Toni Dimkov interviews Sead Hadžić – Secko, “Mooger Fooger”
A variety of sensibilities and a host of creative musicians are a part of “Mooger Fooger”’s latest creation, as the most productive Macedonian rock band in the last couple of years. Since 2005, the band, with 6 albums under their belt, has shown us, time and again, the way rock music ought to be lived and created. As a kind of ‘who’s who’ historical mapping of the Macedonian musical stage, their albums include music by Goran Trajkoski (“The Fall of Byzantium”, “Anastasija”, “Mizar”), Dragan Ginovski-Gino (“Archangel”), Zoran Tortevski (“Harmosini”, “Mizar”), the muti-modal Saško Kostov and Adi Imeri, the virtuoso Muhamed Ibrahimi, as well as the poet Xhabir Deralla. The launch of the new album, we are told, will be marked by performances from bands such as “Last Expedition”, “Eksik” and “Black and Weiss Social Club”. The band’s stage design and the entire promotional material are inspired by the Russian artistic avant-guard. We sat down with “Mooger Fooger”’s frontman, Sead Hadžić – Secko and talked about the years prior to the current album “La Kana”.
It seems that the last couple of years have been quite productive for “Mooger Fooger”, evident from the number of new albums released. To what do you attribute this explosion of creativity?
First of all, I feel it is a by-product of our commitment to creation, which comes out of a stronger, visceral need that we cannot escape. Personally, I see creation as a kind of a calling, something that prevents me from losing my identity and losing myself in this world. Indeed, it is strenuous work, when crafting a new album, as the entire input asks a lot of time, love, money, but in the end we come out of the experience richer, for we’ve helped create a new life, something that will long survive us, and speak about who we are/were, so the need to be in sync with time makes us respect your time constrains. Most definitely, this urge that drives us onwards is the one responsible for the fact that we create at least one album per year.
#1 How many albums have you released so far and why is the latest one called “La Kana”? The one before last was named after a street in the municipality of Gjorče Petrov, right?
Even though the process that goes into making an album is at least three months long, while the preparations can go as far as six months, since 2005 we’ve managed to record 6 studio albums, something that we are quite proud of. Each of these albums is a story in its own right, yet each one brings forth that recognizable, strong, edgy “Mooger Fooger” sound. Each album has its own naming ceremony. Specifically, the last two albums are tied to particular urban/social spaces. The last album was called after the aforementioned street – “4th of July”, my birth-street, the place I call my musical proto-home, the neighborhood where few of our rock-en-roll stories sprang from, as the one tied to “Last Expedition”. Our latest – “La Kana”, is named after a place that we hold dear, not just another club, but a space that housed many alternative music performances, video projections, poetic readings, concerts, book launches, which is what sustains the memory of this club, in a consistently uncompromising way, promoting true cultural values. We all know how painstakingly hard it is today to be true to oneself and survive. With “La Kana” we need to, finally, realize that we must practice solidarity if we are to safe-guard this little piece of culture space left.
The distorted guitar sound, when taking into account the group members’ sensibilities, thus packaged with so much care, characterizes the albums released by “Mooger Fooger”. Do you feel as if moving gradually, from one album to the next, a kind of movement upwards? What are your goals when creating each new album?
#2 All of our albums have a starting point; each album has been recorded in a different atmosphere, with different and unusual alternative guitar rhythms, which offer something new and unfamiliar, something thrilling, something we are curious to explore further. Each new situation asks for a good deal of work and heaps of commitment, a kind of excellence that compels us to aim higher. Thus, in the end, we always come up with an excellent record, packaged with such care and emotions. Many of those creations, if made and played in regular guitar rhythm, most likely would sound banal and utterly mechanic, since I would be basing the experience on my former experiences. We are always on the lookout for new concepts, new preparation modes when considering each successive album, so that, for example, this last record, was basically recorded on an 8-track, while the next one will be recorded on a 24-track one, which then begs for new rules. When facing new circumstances, we need to be fully committed and inventive, so that we can handle it well and not let ourselves fall victim to some mechanized instincts. This concept/approach has produced excellent results with each new album, so we are sticking with it.
#3 What is the perfect sound you’d like to achieve as a group?
The perfect sound is just an illusion, and if and when achieved, it would signal the end of our mission. For true soldiers complete victory equals defeat, since how can they be soldiers if they have nothing to fight for. So is the case with us; we cannot enjoy peace and quiet while being bored out of our minds; rather, we rely on the noise we create to have us lead our imaginary mêlée called rock-en-roll. As veterans of many battles, we impatiently await each new one, and this will continue to be a part of who we are as long as we exist as a group, since rock-en-roll is our calling!
The albums, as well as your concerts, are always filled with many guests. Is this due to the dynamics of the songs’ different sensibilities, or is this now a permanent fixture of the group’s conceptual approach?
We try to offer our music something new, to allow it to run freely, while we swimmingly enjoy our creations, not being afraid where all that may lead us. Which is why we collaborate with musicians that come from different sensibilities, or with artists that can offer their own particularity and thus add on to the excitement of our new adventures. We like to collaborate with established musicians, such as Goran Trajkoski, Dragan Ginovski, but we also like to include young talents, such as Adi Imeri. “Mooger Fooger” fuses youth with experience. We’ve already booked a few new collaborators for our next album, which we feel would add their own fresh favor to the new “Mooger Fooger” sound.
