• A conversation with Czech composer Sara Vondraskova.
Interview by Regina Volkova.
Editor Thomas Lundberg.
Never Sol is the alias of Sara Vondraskova- musician, composer and producer based in Prague, Czech Republic. In her musical practise she is currenty mainly interested in combining vocal with synthesizers. Searching for deconstruction in forms, driven and inspired by rough noisy sharp sounds with dark harsh drone elements, she is exploring the relationship between fragility and massiveness of sound and finds time and work with time as the crucial element and lynchpin when creating an emotional context and environment for the listener.

*info from the artist's official website.
It’s very nice to meet you Never Sol. For those of our readers who aren’t familiar with your music, how would you describe yourself as an artist?
Very nice meeting you as well and thank you for having me:) I’m a musician, singer and composer with a big passion for synthesizers. I describe the music I create as Eastern Europe synth melancholy, I feel that these words illustrate the world I have inside and around myself very nicely and authentically. I feel safe and free in experimental and alternative lands and I just really love to explore synths and use vocals.

Please tell us a little more about your background as an academic musician. Where did you study, for example, and what is your specialty?
I was passionate about music since a really early age, it has always been everything to me, so after taking piano classes and going to a choir as a child I started studying classical conservatory in Prague at the age of 15, vocals, but not the classical opera technique, it was called ‘pop vocals’ at that time. As I was discovering new music and got inspired by further influences I got drawn to jazz and applied for jazz conservatory/uni. There I continued for another 3 years. I always studied vocals, but had obligatory piano as well. When I finished all the schools I felt a huge urge to kind of leave behind all that I’ve learnt, it has become something I was aiming for since I left, I just really felt the need to discover my own language and music, my own nature and sound vocabulary.

What were the first electronic music artists you really liked?
I sometimes don’t know where to draw a line between electronic and non-electronic, there has been many artists but I guess the first really proper electronic big influence that changed my life was Emika, when I saw her live in Prague. She was playing on stage by herself and had such a beautiful sound, it blew my mind and planted a seed of a dream in my head.

What was your very first synthesizer?
The very first was Roland Juno-G but I would say first proper synth came very shortly after that and it was Prophet 08. I did not know anything about synthesis or synthesizers back than, I just watched the videos of my favorite artists' shows and was doing a research what instrument I should buy to be able to play concerts with, I wanted to step further away from playing piano. I still have the Juno-G and will never let go of it:)

Are there a few different artists that you feel influenced your music the most? Which ones?
There have been so many influences, hard to name them all, it's a big reservoir.. Nowadays I listen mostly to music that has it’s foundation built on synthesizer sounds, it makes me feel really at ease and content. I admire the work of Lisa Bella Donna a lot, recently I discovered an amazing artist Craven Faults, I listen to his album just right now. I have a show on Czech radio so I am in constant search for interesting music all the time so I think I get inspired by even small fragments that seem intriguing in any genre or any kind of a music piece I hear. Ben Frost is a big inspiration for me and I enjoy listening a lot of heavy harsh guitar music too. Karen O and Cat Power influenced me in early years, lot of jazz and classical music, which has always been around me in the schools has left its footprints for sure. And I must say visual art and paintings inspire me a lot, I really love visiting galleries and think of the art I see, how it is formed and built, I like to draw some parallels to music language or how could I work in similar ways when creating music.

How did you come up with the idea of ​​combining heavy drone textures and gentle vocals?
I think this bloomed out from starting experimenting with modular synths few years back. I was just improvising and jamming and slowly new material started appearing in my hands. I also began having fun with processing vocals and using it more like a texture. I guess modular synths and guitar pedals I use for vocals allowed me to finally reach some harshness and heaviness in my music, which have always drawn me much but I didn’t know how to sculpt them.

What SOMA instruments do you have in your setup? How long have you owned them?
I have been creating with LYRA, TERRA and COSMOS since January. I find all of these instruments very specific and unique in the way you can shape sound with them. From the very first moment I played them I felt my sound world can widen once again with another big world of new sonic possibilities that I couldn’t even dream of. I really love the interface of LYRA, this instrument really got me, I’m now really into just weaving oscillator paths into each other and creating textures, so LYRA is a total diamond for me in this sense.

