The idea of ‘Veto Magazine’ was born in Umea

The idea of ‘Veto Magazine’ was born in Umea
Kaspars Garda, Rīga 2014
Kaspars Zaviļeiskis
Blue walls, restrained and truly stylish design you can easily associate with visual image of the cultural ‘Veto Magazine’ in its clarity and modern drive. There is a vinyl record spinning, in one of its corners, pledging allegiance of the premises to contemporary alternative trends in music. I am in the café ‘Vieta’ (‘Place’) on Valdemāra street 61, which, in fact, employs the team also producing the ‘Veto Magazine’, and I am sharing the table with a man named Jānis Volkinšteins, who is all smiles, while also slightly frowning about all the many things on his mind, which typically singles out those who engage in business. Jānis combines the responsibilities of an owner of ‘Vieta’ and those of editor-in-chief of ‘Veto Magazine’ with the pleasure of being guitarist of the rock-group ‘Indygo’.

So, as one of the founders and guitar man of „Indygo”, congratulations on your new album ‘Decoy’! 

Thank you! We are pleased it came out since we were aiming quite high with it. Despite each of us holding a day-job, which could kind of come in the way in this respect, we worked hard to make a deeply indie album, which we could like ourselves. You know, so that if in case there is more time we can spare for after a decade, it would not turn out to be too late. And today seems to be the right time, as there is the energy we need and we have things to say, the ideas are ripe. It was not easy, but I am convinced that good things happen to people who work hard, who make that extra mile in the marathon.

Many could be surprised that your new sound is quite a bit heavier than the former ‘Indygo’s.

It could definitely be a surprise for those, who followed us around 2005/2006, when we did the festival rounds and took our prizes in contests – the period of ‘Raibā taureņa ieraksti’, which was sort of a farm-label of our ‘Microphone Records’ and we made a way more popsy album. But the next step was, already, a small record ‘Under Construction’ we made in Sweden. We went for a rather exact definition of our style with that. Those who may have missed this moment will be really surprised by our new sound. After we presented this album in a really fantastic concert (on April 5 in Rock-café Riga) there was a lady who came to me and said: ‘You know, you are a..holes, your first album was perfect!’

Photo: Kaspars Garda, Riga 2014

In the context of European Capital of Culture, it is really interesting that you recorded the album you mentioned in Umea in Sweden, which will just be Riga’s counterpart as the other European Capital of Culture. Can you share some impressions about it?

Umea is a very small town. We didn’t go there aiming at a concrete region, thou, but precisely to their ‘Tonteknik’ studio, whose product we were familiar with. They did the groups we really liked at that moment. It seemed to us that those records had the studio sound, which could suit us. Which is why we saw the town quite a bit less than the studio, but, in two weeks time, we did take a walk or two through it of course. The most vivid memories are a high school neighboring our studio with hundreds of bicycles parked outside regardless of how harsh is the weather. The studio itself was a re-modeled former psychiatric clinic, but that still wasn’t what was the strangest there to see. While some us worked on their particular musical parts, the rest of us, remembering being young, took to skateboard skating. And the studio guys sent us down to their basement to demonstrate how the town is largely all inter-connected under the ground.

You could skate through Umea for a few kilometers on connected, clean, smooth basement ground where people kept all kinds of used things they didn’t need, such as old monitors and tv sets in working order!

If a town is so cultured under ground and has things to show on the surface, which are at least equally good, the plan of the Capital of Culture just cannot fail!

Sounds terrific! You are embedded in culture as editor of ‘Veto Magazine.’ And, again, I can congratulate you on your 25th issue already! Considering the uniqueness of the magazine and how uncharacteristic it is for our market, it must not have been an easy drive.

This magazine was very significant in terms of my professional career. The beginning was naïve and lovely. It takes you back to the same studio in Umea, where we saw their magazines on music and culture. We started to think why couldn’t be something like that in Latvia? I was studying audio-visual culture in the Academy of Culture at the time, so it all made sense together. I began to feel that people working in culture, our journalists, all of us here who are interested in contemporary culture are capable of creating an excellent, sophisticated and sustainable product directed at the market in Latvia. Today, our society has already made significant steps towards this kind of unity, but, back then, it was all still very fragmented – rocker groups, electronic groups, people of Andrejsala, young artists… You know those locked small societies. So, with that sense of naivety and without a business plan was how it started. And it’s a good thing that there wasn’t any business plan. I am glad we didn’t become a publishing house with several magazines or something like that, because that was also the time when the crisis hit. So we didn’t get pulled under water by maybe some passing success. We had the chance of cool assessment of whether or not this naïvely beautiful product is worth the trouble of starting also some other, more grounded undertakings oriented at other parts of the market so that it could be supported in the long run. I am proud that our small group uniformly chose to take this direction.

