Interview: Elena Savlokhova
Photo: Gretchen Lanham

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What’s it like to be you?
Chaotic, a little bit complicated, very impulsive. I respond to the environment that I’m in very extremely, which is ironic since I do this job, and this job is very turbulent. I don’t really know why I do it, and it’s not necessarily good for my state of mind, but I obviously need it. I’m very divided. I do lead a bit of a schizophrenic lifestyle: when I’m at home I’m very reclusive, very private, very quiet.

A duality.
Definitely. It’s obviously a necessary duality because I’m drawn to it, I’m drawn to exposing myself, but I’m also very drawn to my little private bubble away from the world.

You’ve mentioned that you love books. What book would you recommend?
I really like psychology books at the moment. It’s difficult to specifically choose one, but I would probably go for something like Karl Jung’s ‘Archetypes and the Collective Unconscious’.

What fascinates you the most in the field of psychology?
After personally going through a bit of a crisis with depression and insomnia and learning how to heal, the most fascinating thing is how psychology along with science can actually change the way that the brain works. It opened up a whole new world to me, particularly with cognitive behavioral therapy, of how to change your own well-being.

Do you think we are witnessing the loneliest generation this world has ever seen?
That’s the cynical pessimistic view… On the face of it, it seems like we’re putting divisions, we’re creating our own little micro cosmoses and we’re feeding our own opinions, we look for what we exactly want to see and we get it. We have these huge opinions of how things should be and we’re never really challenged because we can hide behind social media. It is definitely creating and feeding this individualism – even though we think we’re totally connected, it’s pushing us apart. The details of social interaction are no longer there. For example, we’re sitting and talking right now, we can look at each other’s eyes, we can understand a deeper level, but we can’t do that with social media. And that’s one way of looking at it, but I think it’s more complicated than that, because it has also connected everybody in a huge way. If I’m being compassionate and non-critical, which is difficult for me too, but I’m learning how to do that, I would say that we’ll get over this, we’ll get over this hump. I think that the hump is just learning how to use it. The whole Facebook problem that’s happening at the moment –  it’s quite a healthy thing. If we could just destroy those mechanisms, but still stay connected and learn how to use it all in an advantageous way. I think we can do it.

Tell me about your dog and what do you love the most about her?
I actually have three dogs now, but my first dog and she is my first love – Polar. After my crisis I felt like I really needed to take care of something. I didn’t want a child but I did want something that sort of took me outside of myself. So I fell in love with this little pomeranian. I went to the shelter and she seemed totally aloof and different to the other dogs, she was the only dog that didn’t come to me, so I simply had to have her. She has a very difficult personality, she was obviously given back a lot of times, and she’s quite challenging. She’s quite aggressive as well, yet she’s also very loving and needy. You know, dogs reflect their owners, so she’s pretty much like me. I feel like it’s my duty to help her because she’s difficult. I love her very much and I miss her very much. She’s this contradiction because she’s incredibly sweet and cute looking, but she’s actually quite vicious. Also people call her biPolar.

Out of all the artists you’ve met, who struck you the most in terms of individuality?
I’m going to stick with a positive angle today. In the last couple of years I’ve managed to develop a relationship with Gary Numan. He was an idol of mine when I was a child and I’ve collaborated with him and got to know him as a person. He’s lovely, he’s such a beautiful man. And obviously he’s an iconic electronic musician and I’m very lucky to be able to know him as a friend, but also to access some kind of collaboration with him creatively – it’s very satisfying. This is my positive day today, it feels good!

Tell me about your adventure of getting into Ukraine on this tour.
Holy shit! It was complicated. I think we’ve spent 7 hours at the border, which is fine, we’re used to borders, but it was a very early show. Then a car crashed into us after we crossed the border, and we had a bit of a challenging situation because of the police who threatened our driver and said that he has to admit that it was his fault or else they’ll take his license away, so we were there for like another 2 hours. So there was a little bit of a ‘oh great, so this is how it’s going to be’, but the show was incredible. In fact, it took us one hour to set up, which is a bit strange because we usually take a long time, but in this case it wasn’t necessary, so it gave a perspective of what are we always doing with all that time. In the end it was a bit of a personal triumph of the crew – to be able to piece everything together. I actually enjoyed it very much because I didn’t think too much, it was just all response to these dramas that were happening.

Can you tell me about some fucked up situations that happened during your tours in general?
There are a couple that I wouldn’t like to dwell on. There was a girl who cut her wrists when I was on stage. That was awful. I don’t really like to talk about it but it’s interesting to know that sort of stuff goes on. The girl was okay in the end but the situation was kind of extreme. I was doing an encore with an acoustic guitar and she requested a song and then I played the song, but obviously it was overwhelming for her and she smashed a glass in her bag and cut herself. That was dramatic. But there are so many bizarre moments that it’s difficult to remember them all, to tell you the truth.

