In the heart of Wroclaw, where the echoes of its rich cultural tapestry reverberate through cobbled streets, resides a musical enchantress who seamlessly weaves sonic tales with a mastery that transcends the ordinary. Meet An On Bast, the alter ego of the city's native daughter, Anna Suda. Her journey through the electronic music circuit has been nothing short of a mesmerizing symphony, where the language of gear becomes poetry, and every performance is an ethereal odyssey.
An On Bast's live sets are a testament to her profound connection with the machinery surrounding her. With a deft touch, she navigates the realm of modular synthesizers and drum machines, creating an auditory landscape that captivates audiences, whether beneath the festival lights or within the intimate confines of a pulsating club. Her music is not just a sonic experience; it's a journey—a kaleidoscopic expedition through the realms of sound.
This month, An On Bast returns to the spotlight, gracing the stage of Carl Cox and Christopher Coe's label, Awesome Soundwave, with her second album, "Tender Perceptions." A sonic odyssey comprising ten tracks, this album is more than a mere collection of songs—it's a vibrant narrative, an animated tapestry crafted with synthesizers, modular synths, samplers, and loopers. With each note, An On Bast invites listeners to join her on a vivid, emotional ride, promising an experience transcending conventional electronic music's boundaries.
In our feature interview with An On Bast, we delve into the artist's intimate relationship with her gear, explore the roots of her musical journey, and uncover the profound connection she shares with her music and her audience. Beyond the beats and rhythms, we discover the soul of Wroclaw through her eyes—her culinary delights in local restaurants, and the joy she finds in reimagining classical music. We uncover the complexities of her sound and the simplicity and healthfulness she brings to her approach in the kitchen, creating a harmonious balance that echoes throughout her life.
Q: Foodwise, what is Wroclaw famous for?
A: I think the answer is complicated, given the complex history of the region. Various culinary traditions of different cultures have met over the centuries in Wrocław and its vicinity, so today, we have a city where you can find dishes and specialties from many countries. Wroclaw is associated more with openness and diversity than anything else.
Q: What is something that you must try when visiting Wroclaw? It can be a dish, fast food, a drink (alcoholic/non-alcoholic), candy, dessert, or pastry!
A: Trying out something in Wrocław would involve some kind of meat, as typical Polish cuisine is meat-based. I am far from this type of food as I have been a vegetarian for many years, so I would take you to my unique places, which serve a mixture of the world's flavors. Suppose you want to eat traditional Polish cuisine. In that case, you must try duck in apples, pike, rabbit, "schabowy" (pork schnitzel) with young potatoes and fried cabbage, venison, cabbage parcels, gołąbki (cabbage rolls) or different kinds of soups.
Q: How does your day start? Are you a morning or a night person? What do you eat to get the creative musical juices flowing?
A: I'm a night person. I don't understand mornings. I feel lost if I wake up too early. So I sleep long and preferably without an alarm clock if I don't have to. I have a long, slow breakfast. I usually do sports, play tennis or climb. After lunch, I go to the studio and usually stay there until the evening. I have a rule that my breakfast consists of two parts: the first is salty, which can be a vegetable salad or eggs, and the second must be sweet, i.e., a piece of bread with honey or homemade jam. I eat vegetables steamed or baked for dinner - these are my favorites. I pay attention to spices. I like pasta with green peas, red lentils, or black beans (delicious with mango). I also enjoy eating sushi, pizza, Indian and Thai food a lot.
Q: Can you describe a typical Polish meal? It can be breakfast, lunch, or dinner.
A: A Polish main meal in many homes is still a piece of meat, potatoes, and salad on one plate. Despite this, people's eating habits have changed significantly. There is food from all over the world. As far as I know, Poland is most known for pierogi (dumplings), which are delicious in many variations.
Q: What is your favorite pierogi filling?
A: My favorites are white cottage cheese, potatoes, and onion.
Q: Do you like your pierogi boiled or pan-fried?
A: Both! I like pierogi a lot.
Q: Name the vegetable and fruit you can’t live without and why?
A: Oh, only one to choose from? Tomato - I miss that flavor when I don't have some form of tomato for a day or two. For fruit, it is bananas. Besides the taste, it gives me a lot of energy, and I like it in many combinations - for example, my favorite afternoon snack is a banana with homemade peanut butter.
Q: Do you have a particular take on Zurek? A family secret ingredient?
A: I never liked Zurek; I’m sorry! I won’t give you my mom’s recipe because I always stayed away from it, so I don’t know.
Q: What special family dish do you look forward to eating when you all get together?
