Lukatoyboy: Walk That Sound

Walk That Sound is a CTM Radio Lab project by a Serbian artist Luka Ivanovic a.k.a. Lukatoyboy where he uses walkie-talkies to create a sound portrait of Berlin. By setting up a system with a basic set of rules, Luka invited people to find their own ways in making a audio landscape of the city. Interactions, dialogues and multitudes of sounds caught over various channels with these simple portable radio devices were recorded over the course of seven days. Live performance of the recordings took place at West Germany as part of CTM Festival and the project was later aired on Deutschlandradio Kultur.

This is Lukatoyboy’s guide through walking that sound.

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The Unsold Stories: How does one walk that sound?

Lukatoyboy: There are many ways of doing it but one which I now find the most interesting is with walkie-talkies. It’s full of surprises and it’s very direct. You can’t talk while listening to the other person or vice versa. You can just say things and not be fully aware of ones on the other side. You cannot talk at the same time like in phone or live conversations. What makes it very unique is that you pick up sounds that are coming from nearby, but you don’t actually see the source.

How does Walk That Sound actually work?

There will be walkie-talkies for people to take and walk around Kottbusser Tor. The same number of walkie-talkies will be available at West Germany venue which will be a listening base. If people just want to listen to what’s happening around the area, they can stay in the base and listen to conversations, expressions or stories people will share with walkie-talkies outside, as well as random interferences coming from unrelated people doing their own work on other channels. I will collect all these recordings and after seven days I will use the material to create the final version for the radio.

Where did the idea come from?

The idea of setting up a system with a basic set of rules that enables people to find their own means of expression started some years ago when I started my own label for cassettes called Blind Tapes and the project was called Blind Tapes Quartets. I was inviting people to play for ten minutes and when I had four people that played, without even listening to each other, that was a quartet made by chance and I liked that approach. Walk That Sound is in some way the next level, because it’s live and also has some limitations in terms of that we cannot really cover the whole city, but only the area around Kottbusser Tor for example. In a way I was inspired by this earlier concept for Blind Tapes – me almost not interfering, leaving it to the people to create the output. I just create a rule, or a setup of suggested rules, a sort of a living system and then it’s up to others to use it and/or abuse it.

Tell us more about the Blind Tapes Quartets.

It started in 2010 in Belgrade at Ring Ring festival, then I set it up in Berlin at Staalplaat and in the last three years it spread to over thirty cities. What I basically did is announce that I’m at a certain place, usually a venue, often within a festival, with a 4-track recording machine and blank cassette tapes and you can come to record ten minutes playing your instrument, sing, talk etc. Each time I recorded four people one tape was ready. The whole process was really free – I call it democratic, as I didn’t impose any esthetic, there was no editing and I used all recorded material. I just mixed it so that everybody has the same space in the final mix. Of course, some tapes are more interesting than others, but I like taking the risk of giving a lot of freedom to participants and waiting to see if magic can happen. Some of the Blind Tapes are still available in Berlin at Staalplaat and The Early Bird Hype.

When did you discover walkie-talkies?

I discovered them some years ago just by noticing them around me and being drawn into their sound. A long time ago I had an idea to use them in a totally different way. That’s when I started buying them on flea markets back in 2005. I remember turning it on once and hearing a phone conversation from one of my neighbors. It’s really an interesting device because it’s not super regulated, you don’t have to have a special license for it (although in Italy you have to pay a certain fee to the state when buying a set), but you can stumble upon so many things and people are not so aware that someone else can listen to it.

What’s the most interesting story that you randomly picked up?

Last summer in Belgrade I stumbled upon two things at the same time, because I often leave on two different channel – shooting of a movie and preparations for a political protest. The dialogues were very technical, orders were given, results seemed mixed and at the end people behind walkie-talkies just switched to choosing toppings for their burgers.

I think that in the times when people are really concerned about privacy, about surveillance, leaked information and so on, it’s funny how you can easily have access to information that is absolutely not protected, people are either not aware of it or they don’t care. You can go to a nearby store and buy a pair of walkie-talkies and experience parallel realities very near you.

What’s next for Lukatoyboy?

Sometimes I think that I will work on my solo album, but I have some personal issues with it. I don’t like to go back to already recorded sounds and I really like to play live. Somehow recorded sound becomes dead to me in a way, so I am mostly editing when within a bigger project, like a theatre play, or a commission like Walk That Sound. And there will always be touring – let’s see where. Hello 2014!