Interview: Elena Savlokhova
Photo: Benas Bar
For someone who has a ‘chronic Saturday night fever’, what is your advice on how to survive in the nightlife?
Take it easy. If you burn out and don’t take enough care of your body it’s game over. And if you go out for FOMO – stop, it’s not worth it!
You’ve mentioned how recently you didn’t feel like creating music but still pushed through. How do you overcome creative plateaus and reinfuse your art when it’s stale?
I believe art and creativity take commitment. I see my artistic path like the work of an athlete, where you train every day, independently from whether the inspiration is there or not. There will be days where you are so inspired that everything flows easily. And you can actually create conditions to support inspiration such as a good studio, exposing yourself to other art and learning to change your state before producing. But there will naturally be days where you are not in the best mood and face creative blocks. I still think it’s useful to push through these moments instead of waiting for creativity to happen. It means it’s much more up to you in the end rather than up to random circumstances. It’s a matter of reminding yourself of your bigger vision and pushing through the blocks that happen. The more I keep doing, the more creativity starts flowing again. I do music almost every day and don’t let the temporary blocks hamper my schedule.
What do you fear and how do you deal with your fear?
I am scared of waters where I don’t see underneath myself and I’m also scared that something bad may happen to the people I love. Another big fear is that I won’t achieve my mission in life – helping millions of people find their real selves and do what they really want. I read this book called ‘Feel The Fear And Do It Anyway’ by Susan Jeffers whose main message is that fear is normal and can’t be avoided; however, you always have the choice of taking action and do things that scare you anyways. When I am scared it’s usually a good sign that I am stretching beyond my comfort zone and I do whatever I can to go for it despite feeling the fear.
You say that people should pursue their own weirdness despite what ‘normal’ is. Is there a specific societal norm that irritates you the most?
Oh yes – I believe that we are all weirdos and that it’s much more important to be your (weird)self than to be like everyone else. Fewer people will like you, but those who do, they like you for what you really are. The conventional frame of what a good life looks like in the western world does not work anymore for everyone. I believe getting one secure job for life, a mortgage and a family and postpone your happiness and your dreams to one day when you stop working may not be for everyone. It seems we are supposed to go through the same classes, learn the same things and choose jobs because of the financial security they offer, irrespectively of our individual purposes and strength. It seems as if to be ‘good’ members of our society there is one single way. If you suck at math but crush it at wrestling, often you get loads of pressure to stop playing wrestling and study more math to try to get good grades. And it can continue in many workplaces that force people to be ‘normal’ and all following the same norms. I believe this kills individual potential and is also not effective for society as a whole.
We are all weirdos who have a big potential inside. We can let others tame it and dissolve it under the pressure to follow the norm, or decide to fulfill our potential. I am lucky that I managed to create conditions for my potential to evolve, including a job into an organization that is strength-based and values individual strengths. And we live in a time in history when it has never been so easy and accessible to be exactly whoever the hell you want to be. You can make enough money to live by shooting videos of yourself making carrot cakes, thanks to the internet. And I think things are slowly changing for the better as we realize that the old societal norms don’t necessarily work for everyone.
You’ve also said that in the past few years you’ve been working on sculpting your own creative voice without the consideration of external opinions. Was it hard for you to achieve this mindset of not trying to fulfill anyone’s expectations? And why do you think it’s such a struggle for people to stay true to their own vision?
It is hard to stay true to your vision and what makes you, you. Moving from seeking outside validation to pursuing internal fulfillment is one of the hardest and longest journeys of one’s life. Toward the end of 2017, I found myself being envious of other producers receiving more attention than me and somehow I got convinced that I had to make music that was more hard and or more ’experimental’ because that was what people liked. I found myself trying to do music and appear in a certain way because I was looking for validation. There is no worse thing for my happiness than doing art only to please others. But I decided to flip the script and do music that is true to me first and, only then, work to find an audience who may like it. And the tough part was to accept that most people won’t like it or give a damn about it. That’s why it’s a struggle for many. We are human and fundamentally, we are all social animals. Receiving appreciation and love from others is a core need. It’s not easy for anyone to become independent from external judgment, so we often end up changing and calibrating our decisions to get more appreciation. Which means we struggle to stick to our true vision sometimes.
What was most fun about your hardcore industrial days?
