Interview: Elena Savlokhova, Ljubov Dzuzhynska

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The Snake That Eats Itself

“I’m incredibly excited and relieved to announce my debut album, The Snake That Eats Itself.
It’s forthcoming on Bedouin Records on the 14th of February with some incredible artwork (and a live A/V show!) from the incomparable Sougwen Chung.
The lead single, Hate Is A Strong Word PT.1 is out on all streaming platforms and Bandcamp now.
I started work on this album nearly six years ago and due to certain circumstances out of my control, the album was shelved and almost never saw the light of day. Thank you to @bedouin for believing in the record and putting it out, and all the friends who have spent countless hours listening to revisions and giving me feedback, and of course @dean.grenier who helped me nail the kick that took me 4 years to make.
I know it’s a cliche but cliche are more than often rooted in truth – this record is some of my most personal work to date so I hope you like it.
Mastered by @gothtrad, art by @sougwen, early support from Aphex Twin”

How to survive in the nightlife?
How I survive? I’m really bad at partying haha. I think I do the maximum amount of partying that is satisfying to me and probably the least disruptive to my life.
I think I’m lucky in a certain way because a lot of friends can party forever. And once they hit a certain point, then it’s just, okay, they’re in it for two or three days or something like that. Whereas for me, there’s a certain point where I need to really try to keep up. That used to be not so ‘cool’. Now it’s just really, really great for my productivity. I love going out and experiencing music, but at some point, I just go home because I really want to sleep. There’s just a built-in moderation system in my body. 

You’ve very into food, so if you had to choose between food and music, what would you choose?
That’s a hard question. It depends. Would I never be hungry? If yes… I don’t know. It’s a tie. I think if I was never hungry, then I could probably choose music. A lot of my obsession with food is tied to this intrinsic need. 

What if you lost the ability to feel taste?
If I couldn’t taste anything, and it was purely utilitarian, then absolutely I’d choose music. There’s also something about the need to eat food and that desire, you know, that makes actually eating the food even more satisfying. The craving of the food. So yeah, it’s close, but I think I could choose music.

Is there something that excites you more than music?
That is a hard question. I didn’t think about that. 

Could you share a funny or bizarre story from your childhood?
The first thing that comes to mind was eating chalk. But that’s just a normal random kid thing – eating something that you are not supposed to eat. 

It’s not normal actually haha.
I only did it once though! 

Is there a certain technology that you anticipate?
Machine learning is getting pretty freaky and scary, so I’m not sure what that’s going to end up like, but I used an E-bike for the first time recently. For the longest time, I’ve been reading about human augmentation, exoskeletons and, you know, things that could make hard physical tasks really easy. It didn’t really click to me how that would actually happen until recently when I rode this e-bike. It’s not like a motorcycle, where you press the acceleration with your hands, and then you accelerate. It just assists you when you’re pedaling. It’s a really natural movement. In that sense, it just feels like it assists the hardest part of the acceleration. It gives you a really smooth boost that nests into your natural movement pattern. Yet it’s not natural at all. It just feels like you’re more powerful than you usually are, but not in a weird way. The more energy you put in – the stronger the pushes. It’s this abstracted motion that you do to accelerate. It just made me realize how natural augmented strength could be. Before it was just an abstract idea. 

What recent trend annoys you the most?
Everything! Just kidding. This is probably pretty common, especially being a musician on social media, but there are so many positives as well as so many negatives. I think specifically on Twitter, it’s quite problematic for having complex or nuanced discussions. I think the interface and the way that a lot of information is transmitted is extremely truncated and reduced. The whole idea of having limits for characters makes it important to simplify your message into the most immediate and attention-grabbing
Basically, people can have good intentions, but they end up just coming up with the catchiest 280 character headlines tweets. There are these people that are just inflaming each other by arguing and trying to dunk on each other on the internet. I think that leads to a lot of pettiness and counterintuitiveness to trying to address these extremely nuanced and complex issues, whether it be identity politics or economic issues in DJ culture, or whatever. There are a lot of important ideas that need to be discussed, but the way that people discuss them on twitter most often than not is more detrimental than productive. That’s one thing that really annoys me. I also find the ‘like’ dopamine feedback loop extremely destructive. In a way, it incentivizes people to post the most ridiculous or outlandish thing in exchange for likes and visibility.

