Mister Sunshine – interview by Jegors Jerohomovics, Izklaide/23/12/2010

Viva la stereotypes and legends! Singer’s Markus Riva new album Songs from NYC is coming out and he tells Izklaide about his character, choir conductor diploma and the meaning of Iveta Felmane and Woody Allen in his life.

Jegors Jerohomovičs

The most important thing is not to have a red nose!, jokes Markus Riva, when he finds out that his portrait for Izklaide Christmas edition should be taken outside, in the streets of old town. An opinion about signer Markus Riva, that’s something everybody has – of course, even those who have never heard any of his songs or seen his TV programs, where he greeted everyone on a cheerful note.

Public image or Markus has been created by tabloids. „Feldmane and young Riva spend nights together”, Vakara Ziņas published on its cover in 2009 right before singer’s debut album was out.

„They both hide in Riga streets at night. The married TV diva and the musician have a major age difference of 17 years”, those hot news beat another story published in the same edition, telling that „Agnese Zeltiņa and Miks Ozoliņš cuddle in public”.

Tabloids and internet sites don’t make an artist’s reputation, just the opposite – those can seriously mess up someone’s karma („Markus Riva makes money by getting naked” – this is from last week’s news). But Markus Riva, real name Miķelis Ļaksa, has something to offer even without getting naked – it’s not just a pretty face and „sweet boy” image, he has his songs. In the middle of December he got his second album Songs from NYC.

Rowing in a tiny Jacuzzi

“As the time goes by, I find out a lot about myself, I even like all those legends and myths,” Markus says. “I don’t even want to retort all this; that would be like rowing blind in a tiny Jacuzzi. Viva la stereotypes and legends! We live in a country where stereotypes and legends are very strong and I don’t care what people think about me. Speaking of reputation, I have two options. I can pay attention to what tabloids say about me, waste my time and energy on that, or I can ignore that. I choose the second one. I don’t have a million to hire a PR agency which would take care of my image. I know for sure who I am and what is it I want to do – it’s pop music.”

When we ask him what is he going to do if music doesn’t get him any profit and if he won’t be able to fulfil his hopes in that, Markus replies without any hesitation, “I’m not even regarding that as a possibility. The more you do, the more you fight… Really, I haven’t even considered that to be an option.” He doesn’t say it in a self-confident way; he says it convincingly and calmly, with no hypocrisy. He is full of optimism, not positivity; that’s almost impossible to find in tabloids and “compromising materials” – there you will find a completely different Markus Riva. “I prefer to do, not to consider everything, calculate and evaluate each possible scenario. Maybe this is the reason why my life is the way it is. But I’m not ashamed of it and don’t deny anything. There are many people who might say, what is it he’s doing there, he can’t do anything, he should do something else. I love to process of creation and I will keep doing exactly what I’ve dreamt of doing since I was a child. In February or March I want to have a real concert and perform for real audience the material from my new album.”

Two patronesses

“It’s always difficult for a new musician – no one is waiting for him, no one wants him,” said Yana Kay in the presentation or Markus Riva’s first album Ticu in 2009, she can be regarded as the singer’s patroness. “Human factor is always important to me, if the artist is talented, but happens to be a scum and an idiot, people will feel it in his works. Markus is a good boy, it’s a true rarity nowadays. His eyes shine – he is following his dream, works hard and consistently. Markus has charisma; he is open, simple and even naïve. He still has this purity about himself,” says Yana, who started to work with Markus in 2005. Since then they have been cooperating in Yana’s recording studio Deeselecta; both Markus’ albums were recorded there and Yana’s songs are made there.

“We have talked a lot with Yana, we also talk about music and other things. The same thing we do with Iveta (Feldmane – J.J.). it hurts to real all the stupid things they write about Iveta. She is a creative personality. Everyone wants to change. Iveta is happy with what she does – creates TV projects, “tells Markus. With Iveta Feldmane – former shopping centre Alfa manager, show Dancing with the Stars participant – they were introduced by Roberto Meloni. “We were in Westside Story together with Roberto. Iveta had just finished her participation in Dancing with the Stars and wanted to continue practicing, she was looking for a dance partner, so Roberto introduced us. Our friendship with Iveta begun with chachacha and tango. We have become very close during those years. By the way, Iveta is a poetess. She has written texts for my songs Love to You and Quiz in Latvian. Iveta has graduated from Music Academy, producers (graduated from faculty of Theatre and cultural education, obtained theatre producer’s diploma – J.J.). she was writing even during her studies, but her works were never published. She is very self-critical, but what I have read was very impressive, and I hope that after a few years she will muster up her courage and publish her writings.”

The same score

The album Songs from NYC is the musician’s collection of New York impressions. In New York he is during summers, he works as a model there. And no one expects a model to sing. All the songs from the new album were written and produced by him. “It is important to discover myself in the music, to put my soul in it, that is why I do it all myself. I had all the possibilities – I had a studio, I have musical knowledge about harmony, composition and the rest I have learned in Riga Dome choir school. I have a choir conductor’s diploma, yet I am not a choir conductor. I’ve always been leaning towards pop music and pop culture, this is the reason why I didn’t continue my studies in Music Academy; I realised I have no intention to conduct a choir during Song festival in Mežaparks. Why? Just because it’s not for me. I like Song festival, and choir culture will always be special for me, because I’ve been singing a lot in both Riga Dome choir and choir Balsis, after that I worked in concert organisation Ave sol and had to deal with choirs. I am not enthusiastic about becoming a choir conductor.”

Markus thinks of himself as of an introvert person, an individualist. “I didn’t like PE lessons at school, because we had to play basketball and football there. I was always the goalie. I was friendly and outgoing, but I didn’t like to take part in any team work, I as usually on my own, thinking my own thoughts and doing my own things. Also now I like to spend time in the studio – I get up on a Sunday morning, go to the studio and come bac at midnight. I keep doing something the hole day, look for the right sounds, write texts, this is how I have spent the last year and a half.”

