Interview, photo: Ljubov Dzuzhynska
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How to survive in the night life?
The most important thing for me since I started touring is to sleep a lot. You need to sleep. I’m in a lucky position where I don’t need to take anything to sleep, I don’t have a problem sleeping and I’m quite a good napper, so I sleep before my gigs, I sleep a lot during the week when I’m home, and I think that’s the most important thing. But I actually love to party, yet you can’t do it all the time. I don’t want the partying to stop any time soon, therefore the sleep aspect is very important. If you don’t, you just get anxiety along with other physical health problems. And one of the reasons why drugs are bad for you is because they keep you from sleeping, and not to say that you shouldn’t ever do that, but if you’re constantly putting your body under such stress then it’s going to take you down.
What is the most magical thing about the night for you?
I think it’s when it works. When I start playing, for me it always takes around half an hour to zone in on the audience and I feel like it takes some time before people start focusing, and there is this changeover. So that first half an hour is what always makes me sort of anxious, because I feel like I’m not doing my job good enough, but then normally after that time frame (sometimes it takes an hour to get to that point) there is some kind of thing that clicks in terms of your connection with the audience, of you figuring out what is appropriate in the room energy and style wise – that’s what is really magical for me. When that sweet spot happens.
In your experience, did you ever attend the ‘ultimate’ party or will there always be a better one? Is there something that really stands out?
It’s very hard because it’s very much about what headspace you’re in. It could be a great party but if I feel sad then I’m never going to be able to fully take advantage of it. I think in particular some of my highlights were last year when I went on my first long American tour and I was playing for all these small promoters. In America the promoters I’ve played for are really nice and they have these really small venues run by these young leftist people. It’s really a country that needs spaces for queers, for young people to escape all the bullshit that is happening there at the moment. What was really magical about it was that last year I was ending a therapy session I had been doing over the summer, because I hadn’t been doing so well, and while I was in America I was kind of getting to a turning point with some of the things that I’ve been working with myself. So I also had these really strong connections with people. I went from having a really hard time connecting with people to really feeling super open, and that was in particular with some of the gigs that I’ve done. I’ve met people in America that are going to be my friends forever. I’m not just talking about the qualities that those people have, but also about being in the right headspace to take them in and to be open.
What makes Copenhagen so unique from other places for you?
Honestly, it’s just a small group of nice people. You know, I think a lot of people talk about scenes and musical scenes, and about people going like, ‘There’s something happening in Bristol’. And honestly, in a small city like Copenhagen it’s about 10 people that are making a specific type of music, it’s about 3 promoters that are throwing specific parties. I think with Copenhagen there are a lot of guys that Ectotherm worked with – super talented producers. And there are the Fast Forward guys and the parties that they throw. The scene changes because there are some individual people that are really putting in the work. And the whole city benefits from it. I’ve benefited a lot from all these artists doing all this magical music and throwing these parties. It’s all about Nikolaj Jacobsen, Anders Mark, Lukas Højlund and Martin Schacke, Alexander Salomonsen, Adam Askov and Rune Bagge, Frans Ibon and Osvald Lund, Jeppe Dalsgaard, who is running the distribution, and Troels Hastrup who is running the record shop – these are the people that are making it special.
Did you ever consider moving and living somewhere else?
Well I kind of live in Germany now. I’m still going back and forth a lot, since I still work a lot with people in Copenhagen, but I just recently took a room in an apartment in Berlin. Honestly, I can’t really say that I’m in either of the places that much, because I’m touring a lot, but at least I moved my record players and my clothes to an actual apartment. It’s been in storage for like a year, because of all the travelling. But Copenhagen is still my scene, my city. Berlin is such a huge scene and I’m not particularly in a crew there. I mostly play Berghain, and if I play somewhere else it’s because I play at my friend’s party Reef at Griessmuhle. I do that once a year. So in a sense of being in a scene that’s kind of where I am currently. Copenhagen is my place, it’s where my heart is.
Do you ever feel nervous before your gigs or is it a habit at this point?