A: We are the most traditional when it comes to Christmas. For Christmas, I go to my family's house, and my mum recreates the dishes that my grandma cooked. So the typical main course is carp (boiled and fried) with mashed potatoes and an extraordinary sauce which is called "royal" - I haven’t got a clue why it's called "royal" but it is exquisite, more like a gravy, it is tricky to make. It is made with red wine, almonds, and raisins. I love it, and it is something that is entirely related to my family as I have never eaten it anywhere else or heard any of friends talk about this kind of sauce at all. This royal sauce is our family specialty.
Q: Who taught you how to cook? Mom, Dad, Grandparents? Do you have a special memory from cooking together?
A: My mum will be proud when I tell her about this interview as she doesn’t perceive me as a cook. Fun story: when I was buying my first mixer at the beginning of my journey as a music producer, my mum heard that I wanted to buy a mixer, and she was so happy and said to me: "Oh, finally you are interested and will start cooking!" She was disappointed when she understood it was not a kitchen mixer I had in mind. I am a simple cook; I just prepare meals how I want and imagine. Learning to cook happened simply by watching other people cook, traveling, being in different countries, and trying out. different flavours. Today, my dear mother understands I could never learn it from her because I was curious about eating other things. I wanted to discover vegetables in different ways.
Q: What do you cook the most and why?
A: I have a few dishes that I can cook well. The first is the so-called "red pasta" - i.e., bolognese without meat. The secret ingredients are typical Polish herbs that give a different flavor. Or something I don't make very often - beef bourguignon - but again, a version without meat, only vegetables in red wine. I probably cook roasted vegetables with spices, rice, and vegetables with a more Asian flavor the most. To be clear, I'm more passionate about food than cooking, so I enjoy simple cooking, usually taking up to 30-40 minutes and using very few ingredients.
Q: How do you approach cooking? Is it based on what you have available in your kitchen, or do you plan recipes for the week?
A: I like cooking the way I play live - a lot of improvisation, but based on elements I know. I'm not skilled in the kitchen, so what comes out is always enjoyable, healthy, and made of good quality ingredients, but sometimes it could be better visually. Certainly colorful!
Q: Do you have a favorite restaurant, food spot/food truck in Wroclaw?
A: Oh yes! I'll start with dessert because it's my favorite part of the meal. I often go to Nanan - a modern, original confectionery shop near the Wrocław market square - I love this place. The cakes are delicious and visually stunning, like a miniature work of art. Mango Mama is my go-to for Indian food, which I'm a massive fan of, and this place has a modern twist so that you can order the traditional Paneer Masala with Mango Coleslaw. I will also mention The Cork restaurant, which the owner runs passionately. The Cork serves seasonal cuisine with an Italian accent, with unique wines and olive oils, as well as a beautiful atmosphere. And finally, Beef Burger has been my favorite burger place for years. I chose the vegetarian version based on beets. It's so perfect that it gives me the same pleasure every time.
Q: What is your favorite kitchen appliance?
A: Spiralizer! For creating vegetable ribbons.
Q: Have you ever sampled cooking sounds, like chopping, slicing, frying, boiling?
A: I recently recorded eggs boiling in a pot - to me, the sounds and rhythm (without rhythm) seemed very interesting. There's a chance I'll make something out of it.
Q: Let’s talk about your musical influences. Can you name a few (from pop to classical)?
A: I have listened to a lot of music throughout my life before I felt like I wanted to express myself through making sounds. That was when the influences were most clear. I knew exactly when the music I listened to began to enrich me and change my perception of reality and emotions. I am very grateful to many music producers and composers for their work, to name a few: Arvo Pärt, Mozart, Bach, Bill Laswell, Autechre, Underworld, Future Sound of London, Rage Against The Machine, Pearl Jam, Tool, Human Traffic Soundtrack, artists of the Click'n Cuts series, Biosphere, Gus Gus, Coil, Mouse on Mars.
Q: How did you discover electronic music? Was it a track, a rave, a logical progression from your musical influences, or was it by chance?
A: My first contact was through ambient music. That was when I realized that everything is possible in electronic music and that you can follow your path and be creative without limits. What struck me the most was the creations with endless colors. These same feelings have been with me all these years, experimenting and exploring. So the first experience was direct, alone, lying down with headphones and immersing myself deeply in the sounds. I've never been a raver, and I don't know, I've never been into it. I started learning about the club world from the concerts I played at. The first time I wanted to create dance music was at one of my first festivals where I performed. Later that night, I danced to a set by Cristian Vogel. I felt amazing. It was the first time techno opened my heart, and I wanted to explore this feeling deeper. By the way, it was such a brilliant set by Vogel! It was at the New Music Festival in Katowice, Poland, in 2006.
Q: Were you already producing music while studying law and philosophy?