Trajectory of a melody

Markus is happy to be living in a century in which you can log on to YouTube and learn how to tie a knot on a tie, as well as many technical things which are needed to create music, “This is the reason why I like electronic music a lot – we can take this sound (hits the edge of a mug) and make a section for a song’s rhythm.” The sound on Songs from NYC is also electronic. To create those songs, all the technologies known and used worldwide were used – programmes like Melodyne, AutoTune, Vocoder and other voice editing and modification effects. “Well, there are things I wanted to add, so the album would be modern and outstanding. For me it’s interesting to work with voice, modify the way it sounds. For example, in the song Words are Words there are many echo and sound delay effects. It was very spontaneous in the studio; I was looking for effects to add to the voice. So I added double delay, and with the sounds and intervals in the melody it all added up nicely.”

Album Songs from NYC surprises with its tastefulness and style, Markus Riva is far away from Latvian pop schlagers and overplayed seriousness. This is “electronic chamber music” – a very personal expression of one person’s work. You can hear him experimenting, searching, having fun and then trying to set the song on a different track, in four minutes a composition changes its trajectory. Markus has many musical ideas and sometimes he tries to combine them all into one song. Strong rhythmical structures, a well-chosen tempo, at least a half of 14 compositions in this album have amazing melodies – when you hear Songs from NYC, any “compromising materials” about Markus Riva just fade away.

Bruised knees

What inspires him? “Beyonce, I started to listen to her in my teens. Now I have stepped away from this style of music, but Beyonce will be an icon for me even after 40 years, as I grew up with that music. Swedish singer Robyn also inspires me, as well as Scandinavian electronic pop music. In New York I had a chance to see Robyn’s concert and also to meet her (Robyn’s trilogy Body Talk albums were in all hit charts in 2010 – J.J.). Woody Allen inspires me, yet I haven’t had a chance to see all his films yet. I like way Woddy Allen sees New York, his tragicomic view and the act that there always are real people in his films, there are no superheroes and imaginary things no one would ever believe. There are tragicomic situations in other people’s lives, ones which could happen to anyone and anywhere.”

Markus Riva can often be seen in Maija Silova’s style programmes. Who isn’t interested where does a musician buy his clothes?! “I don’t shop in riga very often. A while ago I bought a pair of G-Star socks, it’s cold; also I bought a new pair of boots, the old ones were damaged by salt. For the last two years I’ve been shopping in New York – I buy everything in summer and then use it for the rest of the year.” Does Markus have a style advisor? “Life is my advisor – what you do, what you listen to, what you watch, what you think and how do you feel. During album presentation I was wearing a suit by fashion designer Artis Štamgūts, I borrowed it from him. In Latvia it’s possible to cooperate with fashion designers and support each other.” How does he see himself after five years? “I guess I will have dark hair again. I think I will be as stylish as I am. Will go with the flow. I will have more gray hair and wrinkles on my face. I hope I will be smiling as much as I am now,”

Are there things he is afraid of? “I’m afraid of height, I’m scared to jump with a parachute, I’m afraid to fall and get hurt. I’ve had many awkward situations like that in my life – to stumble, to fall. When I was a child, my knees were always bruised. Once I went to school on 1st of September with a bruised face, because on the previous day I was running and fell down on a concrete. I’ve fallen down and gut hurt so many times that I’ve hearned to move on and not to cry about all the bruises and scars.”

Markus Riva

Songs from NYC



In New York with Markus Riva

Artist’s favourite places in the city to which he has dedicated his latest album

Central park. “I lived near Central park and every morning went to run a 6 kilometre long cross-country run. I was surprised to discover something new in the park every day, a new corner, view, people, legends. I could hide from city crowd there, be weak, small, lonely and near the nature. In central park there were my dates, melted ice cream and new facts. Central park is a never ending story. Besides, there are many museums near it, I’ve spent countless hours there.”

Restaurant Paris Commune in West village. “Each Monday evening me and my friends would meet there and have dinner: special offer – a steak for the special Monday’s price. This restaurant is with a French atmosphere, stars alos love it – Grace Jones, Julie Roberts, Nicole Kidman, Marc Jacobs and others go there”

Columbus Circle square. “This was the first place I saw in New York when I got out of subway, and that moment I fell in love with New York. The first look at skyscrapers, at the globe in the centre, at the fountains and southwest corner of the Central park. I’ve spent countless summer nights there. It’s magical.”

Photo – Vitālijs Stīpnieks, Dienas mediji

Markus Riva. Important

Born October 2, 1986

Graduated from Riga Dome choir school (choir conductor)

Used to sing in Riga Dome boys’ choir and youth choir Balsis

Writes and produces songs for himself and other performers

Has two albums, Ticu (2009) and Songs from NYC (2010)

Two of his songs were in Eurovision national finale, Download your Dream (2008; performed by Lily) and Bye Bye (2009; performed by Sabīne Berezina and band PeR)

Has taken part in musicals Westside Story (2006, 2007) and Les Miserables (2008) in Ķīpsala hall

Works as a model and is a DJ of Capital FM radio station

Was the anchorperson in Latvijas Radio and Latvian Music Channel, was in LNT show Zvaigžņu lietus

Has composed music for TV programmes (Kinomānija TV3, Būsim veseli and 48 minut TV5)

Great popularity and interest of tabloids was attained by Markus Riva’s nude photographies in Cosmopolitan magazine, in advertisements and his model portfolio

In social network Fackebok Markus riva has over 3300 friends

Information markusriva.com and twitter.com/markusriva


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