Name: Julia Bondar
Occupation: electronic music artist, singer, and songwriter. Art-director of Endorphin.es musical instruments brand.
Current release: ‘Industrial Symphony’ 12” LP on Endorphin.es Production available directly from her bandcamp.
Recommendations: My favourite painter is Egon Schiele.
The song that gives me peace and sense of meaning is by Kino «Спокойная Ночь».
Erich Maria Remarque has the book that impressed me lately: «The Night in Lisbon» published in 1962.
If you enjoyed this interview with Julia Bondar, head over to her website for more information. Recent updates, music and personal thoughts can be found on her socials on Facebook, Instagram, Soundcloud and bandcamp.
Julia Bondar emphasises the uniqueness of her approach in this interview. However, in the community around the I U We label run by Martha Bahr, she does seem to have found a group of likeminded artists. For more information on them, read our Panic Girl interview, our Hélène Vogelsinger interview, and our An On Bast interview.
When did you start writing/producing music - and what or who were your early passions and influences? What was it about music and/or sound that drew you to it?
My first humble attempts to produce music started in 2015 - a few years after meeting my husband Andreas Zhukovsky. I began by helping him demonstrate the possibilities for the Endorphin.es modular synth that he was designing. We performed for the first time together at the Modular Music Days in Linz in 2015. Back in those days, I was not into the music that artists who used modular synthesizers were composing, as it was mainly experimental music, unstructured ambient or avant-garde. If you ask who the most famous modular synth users are, you will always get answers like Depeche Mode, GusGus or Aphex Twin. However in reality almost no one uses the modular for music like that.
[Read our GusGus interview]
I wanted to do something melodic and with more character and I believe that influenced the whole Endorphin.es approach: A bias to western tonal music using the entirely opposite west-coast music synthesis paradigm. Many artists from Chemical Bothers to Gesaffelstein inspired me; I also love heavy music because it brings deeper and sincere emotions.
Therefore, my vision was to make something that would not only work as background music but which was more prominent and would call for reflexion. Music that would excite sexiness, love, hate, sorrow, anger, etc. The entire spectrum of real human emotions.
For most artists, originality is preceded by a phase of learning and, often, emulating others. What was this like for you: How would you describe your own development as an artist and the transition towards your own voice?
When you're playing with the modular synth, it is hard just to take reference and copy. This is because the instrument is unique yet limited, unlike DAWs which are what 95% of music producers work with nowadays. I had to accept my uniqueness and keep carrying it to the world despite severe critique that I am receiving. That is why I do not like to ask other producers for their opinion because my ways of composing is different - unless they know how specific this field is.
My confidence in what I am doing eventually played its part and I gained a genuine fan base which loves my sound. Now my music is recognizable as ‘Bondar’ style. Meanwhile I also do not work within the framework of one genre but blend styles from dark, deep techno to underground pop and French electro.
How do you feel your sense of identity influences your creativity?
Taking into account that I run a company in another country, making music despite injustices of the music industry and honestly faced a lot of obstacles in my private life, it made me tampered, bold and decisive. This is how I feel my music sounds, too.
What were your main creative challenges in the beginning and how have they changed over time?
My biggest challenge is to compose music and be satisfied with the result. To implement new features into my sound and to not repeat myself. To release music as a finished product and to see how listeners react to it.
As creative goals and technical abilities change, so does the need for different tools of expression, be it instruments, software tools or recording equipment. Can you describe this path for you, starting from your first studio/first instrument? What motivated some of the choices you made in terms of instruments/tools/equipment over the years?
My main motivation was and remains is to display Endorphin.es modules, which Andreas is designing. He is a very sensual and kind person and I dig and support everything he does.
My tech knowledge and music evolved together with the expansion of the Endorphin.es instruments range. I learned about the modular slowly, but very organically, implementing every single piece of equipment into my music. My patch logic changed accordingly. Having a huge variety of patch techniques or instruments, I regularly try many but only chose a few which feel right for me and which I'll keep fixed.
I rarely change something in the environment of my well-adjusted modular system. I prefer to keep it ready when I am in the mood for composing and nothing should distract me.
Have there been technologies or instruments, which have profoundly changed or even questioned the way you make music?
I can confidently say one thing: all new technologies are great, bring us new possibilities, and ease life in any field, including music.
Without new technologies, I would not be an artist and musician. I used to think that to be able to create music, it is mandatory to spend years in conservatory studying and practicing the instruments for years playing famous classical pieces. Now many young people are breaking this cliché, doing and taking what belongs to them. It is a new school based on a new technology, but you have to keep practicing modular of course.
I am not questioning my ways of making music since I found what works best for me in this quickly developing and fickle world. Moreover, I will not complicate my life searching for a new ways to compose, but rather work fast and efficiently with the tools I know. Unless they organically alter my workflow, that is. For that reason, I do not work with a DAW unless recording multitrack, as infinite possibilities will distract me from being effective.
Collaborations can take on many forms. What role do they play in your approach and what are your preferred ways of engaging with other creatives through, for example, file sharing, jamming or just talking about ideas?
It is a good question but it is hard for me to answer, as I am afraid to sound snobbish.
I do not like to collaborate with other people unless I feel a special connection in our vision. This happens only with very rare persons. Moreover, I have to see that this artist should be oriented on actually achieving a result. I am not interested in doing something just for fun and wasting my time. I will gladly collaborate with other artists if I like what she/he does. Also if the artist respects deadlines. If the artist clearly sees why we both need this collaboration.
