I actually know a little Czech, but I made a mistake right at the beginning of the interview, thinking that dné means “day.” However, it turns out that dné is a Czech word with no particular meaning but a lovely pronunciation. But hey, mistakes are human, right? In our exclusive interview with the talented Prague-based ambient-electronic producer Ondřej Holý, known by his artist name dné (d-neh), he takes us on a journey through the creative process behind his second album, Basic Living, which will be out in June. The album will have a lighter tone than its earlier counterpart, offering a fresh perspective and delving deeper into his world.
Furthermore, dné discusses his latest release, ‘Traps In My Feed,‘ – which comes with a cinematic video filmed by Luboš Vacke and produced by Vašek Sládek and Matouš Heger. This captivating single and accompanying visuals provide a thought-provoking experience and exude a calm and meditative vibe, inviting listeners to immerse themselves in its tranquil atmosphere.
cover photo by Paulína Maťová
The name dné means “day” – how did you come up with this artist name?
It doesn’t actually. Day is “den”. dné doesn’t mean anything, it’s just an ending of some adjectives in the Czech language. I woke up one day in 2008 and had a book next to me called “Žádné Stopy” (original title No Comebacks by Frederick Forsythe) and thought the “dné” looked kinda cool. I didn’t realize at that time the rest of the world doesn’t have the letter “é” on their keyboard hence the googling process might not be the smoothest, but I stuck with it anyway.
Oh sorry, my mistake about the translation. (smiles) So, your music is always emotional, intense, and tinged with a sense of melancholy. Would that also describe your character?
I am a calm and collected person, not intense at all. I kinda wanted to reflect it more on the new record; there is nothing too flashy.
I love the message of your new single and video ‘Traps In My Feed.’ It highlights how people often put off important tasks, even though they’re constantly on their phones. In your video, for example, the character doesn’t call their mother back. What do you think is the reason for this paradoxical behavior? And what can be done to counteract this tendency?
Every social app wants you to be hooked and keep you there as long as possible. It’s easy to fall into the trap even though you are perfectly aware of it. I checked Insta or Tinder ten times during writing these answers for you. I think the reason for this behavior is that everything is constantly updated and you don’t wanna miss out. Even though you immediately forget 99% of the stuff you’ve seen as soon as it’s replaced by the new shinier stuff. I have no solution for this, I just hid my phone under the pillow for a couple of hours to work on this song. Baby steps.
“Every social app wants you to be hooked and keep you there as long as possible.”
What inspired you to collaborate with Slovakian artist FVLCRVM on ‘Traps In My Feed’?
I like his voice and also was curious how he could have sounded on slower songs. He usually makes huge euphoric dance songs.
Your upcoming album “Basic Living” is slated for release in June. Could you share more about the creative process behind it and what listeners can anticipate from the album?
With this album, I wanted to try things I hadn’t done before. Could be simple things like cutting samples into a sequence and arpeggio melodies or more challenging ones like trying to write a song with pop vocals or pure guitar tracks. Basic Living is much more colorful compared to my debut album (These Semi Feelings, They Are Everywhere, 2016). As always, great emphasis is placed on organic beats, field recordings, and lo-fi aesthetics. But this time, I made a lot of use of vintage synths I’ve collected over the years and a variety of classical instruments and midwest emo influenced guitars. I also put a lot of care into the mood of the album; I wanted to have an uplifting record. The last thing I want is to make people sad.
“With my new album, I wanted to try things I hadn’t done before.”
The album explores various aspects of life, encompassing both minor and major experiences, and touches upon your health problems as well. In terms of discussing these health issues, how important is it for you to have open conversations, or do you prefer expressing yourself solely through your music?
I don’t mind talking about it at all. My music has never been focused on my health though, it would not be interesting to me and also making music has nothing to do with it, I simply do what my body allows me to do. But since I deal with it every day and it’s getting worse (I have muscular dystrophy, currently happily living by myself but losing my self-sufficiency) I thought it would be fair and real if I named one track like “Illnesses Are Dumb”. Silly title of course, like duh who thinks they aren’t.
Considering the seven-year gap between your debut album and Basic Living, how do you think you have grown as an artist, both personally and professionally, during this time?
The process of making songs definitely hasn’t gotten any shorter. It still takes time even with more experience. Something I can recommend is that if you are for some reason hunched over a 13” MacBook Pro, do yourself a favor, reorganize your table and buy a monitor. I bought it together with the new M1 Pro last year. I didn’t realize how much better life can be. (laughs)
“I kinda like the bother though, the rush of feelings you get at the end when it’s finally out is worth it.”
The music scene has grown tremendously, with more music being released than ever before. Is this something that concerns you, or does it not affect you?
Not at all. Although it’s interesting how somebody can take a melody loop from Splice, put some already processed and prepared 808s on it, and have 10 million plays on Spotify next month. Or the plugins that make melodies for you with a few clicks. The usual tagline with these is something like “make music fast with no bother”. I kinda like the bother though, the rush of feelings you get at the end when it’s finally out is worth it. My biggest inspiration is my future self who is happy the songs are finished. Not sure I would get the same rush if other people basically made the music for me and I just put it together like a Lego.
You have also written music for a TV show called “Pět Let.” How did that opportunity come about, and how does the creative process for writing for movies and series differ from your own music production?
They knew my music before and just emailed me. It differs a lot; I love composing to the visuals, the scene will always guide you to the right chords. It’s much easier for me to make music that way than starting from a blank desktop. On the other hand, my approach to film music is minimalistic and almost meditative. Sometimes it works just within the scene and couldn’t be released on its own.
Prague is one of my favorite cities to visit. What connects you to the city, apart from it being your home?
Friends I go out with. Basic Living is much better with them.
Thank you so much for your time!
Follow dné for more: