Coyote Music caught up with Luka Veselinovic, a Croatian-born, Berkelee-schooled and worldwide-trained bassist. We talk painting, punk, and how touring Europe differs from playing in Boston.
Coyote Music: You've lived in Boston, so you know what life is like in the U.S. Talk about growing up in Croatia, and how living there helped shape you musically.
Luka Veselinovic: Well, I was under music influence basically all my life. My father was a guitar player in a commercial band back in 1970-80. So he had a lot of cassettes and vinyl. So I listened all that pop, rock, funk, and other music while growing up. My grandmother was also a piano teacher and we had a grand concert piano in our apartment. I studied piano for couple of years when I was six years old but stopped to pursue volleyball (for 9 years). An acoustic guitar was always around, so I played and sang for fun all the time, but just as a hobby, nothing serious.
CM: Did you have much opportunity to see live music, growing up? Do many musicians get to Croatia on their tours of Europe?
LV: As I said, my father was a professional guitarist so I watched many of his concerts and gigs. But when I was younger I was not so impressed by music like today. I was more interested in paintings, sculptures and more visual arts . Still, yes, I went to see some of the really beautiful concerts in Croatia, like Sting, Jamiroquai, Dave Holland, Richard Bona, Pat Metheny and many others.
CM:You began in the punk world. What was your experience like, playing electric bass in punk bands?
LV: The first band I played in was kind of alternative punk-rock band called Ventil Inc. This was my first band and it was first time I played bass guitar. It was more alternative rock than punk—just my two good friends and me. This lasted for about a year, and we played on some rock festivals in Croatia. Very soon I realized I had some ideas of my own, and that rock style is not in my blood.
My parents got a satellite TV one day and, by accident, I watched a live concert of a jazz-rock-fusion group called Weather Report. I was completely shocked with the energy and expression. Soon after that I managed to find a legendary interview of Jaco Pastorius. At that moment, I started to get more serious about music than before.
CM:The transition from rock to jazz is a big one, especially moving from electric to stand-up bass. Was that a natural transition for you?
LV: This transition from a punk-rock band was very natural for me. I was always searching of way to express myself (actually, I still am). So if you are searching for something, you go step by step until you find it . On this road, I found upright bass. It requires a lot of dedication and practicing, but it's also quite rewarding.
CM:How does performing in a city like Zagreb differ from gigging in Boston?
LV: I went to Boston to attend Berklee College of Music, so my time there was a “studying time.” There were many things about music I just did not know how to learn by myself, so I went to school. I Boston, I was really focused on learning all these things I felt I was missing out as a professional musician, especially with technique on upright bass, reading notes, ear training, learning how to write composition, and, of course, playing with many different musicians. I earned a good scholarship, and with my own savings and help from my parents I went to Boston.
Zagreb is different, because it is a different situation for me. I work as a self-employed freelance musician and play with different people on different projects. It is working for me so far... Right now I am working on my own project and hope to make something of it. This was actually always my dream, to make my own music.
CM:You handled the production on your debut album, Magnetic Whale. Do you prefer playing music more, or working on the production side of recording?
LV: I prefer to play music and compose, but when it comes to other related things like production and visual part of the project, I like to do them also. I have a specific sound and idea how everything should be and I prefer to do it myself. I like to have control over everything, not because I am a control freak, but because it is less stressful for me.
CM:The artwork on Magnetic Whale is also your own original work. Talk about your interest in art.
LV: Art has been my passion ever since I was a child. I have literally thousands of drawings, comic books, and sketches from that time. I wanted to be a painter, like Robert Rauschenberg, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Caravaggio, Netherlands renaissance painters, Greek sculpture, graffiti, comic books...so I went o a college for that. I sold some paintings and had a chance to do that as a profession, but then toward the end of college I started to play music. I fell in love with music and quit college.
Many people will say this was stupid idea, but for me it was completely normal. I just felt I had to do it. I don’t know why. The only “problem” was I made that decision when i was 21, an age when many musicians are already developed. So I had to start from scratch a little later than them, my Croatian friends who were already professional musicians. I have to admit that it was little difficult for me to fit in the music scene. I am really lucky to have parents and a girlfriend who believe in me and support me.
CM:Have you continued to keep up with your visual art interest?
LV: Yes, I still paint and draw and I love to work in Photoshop. I have an Art Gallery section in my website where you can see what is all about. Also, I did the cover art for my new CD, as well as the cover art for my former band, Labyrinth, in 2008.
CM:At Berklee, you brought together a number of your peers for recording. Can you talk about who played on the album?
LV: During my time at Berklee I had a chance to play with many great and talented young musicians. Some of them became my good friends. I was really lucky to have those people around me who were willing to help me record my album, especially because it was made with no budget at all. So all these musicians decided to help me and support me, without taking any money. They were so dedicated and professional and I have no words to describe how much I thank them: Raphaell Pannier - drums, Ken Ychicawa - drums, Eitan Gofman - tenor and soprano sax, Daniel Rotem - tenor sax, Khyion Hursey - alto sax, Santiago Bosch - piano, Meari Nam - piano, Zvjezdan Ruzic - piano, Erick Del Aguila - guitar. Thank you guys and girls for bringing your talent and passion for music into these recording sessions! I hope there will be more chances for us to meet and to work together.
CM:How has the response been since releasing Magnetic Whale?
LV: It was released on July 18, 2013 and is available for digital download on iTunes, Amazon and CD Baby . I also have physical CDs which I will use for promotion of my live gigs. It is my first album and I recorded it in hopes of getting some attention from listeners, and hopefully some jazz promoters who might connect with with some gigs at jazz festivals.
CM:Is there anything else you'd like to share with readers of this interview?
LV: Yes, please check out my new album Magnetic Whale and Like it, Share it, or Tweet about it! Then I'll try to make some more interesting music in the future. And thank You for your support of my music.