Georgi from Ostava on touring and the punk renaissance

Author: Iliyana Braykova
Editor: Alexandra Terziyska
Their music sounds like a sunset observed from a train travelling from Sofia to Berlin. It leaves traces like the bittersweet taste of “Chocolate”. Here, in the city of “hungry loving hearts”, they feel at home.

Founded in 1991, the band Ostava are to this day one of the biggest alternative rock bands in Bulgaria. They enjoy returning to Germany over and over again. Until now, four unforgettable music journeys have brought them here. Some of those they have experienced alongside Gibelin. We reached out to guitar player Georgi Georgiev remembering our common concerts, talking about creativity in times of quarantine, and looking forward to the creative surprises that the future will surely bring us.
 
Hi, Georgi. I have to ask you, how are you managing the quarantine? Have you got a recipe for dealing with boredom? 
By chance, around early March me and my family went to the countryside for a day or two. Shortly after the quarantine was announced and so, almost two months later, I’ve been staying here with my whole family. We own an old family house near Veliko Tarnovo and Tryavna. 
I’m trying to pull out the positive out of the whole situation, like spending a lot of time together with them. I’ve never spent so much time neither with the kids, nor with my wife. Besides, this place has a strong sentimental value for me, so no wonder I love spending my free time here. I managed to put things together so that I could work remotely from here – Internet connection, computers, guitars, etc. I had to move around a lot of stuff. Now I hope I can adjust to the new way of living. I really hope that people have found out some meaningful truths during this lockdown, I hope they have drawn some conclusions. Talking about me, I became more humble. That’s the way to live a bit easier, security-wise. It’s the way to make terms with the things that are unnecessarily bothering you.  

Do you always travel with your guitars?
I had to move my stuff step by step, а couple of times.. I’m using the time for some sort of creative process because there were plans set before the quarantine started, both with Ostava and with my other musical and theatre projects. My end goal is not to escape from the city and make the greatest hits of my life. It’s just that music is an integral part of my everyday life and I can hardly live without it. There might be days, even weeks without me even touching a guitar, but the feeling that, should I have an idea in my mind, I wouldn’t have a way to record it on the spot, makes me paranoid. And so I always need to have a guitar close by.  

Do you miss being on tour?
Oh, I miss it terribly. All artists do. Musicians, actors, everybody in all spheres does. I think this is what we miss the most. Of course, the financial scarcity for most people is also an extremely important issue, but the emotional lack of the contact with the audience is perhaps what I miss the most. Despite all those online events, I don’t think that there’s anything that could replace the direct contact. Both music and theatre are live arts and the perception is absolutely direct. This is one of the things I mentioned, during this pandemic you realize how important they are. 

The audience definitely misses you too, and so do we. Ostava and Gibelin have history together and you are one of the bands we often think about. Your concert with P.I.F. in Lido Berlin in 2015 was a true phenomenon. You performed in front of a sold out hall. Tell us more about it.
his concert and the whole experience brings me only positive memories. First, in a way the idea to play together with P.I.F. abroad, and second, the entire organisation. There were over 400 people in Berlin. It was amazing. The club was exquisite. I had been to Lido before for a couple of concerts as a fan and I loved it. Our show with P.I.F. was very successful, I hope Gibelin Agency perceives it the same way. Emotionally, it’s clear, we couldn’t wish for anything more. The promotion and everything regarding the organisation was perfect.  From the sound to the back stage, the trip, the stay in Berlin. There was even a live stream which had a decent sound and video even though this was four or five years ago.  
Berlin is perhaps Ostava’s favourite city in Europe. It is my favorite city, hundred percent. I am not sure if this is a well-known fact but  our other guitar player, Alexander Marburg, is a Berliner. He spent most of his youth in Berlin, and he was also born there. So even statistically, we’re connected to Berlin in a way.
 
 
Ostava - Manichko Choveche - Live in Berlin

 

Almost immediately after that concert you returned to Germany for a tour. Give us a flashback?
We got an amazing impulse from the show with P.I.F. and we discussed with the agency whether we could make concerts in other German cities. For Bulgarians, but not only. And, working with Gibelin, Martin from Stroeja, being also the manager of the band Jeremy? and other important things in Bulgaria’s alternative life, we discussed the possibility of a tour in collaboration with Dead Man’s Hat, an acoustic band. They played first, then Jeremy, and then Ostava. I’m very glad that Gibelin embraced the idea once again and did their best for the tour to happen in so many cities. I’d like to note here that before we worked with Gibelin, Ostava had already had two club tours in Germany. They were promoted by our friend Ivan Milev -- Shakermaker who used to be a student in Germany at the time. The first tour was extremely successful. Perhaps because back then there weren’t as many concerts as now. There weren’t many low-cost flights either… I don’t know why, but many Bulgarians from the diaspora came to see us. So, what I wanted to say is that we have a special affinity towards Germany and we like being there. That’s why we decided to go on tour so shortly after the concert. Luckily it happened.

