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Zuza Golinska and Olivier Heim
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Zuza Golińska and Olivier Heim live in a charming little nook in Warsaw’s Old Ochota district. Its location could easily be mistaken for a lost corner of Paris or Berlin. This setting, so unusual for Warsaw, charms and entrances from the very first sight. The couple’s gaff is a typically artistic melange of mess and art lurking from every corner, with countless little trinkets.

The couple made of artists from different disciplines might seem like an unusual thing to find. For Zuza and Olivier, contemporary spatial art meets retro-inspired music. Olivier, whose debut album A Different Life was released in 2014, is currently working on its follow-up. For Zuza, this September was a month of openings. First, her widely commented exhibition Common Ground, and later 东 Wschód (The East) opened in the Tricity galleries, enchanting a large audience. Together, we spent a sunny day, binging on butter cookies and returning to the good ol’ days like old friends would.

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THE CHILDHOOD DAYS

Zuza: I remember that the first album, and to be more exact, the first cassette that I got was Nirvana’s MTV Unplugged. It was a gift from my dad, I was 7 then. Gdańsk, Wrzeszcz / Zaspa, the Beverly Hills video rental, and next to it, a shopping mall with a music shop. I’m sure Marcel remembers this place. The cassette stayed with me for many years. In the same time, I was listening to a lot of Spice Girls. I think my childhood can be justly described with three artists: Nirvana, Spice Girls and Marek Grechuta. Apart from that, Simon and Garfunkel, Sade, whom I think my father listened to, and Prince, who seemed the world’s sexiest man to me the (laughs). Oh, I'd also add the Lion King soundtrack and lots of radio.

Olivier: As a child, I loved Leonard Cohen, also thanks to my parents. Apart from that, Cat Stevens, to a lesser extent. When I was 7 or 8, I listened to a lot of Beach Boys, mainly because my sister had two of their albums. I would always hang out in her room and get into her songs.

Zuza: I remember that in my primary school, girls listened to Tic Tac Toe, a German band, three girls from the Ruhr.

Olivier: It was on the Luxembourg radio too. I remember getting to know most music through radio programmes. There was a channel with quite a funny name, Oldiesender (a part of RTL Radio). It featured mostly oldies, I was addicted to them. Marvin Gaye, Spandau Ballet, Bee Gees, Aretha Franklin, Barry White, to name but a few. It often happened that somebody told me about some artist I had no recollection of, and then it turned out I’m really familiar with their hits, mainly thanks to this programme.

Zuza: I went through a short Polish hip-hop phase, mostly listening to Kaliber 44 and Grammatik. I think I got most of my musical background from my father, who was a real role model for music for me then. Thanks to him, I started listening to Joy Division, Nirvana, whom I mentioned before, Rage Against the Machine and some punk stuff. Then, in my teens, Adam (Byczkowski - ed.) was another important person in my musical education. He was always into interesting stuff, digging out many new things. With Tobiasz (Biliński – ed.), we listened to some classical music, as he began by learning the piano. For example, Chopin, Rachmaninov and a more ‘pop’ classical composer Eric Satie, now I'm the most fond of Bach.

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I remember that the first album, and to be more exact, the first cassette that I got was Nirvana’s MTV Unplugged. It was a gift from my dad, I was 7 then. Gdańsk, Wrzeszcz / Zaspa, the Beverly Hills video rental, and next to it, a shopping mall with a music shop.

Olivier: My dad would only listen to the classical as a rule. I played the piano, read notes and composed, I started playing about the age of 6. Classical music was always present in my life, but it never got a full hold of me. As a little boy, I liked dancing to it sometimes, for real. With classical music, it often happens that you get to it later in life, when you're a child, it’s hard to concentrate on it and absorb it the right way.

When I entered my teenage years and started learning to play the guitar, I redecorated my room completely: everything had to be surf-like. Surfer posters and stuff, that was just the moment when Nirvana's MTV Unplugged came out, featuring my favourite bit, All Apologies. Of course, the 90s hits, too, Aqua, Ace of Base, Backstreet Boys, All Saints and this kind of pop shit. In Holland, there was a series of albums with 80s and 90s hits, unfortunately, we had both. Let’s not forget Michael Jackson.

