A really cool interview with Nikita Tselovalnikov aka Penta
Self-Portrait: Paint your soul!
Luca: What influenced you to get into your field?
Nikita: I have been composing music since I was 11. Over the years I have been making punk, italian pop, rock and noise music. In 1997 after an X-Dream party in San Francisco I have started trying to make trance music. I have been mostly DJing before the year 2000, when I actually wrote my first trance tracks.
L: As an artist, what role do you think you play in society?
N: I think I am pretty much an entertainer. You can argue about my music opening a door to some universal consciousness or not. Maybe I guide people on some new path, I don’t know. At least some party heads have told me they were changed for the better or went crazy after listening to my music. I like to think of myself as a facilitator of having good time.
L: Creating on a regular basis can be a bloody tough job, so what motivates you to press yourself into the workstation every single day?
N: I keep imagining what the track I am working on would do on the dance floor. This anticipation is like a drug for me. It’s hard to let go.
L: Do you get nervous before a performance?
N: Only when I am somehow late for my time slot or equipment is misbehaving. Otherwise, I have defeated my stage fright long time ago when I played Bach and Grieg on a piano for 2000 bored parents in my music school in Russia.
L: What’s the story behind your artist name and project?
N: Penta name comes from the first name of character in Russian children’s book, Dr. Aybolit. The boy named Penta was playing music for animals in the story. I somehow was associating myself with him. As for my psytrance project, it is a continuation of my life-long musical path, I just happen to be in the psytrance phase. This time it has gotten more serious though: I mean, we have a label AuraQuake with my wife Catia, I have a nice following on my Facebook pentafiles page and my website, www.pentafiles.com. I travel a lot, but I am still making what I was making when I was a kid: music.
L: What other genres of music do you listen to? Name your influences.
N: At home I normally listen to Jazz and Bossa Nova, since it’s the only music that gives me peace of mind. I have been listening to Sister of Mercy, Can, Einstürzende Neubauten and all the Russian Rock again lately though.
L: Has the process of making music transformed you? In what way?
N: I would say that the process with which I make my design work has transformed the way I make music, which in turn transformed me. I have become an experimenter in almost everything.
L: What is your muse? What inspires you? Tell us about your favourite piece of music, and the source that inspired it.
N: My muses are my wife Catia and my son Lucas. Their love, trust and wisdom is the main fuel for my creativity. I also get inspired by beautiful chord progressions. The Beatles, Bossa Nova and Jazz always mesmerize me in that respect. As for music in general, there is no single favorite piece that I can think of, except maybe Riccardo Fogli’s “Storie di tutti i giorni” which made me jump like crazy on a couch when I was too young and catapulted me into music composing world. That was my first trance experience.
L: What’s your biggest temptation or vice, what can you not resist?
N: I can’t resist dark chocolate or exciting dinner plans with friends or family, preferably on some roof-top place with a great view.
Face-off: Let’s get the grits on the table
L: What quality do you admire the most in others? What quality do you like about yourself the most?
N: I admire people’s ability to stay true to their words, – it is a pleasure to deal with predictable folks. I think my best quality is ability of seeing beautiful things where it is sometimes hard to see them.
L: Which phase was the hardest/scariest in your life?
N: Making Boom Festival Radio was hard. It is hard to come up with content, manage dozens of people and make 10 hour-long live broadcast in the 40 degree heat while constantly playing the role of an information booth at a trance festival. Yet, it is fun to remember those days now and laugh at how hard it was.
L: Any embarrassing/funny moments? Yes, you’d hate to disclose your secrets but we’d love to hear.
N: I think doing the radio was fairly embarrassing at times, as I have never done it before. Pretending I was a radio personality while I was clearly not the one, was pretty funny, especially after not sleeping for many nights. Yet, that was also one of the happiest time as well. Perhaps, when I forget how hard it was, I will do something like that again.
L: When have you been most satisfied in your life? Care to share one of your happiest memories?
N: I am mostly very satisfied after I play my music. Because it is not just a product of 2 hours of standing behind the mixing desk, but a little milestone in my life. Somehow, I always feel the need to celebrate. But my happiest memories happen to be thoughts of how happy I am going to be in the future.
L: Everyone starts somewhere, what was your first job before you got into music?
N: My first real job was participating in a psychological experiment at a Stanford University Lab. I was looking at blinking boxes on a computer screen. I guess, I am still looking at boxes on screen on the daily basis to this day.
L: Flash-forward in time. You are now really old. What would you tell your children/loved ones?
N: Don’t make trance music! It is too old. Make something new for God’s sake!
L: Into the time machine again. What do you miss about being a kid?
N: Picking non-psychedelic mushrooms in the forest.
L: Excessive chopping dulls the axe. Time-outs are a must. What do you do when you take time off from creating? Got any hobbies? (Books? Movies? TV shows?)
N: Too many interests, too little time. I create websites, I like to learn new web technologies, I make graphic design. I make a psychedelic trance SoundCloud radio called psynebula.com. The only thing I would not want to get involved with is biology. Even that is not a guarantee. For me the best time-out from creating is creating something else. However, I am not hopeless, I also like to travel and spend time on the beach. If I am lucky I will watch a movie, but I rarely do that these days. I’ve got no time to lose.
Ideology: Beliefs that bake your brain
L: The genie comes out of the lamp and grants you one wish that will change the world. What would you wish for?
N: Make the world one big country.
L: How do you connect to the spiritual side of yourself?
N: I try to assure myself that everything is going to be alright. There is this voice inside me that keeps telling me that. I hope I am not crazy.
L: Do you have any belief/beliefs that you cannot do without?
N: I believe that I can do better than I believe I can do.
On the Scene:
L: Where do you think psytrance is headed? Future trends?
N: I think we are headed towards the beginning stage of psytrance. The new generation has grown up. It’s time to start over again. It’s a loop.
L: What do you think of the scene at the present moment? What would you like changed or what would like to see remain at status quo?
N: I think the movement is more massive than ever. I have this feeling that something is about to blow up. It is part of the reason why I keep doing it. There is no reason to change anything. Just let it flow naturally. The only thing I would like to see preserved is people’s respect for their surroundings: be it nature, their friends or their example to the rest of the world. People who understand trance culture have always been slightly ahead of others in that respect. I would like to see that continue.
L: Piracy, works out negatively for the artist, but it allows listeners’ to access music that would otherwise be hard to source. Art should be shared…in this light what are your thoughts on piracy vs. a price tag?
N: I don’t think in these terms anymore. That time has gone forever. Piracy in music, movies and software has been more beneficial than damaging. So, I don’t worry if people don’t pay for downloading my tracks. Some pay though and I appreciate it. Also, the development of streaming services has changed the game yet again. Things are actually getting better for the artist.
Pearls: Words of Wisdom for reader and fans
L: At the end of the ride, everyone’s looking for some form of success (tangible or not), what does success mean to you?
N: Success means food and wine on my table along with the happy family. Sometimes I would brag about how the salt water pool in a nice wood, steel, and glass house would be a good measure of success. But in reality more expensive wine and even wider grins on my family’s faces would be just fine.
L: We are almost done. Give us a nutshell of the life philosophy/motto/mantra that you clutch close to your heart.
N: “The only way to overcome your fear is to face it”. I have faced many fears, and overcoming them is the gamification of my life. Every fear faced and conquered brings me to the new level.
L: What’s the best advice you have ever received?
N: Try to achieve at least three things per day.
L: One word to describe yourself, and one word to describe music.
N: Me: Hologram. Music: Monstrosity.