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Serbia. Where World War I started. Slobodan Milošević. These are what used to be the first thoughts when I heard that name. Until recently.
Tona (Serbian for “Ton”) come from Novi Sad, Serbia, the second largest city in the county, and home to the annual EXIT Music Festival. Their somewhat self-titled release, 1000 (ton = 1000 kg), The music is very hard rock, with a touch of metal and punk to give it a very aggressive edge.
1000 is full of heavy guitars, thick bass, superb drumming, and on top of it all, great mid-range vocals, and even one of the best harmonica performances in a hard rock song since Robert Plant (sorry Godsmack). The production quality is great, everything fits into its place perfectly. Nothing overpowers anything else. All but two of the songs are in English, so even for us silly Americans, it’s quite an easy listen. Only “Oreol” and “Grafit” are in Serbian, but the language lends itself to this style of music and really works out well.
Here’s one of the coolest things I’ve learned: Tona is signed to a state-run music label, SKC Novi Sad, which was created to promote diversity in music. Promoting creativity and originality? That has to be one of the most exciting things I have heard about a music label. Ever. Seriously.
I had a chance to ask the band a few questions, and lead singer George took the time to answer, so here we go.
Dan: Who are your biggest influences musically, as a band and individually?
Tona: They vary, like everything in life of course, but some constants
might be Thin White Rope, Motorhead, Melvins, metal & punk of the 80s, you know, the usual suspects. We listen to a lot of music other than rock, like Fela Kuti, tons of jazz, the works.
Dan: Please describe your songwriting process (i.e. is everything written by a couple of the guys, or do you all write together?)
Tona: Usually Filip or Boris, the guitarists, come up with some mean riffage that we all develop together jammin, drinkin…sometimes i start with some lyrics and singing and they start playing, it just happens.
Dan:Tell me about your favorite show or your favorite story from a show.
Tona: We don’t play a lot of shows but they tend to be very intense. Not sure if i have a favorite show though, when its really good i can hardly remember it.
Dan: What kind of equipment do you guys use? (Guitars, drums, basses, amps, everything)
Tona: Boris plays Yamaha AEF420, Filip loves his Ibanez GSA60, Davor plays Epiphone (Gibson) Bass and Vladimir has some vintage Rogers Drums, he’s Russian, he likes old things with a soul inside. As for Amps, well, we use whatever good people of Auris Studio have, since we practice there…and drink beer. Usually some Marshalls are involved. Over here bands, musicians and the likes depend on each other quite a lot, its the only way we can properly function.
Dan: Is that harmonica I hear on “Pieces”? What inspired that idea,and who plays it?
Tona: Yeah, that’s a Harmonica allright, played by a friend, Branislav. We recorded “Pieces” and then Filip just said :”Hey let put some Harmonica here”, and so we did, sound really good.
Dan:Tell me a bit about the recording process. Where you recorded, with whom, and any interesting tales?
Tona: We recorded it in a studio owned by our good friend Miroslav, who’s also a musician, so it was pretty cool. Nothing really interesting,humble equipment, no usual debauchery I’m afraid, just couple of relaxed barbeques. These days you have to interview a banker to hear sex & drugs stories. Regular Johns, yes, but we rock.