Vidmantas ‘V’ Cepkauskas has been a mainstay in the electronic music for nearly two decades and pulling the strings not only for his own label Le Temps Perdu but also for Vilnius based nightclub Opium, which he wants to become the first club in Lithuania that crosses the 10 year boundary. Currently living in Brussels, Vidmantas started a new chapter three and a half years ago when leaving his home to move to the Belgian and European capital and brought his V moniker to life. Torture the Artist had the chance to lead an intimate interview with the artist about personal changes, the criteria for being selected to play in the Lithuanian capital, his desire to get a nanny and much more. Furthermore, Vidmantas delivers the latest art:cast on his birthday.
Torture the Artist: Hello Vidmantas, tell us something about your day.
V: Hello, my Torturer. It’s been a hot and long Saturday. I’ve been chasing after my kids most of the time. I also spent some time watching neighbours in their terraces eating their meals and drinking their wines. Now, I’m ready for some late night tortures and confessions.
I kicked off this latest musical affair in relative anonymity because I wanted a new start with no strings attached.
Torture the Artist: Bringing some light into the darkness as not much is known about you and your background. Why did you choose to leave Vilnius, Lithuania and move to Brussels three and a half years ago?
V: Thanks for a dramatic intro and a great opportunity to create some kind of mystery and intrigue, which usually sells quite well in the world of electronic music. Google or any other search engine or quite a few people in the scene for that matter won’t let us do that. I’ve been around for some time playing and broadcasting, producing, promoting, programming and running labels. My new musical project and identity appeared naturally as a consequence of moving into a new country – changing lifestyles and soaking in new musical influences. I kicked off this latest musical affair in relative anonymity because I wanted a new start with no strings attached and no burden of prejudice or expectations.
As for the move, love migration brought me to Brussels. My wife has been living and working here on and off for more than 13 years now. We had a long distance relationship for quite a while spending time in between two countries. But then our first kid arrived which made us settle down. And since I’m more flexible with what I do, I made a move, simple as that and very prosaic too.
Torture the Artist: Name something that you worship about each city that the other one does not offer.
V: Worship is a strong word. I know what you mean though. I would like to twist my answer and not talk about things like infrastructure, amount of cultural institutions and events, how clean is the water or how fresh is the air. I’d like to talk about people and how they are. And more about national character, rather than particular cities.
Belgians, just like the most of Western European citizens, seem to be more relaxed, a bit calmer and self assured which considerably reduces unneeded stress and commotion in myriad of situations. And we Lithuanians, at least of my generation, are much more alert, always striving to prove and achieve something, sometimes even falling into the curve of rat race. Which, on the other hand, produces energy and excitement. And that’s what I often miss here in Brussels and Belgium – some kind of nerve, the drive, the edge. People seem to be netted in abundance and safety.
So if there would be a way to balance this out and make it less tense on one end and more fun and exciting on the other, it would be perfect.
Torture the Artist: What food dish from Brussels would you like to see served in Vilnius?
V: Brussels and Belgium has more variety food wise because of its place on the European map, colonial past, and some other reasons, like the crowd of European institutions and international businesses which prefer fine dining over spending time and money on loud music and sweaty clubs. When we have guests from our end of Europe, we quite often bring them to an Ethiopian joint with tasty food and all these little cultural games of food sharing, hand eating, etc. We don’t have any of that back home. I don’t think there is a decent Thai place in Vilnius yet as well. No top notch Japanese restaurant either. Long story short, I would import more diversity to Vilnius’ food scene.
Back home we’re still working hard to make a noteworthy contribution to the European scene, but we’re doing it with passion and commitment.
Torture the Artist: In your opinion, how does the electronic music scene in Vilnius differ from the scene in your new hometown?
V: It’s really hard to compare. We simply started in very different conditions and periods. Belgium is one of the first European countries to embrace electronic dance music and club culture with New Beat, Boccaccio Club (I know it wasn’t in Brussels but the part of the same scene anyway), one of the oldest Techno clubs in Europe in form of Fuse. Brussels being known for years as one of the best places for second hand record shops, add to that the legend which says Balearic kind of eclecticism was actually invented not by Alfredo or anyone on the island but copied from a Belgian DJ, then add Tomorrowland and other big festivals, Telex, Front 242, Technotronic, Soulwax, Aeroplane and other famous and influential artists – quite a solid pedigree.
Back home we’re still working hard to make a noteworthy contribution to the European scene, but we’re doing it with passion and commitment. So sooner than later we will bring more to the shared table.
And, as I mentioned before, at the moment, the Lithuanian scene actually has more energy and excitement than Belgium’s, even though the legacy and resources are at the other end.
Torture the Artist: You are involved with the booking of Opium Club in Vilnius. What’s the criteria an artist has to fulfil so that you book him and what in general shall the line-up of the club represent?
