photo by Miluță Flueraș

Ștefan Panea is a man that vibrates around music. He started his activity as a musician and he gradually evolved in being one of the most acclaimed front of house engineers in Romania. His is the sound engineer for the Romanian band Vita de Vie and for the Control Club. Fane also has released music both as a solo artist and alongside the band Environments where he plays with Marius Costache and Mihai ”Para” Ghiță. Weather he is in front of house or on-stage Stefan is always pushing the limits, exploring and manipulating the sound for creating something memorable.

You are a passionate listener of both metal and noise music, amongst others. Where do these two genres click for you?

Well, I have always been a black metal fan in a way or another and always have associated black metal atmosphere with ambient or drone music. Burzum sounded ambient to me. It was harsh and raw but also eerie and relaxing at the same time. The more I got into the textural side of music, the more I felt closer to what I have always wanted to do. Guitar was just closer to me in order to deliver what was in my head. It served only as a tool.

I think the album that drastically changed my perspective on music making was Tim Hecker’s An Imaginary Country. Marius Costache got me into this one.

Your solo albums, Neuter and Synonym, are different from what your play with Environments. What philosophies triggered these releases and did you use a specific in recording them?

I just like to do ambient music, man, it keeps me sane. I always think about future artistic endeavors or else I go mad. The music turned out different because I did it alone, in my room and with no one around to have conversations about it. My dog Aru approved it, so… there you have it.

I don’t have a specific gear setup, I’m in a constant change with sounds, DAWs, guitars, pedals, synths, mixers, Ipads, field recordings and so on. Every song on Neuter had a different setup. I improvise a lot and record it, then I cut, I paste, I edit, etc… until I’m satisfied with it. My favorite song, Junaru, is made entirely on layers of recorded accordion run through guitar pedals, amps, etc… The song Neuter is mostly a drum loop altered to a point of no return… Undifferentiated is a mystery to this day, I don’t remember how I started it or how I finished it.

I liked your remix for End of Greatness by Flesh Rodeo, why did you choose that track?

Well, Flesh Rodeo is one of my favorite Romanian bands. There is no place for joking or fooling around in their music and this is something I admire the most to their sound. It was a unique experience reworking that part of their song. I tried to bring out a certain feeling of loss and despair, I don’t know why, but that song overwhelmed me in such a way…

Both Environments and your solo releases benefit of nicely crafted artworks. Who designed them?

All the graphics from my solo albums are done by Alexandru Daș from Valerinne. Regarding Environments, we worked with Costin Chioreanu for our first release, Alexandru Daă for Fraktal and Marius did the graphic design for the Environments album and Ascuns. Marius also did all our videos, except for II which was done by Valeriu Cătălineanu.

You are working as F.O.H. engineer for Vita de Vide and you are full time the sound engineer for Club Control. How do you see your night time job as a live sound engineer? Do you feel like it is a competitive medium?

I stuck with it and it turned out good. I still enjoy it, for sure. I don’t like to think about it as a competition because I don’t like to compare myself to others. Different minds for different reasons. I hope I’ll continue doing it for at least ten years ahead, even though it comes along with a great dose of alienation… sometimes you have to find new ways to cope with it, but, yeah… it’s good.

Working in a club puts you in contact with a lot of artists and situations from within the music industry. For the good or the bad, what do you make out of this industry in nowadays?

I’m still trying to wrap my head around what the music industry is these days. And I’m only talking about underground here. To be honest, I listen to almost everything now on Apple Music or Google Play, and I know that the artists receive almost nothing from royalties. But it has got to this point somehow and I’m not in the position to question this abrupt industry “progress”. I am still buying merchandise from artists I like, but mainly I listen to music and discover new acts online. Just two months ago I uploaded most of Environments releases and my own stuff on those platforms, so…

Besides the taste in music, what makes Environments to be such a nice project is also the friendship between you, Marius and Para. Can you tell us more about this relationship?

Me and Marius are friends for more than 12 years and one of the reasons we go back so long is because we never stepped on each other’s toes. Since we started Environments in 2011, the three of us have a huge esteem for each other and we know for sure that we have this band mainly to deliver the music we hear and want to hear. There is no leader, dictator or control freak behind this band, just a great sense of mutual respect. So, everything we do together stays in the boundaries of this “healthy” relationship.