Interview by Helena Markos
In the photo: Years of Denial from the isolation
Today, I feel overly honoured to introduce you to Years of Denial. Writing these words is pretty challenging after reading such rich, meaningful and emotional content. In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic and during moments of introspection, this interview has confirmed my instinct about why the voice of YOD is one that must be heard.
I usually avoid making such a personal introduction but this time it feels like the right thing to do. YOD is more than music, it’s more than art. I believe their unique style, lyrical expression, and insightful views make their contribution important to the world. We now, more than ever before, need artists like them to speak out, to position themselves, to ‘destroy’ the old and help us invent the new.
Jerome and Barkosina reflect on the current situation created by the pandemic and its immense challenges for both the humanity and art. They announce their upcoming work on ‘Modular Mind’ and talk about the notion of darkness, their deep connection and their exceptional process of creating.
T.O.P: Hi guys, first of all thank you for your time to do this interview. I would like to ask you about your present moment, in the midst of a pandemic, that is affecting us all. How do you process it and what are your emerging feelings and thoughts, both as humans and artists?
Years of Denial: Thank you for having us Natasa. Regarding our present moment during the pandemic, not much has changed for us. We’ve been isolated for a long time beforehand to be able to work on music as well as to keep a healthy lifestyle. The difference is, that our previous isolation was voluntary and now, of course, it’s imposed, which is more challenging at times.
Our tour was about to begin just when the Covid-19 hit, supposedly our first decent tour, and after those years of hard work in a remote place, it is certainly painful and sad. What needs to be done to prevent the population from getting the virus at the same time is to shut down and self-isolate. That is right now more important than anything else. We need to think globally with solidarity, think of humanity, not about politics, not about conspiracy theories.
As it is well known, some type of collapse would occur soon or later. “It’s depressing, but not surprising.” Perhaps, as cruel as it sounds, humanity needs a slap in the face, the problem is, those who suffer the most are vulnerable people. As most of the time, this is a tyrannical worldwide fairy tale.
Everyone has a lot to process, reflect, but maybe also think about how to make a difference in the future? Now is the right time to feel and accept human failure…Wash your hands or wash your soul? “Long for forgiveness as we long for spring rain?”…It’s a wake-up call. Yes, thoughts are constant and feelings flow in between angst and bizarre excitement. The world is not perfect and never will be. Let’s stop blaming governments, they were always hideous and useless. The only positive aspect of this pandemic is some kind of sentiment, co-operation between people because it is a global obstacle that brings us closer to each other.
T.O.P: Can you share few things about your journey into the music so far and the connection between you two?
Years of Denial: Our journey is a love song just like our first released track on Death & Leisure– “We operate on each other”. We have a powerful connection to the music we like, in fact, in the beginning, we were playing tracks to each other and were extremely surprised by our common musical ground. Each of us has also a strong background in Arts, Jerome in music and Barkosina in Theatre Arts. Along that path, we complement each other and exchange knowledge as well as the drive to create and play. We met at the iconic infamous place KAOS London, where we both DJ and danced through many inspiring nights alongside many beautiful and talented people.
Our first music experiments were all night long studio sessions without thinking where it can take us. When we had a chance to play live for the first time, we had a week to put it together, so we booked a studio and in no time we were ready to rock. We realised we should embrace YOD and make it ours. And more we did it, better we became. And here we are, bounded, intimate, addicted, broken at times but always devoted.
T.O.P: Looking back to where you started this journey, was there any person, moment or experience that have played a significant role for your art and expression?
Years of Denial: The most influential place is KAOS London, without meeting each other there, we wouldn’t be probably working together. In terms of our art and expression, we draw inspiration from each other, as we exchange knowledge and life experiences. In that way, crossing each other paths played the most significant role on our creativity.
While making music, the outside world disappears, without distraction this process resolved in quite authentic music project. One of the best feedbacks we get is “originality”. People usually don’t compare YOD to anything else.
T.O.P: The lavishing ‘Suicide Disco’ was your debut LP on Veyl; a mature record filled with messages and dark textures, a fine balance between retro sounds and contemporary aesthetics…Would you like to tell us few things about the process of the creation of it and the collaboration with Veyl?
Years of Denial: Our working method is producing a material that is documentation of everyday life, feelings, thoughts, experiences and so on. We constantly recycle a material we have created and search the sound which could define YOD. It took a while, but we have managed to achieve it with ‘Suicide Disco’. The process for the LP was very organic and touching, written and produced in a country house surrounded by vast, empty landscapes and an endless sky. The notion of time, space and silence helped to digest our previous years and look at our body of work we have made so far with clear eyes. All of those aspects helped to create the full concept of the album. Suicide Disco is cherry on the cake of our 3-year collaboration and the full package including the artwork, and the poster is excellent. Working with Veyl records has been brilliant and the outcome is outstanding.
