The Slovenia Times

The Piper From the Park


Tell us your story. How did you come to Slovenia? Me and my wife, who happens to be Slovene, have been living in New York for 11 years. One day she discovered she was pregnant. This was a month after the events of 11th September. As she discovered she was pregnant, she decided it would be safer to raise a child in Slovenia. So, it was her decision to come here. I had no choice, she's the boss. When you're married for 18 years you know who's the boss. We developed this relationship. It's symbiotic. (laughter) Have you been to Slovenia before? Yes, I think the first time we came here was 1985. At that time, Slovenia was part of Yugoslavia and it was quite an experience. We took a train from Scotland to France and across Italy to Ljubljana, arriving here at 3 in the morning. We went to a disco, and at 6 in the morning we caught a bus to Mozirje, where my wife's parents lived. We saw some live music, and some fight. All that in the first night? Yes, I don't know what happened, but I heard someone got slapped. Apparently, a girl (who was a girlfriend of the bass player) slapped a guy who was hitting on her, chatting her up. The bass player put the guitar down, ran out to the audience, grabbed the guy and punched him out. And I thought: "This is interesting!" So, the first impression of Slovenia must have been really bad? No, it was OK. It was cool. I'm from the south of America, I was born and raised in Florida, so basically it was just a usual Friday night in some bar. It's always the bass player who beats others. (laughter). Now you live in Mozirje. Is it possible to compare New York to Mozirje? Let me think. I've been here for three months now. Raising our girl Karina in Mozirje, in a small village in the valley of Savinjska, is quite an advantage. It's quiet, you hear church bells, birds. There are a lot of trees, a lot of flowers. Otherwise, we would be in our apartment in New York City, where instead of silence, we would be hearing people yelling on the street, the noise of cars, loud music and sirens - those stereotypical things. Mozirje is a good place to be. It's small. How do you find the people? They are very friendly. In the mountains people say "hello" to you. In NYC people avoid any eye contact. You have to be aware of the people who surround you. In Slovenia our neighbors know that we have a child, they bring food, they always say hello. When they work in their gardens and I pass by, they say "would you like some vegetables". That's super. It's a great feeling. In NY - you have to know the right people; here it's a lot smaller. You meet people, it just happens, you don't have to make an appointment to meet someone. What was the oddest thing that happened to you in NYC? Well, the general rule in NYC is - if you don't know the person, you have to estimate whether he is normal to start the conversation. It happened to me one time when I was working for a recording studio. A guy entered the elevator and said: "Good afternoon, nice boots." "Oh, thank you," I said and then he asked me: "Can I lick them?" He was serious. He had a boot fetish. I went out. That was one of the NY moments. (laughter) Could you describe what you do? What's your job? I'm a recording engineer. I'm in the music business, entertainment. My first love is the studio work. I worked on a bunch of different albums, I've done dance, r'n'b, rap. The past two years I've been doing alternative country, also with Steve Hall, Brian Adams. But I like rock'n'roll. In NY I've been working in studios. My first job here is being a father. But I also worked with a sound company. I did some shows, festivals, during the summer here in Slovenia. I like live music. It keeps me fresh, it gives me the opportunity to see what bands are out there. What do you think about the music scene in Slovenia? Being in the music business, I think that a song must be in English, if someone wants to get mass appeal. I like the elements the artists bring into the music, especially the Balkan tunes, eastern tones. Being a bag piper, I'm interested in a cultural thing: different rhythms, melodies, and folk aspects. I like different musical approaches. I listened to the bands from Croatia, Bosnia, Macedonia, and the brass band - gypsy band with trumpets. It opened my eyes; it felt like my mind was spinning. For me being here in Slovenia, it's like education. So, in your mind you are preparing a new mix? No, but if I had the time and the money, I would go to a studio and I would try to bring all of these elements together, in the way that I would like to hear it. How long have you been playing the bagpipes? I've been playing for 27 years. I started as a kid, my mother is from Scotland, I was born in Florida, my father is 8 generations in Florida, so an American, I imagine. So I just got into it, because my mother told me to - to respect the tradition. I didn't like it maybe the first 5 minutes, but then I was offered a beer, so I said: "Yeah, I'll take lessons." Where do you practice? I practice in Mozirje, I prefer to play outdoors. I also play in the Tivoli park, in Ljubljana. It sounds good, and I don't piss people off. It's a good environment. Maybe you should put a hat in front of you.. One time when I was practicing in the park, the case where I put the bag pipes, was open, and when I turned around, there were tolars in there. It wasn't enough for a bus fare, but if I spent two more hours practicing... Maybe I should put up a sign. Actually, when I played in Zurich on the street, I played for three hours, I earned 500 franks. But that was only one day, a big shopping day, I suppose. I like the bagpipes. And, as I work in the music business, I meet lot of artists, and when we talk, they ask me if I play any instruments. I answer: ¯Yeah, I play the bagpipes.® They are often surprised, they think of a guitar, or keyboard, not bagpipes. It's always like a good ice-breaker. I thank my mother and my instructors for that. Do you feel like you're at home or do you feel like a stranger here? I can't say I feel like a stranger. But the only problem is the language. I understand a bit, I can speak a bit, but I think you have to speak Slovene fluently. For example: if you go to a store, and you order something, then they ask you something in return, and you don't understand what they say, then they look at you like you are an idiot - what you said before was perfect Slovene, how is it possible you don't understand now? So, then you get the sheepish look and you say it in English - and then you realize that they speak perfect English. Now, I speak with my daughter and I hope I'll speak as good as she in two years. That's my goal. She speaks pretty good Slovene. I think I heard her say the word burek. (laughter). Are there any cultural differences between you and your wife? She's Slovene, but she had lived in Switzerland for a long time. So, she's 'the cleaner'. She always says: ¯Pick up your socks, pick up your jacket, and don't put that there.® And I also got the concept of copati (slippers), I don't walk in shoes anymore. (Laughter). You lived in Manhattan, one kilometer from the Twin Towers. You saw the devastation, you felt the fear. How do you see those events one year later? It's odd. Some people I know died there, buried under the pile. My friends and I, we all knew someone who died. It's depressing, in a sense, but I'm very happy to be here. There I would feel like a target. It could have been me. The 11th September was a big shock. My wife worked 20 minutes away from the Towers. At the time of attack, I went to my friend's bar where we used to hang out together. So, we opened the bar and waited for my wife to come home. The phones wouldn't work. After 5 hours, she came to the bar with four bottles of wine and said: ¯I found one liquor store that was open, let's get drunk.® We thought it was the last day of our lives. All the neighborhood was in the bar, watching the CNN, we thought what's next? The nuclear bomb? After couple of hours, we thought if it was nuclear it would had happened already. And we were drunk, we didn't care, we were just 'I love you, man'. For people in Sarajevo, it was like that for years, for me it was just an afternoon. And I don't want to go through that again. I hope my child never goes through that. Do you feel hate for those people that flew those planes into the buildings? Not really hate, but sadness. I think that if the people who are responsible are still alive, they should be brought to justice. But I realize we will never know the whole truth. Only when time passes can you look back with a clear eye. We will never know if those people in Guantanamo are the ones that should be there. Are the people of NY ready for war, are they ready to fight terrorism? I think they are ready to move to Slovenia. (laughter) A lot of my friends, especially the older ones, they've been through the 60's, protesting against the Vietnam War. They see where the Iraq thing is going. Maybe it's OK to blame Afganistan, Al Quaida, Osama. But to spread the blame, to continue some 'make-up' policy - that's not in our interest.


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