DONT WALK 2018 Preview: An Interview with Marcell Kovács
By: Emma Corcoran
Our Editor-in-Chief Emma Corcoran sat down with Marcell Kovács, Head of Music of the 2018 DONT WALK Charity Fashion Show, to chat about the creative process behind curating the music and how it will embody the theme of this year's show. Read our exclusive interview below to get the scoop.
ST.ART Magazine: So tell me a little bit about your experience working on the committee. When did you start and how did your role evolve?
Marcell Kovács: Well, I first got involved with DONT WALK in 2016, because I was part of DONT WALK Music, which was the music side project at the time. I made a track for the DONT WALK Music EP and then I applied for the Head of Music of this year. That started in April of last year when we started discussing the plans for this year’s show. My role is pretty much creating the music for the first half of the show. We decided to split the show in two halves; the first half is done by me, and the second half is done by Ahmed.
ST.ART: I spoke to Sam yesterday [February 15th], your Executive Director, and he explained to me how the show is split into two different parts.
MK: Right, so the first half is going to be more dark and eerie, and then the second half is going to be more happy and upbeat, because obviously the first half is the serious half and the second half is for the lingerie. It’s more playful, even music-wise.
ST.ART: How was your experience curating the music for the first half of the show?
MK: For the first half, I kind of went with a darker tone, and I tried not to be similar to previous years, so it’s going to be a new sound but still in the vein of DONT WALK. It’s different but not too far from previous sets. I went for this techno, deep house vibe. I’m really excited and happy with how it turned out. The mix is kind of finalised at this point, we’re just making final touches to make sure it fits the show perfectly, but so far so good.
ST.ART: So now you’re doing your tech rehearsals to make sure that the music coincides with the choreography and the fashion coming down the runway?
MK: Yeah, next week is going to be about making sure that everything goes smoothly.
ST.ART: Will the DJ booth be near the stage?
MK: I don’t want to spoil it, but it’s going to be a very central element of the whole setup.
ST.ART: That’s really cool. It’ll be nice for you to be a part of that.
MK: Yeah, it felt like last year the DJ booth was sort of separate from the show; I kind of felt bad because they couldn’t really see what was going on. But this year, it’s going to be much better. I’ve seen the plans for the stage, and it’s amazing, so I’m looking forward to seeing how it works out in real life.
ST.ART: So how does your relationship with your teammates work, with you creating music for the first half of the show and Ahmed doing the second half?
MK: We went pretty independently with it and we ended up with polar opposite mixes [laughs]. The past couple days were about trying to converge them a little, because they were so far apart it was almost like going to two different shows. I made my mix a little lighter because it was too dark, and Ahmed made his a little darker because his was too happy. So now they are different but more similar in that sense. We did not to talk about it too much because then our own personal views would have not really translated into our work. So, we collaborated, but not too much; they were two independent projects.
ST.ART: I think if the first half is going for a different vibe and then the second half transitions into something a little bit happier, as you were saying, then it makes sense that you would both produce very different music but that still fits the theme, fits the show, fits the essence of DONT WALK.
MK: Right, and it was kind of done on purpose; we always wanted to make sure that they are different, which is pretty good. I think we’re also very different people. I believe in previous years, the DJs tried to work together on both halves, but this year, we completely split it between us.
ST.ART: I know in previous years DONT WALK released the music from the show online through SoundCloud. Will you offer that again?
MK: Yes, it’s definitely going to be uploaded to SoundCloud. I’m also trying to get the Intro and Outro music that I made released because I think they’re really cool.
ST.ART: What was that experience like?
MK: It was really interesting! [laughs] Especially with the Intro, that was like a very big collaboration between everyone. So, we’ve obviously talked about what kind of vibe we were going for, and I just threw together a little Intro. I tried not to be too similar to previous years, but obviously there were elements that worked, so I just used them; there’s no need to reinvent the wheel. I liked it, and then I showed it to the Creative- and the Choreography Teams and they were like, ‘No, this is too happy, it needs to be much darker’ and I’m like, ‘It’s already dark!’ [laughs]. So, I had to tone it down even more, and then it was a constant collaboration between me and the Creative Team. I don’t want to spoil it, but it involved a lot of people. It’s probably 50% mine, and the other half is split between the Creative- and Choreography Teams and a secret collaborator.
ST.ART: Did you find it difficult having to visualise the show as you were putting together the music and what the music might sound like in conjunction with the fashion and the graphics?