What do you like about them?
I feel I can free myself from patterns I am normally very tied by, mostly chords and harmony on a keyboard, that’s what really got me also into modular- the possibility to move freely in frequencies and think of new patterns and tone combinations. I really appreciate the non-linearity, unpredictability, tonal freedom and the fact you can move very delicately through microtonal changes. It frees me from my brain and opens creativity, gives me space to explore the lands I get hardly into with a set scale of tones.

Why do you like the philosophy and concept of SOMA?
I feel it is driven by heart and passion for sound, music and freedom, that is always a philosophy I can firmly bond with in life. I think abstractness and seemingly labyrinth-like structures amaze me, in means of creating them or detangling them. I like to discover and explore and I feel that this is something that’s incorporated in SOMA synths a lot, the possibility to do so.

The website says that you started using modular synthesizers only last year, please tell us why you came up with this idea and what you have already received thanks to it.
I must upgrade my web:) Now it will be around 5 years but I still consider myself a beginner, I started playing live though more recently. Something around 6 years back when I was playing a concert in Sardinia I met Alina Kalancea (Soundfreak Modular) and she was the first person who has told me about the existence of something like a modular synth. I loved everything she told me and became curious and inspired by the possibilities she told me modulars offer, I bought my first semi-modular synth one year afterwards and then it very quickly developed into a new passion and was a ride ever since. Also Leos Hort (HRTL) an amazing Czech musician was a big inspiration for me and helped me a lot in my beginnings with modulars, I am very grateful for his guidance.

You have been collaborating with theaters and dance projects for quite a long time (since 2015), please tell us why dance attracts you?
I find dance to be a physical language of self expression and another possible way to communicate what I like to verbalise into the world through music and instruments.
For me these opportunities to collaborate on a dance performance or piece of theatre work of a collective or choreographer are a chance to supplement work of other people, their thoughts, their needs to express something into the world - and possibly create some cycle of creativity flowing in between art disciplines. I like that I can work with another art form and create a sound world for movement.

What are you aiming for with your project? How do you see Never Sol after 5 years?
I would love to still grow as a musician and a person, to explore and learn new things. I hope I will discover realms that are hidden to me now, I hope my sound vocabulary and language will expand even more towards authenticity and that I will just keep creating.

Please tell us more about the IHOPEIWILL event. What role do you play there?
IHOPEIWILL is a physical performance by the collective threeiscompany consisting of Sona Ferienckova, Alex Timpow and Maria Judova. The inspiration for their creation came from conversations with people in which they were interested in the optics of personal family environment and relationships across generations. What do we envision for the future, not only for ourselves, but for the generations after us? What kind of world do we wish for them and what can we do to fulfill those wishes?
IHOPEIWILL thus becomes an artistic reflection of the current trajectory of society and our responsibility towards future generations.

With Alex Timpow we created music for this performance. I worked with Alex for the first time and it was very inspiring. Alex thinks about sound differently than I was used to from my more traditionally driven music colleagues, I felt it as a super fresh and progressive approach and it opened up new ideas and whole new attitude towards sound as a component of a performance. I really admire and like the way Alex thinks and creates, it has a lot of freedom to it.

Why did you choose SOMA TERRA and LYRA-8 to create the music for IHOPEIWILL?

I think exactly because of this organic aspect and possibility to really experiment. We started working with Alex right after I received LYRA and TERRA, so we met in my studio and started to jam to see where our ideas and different instruments take us. And we both really enjoyed what these two instruments enabled us to do, I think they go very nicely together and we just kept on using them and didn’t need anything else. When we had a residency in Prague with choreographer and dancer Sona Feriencikova we continued in this way and process, recorded whatever was suiting the world of the performance, to complement it. Alex also added many layers of recorded voice and foley sounds. She has a really beautiful touch for sound design, I really enjoyed working with her.

And finally, do you have any advice for people just starting out who’d like to sing and play synths at the same time? What did your first setup look like that allowed you to do this?
I still use the same one since I started with modular, just changed for a slightly bigger rack:) I play modular, Prophet 08 and vocal. I guess my advice would be just dive into it and try anything that comes to your mind, experiment and go wild. Than you can always subtract to something that will make sense, but in the beginning there is a big need to just jam, improvise and try out all the possibilities there are. Also a good way to start is to have one of the instruments to be able to generate something by itself- if it’s an arpeggio, sequence or a looped vocal, it enables you to try to complement it with something in addition and there you start building:)

Never Sol upcoming performances: IHOPEIWILL-19.6 festival Korespondance - Nové Mesto na Morave, 12&13.7 Mannheim festival Schwindelfrei.
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