Pavel Koudelka: We can amplify the sadness and the joy

16 May 2018, 4:00

Pavel Koudelka: We can amplify the sadness and the joy

Pavel Koudelka, former drummer with the bands Dunaj, Z kopce, Krutnava and Mňága a Žďorp, recently became a member of two new groups. One of them is the drumming duo Zesilovači with Pavel Fajt and the second is Kucharski. In this group he works with musicians known from the Třebíč group FruFru – the vocalist Václav Bartoš, guitarist Vladimír Dudek and bass guitarist Adam Kotrba – and with the keyboard player Víťa Košíček. Kucharski will be giving their first concert on Thursday 17 May in Brno at the Stará Pekárna.

Pavel, this concert will be interesting given that Kucharski will be presenting their first album there, which has been recorded but not yet released …

Yes, we will be performing a programme based on this first disc as well as several new songs. Although the first disc has been recorded it will only be coming out some time in the autumn. I don’t play on it as the group only invited me to join them after it had been recorded.

Does that mean that there was a different drummer playing there?

The lads recorded the alum without a drummer, unless you count Václav Bartoš, who already in FruFru played on the steel drum and bass drum. Otherwise the drums on the album are sampled. They used for example samples from Steve Gadd and it is truly a joy for me to play these parts after him. Before the album comes out we would like to promote it with live performances. For that reason as well the lads wanted me to join the group. When I finished playing with Mňága a Žďorp some time back I had a bit more time so I was happy to take up their offer.

When you first heard the finished recording, didn’t it run through your head that you would probably play some of it completely different in the concerts?

Whether I will play something completely different we will just have to see, but the disc – including the percussion – it something I really like at the moment. So it would not be a problem to take on the percussion part as it is. You know, I even play in revival bands where I use the expertise of other drummers and I really enjoy following their approaches. If something works then I don’t need to redo it at any price. Rather I show respect. At the same time of course I will play the new pieces my way.

How does the creative process work at the moment in the group Kucharski?

While the already recorded disc Pěknou ženskou našel frajer (Which could be translated as Dude Got a Pretty Girl) is a little bit dreamy, full of electrical sounds, the new songs will be a bit more upbeat. They are written by us starting with the lyrics and the basic vocal line, and sometimes with some indication of the drums to make it clear where the first beat starts, plus a hint of the accompaniment to harmonise the singing. And then we work on it together, and usually we end up with something completely different. We all immerse ourselves in it and collectively we come up with a song to try out.

In what way do the songs of Kucharski differ from those of FruFru, which most off the band’s members were in?

These three musicians and especially Václav’s vocals link the two groups. As I already said Pěknou ženskou našel frajer is dreamy and I really like Václav’s phrasing. The difference lies in his way of phrasing and also in the lyrics and how they are linked to the melodies. And the rhythmic component is different, because my style of playing has become simpler in recent times. I try to reach the essence of the rhythm in a song, so that the result is less ‘lumpy’ and less complicated.

How important for you is it when playing the drums to support the phrasing of the vocalist? Do you drum along with him or against him?

Both with and against … It depends on what the song requires and how I feel about it. The important thing is to have a good feeling from it and then there is nothing else to worry about. For example I really enjoy it – and it wasn’t always the case – that for example if the group is playing in a syncopated way then I play it straight.

Where did the name Kucharski come from?

The lyrics were written by Jiří Kucharský, a doctor from Třebíč; a surgeon who puts people back together after a crash. These are texts that he wrote some fifteen years ago but which are still up to date.

The risk in using already existing several-years-old texts lies in the fact that the source could run dry. What then?

We’ll see. We have one album recorded and we have created a new programme for playing live, because playing material from just one disc is not enough. For now we have enough lyrics from Jiří. Jiří Kucharský sometimes takes part in our rehearsals, which is pleasant, because he gets a chance to see what we do with his work, how we interpret it. Sometimes it surprises him but mostly I think he is satisfied. For us it is good to have an outside perspective from someone who is unlike us not completely buried in this music and who sometimes tells us: “Yep, lads, I liked that.” He is kind of another member of the group.

While Kucharski are yet to hold their first concert, the duo Zesilovači has already played for example in Brno at Leitnerka. You and Pavel Fajt have over time been members of the group Dunaj, Pavel later played in Pluto with Václav Bartoš, you current colleague, and with musicians who today play in the group Ty Syčáci with Petr Váša, your former colleague from Z kopce. So everything is beautifully interwoven. But have you ever played before with Pavel Fajt together in one group?

We played together on the disc Pustit musíš (which could be translated as You Have to Let Go), which was a new recording of the first album of Dunaj with Iva Bittová. We recorded the old songs again on two drum kits, with Pavel having precisely divided roles. We practised several new songs in which Iva Bittová and Jiří Kolšovský sang, and we completed a tour of the Czech Republic and Germany. At that time I even played live together with Pavel. After some time Pavel Fajt then called me and invited me to work with him in Slet bubeníků (Gathering of Drummers). I have now been part of that for eight years. It was there that together with Pavel we tried out the idea of whether we could join forces. At that time we said that if it worked in such a large line-up we might try it in a more chamber-like setting.

