Interview: Elena Savlokhova
Photo: Polina Belehhova

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Konkurs x Human Performance LabNostromo

How to survive in the night life?
Don’t take too many drugs, would be my general advice. But if I go to a party and I’m really into the music then I don’t need to worry about surviving – you just have fun naturally. But if you’re going out just for the sake of it and you’re not into the music then a lot of people think they should take a lot of stuff in order to have fun, when, maybe, you’re just not at the right party. If you can’t connect to the music, then of course you’re going to go for alcohol or whatever other substances. Just let the music energise you instead of all that other crap. In Berlin it’s easy to fall in the loop where you feel inclined to just go mental, but not all the time.

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?
KHIDI really stands out. In Tbilisi, this music is still sort of new to people. These clubs like KHIDI and Bassiani are just a few years old, so the culture there feels really fresh. You can see how young people over there discover this music and they get pumped up about it. It’s really innocent in a way. It definitely stands out, especially if you compare it to, let’s say, North America, because over there people can become kind of jaded and let’s say in Berlin people might become spoiled with the saturation. 

In Berlin, the city recently promised to invest 1m euros to protect nightclubs from sound complaints. What would you spend the money on if you were in charge?
If the city would give me that money and I were a promoter then I’d probably book certain lineups that don’t often play in Berlin, something fresh. Haha no I’d just buy myself a nice 80s Porsche and crash it into a wall, because the nightlife is already pretty good in Berlin and it’s competitive, so there’s no guarantee that if you’d create something new that it would even stand out. The place is a bit spoiled in that way, it’s already so saturated. It’s possible though, but there are so many clubs that I believe it’s a very tough business. I’d just run away with that money to a place like Georgia, or countries where this sort of scene is still rather new. I think that would be a more exciting way to spend 1m euros.

Do you ever feel nervous before your gigs or is it a habit at this point?
I totally get nervous, every time pretty much. After a while you just accept it and it’s not like you’re going to stop playing because of that. Once you get into it, the nervousness goes away. Having a couple of drinks helps too, to loosen up, but I guess it’s not the best way to deal with it.

Do you remember the very first time you performed? What was it like?
I did the very first performance in my university for a media performance class, but there were just 20 or 30 students in the audience. I was really nervous but it was still a lot of fun.

Was that the point when you realised you wanted to pursue this path?
I liked it then in university even though I was really scared to be in front of professors and students. I thought that it was a cool way to present my work. Back then I was doing audio/video stuff and if you just do that and put it online, then no one is really going to care about or experience it. But I was trying to incorporate it in a live way, so I was still doing the weird audio/video material that was edited to the beat, and then I discovered that performing it in some peculiar way would be way more fun – it would make the audience more engaged.

So you’ve studied media performance back in Canada?
I studied something called Integrated Media, so it’s a mix of everything: audio, video production, courses about performance. I wouldn’t say that it was totally practical, it was a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree. My major was related to media arts and you could be specific in whichever field you wanted to explore, plus theory, of course.

Do you still incorporate or get affected by academia when working on your music or your visuals?
One class that I liked a lot back in university was related to post-modernism. One person we had to study was Guy Debord and his ‘Society of the Spectacle’. He was the founder of the situationists in France in the 60s and he wrote about how society was becoming more and more about the spectacle, what’s on the surface and not really about the substance. So basically how popular culture is hollowing out our interactions with one another, and his work was focused on the critique of this shallowness. I got a bit mentally lazy after I graduated but I still use some of these ideas in a more subtle way, specifically the approach I have to things that I sample. I acknowledge that the sources I sample, for example, a really bad horror movie, occupy some part of trash visual culture then I try to pick out these bits and pieces and edit them together in order to point to something entirely new. Basically, I’m sampling trash culture and I arrange it into something else to give it a completely new meaning. I take it out of context so you perceive it differently than its original form. It could be interesting to make these new associations.

Do you film anything yourself?
Sometimes. We make music videos for friends or just shoot something weird and random and combine it with other stuff. Mostly it’s sampling from other sources and creating meaning thru rearrangement.

What film would you produce if you had an unlimited budget?
I would make a weird post-apocalyptic cyberpunk cult movie that wouldn’t be tacky.