My teenage years were dominated by three bands: Smashing Pumpkins, Nirvana, whom I’ve already mentioned, and Red Hot Chilli Peppers, plus, to a lesser extent, Radiohead. I definitely dedicated the most of my time to the Smashing Pumpkins, who were the closest to my heart with their sound and songwriting. I liked the first RHCP albums, too. Kurt Cobain was, and still is, interesting to me in many respects. At that age, you relate a lot to what you listen to. When you’re older, it doesn’t affect the forming of your personality and outlook on life to such an extent.

I started playing the guitar thanks to my two friends, who were brothers, loved Radiohead and the Smashing Pumpkins: at first, I mainly played songs by these two bands. I started by playing classical guitar, I bought an electric one after a year. Only at 15 or so did I buy my first acoustic guitar. Lots of covers, lots of chords, much frustration at first. I started writing songs sometime in high school. Then, I was also listening to Tool with their “darker” sound. I also happened to write something in that style. After high school, I became more creative, I was under quite a strong influence from PJ Harvey, The Smiths and Jeff Buckley. When I recorded as Anthony Chorale, I was particularly fascinated by 60s and 70s music, like Neil Young. Then, I wasn’t listening to 90s music any more, alternative rock was not so popular then. Since I came to Warsaw, I got a wider look of music and started listening to new bands, once I haven’t known before.

I also appreciate Kurt Vile, but I don't feel like my songs sound directly inspired by his music. I’m mostly inspired by life, by the everyday. Walks, meeting friends, observing some situations. Music is a reflection the current part of my life or a return to memories.

Zuza: I often work listening to music. When I start working listening to a particular album, I close a given task with it. This is a kind of a soundtrack, suited to a particular project. The impulse that pushes me forward and motivates me to work, be more focused and more efficient. I did that with Radiohead’s Hail to The Thief  and Caribou’s Swim. When I did set design to a play in Wałbrzych, I hooked on Chris Brown’s Loyal and Rihanna’s Work. In the morning after the opening, we had to catch a train to Warsaw, I didn’t really want to wake up and then Olivier turned on Work on my iPhone, it helped instantly (laughs).

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2000+

Olivier: When I lived and studied in Maastricht, I mostly listened to a few albums on and on. Among them, LPs by PJ Harvey and Midlake. I remember getting Is This Desire? from Misia for my 19th birthday and since then, it's still my favourite album by PJ. Listening to that album, I really identified with it. An interesting difference between me and Zuza is that she had these periods of listening to completely different music, while at the same time, I was listening to rather the same songs. Of course, there were things that I only listened to at a given moment, but it’s a vast minority.

Zuza: Let's start by saying that 10 years ago, I was about 16 (laughs). I think that I was listening to many industrial bands, like the German Einstürzende Neubauten or the Austrian Der Blutharsch. These were momentary fads. Many Scandinavian artists, like Mum or Sigur Rós. That was a funny period, although I was never a big fan of that kind of music. A wave of indie with Feist, Kings of Convenience, Animal Collective, The Whitest Boy Alive has also slipped through my ears. On the other hand, there were the punk Dead Kennedys, and as a polar opposite, the slightly weird Death in June or Current 93. Among those more popular, David Bowie, Spandau Ballet, so a sort of obvious things.

Olivier: I never listened to punk, no such thing. With Sigur Rós, it was mainly the album Valtari. I've seen them some 3 times live, in Holland, Luxembourg and Belgium.

Zuza: There were many things we shared in our musical stories. We both listened to a lot of Radiohead. Hail to the Thief, wow, that was such a great album. I also listened to a lot of Neil Young, once again thanks to my dad, who recorded a live album for me at the very beginning. Of course, things like Devendra Banhart, CocoRosie and the girl who did Another Diamond Day, something like the early Joanna Newsom, I don’t remember her name, it was Vashti Bunyan. The classics: Velvet Underground and Nico, Lou Reed, Talking Heads. We also listened to Dirty Projectors, The Microphones and Sufjan Stevens. So, so much of it, the album Come on Feel the Illinoise was basically on repeat.

Oli, there was also the guy that did All Is Well. What was his name? You listened to him with your brother a lot.

Olivier: (after thinking for a while) Sam Amidon!

Zuza: Yes, that was him! The album cover, on which he looks like a cowboy. I was 18 then. I also had my Whitehouse and Diamanda Galas moment, I got these from my Polish teacher in high school, Daniel, he would often lend me weird records.

