Imants Daksis: Screaming folk, freedom and creativity

I’ve come across many kinds of music and many artists and some stick. Sometimes I don’t even get the words directly, but something in the way they are sung tells you of their meaning.

Header photo by Olafs Osh

One of those artists is Imants Daksis, a latvian singer/songwriter, who makes ‘screaming folk’ music. Daksis is a peculiar figure in the Latvian music scene. Deeply artistic, expressive and solitary caught between the east and west. Check out the latest record right here by the way.

I was extremely excited to find him willing to answer some of my questions, so without further ado, here goes:

How did you get into music and how did you end up on this specific path? Which artists inspired you?
When I was 15 I realized that guitar is my instrument. I began writing songs at 17/18 and at the same age I had already planned and written down concert repertoire for many concerts which was even far from planning. So it happened quite naturally.
In 2001 we made a post-punk band together with my friends. The band was called “Pasaules gaisma” (Light of The World). After few years I began my solo act.

I experienced my first musical revolution at 13 when I heard Jimi Hendrix. I am still fascinated by the way how liberated he was in his playing. In my opinion, it is possible to reach true virtuosity by doing things your own way and not according to the so-called canons.
My own music has been influenced by 60s’ psychedelic music and ethnic/world music, post-punk bands (such as Swans, Bauhaus, Joy Division, etc.), Russian punk scene (Grazhdanskaya oborona, Instrukciya po vizhivaniyu, etc.), and some local artists as well. Also I have great love for Russian singers-songwriters Vladimir Visotskiy and Alexander Bashlachev. I have always been loyal to independent music and ground breaking avant-garde, though I am more interested in particular artists than genres. Not to mention the influence left by classical music and music for cinema. The last one has particularly leaded the way on how I make my own albums.

However, for the past 5 or so years I am mainly getting inspiration of my own musical work which has been recorded in the past and developing my own ideas.

Are you involved in any other projects at the moment?
Right now I have collaboration with one electronic music artist and I am also a lead singer in s rock band. At this moment these projects are focused on making records and there are my songs involved.

Music is not my only occupation. For the past six years I have also been making photo collages.

What does making folk music mean to you?
I don’t associate myself as a folk musician and I have never felt the need to belong to any music scene. I think that my music is more expressive and controversial than a typical folk musician could tolerate. I could say that it is somewhere between folk, psychedelia and post-punk. Some time ago my Latvian audience invented a new genre to describe what it sounds like – screaming folk.

What are the thoughts, images and messages you try to convey in your music?
I am into such themes as death and transcendental processes of any kind of consciousness, weather it be human mind or mind in wider meaning.

Is there any political element to your music? Or a religious one for that matter?
In my music I actualize the need for spiritual freedom. That is the most important thing for me. There are also motives of reincarnation and transformation in general. My music is not political. However, from all political systems social democracy is the one I prefer the most.

How important to you are the traditional elements in music and culture in present day Latvia? Where do you see your own role in this?
For me traditional elements are as important as any other elements are, if they are used to create something good.

Not too long ago I was a vocalist in a post-folk project “Pērkonvīri” (Thundermen). We were looking for innovative sounds and interpretations of Latvian traditional music and recorded a very good album together, which you can listen here. This has been my closest affair with traditional music so far. However, I have composed a couple of songs by the same principles as Latvian folk songs are based on (speaking of the text layout and rhythm). I don’t like to tag my music with genres, but I see it more as a combination of acoustic post-punk, indie, psychedelia and folk in general.

Can you tell a bit about your latest album ‘Mūžīgā ģeogrāfa piedzīvojumi’, which is a great record. I understand it’s an album with global themes, for example the Judah Song. Why did you choose such topics?

“The Adventures of Eternal Geographer”. This album is dedicated to the eternal geographer – a character which has repeatedly appeared in my music. For eternal geographer our so-called reality and civilization is something only so-called. He does not cling to anything and does not see the statements and ideas made by this society as something unconditional. Eternal geographer is not attracted to any ideology – he laughs about the borders which are made by human society (for him human life is only a temporary challenge). This album is not only about global themes, but the abstract nature of them. It is about human in the world and the world in human, and in general it tells about spiritual processes.

Photo by Olafs Osh

When I try to read translations of your lyrics and texts accompanying music, I feel and see a lot of poetry and literature, also in referencing. Do you take this as an important influence on your work and which writers most of all?
I have always had an ability to perceive and memorize huge amounts of information. When interested in something, I literary start studying it. So when an image, reference, rhyme or anything else is needed, it just emerges from this storehouse. I am interested mostly in spiritual and explorative literature. And in some spare moment I will read children’s or adventure books – that adds some ease and buoyancy to my daily life.

Folk music has a risk to sound outdated, how do you keep your music so catchy and relevant? It never feels repetitive to me.
My life is hard both internally and externally, that makes my music catchy… Well, every joke has a gain of truth. I have very wide range of interests and influences. For example, right now, besides answering these questions, I am listening to Syrian traditional music and Sardinian polyphonic singing. I also experiment a lot till my music reaches my mental state (a song has often gone through several wholesome versions). My aim is to achieve unexpected results, while using minimal resources (that especially refers to live performances).

What plans do you have for the near future?
I have some very divergent musical plans and projects for this year, and also my photo collages soon will be finally finished.

If you had to compare your music to a dish (food) what would it be and why?
I would like to think that my music is more eternal than food. Food is something that has to be taken to provide this physical life, but I make music to transform it.

Images thanks to Imants Daksis Facebook/ Olafs Osh (check out his amazing work)

You can listen to the music by Imants Daksis on bandcamp

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