Whenever he gets a break from teaching at Maastricht University, Petar Petrov plays guitar in local progressive rock act MASSA, who are currently working on their debut album. M3 met up with Petar to discuss Maastricht’s local music scene, rethinking copyright, and raising awareness about the way people consume music…
M3 – First of all, could you tell us a bit about yourself, and what it is that you do?
Petar Petrov – I am a musician at night and a university researcher by day. I teach international relations at Maastricht University and studied political science and European politics in Sofia, Bulgaria and Manchester, UK respectively. Musically, I’ve played violin and guitar but stuck with guitar for over 20 years as this is an instrument that has a certain magic for me. My current music project involves writing, recording and performing original music in the format of a 4-5 piece band – called MASSA. Basically, if you ask me why I am doing music, it is for 2 main reasons – I really want to develop as a good musician, (so that I am able to express musically everything I want), and being able to connect to people. My idea is to create positive music that comes from a truthful place in me – an essence core that lives in everyone of us – and being able to connect to other people’s essence.
What inspired you to form MASSA? What are your own musical backgrounds?
MASSA came out of simply – friends getting together to play music. In the beginning it was really just jamming and having a good time, doing something we love. In time we got insipired to develop it further. My musical backgrounds are in rock music (the 60-70s era), but I am also a big fan of blues and jazz and – in that mixture – I have grown to like a lot progressive rock and fusion music. Among some of my likes are: Jimi Hendrix, the Beatles, Led Zeppelin, Stereophonics, Muse, Porcupine Tree/Steven Wilson, John Scoffield, Scott Henderson, Oz Noy, etc.
What would be your preferred medium to listen to music (eg. Vinyl, CD, tape, MP3 etc.), and why?
I grew up listening to Vinyl, and I like it as I find something nostaligic, vintage and good in it. The same goes for tape. However, I like the CD format as for me it is the perfect combination between size and good sonic quality of the recorded music. Often I start up listening to something on an MP3s file, since it is so easy to get hold of them and share. However, after I like the music and decide that I want to further explore it I find a way to buy the CD.
Do you feel the idea of an album, as a piece of art that people will listen to from start to finish, has been undermined or forgotten about in the digital age?
I personally do not think that this idea has been undermined or forgotten, because even in the digital age most people still like bands, go to their concerts, and feel compelled to buy their albums afterwards. I would even say that the idea of an album as a piece of art could be enhanced in the digital era, because it has become easier to promote your work and reach more people by using the internet. There are even people who add a virtual dimension to their physical albums thus making it more appealing for the consumer to actually have the album (e.g. check the work of Mika Tyyskä a.k.a. Mr Fastfinger).
Much has been made of the supposed death of the record store in recent years. Do you believe the digital age has killed the record store, and if so, do you think that this is a necessary part of progression, or a tragic loss?
I think that the digital age has put the music store on the defensive and has definitely influenced its presence and influence. However I do not think that it killed it. In this sense the idea of the store is not lost. In my opinion there are still people who cherish the idea of having both mediums to buy music. I do not see a reason why one model should be for the expense of the other. The future is one of coexistence and even a combination between the two.
Many people have claimed that there is no longer any money in record sales, and that touring is the most efficient way to earn an income as a band. How much truth do you think there is in this sentiment?
Well, I hear the same, and I indeed see that touring has been on the rise in the last 10 years. So, there is definitely truth in the sentiment that bands have to tour in order to make an income, but that has always been the case. The difference now is in the bigger scale of it. I do think though that we, as consumers of music also have a big say in this – we need to reflect and see how each one of us consumes music. How quickly and easy we want it? Do we appreciate it in its entirety – the artwork, its full sonic expression, etc.? Are we treating music just like we treat food – fast and junky one vs a slower but more quality one… In my opinion we need to be more aware about our relationship to music consumption.
Do you think traditional copyright laws are still enforceable in the digital age, or do you think we will have to rethink the concept of copyright itself?
I think that traditional copyright laws are challenged by the speed and multitude of channels through which music reaches people in the digital age. This will continue to put pressure on the status quo and will lead to rethinking the concet of copyright. I think this is inevitable.
What is your opinion on Maastricht’s music scene? Do you think musicians have enough opportunities to practice, play shows, network etc., and if not, what could be done to solve this?
The opportunities in Maastricht for musicians to practice, play shows and network are not so many. The one place that makes my social life here worth it – the Muziekgieterij – is being closed…?! And I feel absolutely gutted about it! It is the only real place for both practice and performance and other cities are doing much better job than Maastricht in this respect – both in Belgium and in the Netherlands itself. Add to this the fact that Maastricht wants to become the next European Capital of Culture… Maastricht needs to start adding more places where artists from around the world can come and play a concert. There have to be more available places for young bands to practice and perform. There need to be festivals in this city – for musicians this is a very good way to be seen, to network, to learn and to enjoy!! Maastricht is a capital of the region of Limburg and yet it does not really sit on the map of festival cities in the region! This together with creating more space for practice and performances are the two steps that need to be taken in Maastricht the in very near future.
What would you say are the main challenges facing an up-and-coming musician/band in today’s cultural climate?
The main challenges are to be able to do something new or original – we are over satisfied and over expecting as consumers, so it becomes ever more difficult for musicians to come up with something new. So on one level I do think that we need to become more aware of the ways in which we consume. On another level, it is a good thing if musicians feel inspired to think outside the box and offer something new. Namely if we are more aware how we consume, pressure can be transformed into inspiration. To me it all boils down to a simple (although not necessarily an easy) task: to be able to connect to your essence as a human being and get this out there to share with others musically. This is what I am after.
Finally, what does the future hold for MASSA?
Writing music, practicing to get tight as a band, performing at festivals and recording albums. And… Writing music, practicing, performing, recording…
For more information about Petar Petrov and his work with MASSA, you can view the video for his new single ‘Like a Song’ here.