We had the good fortune of connecting with Skutaj and we’ve shared our conversation below.

Hi Skutaj, maybe we can start at the very start – the idea – how did you come up with the idea for your business?
Around April of 2020, when COVID forced many of us to work from home and limit going out, my sister and I decided to keep our spirits up by starting a 30-day COVID challenge. The challenge was to try to produce something creative every day for 30 days. My sister painted a painting and I recorded and uploaded a song every day. Well, we didn’t quite make the full 30 days, but this was the birth of my solo project “Skutaj”. Skutaj has continued as my expression of traditional Medieval and Renaissance folk music with my own interpretation. My music ranges from fairly straight-forward interpretations to more elaborate soundscapes. I mainly play folk or period instruments, which include, soprano, alto, tenor, and bass recorders, Spanish shawms, baritone ukulele, hand drum, and riq. I’ve been working on mandolin that I hope to incorporate into future tracks. The process has been a great learning experience and challenging, because I’ve had to learn new instruments, as well as, recording, mixing, and mastering techniques. I also utilize many of my paintings and artwork in my webpages and profiles. The journey has been very fulfilling and I plan to continue on for many more years!

Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
My musical interest having spanned punk to gothic-industrial to classical gives me a breadth of interpretation to the music I play. My early musical influences came from varieties of punk, industrial, and metal music, such as, Black Sabbath, Danzig, Misfits, Bad Religion, Motorhead, Metallica, and Skinny Puppy. I had been fascinated with the way some music, especially experimental groups can border on being musical, but still enjoyable. From this influence, I created my first solo project, “Industreality”. I used salvaged electronic equipment to record and mix tracks to develop interesting soundscapes. It was so much fun, but maybe didn’t sound so great! Later, I went to college and studied physics. My studies took up much of my focus, but I also became interested in East Indian raga music and began learning tabla drums. Learning about the Eastern sound scales and ragas was my first insight into understanding the structure of music.

Jump ahead a few years, and I started working as a research physicist when I began exploring classical music in more depth. I enjoyed the interplay between instruments and the overall structure of the music. It seemed to sweep me away into another world. I remember listening to Bach, Brandenburg Concertos and feeling like I was being swept into another world. I decided to take up an instrument and since I had played flute briefly in grade school I decided to explore woodwinds. I found that the recorder had played a large part of early music, so I chose to study the recorder. Soon after, I joined the Washington Recorder Society and then co-founded a group named “The Sligo Creek Recorder Club”. After a few years, I joined a Renaissance dance troupe called “Three Left Feet” and a band called “Tower Green”. I only played briefly with these two groups before COVID pulled us all apart. My forced isolation from other musicians is what fueled my ambition to create Skutaj.

During this time I was becoming more interested particularly in Medieval and early Renaissance dance music. I was taken by the energy and liveliness of this music. One aspect of this early music that continues to fascinate me is that no one is certain how the music was actually played or sounded. Our modern concepts of tonality, musical notation, and timing, were not well established during this time and so there is a lot of room for interpretation. Taking this music and recreating a musical soundscape that once existed, or better yet creating a soundscape for a world that may have never existed inspires me to continue to arrange and compose this style of music. This I felt, gave me the freedom to reinterpret this music how I wanted. I have great appreciation for music re-creationists, but I feel that it’s fun to reimagine this music through my personal experiences and perspective.

Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
I’d definitely take them to Wonderland Brewing in Broomfield for a drink and hope to catch a live show. I’d also take them to Meow Wolf for a great immersive art experience. If during the summer, I’d spend the day at the Colorado Renaissance Festival and head up to Rocky Mountain National Park for some hiking.

The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
My sister, Amanda Johnson (AmandaJohnsonfineart.com) has played a huge role in my creative journey. Even as adults, we would always be creating, drawing, and painting together. Our creative interactions led to the formation of my solo project “Skutaj”. I also gained a lot of encouragement and help from many members of the Washington Recorder Society, especially Maybelle Kagy and members of the Sligo Creek Recorder Club. My more recent musical influences come from several early music groups, such as Starry Olsa, Kings & Beggars, Wolgemut, Vox Vulgaris, and Unicorn Ensemble. I’ve also drawn inspiration from Early Nodric re-creationists such as Heiliung. I owe a huge thanks to Ralph Dubayah and Tower Green (TowerGreenBand.com) for giving me the opportunity to play with them. I’d also like to thank my wife and children for enduring hours of endless recorder and shawm playing!

Website: https://www.skutaj.com

Instagram: @skutajmusic

Twitter: @skutaj

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Skutaj/

Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PL2uBwGEEL198GpMZeLgwO64Qrj2l0EncT

Other: Spotify: https://open.spotify.com/artist/3tXYZSdyVDqsFlt6X9NHVQ?si=kNIABFQ9THCx_H4xqyiM_g&nd=1 Apple Music: https://music.apple.com/us/artist/skutaj/1515715301 Amazon Music: https://music.amazon.com/artists/B089NHLLW3/skutaj?marketplaceId=ATVPDKIKX0DER&musicTerritory=US&ref=dm_sh_9i2E4qisfLgH5BQQ7aZK7H5CF BandCamp: https://bandcamp.com/skutaj email: skutaj.music@gmail.com

Image Credits
Skutaj, Scooter Johnson

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