Interview - Uncle Grasha's Flying Circus

 Few days before his gig in Bulgaria (UGFC, Cortisol Society, Малък Ручей at Koncept Space - 04.09.21) Seraphim Veluvian prepared interesting existential questions with a slight taste of sarcasm (in a good way) We talked about aesthetics, his new vinyl album and his views on humanity.

Seraphime Veluvian - Hello, dear friend! You should forgive us for our sarcastic mood recently, but our questions will either be serious and/or tragicomic. We’re expecting you in Bulgaria soon, right?

 Willhelm Grassslich - Hello and thank you! I look forward to your tragic mood, hehe … and yes, my second approach to Bulgaria is closing in!

- Can you share with us some info about the guy you are? Some trivial info like what kind of salad you like to eat or different reality shows that you’re watching (joking),


You’d skip those embarrassing stuff and tell us more about your scenic/theatrical persona, called Willhelm Grasslich, aren’t you? And what music is this Uncle Grasha’s Flying Circus?

 Ah, the first issue may be disappointing, because I am not fan of salads, I usually enjoy one single species of plant and its particular taste, not mixing it… as skipping to the question number two, UGFC is heavy electronics/drone/industrial noise. Or totalitarian industrial, if you wish so.

- You came in Sofia few years ago with some titanic coffin, theremini and bunch of other instruments, stage clothes and you made your first gig here. What do you remember from this event? We know that this is a hard question (inner laugh).

 Oh yeah, I did and I am extremely grateful that it had happened then! I remember quite stressing times that I had in Greece days before, so I was quite tired and haunted, but despite all of that I enjoyed playing as much as possible. Your sets were also great and memorable! There is a video on youtube by the way, quite nice and valuable. This time I have a bit different clothes, a new theremin, but don’t have coffin anymore.  But if you provide some for me to sleep in, I will be happy of course! 

- Let’s talk about your stage behavior and the conceptual aesthetics of your main project UGFC. How do you chose your clothing? How do you select all videos for projections with political, military and propaganda content? We do understand that those elements are an integral part of your projects and they won’t be adequately presented without all previously mentioned, aren’t they?

 Yeah, you are right. UGFC was always about combining things and presenting issues in wider as well as very close connotations between each other. It used to be more abstract and a bit over-stylised, often depending on what kind of approach was chosen and how far the dark-humoristic nature of UGFC was exploited. This particular feature is in actual live setting far less present, but still somewhere between the lines. And well, we may say that actual events are waking up totalitarian thinking as well as 1984 prism, so more military “etat de siege” aesthetics was chosen. 

- You hide yourself in order to show your mask. It shows some messages probably. What is this all about? A warning? A prophecy? An intentional circus? Or is it just about sharing visions with other people and nothing deeper behind that?

 Hiding is not the point, I would say. This was always strong entity for itself and persona behind mask is still mainly reduced as a feeder and voice generator. Otherwise you are quite right in your deduction. Pure vision per se sometimes does not need particular human body or even mind behind. Not only St. John could have had a proper Revelation. In fact we may soon feel it in quite physical way, if you look around, world is burning...  Anyway as some relevant people say about my second and newer project Blind Ruler Cursed Land - UGFC is far less “human” than that.

- Are you sure you haven’t lived as an imperial subject or some nobleman in Yamato dynasty during the Second World War, in your previous reincarnation? May be you lived previously as s soviet architect who was building mausoleums and monolith statues under comrade Stalin’s blessing? Or here’s another hypothesis: have you been Eisenstein himself, who took his documentary approach in early cinema, but today it happens in neo-industrial club environment under sound and visions gigs?

eehmmm, it looks like you are losing your struggle of trying not to be sarcastic, hehe...but well, to make things easier for you, lets have it in convenient way – despite all the eastern fascinations, I am still closer to the antic type of god, Einstein is out as well, because I cannot image to have a violin in my what is left then? It’s not long time ago when I had a dream about building Moldau-Volga channel...

- Do your messages remain misunderstood sometimes? Were you blamed/accused into something because of your music which upset you or make you angry? If that happened, have you tried to explain to people that “nothing is the way it seems on stage”?

 Well, yeah, from time to time...not long time ago one label just canceled already accepted and scheduled release of one of my side projects just because of my Death in June t-shirt and one misunderstood joke…But in fact, I have never been confronted in stronger way. But at least here in Czechia it does not matter much, because when you don’t have a social capital, you are not “friend” to some particular promotion group, then you will most probably never play on some huge festival, neither you perform as a support act to some headliner etc.  So there is little chance to catch some big “cancel culture” fish. Anyway yeah, sometimes I am lucky enough to play for people who have never seen such kind of music and performance so far, in such cases I must explain even the most elementary features. But this often turns into very nice discussion and it can be quite motivating, if you know what I mean.

- Your new album OST was released soon with UGFC on vinyl format again. Is that some living or metaphysical soundtrack by claiming that “OST is mother, cradle and grave”? Where did you record the album? Who mastered it? We’ve read that you did some field recordings on Corfu island. How did that thing happened? May be something suddenly grabbed your attention and you say to yourself in the last moment: “Hey, this would perfectly fit to my UGFC, I should stop and play the recorder!