They’re meant to hide the ‘like’ visibility, at least on Instagram.
I don’t have much of a problem with Instagram. I mean, Instagram has its own problems with incentivizing certain kinds of imagery, or whatever. I think it encourages narcissism in a different way. But it doesn’t promote wack ideas in the same way, you know? I used to be very on Twitter. At a certain point recently, I got off of it, and I feel so much better. Every time I sign on, I just see some person complaining about the most ridiculous thing and they just snowball out of proportion. Then I feel my blood pressure rising and I want to respond. But then I’m like, ‘you know what, this is ridiculous, I don’t need to read this, I can just sign off and go about my day’. Then I can talk about these really pressing and important issues in person, where you can actually have a reasonable conversation. 

What have you learned from your projects, both on a personal and professional level?
I guess on a professional level I’ve learned a lot about the “underground music industry” and how trends play into it. I’m always going to make the music that I want to make, but in recent years I’ve been paying closer attention to how these trend cycles happen. It sounds cynical, but getting attention for your music in 2019 has a lot to do with where you position yourself within the wider cultural narrative.
For me, it’s just learning to really make what I love to make, and at some point, there will be a time that it’s appropriate to release it, and someone out there will love it – regardless of whether or not it’s popular at this current time. I think I’ve been doing a lot of similarly influenced work for the last six years, to varying degrees of popularity. I’ve recently witnessed things that I’m really into, for example, electro, break beats, jungle, and drum and bass, really coming to the forefront. Despite being a lot more niche when I first started, watching the market shift to accommodate this trend and being ready to position myself around it has been really helpful. When I first started, it was just like,’I’ll make the music, I’ll put it out’, and if people like they like, and if they don’t then they don’t. That’s still completely true but having a bit of savviness where you put the music and when you put it is a helpful skill. 

What excites you the most in what you do?
I think my first love is always going to be making music. Which isn’t to say that DJing is something I don’t love, but I’m always going to be happiest when I finish a tune that really speaks to me. It’s another really great thing to be able to play it out and see people reacting to it and really connecting. But at the end of the day, I think I’m a bit of a narcissist – the piece of art that I make, the music itself, is the most important to me. I’m going to start playing live soon as well and that’s going to be a new experience. I can only project what that’s going to be like for me. 

And what was your first love apart from music? Anything else you were obsessed with?
I did music from a really young age so I think that was one of my first loves. Another thing was taking apart all my toys and seeing how they fit together. All my toys just ended up in bits. I like making things, like making these Frankenstein concoctions with parts of toys.

What was the last film that impressed you the most?
It’s funny, I don’t really watch that many films. I love them but I don’t get around to watch them a lot. I can’t even remember what the last film I watched was.

Are there any favorite films that you have?
It’s pretty dorky, but Star Wars. It was pretty important to me as a child. I’m trying to think of something more interesting that has something more to say at the moment. But I have to come back to that.

What’s your spirit animal?
Maybe a panda? They’re happy and they just roll around, sleep and eat all the time. I mean, they’re pretty useless. I’m also like a cat, I can be moody and need my own space, but also affectionate.

What’s the worst piece of advice you’ve ever heard?
This isn’t the worst piece of advice I’ve ever heard but this is something someone said recently, which was that you just need to practice to be able to go out every weekend at Berghain for 28 hours+. “Keep doing it and you will get better at it”. I don’t think that’s true. If you’re getting older then the more you do it – the worse it gets. 

What about the wisest thing?
I don’t know about the wisest thing I’ve ever heard but a recent piece of advice that really stuck with me is what my friend Benjamin Damage told me. We were having a discussion career-wise and how hype affects people. The thing he said was that, the moment you start believing your own hype – it’s over. I think that’s a really important thing to remember. You have to stay humble and never forget that you’re just a regular person making music, you know? The moment when you think that you can’t make any mistakes, and I’ve seen this happen with a lot of people, – they just get really boring. The music output becomes shit. Not always though. Some people believe their own hype and are right to do so, and they’re incredible, but that’s just very rare.


What are your weird habits?
There are probably a lot. Maybe needing to eat constantly. That’s a weird habit, right? I get super hungry every two hours, which isn’t weird, but I tend to eat in places where other people might think it’s inappropriate, like at a club. A lot of friends came to see me play at Berghain for the first time and I was extremely nervous. I was also playing at six in the morning, which, if I’ve been up for that long I need to eat. I was also stone-cold sober, so I needed to get something in my stomach before I played. Ekman was playing live on the stage next to me and I was in the booth just nervously pacing around, eating an apple.  Meanwhile, everybody’s waiting for me to start and I was still eating the apple when I played the first track. Then after that, I had a protein bar. That’s kind of funny for a place where people aren’t known to be eating.

