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Hungarian Music - About communism, local bands and more
During the ever-so-great Sziget Festival in Budapest (Hungary), Carn & Buzzin Hornet had a lenghty chat with 2 Hungarian musicians. We talked about the communist-era of Hungary, band-promotion initiatives and trying to get music "out there". This will be a two-part interview (because of the lenght of it). Enjoy the read!

MR: Can you both introduce yourself?
Andras: My name is Andras, singer from Superbutt, from Budapest, Hungary
Greg: I am Greg, vocalist from Blind Myself. And also from Budapest.

MR: Lets start with some talk about the Hungarian Metalscene. Maybe you two have witnessed the Communist Period in Hungary, what do you remember of it?

Andras: Yes, we were children…

Greg: Yeah, but we were old enough to witness that period.
Andras: The thing is that some of the bands still exist, like [says bandname]. They are still popular..but obviously that is because their style is related to the 80s. As far as I remember we had two popular, major heavy metal bands who played classic heavy metal. But then ofcourse, their must have been a lot of underground punk and alternative bands.

The main difference between now and the communist period is that back then, Hungary only had one record company, which was [ed:unhearable]. And if anybody got a record deal than it was almost guaranteed that they would sell a 100.000 copies or more. The records were very cheap. But the thing was that it mostly it didnt work on a commercial basis, as in "this band is good, lets sign them because they will sell alot". But the label usually had some sort of strange contra-political issues, as in "Ok, this band has well-educated musicians, and their message can be alligned with the system" or "It cannot be allinged but we tolerate this"..that was pretty much the case. Thats why no punk bands could exists on that scale. They were there but only in the underground. Nobody could really release an album, because you needed a permission to get it into a shop and allow it to be sold. Obviously, most things were controlled by the state.

MR: But was there a lot of censorship for those bands that did have a recorddeal?

Andras: Yes, all over. But I remember stories that if a band wanted to record an album, a "censor" would go through the lyrics and go like "ok this has to be changed".

Greg: So they wrote alot of hidden lyrics. A lot of lyrics didn’t have a straight message like "the system sucks", but alot of it was subliminal.

Andras: Some of them were really good. From one point of view (and I mean ofcourse, everybody is glad that its all over) it was a golden era for lyric and text writers because there was an obvious goal in "doing what you do". You could hide your message, your criticism, in between the lines. It was really really cool if somebody understood that. So the loss of that quality is a kind of a tragedy. After the changes some very good textwriters lost their identity because they didnt have anything to protest against. And then it was just strange to read the new lyrics of those people which were..

Greg: Straightforward.

MR: Was their a sudden change in the music scene, did it suddenly grow?

Andras: Definitely. Actually, it became more visible. You were allowed to do things on your own. You could start organising gigs, start your own band, release your own material, etc. We called it the "Civil Initiative". And things got more widespread and available. The variety of the musical styles that were present became more obvious because the only record company we had wasnt suddenly pushing a select few acts. But then the commercial issues that took over, the kapitalism which looked into what would sell well.

MR: Lets talk about Budapest Rock ’n Roll (BPRNR). What is it really?

Andras: Sometimes even we don’t know what it is like this rubber ball you can squeeze in every direction and use it in every way you want. It started as a higher definition. Everybody kept asking "what kind of music do you play", and we would say "well it is a bit new-metalish" but then again that term has gotten a bad taste the last couple of years and I dont think we would fit in the classic new-metal picture at all. So it was "well it has some hardcore, it has some new-metal but lets call it BPRNR". Its rock from Budapest and in the end, it’s "rock & roll". It was like our higher definition that would fit the music, just like you have "New York Hardcore". We started this and printed some stickers. And then a second band heard of it and said "hey that is so cool, can we also be a part of BPRNR?" and soon there were around 7 or 8 bands. We made a website for BPRNR and put the bandprofiles and tourdates on that..and after that it started to grow. It quickly became a band-community. We started putting the website url on band flyers, and suddenly BPRNR also became a booking agency. Even though all the bands would still organise the shows themselves, it seemed like it was going though BPRNR. Some foreign bands asked if BPRNR could arrange some shows, and it became connected to bigger booking agencies and started to do shows for bands like Sick Of It All and Madball. Afterwhile also bands like Meshuggah and Clawfinger.

Greg: And now we have some Bentleys and stuff..nah maybe in 10 years.

