How a drummer in psychedelic rock bands discovered punk-funk and learned to love the groove
It would be fair to say that 25-year-old Nic Mauskovic has enjoyed an eclectic career to date. While arguably best known within electronic music circles as one half of Dekmantel-signed tropical twosome Bruxas (alongside friend and frequent collaborator Jacco Gardner), he has spent much of the last decade playing in drums in psychedelic bands – including stints in Turkish psych-funk revivalists Altin Gun and legendary Zambian "zamrock" outfit W.I.T.C.H.
"My background is psychedelic rock, for sure," he confirms down the phone from his Amsterdam home. "Touring with psychedelic rock bands, I noticed that 'psych' had become a brand, with lots of psych festivals with the same few bands putting echo on their guitars and vocals. It became very clichéd, in my opinion. And when I started going to club nights more, I started noticing that they were way more psychedelic than those bands and festivals. It opened my eyes a little bit."
The musician and producer's latest project, the Soundway-signed Mauskovic Dance Band, naturally draws on psychedelic influences old and new, but explores a wider range of inspirations in pursuit of heavyweight, low-slung dancefloor gold. Accompanied by four other self-taught, proudly DIY musicians, Mauskovic creates music that's equally inspired by New York no wave bands of the early ‘80s (think Konk, Liquid Liquid and ESG), early cosmic disco and the percussion-rich, rhythmical music styles of Colombia and Peru.
"One of the things I like most about Colombian music is that it's super-crazy and outgoing, with guys screaming through it and someone mumbling along with the congas," Mauskovic enthuses. "It makes the music very lively. For me, that kind of Colombian music is really to similar to what Liquid Liquid or ESG were doing with their vocals and energy."
Mauskovic's love of ‘no wave' even bled into how he makes the music, both solo (at the demo stage) and alongside his band members. "I'd never played guitar before I started this band, or bass, and that's become part of the sound," he says. "That's like those original no-wave bands that had painters and filmmakers in them. picking up instruments for the first time. That gave those bands much more of an original sound than ones with schooled musicians, and I think we're the same. It's all about self-produced, DIY, low- budget recordings."
This approach is laid bare on the band's forthcoming self-titled debut album, a gloriously percussive and out-there blend of ESG-style heavy bass, echo-laden multi-lingual vocals, meandering 70s Moog solos, Afro-fired guitar licks and sweaty South American rhythms. It's a hugely vibrant set that came out of sporadic recording sessions in the store room of Amsterdam club Garage Noord, which doubles as Mauskovic's studio.
"Well, 'studio' is a big word for the room my recording equipment's in!" Mauskovic laughs. "It did give the album a certain sound, though. Sometimes, if I'm in there all day recording, I hear the beats starting on the other side of the door. Then I walk through the door and there's a club night going on, with 100 people going crazy to a DJ. That's great for the vibe."
Words: Matt Anniss Pic: Dustin Thierry/Alice Whittington
The Mauskovic Dance Band will be released by Soundway Records in late May