Interview: Elena Savlokhova
Photo: Ljubov Dzhuzhynska

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What excites you the most in your field of activity?
For me, of course, new experiences and trying something new. Earlier this week I did my first improvisational concert with a musician from Bucharest that I met on Monday, and we played together on Wednesday. I was very nervous, which I don’t get so much anymore for DJ gigs. That experience went super well and I was still excited for hours and hours afterwards into the night. I guess it’s a way of facing my fears.

What was the last thing you’ve done or experienced for the very first time then?
I visited two countries today that I’ve never been to before: Belarus, even though I’ve only been to the airport, and Ukraine. That improvisation concert as well. I always improvise as a musician and as a DJ, and somehow it comes natural to me to do so. I usually work alone so it doesn’t come natural to me to work with someone else, who I don’t know at all and never jammed with before. Yet it went really well.

What is your definition of beauty?
I would say I have two answers. One is the aesthetic side of beauty, the one that you notice with your eyes: you can see a nice place, a nice color in the sky, a building, a person. For me, I’m very into that sort of thing and I’m aware of looking at things that I find beautiful, it gives me some kind of excitement. When I see beauty in a person, it might be some sort of attraction, love or caring, but it goes very far beyond that. Through communication comes a feeling, and that’s another side of beauty.

What is your favorite way of escapism?
Sometimes I go to the forest. My escapism is a place in nature.The mountains, for example. Sometimes I like to be far away from people, cities, and urban life in general. It’s like escaping into a world where a lot of other things live and it scares me a lot, because you can have really scary encounters, for instance, in the dark, when you stay in a cabin for days. Sometimes you don’t even know what it is, what animal is around. There is this story in Norway, about this creature that lives in the mountains, this beautiful girl named Huldra. She looks like a beautiful woman but she is dangerous. The only way to tell that it’s her is by looking under her skirt and seeing a cows tail that she has. She lures young men into her cave and then they’re gone. I think I saw her in the mountains. I definitely saw something once.

If you were to wake up one year from now, what would change in your life?
I would have slept more than I normally do. I would change my sleeping habits to a 6-8 hour sleep a night instead of 4-6. I normally sleep very little for two or three weeks and then I have two days where I sleep 9-12 hours and then I repeat the cycle.

What were you crazy and passionate about as a kid?
I wanted to be a helicopter pilot when I was 8 years old, I wanted to control things and to work with machines. Actually, I did work with machines when I was a projectionist in a cinema. I used to work with old school reels and stuff, it was very fun. I was also passionate about storytelling, maybe. I used to tell stories to scare other kids and actually I got more scared myself. I managed to scare my cousin to the point that he didn’t swim in the sea for ten years, I think he was 3 years old at the time and he was sitting in a chair, crying, holding his toes, because I told him some story about crabs. My grandmother was the worst, she’s dead now though, but she scared us so much. She would find it funny to scare us, so when I was a child, it was dark during the winters, because we don’t have a lot of sun in northern Norway. And we would just sit quietly in the cabin and all of a sudden she would shout: “Do you see the guy in the window?!” There was nobody there but I’m still afraid of that guy in the window.

Were you close with her?
Very. I lived with her a lot and we even vacationed together.

So she formed you a lot as a person?
Yes. She had the dirtiest mouth of anybody that I’ve ever met in my whole life! I’m so inspired by that.

If you could travel in time where would you go and why?
Of course, I’m curious about the future, but the future is happening every day. I would maybe choose the past. I’d go 50 or 100 years back and I would be magic and special. I wouldn’t go too far back because then I would be a witch and get burned.

What’s fucked up about the world of today?
What’s fucked up is that we still, in this day and age, have this fear of something unknown and we categorize people into ‘us’ and ‘them’. We have this need to categorize in order to belong so we push people away. It creates a lot of fear and hate, which I think is completely unnecessary. It shouldn’t be that way. The ‘us’ and ‘them’ idea is basically what creates all the conflicts and that’s the scariest thing.

What film would you recommend?
“The Devil and Daniel Johnston”. It’s my favourite film and it’s about a musician that also struggles with a lot of mental illnesses. It’s told in a very ‘living’ way. It’s a documentary about him and his life and how he never made it to fame. You probably never heard of him because he got ill fast, yet he made beautiful-beautiful music. Most of it was released very raw, not mastered and not mixed, because he recorded it in his garage on cassette tapes in the 80s. It’s a beautiful documentary with beautiful music. A beautiful, yet tragic story.

