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Interview: Dirty Shirt
What got you into music, and if you had not gotten into music what would you be doing today?
Mihai: I started music very young, pushed by my parents, but I rapidly loved playing piano, and I was good at it. As I am not a “professional” musician, I would do what I do in my “another” life: being a researcher.
Dan: I started playing guitar when I was 13. The main reason for wanting to play guitar was that I wanted to be in a band. My older brother had a band back then and you know how it is with older brothers... Monkey see monkey do. If it wasn't for music I think I would have been some kind of consultant. I like to talk a lot and to tell people how to do things.
Rini: I wanted to be like Bruce Dickinson, Ozzy, Halford, Gillan, Patton, Belladona. For almost 20 years I worked in sales in middle management and now I work in social assistance.
Cosmin: My kindergarten educators told my parents that they should take me to a local art school, because I was memorizing the songs and could play the parts of all the other kids very quickly, and so they did. I started studying the violin, and classical music at age 7. If I hadn`t gotten into music, I probably would have been a computer geek. (still am a bit)
Robi: Since I was a child I wanted to have a metal band, everything I did had to do with metal music, I started with a rock-metal show on local radio, I made a name for myself in the area. Just by chance, two friends of mine who had just made a band invited me to play with them. After a while we became friends with Cristi, our guitarist, they were looking for a vocalist with a more angry voice because they wanted more color in their music. That's how I ended up playing with Dirt Shirt, which was sometime in 2008. I am currently a sales manager for an energy company.
What do you like to do when you are not playing music and how does that influence your creativity?
Dan: I do some sports, I sometimes work on video stuff, socializing... Normal stuff I guess. But the thing that influences creativity from my standpoint is Emotion. Going to new places, doing things that have an impact on you, even if they are bad ones. Strong emotions are the ones that you can be most inspired by.
Mihai: I do my research job, which is very interesting and creative and I spend time with my family. I rather try to find a balance between these three parts, probably doing only music I would risk getting bored or burnt out and losing my creativity.
Cosmin: I like story-driven videogames or movies/animated series that manage to “transpose” me into their respective universe, making me feel that I experience and live a bit of what goes there. Kinda like living multiple lives.
How long has your band been around?
Mihai: 27 years now!
Where are you based out of and how did that influence your music?
Mihai: We are based in Maramures county, the northwest region of Transylvania, Romania, and this had a major impact on our music, as we are using traditional music as one of the sources of inspiration, and also we play often (both in the studio and live on stage) with musicians with traditional instruments.
Cosmin: Traditional culture is pretty strong in Maramures, but as a kid, I didn’t really enjoy or understand much of it. My father was very proud that I was playing the violin, and was kind of expecting me to also dabble in traditional folklore music, which didn`t really happen until I started playing with Dirty Shirt. My mom has a saying: “The thing you run from, is mounted on your back”.
Robi: We live somewhere in the northern part of the country, a place where many cultures meet, this is also why we have so many influences in our music. There are several of us in the band who are of Hungarian ethnicity, it is known that in Transylvania and our Maramures area people of several ethnicities coexist, Romanians, Hungarians, Germans, Jews, Gypsies, Ukrainians, kind of a Switzerland of the Balkans.
How did you come up with the name of your band and what does it mean to you?
Mihai: In the mid-90s, when we were in high school, we met randomly in the Baia Mare (town from North West of Transylvania) train station, and we all used to wear the same type of shirt, typical in that time. As they weren’t exactly clean, first it was a joke, but finally, the band’s name remained Dirty Shirt, as a symbol of our generation in Romania.
Tell me about your most memorable shows.
Rini: Wacken Metal Battle 2nd place in 2014, Wacken Open Air 2019, Pol'and'Rock 2021, Rockstadt Extreme Fest 2018.
Mihai: For me, the most memorable shows are probably the biggest events we have ever played: Wacken Open Air (2019, 2014) and Pol’and’Rock (2021). I would mention also the 25 years anniversary show in Pandemic conditions, at the Roman Arenas in Bucharest, and the show that we organized in Cluj Napoca for the victims of the Colectiv fire. Very intense moments…
Dan: Same as Mihai on this one. The best are usually the biggest. Wacken and Pol'and'Rock so far.
Cosmin: Big shows are awesome and memorable, but for me Folkore DeTour with the National Traditional Ensemble “Transilvania” will always have a special place in my heart, as it was like a very tiring holiday, so to speak. Big production, lots of emotion, memorable. :)
What is your favorite venue to play at, and do you have any places you want to play that you have not already?
Mihai: There are three venues in Romania that I really enjoy, not only because they're top venues, but also the crowd there is always fantastic: Quantic in Bucharest, /Form Space in Cluj Napoca, and Rockstadt / Kruhnen Halle in Brasov. But the most impressive venue remains O2 Arena from Birmingham (UK), where we played at HRH Metal Fest in 2019.
Cosmin: Honestly, I can`t say I have a favorite venue. Most of the time I don`t even remember the venues. I like it when we have good technical conditions, enough space on the stage to “manifest” ourselves, and people in the crowd who like and want to join us in this 1.5-2h music and dance therapy.
If you could play any show with any lineup, who would be on the ticket?