Take us through a day in your life, from a possible morning routine through to your work, please. Do you have a fixed schedule? How do music and other aspects of your life feed back into each other - do you separate them or instead try to make them blend seamlessly?
I love life and I love to have something small but special every day.
I love mornings and breakfast. I usually wake up without any alarm, at 8am or even earlier in the summer time. I drink water and make a nice breakfast for Andreas and me. It should be something easy but delicious and healthy: oatmeal with berries, omelette with avocado or my perfect pancakes made of whole grain flour without sugar.
After breakfast, I make my morning routine, dress up and go to the Endorphin.es office where we usually have plenty of work to do. My working hours in the office are between 10 am until 17 pm. Around 13 pm my team and me will go out lunch for an hour. The rest of the working hours are very intense: emails and communications, orders, stock, shortages, restocks, servicing, assembly, prototyping, beta testing, YouTube and Instagram tutorials for Endorphin.es. I am very happy with my efficient team as they are pretty disciplined and motivated.
My work at Endorphin.es and music activity are related to each other and mutually support each other. Having Endorphin.es gear is helping my music and my music is helping to pick the proper features needed for the gear. Andreas and me do not create any separation between work and home. When we return from the office, we keep working anyways until we are tired. Because we are young and this is the right moment to make an effort. Of course, we are taking some days off to give us a good treat for our hard work and we can travel or just disconnect. However, usually for no more than 3 days.
I dedicate all Winter weekends to music, so we can spend more time in Summer traveling or in nature.
Can you talk about a breakthrough work, event or performance in your career? Why does it feel special to you? When, why and how did you start working on it, what were some of the motivations and ideas behind it?
I had many small gigs before 2020 but I would not say that I had one particular gig that helped me or pushed my music profile. Let’s face it: Cinderella stories almost never happen among independent / indie artists but that’s not what is important. I see the quantity of my listeners and supporters and it's warming my heart.
Everybody knows that the festival industry is not fair and it is hard to get a significant gig without connections. Honestly, I do not know how it works. The fairest indicative criterion it is a love and gratitude I receive from my listeners that are growing exponentially. Gradually, my music is licensed for and used in video advertising and the gaming industry – months after the tracks were released.
The point is: the tracks have found their place. Therefore, the rule is to keep doing what you do and what you like - and success will eventually come to you.
There are many descriptions of the ideal state of mind for being creative. What is it like for you? What supports this ideal state of mind and what are distractions? Are there strategies to enter into this state more easily?
For me being creative means being inspired. Being inspired means to have an adventure or to change a routine activity to something more dynamic, to have a good rest in nature or an unexpected but meaningful conversation. My head should be rested and free to dedicate a day to the studio.
The biggest destructive force against this are social media, which is why you should put all the gadgets aside to stay focused during the creative process. Moreover, social media shows somebody’s success and makes you feel as though you're worth less. It distracts you from your own unique path.
As David Lynch says, an idea is like a big fish. You cast a rod, pick up the harvest from small to big ideas and finally find ways to its implementation.
When I am not composing, I am fishing.
Music and sounds can heal, but they can also hurt. Do you personally have experiences with either or both of these? Where do you personally see the biggest need and potential for music as a tool for healing?
I see music as a message to the world. Some musicians want to heal because they need healing themselves. Some of them want to rebel or hurt because they may have been hurt as well. The listener is the one who ultimately chooses what she wants to hear and what she can relate to.
Even aggressive and heavy music can heal by letting the listener know that he is not alone and other people are experience similar feelings. That is why I see music as a tool to emotionally connect people around certain songs or artists.
There is a fine line between cultural exchange and appropriation. What are your thoughts on the limits of copying, using cultural signs and symbols and the cultural/social/gender specificity of art?
I love to learn about musical history and its development. I found out that many original pieces like oral folk chants, which were passed from mouth to mouth over centuries to the moment that we hear them in the modern interpretation and nobody knows the origin. I think it is great to give another life to forgotten pieces by making them sound up to date, while giving an according credit if it is possible.
I often hear some compositions that remind me of another already existing and older composition. But there are only 12 semitones to work with and it is very easy to create something that overlaps with already existing material.
I honestly believe that there is nothing original in this world anymore, everything just being repackaged and served branded as a different sauce. On the other hand we search for inspiration in other people, not only art but also personalities. I think it is fine to take the best aspects of whom you consider a mastermind for yourself.
Our sense of hearing shares intriguing connections to other senses. From your experience, what are some of the most inspiring overlaps between different senses - and what do they tell us about the way our senses work?
The rustle of leaves in the trees when a strong wind blows their top gives me special peaceful memories in terms of my hearing sense. It takes me back to my childhood when the days were carefree and even meaningless. I just sat and watched nature in the village with my babushka.
Art can be a purpose in its own right, but it can also directly feed back into everyday life, take on a social and political role and lead to more engagement. Can you describe your approach to art and being an artist?
Art is always a reflection of the zeitgeist. The stories that we describe in our works, books, paintings or musical pieces have a background in the time in which we live. I think the artists touch the topics that are more painful for them and which they relate to.
As I am outside of politics and not very social either I try to express my preoccupation in the human relationship. I try to talk to a deep part of our human soul. It is a call not to be afraid of being genuine, even if what you are doing does not fit our modern society. Indeed, it does not fit.