October 10, 2023
The editors of Top Hi-Fi & Video Design have recently had the pleasure to meet and talk to Karol Murawski - a producer and musician working under the pseudonym "MANOID". Karol specializes in the production of music based on modern, electronic sound and often weaves elements taken from nature or industrial spaces into his projects. On a daily basis, he is also strongly involved in educational activities as part of the Institute of Sound, and we talked about this initiative, Karol's professional roots, and everyday challenges.
The Institute of Sound is a modern school of music production, DJing, mixing and mastering. We work especially in the electronic and modern music niche on the Polish market. We run courses for people who do not yet have experience with music and for those who already have this experience but want to get better. For each of these groups, we have taken into account the appropriate advancement levels of the courses, and classes at the Institute are conducted by people who are already firmly established on the electronic music scene.
You have asked about my role at the Institute of Sound. Well, I can say that this is so called my "child". From 2013-2014, I started teaching in various schools in Warsaw: community centers and music production schools. It was then my permanent occupation - I conducted courses, lectures, gained experience as a music educator. At that time, I met with a very good feedback from my students and co-workers. I also felt that it gave me pleasure, moreover I learned something about me - that I have the patience that is so needed in education, plus I can pass on the enthusiasm related to music, which gives me the right drive.
In 2014, I released my first music material, which gave me my first recognition in the music environment, and then based on the gained contacts and ... a dream that inspired me to act and somehow prompted to combine my professional experience with the pleasure of educating - the first idea for a school focused on electronic music itself was born.
I already cooperated with the event company Institute at that stage, taking part in festivals and concerts organized by it, and it was to them that I presented my idea to join our forces and create a sub-brand dealing with education in the field of electronic music. The project was quite precisely prepared by me on the basis of a business plan, so I didn't wing it, I just knew how I wanted to organize it all. The idea was approved by the "mother company" and that's how the Institute of Sound was born.
Many new people come to us through the classic word of mouth. Also because we are the part of the aforementioned Institute. Bringing the profile of this project a bit closer - it is a brand that has been organizing events dedicated to techno music in Poland since 2000 - among others, the Garnizon Modlin festival, which stands out on the stage of electronic music events, organized in the Modlin Fortress. This recognition of the Institute brand among electronic music enthusiasts and the fact that as part of this large project a sub-brand, which is the Institute of Sound, was created, allows us to gather around us people who, apart from listening to music, also want to create it.
In addition, many of our graduates have already sailed to the "wide waters" releasing their own albums, finding fulfillment as DJs and giving concerts not only in the country, but also abroad. Therefore, it cannot be denied that the activity of these people also serves as an additional advertisement for us and allows us to attract interest to the Institute of Sound.
The very idea of establishing the Institute consists, among other things, of the desire to exchange experiences between professionals who are already working in the techno industry, with people who are just taking their first steps in this field - this is also one of our key goal. The Institute is a place full of energy (literally and figuratively). Mainly because of the people who come here. However, it cannot be otherwise if the age range of our students oscillates between 23 and 30 years old. We also get younger people. Currently, for example, we have two people of 15-16 years among the students.
Sometimes parents, catching their children's interests, come to us and ask if they can sign them up for a course. Of course, there is no low age limit, just as there is no upper one. Personally, I took my first mixing steps myself at the age of 14, and it seems that this is when, with an open mind, a person makes the fastest progress. Here you need to have a lot of creative slack, and it's easier to get it when you don't have rooted habits yet. However, it doesn't mean of course that we don't have more mature students who are already in their 40s - music is democratic after all, it is for everyone.
I would also like to add that the activity of the Institute is not only helping to take the first steps. We also help musicians who already tour, record albums, but they are just instrumentalists, they don't have skills in mastering, and they want to gain them. They want to go into the studio to compose something, record it, then edit it, and later prepare a demo, arrangement, etc. We also do this and it's a very common scenario in our business.
The greatest satisfaction is brought by the first successes achieved by our mentees and students. I can mention here such people as Alek W., Panilas, Pola, DJ Raindu or Simon Bizon.
I think that the moment when a graduate brings you her or his album, on which she/he has worked for a year, and there are also 3 years of common mentoring at the Institute - is exactly the moment that brings a sense of sincere satisfaction. While listening to this material, you can see through the eyes of your imagination the time we worked together and you're just glad that in a more or less direct way you made your contribution. Additionally, experiencing the excitement of finding a record label to release a debut album - just taking their first professional steps for the first time gives me a lot of fun and genuinely makes me happy.
Other examples are DJs who are our graduates. There are more and more people who cast line-ups of major events, festivals related to electronic music, and recently we were glad that one of our graduates got into a large European program supporting DJ work in the female community.
Another interesting example is our mentee Simon Bizon, pointed out above, who comes to the Institute from Silesia, and recently, on the occasion of the mining holiday of St. Barbara (the day of St. Barbara, the patron of good death and difficult work), had the opportunity to make his DJ set in the Budryk Mine.
Probably the most significant genre for me was hip-hop and its different varieties, both Polish and foreign - I was exploring this genre a lot at the time. Later, on the basis of deeper and deeper searches, funk, soul and simply the music of the 70s and 80s appeared as the foundations of African-American music. In high school, however, I began to romance punk-rock and reggae. It was an interesting time when I met a lot of fascinating and valuable people. Then, as the years passed, hip-hop gradually began to mix with electronic music.
