I started listening to the work of these Polish musicians when Marek Styczynski and friends were recording as Atman, and I kept listening as that band identity shifted into the more conceptual, spiritual and truly magical Magic Carpathians (Projekt Karpaty Magiczne). Anna Nacher had sung and played with Atman, but Magic Carpathians is the place where she and Marek became the musical nucleus. A reasonable comparison to another musical entity, would be to Japanese psychedelic-folk rockers Ghost; both bands have reached back into their respective geological location's (and other) human histories and ancient musical forms for inspiration, sounds and instrumentation, as well they both incorporate elements of improvisation, and experimentation. But Ghost is much more of a rock & roll band than Magic Carpathians would ever want to be; the sounds these modern Carpathians are exploring are a deep spiritual sort of folk music. Tribal, jazzy, wild, timeless, hypnotic, unbounded and quite experimental. I was lucky enough to see them play live at The Bottom of the Hill in San Francisco during their first U.S. tour, (I strongly suggest you don't miss the opportunity to catch them live wherever you are, if you get the chance). Their recorded work is uniformly excellent and highly recommended, check their discography at the end of this piece and dive in anywhere, you won't be disappointed. We conducted this interview over the course of a three year period through email and letter writing. I am indeed grateful to Anna and Marek for their extraordinary generosity throughout this interview and for allowing us to use their incredible contribution to our CD in issue #2.
G.P.: How much are we born as who we are; and how much is learned or programmed afterwards?
A.N.: This is the big question and scientists have been discussing this subject for the last few centuries. The truth is (as usual) in midway or between in. Of course there are some seeds we bear since we're born or even (we believe) from our previous existence- this is what is called karma by Buddhists. It can be also seen as a kind of matrix (but not THAT Matrix from the movie, though we are great fans of the film which for us has almost purely buddhist sense!) or pattern. At the same time each human being has the opportunity of working on the seeds or patterns, to change oneself, to create the space for own dreams and ideas - without this possibility we would be just machines or prisoners. The working on the seeds is not easy, each one of us has its own, unique seed, there is also something we have in common, a kind of the way we share as the members of specific society. To make things more complicated, some of the seeds are hidden so deep, that it is impossible to know them or to see the clearly. We use for this purpose our music, but there are some different ways. Of course our existence isn't isolated one, we are connected with other human and non-human beings, with their fate and luck, their emotions and mentality - we believe the humans are just a part of the huge web of life. We are brought up in specific society and through education, TV, books and rest of our culture we're saturated by some messages - some of them are clearly expressed, some of them are hidden behind the words, but we perceive them as something "obvious". This is what is sometimes called "pattern of the culture", something which has a great power to influence how we see the world, how we judge, what prejudice we carry on in our mind, what misconception or misunderstandings we prefer. To free oneself from that matrix, to be aware of it at all - this is a huge work! Anyway, the subject is very complex. For us the best answers to some questions in this matter and the best way of working on this can be found through Buddhism, and the best teachings are given by His Holiness Dalajlama XIV, who may be blessed for all he says to us through his books. Some great teachings are also offered by Bon (native religion of Tibet), very close to Tibetan Buddhism in some aspects (as Bon influenced Tibetan Buddhism a lot). There are some great books by Tenzing Wangyal Rinpoche. The same possibility is probably offered by each form of real spirituality, these are the closest ones to our minds. But for us both the most important thing is that at the very deep level there is a point where each religion is just another matrix, another prison and one must start to look for his/her own answers. Or more properly in some cases: for his/her own questions...
G.P.: What is magic to the Magic Carpathians?
A.N.: That we're alive, that we exist here and now. Life is really magic...
G.P.: What's the primary difference between Atman and the Magic Carpathians?
A.N.: ATMAN has used mainly acoustic instruments, most of them from Marek Styczynski's collection - it hasn't changed with the Magic Carpathians Project, but now we explore the sound different way: there is more environment sounds (sometimes we explore city environment we live in), more electronics (when needed, we especially like the minimoog sound which is played by the great musician from Lithuania, Ramunas Jaras), much more free improvisation. ATMAN was a band, the Magic Carpathians is called Project and this is exactly what we wanted now. We're (Anna Nacher & Marek Styczynski) creating a project - it means that we are the authors and we invite other musicians to cooperation. The Project is free and open, we are the core.