Mihai: Any of all big bands that influenced our sound: Korn, Tool, System of a Down, Faith No More, RATM, NIN, Rammstein, etc…
Rini: Faith No More, Infectious Grooves, Shaka Ponk
What is some advice that you would give to someone who is just getting into playing in a band and some advice that you would give to your younger self?
Mihai: It depends on what you're searching for by being in a band. If you just want to have a nice time with friends and with fans, it is already great, and you should go for it! But if you dream about being a “rock star”, except for crazy luck, talent is not enough: you need a lot of passion, work, personal and financial investment…
Dan: I would say that the most important thing is to have a band which shares your vision and dreams. You need a team that is willing to work hard and make sacrifices. Other than that, work hard in every aspect. Work hard on your music, your look as a band, your social media... Everything you do, do it as well as you can.
Rini: To dream ahead.
Cosmin: Vision, time, money to invest, experience, and luck. I think these are the main ingredients to make it “big”. Of course, if you want to have a good time, and world tours are not on your mind, getting together with some good friends can take you all a long way. And as I would say to my younger self, get in a band sooner rather than later.
Robi: Be persevering, dreamy, and trust yourself, if you want something very strongly and you are willing to make sacrifices you will surely succeed. I'm sure if I could go back in time and try to give advice to myself it would be pointless, I certainly wouldn't follow my advice.
If you could go back in time and give yourselves advice, what would it be?
Mihai: I don’t know what advice I could give to myself 27 years ago, as we started the band in a post-communist country, in a pre-internet period, without venues, labels, bookers, equipment, media, etc… We started literally from scratch, not just us, but the whole generation of bands from that time. So probably the only advice would be to never give up and continue, as long as you enjoy it. That's what I did.
Dan: "You don’t have as much time as you think you do!"
Rini: Trust yourself
Cosmin: Time runs faster as you get older. If you enjoy yourself, don`t let anyone spoil it. And I should have bought bitcoin when I first heard of it.
Of your songs which one means the most to you and why?
Dan: The dearest one for me is "Nice song" right now. Because that's the one that I enjoy playing the most.
Mihai: I cannot choose a song, as I should choose between several children…
Rini: Don’t Care - because it was the first song that I played with the guys. It’s still very touching for me and I was happy to remake it in 2021.
Cosmin: All the songs have meanings and “histories”, and I can`t really say that there is one that means the most, but “Saraca Inima Me” is pretty emotional, as well as “Cand s-o-mpartit norocu”
Which songs are your favorite to play and which get requested the most?
Mihai: The same as before, there are many songs that are in the list of “favorites”, and it is very complicated every time when we have to exclude songs from our setlist. The most requested is probably “Palinca”, one of our “hits”.
Rini: I love to play Saraca Inima Me. Several times I’ve almost cried during the performance.
Cosmin: I like the pieces where I get to “show off”, like Ciocarlia and Latcho Drom. The most requested is “Palinca”.
What is the creative process for the band, and what inspires you to write your music?
Mihai: Most of the music that I've composed came directly in my head, without an instrument nearby. It’s difficult to explain, is kind of a “cloud” where you have access sometimes and music ideas are resourced. Of course, not everything is good, so the best “judge” is time: if I do not remember it, or it does not come back, it means that it was not good enough to be memorable. Sometimes, I am inspired by traditional Romanian music that I like, but in both cases, starting the “raw” idea, there is a long process of construction, where all musicians implied add their ideas and personality.
What kinds of messages do you like to get across in your music?
Mihai: Our lyrics are strongly influenced by our real experience, so sometimes we have more social and political messages in our music, but sometimes it's just about feeling things: joy but also sadness.
Do you ever have disagreements in your band, and how do you get past them?
Mihai: As there are 8 members in the “core” version of the band, and sometimes in concerts, we are more than 20, we definitely had disagreements between us. To overcome them, there is a mixture of conflict management, democratic voting for important decisions, and a lot of humor.
Dan: The democratic vote is a very important aspect of our band's conflict-solving strategy. We also have a very unique sense of humor which helps a lot. A lot of jokes and a lot of fun. Even if 80% of the band is arguing in the van, there's always one of us cracking a joke in the middle of the argument lifting the mood up. We also love each other.
Rini: Of course we have. All the time. There are 8 of us. But we have to think about what’s best for the band.
Cosmin: One of the things that I love about the band is that we are so different, yet we are of the same bunch. Besides the democratic vote, and our sense of humor, I think “Unity in diversity” is something that helps us get past any disagreements.
What are your plans for the future, and do you have anything that you want to spotlight that is coming up?
Mihai: As we will release our 6th studio album, we're about to have our first “serious” tour in 2 years, with many shows in Romania, but also some major events in Europe, including Hellfest Open Air (Fr) and Reload Festival (D).
Cand s-o-mpartit norocu’ (Part 1 & 2) -
Pretty Faces -
New Boy in Town -
Dirty Shirt Answers by
Mihai Tivadar – keyboards & guitars (band’s leader, main composer)
Dan Rini Craciun – vocals
Robert Rusz - vocals
Dan Petean – guitars
Cosmin Nechita - Violin