Were there people on your last tour who had also attended your first shows in Germany? 
There were definitely people who followed us. But at the same time there were many young people too. People who came to our concert for the first time, mostly students. That’s actually the biggest target group for our music, at least in Germany.

What would we find on your favourite playlist?
At any moment you would find different things. There’s always something retro, and also something very trendy on my playlist. Actually, for me the times of ‘that’s so retro’ or ‘that’s trendy’ have passed. I’ve got other things on my mind. The more music I create, the more I try to listen to it as a fan. When I like something, I don’t analyse the musicians’ parts or their style of playing. I just listen and enjoy the song. And I hope that I’ll have luck and be listened to in the same manner.    
This being said, about my playlist: I always listen to Thom Yorke and Radiohead. From the older bands I like Led Zeppelin and Pink Floyd, but my greatest cult towards a musician or an artist is towards John Lennon and David Bowie. Those names are always present on my playlist. I’d even say about John Lennon that I prefer his stuff to most of the hits by The Beatles, and I can’t imagine what would have happened if that thing hadn’t come to pass in 1980. Kurt Cobain’s musical energy’s also a force of nature. I strongly wish  that Nirvana’s sound could come back to life in some way. I’m even considering aiming towards a wilder, more punk sound in my side project Homeovox. I myself need a renaissance, a comeback of that raw punk rock.
At the same time, I also love electronic music with vocals a lot. To start with, there are classics like Underworld and Beastie Boys, even though they are rather punk or dance. I also like my favourite electronic musicians, who are indeed musicians, apart from being DJs. They are from Berlin, Apparat and Moderat. Sascha from Apparat is a genius. He plays so many instruments, and is also a DJ. He has a really cool label together with his wife. Moderat are a symbiosis between that guy, Sascha from Apparat, and two DJs from Modeselektor who also are from Berlin. They are proper DJs and make awesome beats.
Those are the things that you’d find on my playlist at all times. And, of course, I’m a huge fan of Foals’. I go to their concerts, I search for them, and whenever I can, I go. They have an amazing energy.  

At the end of March, and also earlier this month, you did a few online concerts with Ostava. Were these experiences weird for you?
Yes. It’s not what it should be. It’s just… the energy which you exchange at a concert, it’s not simply a one-sided giving, it goes both ways. Apparently the interaction of energies creates the magic that makes us go to concerts of our favourite artists, and the artists to play live shows. The feeling when the audience is positive is amazing. And not only, even the negative moments make you feel alive. It definitely isn’t what it should be, but we have to learn that that’s an option too. Otherwise we wouldn’t have culture in our lives, when there’s no direct way. I see it as a backup. It’s good we have it, but I still hope that we’ll go back to normal soon, and concerts are a huge part of my normality. 
I have a personal call, I say it as a fan too. All these live streams and online concerts could be free of charge, but there are people who pay for them too. I think that, even online, a concert costs a lot of effort. In fact, it might be even more this way because the emotion is so distorted for the artists. Purely from a fan’s perspective I think that it’s good when the people pay some small amount of money for these things.

 

Ostava - Stop - Live in Berlin


During the streams we heard some tracks from your upcoming record. How would you describe it?
I still have no idea how it will turn out because right now we only have two songs. Actually, the second one should come out very soon. We’re going to make a promo for the new single ‘Genius’. At the end of the day, something has to happen. At the same time, we’re recording two other tracks and there are ideas for four or five more. We haven’t picked them up yet because we’re doing everything together, when it comes to the arrangements. This is very positive news after so many years. All musical ideas come from Svilen and myself, but the whole band picks out the best ones and we start playing them immediately, almost as an improvisation. This is how  we start working on the idea, our formula, basically. I think that the album will be diverse in terms of mood. With Ostava we always try to create a singable, good song. The arrangement is the easy part, we do it together, but if a track isn’t catchy in its raw, acoustic form, nothing can compensate for it. And I think that this is Ostava’s power. We try to make cool songs. Definitely, some tracks on the album will have a rather old school feel to them, others will sound more modern. We haven’t set any borders. I hope that the record will be very strong and very homogenous, and will sound like Ostava.

Should we expect something from your other projects?
I have a recorded single with Homeovox. It’s finished, but I’d rather release Ostava’s new song first. After that will come the Homeovox single. We even have a fantastic lyrics video made by a young Bulgarian lady who lives in Manchester. She also made the new video of Ostava. It’s gonna be very fresh. My new track with Homeovox has a very punk vibe. That’s exactly what I was talking about before. It will have the same flavours as Nirvana. The album has been almost finished as well.

What is your wish for the rest of the year? 
My personal wish is at least one album by the end of the year, either by Ostava or by Homeovox… And why not by both.

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