T.O.P: How do you feel the scene will emerge in a post – virus era and how things will develop in terms of creation, expression and the social aspects of it?
Years of Denial: The post virus era might be tough, it will take time to shake off the collapse, especially from the economic point of view. On the other hand, we can learn from that. At this very time, we genuinely experience what it is to have and to lose in no time. Perhaps we will all appreciate what we are part of and stop taking everything for granted. Be a better man, kind, mindful, respectful and radical in our collectives, territories and subcultures. Hopefully, we can focus more on the mysterious side of music rather than marketing and selfie culture. Stars are in the sky let’s leave them there. Hopefully, we become stronger and more engaged.
I am not keen on the term “scene”, however, whatever we like to call it, we better fix those unnecessary toxic aspects of it. And we might be able to do it after this mind-boggling, hair-raising condition. Let’s take sunglasses off our faces and look inside people’s eyes.
T.O.P: What do you feel are the biggest challenges for artists right now?
Years of Denial: The major challenge for any Artist is the absence of Culture. Everyone lost work at this point. Our craft is to entertain, we are cultural predators and without Arts, we dry out. Another major challenge might be the ruthless behaviour of authorities, who might consider culture as the last matter that needs to be recovered and supported. In any case, we need to be strong and stand together. If any power structure will restraint our culture from functionality, I look forward to illegal events and D.I.Y. Overall, this is not the end of the world, not yet. Any challenge, any fall out will be transformed into new raw energy producing our well-deserved entertainment.
Destroy! Create! Destroy! Create! I will close it with Bukowski’s quote “The way to create art is to burn and destroy ordinary concepts and to substitute them with new truths that run down from the top of the head and out of the heart.”
T.O.P: There is something deeply mystical and psychological in your music, including your thought-provoking lyrics and Barkosina’s vocals. What is your main source of inspiration?
Years of Denial: The main source of inspiration is Life and part of life is also death. Strangely enough, our society doesn’t like to talk about death. Our society celebrates a birth, yet is silenced about death (die of old age / natural cause). We should be able to celebrate this very sacred moment, which is the end of our lives. And as well as death is taboo, it is pain, struggle, and any form of “darkness”. “Focus on the positive” enforced by those new-age spiritualists self-taught gurus is dangerous. They avoid pain in this world.
I will wrap this thought by Mark Manson’s quote “The desire for a more positive experience is itself a negative experience. And, paradoxically, the acceptance of one’s negative experience is itself a positive experience.” Artists are most of the time highly sensitive people, they understand pain, they sense it, they perhaps enjoy it and yes it becomes their subject in their work. Why? Because those fractures and broken aspects of our society need to be voiced, talked about, have space, be healed and hopefully solved. I am not talking about darkness being sickness which needs to be healed, no! I am talking about Darkness as a healthy dose to our consciousness, awareness, and acceptance.
Therefore our work is the density of a thought and a feeling. We create space where others can come to, where they can be present. We don’t make music which will help you to escape. We make music which will remind you what pain is, what broken heart is, what blood is, what death is, what loss is, what memory is and so on. That is the contrast between our music and space where it happens. People dance to darkness. I think that is the most poetic living thing I have ever experienced.
T.O.P: Few days ago, you have posted on your instagram profile a video with an impactful statement – message…Is this a teaser for a project you are working on?
Years of Denial: “Human Tragedy” is a result of our ambient/noise body of work, assembled from our earlier experimentations. Beside Suicide Disco, we’ve been producing and playing live cinematic-like ambient sets with the use of modular synths and processed vocals. It is our more experimental side and we are thrilled this material will soon see the light. This mini-LP will be out on Modular mind, an exquisite label run by brilliant producer/Artist Karl (Kujo) and audiovisual Artist Charleene (Unn, Furror). Their creative aesthetics speaks to us and there wouldn’t be a better place for “Human Tragedy” to endure. Part of the mini-LP will be a booklet with lyrics/poetry. “Human Tragedy” was not created as a commentary on our current times, even though it could perfectly fit. Perhaps Artists are prophets at times.
T.O.P: Who is Jerome and Barkosina outside the studio / venues?
Years of Denial: Jerome and Barkosina are two strange people even inside the studio or a venue. She is a deranged, emotionally uncontrollable, bad-tempered spontaneous wild beast with broken head lost in a black sea. He is a grouchy, explosive perfectionist, reserved, difficult daydreaming tech-head inside a space ship. Together they are utterly psychotic and such nice people to hang out with.
T.O.P: Which piece of music or album would you suggest as mind/ soul healer?
Years of Denial:
Barkosina – Sufi Soul – Echo du Paradis
Jerome – Spectrum Forever Alien