Olivier: With me, it was PJ Harvey, always PJ Harvey. Like I mentioned, the Midlake album was a huge thing for me some 7-8 years ago. It started off the whole lumberjack album, lots of folk, the return of beards and so on. The second album, The Trials of Van Occupanther is great and is ageing perfectly. Unfortunately, the third one was weaker, with a much harder and slower sound. This actually caused me to stop listening to them; they started lacking their charm. Once in a while, I listen to their track Roscoe, their best one. Through Zuza, I also started listening to hip-hop.

Zuza: Yeah, that's right, Kendrick Lamar, Tyler, The Creator, Earl Sweatshirt, Drake, ASAP Rocky and so on.

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Sopot

Zuza: I share most of my musical sentiments with Sopot. This is my home town, that's where I grew up. I don't live in Trójmiasto for some few years now, and it seems that with time, I see an idealised picture of that period. I need a while to remember everything–okay, I know now. A lot of Tortoise, Yo La Tengo, Marvin Gaye, Serge Gainsbourg and albums by Kyst. Especially Cotton Touch, this is a very nostalgic album to me. If there’s something to define my teenage times in Sopot, it's Cotton Touch. I don't return to it often, I gave it a listen yesterday, I think that the ambience of the album reflects those days. The entire group of my friends was immersed in a similar mood then. I did the cover when I was about nineteen and to be honest, I’m not a big fan of it now, although to me, it seems to reflect those times and our tastes. All Kyst and Coldair albums make me a little sentimental. Apart from the last Coldair album, I did all of their album sleeves.

Real Estate is also a band to make me think of Sopot, especially the album Atlas, out in 2014. I like the song Past Lives, I find it moving. I think some 95% of listeners have a similar attitude towards it. The song has a sunny, small-town and safe feeling. Nothing really bothers you, there's the sea and the horizon within a 10-minute walk, you feel the nature and for a few years, that's how you spend your time with a group of friends. Grizzly Bear is another band in that mood.

Olivier: For me, Past Lives is also a very nostalgic tune. I listened to it a lot 2 or 3 years ago, and since then, to be honest, I haven’t played it, not once. Zuza, you've been listening to a lot of Air then, remember that? (Zuza nods - ed.)

I didn’t have the kind of youth Zuza did, I basically had only one friend in my home town, all others lived in various parts of Luxembourg. I’ve spent most of the time by myself, so my experience is completely different.

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Warsaw

Olivier: My arrival in Warsaw is the start of my Kurt Vile fascination phase. I met him and Cass McCombs via Adam, I also got a bunch of interesting music from Zuza and Huszcza. In Holland, I didn't have many friends who'd be into that kind of music, I’m serious.

Coming here really changed me musically. I came here as a total indie head, mostly listening to Sonic Youthand PJ Harvey. Slowly, I started sinking into more alternative stuff, though I've never been too interested in that milieu. After moving to Warsaw, I felt a strong bond with the people I met here, mostly people in music and art, a widely understood “artistic circle”.

Adam has shown me a lot of new music, sent me some stuff, and I uploaded it onto my iPod. There was a lot of Conann Mockasin. That was the time when the feelings in tres.b were tense, and with my introverted nature, I immersed in these playlists while travelling, cutting myself off from reality a little. We were driving and I would stare into the window and listen to music, not really feeling comfortable with the people around me at that time.

Zuza: When I met Oli, I listened to Caribou’s Swim a lot. The Smiths, Kurt Vile, Conan Mockasin plus Ariel Pink also fell back into grace, just like with Olivier, that period was similar to both of us. That was also the time of Here We Go Magic, and, of course, Grizzly Bear.

Olivier: Then, we lived with Michał, among others, he also brought a lot of good music into our life. During these six months at Kilińskiego street, we made up an interesting bunch. Often, Ariel Pink, John Maus or Dean Blunt would be on, we listened to some stuff on and on, there was no stopping on some tunes. They seeped out of Zuza and Huszcza’s room, and I played guitar, in turn, so it can also be classified as music.

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ARTWORKS NOSTALGIA

Zuza: Album covers are quite important, music should also have its visual side. The two elements should form a coherent entirety. The ones I did a while ago were quite abstract. Nowadays, most artists feature their face on the cover for a stronger bond between the music and the person behind it. Nowadays, I’m mostly involved in my own projects, I'm an artist and I haven’t done any covers in a while. Apart from Olivier's last album, for which we took the photos together with my friend Magdalena Łazarczyk.

