Ever since I’ve heard Analena, there’s a special place for these folks in my heart. They formed in 1997 in Zagreb, Croatia. The name of the band comes from the ancient Sanskrit language, meaning “like/by the fire”. In this interview, I’m talking with their guitar player Miran Rusjan, who also happens to be running the amazing label Moonlee Records.
Let’s start with an introduction to Analena. Who are you and why form the band? Why play music, and more to the point, what are you trying to do lyrically and musically both for yourself and for your listeners? Analena broke up in 2007 and you got back together year and a half later, why?
Miran: ANALENA is Ana, Zet, Mijo and Miran. The band exists already since 1997, therefore from our perspective it is kind of hard to say why to form a band nowadays. What about back then? Definitely there were bunch of intercrossed motives, like being part of the scene, play around, see new places and meet new people, change the world, etc. But I guess after all the most import one is some strange urge to be creative, to create something special totally by ourselves, where we can be purely ourselves without the need to compromise, nor to listen to the surrounding and its expectations. It’s a way to say – we are here, this is our galaxy, »here we could do whatever we wanted, here we could be whoever we wanted«. I think this might be also the main reason, why we’ve kept doing it through all these years. And that’s what we try to do with our band (lyrically and musically) – to do something beautiful by ourselves and totally by our own desires. As you can see in the main core there is not much place for our listeners. I mean, sure we love it when people like and enjoy what we do, but we will never follow their expectations or desires. We simply cannot do it, we have to follow our hearts and it should fulfil us first. We never ask ourselves if people will like it or not, we just spit out riffs, beats and screams, and if we like it that’s it – no questions and doubts needed. Otherwise all the charm is gone, and with it Analena as well…
Actually we didn’t really break up in 2006. The bass player (Six), who was one of the founders of the band, left the band and at first it seemed that there is no chance we can continue without him. But soon after it become clear that rest of us want to go on. We found a new bass player Davor, a good friend of ours who is also playing in Senata Fox, and after only few rehearsals we already played first (and last) show with him. Then he got a job on touristic transoceanic cruisers, which lead to strange situation, where Ana grabbed the bass, so we could work on the new songs. After some time it becomes obvious that we should continue like that and here we are with new album Inconstantinopolis in our hands.
What is it about playing in the band that makes you most inspired? It seems you’re influenced by a lot of different hardcore/punk bands and music out there, Kylie Minoque included. What does constitute being a punk for you if not only an underground music style? How did punk change you as a person?
Miran: Besides creative/artistic perspective described above I think the most inspiring thing about the band is the unexpected that appears somehow on the way. The things that probably wouldn’t happen to you if you were not in the band. All the inspiring people, great places, new and crazy situations you end up in, which lead to new experiences and knowledge you gain out of it. It helps you grow and develop as a person a lot, since everything can be really intense and condensed in a way. And of course I shouldn’t forget the energy and passion between us when we are together (or in rehearsal room, or on the road); it’s crazy, strange and indescribable, pure magic. In a pretty weird way, we love each other. Can you get anything more than that from the band? Being a punk? We don’t care much about the term itself, but personally everything described above and below is punk-as-fuck. To question everything, to make your mind, »to focus the camera on yourself«, to stand up, to be yourself, to be responsible in your irresponsibility, to live a life worth living. »To see the colours behind Violet. To walk out of the frames. To wash off the lies. To cross the line. Cross the line. To live. To die no more.« And it made us the persons we are today, and we are happy about it.
What do you remember from the communist and post-communist Yugoslavia? When you got into punk and do you think the Yugoslavian punk scene was one of the few social groups that were not divided by nationalism, hate and war with its strong antiauthoritarian and antimilitarist message? I think even in the hardest times in the 90s there were really political and antimilitarist bands coming out from Croatia and Slovenia like Apatridi, Nula, Anti-Otpad, Radikalna Promjena and Razlog Za.
Miran: I was only 14 when Yugoslavia felt apart in big mess and tragedy. Therefore it is kind of hard for me to speak firsthand how it was before. Sure I have some nice and not so nice memories from that time, but I think they are more like funny fragments from the past, that I cannot put in broader perspective. Hey, I was a child… Sure there were many punk bands with anti-war and anti-nationalistic message at that time, but there were also »punk« bands that promoted nationalistic ideas. Just as there were rock bands, artists, intellectuals from whom some were openly anti-nationalistic, while the others were pro-nationalistic and (in)directly supported the military conflict. Many punks also fought in wars, on this side or the other. War time. However, important project from that time worth mentioning was “Preko zidova nacionalizma i rata” (Against the walls of nationalism and war), a compilation of anti-war songs from punk bands from the ex-Yugoslav countries which was released in 1996, followed by tours of Croatian and Serbian punk bands in Slovenia under the same name. It was clear message that blind hatred based on nationalistic/religious basis can and should be overcome. And yes, that period was definitely fertile ground for punk bands to send out anti-nationalist and anti-militarist messages. And sure it’s great that punk bands raised their voice, but I think we would still prefer that the situation wasn’t so fucked up, even if the punk bands and their message wouldn’t have such a strong push.