Do mental illnesses interest you?
Yes, of course. I find all mental illnesses pretty interesting, but I find schizophrenia pretty impressive, especially when you see what happens to the brain. I’ve been reading a lot of literature on the topic of the brain and I’m attracted to things that scare me, and to be scared excites me. I also love watching horror films but I rarely do because I’m afraid afterwards when I’m alone. My fantasies are pretty far out and big, so horror films work on me. I watched some films last summer when I was at home alone and then I was afraid to get up and go to the bathroom at night.

Which films did you watch?
“Conjuring”. I was really afraid afterwards.

If you had to choose between music and sex, what would you choose?
I would actually choose music. I can go without sex for a long time and I have periods when I do, but I couldn’t last long without music. Music makes me feel more than sex makes me feel. It’s just bigger. Sex is very intense but it’s not the whole specter of all the feelings. Music is.

Has a stranger ever change your life?
Actually, they do all the time. I’ve started noticing that, for instance, if I’m having a day where I’m stressed, not feeling well, or moody, and I walk into a shop or I pass a stranger on the street who is just nice to me, I think to myself: “Ok, I shouldn’t be angry, this stranger took the energy to be polite, even though he didn’t have to.” So if a stranger can be so nice to me, then I want to do the same for other strangers. It happens all the time and I try to notice it and live by this rule. Every time I meet somebody, whether it’s a bus driver, cabin crew at the airport, or whoever, I try to be nice to people, because I think it’s important. The things that you put out in the world come back to you. I know how much it changed my bad days so I try to pay it forward.

You currently live in Berlin, right?
No, I actually live in Tromsø and my official address is there. But I do go to Berlin and I stay there for long periods of time when I’m touring.

What’s the best thing about being young in Berlin?
Well I spend a lot of time there, but I don’t officially live there yet. I’m hoping I might soon, but let’s see. I didn’t really leave Tromsø yet and I’m still not ready to do that. I have many roots at home that I need to keep, but the best thing that I’ve noticed about being in Berlin is that the city is very relaxed and very open-minded: there’s not much judgement, people can be themselves, there is not a lot of fear. It relaxes me and I feel very at home.

How is it different to your hometown?
Berlin is a lot bigger and it’s more central, so of course you have more diversity. It’s a city where people move to work with different types of mediums and arts, so it has a very open-minded vibe.  Tromsø is so far away and so isolated – it’s a city where people move from to do their art. It’s very difficult to create art there, just because it’s so far away. But a lot of people get lost in Berlin and lot of people find themselves, it all depends on the person. It’s quite easy to get lost in Berlin.

How well do you know yourself?
Better and better every hour.

What question would you want to be asked at an interview and what would your answer be?
I would like to be asked what is surprising about me to other people. I would answer that I can sit on my elbows. [editor’s note. – we were very impressed to witness that awesome skill] 

What person inspires you the most?
I don’t think there is one, in fact, there are many who inspire me in different ways. I would have to say my dear friend and drummer that I’m playing with Boska, my dear friend Maximo, Graesse Bondino (he lives in Oslo but he is German, we used to make parties together), Matias Aguayo that runs my record label inspired me a lot, Ana Helder from Argentina and Lena Willikens – a friend of mine from Cologne with who I used to do a lot of music and parties with when I was living there. Also Borusiade.

Tell us a funny or awkward story from your childhood.
I wanted to be a boy very badly when I was growing up. I was always hanging out with boys and I was a bit of a tomboy. I was so jealous that I couldn’t stand up and pee my name on the snow so I was crying and I had a complete temper tantrum in front of my mother, because she wouldn’t buy me a penis. I didn’t understand how it worked back then

What is the most beautiful thing you’ve ever seen in your life?
That’s pretty tough. It’s actually the moment when my grandmother died, the one I was close with. I was there in the room when she died. That was to me the purest form of beauty I’ve ever seen. She had a stroke two years before she passed away so we knew that she was sick and that she wouldn’t survive. And then she had trouble with her intestines and she was paralyzed at the time and was in a home for two years. We were told that she’s in a hospital and she’s going to die so we were there the whole week. The whole family was crying, holding her hand, talking to her while she was in and out of the coma. But when she was a bit lucid we had moments when we all had time to spend time alone with her and say what we wanted before she would go. She squeezed my hand, she was there, she heard everything I needed to say to her. I’ve spent half of my life living together with her and my mother, she was almost like a second mother to me. The priest was there, as she was religious, and a day later I was sitting with one of my aunts and my grandfather had gone home to sleep, because we were sitting there with her in shifts, and then my other aunt came. Then my grandmother opened her eyes, we told her everything that happened and who was there. She took her last breath and then she was gone. A couple of hours later the rest of the family came. The moment when she was gone, her body looked so small. It was, of course, unbelievably sad, we were crying our eyes out, but it was nice that we got to say our goodbyes. It was somewhat beautiful because we said farewell in the right way. That to me was beauty.