You’re probably always at the smoothie bar.
I’m always at the smoothie bar! The really big problem with the Friday nights is that the smoothie bar is not open. When I went there for the first time on a Friday, and I was so hungry and very excited to get a smoothie and then I found out that it was closed, to which I just shook my fists up at the ceiling and screamed. They do have a food stand outside though, so you can get Wurst and fries et cetera.

What’s the best gig you’ve ever played?
I think the most memorable gig was one of my first European gigs in 2015, which was in Dublin, actually.  I was playing with Laurel Halo in the back of a sushi restaurant called Tengu. They have a club in the back with a dance floor and a Funktion One and it’s a really intimate space. Having lived in New York for 10 years and doing music there for about six, this was maybe the first time I’d really gotten a crowd that really understood what I wanted to play and was there for it. Coming from New York, I think the crowds there weren’t really into the music that I was into – like straight techno & electro mixed with UK sound system culture influenced music —  grime, jungle, breakbeats and that sort of thing. That was the first time I had ever gotten a crowd that was going absolutely ballistic at every tune I played. I remember, at some point, a mosh pit broke out when I dropped this tune with Riko Dan MC, it was “Big Slug” by Pinch and Mumdance. Feeling a crowd get as excited as me about the music that I was playing was super memorable and life-affirming. That’s something that will always be imprinted in my brain.

So what was the first gig you’ve ever played?
It was in New York at a DIY venue called Glasslands and I played after Baauer, the Harlem Shake guy. It was absolutely rammed and I was terrified. First of all, I was using these CDJs 1000s, where when you press the cue and then play at the same time it just resets as opposed to playing like later models. I had also somehow hit the reverse switch on the CDJ and I couldn’t figure out why it wasn’t playing because I was so nervous. I was basically shitting my pants, but I think it worked out after I sorted everything out.

Did it take a while?
I think there was a bit of silence for a minute or something. But I got going after that, and it was fine.

What was the most memorable gig you’ve attended as part of an audience?
Trying to think concert-wise. Probably the Dillinger Escape Plan, who are one of my all-time favourite bands. They’re a mathcore band. When I’d seen them already, they’ve been asked to stop blowing fire during their gigs and setting their drum kits on fire. They are mental, especially if you look at their old videos. They would do the craziest shit. The frontman would run across people’s heads and they would be throwing their guitars and doing the most insane shit. They were notorious for that kind of behavior. The other thing is that they do these extremely complex time signatures, and they’re all insanely technically competent and skilled. They’re doing things that most regular musicians can’t even pull off while jumping across the stage or head butting each other or setting things on fire.

What do you miss the most about living in New York City?
The food. Berlin has extremely mediocre food. There’s no food culture there. Well, there is, but the standards are very low. It’s very hard to just walk into a place and have the food be good. You have to do your research.

What places in Berlin would you recommend?
I’ve got a lot of places actually haha. First of all, I’m going to talk about this Palestinian restaurant that I’m obsessed with and it’s called Azzam. It’s in the neighbourhood of Neukolln, on a street called Sonnenallee which has probably 200 different Arabic restaurants. In this place they make this dish called Msabaha, which is like a deconstructed, warm hummus —- instead of having this homogeneously textured dip, it has whole chickpeas that are falling apart and it’s swimming in a bed of tahini with crushed garlic and lemon. It’s just incredible. That’s one of my favorite places in Berlin.

What was the most beautiful thing you’ve ever seen in your life?
I feel like I have an answer to this question. Recently I was on Crete, in Greece. I guess I’ve been in the wilderness enough growing up in Canada. I used to go camping, or I went to places with no lights around and had plenty of times looking at the stars. I played a festival called Nature Loves Courage on the island and the venue was about 15 minutes away from the beach. At some point, I left with my friend, and we went for a walk. We sat on the beach and looked up at the stars. I’d never seen them that bright before. I always thought that ‘twinkling stars’ was just a saying,  but at this point, it was so pitch black that the stars were actually twinkling. That was extremely beautiful to me. Realizing that sort of a cliche has a truth behind it was a really nice moment. I’ve always lived around places that have a lot of light pollution. So even if you’re a bunch of hours away from there, it’s never as vivid.

What question would you like to be asked in an interview and what would your answer be?
It’s funny. So here’s the thing, I’ve only done two or three interviews ever. I think maybe recently, I did one for De School. I just don’t have a lot of interviews. All these things and all these questions are all pretty new to me and interesting. I don’t have interview fatigue and I’m not bored of being asked regular questions. That’s my answer for now.

Catch Aquarian's performance in Kyiv on the 16th of November. Invited by Materia. Link to event -> here.