I always get nervous. It’s just different because I can have a period where I feel really confident and so the remix is really easy and comes very natural. I can have this period and then suddenly, for example, something that happened a couple of weeks ago, I got sick and then I had a weekend when I only had one gig, so I had to cancel the other weekend – you just get out of it. I know from a lot of my colleagues that they always feel a bit rusty on the first gig of the weekend. Friday is always a bit uphill and then it gets better and better over the weekend, and I’m definitely the same. I need to play a lot to feel really comfortable. Two months ago I was all about, ‘I’m the best’, but then right now it’s, “I need to practice more”. Obviously, it’s good that I feel this way, it’s what will keep me developing.
Tell me a funny or bizarre story that happened throughout your musical career.
It’s not like there are that many awkward things happening but I used to host these sausage parties… Danish hot dogs are really fantastic because of the condiments we put on them, in my opinion, make them the best sausages in the world, and so for my graduation party, I studied at the music conservatorium, I made these hot dogs at home, grilled them, and all my friends were, ‘Wow, these are the best hot dogs I’ve ever had’. I’ve baked the bread myself, so it wasn’t even about the high quality sausage or anything. Then I’ve decided to do sausage parties as a themed thing at my house, so I got a hold of this sausage costume, a hot dog costume, and I would wear it. People would bring their own beer and sausages, because everyone had different preferences of meat/vegetarian/pork etc. Anyway, I wore the sausage costume, and, unfortunately it’s one that I borrowed. I did a couple of these hot dog parties at my home, and then they ended up becoming so popular that an electronic music festival in Denmark called STRØM and asked me if Apeiron Crew, a crew that I was in back then, would host one as part of the festival. Basically we all got hot dog costumes and we did a big street party for 600 people with a big barbecue. People brought their own sausages, we were DJing in these hot dog costumes. This is one of the ‘weird’ things that I’ve done. I still do it now for my birthday, because I love these hot dogs.
Is there a country, city, or club left where you would like to play at?
I think there are many. I’ve played a lot of the big places and I’ve spent years of playing in small venues and then I’ve had a moment where I wanted to try the big stages. So I did that and it is really cool, but now I want to play some small stages again. I love clubs that have a capacity of 150 to 400 people.
So you prefer the intimacy of a small club?
Yes, I do. I think there can be a very big rush to play at a huge festival stage, but it is hard when you are so far away from people and there are technical issues, where it could be difficult to play vinyl. I’m really interested in playing smaller places with nice people. I didn’t become a musician or DJ to sit at home and listen to music, I did it because of the act of sharing music – it’s what really interests me. I like interacting with people, I like to play my favourite songs really really loud to a bunch of other people. But travelling is also very important to me, especially the aspect of meeting people. This was my first summer of big festivals, I already played a lot of them. It’s such a rush and challenge to play the big stage, but at the same time, for example, when you eat at a festival, you sit in a back room with a bunch of people you don’t know, so you lose a bit of that intimacy. I don’t get a chance to meet people like you, or the promoters that might end up friends. Honestly, if I have a weekend with gigs and I didn’t make a new friend, then I feel a bit like it was a fiasco.
You’ve studied music management in Copenhagen and you finished the Red Bull Music Academy in Tokyo. Do you still incorporate or get affected by it in your work?
I don’t produce music, but I play music and I run labels. That’s my thing. I also teach at music schools. I just started doing it again, since I took a break when I started touring a lot. It all just got too busy. When I finished my education I wasn’t gigging enough to make a good living, so instead I was teaching music management at different music schools for beginning electronic musicians. I use it a lot to step back and look at what I’m doing, I use it in terms of how I hire people. It’s not like I do my own bookings or I do my own PR, because I know that there are people that are more qualified to do that. I feel that because of my education I’m qualified to pick the right people to work with me. A lot of young artists end up with a bad booker or something like that, since they don’t really know how to analyze the work that a booker is doing or judge if they are doing a good job or not. I feel very privileged in the sense that I know that sort of thing.
Who is or was your biggest teacher?