Analena is a band sharing people from both Croatia and Slovenia. I’m really interested into talking about Balkan politics as I’m reading a lot of stuff and being well educated into what’s happening in both countries, but it will become really a long conversation. So if you just can tell us a little bit of what’s happening there from your perspective. Slovenia continues to block Croatia from the EU, because of territorial and border issues. Is there a tension between people from both countries?
Miran: I think the border problem between Slovenia and Croatia is just an effective tool for politicians from both sides to gain some easy political points, as well as to direct attention of masses from much more important issues. For politicians it is almost always useful to populisticaly play on nationalistic tones from time to time. On the other hand I think average people from both sides don’t care that much about it, and there is no big tension between them. Even more, I think most people want to have the thing finally fixed, so we can all move on and focus on more important issues. But of course stupid people are everywhere, and of course from time to time there are incidents between Croatians and Slovenians, which usually get stupid bombastic media coverage where someone could get impression that we are in front of total mobilisation. But that’s just bullshit that suits the ones in power, who want to keep the playground for political points open.
You finished a Balkan tour after releasing your new record “Inconstantinopolis”. What have you seen touring the Balkans, are there any specific things you’d like to tell about that tour?
Miran: In October we made short 8-days tour promoting our new album Inconstantinopolis that symbolically led us to Istanbul and back. It was great to be back on the road for more days. We all missed it a lot, since in the last few years we mostly played weekend shows due to lack of time. And it was wonderful experience, as every tour usually is. We played in Serbia, Macedonia, Greece, Turkey and Romania, and except Serbia we never played in any of those countries. It is pretty much different world from what we are used at home. The best thing is that every day was something totally different. We played in squats in Greece, fancy club in Istanbul, local disco in Macedonia and abandoned factory in Timişoara (Romania), and consequently the crowd was different, not to mention differences between the cities and cultures. Every day was new adventure, and every day was some crazy shit. It’s great and we love it. Analena loves to go to new places; it’s much more interesting and rewarding then playing in the same cities, in the same clubs and for the same crowd year after year. We wouldn’t like to get lost in such routine.
How did you come up with the lyrics of your songs? I’m really amazed of your impressive English language skills, since it’s not your native language. How could you manage to write all those metaphorical and tongue-in-cheek lyrics?
Ana: Ha-ha! Thanks for the compliment; I guess Croatia has a good schooling system! But…did you notice the lyrics are really short – that’s all the good English I can squeeze out of me. Seriously now, maybe it’s weird, but for me it is somehow easier to write lyrics in language other than my mother tongue. Also I think it’s easier to sing in English, since it uses more vocals and sounds more melodic than Croatian/Slovenian. And most of the metaphors works in Croatian too, so basically what happens is I just translate a picture I have in my mind and that’s it! And I guess some credit goes to all those years of listening to Anglophone bands, reading books and watching movies.
It’s not possible to talk about the meanings of each one of your songs, but can you pick up a few Analena’s songs, old and new, and go into some sort of explanation about the lyrics and message behind them? Maybe one song of “Inconstantinopolis” and some older stuff.
Miran: I really wouldn’t go into explanations of songs, since I think they might simply lose their potential for individual interpretation. The lyrics speak well enough for themselves…. But at this point I want to touch the comments we hear regularly, i.e. that “Analena is ok band, but it is just the music that lacks the message”!?
Well, it is true, in Analena’s lyrics you won’t find recycled revolutionary slogans, used and abused way too many times. Because we simply don’t care about the cloned cool slogans and phrases that lost all their meaning, since they became just an easy way to gain scene points (popularity) with telling the crowd what they want to hear. We prefer to express with our own words:
DREAM AMPLIFIERS // Paved with good intentions, still, the world is grey. We need dream amplifiers to make it louder. So, they can feel it in their bones. After that count to 10 and all your wishes will come true. (Carbon Based, 2004)
LIFE IN EXCLAMATION MARKS // If I had to choose I wouldn’t have it any other way. I want to live my life in exclamation marks. No questions, no full stops, no commas, no dashes, only complete and unabridged notes of admiration. (Inconstantinopolis, 2009)
Do these words lack message and meaning?
