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Nemerov is a Budapest-based electronic musician who has been working with broken notes and absurd rhythms since 2017. He is particularly interested in layered, ever-changing soundscapes and fragmented beats that resemble the composition of a collage. He uses purely synthetic, digital sonic objects and patterns – his music is constantly redefined by human intentions, system limitations, underlying flaws and the ever-present nature of chance. We caught up with him in Budapest to talk about his work.

Can you talk about how you got into music, or what your background is in terms of being a musician?

I learnt to play the piano when I was about seven years old, so that was where it all started. For six years I played the piano in my local music school and learnt the bare bones of music theory. Later, during my teenage years, I played bass in various shitty noise, rock, and doom metal bands. 

There was a major turning point when I was 19. I discovered electronic music, and also the fact that you could create it all by yourself. It was a thrilling experience to be able to arrange all the different layers, beats, basslines, and main melodies. I started out with chipmusic, so I was basically writing music on the Nintendo Gameboy.

What was the nature of that turning point? Did you meet some people who told you about it? Or did you start to listen to this type of music on your own?

During my teenage years I was really into metal. Post-metal, deathcore, post-hardcore, those kinds of things. This was in the mid to late 2000s, and I was really into a lot of different genres of intense guitar music, like math rock or post-rock.

And there was this specific genre called Nintendocore, where there was not only the screaming and the technical guitar playing, but there was also a person who was responsible for making these weird bleep-bloop sounds. Later on, I discovered that there was actually a dedicated genre that used only those kinds of sounds, so I adapted to that. 

There was a period when this scene was popular. 

Yes, in many countries in Europe, but also in the USA. I found my community in Budapest; there were the four of us – we called ourselves Budapest Micro. We organised parties, and invited other musicians from the scene from other countries. It was a fun period of my life. After a while, I noticed that even though I really put a lot of work into it and made well-thought-out compositions, I still had the feeling that when people listened to my music, they only reacted to how funny and infantile it was. How it brought back childhood memories, how nostalgic it was… Many people couldn’t see beyond that to really see the structures and musical ideas that were there. That was a bit disappointing. Then I moved on to very beatless, very soft music. I actually had an ambient project from 2012 to the end of 2016 that was all software-based. At the end of 2016, I wrote my first album as ‘Nemerov’, which was released in February 2017. This was one of my earliest efforts on a hardware synthesiser, using my Korg MS-20 mini. From that point in 2017, I’ve been making this very hardware-based music.

Is abstraction something that you also like in music? 

My approach with Nemerov is that I believe I understand some of the rules and conventions that exist in our contemporary music culture, and I try to take these as starting points and come up with fresh and new ideas regarding structure and sound. 

I like to take the patterns and motifs of genres like techno and house, and come up with alternative ways of presenting them, cutting the patterns to shorter lengths, or creating some alternating, shifting ones.

Deconstructing them?

I think you could say that. More atonal and percussive sounds than melodic. My music has become very percussive lately, very beat-oriented. Of course, I’m not the first person to do this, so naturally I’m also inspired by those who started doing something similar back in the 1990s. I’m thinking of artists from the UK scene, and labels like Warp, Rephlex, Skam or Planet Mu.

When you make music, do you have some sort of everyday routine?

I don’t have an initial idea that I want to realise – I barely ever have initial thoughts on what kind of music I want to make. For me, making music is really about sitting down, choosing one or two instruments, and just spending time with those instruments.

What I’m making really depends on the piece of gear I’m using. And a lot of the times I’m working with these machines, I’m usually at least 30 minutes into it before I actually feel, okay, there’s something going on here.

So it’s also about knowing your instrument pretty well or having a particular sort of relationship with it?

I think it’s important for a musician to know their instruments to a certain degree, but also to figure out, over time, what sort of instruments work well for them. This took me some time to do. A few weeks ago, I saw a photo of me performing three or four years ago with some of my instruments, and I realised that actually none of those instruments are with me today. But I think that at this point, I more or less know what tools I need for my ideas and for the work I want to produce – I haven’t bought any new gear in something like 1.5 years.

But apart from making music, you also write about music, and take photos of musicians.

Besides being a musician, I’m also an editor, which is how I make a living. I’m also a part of the Hungarian MMN Magazine, which has two outlets. One of them is an online magazine, in which we have articles and interviews about our local and international music scenes, and the second is having a biweekly slot on the Lahmacun community web radio.

It’s a really fun part of my life to think, talk and write about music. We do interviews with other musicians, and we like to believe that, at some level, we contribute to the scene. 

