Radim Hladik doesn't need any introduction: guitar player of the historical band Blue Effect (aka Modry Efekt), he has been a reference of Eastern Europe Rock. His career counts important collaborations from Marian Varga to Pavol Hammel through musicians of Czechoslovakian jazz scene. We are greatly pleased and honoured to propose to you this beautiful interview collected with the help of the new Blue Effect bass player Wojttech Riha.
First of all, what's the name you prefer: Blue Effect, Modry Efekt or M. Efekt? My favourite is Modry Efekt… but I'd wish to use the name that you like more.
Blue Effect unambiguously. The other names were just only a consequence of communistic pressure and its “cultural politic”. The primary name (Blue Effect) premised ownership of the Blue Book (it is the term for the certificate of un-competency to get in to the army)
The birth of Blue Effect happened in a very troubled time, from a political point of view, practically at the end of the so-called "Prague Spring" (Pražské jaro) which marked the end of a free and liberal period and the beginning of a phase of control and censorship. How did you live those years of change? Have you ever had problems of censor and how did you manage to express your creativity and your thoughts despite the repression.
The age of the beginning was very free, in the cultural sphere the communistic pressure was very low. Maybe communists didn't want to terrify us immediately at the beginning of the ingoing regime: they wanted to make us adapted to it. In September of 1968 I was only one member of the music band Matadors who came back to the Czech Republic from the engagement in Germany (we played there musical HAIR). Other band members emigrated.
In the beginning there were problems only with lyrics of songs. Censorship entered. Then communist started with limitations of live shows. All musicians had to go to the board of examiners every year. These committees examined musicians' art and their political range of vision. Censorship was not so a big problem than the other things.
I was obliged to play and record mostly instrumental music on the border of Art rock and Jazz music. The lyrics were very close to the poetry. We created our own world. It was great that the most of our audience understood us.
Your first album, "Meditace", followed the "big beat" wave and had a good success, for what I read. But then you amazed your public with the release of "Coniunctio", a difficult and different album compared with the debut, stylistically at its antipodes. How did this daring idea was conceived?
There was a part of the republic where it was not possible to play Big Beat. The scope for musicians was decreasing. When we received the offer from Jiří Stivín for the connection of our Big Beat with Free Jazz, we didn't hover between. The whole album is improvised: no rehearsal, no playback. It was like coming of freedom in absolute darkness. Since then I mostly look for freedom in music. I started with the classical music and this is also the reason for my frequent motion between various music styles. The collaboration was very good and full of entertainment. They made their own music instruments for example (onanium, masturbon….etc). And we played cymbals with the rasper. Funny time.
Can you tell us how happened that Vladimír Mišík left the band?
It is a big paradox: Vladimir Mišik refused to sing in Czech language. He left in 1969 and at that time there wasn't the communist pressure yet. I held and I still hold the opinion that in Czech Republic one should sing mainly in Czech language. We took up an other singer, Lešek Semelka, who was singing in Czech. For six months they were both in the band, Vladimir and also Lešek, but… There was some kind of rivalry between them… and Vladimir left.
Nowadays the base for Vladimir's productions is made by high quality Czech lyrics. We played together very often during last years.
"Nová syntéza" saw a new change of style: the title lets us guess the will to merge two different genres, thanks to the aid of Kamil Hála's jazz orchestra. Do you think that the experiment was successful? Was it what you were wishing to obtain?
I think that this connection was mainly about arrangements. We played the same way like before and the Big band used our ideas, that we used to play in our shows, but the sound was completely different. It was very strong to hear our own compositions with so a huge sound. With this collaboration we moved out for some time from the main Big Beat stream and it helped us for a while. Jazz was not prohibited. And the success? In 2000 French Universal bought samples from "Nová syntéza" for the band ONE T. They had a very big success and their CD spread around the world.
With "Nová syntéza 2" you renewed the cooperation with Hála but the result has been different: your music become more symphonic, jazz orchestrations are less aggressive and there are sung parts. Why did you make this choice? Which album do you judge as the best one and why?
I missed the vocals. I didn't want to make only instrumental music anymore. I enforced the vocal and the second album is better for me, but I know several people with different opinion.
Why did you choose to release the same year, short after "Nová syntéza 2", a new LP, this time instrumental and quite different from the previous one, including also an alternative version of "Je třeba obout boty a pak dlouho jít"?
This album shouldn't be released in Czech republic. It was made by commission and only for export. It was promised to me that If I recorded this album I would have been allowed to record it with Blue Effect but with vocals: an album with songs that we played in our shows. Unfortunately the label didn't observe our suasion.
We hold the freedom in the music and our compositions was transmuting with the time. This is the right reason for another version of that song.
I don't think I'm wrong when I state that you're the greatest rock guitarist of Eastern Europe. Where did you learn your guitar technique? Which models had more importance in your learning?
This is not a question for me. I studied for two years classical guitar at the Prague conservatory. And about my models? They are the same ones of people of my generation: Hendrix, Clapton, Jeff Beck and many others.
One of the most beautiful collaborations has been the one with Marián Varga and Pavol Hammel. What can you tell us about these two artists? Are the rumours about Marian's bad moods true?
Almost all rumours about Marián's bad mood and depression are true. Collaboration with Pavol Hammel is still working. Two months ago we released a new acoustic live album, only Hammel and me.
How did your music change after Oldřich Veselý joined? What did he bring into your sound?
Veselý brought a new sound, Hammond organ and Leslie. It affected the sound of the band a lot. He also brought another kind of vocal interpretation. The biggest change in music was brought by Frešo though. The change was so huge that we ceased recognise ourselves. He was so quick in making arrangements that over time we discovered that we played also things which we didn't want to play.
After Frešo left you remained without bass-player and at this point you chose to play without bass and two keyboards. Once more you managed to expose yourselves for your peculiar choices. Why did you take this decision? Do you think it was of use for your sound?
Having two keyboards was a very good thing but it was even better to have two solo vocals. It offers the possibility of dialogue in lyrics and diversity of locutions because both vocals were equivalent. It has also been a changeover for synthesizers. There was also an economic reason: an additional musician (bass player) meant an additional car. We didn't have enough money. Moog was cheaper!
What amazes me most of Modry Efekt is that every album is different from the other and despite this all your albums are beautiful and of a high level. Is there however any particular LP you prefer? Why?
Thanx a lot for praise. Maybe it's my damnation that I am not able to pass over also in folk, film, world music etc….. I am not able to listen my own LPs and CDs. I am fussed because of mistakes I can hear there. I hope that I will do my best album in the future. Present band has all groundworks.
Your last album is dated 1981; what happened then and what have you done after that? …And what are you doing now? Why haven't you published anything with your newest Blue Effect?
After 1981 we had a lot of troubles. We had only two possibilities: the first one was collaboration with communists, the other corrupting. I couldn't accept any of them. Now I am in a situation that I do what I really want to. Members of the present band are between 25-33 years old. We play good together and we play a mixture of songs from 1968 to 1982. We play all songs with present day sound and arrangements. We just recorded a DVD which starts from Matadors over all line-up's of Blue Effect band to present. We are going also to record an unplugged DVD, and then we will do our best album. The new album.