Slovakian guitarist David Kollar’s style includes elements of two Norwegian modern guitar icons, Eivind Aarset (an occasional collaborator) and Stian Westerhus. On the recently released, The Son, his atmospheric work recalls Aarset’s solo recordings and time as sideman to Nils Petter Molvaer, while Kollar’s noisier interjections bring to mind Westerhus’ experiments with pedals. It is the tension and release of atmosphere and noise that lend The Son the power to convey the strong emotions Kollar suffered during the illness of his son—feelings that inspired the recording. Listening to The Son is highly recommended, as is reading what Kollar has to say about its making and how he developed his unique style.
What kind of music were you playing when you first became proficient on the instrument?
I was about 14 years old. Nirvana was very popular at that time; my father taught me to play Nirvana unplugged by ear. For about two years before that I was taking lessons on classical guitar, but I didn´t like it. Later, I started playing rock (Deep Purple, Pink Floyd, Iron Maiden).
What led you to create experimental (non-mainstream) music?
I started playing pop, accompanying local female and male singers. They had requirements like: “Get a haircut, buy another T-shirt, this is not really cool,” etc.; I wanted to go a different way. There were not many choices, but I heard about a church a band and went to take a look. I met two musicians there and we started to rehearse as a trio: covers of songs by John Scofield and others like him.
We did not have a place to play, so I organized a small guitar festival, inviting other guitarists from my country in order to learn from them. One of my main influences was Andrej Šeban. He made me read books and opened my mind. We communicated almost every day for four years. He taught me to listen to music, playing me a lot of recordings impossible to get here.
I had a band with Hungarian musicians and we toured around Europe. We played in London, Athens, Belgrade, Sofia, Cracow, Prague, Berlin.
Later I came across Eivind Aarset, who inspired me greatly. He was different: original and modern. I emailed him and sent him my recordings. I played two concerts with his band on the Dream Logic Tour and he was a guest in my project ARTRANCE, where I play with drummer Gergo Borlai, dancer Andrea Ladanyi, singer Lenka Dusilová, and Polish composer, singer, pianist India Czajkowska. These days I have a lot of projects, like a duo with Gergo Borlai, a duo with India Czajkowska, sometimes I play solo for video projection and Artrance project performances. This year I began to cooperate with the theatrical Debris Company.
Whose music inspires you? Past and Present.
Now, they are the people I work with: Gergo Borlai, Lenka Dusilová, India Czajkowska, and Eivind Aarset. I also take inspiration from books. In the past it was John Scofield, Pat Metheny, Robben Ford, and Frank Zappa. Recently I listened to Hendrix´s Band of Gypsies and I must admit I miss Hendrix.
How did you get better at your current style?
I record everything I do: every concert and every rehearsal. I also started practicing by playing improvised units. This means I start in the morning at 9 and I play about until 10:30—a completely spontaneous concert without preparation. Then I play it back and analyze what was wrong, what to watch out for, and what I am doing on it. Also, I try to work on my tone, to make clear and bright. This is work for a lifetime.
What are you trying convey with your music?
On my new album, The Son, I recorded my feelings from when my son underwent two unexpected operations in a short time. I was really down and I did not know what to do. I decided to record a solo album where I would record all these feelings. I think the important thing is to have something to say, to have an idea. Today, almost everybody has a recording studio at home, but we don´t have another Hendrix or more good albums. If the author is sincere people will believe him.
Which guitars, amps, effects, plug-ins and software do you use to create your music, and why?
I use a guitar by the Slovak manufacture, Rudo Sivcák. I’m very satisfied with it. It is a hybrid of Fender Jaguar and a Jazzmaster guitars. It has a built-in microphone on the place where body and neck are connected, like Eivind Aarset’s instrument. I was very interested in this sound. I use a Vox Hand-Wired 30 amp and Evidence audio cables. For effects I use a Volume pedal, Dr. Distorto, a Digitech Whammy pedal, Rainger FX Dr. Freakenstein Fuzz, Alesis Bitrman, Boss Tremolo, Line 6 DL4, Digitech JamMan delay looper, a Boss reverb, and an iPad for virtual instruments. I use a mandolin, which lies on the table that I play with a bow.
On The Son:
Track 1: I play the mandolin with a bow and make noises with exposed guitar cables. Some noises have extra bass and are run through the Digitech Whammy an octave below to get a deep cinematic style expression.
Track 2: The guitars are recorded to my Digitech JamMan looper delay, I play the guitar through the Digitech Whammy pedal. Lenka Dusilová sings through a Boss guitar multi-effect—I do not know the exact type.
Track 3: I use a multihead echo setting on a Line 6 DL4, exposed guitar cables, and the Alesis Bitrman.
Track 4: I play the electric guitar with an EBow, and Lenka Dusilová sings the bass through the guitar multi-effects.
Track 5: The atmosphere is recorded playing the guitar with a bow through a Lexicon reverb plug-in. Bass is the guitar through the Whammy pedal, and the solo guitar is played through the Alesis Bitrman’s ring modulator and an octaver, which I turn on and off during the playing.
Track 6: I used a reversed Dr. Distorto from the Digitech JamMan through a whammy pedal, where I can change tone intervals. I don’t even play the guitar just let the sound come through.
Track 7: I drum on the bass with the drumstick and loop it.
Track 8: I play an out of tune cytra [zither], and add the sounds of the exposed electric guitar cable.
Track 9: The space is through the Lexicon reverb plug-in; the long tone is made with an EBow, and melody is played through the Vox HW30
Track 10: Mandolin with the Lexicon reverb and singing.
Track 11: Lexicon reverb, hitting the guitar body; playing the guitar with a bow and the octaver. In this piece I also use gamelan VST on the iPad, and singing of Lenka Dusilová.
Track12: This riff is similar to Track 6, using Native Instruments Guitar Rig software and a reverse delay, I used the guitar’s built-in microphone as percussion at the end of the track, and also used EBow.
Track 13: This is the sampled sound of the playground where my children used to play and then suddenly a little boy started playing the trumpet in the music school.
Which do you enjoy more: recording or playing live and why?
I like both, but a live concert and a contact with the audience are essential so the artist can move forward.
How have you built up an audience for your music?
Through the concerts, interviews. I’ll be 30 this year in October, so we can say that I am still progressing.
With whom would you like to collaborate and why?
With almost everyone with whom there is a potential to make good music that moves each other, but my dream is to work with King Crimson, Trent Reznor, Warren Ellis, and Nick Cave. I want to record many albums about different stories, in different styles.
What is your latest project?
My latest is my solo album The Son. It was released in June. Besides that, I am preparing another major project taking place on the 25th of July: ARTRANCE PERFORMANCE. The line-up is me on guitars and electronics, Gergo Borlai (Hungary) on drums and electronics, Andrea Ladanyi (Hungary) doing choreography, Lenka Dusilová of the Czech Republic on vocals and Eivind Aarset (Norway) guitars. There should be a short documentary about it with extracts from performance and rehearsals. We will also perform in Prague in the theatre NOD on November 14th, 2013. This summer I am recording an album with Gergo Borlai; a duo project Kollar/Borlai electronics.