One day I randomly stumbled upon this smooth downtempo tune with harmonica inside and it didn't take long to realize this perfectly fits what we usually go for here at the Fox. I was pretty swamped with work and was wondering who would be the person who would definitely jump onboard with Kan Wakan's "Molasses". Not sure why, but I felt Eme would be that person. Little did I know, she was already approached by his PR (who happened to be from her hometown Vancouver) and was already planning the feature.
So, that's our story (we sometimes laugh about it over a beer here in Berlin) about discovering the music of Kan Wakan. Later on, I was pleasantly surprised to find out he's from my home country and naturally I was curious to find out his story. Hence - this interview / mini mix thing. I hope you guys enjoy our chat below and Georgui's mini mix.Hi Gueorgui! It's a real pleasure having you as a guest in our mini mix / interview series. Before we dive into the questions - how would you describe the mix you created in a sentence and what was the inspiration behind it?
Thank you! I'm very happy to take part.
Well, it's been a turbulent month to say the least... the world is a different place now than it was just a few weeks ago. I guess this mix is a loose take on my current mood and state of mind.
So, you moved to the states from back home. How old were you and what was the whole experience like?
I was 13 when I moved from Sofia to Elko, Nevada for 6 months before settling in Sun Vally, Idaho for 5-6 years. It was a stark contrast to what I was used to, and upon arriving to America it was difficult to adjust, going from the bustling metropolis of Sofia to a tiny ski-resort in Idaho with a population of 7,000 and below zero weather for half a year. If I could go back and do it all again.. well, I probably wouldn't haha, but I think in hindsight there were some good things that came from it.
Do you think having the chance to experience two totally different worlds like post-Communism Eastern Europe and the US influenced you somehow musically?
Perhaps, on a subconscious level there might be some remnant tendencies from my childhood that influenced my taste and basic understanding of what excites me about music. Apparently in Bulgaria most western music was banned from being listened to pre-1990 and my mom had all these bootleg cassette tapes in the house that she had bought illegally. I just remember listening to those, and then taping over some tapes with the cassette recorder, directly from the radio, whenever I heard a song I liked. The rarity of finding access to good music made it incredibly special and maybe helped me develop a deeper sense of appreciation for it.
What was the craziest thing which has ever happened to you in LA. Like someone you really look up to knew your music or smth like that?
There's been a lot of crazy and surreal experiences out here... after a while it becomes normalized because there are so many people here in the entertainment industry, and you're bound to run into each other and have a connection with somebody eventually. It's a beautifully messy and random melting pot of egos haha I don't know if I could think of a single instance that really made a lasting impression on me.. when I was younger I hung out with Arnold Schwarzenegger at his mansion before he was governor.. and when he found out I was from Bulgaria, he said there are "great wrestlers from that region, cooool".
What happened between the release of Moving On in 2014 and your comeback with "Molasses", "I Would" and the Phantasmagoria LP?
I’ve always been inspired by artists that successfully manage to reinvent themselves and challenge their listeners with each album, and as a writer and producer, I strive to achieve a similar trajectory. I think since my previous LP Moving On I’ve gained more appreciation for minimalist electronic music and production which in turn has added to the aesthetic progression of the project, but in many ways I believe the new music still has a through consistency in the sense that it’s generally mood specific and retains a cinematic quality, while the story is narrated by multiple guest collaborators which help to add an extra layer of depth and character to the project.
"I Would" and "Molasses" aren’t necessarily indicative of the overall forward direction. The upcoming release will be a triple LP titled Phantasmagoria which features music that often varies in mood and aesthetic intent throughout. It may sometimes sound like a jigsaw puzzle, but when zooming out and looking at it as a whole it feels complete as a statement.
I have to say I absolutely adore Elle Olsun's voice. How did you guys meet and do you plan future tracks together besides "I Would" and "Molasses"?