What is the most disturbing film you’ve ever seen?
I’ve seen a lot of disturbing films. One of the most disturbing, and I wouldn’t even call it a film, but there’s this thing ‘Despair’ by a group called SPK that was made in the early 80s, that was really cool and freaky. I think they used it in their live shows and I don’t quite know what the purpose of it was, but they made this one hour VHS tape, and this was when VHS was new, it was early video art so they used analogue effects and filters. The footage was from the morgue in a hospital with lots of  bodies. I don’t know how they got this footage, it was just people coming into the morgue and pulling out bodies, lifting up their arms like puppets. I’m not even sure if those were the people from the band, but that was pretty whack. Some of the most fucked up films I’ve seen include German ones like ‘Begotten’ and ‘Nekromantik’ and the Italian film “120 Days of Sodomo”. The Japanese also have a great history of fucked up films like “Tetsuo”, “In the Realm of the Senses” & “Woman in the Dunes.” There are a lot of fucked up films out there.

Why do you think people create those films?
That’s a good question and I really don’t know. I guess they’re trying to get the most extreme reaction out of people. Maybe they’re dealing with something inside and are manifesting some of their problems through these films that they create.

What recent trend annoys you the most?
That’s 90% of reality.

What are the 10% you like?
Now I don’t even know if I like anything haha. I like making music. But lately it’s even difficult to get excited about going out. I can’t recall the last exciting concert I’ve attended in Berlin. Mostly, you just go because you can’t stay home forever, you get fucking bored. I often go to see Ancient Methods, Phase Fatale, Adam X, Blush Response or all these other guys and that’s always fun for me. They play the stuff I can stand without wanting to get shitfaced just because I’m bored. Even in Berlin it can all get pretty monotonous. I prefer just playing or having lunch or dinner with friends, rather than going out to be honest – but that doesn’t stop me from going out sometimes.

What interests you outside of music?
I used to be very into video art during and immediately after my studies at university but I got nauseous the whole scene after a while. I’m still interested in it though, things like weird installations & sculptures, kinetic work and cinema, but not so much traditional mediums like painting. I mean, I could go to a gallery and look at some crazy painting but I prefer newer mediums and something more immersive where you get a physical and visceral experience.

What about literature?
I don’t read that many books these days, but I used to love it in university. I used to like reading post-apocalyptic fiction. The book ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ is good and very relevant right now, but the movie is weird. There’s also this other great post-apocalyptic book ‘The Postman’, which they also turned into a shitty movie. Most of my current reading is just reading the news, which tends to make me more pissed off afterwards.

What are the two types of people in the world?
The living and the dead?

Your music was recently described as a representation of anger. Would you agree with that?
No. If I were angry then my music would be more distorted. I would say my music is observational. In terms of the vibe I sort of want to scare the audience but keep people captivated by this aggressive energy. I want to give them a feeling that something is going to happen, whether good or bad; a sense of paranoia that they willingly don’t want to escape.

What would you change if you could go full theatrical with your performances?
I wouldn’t really do anything. I’d probably just buy one strange prop or something minor like that or just have a bigger projection system for the visuals. I wouldn’t want to make a really high production thing out of it. The only thing other thing that I would do is upgrade or streamline the gear.

What question would you like to be asked at an interview and what would your answer be?
I don’t know, that’s why I leave the interviews for the experts.

What is the duality of SΛRIN as an art entity and your ‘normal’ life self?
I don’t really see a duality. I’m just a guy who is sometimes performing and other times not performing going about the rest of my life.

What are your thoughts on the role of cynicism in society?
That’s a loaded question. It’s healthy to be critical but cynicism should be informed, if that makes any sense. In the last few years there’s a lot of uninformed cynicism feeding a lot of paranoia and conspiracies with the end result of having really crazy people elected and fucked up policies advanced. You see it in Brexit where a lot of the people who voted for in favour of it didn’t know what they were voting for. They were manipulated by whatever outside force that it favoured or just wanted to disrupt something they didn’t see benefits from. We see it with Trump and his crazy racism and general mania being voted in by half of America. And you read reports from Poland about abortion being potentially outlawed, or anyone with a drug problem in the Philippines being deemed open season by the government for summary executions. What’s going on? The list goes on and on and it’s a clear trend of ignorance, isolationism and hate mixed together. I think that’s where blind cynicism leads; you get a large population of pliable people who let themselves get coerced by a small and rich group. They just want to lash out because both sides manipulated them in the past and the irony is that it ends up affecting them even worse in the long run, or affecting other people in the margins of society.

Are you logical in decision making or do you follow impulses instead, both in work and in life?

What do you like the most about yourself?