November 12th, 2020

Zoltan Bognar

Trained musician & Software developer, Currently located in Bratislava, Slovakia. Zoltan Bognar is this month ToneGym Hero!

Who are you?

My name is Zoltan Bognar and in music, I have started to use the artist's name, The EyeLand. I work every day on my singing, guitar playing, composition and other skills. From 1992 I have lived in Bratislava, Slovakia.

In 1998 I graduated from the Technical University (Software Engineer) and in 2005 I completed the composition class in the Academy of Performing Arts in Bratislava.

Today, besides music, I still work a little as a software developer for iOS devices.  Lately, I changed my software company name to  "The EyeLand" (now it is finally a music company :-)), so all my future music activities can be handled and covered by this legal entity. 

Tell us one interesting fact about yourself

I had no musical background and I decided to become a musician only when I was 18 years old (1992).  With my friend Stanislav Lőrincz we formed a band called "Island of Ideas". 

We knew nothing about music, but maybe this was a good thing, in the beginning, We started songwriting on a Roland D20 and an Atari 1040 site running CLab Creator software. During 1992-1996 we wrote more than 50 songs, then we broke up and the songs remained forgotten until 2019 (explanation at the end of this article). Later I became fascinated by classical music and I studied music composition as I mentioned above.

What is your favourite ToneGym feature?

My favourite feature is definitely a daily workout. I log in and I don't have to think about what to practice. I just do my daily habitual routine. This simple habit guarantees that my skills are a little better every day and over the year it can achieve a compound effect. And of course, keeping an eye on the next award or collecting instruments is a really great motivation and fun :-)

One music piece that inspired you to be a musician?

I do not remember exactly. In the beginning, I was listening mainly to electronic music by Depeche Mode, Erasure and so on, but the songs which really struck me were on the album "Pyramida Snu (Pyramid of Dreams)" from the Czech electronic band, OCEAN. Around 1990 they were very popular: they even made a tour in England with Erasure.

I still admire the singer, the compositions and how they used the Instruments. I believe if they had sung in English maybe they would have been very successful globally. 

Doteky v zemi (Touches in the Earth) by OCEAN:

Who or what is your biggest influence?

Considering the guitar, my biggest influence is definitely Jimi Hendrix - I love his sense of rhythm and he is able to put the whole universe in one note. It is one of my "secret" goals to find a universe in one note :-). As Santana says: "It's already in you, you just have to dig it out". So I just continue digging every day.

In contemporary classical music maybe it is György Ligeti. I wrote a diploma work on his first 6 polyrhythmic etudes. I love how he works with motifs and it is quite "easy" to follow his thinking during the composition process. But basically, it's possible someone can learn something from every classical composer in history. E.g. nowadays I listen mainly to Beethoven's 32 sonatas, check his chord progressions and compare these with my harmony practice and study.

Basically, what I have learned in four-part harmony I can see and hear in his works, and I must say it is really great fun - not to mention realising great innovations in musical form. Another interesting fact for me is that in the works of later composers I can hear that they were deeply inspired by these sonatas.

Any habits that help you stay Inspired and Creative?

For Inspiration I use this precept: "I write only when I have inspiration: fortunately it strikes every day at 10:00".  This means that I don't wait for inspiration, I just sit down and start working at 10:00 and the inspiration follows. Other secrets for inspiration are very simple: Sleep enough, Rest enough, Eat less and Express gratitude. I think a great habit is planning rest. I love to work I'm a workaholic, but I have learned that when I rest enough the quality of work, instrument practice on so on is much better.

That's why every Saturday is my day off  and during working days I work in time periods. I set the stopwatch for 90m and then do focused work without distractions, and then rest. I call these time intervals "Jam Sessions". I learned somewhere that after 90m the focus and the concentration diminish. I have to say that for me it is definitely true. Another trick which works for me is my diet (I've had the habit of eating raw food for more than 5 years). Thanks to this I'm less tired, I need less sleep and my thinking is clearer and sharper. Every day I express gratitude for everything that I have in my life. It helps me stay in the present moment and not wander in my mind in the future or past :-) But one of my biggest tricks for creativity and inspiration is that when I start to work on a new single I start with the vinyl cover.

I prepare it like a real cover (real professional graphics, real liner notes and real UPC EAN code) and print it in a professional studio. Then I take this cover everywhere with me - even when I go to sleep I put it near my bed so it is the first thing I see in the morning. I don't know why but when I hold it in my hand and see it every day, it pushes me to finish the music faster. It seems that my mind considers it already finished, so it does everything to be so.

Tell us a bit about your workflow when making music?

I learned that it is important to be excellent in the basics. For some reason, I love this idea and that's why I try to be consistent in practising the basics every day. The first thing I do every workday is practice and study 4 part of classical harmony. I have to harmonise at least 8 bars of bass or soprano melody - this is really sacred for me

 The world does not exist for me until I finish my harmony exercise. This means no mobile phone, no email or anything else - no distractions at all. This is always in the morning. In the afternoon I do singing exercises, practice guitar, piano, ToneGym, SoundGym and British pronunciation. Tracking the time and my progress is part of this process.  Besides this, I try to keep my songwriting very simple. I just need my iPhone with voice memos (Steve Vai inspired me for this).

When inspiration strikes, e.g. I hear the melody in my head, I take a guitar (or piano) and find the chord progressions while singing the melody, and I record it immediately with the iPhone voice memos app. It is important because otherwise, I will forget it. Next day I listen again and write the lyrics or record a guitar solo if I feel like it. This simple process is great because it's easy to do and I can catch exactly the feeling of the inspiration.

Then later I return to these memos and if I still like them I create an arrangement and record the vocals and guitars in Logic Pro. I do it in iterations because first I always give it to my English coach for fixing pronunciation and stress. Then I record the vocals again and so on. When I feel that it is finished, I send it for mixing and mastering to an external company. 

The musical instrument you have special feelings for?

Roland D20 and Atari 1040ste with sequencing software Notator SL (Notator was the father of Logic Pro X). I still own them and love them. I have special feelings for them mainly because they inspired my first music Ideas. If I look back it still seems like a miracle for me. An interesting fact is that the first single released this year is a song which was created with the Roland D20 and Atari in 1993. We just made a new arrangement with new lyrics and vocals, but the song is the same.

What does the future hold for Zoltan Bognar in the music industry?

Today I'm working on a new album based on the forgotten compositions of "Island of Ideas", which were created with the Roland D20 as mentioned above. I'm cooperating again with Stanislav Lőrincz, who is also a songwriter of these songs.

I don't know how long it will take, but my graphic designer is finishing the big 12' vinyl cover for printing, so I hope It will speed up the process a bit :-) (for explanation see section: Habits that help to stay Inspired and Creative). In the meantime, I'm working on the music video for the first single and then I'm going to try to find all the hidden fans in the world :-)

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