Už jsme doma
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Už jsme doma
Band photo, 2016
|Genres||Progressive rock, avant-garde, punk rock|
|Labels||Indies Records, Cuneiform Records, Skoda Records, Globus Int., Panton Records|
|Associated acts||FPB, Zuby Nehty|
|Past members||See List of Už Jsme Doma band members|
Už jsme doma (Czech pronunciation: [ˈuʃɪsmɛ ˈdoma], / /) are a progressive rock band from Prague, Czech Republic, who originally formed in the Czech border town Teplice in 1985. The Prague Post has termed them one of "the two great bastions of the Czech alternative scene" (along with Psí vojáci).
Cited musical influences include The Residents, The Damned, Ebba Grön, Pere Ubu, Uriah Heep, Omega, and the Rock in Opposition movement. Rolling Stone's David Fricke referred to them as "an amazing Czech quintet ... that rattled like a combination of Hot Rats-aphonic Frank Zappa and John Zorn's hyperjazz."[unreliable source?] Critics have also compared the band to Fugazi and Men at Work.[unreliable source?]
The band has, to date, released seven proper studio albums, two live albums, a best-of package and a DVD containing live footage and a documentary film about the history of the band, which discusses its artistic significance and chronicles its dozens of lineup changes in its long career. In addition to traditional band functions such as recording albums and touring, Už jsme doma have taken on a wide array of ambitious projects outside of simple music performance, including work with theater, film and art. The band's name translates literally to, "we're home now" but idiomatically means "well, there you go" in Czech conversation.
Early years (1985–1990)
Until the Velvet Revolution in the Czech Republic (then Czechoslovakia) in 1990, the band was considered 'illegal' by the communist state and was forced to hold secret concerts and risk arrest if caught. Despite this history, the band eschews straightforward political commentary within their lyrics and art in favor of poetic and artistic symbolism.
Už jsme doma was founded by saxophonists Jindra Dolanský and Milan Nový, drummer Jula Horváth, keyboardist Jiří Závodný, bassist Petr Keřka, and guitarists Ota Chlupsa and Jiří Solar. They played their first of several illegal concerts on a riverboat on July 6, 1985, with Czech punk bands FPB (Fourth Price Band, which featured Nový on drums and several important future members of Už Jsme Doma) and Plexis. By 1986, singer Miroslav Wanek and guitarist Romek Hanzlík, both from FPB, had joined, initially simply as guest members.
After a dissolution of the original incarnation in 1986, the group settled as a four-piece featuring Wanek (bass guitar and vocals), Hanzlík (guitar), Horváth (drums) and Dolanský (saxophone). This same year, the band first worked with painter Martin Velíšek, who designed a poster for the band. (This collaboration would have future significance, as Velíšek would go on to design all of the band's album art, as well as their posters and T-shirts, and have significant input in their live show.)
By 1989, Horváth had been replaced on drums by a returning Milan Nový. The band had also added saxophonists Alice Kolousková and Martina Fialová, the latter of whom only played in the band for a short time, and shortly thereafter bassist Pavel Keřka (also formerly of FPB), which allowed allow Wanek to concentrate on singing and composing. This lineup, without Fialová, recorded the band's only pre-Czech democracy record, the three-song Rock Debut No. 7 7-inch EP, released on the Panton Records label. This record used a programmed drum beat rather than a live drum track. By the end of 1989, Nový had left the band, emigrating to West Germany before the Velvet Revolution, and had been replaced by Pavel Pavlíček.
First three albums (1990–1995)
The band's first album, Uprostřed slov, or In The Middle Of Words, was recorded in May and later released on the Globus Int. label; their second, Nemilovaný svět, or Unloved World, was recorded in June and released on Panton Records. The first album included songs that owed a fair-sized debt to punk rock (although several tracks, such as "Sopot", are closer to the avant garde than anything in rock;) the second, conversely, stood as the group's most orchestral and compositionally experimental album for years, featuring dense arrangements and a host of guest musicians and vocalists.
The early years of Václav Havel's regime also marked a major change for the band in that they were able to not only play concerts legally, but also make a living off their music and thus involve themselves in a wide array of outside projects, including work with theater groups and an expanded European touring schedule, not to mention eight-hour practices five days a week. The band also began integrating costumes into their live set.
In 1991, Kalousková left (she would later join the all-woman group Zuby Nehty), and Wanek had begun playing second guitar and piano during live concerts. Although they juggled members, the band would stick with this five-member set-up into the next century. In 1993, the band recorded Hollywood, their third LP, which began to stray back towards harder-edged rock, while still incorporating progressive compositions and non-traditional elements such as rhythmic crying and clapping. The band made its first appearance on North American shores in 1992. Slowly, the band was turning into what Nils Frykdahl of Idiot Flesh and Sleepytime Gorilla Museum once described as "touring monsters", playing 80+ concerts in 1993 alone. The group also recorded a music video for the title track of Hollywood.
