Collectively their musical endeavours go back many years, but Handra is the most recent project from Marek Szpak and Filip Zdrodowski who have excited us with the recent release of ‘Coat Of Dust / Stay Away’ on Addictive Behaviour.
We spoke to them about their history in the music scene, their recent signing to Fokuz Recordings, and they enlightened us on the meaning behind their name and its relevance to the music they produce.
Before coming together as a duo, you were both involved in other musical projects. What were these projects, and how did they bring you both together?
Marek: My origins are in the 90s rave scene. I was producing some old school rave breaks back then, first under the Basement Crew name then as Screwball, using simple PC software like the legendary Fast Tracker. I was sampling rave tapes borrowed from my friends but the quality of those records was terrible so it was more fun than serious production. Next step was pretty obvious – Drum and Bass but I was also involved in the Polish breaks scene. Surprisingly my first vinyl release was a UK garage tune. You can still find it in some off beat records stores. I’m still making and releasing music under the Screwball name, and have already done lots of collaborations, but right now I’m focusing on the Handra project.
Filip: I started my drum & bass journey in late 90s. First, I was just collecting vinyl. It was a huge problem for me to get DNB 12”s in those days. I was a kid with a strong passion but I didn’t even have internet, I just had contact with some guys that knew some guys who knew some guys bringing vinyl from the UK to Poland. To be honest, I was more focused on rap in the beginning. Of course, I was listening to DNB and collecting records but actually, I was very deep into the rap scene in those days. I started rapping in 1998 and I was collaborating for many years with my friend Bisz BOK who is a well known rap figure in Poland right now, and who was delivering beats for me. Good old days.
Then, I just started rapping to DNB and was doing it for many years under the name MC RanyJulek. I guess that lot of DNB heads in Poland still connect me with MC’ing. I supported the majority of DNB artists on the mic during my vocal career but MC’ing was not enough for me. I always wanted to do “bigger things”, I simply wanted to make my own music. We knew each other for a long time as we grew up in the same city and had a lot of common friends. Our music paths joined when Marek moved to Poznan where I was already living. We just, you know, became friends and one day we just started to do a track together. Surprisingly this tune was later released on Influenza and it was the first track that we made together. We thought that we just have to do more things and created Handra. It was like “Yeah, let’s do it, let’s produce and release some music instead of drinking beer together” and we did it.
I’ve had a listen to the promo mix you recorded a few months back, containing some very exciting music. A few of the tracks – ‘Hidden Anxiety’, ‘Stay Away’, and ‘Unexpected’ – have already been released. What is happening with the rest of the tracks on the mix?
Filip: Actually, only Unexpected has been released so far, on Influenza Media as a part of Unexpected EP together with its remix by CLS.
Marek: ‘Frozen Shadow’ is a IM:LTD dubplate only, a few other tracks are already singed. We will announce those in the future, now we want to focus on ‘Coat of Dust/Stay Away’. To be honest, I think only one track from this mix is homeless.
Filip: Yeah, let’s just say that Claw and Furia are next in the queue 😉
You’ve recently been signed to Fokuz Recordings – one of the most renowned labels in drum & bass. How did this opportunity come about?
Filip: As we said before, we have already been working with Influenza, which is a Fokuz sub-label, so the guys from Fokuz were up to date with our new productions. Together we just decided to push things forward and sign one of our tracks to Fokuz.
What does signing to Fokuz mean for your future releases? Will you still be releasing on other labels?
Marek: There is a super secret project by Fokuz Recordings, and we can’t really talk about it right now, but we can say that it involves a shit-load of great music, made not only by Handra. Our contract is not exclusive so we will release our music on other labels, like Addictive Behaviour, Avantgarde and others who can afford us.
‘Coat Of Dust / Stay Away’ is your latest release – out on Addictive Behaviour on digital and 12” vinyl formats. What kind of sound were you aiming to achieve with both tracks?
Filip: Handra (properly written Chandra in Polish) means blues, a kind of nostalgic feeling and state of sadness. Our name shows what we actually want to achieve in music in general. Basically, we want to make emotional stuff. That’s what Handra is all about.
Marek: We like that this release has got two different tastes, and this is what has already given us good feedback. Handra has got a specific sound, we like to make it deep, techy and minimal but also with a bit of a human touch. I hope we have achieved that with ‘Coat of Dust/ Stay Away’.
Filip: Yes, minimalism is what we’re really very much into. We also want to give our music a kind of dark and close to nature feeling.
How active is the drum & bass scene in Poland? Do you get the chance to play at many events there?
Marek: I really like what is happening in the Polish DNB scene right now. We’ve got many really talented producers, releasing their music with acclaimed labels and there are lots of newcomers. Many of these kids amaze me with the sounds they can already make, and the level of their knowledge. Back in the day I didn’t even know what a compressor was for like fucking 5 years of making music.
Filip: The Polish scene is getting stronger and sicker every year. We have some really serious promoters over here as well, so we DJ a lot and support some heavy stars, and not only from the DNB scene.
What else can you reveal about your musical plans over the next few months?
Filip: We’ve got some exciting news, but unfortunately it’s too early to reveal them. Avantgarde and Fokuz. That’s all that we can say about our release plans right now.
Marek: I think we can also say, that we will be collaborating with acclaimed Polish artists, and not only from the DNB scene.