festivals during the summer, and then I'll get back to writing new music. The cycle has to continue!

    Anne: Thanks very much for this chat! I wish you all the best for your plans and the album release, of course!

    Mirza: Thank you for doing this interview. I appreciate it! And I'm glad you've enjoyed the new album. Thanks for all the kind words!


    © 2024 · · Anne Reis