Hollywood marked their first record deal with a North American label, BMG. Relations were short-lived, however, and the band, dissatisfied with the BMG's distribution setup, began working with the Czech label Indies Records, whom they have dealt with ever since.
In late 1993, Keřka and Pavlíček left and were replaced by Jan Cerha and a once-again returning Milan Nový, respectively. Under new management with a larger company called the Unijazz Agency, the band continued touring and began working on a new album. The band also re-recorded the vocal tracks to Nemilovaný svět in English and released the reworked album on an American label, Memphis Records, under the translated name "Unloved World".
Pohádky ze Zapotřebí, collaborations with the Residents, Uši (1995–2000)
The band released their fourth album, Pohádky ze Zapotřebí, or Fairytales From Needland, in 1995. With Wanek receiving the producer credit, this album drifted deeper into the hard rock realm and is considered by some to be their most accessible album compositionally. Sonically, however, the band has mentioned regret and dissatisfaction with the poor quality of the recording and expressed an interest in re-recording the album (which a later lineup of the group would go on to do in 2011.)
This lineup also recorded a soundtrack album to a 1995 documentary called Jaro, Peklo, Podzim, Zima, or Spring, Hell, Autumn, Winter. This film was based around the life and work of painter Martin Velíšek. Around this time Velíšek had been granted full membership in Už Jsme Doma; Wanek says that Velíšek's art is as important to the band as the guitar lines, saxophone parts or lyrics.
In 1995, the band played their 10th anniversary set, which was the first show with their young new drummer, Petr Böhm, who replaced Novy. Böhm would serve as the group's drummer for the next decade. The opening set for this performance came in the form of a reunion of the Wanek, Dolanský, Hanzlík and Horváth lineup who, calling themselves the UJD Revival Band, played a set of early Už Jsme Doma material while disguised in wigs and sunglasses.
Later in the year, another change in the rhythm section occurred, ushering in bassist Kamil Krůta to replace Cerha. Krůta was a notable fixture of the Teplice scene, having been in the post-Wanek/Hanzlík lineup of FPB that Nový and manager Petr Růžička put together in 1986. Krůta and Nový also played in the two-piece group Pseudo Pseudo.
This incarnation of the band was given a difficult task - to serve as the live band for famous American avant garde artists The Residents, who picked Už Jsme Doma as their backing band for their 1995 musical play based around their 1991 album Freak Show. Wanek arranged live band versions for their complex, unique compositions, and Už jsme doma, along with select other Czech musicians, performed these arrangements in the Freak Show theater piece, with Wanek acting as conductor. This musical was performed 20 times in the Archa Theater in Prague in 1995. The Residents later released selections from these performances on CD and DVD.
In 1996, Už jsme doma began working with American label Skoda Records, who issued Hollywood and, later, the rest of their back catalog. In Europe, Indies Records began re-releasing the four albums, which had fallen out of print. Hanzlík, the band's guitarist for ten years, left this same year to pursue a career in the business end of music with his agency AMP. He was replaced by young guitarist Radek Podveský. 1996 also saw the release of 11, a pop-up book with illustrations by Velíšek and prose by Wanek, detailing the band's career up to that point.
In 1997, Jan Čejka (previously of the bands Hej Vy, Klid, and Orchestr Ondřeje Hybše), also joined, replacing Krůta, who later moved to Orlando, Florida, USA, to form the experimental group Koonda Holaa and the Beetchees. This lineup of the band toured extensively for three years. One live set was released as a live album, Vancouver 1997, along with two other live tracks from previous tours (the only Už Jsme Doma tracks released featuring Krůta.)
In 1999, they released Uši, or Ears, their fifth CD. Producer Dan Rathbun, known for performing with the bands Idiot Flesh and Sleepytime Gorilla Museum, as well as production work on punk rock and experimental records, recorded the album and gave the record a full in-studio sound. The songs themselves continued in the direction of Fairytales from Needland, with emphasis on hard rock elements. The opening track has been described as sounding like a Clash outtake. The album features the largest number of Jindra Dolanský compositions on any album, at four songs.
No brass, Rybí tuk (2000–2005)
Už jsme doma began the century with the release of Patnáct Kapek Vody, or Fifteen Drops of Water, a fifteen-track retrospective of their career featuring three songs from each of their five albums. As a bonus, the disc included a track from Spring, Hell, Fall, Winter, and a recording of the song Jó Nebo Nebo recorded live at their very first concert in 1985.
