by Amok Sun
When I was proposed to write this article, I was thrilled, but also asked myself if my story as a musician was interesting enough to write an article about. But like music, you don’t know how it will be received until it’s out in the world.
I’m Amox, an independent music artist. I’m located in Bucharest, Romania, for now. My project is called Amok Sun. I like to think about Amok Sun as a band. It needs collaboration as a foundation to work as I envision it. I currently do everything by myself. And I mean everything. Promotion, videos, artwork, social media, and others. All of this is on top of a full-time job as a UX Designer.
Thinking about Amok Sun’s sound, it is difficult for me to define the main genre. Maybe call it electro-rock. I hope that it will determine its own style. This is something for the community to decide. I would describe the music I create as a mix of genres and themes like alternative rock, electronica, IDM, medieval or renaissance, and world genres. Well, that’s the goal anyway, right now I’m pretty much isolated from the artist community because of my late bloom.
Listen to the song while reading the text.
Music was always a part of my life. Even before my birth, symphonic and rock tunes filled my home. As a child, I listened to Bach, Beethoven, and Mozart but also Led Zeppelin, Dire Straits, AC DC, Pink Floyd and the list goes on. These records were my music teachers, and great ones. I also have to mention Thom Yorke and Radiohead, now The Smile, Boards of Canada, Vector Lovers, Justice, Bonobo but also Opeth, Type O Negative, Be’lakor, and metal bands such as Korn or Deftones, Rage Against the Machine. All were my teachers and many more. And this was great because my experience with a real teacher was not that good to say at best. I was an early dropout. I skipped piano lessons when I was 8 years old because my music teacher behaved like a tyrant. Well, we lived in Sighișoara, the medieval heart of Transylvania after all. Vlad Dracula was born here, they say. Adding to the fact, it was hard to learn to play the real piano and exercise on a toy piano at home. A proper keyboard seemed to be a fortune back then. Since the piano experience, I have learned music on my own using YouTube videos.
Making independent music in Romania
I could tell you about living in a gray post-communist limbo, Romania was in, at the time of my childhood. Communism seemed to be gone but left a grayness, it’s hard to explain. Might be because of the sea of concrete, dull buildings built by the communists. Or maybe because we were so poor and corrupted. Even today, making independent music in Romania feels like tending to crops in space. All odds are against you, the task feels phenomenally hard, and you need clever ideas to solve small problems easily solved on Earth.
We met a lot of skepticism from society. Most people have a very pragmatic view of life and career and earning money. Thinking of a music career is something way too risky for them. Well, I can understand it, it’s like Maslow’s law, you don’t get to bother about self-actualization if you struggle to provide the basics. Food and heating come before art.
Our first band was called Mechanic Potato, a Nu metal band. I ended up playing rhythmic guitar and lead vocals. Although, I was not that interested in voice at that time. After a while, a couple of gigs, the band split in two. Opus 9 and Moksha. Moksha was the band created by me and the drummer, and a dear friend of mine. During that time I also met the bassist and lead guitarist, both talented and passionate. It was an alternative rock band. The name was inspired by a song by Omul cu Sobolani, a popular Romanian band. Moksha has a similar meaning to Nirvana. We also had strong grunge influences.
Little to no money
To have a band, we had to do it with little to no money. We had no jobs, only lucky to have a modest allowance from our parents. The gigs paid little to none and worst of all crappy instruments. We recorded our first album, “Profesor de viata” (“Teacher of life”) using an old Pentium something PC. We had a narrow selection of the cheapest mics and some rusty drums we managed to salvage from a school attic. Not only that, but we also had replica guitars, the best we could find so far from Bucharest.
So, old clunky Pentium something PC, check. Desktop mic specialized in recording computer fan hissing sound, check. No knowledge about DAWS and no easy way to get it (YouTube was different 18 years ago), check. We used the PC mic to record everything. 50% of the editing efforts focused on removing the omnipresent fan noise.
From Seattle to Bucharest
For us, in 2004 grunge was pretty much alive in our hearts. We lived something similar to what we believed Seattle must have been in the nineties. A lot of people were listening to grunge music, and we always played full house. For us, Kurt Cobain and Layne Staley were pretty much alive.
Good times, bad times! We managed to get gigs, but we aimed to get to Bucharest, the capital city. The only place with real opportunities for musicians, I believe. After a long search and a lot of phone calls, we managed to get a gig in Bucharest. It was amazing for the band! It was our opportunity to get heard. Oh, maybe even by someone from a record label.
The concert in the Underworld pub in Bucharest was the beginning of the end for Moksha. The concert was a success, but only 20 ish people attended, including the staff. I learned later that a popular Romanian band was playing at the same time two blocks away with a free entry. We hoped we could recover some of the money we spent on fuel and renting the van. We asked for a modest entry fee. The funny thing was that people flooded the place at 22:00 when we finished the concert. After that, the band quickly broke apart. We felt defeated. Now I think that the effort was too great for us at that time. We were just kids, after all. We should have believed in ourselves more and followed our hearts. I think we should always remember that we create music because we love music.
From the soul…
I believe music to be essential in the development and nurture of the soul. If you don’t like the word, let me rephrase it. Think of it as one of the most important things that make us human. The ability to see and understand, and maybe add to the beauty of our universe. The ability to wonder, to be impressed by the world around us. The ability to give meaning to things and create stories. This is something only humans possess, here on Earth at least. All our artistic creativity is a form of revealing the wonders of our universe.
I think the view and interest of the new generation about rock is also the responsibility of consecrated bands. They should help if they can because ultimately it’s about the music. I think rock in one shape or another should get back to some of its former glory. In my view, rock touches human sensibility and human emotions in a unique way. It would be sad to lose that. I think Steve T and Rick Beato, and many more great YouTube creators, do a good job in keeping rock alive. Reaching the new generation of musicians with their content. To me, the future of rock seems to be uncertain. During my life, I witnessed rock becoming a niche. And there is also A.I. which has already started changing the game. Let’s make sure it brings positive changes to society.
…to artificial intelligence
A.I. was a great help to create videos and artwork for Amok Sun. I have to mention A.I. because it is impressive. It is funny that people believed robots and A.I. would take the physical labor jobs first. Well, it didn’t. People are still required to do a lot of simple physical tasks. Art on the other hand was humanity’s own. Something only a beating heart creates. Well, it seems nowadays, A.I. is very good at replicating art to the point that it is unrecognizable from a human-made one. But, robots are still bad at physical work. We still have to carry stuff around.
Anyway, I think A.I. can be a great help, especially for emerging independent artists, but also for collaborations and openness. Right now I still get the chills sometimes when I hear music created by A.I., illustrations, or animations. There is an alien feel to the things A.I. creates. But A.I. is getting better, fast.
And finally, Amok Sun
Amok Sun emerged after I had a 10-year absence from creating music or having concerts. So it’s an exciting time for me. I’m optimistic. I had some small projects after Moksha, but then it got “serious”. Well, ten years went by in which my hope of creating music for an audience was barely there. Time in which I created and recorded and ultimately lost two albums. Today, I feel excited. Making music feels liberating and meaningful and I would like to continue doing it.
To wrap it up. Don’t get demoralized by some failed attempts, with perseverance and work we can make it. We are artists, good or bad, we create art. Rick Rubin has some great interviews about music creation.
I would like to end with something my father said. He is a writer. He told me that the most beautiful times in his life are when he writes when he creates. These are the moments he feels he has meaning. I think enjoying the creative process is the most important. Be creative! Believe in yourself! Collaborate! Create beautiful things and inspire! The world needs it!