Nick: Hello Dejan. Thank you for making this interview possible. How are you doing?
Dejan: Thank you for approaching me (us). I am like the weather these days, up, down, left right and then in the center.
Nick: Let’s start from an obvious spot, which is introducing your band, EYOT. How did it all start? What is your musical background?
Dejan: We all have different musical backgrounds but it would take me a lot of time to say everything. So I will start the story about EYOT from 2006 when I released my first solo-piano album for Ninety and Nine Records, New York independent label. And from then on I and later the band had the great support in everyday from the label president and owner Dr. Kent Gustavson. After one more solo piano album and one more in collaboration with Kent, It was the time to move forward and to start a band which will be a continuation of my solo-piano story. (The first album is called EYOT). And we started somewhere in 2008. Marko Stojiljković (bass) Sladjan Milenović (guitar) Miloš Vojvodić (Drums) Dejan Ilijić (Piano). The Band. In these two years the main things that we did are winning in the final (selected among 3 winners) of Umbria Jazz Balkanic Windows contest, Performance at Nisville Jazz Festival, (this performance was daily featured video at All About Jazz web site) World of Jazz, Manifestation as a part of Dubai International Jazz Festival and the fact that we recorded our debut album.
Nick: EYOT is surely one of the most quality and promising young bands out there right now. You blend jazz with a bit of fusion and a lot of other influences. What can you say about your musical direction?
Dejan: Well, we declare as an ambiental – world – jazz band, something like that, but I am not sure how to describe the music. To be honest, I am not thinking a lot about it, I just need that description for websites like myspace e.t.c. But it is important to say that we are not exactly a jazz band. We keep the jazz word for the end of the description. I see our roots in classical background more then jazz. But I like the both directions.
Nick: Your debut album is about to be released and I know how much of sweat and blood you’ve put into its creation, so please tell us something more about it. Also feel free to tell us where it was recorded.
Dejan: Sweat, blood, time and money. We started working on it from the first day, so it was a year and a half process when we decided it was a time to draw a line on the material. It was recorded in F.A.M.E.S. Projects studio in Skopje, Macedonia in two days and basically the album is almost live recording in the studio with very few double tracks and edited parts. And that was the only way to record our music, sound, energy and I can say after all that I am very happy how the things worked out at the end. I know people don’t care, when they listen to the music what you had to do to give them that last product, it is only important what they hear, but if I take all the aspects this is the best that we could do in this period of our lives. It was recorded great by Georgi Hristovski, mixed by me and then we had a final touch from Nathan James in Vault Mastering Studio in New York. I hope we will work with this team in the future again.
Nick: “Horizon” has been put up for free download, and it’s also the first single of the upcoming album. This particular track blew my mind when I first heard it. I have to say here to our readers that this song is going to be presented on our second volume of the Progstravaganza compilation and it is my personal opinion that this track describes the music EYOT creates very well. Would you like to tell us anything about this piece in particular?
Dejan: I am not sure I could say anything in particular about it, but I agree, in some way it contains all the parts that build EYOT sound. There are some private stories around it but we’ll keep that for some Autobiography books in the future. ) I am glad to see/hear it on your compilation.
Nick: I could see some of your live videos on your MySpace profile and the fact that’s really astonishing is the energy you guys transmit through your performances. Is it hard to capture that energy from the concerts for a studio recording?
Dejan: It is hard, but we had a great team in the studio and nice atmosphere, without any pressure so I think we have managed to catch that energy that we transpose on our live performances.
Nick: It’s interesting that the guitar in EYOT sounds pretty atmospheric, which is a bit weird for a band with jazz roots. Where do you get those atmospheric elements from?
Dejan: All the instruments have their own parts in melodic, rhythm, harmony parts in the songs, it depends on the orchestration e.t.c. but generaly we all produce that atmosphere. Is it from emotions or something else,I don’t know.
Nick: Which artists and bands have mostly influenced your work with EYOT? Would you share with us some of your favorites? I can easily conclude that you’re a huge fan of Coldplay and the Esbjorn Svensson Trio, but give us some names from deeper down.
Dejan: Hmm…Traditional music, Stravinsky, Bartok – Rhythm, Orchestration, Deepness. / Nirvana – Unstopable energy / Miles Davis – atittude / Esbjorn Svennson – The way they brought out the jazz, let’ say it jazz, to the wider audience. Coldplay, U2, Radiohead, Bjork – That kind of the emotion / Zealot – All of it. Maybe I could say more, but this is enough to describe the main influences.
Nick: Music in general is probably the most living “thing”, if I may say like that, but somehow jazz music remains as a “genre” which has rights to carry that epithet much more than some others. Do you agree? Jazz has always lived on, while at the same time there have been subgenres like grunge or different forms of new-waves that have been coming and going. If you see it this way too, why, if not, why not?
Dejan: In some way I agree but… Jazz is alive all these years but it has changed in so many forms taking the parts of all other genres so today you have jazz, grunge, punk, pop, rock, new waves, everything mixed up. So, let’s just say…if it is a good music I just don’t care about the genre.
Nick: How do you see the current Serbian jazz scene? Many people ask me to recommend some Serbian artists and bands, and I almost always stay frozen without a real answer. There are several great names, but it’s not like it used to be, if you ask me.
Dejan: I like the bands like Tripcycle and Ana Never, if you can call them jazz just like us. But there are few very interesting bands with new energy for sure.
Nick: How is the reaction of the audience to your music? How active is the band when it comes to concerts? Are you satisfied with the response you get from people, other musicians and media?
Dejan: Until now, we had a great reaction where ever we played, we’ll see in the future. After the release of the album I expect all of this things to stuck in forward. But we are satisfied how thins worked out for us in these two years.
Nick: As you are the main composer of EYOT music, I must ask why you chose to give yourself a “band name” instead of calling it, for example, The Dejan Ilijić Quartet or The Dejan Ilijić Band? Was it because you would prefer to work in a band atmosphere and you don’t like the feeling of being in charge?
Dejan: You can’t gain the same kind of the energy when you put the band and one person project. It is not about the feeling being in charge, I am the leader like every team and ship has it own captain but the most important thing is that we understand each other and we enjoy playing together and going trough life together. They trust me and I trust them. All for one and one for all. I often say, these songs were born by Dejan raised by Eyot.
Nick: So what are your plans for the future?
Dejan: The future is bright. After we release the album for Serbian market, we will release it in USA, and, probably, in Japan. We will play a promo tour in region, and then we plan to play all over the world and I am working on all of this to happen. There are more things to tell but for now I will keep it for myself. The next few months will be interesting in our lives.
Nick: Is there anything you would like to add now that I’m out of questions?
Dejan: May the force be with you.
Nick: Thanks for the interview, Dejan. Hope to see you guys live in concert soon!
Dejan: Thank you once again for approaching us, people will have a chance to see us soon on Petrovac Jazz Festival in Montenegro 02.09.2010. and Nisomnia festival, Niš, Serbia – 04.09.2010. We’ll keep you updated for more!