Young Ivan Kral left for the States together with his parents in the late 1950’s. Later on he became a well known musician at the famous CBGB Club, where he met an ambitious and talented artist named Patti Smith. The result of their cooperation was Patti’s first album Horses (1975).
After leaving her band, he went on to play and record with Iggy Pop (on the albums Soldier and Party). The following years were filled with many people who were in some way connected with the CBGB Club – Blondie, John Cale, David Byrne, David Bowie… Ivan Kral came back to the Czech Republic in 1992 with his band Native. Since than he has been a highly sought after producer, yet he had enough time to release a few records of his own music.
Ivan Kral lives in Florida now but still works with several Czech artists.
GASHAUS: You are always on the road. Don’t you want to settle down yet?
KRAL: I don’t like staying in one place for too long, I fear it. Another thing I fear is a tendency in people to change each other. If somebody wants to change and break you, it is a problem. You should be loved for who you are and the way you are. Ivo Pospisil, Ivan’s manager, says: “If anybody wants to hold him back, he gets crazy and wants to get out of it. That is why he left here. He realized he was trapped. America gives him a chance for freedom. He does not have to be anybody else but himself.”
GASHAUS: Is there any place you would miss?
KRAL: I do not have an answer to this. I do not even know where I feel the the best. I can miss a person, not a place. The Earth is round. Nationalism is a nonsense.
GASHAUS: How about Florida?
KRAL: I live in a little village close to a lake. It is so peaceful, still, and away from all that madness. I have only two neighbors. One is deaf, plants orchids and has a sick wife. The other one does not like anybody, works in a store and his wife is sick too. The rest of the people are just hicks who sit around in a pub.
GASHAUS: Did you leave by your own will?
KRAL: That was the best luck of my life. Because my parents worked for OSN, they were sent to New York. Me and my brother had to stay here, to make sure that they would not take off. They had applied for a one month visit for us and when we finished high school, we got all the necessary stamps and left. We had to come back, but our parents decided to get us an American university education and that was it. One has dreams.
As teenagers we played in Narodni dum, and once some dandy told us we were a hundred years behind the monkeys. I cried like a child, wanting to run away and study in Paris or Munich… When my parents had the chance to go, they were worried about us but we told them to go, although it did not make much sense to us – the politics and stuff.
GASHAUS: When did you come back for the first time?
KRAL: In 1992, after 26 years. We were careful, my parents did not have their Czech citizenship and the house and everything was confiscated. They went back to America, my father was broken… I remember building that house, it is still there. Oh, well…
GASHAUS: Did you think communism was going to end one day?
KRAL: No. Unfortunately we did not know anything, there was no contact. When I tried, I usually ran into the worst sort of people who wanted to get out and use me. I was naive, helped a few musicians thinking they were into music and then I was only disappointed…
GASHAUS: What about New York?
KRAL: Absolute madness, a fumbling misery. Nevertheless, good school of life. You live with cockroaches and nothing works. Everything is expensive, it takes you two weeks to make enough money for the rent. But when you’re twenty, you have the energy for it. To play the young-starving-artist game. Noncoincidences, (that is what I call it because nothing is ever a coincidence), brought me to some local clubs where I found out there exists somebody like Andy Warhol.
Noncoincidences… Somebody takes you places where you discover strange stuff, guys trying to pick up on you, you know, interesting things. Back then everyone wore make up and satin dresses like David Bowie. I did not even know what kind of drugs they were on. Everybody knew everybody, there were only a few bands. We were playing with Kiss or the Dolls. Today, you have no chance in Manhattan.
GASHAUS: Does Iggy Pop fulfill your expectations, art wise?
KRAL: He does the same thing over and over. People and journalists put him in a certain box. I wish him luck, luck of the life. Sometimes he is a mental hospital or on drugs. He was such a cute boy, everyone wanted to fuck him. Guys, girls… Mostly they were using him for publicity and giving him drugs. Of course, whatever youngsters do, they think they are unbreakable.
GASHAUS: How does the opinions of your friends and society affect you?
KRAL: It is important, you can’t just throw it away. We depend on each other. And on conscience.
GASHAUS: Do you have your own philosophy? How much do you believe in destiny?
KRAL: Some powers show you which way to go. My philosophy is to learn as much as I can before this life is over. I mean; openly listen to all conceptions and come back to what was once written. A lot of problems were solved and we are still searching for them. We waste our time on bullshit instead of the important issues.
GASHAUS: As people we have a measured length of our lives. Should we, or do we have to hurry?
KRAL: When you read old writers, you think they are great, and they were thinking in 1742 or 1878 the way I do now. Jesus, does it mean I am not so crazy? It pleases me. Although their ideas were forgotten or crashed by some revolution or plain materialism, they were there and it assures you there is something more interesting than just rushing after whatever.
GASHAUS: What do you think about payback, revenge?
KRAL: Sometimes it is right. For a murder? Maybe. Most of the people are against the death penalty, some believe you pay for your sins on somejudgment day… I can not imagine that it would exist. But as human beings, we don’t know how to solve this problem.
Translated by Hany Sevcikova , Photos by Petr Tresnak,?www.ivan-kral.cz,?www.ivankral.net