Lukasz Polowczyk is a poet / spoken word artist. He works with text, sound and visuals. In the early aughts, as RQM, he contributed vocals to the music from Al Haca, Stereotyp, Robot Koch, Milanese, Siriusmo; Jahczoozi etc. He shared stages with MIA, Missy Elliott, Stereo Mcs, Kool Keith, Peter Kruder, El-P etc. After a 12 year hiatus, he’s back with a spoken word project called AINT ABOUT ME (the LP bears the same name). The music for this project was written and produced by Jan Wagner. The record features musical contributions from Petter Eldh, Simon Spiess, Ramon Oliveras, Tobias Preisig, Rider Shafique and Benedikt Wieland. The project is released as a series of capsule products: a book, cassette tapes and prints.
1: I rhyme words with music. Music with visuals. Love with life.
2: New York and Warsaw raised me. Berlin became my home.
3: My latest project is called AINT ABOUT ME, it’s a spoken word outfit with producer Jan Wagner. It features a bunch of free musicians: Petter Eldh, Simon Spiess, Tobias Preisig, Ramon Oiveras, Benedikt Wieland and Rider Shafique.
1. What is the biggest inspiration for your music?
As cliche as it sounds, it’s really just life and everything it has to offer. You could literally get sparked by anything! Like you could be playing with your kids and seeing something through their eyes. Or get an idea from some scene in a movie; the way the shot was composed, the lighting or the reversal of action. It could be a picture in a mag. A phrase in a book. A fascinating new word. A bike ride across the city; the smells, the sounds, the paint on the walls… People’s faces. A deep conversation with a friend. Being beat into submission by a strong emotion. But more important than any of these particular triggers – because it really doesn’t matter what sparks you – is the presence of mind, i.e., that you’re really there to receive the experience, that you are fully present in the moment. I’ve come to realise that all great art comes from being anchored in the now. Because you need to really be there for an experience to be able to speak on it. As you hone mindfulness and anchor yourself in life, the resolution of your art increases in equal proportion.
2. How and when did you get into making music?
I really don’t know how and when, exactly, this seed was planted in me, but I remember my mom’s friend walking in on me while I was singing and dancing along to some Michael Jackson tune, I must’ve been seven or eight years then. She asked me, ‘what do you wanna be when you grow up?’ I said, ‘I’m gonna make music.’ That’s the oldest memory that I have, which speaks to the idea of music as a calling. Soon after my Michael phase, I got into hip hop, then punk and hardcore, eventually rave culture. All of these scenes were DIY by design, and the separation between the creators and fans was absolutely fluid. A blur. You were supposed to actively participate by being in the scene. You were supposed to pick up a guitar, make your own fanzine, master the elements, print some t-shirts, throw a party etc. So, in a way, there was no escaping this destiny.
3. What are 5 of your favourite albums of all time?
This selection will be a bit misleading, because I have a loosely rotating top 20! But let’s say it’s:
John Coltrane – Love Supreme
Marvin Gaye – What’s Going On
Kate Bush – Hounds of Love
Talking Heads – Remain in Light
D’Angelo – Voodoo / Ryuichi Sakamoto – Async
4. What do you associate with Berlin?
Berlin is like a conglomerate of a bunch of artist villages. It’s a big city that doesn’t feel like one, which is something rather unique. It’s organic like that. It changed a lot since I landed here, which was back in 2002, but it’s still pretty special. I love how we celebrate personal freedom here, and not just in theory!
5. What’s your favourite place in your town?
There are so many! I love taking my bike across town in the summer. On a beautiful day, with a good soundtrack on the headphones, the city becomes pure magic. Plus, in the summer, the energy here is almost Mediterranean. People lose their shit because it’s warm.
6. If there was no music in the world, what would you do instead?
I would still create. I would write, I would take pictures, make movies, build things. If anything, the need to create is central to who I am. It’s always been there. To paraphrase Keith Haring: “If you have something to say, it doesn’t matter what medium you use.”
7. What was the last record/music you bought?
The latest record I bought was ‘And the Bird Said: Cut Me Open and Sing…’ by Prairie. It’s gorgeous. Hypnotic. Deep textural sound synthesis with some field recordings and a bit of spoken word. It’s very personal, and it feels very “there” emotionally, which is the main quality that I look for in music. That’s why I love to work with Jan Wagner, and love his music and productions so much, because he’s all about capturing emotional truth.
8. Who would you most like to collaborate with?
I would love to work with Prarie at some point, because I can hear my voice in his soundscapes. I see pictures and feel things when I listen to his music. I would also love to work with Ryuichi Sakamoto. His ‘Async’ LP damaged me in the most beautiful way possible. I love how he changes the musical vernacular from song to song, but still manages to create this cohesive body of work, and stays on topic. This record is one of the most thorough meditations on life and death that I’ve heard in my life!
9. What was your best gig (as performer or spectator)?
As a spectator, it was definitely seeing Gil Scott Heron at S.O.B’s in New York, sometime in the late nineties. I was just wandering around the city aimlessly – something I did a lot back then, to clear my head – and then I saw the sign outside the club announcing that Gil is playing. There were only like twenty people there! But he was killing it! He was sooo deep in the zone. Every time he dove into his keys for the instrumental part, he would cock his head back and laugh to himself, lost in some deep ecstasy – just feeling the music. As a vocalist, one of my most memorable shows was with Steortyp, Al Haca and the extended family, opening up for Missy Elliott in Malaysia. Two days before the show, I came back from Brazil, where I was on tour with Jahcoozi, only to find out that I didn’t take into account the time zones when I was booking the flights. So I only had fifteen hours to catch the flight to Malaysia, which was also around twenty hours or so. I hit the stage right after I landed, so I was having this strange out of body experience. This was the biggest show that I played, and a nice way to wrap up that cycle of my career. That was the mountain top that I was aiming for on that stretch.
10. How important is technology to your creative process?
As far as lyrics are concerned the only technology I really need is a black ballpoint pen and something to write on. I don’t know why, but I love these cheap pens and how their black ink looks on paper and how they slide across the surface with such ease. With music, it’s a bit more difficult. For my experimental pieces, it all starts with a field recorder. With ideas for spoken word songs, I need some arpeggios from a synth.
11. Do you have siblings and how do they feel about your career/art?
I have a wonderful baby brother, who somehow – and I really don’t know how! – managed to turn thirty this year. Where did all this time go? I’m playing! This time was well spent. Every single minute of it. I think he’s proud of me. We’re definitely night and day, as is usually the case with siblings. He’s the more rational and conservative one, I’m the crazier one. But the key to our relationship is that we celebrate each other’s victories and happiness like our own.
Photo © Benjamn Schäfer