Occupation: Producer, sound artist
Current release: Pytko's "Save My Day" lands on Phantasy Sound on 11th June 2021.
Recommendations: The Unbearable Lightness of Being; Crime and Punishment; Yorgos Lanthimos’ movies; Alva Noto’s music; Yvette Wong’s paintings
If you enjoyed this interview with Pytko, visit her on Instagram for updates and thoughts.
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?
I have always been fascinated with the idea of performing. I remember when I was very young, stealing microphones from singers in restaurants and bars. My uncle owns an outdoor bar by the seaside, that has live music. During the summer holidays I used to steal the show every evening, making my parents proud and a little uncomfortable at the same time!
I was part of a singing ensemble from about the age of 7. But my journey really begun in my early teens when I started composing songs on piano and writing lyrics. Both the process and the final project were just for myself. I was hugely passionate about performance and I was obsessed with popular musicals like Les Misérables, Hair and Chicago. I would hear music being played on the radio, but I didn’t really spend much time listening to music. That changed when my grandpa bought tickets for us to go and see The Open'er Festival. Just the two of us went to the festival and it was such an incredible experience. I adored the ambience, the live gigs and the bass you could feel inside your body. I knew I wanted to be a part of it someday.
I found that making compositions became a real joy for me. In high school I formed an electronic music band with friends which gave me the chance to perform the songs I had been creating. I remember the excitement of every single performance. I was putting my personal, vulnerable teenage lyrics out into the world – almost like sharing my diary! It all felt cathartic. I was dealing with family issues and, like most teenagers, was finding it hard to figure out my own identity. Music was guiding me to find my own voice. I feel that my music made me realize who I am and that I'd be the only person responsible for my choices. My music was very personal and, when handed over to the public, was a way of presenting myself truthfully. Expressing myself through music has always been, and still is, a very romantic idea to me.
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?
My conscious step towards finding my own identity, learning and leaving my musical comfort zone, was when I turned 19 and came to London, from my hometown Warsaw. London has shaped who I am today. I studied Music, Sound and Technology at City, which gave me the chance to understand many more music spheres with the help of talented and devoted musicians.
At the same time, my living conditions were like something out of a fairy tale. Erratic méli-mélo. Living with another person in one room, in a house full of people from very different backgrounds, doing all kinds of jobs. I guess it just deepened my focus and attention to music because I felt I needed to work harder and not only find my musical space but also a physical space to be able to work on things. I wanted to learn and develop, which I did through doing internships and working on my music whilst studying.
I became very focused on experimenting with my sound. I explored musique concrète and cut-up techniques, making sound collages and researching forms of sound modification. I did various internships in sound design companies where I was involved in preparing audio for film and advert. It was a fantastic experience, and I am sure it has influenced my recordings, sound processing and vision for sound material placement in my pieces.
How do you feel your sense of identity influences your creativity?
I think it makes it authentic. Accommodating my private and intimate sphere always makes my works feel real and alive. It makes the process valuable for me. Definitely the biggest step towards becoming more creative was to get to know myself. Spending time on my own, writing down my thoughts and allowing myself to make mistakes was the key to be able to combine my passion with creativity.
What were your main creative challenges in the beginning and how have they changed over time?
My main challenge has always been wanting to have control of how my music is perceived. I have this feeling of wanting to prepare my listeners or explain it to them in someway before they hear it. But I have since realized that it is important to allow people to have their own reactions and form their own opinions on the music based on how it makes them feel, which is not something I can control.
Once you put a song out in the world, it is up to the listener to respond to it in their context.
Nowadays, I sometimes loose myself in the idea of searching for newness and find it difficult to find the balance. With the admiration of avant-garde and all processes hitting extremes I often like to go a bit too far and I easily get lost in my own compositions. My intention is to be bold and confident. However, there are times when my colourful collages just do not work and become a disoriented sound of malfunction.
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?
As a bedroom producer I have always felt I have had to search for alternative ways of music making.
At the beginning of my journey, in my teens, I focused on lyrics and vocals. I searched for beautiful melodies, harmonies and tried to make collages out of my voice. It all changed when I discovered field recording and started listening to the environment, space and distinguishing sound sources, whilst at uni. It became crucial for me to connect nature, technology and musicology. I found comfort in recording, analyzing and processing separate sound materials.
Simple portable recorders introduced me to new possibilities within my digital composition. It became my obsession. The use of melodic vocals then started to work as a ‘softener’ for the other experimental sounds I was embedding in my music.
Have there been technologies or instruments which have profoundly changed or even questioned the way you make music?
I have been very lucky to get my hands on a Balinese Gamelan. Even though I was a very inexperienced player, I loved every single sound produced by the instrument. Around the same time I purchased a TASCAM DR-100 portable recorder and begun my journey with capturing sounds. It was a breakthrough in terms of my vision for my music.
I finally realized I didn’t need my music to be beautiful, in a mainstream sense. I wanted it to reflect my development - to be bold and brave, to be disturbing, to be specific and full bodied. I wanted to create my own sound space, my sound environment. I approached it as if I was making the score for a film and tried to tell a story through the sounds.
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?
Getting the perspectives of other artists is crucial, as it provides other perspectives, which are absolutely key when it comes to delivering a well-rounded project. This also comes from working with a diverse group of people from a whole range of different cultures and backgrounds. I have always enjoyed collaboration and feel it enriches my work, allowing me to evolve in not only musical aspects, but also gives you a sense of community and grounds you as a person.
Jamming is definitely a form of collaboration I adore; it usually transforms into some kind of trance and grants collective security. My favourite music sessions are definitely those with Moumen Rais who added all atmospheric guitars to my pieces. The rule is to always, always remember to record the sessions!