Martins Rokis: Between art and music

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Martins Rokis is a sound and visual artist based in Riga, Latvia. He works with visuality and sonics in different contexts and forms, exploring multimodality of human perception via installations, performances and works for multichannel systems. Aside from his multimedia activities created under his own name, he also has another project under the moniker N1L, which draws influences from dance music. Rokis was nominated for SHAPE by the Skaņu Mežs Festival.

Your work oscillates between sound art and dance music. Both are suggestive to human senses. One is more cerebral, the other physical. Can you describe your two musical guises?

Martins Rokis: Under my real name I do more abstract things related to the territory of art rather than music. As N1L I don’t feel guilty about my pleasures although it can be experimental and challenging too.

When you create the music for these two projects, how do you approach the production? Is it more analytical and conceptual, or spontaneous in terms of the result defining the form?

MR: Production-wise, these are completely different things. For my sound art projects I usually use open source programming languages, coding (terrible) setups for multichannel audio visual performances, generative systems, installations etc. There’s more technicality involved, a more rigid, conceptual approach. When working as N1L I just use mainstream tools, not bothering so much with under the hood things, setups and fancy ideas, just playing around getting instant gratification. Like driving the car for the joy of driving instead of pimping it up in the garage most of the time and chatting with my buddies about motors and stuff. Both working methods put me in different modes. When you need to invent the canvas and the brushes every time you want to paint, you can control your creative environment completely, enabling or disabling certain possibilities, BUT it can be overwhelming. When I “just paint”, my brain switches to a more relaxed state and I can focus solely on the sound design and musical ideas.

You explore the multimodality of human perception. How do you develop your various methods to reach this?

MS: I investigate related topics and these mechanisms fascinate me, but my interest in those is mostly about how to use them in art and music contexts and how to enable possibilities for subjective experience of my work.

You also work with visuals. What is the interplay between the sonic and the visual side?

MS: Sometime the visuals create the sound, other times the sound creates the visuals, but often the only correlation between what you hear and what you see is imaginary. And those moments are the best.

Do you have an ideal scenario of this perceptive situation?

MS: No need for an ideal scenario, we connect unrelated things every day, like if sound is fast and visuals move fast we automatically assume there is a connection. I am interested in creating scenarios to stimulate these assumptions.

You come from a musical family, do you recollect your first musical “epiphany”?

MS: I was a small child when I heard Metalheads – Saint Angel on the radio very late at night and it just blew my mind. I still like that track very much.

What is your favourite sound and which sound do you hate the most?

MS: I have a love/hate relationship with almost everything. I’m more certain about what I don’t like though – those so called earworms, like when you go to a grocery store and hear a cheesy tune and it’s on repeat in your head for days.

Can you tell us about your plans for this year in terms of your work?

MS: I am working on a debut N1L EP for Lee Gamble’s upcoming label. I hope to see this materialise soon. There are also two exhibitions, some festivals and other stuff on the horizon. We will see…