The creators of ‘Veto Magazine’ went to be multi-business establishment with Veto Ltd., when we opened the bus rent, ran our own offices to spare the expenses for other organizations, opened a bar, and, now, we are also importing this fine Hungarian wine…

All these objects are still variously active, but, then, they were a great help in getting past the most difficult moment. Today, we can already be grateful to the Culture Capital Foundation of Latvia which co-finances our magazine, at least, its printing expenses. We are optimistic about future.

You are consequently speaking of ‘us’. Who are people in the ‘Veto’ team?

First and foremost, it is me and my sister Zane Volkinšteine, who is the only one of us with a degree in journalism, which enables her to work with people who may have a fine idea for an article, but still need to polish the journalistic nuances. Then we have a fashion editor Jūlija, Ainārs Rūsiņš, who's producing the most adventurous projects. We have Marta Reihmane as cultural editor and Santa Vaskinoviča manages our marketing branch. Then, there is German Ermich, of course, who has been our art-director from the first issue on. It is his design, and German has really wonderfully developed professionally in these six years. We are a team of almost ten, which has remained unchanged. I am convinced that the strength of the loyalty of this team has been the force to take us through the critical two – three years in the middle period since we exist.

Photo: Kaspars Garda, Riga 2014

Then, there is a place called 'Place' or ‘Vieta’ where the audience of your magazine can come and meet you in person as well.  

‘Vieta’ was a symbolic gesture made at the time when we were trying to save the magazine. As we were learning the principles of running estate and doing other things on the side, opening ‘Vieta’ was a symbolic return to our fundamental values, which are literature, visual arts, good music… We packed it all into a number of square meters, painting and decorating the place by ourselves and finding good art to be intimately presented here. Our editing office also worked all the morning and evening shifts. It felt good to see our readers, to get to know people and talk to them after the few mechanical years. So, we found like-minded people who have become our friends by now. In two years of work, we have understood that we want to keep this project. We acquired some more solid furniture, took to offering people something to eat and, of course, have some wine, which you will not find so often in Latvia.

Speaking of wine, which forms a certain culture of its own, would you tell how did your café come to officially represent the excellent Hungarian wine ‘Bock’ in Latvia?

It started from our wish to be distinct in visual image, musical menu and what we can offer to drink as well. You will find lots of identical things on most of the wine lists in Riga. Being a wine connoisseur, I was interested to try something new. You will mostly find French, Italian and Spanish wine in Riga. For a range of reasons, I had a chance to meet people who could introduce me to contact people in Hungary. For a joke, we ordered the first party of wine, organized some wine-tasting and found that people begin to like this wine.

They stopped frowning when the Hungarian wine was mentioned. The produce from these regions you can buy in the supermarket, usually, is not made from the pure substance that Jesus touched to make into wine, but something to be traced back to chemical plants.

Seeing that people were intrigued we went to visit the senior and junior misters Bock; got to know them personally and became the representatives of the mark. There is a great interest to buy it, and now this wine is offered already in several spots in Riga. This is another story of how you cannot think primarily of the profit in the beginning of something. It has to be rationally assessed, of course, to avoid taking some horrible loan to begin with. But you have to think of the human potential of what you want to do. In this case, it is a possibility to travel to the south a sunny state and have wine with people of other mentality, listening to storytelling of an experienced man. It’s not that you are always hundred percent successful in business anyway all the way. Which is why, weighing all those may thing we engage in, I thought of whether I will be ready to do this in times when it’s not so profitable – in the down times as well? Then, I will at least be at this table lined up with bottles of good wine.

In ‘Indygo’ rehearsal room in the basement of ‘Vieta.’ Photo: Kaspars Garda, Riga 2014

‘Vieta’ is a place to come to not only for those who like ‘Veto Magazine’ or good wine. You invite the emerging groups for little concerts.

These are events held, both, in our basement rehearsal room of the group and – acoustic concerts in the café. I am usually glad to hear them myself, for this is a very particular atmosphere. I am musician myself who mostly has to play in large venues with a huge sound, which is why it is interesting to hear an indie group playing on curious acoustic instruments in this rather fascinating family atmosphere. This is where all thanks go to Marta Reihmane, whom I invite the young groups to contact on ‘Vieta’ Facebook page, for example, which you can check for our concert calendar.

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