What do you like the most about yourself?
Wow this is a self-compassion day, I like it. I like my determination, I like my drive. I want things to be good all the time, which can lead to disappointments, of course. But the initial intention is a good one.

Is it hard for you to keep that drive up and running on the same level?
It is. It’s a constant work in progress, which I got used to and I’ve started to accept that more about myself – the level of self-surrender that I’ve kind of achieved recently and that is quite comforting. I used to be much harder on myself, therefore harder on others. There used to be lots of expectations and I still have that impulse, which drives good things. But when I hit that wall, I have certain learnt tools that help me deal with it. I’m in a quite good place actually.

Alive in New Light [2018] LP

What qualities do you value the most in people?
Truth, honesty – I think that says it all.

Would you say that you stick to these values yourself?
Most of the time. I’m even awkwardly honest at times, and maybe that’s why I sort of put myself into this position, where I get the chance to, and I’m allowed to do that through my music, through the stage. But I do expect it of others a bit too much and it can make people uncomfortable sometimes. I don’t like small talk, I don’t like bullshit, I don’t have any time for that. There is one life and a very short amount of time, so let’s just talk about the truth.

Do people disappoint you a lot in this matter?
No. I think I’ve got to a point where I smell it quite quickly in people, so I just don’t get to know them. I have quite a good filter so I’ve already filtered out a very nice small collection of people that I can trust and rely on.

You’ve said that one thing that bothers you when performing is the occasional physical barrier between you and your fans. Do you have a barrier between you and people outside of performing?
I don’t. I mean… I probably do, I just don’t realise it. But I feel like I don’t and sometimes it comes up from others. I think that’s when people talk around subjects or there’s sometimes a bit of an intimacy issue, if we’re getting really personal. That’s just part of my dual personality thing – I sometimes forget that I’m in this mode of being this person, and the relaxed normal intimate calm person gets pushed inside, and there’s just this beast that you see on stage. So navigating that is sometimes a bit rocky, but it’s not too hard, I’m not suffering from it.

Did you find out how to survive in the nightlife? Give some advice to those of us who are struggling to.
Yeah! My way of dealing with that was to immerse myself to this. I get everything that I need and more, which is a bit of an overload sometimes, but I do get what I need from what I’m doing now. I stopped partying a long time ago, I don’t need to take drugs anymore… I mean hard drugs, I do drink wine. I don’t feel like I need that escape anymore. Advice for others? Hmm. I don’t know. It’s taken me a long time to formulate this, so that I wouldn’t need that anymore. I wouldn’t necessarily recommend it to everybody, but I’m not quite sure what advice I could give on this matter.

Did you get sucked into the nightlife of Berlin when you lived there?
I did, yes, but London was actually more toxic for me. I think because in Berlin I just really got started with IAMX, so I was in this honeymoon period of experimenting with the music. I’d just chosen to immerse myself in the music, in the technical side of learning the job, so I’ve spent a lot of time in the studio and in clubs, as research. My party days were left in London. That’s one of the reasons why I left London, because there were so many people that were bad for me, and I’m not blaming them, that was just the situation. I was bad for myself in that city.

If you had to choose between sex and music, what would you choose? For the rest of your life.
Oh. I’d have to choose sex, I think. That’s an interesting question, it’s like basically sex or creativity, right? I’d feel safer with sex as a sort of reliable change of state of mind that we’ve evolved to get right. I’ll go with sex.

There’s this film by Yorgos Lanthimos ‘The Lobster’, where single people are meant to find a partner in 45 days, and if they don’t, they must choose an animal to transform into. What animal would you choose?
I would choose a wolf. It feels like a wolf is the closest to my nature – always turned on by being a little bit hungry haha. And a wolf has this slightly bitey aggressive drive that I think is quite close to my personality.

Tell me about a funny or awkward story from your childhood.
I remember the first time I was dressed up by my sister as a girl. And that was in front of her friends.

Older sister?
Older sister, yeah. She didn’t want to humiliate me, she just wanted to show me off as her little trophy. She did bring her friends over, they all sat around, and she put me on a table and dressed me up like a little doll. Hence my life has developed in the way that it has.

What question would you want to be asked at an interview and what would your answer be?
I don’t know. I like the whole psychological angle. I often would like to talk about other things apart from music, which is what we’ve been doing, so I do like that. I like to be asked about the desert because I have a bit of a passion for the desert at the moment. I’m going to move there in California and spend some time, maybe a couple of years, immersing myself in that micro cosmos.

Is there a reason why you love the desert specifically out of all the places in nature?
It may be the fact that it’s so alien to me as an english person, who grew up in a wet green climate – this otherworldliness just feels like a perfect escape to me. I just love the way sand sort of transforms sound, just like snow. I think it’s interesting for me as a musician, as a producer.

So one could assume that you would you be up for colonising Mars with SpaceX?
Well… Maybe. I see it, yeah. It would be an interesting thing.

+++ Special thanks to Happy Music Group +++