MK: I think we’re lucky because the whole team is really good at what they’re doing, so it’s never been an issue. For example, whenever I showed my music to people they’ve always had very specific things they wanted to change, which is really good because sometimes you show your music to people and they’re like, ‘No, this is just bad.’ It doesn’t really help. But when I show it to the team, they say, ‘Change this tiny bit here, I want that to be here’. You can work with that. The committee’s criticism has always been very constructive.
ST.ART: And I’m sure that the Creative Team has a very specific vision for the show and what that would look like and how that would translate through the music.
MK: I don’t actually know what they are coming up with, so it’s kind of like a surprise for me. I’ve seen plans, but how they’re going to realise that is a surprise, so I’m excited to see how it unfolds. I think I’ll get to enjoy the show just as much as the guests.
ST.ART: So when you’re putting together the music, what is that process like?
MK: I was actually thinking about this earlier: I think my creative process is 80% procrastination and 20% actual work [laughs]. But I feel like during that 80% of the time I’m actually unconsciously thinking about it and then in that 20% I just have to sit down and actually do it. It’s not a very conscious thing. Sometimes it doesn’t happen, sometimes it does. For example, with the Outro, I just experimented with the Intro because I wanted the Outro to kind of wrap up the whole thing, essentially going from A to B. I just experimented with that and came up with this very, very simple chord progression, but it felt powerful. I didn’t really know what to do with it so I sort of just left it lying there. Then yesterday, I listened to it and thought, ‘Okay, maybe this could be used.’ I suddenly had this idea and I just sat down maybe at 3pm and stood up at 3am and it was done. Sometimes I can sit there for hours and hours, but nothing valuable comes out of my head. I can’t really make music when I’m forced; it has to come naturally. So, I don’t really have a specific process, it’s usually just sitting down and trial and error; obviously I know what kind of stuff usually works and what doesn’t, but it’s mostly just experimentation. I think the whole idea to make an Outro came when I was sitting next to my synth – a Minilogue, which is an analogue synth. I was just messing around with it, and I was like, ‘Oh, actually this sounds really good, maybe I could use this.’
The music is mostly going to be just a mix of songs made by other people, but the Intro and the Outro is completely mine. Well, the Intro was partly made by the Creative Team and this other collaborator that I don’t want to spoil, but it’s really organic. I’m really happy with how everything turned out so far.
ST.ART: I’ve noticed in previous years DONT WALK music often takes well-known pop songs and transforms them a little bit, either by remixing them or interweaving them in different ways. Will we see some of that this year?
MK: I try not to do what’s already been done… I just wanted to create something good [laughs]. If I were in the audience, I wouldn’t want to hear what has been played already. There are going to be a couple of songs that are familiar, but it was kind of funny: when I was showing them to Sam and Ahmed and was like, ‘Should I use these songs or not because everyone knows them?’ and they’re like, ‘Yeah, I’ve never heard these songs before.’ I guess if you’re in your own echo-chamber you keep hearing the same songs, like this one specific song, I kept hearing it in Wax Rooms because Marcus played it a few times, but apparently it’s not a really popular song, it’s just popular in those circles, so even the songs that I thought would be popular are not actually popular.
ST.ART: I think also as a fashion show, you’re putting out a new show every single year: new fashion, new stage, new setting. You would want your music to coincide with that.
MK: Yeah, I think the main emphasis – at least from the Directors – was trying to be as different from previous years as possible. I know for a fact that they’ve tried to improve on every possible thing, so they were very, very self-conscious about making sure that all the mistakes from previous years have been addressed this year. I really like that because they’re going for perfection, and I’ve tried to do that with my music, but I’ve also tried to be as different from previous years as possible. I think if I had to sum up this year, it’s going to be very different from previous years while keeping the things that worked.
ST.ART: I mean, the music really is such an integral part of the show: it is primarily a fashion show, but the music can really affect the impact of the fashion coming down the runway, the atmosphere, the vibe. As audience members, it’s something that we hear unconsciously, but it really can determine our viewing experience.
MK: Yeah, and I was kind of humbled by it because when I showed Sam the mix, and we were talking about the music in general, he said, ‘Yeah, it’s kind of the most important part of DONT WALK’ and I’m like, ‘Really?’ [laughs]. It kind of put pressure on me, but he was nice about it. It’s a big responsibility – I never realised it was – especially this year we are making sure that the music is played back properly. One criticism from last year was that the bass was just so overwhelming that you couldn’t really hear what was going on, so this year we have several tech rehearsals, and we’re just going to take the music there, play it back, and if anything sounds wrong, we can fix it on the spot so it will sound good during the show.
ST.ART: I think what sets DONT WALK apart from other fashion show organisations on campus is the music that your Music Team produces: you have a Music family, and you put on events throughout the year to promote the show. It’s such an important component of your existence, and you promote it as such.