When it comes to photography, it’s still a very new part of my life. I only started it a year ago and up until then my artistic output had revolved around music and music making. And I only just realised that I’m very interested in thinking visually, something I’d never explored before. I watched a lot of videos about it, and dived into learning about the great masters of photography who inspired me, like Saul Leiter, Ernst Haas, Nan Goldin, etc.

Do you feel more drawn to one of these creative outlets than another?

I honestly have no idea how to be smart about it at the moment. I definitely don’t want to stop working with music because it’s a really big part of me. I have a new album coming out this year that I’ve been working on for the past six months.

You also have a day job. 

Yes, it’s true. But I don’t feel bad about it, because in Budapest many people have day jobs besides being artists, so I’m sure I’m not the only musician with a nine-to-five job. 

Can you talk about the album that you’re putting out? 

There’s a new label that started out last July called Explorations Records. It is a sub-label of Hypnotica Colectiva, which is also based in Valencia. The sub-label was launched with the intention of presenting more experimental, unconventional sides of electronic music, so my album is going to be released by them. The title is ‘Chromatic Aberration’, which is actually a term from photography, but I think it can also be applied to music as the word ‘chromatic’ exists in both a musical and photographic sense.

It’s really hard to describe the album in words, but I’ll do my best. It focuses on the fringes and rough edges of sound, and it explores themes of alienation and loneliness. Times when you feel some sort of disconnection from the reality you live in. 

Is it more like an abstract idea for you or is it more like a personal, generational feeling?

I have personal connections to this, of course, but I also believe that it’s expressed musically too.

For example, there’s one track on that album that has two main elements: one is a really slow melodic element, and then there’s this really intense, beat-oriented element. At one point, the melodic element just disappears; it abandons the beat-oriented one, leaving it on its own. The track explores the connections between these two elements, and, therefore, a kind of relationship dynamic. Maybe it’s too far-fetched, but yeah, I tried to explore themes in music that are abstract yet very emotional. 

And what about the scene in Budapest? Since you’re quite involved in the music scene, how do you see it these days? 

I think it’s very lively. There are a lot of really good artists and labels like EXILES, Farbwechsel or Dalmata Daniel. Gen Z is really active too, with collectives such as Marmint Agency and Temporary Nights bringing really good artists and a fresh approach to the scene. 

What are your long-term plans in terms of art and life?

I really like studio work. To be honest, I’ve always enjoyed and preferred working in the studio, working on recorded materials, as opposed to performing live. So I believe I’ll continue to do that; there are still so many fields in music making that I haven’t explored. And yeah, collaborating with others is also something I want to keep on doing. Most of my life I’ve been making music alone, doing collaborative work only occasionally. So it would be fun to work with others more frequently.

Do you feel affected by what’s happening around you in terms of how you make art?

Around the time I turned 30 – I’m 33 now – I started to listen to more pop music. And I started to notice patterns, the underlying structures that are prevalent in pop, and I think there are really good musical ideas there that are worth exploring further. I really, really loved what PC Music has done in the past 10 years. It’s really interesting to see not only what’s happening in the mainstream, but also in the kind of pop that’s not so in your face, but is more sophisticated and darker. I’m thinking of Sega Bodega, for example. What he’s doing is really intimate, really sensitive, but still vocally oriented and song-like. 

I have another project that is also active, called ‘Jeremiah Soft’. I realised that unlike Nemerov, where I deconstruct and explore weirder, beat-oriented music, I’m still interested in less harsh music too. Jeremiah Soft is really conventional, it’s really about creating sweet melodies, catchy basslines and danceable beats. I’ve always been attracted to that kind of music, and I intend to pursue this side of me, too.

Do you think it’s hard to be a musician these days? 

I would say yes and no. In a technical sense, it’s easier because it’s much easier to get your hands on decent music software, even free stuff that sounds good. I remember when I started to explore VSTs in 2012, it just sounded horrible.

But at the same time, it’s harder because there are so many artists who are making music nowadays, and it’s difficult to stand out. 

But for you, the main motivation is just to make music because you want to make it?

Yes, that’s true. It would be really cool to make a living from it, but so far, I haven’t really figured out how to make that happen. And I’m okay with that. My main motivation is not really about self- expression. I wouldn’t consider myself a songwriter in that sense, because there are no inner feelings or big messages I want to communicate.

For me, making music is really about working with an instrument, sitting down, paying attention to the instrument, and working with it and on it for hours and hours. Then finding elements and bits and pieces that are interesting and worth exploring more, and then worth recording and showing to other people. And maybe if they find the same excitement that I found when I was working on it, then it’s a small joy and a new experience not only for me but also for the listener.

Interview by Lucia Udvardyova

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