V: The line up of the club is a mixture of my own tastes and selections, choices of different promoters and preferences of our crowd. I call the process a delicate act of balancing things out. And I do hope it represents a fresh and daring take on modern day dance music.
Torture the Artist: Where do you want to take the club in the future?
V: Your question holds the answer already. I’d like to take our club to the future. I’d love it to be the first club in Lithuania to cross the boundary of 10 years first, then 15 and then 20, and stay relevant all that time. Not an easy goal to achieve, I know.
Torture the Artist: Which ideas and visions regarding Opium Club have you been able to put into practice and are there any notable ones that have failed over the years?
V: When I took over programming of the club in autumn of 2012, I made a claim that we’re going to put Vilnius on the map, and we’ve achieved that big time. What hasn’t been achieved is to build a confident and sustainable scene around us. Vilnius’ club scene is spiralling down into an abyss of free events and parties again, which may inevitably lead to a decline in variety, quality, choices and some closures too. But hopefully, we will rise again.
We all like to spend time together whatever that means – playing or producing music, dancing, hanging out. And I’m not sure you can rate it in terms of success. Just how good it feels.
Torture the Artist: A few weeks ago Opium Club’s first compilation hit the stores, 13 tracks from artists that part of the club’s ‘family’. Would you say that having ‘your own family’ in the scene and business is your approach to be successful and in which situations is the ‘close bound’ within a family difficult to come up with a solution?
V: You know, club culture has always been communal, it might be slightly different from back in the day, but every club or artist or label of certain visibility and recognition have their own community. So we’re talking here about a certain group of individuals who share the same vibe, a family or artists and dancers locked in close and genuine relationship which goes beyond business commitments. We all like to spend time together whatever that means – playing or producing music, dancing, hanging out. And I’m not sure you can rate it in terms of success. Just how good it feels.
Torture the Artist: Producing music, booking artists for Opium Club, DJing and you just became a father for a third time. How do you reconcile the different demands that come with every role?
V: You could add label work to that <smiles> But at this very moment, my own little family is number one priority. It’s that time of my life. I have to be there for my partner and my little ones, thus my career in music has taken a backseat now, at least the artistic aspect of it, which requires a lot of time on the road, in the studio and so on. But since I’m answering some questions and getting requests for mixes and podcasts regularly, the fire is still burning. I took two months off my DJ gig schedule and will be playing just a few gigs until November, when the youngest one will start attending day care. So it’s a proper break. But as The Supremes used to sing, ‘you can’t hurry love, no, you’ll just have to wait’, so let’s not hurry love, let’s wait and see.’
Torture the Artist: Being mostly surrounded by music or matters relating to that field every day can be exhausting. How do you give yourself a break?
V: That’s a tough one. I haven’t been giving myself a proper break for at least four years now. I’ve never been really tired and low on energy throughout my life. I do lack physical exercise and ways to turn myself off in a useful and constructive way, because as soon as I have a spare evening, I find myself in a noisy environment with a drink in my hand. So feel free to send in your offers for crash course in Transcendental Meditation, Bikram Yoga summer camp or at least the address for the closest Church of Scientology.
Can I get a nanny please?
Torture the Artist:Imagine you had a clone of yourself working for you. Which task would you assign it to simplify your life?
V: Can I get a nanny please? Can I be cloned twice for that.
It’s not the big records that matter but what’s between them.
Torture the Artist: You have released on labels such as Cin Cin, Le Temps Perdu, Correspondant, Nautilus Rising and many more, additionally you have been involved in the scene for almost two decades. What was a record that made you further your career?
V: Being involved in the scene for almost two decades gives me an understanding that it’s not the big records that matter but what’s between them. I mean yes, big records are important – they might give you attention and recognition, a ‘break’, many gigs and extra income, which are all important. But if you’re in the game for a long distance run rather than a flavour of the month sprint, you have to show the ability to go up the hill and down the hill, to manifest integrity, consistency, and stamina. And the invisible part is often more important. Building your own reliable network of artists, agents and promoters matters more than any brand or label you can attach your name to at some particular point of your career. Also sometimes, your big records might trap you in a certain scene, style and even time. That said, I’m really happy that my project has been featured on all these excellent labels.
Torture the Artist: Speaking of producing music, what are you working on at the moment?
V: I haven’t been busy in the studio recently due to family commitments and a very hectic time at Opium and with the label. A new three track EP for Nautilus Rising should hit the shelves some time in autumn, as well remixes for Jack Pattern on Cosmic Pint Glass. Die Orangen on Malka Tuti are also awaiting their turn. Oh yes, and I’ve also contributed a track for Biologic Records’ charity compilation ‘SOS Méditerranée’ – the only organisation rescuing refugees in the Mediterranean Sea, which should be out soon. Otherwise it’s a bunch of half baked demos awaiting creative fulfilment and salvation.
Torture the Artist: When is your favourite time of the day to produce music?