G.P.: Do you believe in ghosts?
A.N.: The idea of ghosts walking in the white sheets and moaning dreadfully seems very funny to us - it reminds us a couple of Hanna Barbera cartoons and makes us laughing. We believe instead in kind of energies circling around us. The word "believe" is not proper, we can rather feel these energies very well. We live in the 150 year old house and we feel that the space is saturated by the love, rage, passion, anxiety of the people who used to live there. We know exactly what we are allowed to change in the house and we can feel quite clearly what is appreciated and what is not good. It seems that the house is breathing with us together, this is a living organism. There are also some places in Nature where one (if sensitive enough) can feel the strong energy of the Earth. One of the places with especially strong energy is Himalaya region - we called it "Energy of Creation". While trekking in the Annapurna region we have had a very strong impression of that strong force which creates the mountain ranges, rivers, lakes and oceans. We, human beings, are so tiny and so unimportant comparing with this force... The same force can be felt in some remote part of Carpathians - that's why named our project the Magic Carpathians Project. What's more, for us playing music is a kind of establishing the communication with "ghosts", whatever there are. While playing live we sometimes can hear the sounds which haven't been produced by us, sounds which seems to evolve out of the air we breathe. It is almost impossible to describe this experience with words.
G.P.: How important is the element of chance?
A.N.: This is probably the key element of life! On the other hand nothing happens "by chance", what we call chance is so often our hard work if not in this life, maybe in the previous one. We know too little to say anything about "chance". Probably even the place where one was born is a "chance"- there is many, many differences between possibilities that may have people being born in rich countries of the world (and in the so called middle class family) or in the poor countries. You can be born in the richest country of the world but the circumstances you've been brought up are disappointing. Of course there is no rule, luckily our lives is not determinated by our family, circumstances of living and the conditions.
G.P.: Can you tell me a story from your childhood that changed the course of your life?
A.N.: There wasn't any particular happening I could remember as the crucial point of my life, but my childhood has been very important for what I have done in my life. I was brought up in the countryside and most of my childhood I spent alone wandering through the forest or walking the fields. I used to create a stories for myself, I even used to talk and sing to myself then! That's how my imagination has been born. Both my parents worked and I had a very aged baby-sitter (it seemed to me that she was 100 years old!). She used to tell me a lot of stories about ghosts, werewolves, banshees and other creatures. She was illiterate and sometimes she used to pretend she was reading from the book. But for the most of the day I was terribly bored, of that boredom I started to ask my mother (who was a teacher at a primary school then) about letters, about what was written here and there. Nobody knew how I have managed to read, I was 5 then. Soon I discovered that my nanny used to cheat me, as she used to keep her book upside-down. The ability to read before I went to school has changed my life - I was able to read 7 books per week at the age of 10. There were mainly romances with historical background. That fact has strongly influenced the way I usually learn - I always learn everything by myself. I learnt by myself languages, playing the instruments, singing. It is impossible for me "to be taught". That's how I became a natural-born anarchist...
M.S.: My father is a very important person in my life. He is a forester, a naturalist in a little bit XIX-century fashion, which means that he tries to learn from nature instead to force the nature to meet human criteria (it is probably the forthcoming avant-garde, I think). He often says he has a "mentality of a naturalist" which means that he perceives reality always focusing on the very basic assumptions of life in general. It doesn't sounds probably very clear, but this kind of attitude is very rational, very clever and full of compassion at the same time. Whatever I tried to do to shock my parents when I was young, nothing has really moved my father. Neither my long hair nor my odd (really odd!) clothes - it has driven me crazy at that time, that my father was as cool as usual, no matter how did I look like or what I did. When I told him about Hendrix' experience with drugs and how it helped to "enlarge consciousness" he has just laughed and answered: "Do you really believe this bullshit? It's just a commercial, a specific kind of promotion to make the kids to buy more of this stuff". We could discuss everything and probably nothing would make him nervous. This is probably why I don't smoke at all, because I was allowed to smoke when I was seventeen. Soon I told to myself: "Why the hell to tire myself of smoking these stinking bullshit?"