And what about dreams, why do we really need dream amplifiers? What do you think about lucid-dreaming? Did you watch the movie “Waking Life”?
Ana: I guess it’s different for everybody, but I think that amongst all other technical gadgets we use every day, a dream amplifier could easily fit in and could do you more good! It’s easy to get lost with all these stimulae around us, there is too much of everything in contemporary society and you get distracted from your own thoughts and plans/dreams too easily. So a dream amplifier presents a sort of “grounding” or “centering” device that makes little reality checks for you, so you don’t get pulled in by the machinery of everyday life and become gray. And, if it we had one with enough watts, which would be so loud that it could wake everybody up from apathy, it could overrule the present state of nothingness where money and power are all that matters. So buy it now for 9,99!!! Today’s special offer ends at midnight!!! Just call 0-800- ANALENA! Speaking of reality checks, I’ve heard it’s a good exercise for lucid dreaming!
P.S. Just watched the movie trailer, it seems interesting, I’ll definitely watch it!
The name of the band, Analena, is coming from Sanskrit language. What do you think about esotericism and spiritual teachings like Krishna Consciousness, which are very popular even among the hardcore punk scene? Do you believe in reincarnation? I mentioned the movie “Waking Life” in the previous question, there’s this quote in the movie: “Just about reincarnation and where all the new souls come through over time. Everybody says they have been the reincarnation of Cleopatra or Alexander The Great. I always want to tell them they were probably some dumb fuck like everybody else.”
Miran: I don’t know the movie, but I like the quote even if I don’t know its context. Honestly, I don’t think much about reincarnation and similar stuff. I believe we are here and now, and we should make the most of it, here and now. I mean, the whole concept of some sort of reward in next/after-life is a bit tricky in my eyes. The idea that one makes his/her decisions while calculating about reward in some next/after-life is at least weird. But it is definitely an efficient way to keep people away from asking for more (here and now), as well as to discourage them from following their hearts, taking action accordingly and also take the full responsibility for that. Well, fuck that, I prefer to bite the apple and kiss the snake, take responsibility for all my actions and feel at last a little bit of freedom. Even if it means I will be some dumb fuck in my next-life. Just like everybody else.
Are you all in the band vegetarians or vegans? Is there an animal rights movement in Slovenia or Croatia and what’s the attitude towards veganism and animal rights activism by the average people?
Miran: Everyone in Analena used to be vegan/vegetarian for years, even though Ana started to eat meat recently. But that’s her personal choice that hasn’t anything to do with the band itself. We are a group of four individuals, where each of us makes his/her own decisions about his/her lifestyle… There is bunch of animal rights groups in Slovenija and Croatia, but I cannot say I have that much insight in what’s going on within vegan/vegetarian movement in last years. But I can notice it is definitely much easier to be vegan/vegetarian now than it was 15 years ago, when most of us quit with meat. Now you can find bunch of vegan stuff in almost every store, even thought I think vegan/vegetarian diet should be based on vegetables and fruits and not on special soy products. And vegetables and fruits were always present. I think the myth of vegans/vegetarians being some strange elitist club of weirdoes is still present, which is mostly based on more outspoken and exposed animal organisations and individuals. But at the same time there is more and more vegans/vegetarians around, even though you don’t even know it, since they don’t show it that openly. I mean, you wouldn’t find soy milk and tofu in every store just because of few weirdoes, right?
Miran, you’re also running the label Moonlee Records. Can you tell us the history of the label, the bands and all the things around that? You’re also doing a big festival with the all the Moonlee bands every year.
Actually, Moonlee Records was founded by Analena members in 2004, mostly out of pure need to release new Analena’s album (Carbon Based LP/CD). We had everything recorded and prepared, and instead of working with small half-serious “labels” we decided to take everything on our backs and to “do it ourselves”. Being present actively on the scene for over the decade we knew enough people, had enough knowledge about how to do it, and especially enough will to try. We recorded, mixed and mastered everything by ourselves in the studio of our guitar player, we did the cover with the help of some friends, and we released it, promoted and distributed it by ourselves in the way we wanted to. DIY! DIY! DIY!
