Ummagma is a Ukrainian-Canadian duo serving up a generous scoop of easy positive music laced with a richly layered soundscape and sublime resonance.
Your music is not very well known in Croatia, so please give us a brief history about how the band started?
Alexx: We met each other on a warm July day in Moscow's 'Chistiy Prudiy' neighbourhood (near the centre of Moscow). And we soon learned everything we needed to know about each other. Meeting Shauna has opened up a new world of music for me, and gave me hope that I would be able to realise my own music and that it would be excellent. Shortly after that, I obtained my first computer and, at the same time, I got a few other things for setting up a home recording studio, including Cubase (recording software), a microphone, a sound card, and a MIDI keyboard. In general, this opened up a whole world of incredible opportunities for us. We wrote some of our songs on the basis of acoustic guitar jams in the kitchen, and we wrote other songs directly on computer because they were based on Midi. Shauna carried her dictaphone with her everywhere and she would listen to all these kitchen jams at length until she got a new idea based on one of the improvisational melodies I had played on guitar during those kitchen sessions. We even still have a whole box of old demos on tape and she still hasn't even finished going through them all.
Describe Your Music in 4 words? Alexx: Dreams, reality, joy, sadness.
You released two albums at one time. Why? Alexx: Because it was finally time to release this material, which had been accumulating for a long time already - we had been writing and recording material ever since we met and that collection just got so large that one day we decided that it was time to share it with the world.
As you're a duo, who is in charge of making music and who writes the lyrics? Alexx: When everything is going well for us, we are able to compose music, but when everything is going bad, we can't manage to write anything. Our head has to be in the right place in order for this to happen. I write, play and record all the instrumentation. Shauna writes all the lyrics.
What do you do when you're not working with the band? Alexx: Of course, we work, which is necessary in order to support ourselves financially, and there's also leisure time fortunately. We enjoy travelling a bit as well, whenever possible.
Which do you prefer - CD, vinyl or mp3?
Alexx: All of them are great in their own ways. I love vinyl because of its epoch and deepness. I enjoy CDs because our old sound system only recognizes WAV format (no MP3s). We listen to MP3s when driving in our car. Shauna still listens to cassettes quite a lot. I think the covers artwork is less important, for instance, because the information that is of greatest interest for me pertains to the composition of the musicians involved and the instruments they are playing. If the music is serious, it usually involves a lengthy biography to go along with that; mind you, that may be more an attribute of the past when the Internet still didn't exist.
Now we have myspace, facebook, twitter, last fm… and other social networks? What is your opinion about such services? Alexx: They are just tools for communicating with the world. If they didn't exist, there would be something else. Social networks tend to have their own set of pros (like reaching a new audience) and cons (like consuming a lot of time that might otherwise be better spent making music, rehearsing and playing live).
What do you listen to when you're at home or travelling? What are you listening to right now? Alexx: I don't wear headphones when I listen to music, because I love to listen to everything that is around me. I listen to music in the car when we're driving, which makes that experience more enjoyable. When we are at home, of course we listen to different kinds of music. We have a lot of classical music, jazz, pop, and rock, as well as other genres - alternative, new wave, post-rock, post-punk, ambient... As we speak, for instance, I am listening to Bob Marley, while preparing pancakes.
What did you enjoy most in 2012 (songs, albums, movies, books…)? Or now, is there something you can recommend from early 2013? Alexx: I don't actually dedicate a massive amount of time searching out new music, but what I can highlight are some of the recent releases that I found interesting - they are from Nick Cave, David Bowie, Dylan, Autechre, Beachwood Sparks, $.99 dreams, Kurt Vile, J. Handrix, Anna Netrebko, Her Vanished Grace, and David Sylvian. Those are ones that I can easily recommend to anybody. Shauna can agree with me on a few of these, especially the last two - Her Vanished Grace and David Sylvian.
Tell me something I would never otherwise know about you? Alexx: I very much doubt that I could be of use to anybody else.
Tell me something I would never otherwise know about Ummagma? Alexx: She was sick with the flu for the entire month of February.
Thank you so much for your time. Is there anything else you'd like to say to our readers? Alexx: Let your heart feel joy (many of us don't actually allow ourselves to do this). Don't believe what people are saying around you - trust yourself. Listen to sunny music that will raise your essence. And thank you for listening to Ummagma.