Elle and I met a few years back in LA through mutual friends and I remember she had a gig at this restaurant doing covers of old timey jazz standards and I was sitting there thinking, these people have no idea whats happening... Everyone zoning out eating their burgers, and not really paying attention to this beautiful music happening right in front of them. It's all in passing and unless it's presented to people in the right context it goes unnoticed. We've kept in contact for a while and I was pleased when she was down to collaborate with me on my new project. It was like every time we got together there was a vibe and I would just try to do whatever I could in the moment to capture it my way.. a lot of it happens so quickly in just a few minutes and then I end up working on it for weeks on end, molding arrangements into songs and trying out different production ideas to best compliment the initial feeling of it.
There are several other tracks with Elle on the record, all of which I'm very excited to share as LP 1, which is part of the triple LP Phantasmagoria due out next spring. The record features quite a few other guests and collaborations, and I'll be sharing more and more in the coming weeks up to the release.
When I first stumbled upon "Molasses" I had no idea you were also from Bulgaria. Then I noticed it's often specified in some write-ups like "Bulgarian-born LA based etc". Do you think this gives you some sort of "edge" or at least distinguishes you somehow (perhaps in a more interesting/cool way) from other artists in the LA scene?
I wouldn't say it gives me any sort of edge or particular distinction. Mostly everybody in LA is coming from someplace else and it all adds to the zeitgeist. When people ask me where I'm from and I say Bulgaria they typically reference the mystery of Bulgarian voices (usually if they're a musician and they cite choral Bulgarian music as an influence) or chalga... that's usually the extent of their knowledge and if I can help add to the story, and be part of the narrative in some small way, then that's pretty cool.
You often travel to Bulgaria. How do you think the country has changed since you moved to the US?
The first time I came back after going to America was when I graduated high school, and I loved being back and seeing all my old friends. Recently I’ve been in Sofia a few times and I love how much it has changed, but more importantly, in many ways I appreciate how people opted to preserve and embrace it's rich history, tradition and culture rather than buy into modern European trends that can really cheapen and sterilize the identity of an old city like Sofia.
I also went to Plovdiv for the first time and that was such a beautiful, vibrant town.. they had an awesome festival there called Kapana fest. I would love to spend more time there and maybe play next year. Overall, there is a great energy and a positive atmosphere, which is not how I remember it from before. People seem generally well balanced and have a positive outlook for the future.
In that line of thought - do you feel your music is picking up in the local (Bulgarian) scene there and is there support from major media outlets?
My first show in Bulgaria was last year in October, and it was difficult to convince a local promoter to book me and check out the project as they often don't take chances with unfamiliar artists. Especially within this genre, people were a bit hesitant. Luckily this modest but very vibey local venue called Mixtape 5 was interested and that's where it happened. Some local media picked this up as the "homecoming" story of Bulgarian born American-based project and it helped spread the word. To everyone's surprise the show was sold out and it went really well.. it was so much fun that I decided to come back again this year and play a few more.
Each show has been bigger and more ambitious in terms of the production. A lot of local media started reaching out and expressing support and by the time I left the country we had done every national TV talk show and the songs were getting steady airplay on local radio .. it's been absolutely amazing.. I just came back to LA and It 's kind of a bummer.. could have easily stayed in Sofia. I can't wait to go back again next year.
What was the hardest thing you had to sacrifice in the name of music?
Time, money, love, exercise, happiness, love. Just kidding. Not really sure. Luckily, most things that might have seemed like a sacrifice before have actually turned out to be blessings in disguise. Let me get back to you on that when I'm older and grumpier.
What's ahead of Kan Wakan in the next year or so?
Definitely focusing %100 on the release of the new album Phantasmagoria which is due out in in the spring. Lots of shows and touring to follow in support of the release. Meanwhile, I'm always working on writing and producing for other projects. I also recently started my own mgmt / imprint called MurMur music and I'm really excited to share some of the new artists and releases I've been developing.
A photo posted by KAN WAKAN (@kanwakan) on
There are quite a few... I'm very fortunate to be able to actually work with artists I truly admire and look up to. I can't wait to be able to share more.
Thank you for the interview, any last words of wisdom?
Of course, and thank you for having me Ivo! Let it be.. and always have a back up of your external drive!