Andras: But it quickly became a real booking agency..and now it is also a publishing company. We realised there was a need for someone dealing with all the royalties and licenses. Nobody really had any idea about that so we said "ok, lets help ourselves". And recently we also have a webshop from which you can order thats pretty much where BPRNR is now.

MR: We saw some flyers lying inside promoting BPRNR and the webshop, so its a great marketing tool for you guys to promote your own music, but I wonder, do those revenues go to the bands or BPRNR, since BPRNR is still more of a community instead of a company..

Greg: To the bands!
Andras: Well one day it will be a company but we do not want to rush things. The idea that "a company" is taking care of things also means that you usually have to pay the company for their services, which is something most bands dont like.

Greg: That could destroy the whole thing so its better to wait.

Andras: So we sort of let it develop on its own. But if we really have to make it an official company it wouldnt be to hard because I am a "self-employed enterpeneur" so we are able to take care of that. But it seems like that we might make it a sort of limited company that would take care of licenses and royalties in 2006, but there is absolutely no rush. I am a musician myself and I dont want to promise bands anything that I cannot keep. Thats why we dont call it a management or a real booking agency.

MR: What is the biggest advantage for the fans?

Andras: They can find everything in one place.

Greg: All these bands are quality bands, and basically all of them are different but really good.

Andras: You can also take it as a quality guarantee, which doesn’t mean that everything is of a good quality because that’s a matter of taste, but if you see a band on BPRNR you get a feeling what that band is going to be like. You’re 99% sure that its not going to be electro-pop or traditional heavy metal.

Greg: Its going to be 20 or 30 nice and clean cheeks.

Andras: You know what to expect, and Im pretty sure it works the same way in Holland, as in "This show is promoted by this & this promoter".

MR: Well I dont know anything like BPRNR in Holland to be honest..

Andras: Well in Germany you have the MAD booking agency. And if you see their sign on a poster, you’ll know its a streetpunk or hardcore show. They take care for bands like Agnostic Front and Madball etc. Its the same with Continental concerts; you`ll know that it will be some sort of heavy metal.

MR: But I meant that BPRNR is really a band-initiative, while the companies you name are really "companies" in the sense of the word, so I think its pretty unique..

Andras: That might be so. There are similar things, but they are more a things like websites run by one guy. But our situation is pretty unique, we dont really have an industry background. Its like, "if no one helps you, you have to help yourself." A bit like being burglars and cops at the same time.

MR: What would be the best thing to do for a local band; trying to get a deal with a "bigger" recordlabel or go the independant way?

Andras: I think it would be the best for them to get in touch with a bigger company, but the thing is that they usually arent interested in local bands or "small bands" in general, other than good, well selling pop music. So like it or not, you really have to do it on your own these days.

MR: Well for example, the Israeli band Betzefer got a record deal because they supported Fear Factory in Holland. But if you look at Blind Mysef (Greg’s Band), they got a great review in the biggest metal-magazine (92 in Aardschok) but nothing happened after that..

Greg: You know, that means nothing. Its good for yourself, that you are doing something good. A review like that is a good sign. But there was no record label, there were no shows in The Netherlands. It was like a scream to the people saying "hey, this is a Hungarian band and they are rather good". But I stopped sending demos and bios, we just want to be a better band and play a lot of shows in Europe. We have a good booking agency now who is arranging shows, so maybe after our fifth circle through Europe we might have some audience build up, and we hope that they are going to talk about us, if we are good enough. And the record labels hopefully hear that and might pick is up.
I don’t know. I dont want to rush this whole thing because I have had some really bad expierences with labels, even in the United States. We tried everything but no one picked that up, so now It’s different.

Andras: The thing is, it all depends on connections, but miracles also happen. Ektomorf (Hungarian band), they got signed by Nuclear Blast and they have a pretty big fanbase in Germany and sold over 15.000 records. But thats a pretty unique thing, we have a saying that goes "One bird won’t bring the summer". That’s why its a good thing I am a part of the Music Export Office (MR: Instance that promotes music trading between countries), we’re trying to establish connections and build channels with which we can "push out" basically any kind of music. There isnt a lot of money to invest in the bands themselves so these kind of initiatives are great for trying to get bands out there. 

Check again next week to read the second part!
Details Written on 2005-12-04
Writer @Carn

Tags: #Hungarian Music