I honestly can’t say that it was one person, because it’s been a shifting amount of people that have been very inspiring to me. When I was younger, in terms of DJing, it was Johanne Schwensen – my partner who is a DJ too. When I started out she was very disciplined, very good at practicing, whereas I was very chaotic and very hard at concentrating. She was one of the first people that I’ve worked with that was really focused and a really good inspiration. She taught me the importance of putting in the work. She was with Apeiron Crew – a group of girls with incredible taste in music. They were like my sisters at that point, so they were all big inspirations musically. And for sure there are loads of people that I’m forgetting to mention right now. But in terms of people that I work directly with on the DJ front – everyone is very important to me.
What is the most unusual thing about running Ectotherm for you?
Well the most unusual thing about it now is that it’s not going to continue. We are shutting it down, because my partner doesn’t want to do it anymore, so I can’t really do anything about that. But I’m starting a new label called Kulør.
From all the artists you’ve met, who struck you the most in terms of individuality?
It’s funny because some of my favorite artists are some of my closest friends. In particular, Call Super and Objekt are some of my biggest inspirations in terms of DJ skills. Some people say that they play within house and techno but they really play different music and their technical skills are so high that they can really make anything flow. Tempo wise it’s something that I’m still miles away from. You know, I’m still within a room of tempo limitations, I’m still learning how to fit that music together ranging across tempos.
If you had the chance to switch genders for 24 hours, what would you do with that time?
I don’t know, I’m not even that interested in what guys do. I can’t even answer that question because there is nothing I would do. Sometimes I wish I was taller because there are loads of things that I can’t reach on my own, but otherwise, in that sense, I don’t feel like I even want to know what’s it like to be a dude. I think the mystery thing is pretty nice as well.
If you had to choose between sex and music, what would it be?
I think it’s not a question I can answer, it’s not something I would be able to pick. I feel like it’s intimacy or what I’ve based my whole life around and both of the things are really important.
A lot of musicians choose sex.
I probably would too haha. But I also feel like it’s such an abstract, it’s something that is never going to happen.
What interests you outside of music?
Literature, visual art, photography in particular. I just finished reading this book “The Lonely City: Adventures in the Art of Being Alone” by Olivia Laing. She is particularly talking about this artist David Wojnarowicz, who is a photographer and a writer, and I just completely fell in love with him. He died of AIDS in the early 90s. The way she writes about art, and these very emotional stories are all connected, which is the way that I like to see art and how I like to interact with it. It’s just really amazing to read about artists who did stuff that really mattered. In the 80s the way that the whole art and queer scene in New York were fighting together to get information and research about AIDS out there – they did these action funerals where they took a bunch of people, who lost their partners to AIDS, and went up and scattered the ashes in front of the government. It was really heartbreaking. Sometimes you’re reminded by the lack of that sort of thing in club music. Not to say that it’s in any way bad, but most of the time we are not we’re not changing history. Yet it is in some places. I was just in Tbilisi and I wrote a piece for MixMag about what’s happening with the club scene there and that it’s actually becoming a youth movement. In that sense it can have an impact and it does in certain countries.
What is your favourite book?
There is one in particular by an Icelandic writer called “Summerlight, and then Comes the Night” by Jón Kalman Stefánsson. It’s basically an icelandic mystic realism, but everything he writes is amazing, and I’m not sure that this particular book is translated into english, but a lot of others are and they are incredible.
What is one thing about you that would surprise us?
I got married when I was a teenager. I guess I got divorced 7 years ago. So I just had my 10 year anniversary for the wedding this summer. It was a total rock’n’roll wedding. We’re still really good friends though. He’s in IT, an entrepreneur, and he’s doing really well. We did a prenup on a napkin and even though it wasn’t really a binding by law thing, I still kept it. It was really nice experience with a wonderful man and I’m glad that I did it back then.
What’s it like to be you?
It is a lot of things. You know, the last two weeks have been really nice and before that I had two really rough months, where I was sad. Before that I was really happy. I think I’ve just realised that there is no constant. The same as with DJing, where I think that it just cannot go wrong now and it’s just going one way, and then life happens: you get dumped, or something happens in your family, or whatever, and everything’s just falling apart. I guess that’s how everyone’s lives are, so in that sense I’m not that different.
What question would you like to be asked at an interview and what would your answer be?
I don’t know, I think these questions were quite good and I don’t feel like there’s a particular thing that I would like to add.