The Polish Ambassador on filtering his life experiences into his music
Jason Mongue The Polish Ambassador (left) and visualist Ari Makridakis (aka Liminus).
David Sugalski, a Philadelphia native with a business degree from the University of Colorado, has carved out a respectable career for himself in dance music. Better known in EDM circles as the Polish Ambassador, Sugalski is creating music that reflects his life while constantly evolving as an artist and finding new and engaging ways to connect with listeners. We spoke with the producer about his creative process.
Westword: Let's talk about quantum physics... just kidding. To start things off, let's talk about, in a nutshell, you going University of Colorado and what's happened between then and now. Big nutshell.
The Polish Ambassador: The path for me to get to music was a bit longer than most. I started learning about composition when I was in school, but I didn't go to school for it. It was just sort of a hobby I did once I got home from all my boring business classes. It was my outlet to compose electronic music, or learn to compose... I was really bad back then.
I was never taught by my family, or peers, or by teachers that I could make a living as an artist. I had this sort of one-track mind to get my business degree, and I was studying to be in the sort of business side of real estate. I took a job in that field back in my hometown of suburban Philiadelphia. That's where I'm from. I took a job in that field, and it was very clear from the onset that it wasn't what I was supposed to be doing. I think it took about three or four months to get fired from that job. It wasn't a good match.
So, very quickly I realized that in the working world I would either become very miserable in progressing down this field that I absolutely hate, or I can figure something out and start taking some risks and see if I can get into a job that's a little bit more fulfilling. From there, I decided that since I was really interested in music and really interested in audio in general, I thought, "What's a more general way to get into the music field?" My thinking, which is not really right looking back, at the time was to become an audio engineer, so I could work with musicians and have time in the studio to compose my own music.
Totally. That makes sense to me.
It makes sense. What ended up happening to me was that I got into the post-production field -- the audio post-production field -- and I moved out to Chicago. Since I was in college, I was studying business, so I was learning the ins and outs of basic production and that whole world. It was pretty easy for me to get a job out there. I ended up working in a few post-production offices. It was the most mundane, boring crap.
I was archiving "Oprah" spots, and running around for these clients who were paying $500 an hour to bring in that really famous voice over guy who is from all the movie trailers in the late '90s. He'd be brought into the studio because he was in so high demand that he made so much money, it's ridiculous. It was a lot of grunt work. I was getting lunch for people, so I was sort of a glorified intern.
After doing that for a while, I was like "Screw this," and I ended up getting fired from that job as well. That's sort of a pattern. I don't think I've ever not been fired from a job. I have a bad attitude working for other people, I suppose. Ultimately it led me to work for myself, which is a good thing.
When you were doing these jobs, and you knew you weren't enjoying it, you strike me as the kind of a guy who maintains the attitude of hope: You were working in audio, which is not exactly what you pictured yourself doing, so what was going on in your mind when you were there? Was it "I know what I want to do, and this is what I have to do," or "I know what I want to do, so fuck doing this?"
It was hope, like you said. But like most people, I have a breaking point. Once I see that the reality is a bit more clear about what is happening, then I hit my breaking point, and then my attitude goes from hopeful and optimistic to what did I get myself into? How can get myself out? On a subconscious level, I'm thinking how can I get myself out of this without having confrontation and saying to the person "I don't like what I'm doing."
I have my own personal issues with confrontation. My attitude just tanks. An employer doesn't want that kind of person on staff, so I got axed. One thing I should say is that while I'm doing these jobs I don't like, in the background, I'm really refining my musical skills. All these jobs that I'm doing, there is a dislike that is the motivation to go home and do what I really like.
When was all of this going on time-wise?
I graduated University of Colorado in 2003, so the timeline for that was that following summer, then onto Chicago in early 2004, and then I stayed there for two to three years. That was where I put out Diplomatic Immunity, my first album, which I made in my bedroom. I wasn't even playing shows. Back in 2006, there were DJs and stuff and people playing CDJs and stuff, but the whole Ableton and live performance for electronic music was just getting started.
There were some people doing it, and they were at the forefront of things, but it wasn't really a flushed out system where it was super exciting to perform your electronic music. Back then, a lot of people were doing it, and still do today, with CDJs and just basic DJ mixing one track to another. For me, as an artist, I couldn't bring myself to do that. I didn't want to just stand in front of people and push buttons.
I feel like there are two sides to that: On one hand, there is artistic integrity where you want to present the best music that you can, and then on the other hand, there is the side of keeping it interesting in performance in the creation.
I want to keep it interesting for myself. I want to give the audience something that they are stoked about and where they can piece together what I am playing. They can't see what I am doing on my computer, so they have to be good listeners to really know what is going on.
The other side of it is that the audience is only as engaged as you are. If you are up there really, really excited about what you are playing and creating, the audience feeds off that, and you can feed off that. It's sort of that feedback loop where you are getting excitement and giving it back. It evolves into this storm of frenzied excitement.