Later we found out there is bunch of great bands out there that deserve attention but have the same problem, and we decided to give them the chance. Six years later we have 20 releases in our catalogue: Bernays Propaganda, In-Sane, Senata Fox, Fat Prezident, Don’t Mess With Texas, Vuneny, etc. Don’t hesitate to check them out: www.moonleerecords.com
Today MoonLee Records is still based on DIY punk rock roots in its broader sense. Rather than limiting itself to specific music genre or style, we prefer leaving doors open for creativity to enter. We strongly believe you can do whatever you want with your music, just do it the best you can. DIY not as an excuse for doing it only half-way, but as a way to do it the in the best possible way.
If I’m not wrong, Analena’s drummer is also playing in Senata Fox. How’s your local scene and what about the bands, gig spaces, zines etc.? What should we know about the scenes in Croatia and Slovenia at the moment?
Miran: Nope. Our drummer isn’t playing in Senata Fox, but we all play or have played in bunch of other bands as well. I am not sure if I am the right person to talk about the scene, since I try to see the whole picture and not just to focus on small detail (scene). And there is bunch of great things going on also outside “the scene”. However, I think I can still give you brief overview. In Slovenia there are lots of places where you can set up shows, but little people interested in them. Fanzine scene is more or less dead, but I should mention Last Breath zine from Serbia, who are really doing good work. There is bunch of webzines related to the scene, but they are mainly strictly focused on music, which means there are no columns and similar exchange of ideas. I think webzines replaced fanzines, but unfortunately along the way the individual and critical approach of fanzines and their authors got lost. This might also be one of the reasons why hardcore punk scene is losing its critical sting more and more. Bands? Well, definitely Moonlee bands mentioned before. Besides that I should mention also Melete, Aktivna Propaganda, Cripple and Casino, The Storms, Nikki Louder, ŠKM Banda, etc.
As I know you’re influenced to some point by the old Norwegian band Life… But How To Live It?, which I find really great, because I love that band! Can you tell us some other great bands, that everyone should hear about?
Miran: In general we are influenced by everything we hear, see, read and experience. Analena was never the band that wanted to follow the trends or to sound like somebody else. Basically we just shoot out beats, riffs, screams and melodies, juggle with them a bit and if we like what comes out, we keep it. I also think that’s the main reason why people have hard time comparing us to other bands. It’s funny that many people say that Analena sounds so 90’s, but still fresh at the same time. But it is a fact that 10-15 years ago we followed the bands and everything else much more then now, and therefore it is somehow logical that we are more influenced by sounds from back then. That’s why I think I should definitely give more credits to some old bands, which are definitely worth checking out – Portraits of Past, Undone, Assay, Petrograd, Still Life, At The Drive-In, Lvmen, Refused, etc. While lately I would definitely recommend Envy, The Cursive and Sed Non Satiata. But that’s my personal choice; each of us would definitely give you totally different list, especially since we also listen to lots of music outside of hardcore punk realm. There is tons of great music out there.
You seem really positive people with a great sense of humour. How can you keep up with that and what wakes you up every morning? What do you think are some useful things that we can do as individuals in our daily lives?
Miran: My first thought in the morning (and I wake up rather early) is simple “wow, the new day, great!”, the heart starts to beat faster, and suddenly I jump around the flat happy as a monkey. How can I manage it? Well, I am totally aware that we are not living in the best possible world (nor the worst), but also that somehow I live in a privileged part of the world. Should I feel depressed and fucked up because of it? Would it help those who don’t have that luck or would it be just a lame excuse to drown in self-pity? Or should I make the most of my life, right here, right now? We all play with the cards we get, but it’s totally up to us how we will play with them and what we will make out of it. That’s the main thing each individual should do in our daily lives – to take responsibility for his/her life and make the most of it…. Once you put aside useless complaining and blaming everybody around you for everything, then you can finally ask yourself about yourself. Once you realise that it is you and only you who made thousands of small decisions every day, and that you should take the full responsibility for them when they turn into action, then there is not much space left for finger-pointing all around you (ooops, I just killed hardcore, ha-ha). There is only you, your decisions, your action, your life and actually your piece of freedom each of us desire so much. Then it’s not so hard to dance through everyday life with a smile on your face. And that smile can be the Laugh in the face of rotten society that wants to keep us frustrated and fucked up. It’s an open message that they didn’t succeed in the most important thing – they didn’t’ manage to kill our spirits and delete the smiles anchored on our faces and in our hearts anymore. It is a message that they might even won the battle, but the war is still on. Crazy shit, but it keeps the smile on my face.
Any last words or advice to the readers you would like to impart? Is there something important that you would like to say, but I missed to ask you?
Miran: (Dare to) Dance, sing and scream through your life!