Two Poles, Marcin Cichy and Igor Pudlo, make up the single-entity known as Skalpel, and they generate suave muzak that sounds
like it could be sucked straight out of that time-zone in the '60s when international telephony was just a tad tricky - crackling,
time-lapses, and all.
Then they attack and deconstruct it with an aplomb familiar to listeners of labels like Warp and Plug Research; or Ninja
Tune, with whom the duo signed. This should be no surprise; Ninja Tune is the some-time home of boffins of electronica like
Luke Vibert, Kid Koala and Mr. Scruff.
"Being Ninjas, we sometimes use [our music]
as a weapon to cut the crap nu-jazz, boring lounge,
and too-easy listening music."
slacker q & a interview by andrez bergen - 2006
What exactly is "Skalpel" music, and how is it different from the music produced by other people?
Skalpel is combination of jazz ambient and hip hop. It's inspired by Polish jazz and what makes it different from others
is that inspiration, specific mood of polish music and the way we produce it. Through the years of producing beat, we think
we developed our original sound and way of production - our music is produced on a computer, but it sounds like a live jazzy
Your music has been described as "the resurrected, dusty & smoky spirit of Polish jazz of the '60s and '70s,
re-imagined for 21st century audiophiles". Do you agree with these sentiments?
At the beginning we were influenced by the specific sound of Polish jazz, but now we think we go our own way. So we think
it's more creation then resurrection - but you can still feel the dust of the past. We increased the interest in old Polish
records, and a lot of them were reissued, so in a way we did resurrect them...
Why the name "Skalpel"?
We use "Skalpel" as a tool for sculpturing sounds in space and, being Ninjas, we sometimes use it as a weapon
to cut the crap nu-jazz, boring lounge, and too-easy listening music.
How did you hook up with Ninja Tune?
We sent them our demo EP called "Polish Jazz", then half a year later we were signed. In the meantime we played
our music to DJ Vadim when we were together on tour in Poland. He liked it and we think he whispered a good word about us
Why did you choose that label to call home?
Ninja is the beat label for the music we do. At the beginning we were especially inspired by turntables trick-nology.
We set our demo to a couple of labels and one of them told us that we sound very Ninja Tune - then we knew we would love to
call Ninja our home.
You're on a label that boasts people like Vadim, Kid Koala, Hexstatic, Mr. Scruff, Coldcut... do you have much to do with
any of these guys?
We were on the ZENTV tour in 2004 around Europe, where we met Coldcut, Hexstatic and Kid Koala and we remember it as a
good time spent with nice people . We have a special relationship with DJ Vadim, who often visits Poland, and we did the track
"Voice of Reason" with Yarah Bravo.
You're Polish; Vadim is Russian... do you ever get into any political discussions with him?
DJ Vadim has lived in the UK from his early years. We mostly ask him about the UK rather than Russia. Of course, you can
talk for hours with him about politics; he has much to say about it - but we prefer other topics.
Tell us all about the Skalpel Remix Competition held by Ninja Tune - and what did you think of the winners' interpretations?
As you know there were over 100 remixes to choose from. The best four are on our EP, and it proves we like them. Our favourite
is the Dr. Rubberfunk remix. Each of them is a different style, which is what makes our music exciting for ourselves. Together
with Ninja we agreed the Bakini remix the winner. It has a mysterious mood and good drumming; we also like the way of using
our samples in it - which takes this track far from the original version.
What do you dislike most about the contemporary music scene?
In our opinion, there are too many releases and sometimes record labels don't make good selections. With electronic equipment
everyone who want to make music can do it - but the results are not always perfect. So we think that people should work more
on it and think of their own way of doing things.
What are your thoughts regarding copyright of samples?
We like idea of Common Creatives - and we have nothing against sampling our records.
Is sampling an art form, then?
Yes - over the last 20 years the best records and progressive artists have used this technique. Sampling gives the possibility
to make music different and create new genres - for us it's the most important technique of creating art in the 21st century.
Imagine that (god forbid!) Paul Oakenfold picks up one of your records and puts it on high rotation in his DJ sets at
commercial clubs around the world. How do you feel about this "honour"...?
Our records sound better at home on the stereo. When we make it we design it to listen to it that way. In our music the
most important thing is a specific mood, which you cannot find in commercial clubs.
Can you tell us some of the musicians you most admired when you were teens?
I started from the Beatles in the mid '70s, and the Fab Four are still my biggest love. Then I listened to some psychedelic
and prog-rock. Very important in my life was the punk and new wave movement in the early '80s. I like lots of experimental
electronic music from the '80s and Polish jazz and jazz-rock from the same period. Hip hop had a very big impact on me in
the late '80s early '90s. So I like all good music, and I'm some kind of professional music fan. I spend most of my time buying
records and CDs and listening to music and getting knowledge about the history of music.
I grew up with the music my father listened to: the Beatles, the Animals, and the Shadows. I think the record that influenced
me most was Jon & Vangelis' "Friends of Mr. Cairo" . Then in the '80s I listened to some rock, progressive
rock; I was a big fan of Sade, and later on I found so-called trip hop and hip-hop very interesting. Then I started to listen
to electronic music, but my first favorite electronic album was Jean Michel Jarre's "Zoolook" .
How about now?
We still love a lot of music from the past. Our favourite all-time records are mainly from the '60s and '70s. We adore
Miles Davis, especially his so-called electric period. But we also try to follow new records - our latest passion is the underground
electro scene and jazz avant-garde. We are also interested in new technologies; music environments like MAX/MSP, and all kinds
of audio video art-forms.
Do you think growing up in Poland was an essential ingredient to the way in which you make music?
Polish music, Polish films, and Polish art in general formed our musical taste - but to express ourselves we use technology
which wasn't developed here.
You're coming to Japan with Coldcut and Hexstatic to play the next Ninja Tune jaunt - ZEN TV II - in Tokyo in April .
What are your impressions of this country?
We think it's a country of big contrasts. On one hand Zen philosophy, and on the other massive technology attack. We are
very happy we have the opportunity to perform there, so after our visit we'll be able to tell you more...
You've been invited to Japan on the strength of your latest album "Konfusion", which is the follow up to your
classic first (self-titled) release from two years ago. What kind of equipment did you use on the new one?
Basically we use PCs with Audiophile sound cards. To play records to get samples we use Technics turntables with Vestax
or Stanton mixers. Our favorite software is Cubase and WaveLab, and most of our production is made on these audio editors.
For the final mix we use mainly WaveLab with Waves and PSP plug-ins, with DX and VST effects produced in Poland. We believe
that, more important than equipment, is the concept of our music. Equipment doesn't compose music; it is only supporting tool
to make music from ideas.
What was the concept, then, behind "Konfusion"...?
The concept behind "Konfusion" was to compose music for a small psychedelic jazz-rock combo. We wanted to make
music full of different, sometimes strange emotions and feelings. The music is deep and maybe difficult, but it's not against
the listener and should give him some kind of "unknown pleasures". It was inspired by Miles Davis' electric period
and good fusion music from the '70s, by some Polish jazz artist like Michal Urbaniak and the group Laboratorioum, along with
British psychedelia from the late '60s.
What is "jazz" to you?
Jazz to us is not music for the masses, but for the individuals who want to feel something different. This is the way
of free expression and the way of life - life dedicated to music in different forms.