In late 2001, after 16 years in the band, Dolanský, saxophonist and only original member, left the band. Having grown weary of the exhausting touring schedule and having developed an interest in family life, the decision was made that Dolanský's desire to reduce the band's activity was incompatible with Wanek's desire to intensify it. Wanek's decision to continue the band without Dolanský was a mildly controversial one, as many felt the band couldn't maintain its character without Dolanský's distinct saxophone, or that Dolanský's role in composition would be irreplaceable. Wanek insisted that the band would retain its overall identity despite the change. The new arrangements of old material used keyboard, guitar lines and vocal melodies to replace the saxophone parts in the old songs. The band has remained a four-piece ever since. Čejka also left the band at this time and was replaced by Jaroslav Cvach. Cvach's tenure was brief – after two years in the band, he was followed by bassist Miloš Albrecht.
The band's next album was released in late 2003 under the name Rybí tuk, or Codliver Oil. With Rathbun again recording, but with the production credit going to Wanek, the new material incorporated walls of guest instrumentation and choir vocal layers, including guest appearances from members of Sleepytime Gorilla Museum, Tin Hat Trio and Faun Fables. The compositions were the band's most avant garde and orchestral since Nemilovaný svět, a sharp left turn from their increasingly rock-oriented sound.
The band continued their hefty touring schedule, although they had ceased travelling to North America due to complications with their booking agency. A live DVD shot in 2003 at a Tokyo performance was released on the Poseidon label in 2006; this set, released as Uz jsme doma v Tokiu (Live in Tokyo), featured a good overview of material from the band's career performed in hornless arrangements.
Lineup changes, commemorative releases, return of brass (2005–2010)
In 2005, things took a surprising turn when Böhm, Podveský and Albrecht all left the band simultaneously. Wanek was forced to fire the latter two, which led to the departure of Böhm for financial reasons. After briefly questioning the future of the band, Wanek hired all new replacements – Pepa Červinka (bass), Petr Židel (guitar), and Tomáš Paleta (drums). This lineup enjoyed successful tours of France and Japan, and recorded the track Životopis, a song with lyrics written by early 20th century Czech poet Ludvík Kundera and music by Wanek. This track appeared on the compilation Brno - město básníků, or Brno - Town of Poets, released in 2007 on Indies Records. It is notable as the only song from UJD's history to have lyrics written entirely by someone other than Wanek, and for being the only studio track recorded with this lineup.
In October 2005, they performed a grandiose 20 year anniversary set at the Archa Theater in Prague. The first half of this performance was a 40-minute medley of songs from 1985–1999, with guest appearances from many former members, including Dolanský (who performed the entire first half of the set), Alice Flesarová (née Kalousková), Závodný, early xylophonist Roman Kolařík, Čejka, Cvach, Hanzlík, and Böhm. The second half was a 'proper' set by the lineup of the time accompanied by a 20 piece choir, Mikrochor. This performance was recorded and released as a live CD and live DVD, both called 20 Letů (translated as 20 Flyears), the latter packaged with an hour-long documentary about the history of the band called Puding (Pudding).
In late 2006, Židel left after a short tenure due to family obligations. The band was then rounded out by trumpet player Adam Tomášek, the first horn player in the band since Dolanský's departure. This also marked the first time the band had only one guitar player since the early '90s. This new incarnation debuted with a Polish tour, where they were met with "packed venues and enthusiastic responses from the Polish audiences." This lineup also recorded music for the Czech TV puppet series called Krysáci, or Rats, and planned future work with this show and the accompanying film, Lajka.
In October 2007 the band embarked on their fifteenth US tour, their first since 2001, playing their first shows ever on American soil without Jindra Dolanský. This coincided with the long-delayed US release of Rybí tuk, on the re-established Skoda Records label. Later in the year, Wanek collaborated with famous Czech drummer Pavel Fajt (of Pluto and Dunaj) on a 60+ page poem Wanek had written, with structured improvisational accompaniment by Fajt.
In the latter half of 2008, the band began playing several live sets of FPB songs performed by the currentUž Jsme Doma lineup along with Hanzlík, coinciding with the release of a 3-CD set of FPB material by Malarie Records called Kniha přání a stížností ("A Book of Wishes and Complaints"). In addition to playing the FPB set, Hanzlík frequently joined Už Jsme Doma for portions of their set. Additionally, the Polish Nikt Nic Nie Wie record label released remastered LP versions of the Pohádky ze Zapotřebí and Uši albums.
Original drummer Jula Horvath died on July 26, 2009. The group performed several tribute concerts in his honor. In November 2009, they embarked on their first tours of in Australia, New Zealand and Tasmania. Late in the year, a live compilation DVD entitled Czech Music on The Road – 10 Days That Shook Japan was released featuring material recorded on the group's 2008 tour of Japan with several other Czech groups.