Olivier: I have to agree with Zuza to an extent. It was completely different at some point with alternative projects, there was some kind of anti-cover attitude. Something like: to the front, let’s get a picture that has nothing to do with our band, let's skip its name, logo, etc.

The philosophy behind my solo album having such a cover was simple –the thing was for music to be more distinguishable and available for association strictly with my person. That is why there is my portrait on A Different Life, not some graphics or drawing. There's nothing to be ashamed of. If you take such an album in your hand (Coldair's Far South – ed.), you don’t know who sings on it, what the genre is, whether it’s a woman or a man. That creates a mystery. My album is a safer option for a potential listener.

The reason for my EP Ambitions of the Son to be released on vinyl is only the cover created by Zuza. It was released on a Spanish vinyl-only, its representatives first saw the graphics, which they got enchanted with on-line, and only later did they listen to the contents and got in touch with me.

Coming back to the romantic look of covers: when you're young, you’re more inclined to such aesthetics. Only later do you start analysing what you deliver to your listeners, you grow up and your covers grow up with you. The basis are, of course, good songs, compositions, and the next step is the question on how to deliver your material to the world, after all, you get your first contact with the cover itself.

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Album covers are quite important, music should also have its visual side. The two elements should form a coherent entirety. The ones I did a while ago were quite abstract

Zuza: I remember when I was younger, I thought being a musician was way more interesting than being an artist. Probably because I grew up in such company. Then I did covers for the guys and I thought some people perceive me as ‘a girl of a guy in a band’. Later, people recognised me as the girl that makes covers, now I've quitted that completely and I do mostly my own thing. Music is very universal, you don’t have to know too much about it for it to get to you. This is a pure form of sending messages to the recipients, the only condition is to hear.

Olivier: This becomes sort of a problem, because people don’t put any effort in listening to music, melody simply comes along and either convinces me or not. A museum of modern art is sometimes the opposite – try to convince yourself that a given work gets to you. This kind of art is less universal, and more demanding.

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EMOTIONS

Olivier: Sometimes, when you listen to songs that you haven’t heard in a long while, a nostalgic feeling comes along. It’s not always positive, it also depends on the situation that you associate a given music with. The more you forget a given song, the stronger is the memory of it when you listen to it. This is a never-ending process of remembering and forgetting.

Zuza: Concerts and music don’t cause emotions as strong as in the past. I don’t have to be as much “on point”. I mostly go to concerts of friends – Pictorial Candi, Olivier, of course, Jerz Igor, Adam Repucha or Marcin Masecki and the Berlin group – Better Person, Magic Island, Touchy Mob . Hanging out with musicians makes you feel overwhelmed after some time, you know the process inside and out. I remember my last trip to Open'er, which I've actually visited with Marcel, I think Adam was there too. We spend a lot of time in the food court, eating dumplings from our friend’s food truck, smoking joints, just chilling. All these concerts happened somewhere in the background.

Olivier: I was always like that, I was never much into music. Seriously, I was never excited by artists, I never went to concerts much, standing wore me off. I love making music, seeking new challenges in creating. It's Zuza who is the main listener in our house and she plays music the most often. When I’m on my own, it's quiet in the house. When Zuza finds a new song, she plays it non-stop for 2 days and then does the same thing with the next one. It drives me crazy! Interesting, because after a year, a particular song reminds me exactly of this two-day period. A musical microclimate.

Zuza: I tend to return to most music I listen to after some time. Sometimes a few months’ break does you good, you earn a good perspective. It sometimes happens that music reminds you of sad situations, and it’s not that comfortable. I also have three film soundtracks that were important to me at other stages of life. For sure, these are Lost Highway by Angelo Badalamenti, the Virgin Suicides by Air and Lost in Translation, a soundtrack that Olivier and I know by heart.

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This becomes sort of a problem, because people don’t put any effort in listening to music, melody simply comes along and either convinces me or not. A museum of modern art is sometimes the opposite – try to convince yourself that a given work gets to you. This kind of art is less universal, and more demanding.