It was 2014. I had a moment when I felt that I was already at such a creative and productive level that I would like to show my music to the world. Besides, I had the feeling that this is the moment when you have to enter the so-called. "higher level". The second thing is that I also had a lot of support from my relatives who, knowing my skills, strongly encouraged me to share this music more widely.
I must also add that at that stage I did not know how it works "inside out". I mean how the market works, how to reach people, etc. An important role here was played by my friend, the artist Pola Rise, who was then already working in a record company and had experience in this matter.
We met on the Internet, I was looking for people to cooperate with and she was looking for a producer for her project and finally she helped me and I had the chance to produce part of her album „EP”. With her help, when releasing the first single, I prepared a plan that defined the path of its promotion. We contacted the local press, sent the single to radio stations, often student, local, which were much more willing to promote new people and music projects. In addition, we also contacted people writing music blogs. By the way, I have the feeling that there used to be much more of them, and now this format is in a strong retreat ...
Then, thanks to all these extensive activities, I managed to attract attention to myself. There was a very positive reception of my music, there were words "that it's something new" or "it sounds foreign". Today, such words are nothing surprising and have a somewhat outdated character. Nowadays, we create music in a "global village", and access to inspirations from abroad is unlimited, but then I actually heard such words that on the Polish market it was a breath of freshness. This debut has laid the foundations for future projects, and has given me the self-confidence so much needed in my creative work.
Anyway, to make it clear somehow. The creative process is one thing, it consists of hours spent in the studio, and work on the material often takes a year, maybe even longer ... However, you must remember that this is only part of the task we have to do. Then, you often need to spend as much time to methodically plan the promotion of your music, translating your work into market conditions, because just publishing the material on YouTube or other streaming services is simply not enough - here you have to go wider and on many dimensions.
Getting to know Pola and the substantive support I received from her was such a key factor. Another milestone was finding a record label and releasing my first album "Truth" in 2018. By the way, it first appeared in a vinyl release, and then its distribution on streaming platforms began. It was also a breakthrough moment for me, as the album release coincided with a tour. Outside of Poland, it consisted of, among others, performances in Germany, the Czech Republic, Spain and Scandinavia. The album was warmly received by the environment and listeners.
To this list of milestones I must also add the performance on the main stage of the Audioriver festival in 2017. It was a special moment also due to the character of this performance, because the music intertwined with the dance performance. It was a breathtaking spectacle, which by the way was set in the reality of the end of the world. At that time, it did not occur to anyone that a moment later we would face a pandemic, the war just beyond our eastern border or rapidly progressing climate changes. All these important moments have definitely determined me as an artist.
I also think that at an earlier stage, my direction was set by the people I met on my way before the release of the first album - especially by my friends from college. One of them was my friend Dawid, who was already keen on electro and started to get me into this world. It was when I became fascinated by the depth of electronic music, its enormous possibilities both in terms of its multidimensionality and the wide possibilities of its creation, modification and mixing. It was still a time when I was very interested in hip-hop, but at the same time my fascination with electro sounds was getting stronger and stronger. So at the beginning I created hip-hop with electronic traces. It was something new, but still in my current musical core, and then the scales tipped to the side of electronics.
There are a few artists that I follow and regularly return to their releases and what and how they create. These are e.g. Floating Points, Trentemøller, Max Cooper and Sebastian Mullaert. I appreciate all these people primarily because they have their own characteristic sound. This is a very important feature of the music you create, if you are able to pass on your sonic "stamp" to the listener in the first few sounds. By the way, having your own sound signature later gives you the opportunity to interestingly cross your style with the style of another artist, and this can bring the so-called „third quality”.
To answer this question, I will start with an issue that may be a bit unobvious. I think that in artistic and creative work, it is extremely important to take care of the mental aspect, well-being ... simply taking care of yourself is extremely important in the life of an artist. I am saying this because I remember the time when I was preparing material for the Boiler Room event. A big event that was coming back after the covid, and I myself had recently recovered from the disease and approaching this project in the way I got used to was a really big mental challenge. I had the impression that although I felt ok physically, it was hellishly difficult for me to approach this new material mentally. In the end, the concert turned out to be a success, I was happy with the effect of my work, but at the same time after everything I had to take a few months break to rest. What's more, this effort was so great that only after the "dust settled" I was able to appreciate the effect obtained on stage. I learned a lot about myself then, about this inner well-being that I should take care of in order to be able to fulfill myself in both artistic and educational work at the Institute of Sound. It is known that work is often associated with pushing the body, but you also need to know when to slow down or plan your work in such a way as to maintain psychophysical balance.
Definitely a sampler and synthesizer. These are two tools that basically allow me to do everything in terms of sound design. Using them, I feel truly free as it comes to making music. Especially the latter dominated my musical area of inspiration at some point, but now I treat both of these instruments equally, using them simultaneously.
The instruments I have mentioned relate obviously to the creative area. However, there is also the listening area, i.e. tools that allow me to evaluate the created productions. Of course, monitors and headphones are crucial here. This topic often comes up in my conversations with students, where we talk about what to do to get to a higher level of achievement. Here a good audition can "weigh" more than a new synthesizer or sampler. A certain level of sound clarity makes it possible for you to do your job better. For example, using more commercial headphones that are already defined in some way is a bit like looking through someone else's glasses or colored lenses. I can say that an important moment for the quality of my productions was the investment in a higher-class monitor speaker. I felt then that I could perform each project better, more precisely, more objectively from the point of view of how a given piece should really sound.