How does it actually work, when two drummers play together on stage? I assume that each of you has a completely different drum kit …  

Yes, it is also given by the fact that each of us plays in a slightly different style. Pavel Fajt has a concert drum kit at which he stands, and with it an electric wavedrum. Aside from that he also sings. I have a classical drum kit, which unlike the one I played on in Dunaj also has cymbals and tom-toms. I try to stay in the groove and Pavel creates above that beautiful drumming melodies and rhythms. I also sing a little, mainly in the refrains, but in the future I should sing a bit more. Also at times I play simple motifs on keyboards because an hour and a half or two hours spent only drumming can be rather demanding for some listeners. Sometimes we have a guest on keyboards, which gives our playing a new dimension and generally is a wonderful adventure. 

Are you planning an album with the duo Zesilovači?

So far it is a bit early for that, we only have for our private needs a recording of our first concert in the Modrý trpaslík in Česká Třebova. In Zesilovači things are the other way round. While with Kucharski the recording was first to see the light, here we first play live and an album will come later.

How do you create pieces in Zesilovači? Spontaneously from the two of you?

We sit down in the rehearsal room, set up both kits and one of us plays some kind of groove or a rhythm and then we develop it. The process is highly spontaneous. It is not the case that one of us would bring some kind of demo. It gets formed in the rehearsal room. In a duo there is plenty of room for improvisation, which we use to the full.

How is it with the name? Does the word Zesilovači (derived from the word for amplifier) mean that the dynamics are important?

The dynamics are of course extremely important. But we can also amplify feelings such as joy, sadness …

You have already indicated what you play on in Zesilovači. So it is not your minimalist kit from the period with Dunaje?

In this case no. Most groups work with more harmonies, tones and sounds. But in a drumming duo it is good if even from my side a broader sound canvas can be heard.

On what kind of kit do you play in the group Kucharski?

There in the rehearsals I have not yet used my own kit. When we started to rehearse and create new songs we played acoustically and I played on a cajón with a pedal, on the hi-hats and small drum. Testing of the acoustics was interesting in that even after four hours of playing you didn’t get tired of the noise. Only after some time did I start to play on the kit and the sound got somewhere slightly different, but even on the cajón with pedal it is possible to produce a groove.

The cajón has recently become a really fashionable instrument, but is still relatively new. When did you start to play on it?

For a long time I did not have a cajón, but about seven years ago we did a tour with Mňága a Žďorp of amphitheatres were we were to play acoustically. So I got myself a cajón. I played it on the tour and then for some time I put it to one side and only now have I started to use it again. Otherwise I like to play the guitar at parties.

Aside from the two groups mentioned you also still run a band that plays revival music.

Yes, it is A-beat, which has been going for more than twenty years. It was created on the basis of the groups Z kopce and Ošklid. After the revolution, Petr Váša came up with the idea that we would play the history of old rock and roll. We were one of the first to this here and we conceived this our way. It had the distinctive vocals of Petr Váša, who also played guitar in an interesting way. What’s more, we had a violin. After Petr’s departure various singers took his place in the group and a second project of Led Zeppelin Revival was set up with Petr Kurfürst fronting it. He was one of the few among us who knew Led Zeppelin and could sing it. We now have a new singer who is also great.

I’ve heard that you are also planning Police Revival?

I love the group The Police and all three musicians who played in it. For me it was a key group and I am glad that I saw them live in Vienna and in Katovice. I am currently looking for a vocalist as otherwise I have the group set up. It isn’t even necessary for them to sing the same way as the original. The most important thing is that it has heart and drive. We are concerned purely with the joy of music and the energy that it exudes. We play the songs our way. But so far I haven’t found the right singer.

You were one of the first to play revival. Where is the difference compared to today’s revival groups, which I often see as playing on effects?

A fundamental difference for me lies in the fact that we did not try to look like the original group, nor did we try to copy the songs down to the last detail. Petr Váša was a generous bandleader, who already in the group Z kopce gave his colleagues room to put their hearts, skills and creativity into it. We also played with different instruments, for example the violin, and very much our own way. Today groups often faithfully copy, while I for example take Led Zeppelin as a matter of the heart “embracing the universe”.

You have also mentioned Slet bubeníků, which you have been part of for some eight years. Does this drumming tour offer something new each year? Isn’t it always the same?

Rather the opposite I would say – it changes a lot. The basis of the group is the same: Pavel Fajt, Miloš Vacík, Tomáš Reindl and I. But we change the guests. For example Milan Cais and David Koller have played with us, we’ve had singers, cimbalom players … What’s more each year the programme has a theme. The year before last it was Gregorian Chant, last year it was called Dark Side of the Groove and we remembered the famous pieces from the groups that pioneered electronic music, whether Pink Floyd, Kraftwerk or Prodigy. I see plenty of diversity in that and I am once more looking forward to this year.

Photo Jiří Sláma

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