Caves, Fairy-tales from Needland Two-Fisted Remake, Three Crosses, Kry (2010–present)
The group released Jeskyně, or Caves, their seventh studio album, in May 2010 on Indies. American label Cuneiform Records released the album statewide in September, coinciding with a US tour. The band shared several dates on their touring bill with Zuby Nehty, marking the latter's first American shows.
Jaroslav Noga replaced Paleta on drums in September 2011, first appearing live with the group on October 6 in Prague. With Noga, they re-recorded the Fairy-tales from Needland album under the new name Pohádek ze Zapotřebí znovuudělání fortelné (Fairy-tales from Needland Two-Fisted Remake) with new arrangements and an expanded lineup, which was released on February 29, 2012.
The band celebrated its 30th Anniversary in 2015. Indies MG released their album Three Crosses on September 23, 2015. Vojtech Boril replaced Noga on drums on January 1, 2016. His first appearing live with the group came on January 20 in Pilsen. Their album Kry followed in 2018. Early and longtime member Romek Hanzlík died the following year.
All compositions between 1985-2001 are credited to either Wanek and Dolanský or solely Wanek, with all lyrics credited to Wanek; and all post-2001 compositions are credited to Wanek. Wanek has said that all told, the band's compositions were "80% [himself], 20% Dolanský." The pre-Wanek songs to appear on records include "Jó Nebo Nebo," "Jazz 1960," "Šantrůček," "Fíkus," "Krešlak," "Soubor opatření," and "Delikatesa," although Wanek was responsible for the lyrics and final arrangements, which involved his adding and reworking parts. Early lyrics were not actually scripted, but were improvised "Swahili", or fake English, lyrics which eventually gave shape to the Czech lyrics Wanek wrote.
Poetic and artistic elements
Wanek's lyrics have earned him a reputation as a respected Czech poet. In addition to his bands' lyrics, he wrote lyrics to a song for the Czech band Pluto, the prose in the pop-up book 11, co-authored the out-of-print book on the Residents entitled Eyeball to Eyeball with Karel Císař (a collection of Czech translations of Residents lyrics with a foreword by Wanek), and amassed countless unpublished works. His lyrics have been described his writing as “an axe for the frozen sea inside us,” a line taken from fellow countryman and influence Franz Kafka. In Puding, Wanek also states, albeit with a snicker, that the music isn't important to him and is merely a vehicle for his lyrics. Nearly all of Wanek's lyrics were written in Czech, while a few verses in songs like “Hollywood” and “Kovbojska,” or “Cowboy Song,” are in English (to connect the particular verse to a Western sensibility.) All have been translated into both English and Polish, and while in English-speaking countries, Wanek has occasionally sung English versions of the songs from Nemilovaný svět, as well as a few translated verses, such as in the song “Ticho”, or “Silence.”
Artist Velíšek has been published in several volumes and enjoyed popularity outside of his work with the band. His unique, absurd cartoon style, replete with alarming flourishes of realism, gruesomeness and beauty, gives Už Jsme Doma records their distinct look. Throughout much of the ’90s, Už Jsme Doma performed in yellow robes designed by Velíšek, giving their live show an equally absurd and distinct look. However, the band slowly began to stray away from this practice due to a distaste for uniforms and the distraction from the music that the robes induced.
- "Už jsme doma zahrají ve Frenštátě", denik.cz, 25 September 2008. Retrieved 10 November 2013
- The Prague Post Online: Night & Day: Up from underground
- Uz Jsme Doma Press Clippings : Matte number 3, 2002
- Uz Jsme Doma interview
- Jiní o UJD
- UZ JSME DOMA Concert Schedule
- Bagato, Jeff (1999) "Uz Jsme Doma "The Ears" Koda Records", The Washington Post, 12 November 1999, p. N8
- Tarradell, Mario (2000) "Uz Jsme Doma at Club Clearview", Dallas Morning News, 1 December 2000
- Mamone, Jordan N. (1999) "Uz Jsme Dome Ears", CMJ New Music Report, 29 November 1999, p. 20. Retrieved 10 November 2013
- Tamizdat: New Music from Central & Eastern Europe
- Мельгуй, Анатолий (2006-06-26). "Чешская альтернатива: урок #2" (in Russian). Muzykalnaya Gazeta. Archived from the original on 2020-04-25. Retrieved 2020-04-25.
- "mp3.box :: mp3 and music related news and tools". Archived from the original on 2006-09-24. Retrieved 2010-01-17.
- "Už jsme doma pokřtili s naháči 20 letů", iDNES.cz, 27 September 2006. Retrieved 10 November 2013
- Uz Jsme Doma (The Band) Official Site - News
- Official Cuneiform page
- NOW On / Entertainment / Feature
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