MK: It feels very much like it’s an art statement, so every year there’s a concept and we work around that. The whole art is gravitating towards one particular concept, so obviously all the promotion, the side projects, the music, the visuals – everything rotates around it. So it’s not just, ‘Oh, I’ll make some music’; you have a concept in your head, and you have to think of music that kind of works with that, so I’ve tried to do that.
ST.ART: And that being said, all of the components of the show – the visuals, the music, the fashion, the choreography – they’re intentional, because they’re centred on a certain theme and because you have a certain vision for the show. It’s really interesting as an audience member to watch that all unfold; it’s all these artistic components coming together to create something so beautiful.
MK: It is also very interesting for me. I remember the first time I went to the rehearsal, I had the Intro done, and I went to there to see how it worked out. When I first sent the Intro to Thomas, one of the Choreographers, he messaged me back that he had thought of something. I had no idea what to expect, but when he was there with Liz, who’s the other the Choreographer, they just seemed so confident about what they were doing, and it was so nice to see because I had no idea how the choreography was done. You could see how they had a vision in their head and how they made it happen. It was the first time I was seeing a choreographer in my life, and it was really, really cool. It was kind of a reflection of how I work: I have the idea in my head; I just need to find a way realise it. I assume it’s the same for them. It was really interesting to see that unfold.
With DONT WALK Music, we were working through Flo. He was not the Head of Music; he was the Head of DONT WALK Music, so we pretty much operated under his wings. It was cool, because we were also very independent. The concept for the EP was ‘Seasons’, so I made the first track; my season was Spring, so I tried to make this intro that slowly builds up and unfolds into something to make sure that the second song has somewhere to go… like an opening. But the whole rest of the EP is so different from the Intro. I think it’s really cool.
ST.ART: That’s cool that you guys have all these different styles and perspectives, but you can bring them together to create something like an EP, as a team.
MK: Yeah, it was an interesting little project. It brought together people from varied musical backgrounds. Almost how it’s like this year; Ahmed and I have a very different taste in music, but that’s a positive thing. You don’t want to be surrounded by people who are just like you. At least I don’t.
ST.ART: And you wouldn’t want it to be too similar, especially if the show is sort of split into two parts. If the music were similar then there really wouldn’t be as big of a distinction between the two; I think the music will really help the audience realise the transition that will occur.
MK: It’s going to be pretty obvious, but I think that’s the point. With the drafts that we had a few days ago, they were very, very distinct, so we tried to bring them closer, but we also wanted to keep the difference. We’re going to have the first half, a break and then the second half. With the Outro, I tried to set up the vibe for the second half, so it starts off kind of dark but at the end it’s more uplifting. I would say it’s uplifting. I know that many people who listen to my happy music would get depressed [laughs] but I think it’s uplifting. People might think otherwise.
ST.ART: Well when you have that flow, from dark to light, from sad to happy, it creates this nice cohesion and pulls out so many moods and emotions.
MK: Yeah, I purposefully went for the music to have this arc: it starts dark, and then eventually it gets light. It’s intentional; it’s not just a sequence of random music.
I’m so excited for the show. It’s really professional; if you think about how much work goes into it, it’s crazy. Even last year, that was the first DONT WALK show I went to, and I was blown away; it was done so professionally. You don’t actually realise it’s all done by students. If I weren’t told that it was a student-run event, I would have never guessed.
ST.ART: Well what I love about DONT WALK, and what I was saying to Sam, is that it’s an organisation that combines so many different interests and passions but connects people who share a love of art; it allows people to express themselves creatively and for people, as audience members, to enjoy that and take part in that, too. It’s a fantastic outlet for people.
MK: It is really interesting. It’s been a great pleasure to be involved with it because I never expected it to be so complex and so diverse. All the people are very different, which is good because then you get inspired; if you’re always surrounded by people who are like you, then like I said, it’s just like sitting in an echo chamber. I do the same with my music: whenever I listen to music, I never listen to stuff like the stuff I make otherwise it will be too similar. I make something that sounds like something that’s already been done, so that what I do is original.
ST.ART: Do you have anything else that you would like to add?
MK: I’m really excited. It’s been an interesting journey, for sure – that’s probably the best way to describe it. From all the way from April when the committee first formed, all the way to next Saturday… seeing how the idea was created from the start, how the Creative Team came up with the concept for the show, and then how that theme is translated through the music, the visuals, the stage. It’s been a construction: going from a concept to a realisation.
ST.ART: Like the show’s the culmination of that.
MK: Right. It was a journey that was really great to be a part of.