A: It was during the last years of my philosophy major that I started exploring the software (Ableton Live 2.5, Cool Edit), I bought my first synthesizer (Clavia Nord Modular G2), and started creating my sounds and first songs. University studies shaped me and confirmed my belief that I only want to do what I love: music.
Q: How did your love for machines and gear begin?
A: I've been playing the piano since I was four. I've always enjoyed playing instruments, keyboards, strings, and drums. Synthesizers were fascinating from the beginning because I could play keyboards, and they had so many different sounds! I like to play anything that just makes a sound and wonder what else can be done with that sound. I also love machines like samplers, drum machines, and effects processors - they are always new, exciting areas for me to explore.
Q: What is your most treasured gear or machine, and why?
A: I love them all, everything I have owned and sold, everything I have kept and often use. The answer would be a modular synthesizer because it is the most customizable and versatile and fulfills my childhood dream of building my unique synthesizer.
Q: Did you always know you would become an electronic music producer and composer?
A: I felt it deeply, more on an unconscious level. Sometimes, the "what you don't want" in your life gives you enough knowledge about where to go or what direction to take. When I reflect on my life to this day, many events, experiences, and choices that have happened since my childhood have prepared me and taught me to find myself, a self that loves and enjoys life, can share it with others, and creates something for my fulfillment, creating and delivering good vibes to the world. Being in sounds is my natural habitat, and music is my most familiar language, so yes, I'm glad I felt what I love and followed it.
Q: How did reinterpreting classical works of art come about?
A: In 2009, the organizers of the Spring Festival Festival in Poznań invited me to prepare a special concert based on Stravinsky's "Sacre du Printemps" for the festival. Preparing for it was a magical adventure. It was a beautiful concert, and the whole process seemed so natural. Since then, I have always enjoyed working on classical pieces and reinterpreting them whenever I had the opportunity. Apart from Stravinsky, I am glad I have already worked with the music of Chopin, Penderecki, Wieniawski, and many others. It's a beautiful challenge connecting my mind with a great composer.
Q: How do you prepare for a live set? Is it improvised? Do you tune in to the crowd? Do you have an idea or mood and then build from that?
A: I prepare my machines, program them, build sequences, record fragments of audio samples, and then give myself the freedom to improvise. The whole modular environment is improvised. I just tune the oscillators to the specific notes I want. I usually know how to start a live performance, but after a minute or two, I change my mind and go with the flow, the audience, and my growingly unpredictable feelings. The emotions that are created live with the audience are what drive me through my live performance. I love this feeling.
Q: Can you describe the feeling of performing live vs. producing in your studio?
A: Live performances are about vivid emotions, experiencing the moment, and constantly creating new ideas. The joy of building a living energy field to unite everyone in the same ride is indescribable. Working in the studio is an intimate time for me, a profoundly developing relationship between me and the sounds emerging from my monitors as a result of my decisions. I meet my intuition, and I am open to the unknown. There are no words or any other barriers. I like this time very much. I like trusting myself, that moment when you know, "Yes, this sounds great." And to recognize the high energy level once the track is finished, and to know when to play it so the audience will react to it is also indescribable!
Q: You have a vast discography. Is there a particular release that has a special place in your heart?
A: Every music is associated with emotions and moments of life. I've had many transformational moments, but my favorite and most significant moment was while working on the album "Enter The Now," released on Ghost Kitchen in 2016. My album, "I Create As I Speak," on Carl Cox and Chris Coe's Awesome Soundwave label in 2021, was a game-changer for me on many levels. The 2019 ambient album "Nothing Shapes Everything" on Shimmering Moods Recordings is also very special. But honestly, every tune comes from my heart and stays there. Every track contains my own personal "aha" moment.
Q: What is the story behind your label Ghost Kitchen?
A: I express myself through creating music a lot, so I needed a channel to release it on. That's how it all started in 2014, and therefore, if I want to have some of my music out, I plan it and do it, fitting into the schedule between my subsequent releases for the labels I work with.
Q: Is there really a ghost in the kitchen?!
A: Of course there is! Ghost Kitchen is a climbing sector on the Greek island of Kalymnos.
Q: What’s cooking in the Ghost Kitchen at the moment? Are there any new releases planned for the fall/winter season?
A: Ghost Kitchen never sleeps, so I’ll probably plan something for the following year. My LP "Tender Perceptions" is out today on Awesome Soundwave. I’m focusing more on touring and performing live as we have planned a release tour for this one. I’m looking forward to it.
Q: Anna, thank you so much for your time and being part of The DJ Cookbook!
A: Thanks a lot! That was special.
An On Bast Photo Credit: Pawel Brudlo
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Listen to An on Bast's latest LP "Tender Perceptions."