You often collaborate with Xhabir Deralla when it comes to the lyrics; then there are Goran Trajkoski and Adi Imeri (who also has a key role in the February 8th concert) for the music, as well as a host of others. What criteria do you follow when forging collaborations? What are your expectations? What do the guests bring forth with their songs, for the albums in general?
First of all, the collaborators we choose are artists who need to be ready to surrender themselves fully on those tracks we create. This is basically our starting principle and main criterion. We expect thusly that they help further our music and creations so that they (the music and the work) move forward, which is the basis of each album. My collaboration with Xhabir dates back to the 1980s, when we played together with “Last Expedition”. He wrote most of the lyrics to our songs, as for example “You Are Far Away”, “A Song about a Dog”, “Powerless and Strange”. On the other hand, I’ve always admired Gotra, and tried to learn from his mastery; insofar we’ve collaborated on 3 albums, and on the last one, the song “Novo Lisiče”, we played the same telecaster that I’ve heard countless times on the tracks laid by “The Fall of Byzantium”. The collaboration with Adi still rings in my memory…so powerfully vocal was the performance that my Marshall and Vox became reserved.
Even though the Macedonian public perceives you as a kind of “neighborhood musical gang”, what are the universal messages that you wish to send out through your lyrics?
Fortunately, we have not been changed by fame or riches, so we continue to live our ordinary lives, and we continue to sing about everyday problems and themes that are ever-present in the surroundings of each ordinary man. This is what allows for the audiences to see us as an integral part of their lives, since we live and sing in ways that are familiar and contemporary to theirs, so I suppose this is why they see us as their “neighborhood music gang”. We sing and play about a million of ordinary things, such as love, pain, freedom and existence, topics which concern every ordinary man.
#4 How important is the group’s pre-history for the present-day sound? Does the cult status of “Last Expedition” affect the way “Mooger Fooger”’s new sound creation? Is it possible to run such parallels?
Ognen and I played with “Last Expedition” from its beginnings, so the experiences that we went through while playing then and there are so central that it would be impossible to circumvent them. Yet it must be said that after the band fell apart it was not at all easy to start again, start fresh. I think that starting “Mooger Fooger” was a far more challenging experience than starting “Last Expedition”, since back in the day we were kids and just wanted to play, without any idea or inkling as to the long and taxing road ahead. When I started “Mooger Fooger” I already knew what was in store for me. “Last Expedition” is a band which has voiced perhaps some of the most romantic urban Skopje-related tales in the late 1980s and 1990s. In a unique way we described the scent of the boiling Skopje asphalt, thus marking a time that will never come again, yet its echo resounds in songs such as “You Are Far Away”, “A Song about a Dog”, “Boss-man”, “Bald Beaver”. These songs have marched on. “Mooger Fooger”’s mission is the same; only it is intended for a different age. I hope that the stories we tell with “Mooger Fooger” will be good enough, echoing the days we’ve experienced.
#5 Privately, you are known for your love for analog guitar pedals. Henceforth the group’s name – Mooger Fooger. Why this fascination?
Rock-en-roll is a combination of science and music. Imagine that there were no Jim Marshall, no Robert Moog, no Thomas Walter Jennings (Vox). What would contemporary music be like? As a true aficionado of rock culture, I equally value and enjoy the legacy of Jimmy Hendrix and Jim Marshall. All those older guitars, amps, pedals, were created with so much love, hence their character, long history, preparedness to tell their tale if given enough love and attention. I am truly in love with those old beautiful artifacts, for they were created by people with a great deal of love and effort. All those ‘relics’ hold within many emotions, while, when considering today’s technology, machines produce new machines, yet void of feelings, which I something I mind a lot.
What combination of guitar-pedal-amplifier does Secko like the most?
There are thousands of combinations I enjoy thoroughly, hence the 15 guitars in my possession, the 30 pedals and many amps, yet a favorite combination that comes automatically would definitely be – Fender Telecaster Custom ’72, Vox ac JMI amp, and Ibanez Tube Screamer 808 pedal.
We can freely say that you are at the vanguard of the current Macedonian indie rock scene. Do you feel as a pioneer?
There is no such pressure at all, no pressure as to who we are or what we may represent, thus for the excess of space around us, and the ability to breathe at full lung capacity. The pioneer status could only curb our creative space. For us, first and foremost, it is crucial that we make excellent music, stage quality concerts, so that we can, at least for a moment, make the lives of those who’ve come into contact with our music happier for it.
#6 Finally, is there a real rock scene in Macedonia? What is lacking? What is in excess?
I’ve heard this question years on end, and it sounds to me not that different from the premise –
is there or isn’t there life on Mars?! The question itself, namely, the fact that it has frequented our past, says it all. The rock scene in Macedonia exists; the forms it manifests itself during these difficult and impossible survival conditions are far more interesting, more alive to speak of than those we can witness in place whence the conditions are far more favorable. Look at our present-day world scene, how sterile and idea-void it has become. Before musicians would change (rock) our worlds, influencing what we listen to, and now, the fat and sweaty bosses of the great world music companies dictate what is played and what is listened to. Ours is the privilege to live and be otherwise, and thus hold a richer, livelier scene.
Translated by Bela Gligorova