V: V music comes to life at my friend’s studio in succession of intense two or three day-long sessions depending on how much free time I have on my hands. I come to his place and stay there all that time, turn off all other devices and we work non stop with small breaks for food or when he has to take care of his family affairs. So it’s mostly a daytime affair with little forays into early hours of the night.
I’d love to produce a song again.
Torture the Artist: What’s an artist you would like to collaborate with in the future, and why?
V: I haven’t worked with any vocalist in a while. I’d love to produce a song again. I don’t have anyone particular in mind at the moment though.
Torture the Artist: What’s a track you would like to remix, and why?
V: I strongly believe we suffer from overproduction in the world of today, so I’d really like to produce less and spend more time listening to what’s already created, and would strongly recommend others to do the same. No need for featured vocalists then too.
Dear grandparents, we don’t have enough time to figure out what on Earth is Roland, LinnDrum or Oberheim, and who the hell was David Mancuso, Larry Levan or Conny Plank, so let’s just do a little spiritual dance together.
Torture the Artist: How would you describe the sound of your own releases to your grandparents?
V: All of my grandparents are dead so this puts us into the zone of spiritualism. Let’s imagine we’ve found a decent medium, and all the spirits of my grandparents are there at the table, so I would not waste their time and tell them, ‘Dear grandparents, we don’t have enough time to figure out what on Earth is Roland, LinnDrum or Oberheim, and who the hell was David Mancuso, Larry Levan or Conny Plank, so let’s just do a little spiritual dance together’.
Torture the Artist: Name 3-4 tracks that best characterise Vidmantas, accompanied by the reasons why.
V: OK, let’s try and play this little game of impossibility, because how one can fit his or her composite and ever changing personality into 3 or 33 tracks. Nevertheless, here are three tracks for you which come from formative years of me as an electronic music fan, I’ve realised recently that everything afterwards was just a variation of things that got stuck into my head and heart back then.
Let’s start with Neil Young’. I’ve seen Dead Man’s music video before seeing the movie it soundtracks. It was on MTV’s late night show called Chill Out Zone. It blended in perfectly with the show’s more eclectic music selection and mood, but also stood out because it wasn’t electronic music per se. The track and the context also gave me a valid lesson that styles and genres don’t really matter. Also it inspired me to wander off electronic music’s beaten track once in a while for inspiration and the pure joy of discovery.
I’ve bought Underworld’s Second Toughest in the Infants first but I’d say their debut album Dubnobasswithmyheadman stayed with me longer and closer to the heart. The whole album is an instant classic but I’ve chosen Dirty Epic in view of the fact that it represents a few things I always search in music – otherworldliness, melancholia, vocals, crossover of styles and a certain pop appeal.
Orbital’s Brown and Aphex Twin’s Selected Ambient Works 85-92 are the albums I’ve listened to the most in my teenage years, when I got a serious electronic bug. Halcyon was one of the highlights of the Brown album. I’ve looked up the live version of the track because it also features one of the cheekiest mash ups out there which is no less famous than the track itself. Go straight to 04:00 for the full display of “zero fucks given” and ‘don’t take dance music too seriously’ attitude. Belinda Carlisle’s Heaven Is A Place On Earth vs Bon Jovi’s You Give Love A Bad Name – reading that out loud can make you giggle. A good laugh often can do more good than hours spent on the psychiatrist’s couch or energy wasted for intellectual polemics on meaning of life and veganism.
So many people have been telling me I should be a lawyer ever since my adolescence but that’s a wasted opportunity.
Torture the Artist: If you weren’t the Vidmantas that Vidmantas is at the moment, what Vidmantas would you be, and what would you have done differently to get there?
V: So many people have been telling me I should be a lawyer ever since my adolescence but that’s a wasted opportunity now I assume.
Torture the Artist: Name an artist you personally admire but has not got the attention he/she deserves.
V: Italian producer Michele Mininni who started off my label Le Temps Perdu with his amazing Hyper Martino EP should definitely get much more spotlight and recognition. He’s got a really distinctive sound and artistic vision of his own. But what he does and how he does it slightly contradicts to dance scenes rules and clichés. And, he’s not one of the super ego guys we tend to celebrate.
Torture the Artist: What music do you usually listen to in your downtime?
V: As most of the people who spend a lot of time listening to very loud functional music, I try to listen to something more mental and ethereal in my downtime. It could be classic Jon Hassell stuff, an eclectic selection of things old and new, European or South American on Music From Memory or something on Rvng Intl., which is probably my favourite label for non dance floor oriented goodies, I also admire the amount of love and attention Matt Werth puts into each and every release.
Torture the Artist: Imagine your life is a sitcom at which time of the day would you watch it, and why?
V: My life is a sitcom indeed, though not every episode is that funny. I cannot watch any entertainment in the morning or day time unless I’m sick in a bed or on holiday. I find it hard to work after, if I let my mind drift into the leisure zone, so I’d recommend to schedule it as a late night show.
Interview by Holger Breuer