Olivier: As a young person, you like extremes, you don’t yet understand the complexity of problems. You're a bit naive and you don’t worry about consequences, you've got loads of energy to free your emotions. I just remembered Grizzly Bear, I haven’t heard them for some 4 years. The album Shields is excellent. Some albums age really badly, and this is an exact opposite of this. It interests me, because I myself am trying to create music that will stand the test of time and won’t become something embarrassing after some time. It gives me the biggest pleasure to listen to fully balanced albums.

Personally, I wouldn't like to release albums every year, this is too frequent. You’re very absorbed creating the contents. Two, three months of attention after releasing the album, and the following part of the year slides into oblivion. In the past, each album was an entirely different concept, and at present, Mac DeMarco or Sean Nicolas Savage release often and these albums are not strikingly different. In the 90s, a break of 3-4 years are a norm, and now it’s an entire era. You ask yourself whether they’re still alive (laughs).

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LYRICISM

Zuza: With lyrics, for me, they constitute at least 40% of each song. Sean Nicholas Savage has a few really beautiful lyrics. This is poetry, a lot of attention paid to writing, dressing up experiences and emotions in words.

I think that in Poland, the majority of people think that the artist sings of his or her real experiences. People prefer stories of flesh and blood to those that are fantastic or abstract. The 90s were an era of totally twisted lyrics. Look at Radiohead or PJ Harvey. Hail to the Thief is one big fairy-tale, out of this world.

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Olivier: I've recently read an interview with Prince, where he explained what it was like to be on a huge label. With a group of hard-working and talented people, you record and album that might become a hit. Without these people, even if you record a high-quality album, it won’t be a hit anyway. People also make a basic mistake in thinking about young artists: the more creative they are, the more famous they get - it's not true. I’m still discovering how it all works. There’s a huge crowd of people behind a silly radio song. The lyrics that you hear and read reflect the feelings or the life of the artist; it is not always so, often, mainstream artists don’t even write them themselves.

I think that in Poland, the majority of people think that the artist sings of his or her real experiences. People prefer stories of flesh and blood to those that are fantastic or abstract. The 90s were an era of totally twisted lyrics. Look at Radiohead or PJ Harvey. Hail to the Thief is one big fairy-tale, out of this world. I also wrote this kind of stuff, mainly as Anthony Chorale on Ambitions of The Son.

Zuza: I think now it’d be worthwhile to mention contemporary artists that we both appreciate. In recent years, it's definitely been Blood Orange, Kindness, Sean Nicolas Savage, Tops, Kelela, Jaakko Eino Kalevi, Better Person, Porches.

Olivier: Things from the past that we’re currently listening to are mainly Yacht Rock like Michael McDonald or Toto, and in the recent few years, The Style Council, Emerson Brothers and Mark Eric.


Zuza Golińska – graduate of the Studio of Painting Space run by Leon Tarasewicz and Paweł Susid at the Academy of Fine Arts in Warsaw (2013). In 2015, the artist completed her Master’s degree at Mirosław Bałka’s Studio of Spatial Activities. Her theoretical Master’s Thesis was supervised by Anda Rottenberg. Her installation entitled Run-Up was presented in “Dom Słowa Polskiego” in Warsaw, Heiligenkreuzerhof in Vienna and Národní galerie in Prague. In 2014, Golińska was shortlisted for the Hestia Artistic Journey Award and received the first prize of the Gdańsk Art Biennale. Participant of many group exhibitions, such as the Polish-Swedish project S-NOW at the inauguration of the European Capital of Culture in Umeå, and the four-week exhibition cycle No Yawning #1 #2 #3 at Nowy Teatr in Warsaw. Holder of a scholarship awarded for outstanding achievements by the Ministry of Science and Higher Education (2014). In 2015, Golińska was nominated for the StartPoint Prize, a European award for young artists. In 2016, she was awarded a scholarship of the Ministry of Culture and National Heritage. Lives and works in Warsaw.

Olivier Heim – award-winning Dutch songwriter and performer born in the US, raised in Luxembourg and currently living in Warsaw, Poland. Starting his career in the international trio Très.b, Olivier has now released his solo debut album A Different Life under his own name and has been noticed by important media such as The Guardian, The Sunday Independent, The Sunday Times, MOJO, DIY, The Line of Best Fit, Uncut, Wonderland and BBC Radio One (Huw Stephens). Olivier is acclaimed for his fresh, woozy sound mixing surf pop and chillwave and is often compared to artists like Mac DeMarco, Jaakko Eino Kalevi or Toro y Moi.

Translated by Helena Marzec

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