 This particular quote comes from one of the most essential Czech romantic poems – May by Karel Hynek Mácha. And it is situated in the passage dedicated to the home land. The cover photo was shot on the 1th of May, despite it primarily depicts the prism of lilacs blooming right on the day when Red Army liberated Prague in 1945 (at least as legend/propaganda says)...just to let you in a bit, the rest is on your perception…

Anyway the tracks for the album were recorded at many places, in many situations...for example my place of living three times changed during Ost growing period. Some sounds were recorded specially in studios or on hi-fi speaker sets at the venues, some were caught absolutely by surprise, recorded and kept unedited, because it was not possible to edit such sounds in fact then…

...and yeah, Corfu story. I played there few days before my first visit of Sofia 3 years ago. The place of my friend Iraklis (from the band Adolf Plays The Jazz), at whose flat I was honored to spend two nights, was quite close to Old Fortress. The atmosphere was in the air already and next day in the morning I went to the fortress already with recorder in my hand. I saw old cannons corroding and soon I found a room when the drops were falling and sea waves could had been audible as well... and now it opens hüzün horns, the oldest and at least from my point of view the best composition on the album...well, most probably the best composition of UGFC so far.  

- There is some new project of yours which is even more provocative as visions – Blind Ruler Cursed Land. How did you decide to build it and how different it is from UGFC?

 This project reflects both the growing need to give life to lot of sounds, ideas and compositions not fitting to any other “noise” project that I have as well as my mental state in the Spring of last year. As I can see things more clearly now, my era of life-building, or more precisely – trying to – came to its end then. Things like career, personal life, relationships…if they mean life, yes, but I suppose we are so incorporated that they do, thus they virtually do. But what is left for me now? – To prepare for death, naturally. That means, among other things, to think about values once more, but as for life they may change, with reaching death they cannot anymore. And values and their appreciation -from far different stances that might be within UGFC - that is important for Blind Ruler Cursed Land. I deal far more with idealism and some kind of “state of purity,” before death comes.  And that is not provocative, not at all, at least as I can feel it. Well, maybe to deal with spirituality of holy war fighter can be quite provocative in these days, but in fact it is not. Not at all – that kind of spirit must be free from any remnants of such thinking

- “East is the best” – you wrote on your bandcamp page. It is quite possible to be a metaphor that could mean anything. Jim Morrison said in the iconic song “The End” that the “West is the best”, but he surely despised the western consumer culture falling apart and made a joke out of it during his psychedelic studio recording session. So, your final judgement: Is the EAST better than the WEST?

 Well, we can start from Jim and from the metaphoric point that riding highway west might be a trip towards sunset, thus to the night. Thus, when going east, you may want to catch sunrise.

Concerning UGFC issues, I can give you one political – at least here in central-eastern Europe, the inclination towards one or another was always the key issue of particular nation/social group’s identity. You can see it for example in Croatian dominant auto-stereotyping discourse at least in the times of Balkan wars – to identify themselves as the West and moreover the borderline against “eastern” Serbs. Here in Czechia it was one of the dominant ideological features during so called “velvet revolution” – to get the country back to Europe and West.

From Blind Ruler Cursed Land perspective I can give you this – people here are often trying to incorporate some “eastern” wisdom or even spiritual feeling into their lives to get them “improved”. For example I had met some “European Buddhists” (not scholars, to be fair and precise) and it didn’t take long time to reveal their strong lack of discipline and reliability...

- In Fatih Akin’s documentary “Crossing the Bridges: The Sound of Istanbul” some random street guy says they put some artificial borders between the EAST and the WEST. The WEST, he says, is determined to be like something between Greece and L.A., so that to keep people’s minds and lives all over the world in some territorial and brain matrixes. Is that really true? What do you think?

 To be honest,  I have very vague memories of Crossing the Bridge, this feature I don’t remember properly enough. I would say for now just that – you can look for some general feature in cultural codes and you can see, despite using very simplified thinking for now,  that roots of Western religiosity are in transcendent feeling, whereas Eastern are  in immanent one. Or another simplified example – understanding of time. West keeps predominantly linear approach whereas in the East, at least in some particular spaces, you can still trace the cyclic time conception.

- You do realize that the music you produce is far from the popular stuff, far from any domesticated and recognizable form of mass culture. It is the same for Abandonment records and the content of this label. It is a content filled with abnormal nihilism, and sometimes it is delicately filled with civilizational criticism toward our societies. We know that few people would pay attention to that. We know that people would prefer comfortable life and superficial vainglory. Speaking of that: Do you rebel against people’s ignorance in all of its variations: a genocide against all forms of life, dogma, etc.? If that is so, do you commit a suicide day after day (or dying slowly every day) because you cannot fulfil your rebellion? Yukio Mishima put an end of his life as we know, because his rebellion had failed.

 First of all I must strongly disagree with you concerning Yukio Mishima – he hadn’t committed suicide because of the failed mission. That act was from the beginning its integral part and he already honored one of his chosen followers to ritually behead him. That’s by the way quite good example of “western-like” misunderstanding and approach – some fated struggle ending in tragedy, when the loss of life is necessary. On the contrary – in Mishima’s thinking based on Bushido and Hagakure death is integral and natural part of such spirit. When committing suicide as a “protest,” then it means natural task, not a desperate tragedy.

Well, it would still fit to the “rebellion” in existential way as Albert Camus described it (rebellion in its heart always calls for some value). Despite his conclusions are limited to the typical western/left/progressive prism, as an analysis it was and still is quite important not only for me. Rebellion against life is real core of the rebellion itself  - because you cannot simply decide whether you will be born or not. Life is your primal master and there is only one way how to free yourself from such slavery. Thus, when someone fully recognize the nature of such slavery, then death becomes key issue for him/her. Personally I am somehow bound to death since my unsuccessful suicidal attempt in early teens, next time I mustn’t allow myself to waver again. It must have been quite dishonest gesture then...

Anyway I guess the artist himself/herself must decide how far he/she is ready to go, when dealing with such issues that you name. I think, and this would be more Ernst Jünger-like thinking, that regardless anything it is still better to go and act, than to stay passive, at least when your intentions are pure.  

- Is there hope for humankind?

 I hope not. If there was so, mankind would spoil it again with devastating effect on other living creatures.

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