The best part was to organise and go to parties into remote and unusual locations… and to explore them. I loved to set up the sound system, dance for hours and hours in front of a wall of speakers tens of meters longer and taller than me. And I was also excited to leave the main dancefloor and get lost in the locations’ most hidden spots. One time we are at this party up on a hill, there were a lot of people dancing like crazy. The last thing you know, I find myself on the rooftop of an abandoned building… and did something I had never done before. Basically there is an old abandoned church right next to where the sound system was built. People were sitting everywhere in rooms and on the porch overlooking a beautiful forest landscape. A friend and I decided to climb to the highest floor of the church and suddenly we were on top of the roof. We’ve noticed that the church’s bell was still there, shining. You know – one of these huge stone and copper bells that are played to announce every mass. Without much thinking, we got right to it and we activated it. It made a sound so loud that everyone at the party heard it, turned around and saw us and just went mental!
What have you only recently formed an opinion about?
Thanks to Elon Musk, I realized that we live in a simulation. Ahaha I love him but actually I am not sure about the simulation thing at all! I would say I formed an opinion about love. I figured out that for years I subconsciously believed that pursuing a vision and being in love with someone were mutually exclusive. It’s kind of true that when you fall in love you do a lot of irrational things and you use time in a non-efficient way. I structure(d) my relationships in a very rational way, and love fell out of the picture. I realized this thing was actually a self-defense mechanism to protect me from possible pain. But I worked a lot on healing from past pain and coincidentally rediscovered love again. And broadly I rediscovered love for small things in life, such as a coffee, a landscape, a conversation with a friend without any agenda. And guess what? It turns out love is inefficient but it gives you so much energy, inspiration, and joy that fuel your life. And it can coexist, and even support big plans.
How are you trying to be a better human being and how do you seek the best within yourself?
Helping others and constantly working on myself. I believe that if everyone respected and supported others when possible, we would live in a much better world. And I basically do things that I would like others to do to me. For example, there are loads of producers out there who struggle to get any constructive feedback on their music. And eventually, they may even drop it as they get discouraged. When I can, I listen to the music sent to me and always provide feedback. One of my mentors says that working on yourself is more for others around you than it is for you. I think that’s true. I feel my music and how I speak are powerful means for me to communicate and fulfill my purpose. So I work on my music almost every day and recently started a vocal training course to practice tonality, speech and… singing! And lately, I have been seeing a psychotherapist who is helping me go deeper into my subconscious and heal from past pain. This has brought a lot of good in my life already.
Your new release “Breaking The Silence” consists of the main track ‘Into The Sun’s Maze’ that is based on an Aztec legend and it touches the topic of overcoming the obstacles one has to face in order to achieve a goal. You also often talk about how you are trying ‘to help people connect with themselves in order to get the life they want’. Would you say you live up to this yourself? What is your approach to reaching your own goals and not giving up on them?
You guys really did dig a lot into my stuff!
I have goals for which I would never give up and do anything I can to achieve them. The main one right now is music and this very record Breaking The Silence is an example. It took us about two years to make it happen. At some point, I wasn’t able to confirm the second remixer and got tons of rejections. I was about to drop the ball. But together with Flaminia, we decided to keep trying. We got a yes from an artist whose music I love. He eventually had to cancel for personal reasons a few months later, which meant we were back to square one. But one more time we persisted in our research. And that worked out extremely well as it allowed us to create a beautiful record with two amazing people and artists: Oscar Mulero and VSK. During the process we also faced a suddenly broken printer in the printing shop when we had to print and send the artworks; a malfunction in the vinyl pressing machine the week we were supposed to press the records… the list goes on. The truth of the matter is that what happens outside of ourselves is never fully in our control, and we should rather find ways to play with whatever comes our way. If we give up when things don’t work out, that’s the only certain way to give up on our dreams. Had I given up, this record wouldn’t be here. In the Aztec legend, we wanted to tell with the record, Quazelcoatl dares the Sun and fights against the odds to bring music to earth. It was the right myth to encourage people to not give up.
Following the legend, it’s about how the Sun kept all the musicians within its realm until the god of Wind freed them and brought music back to Earth. A world without music seems like a rather dull one but what is your personal opinion on why music is such a vital element to the existence of so many?
For me, it’s about connection and love: we are social animals and need to be close to others. Music provides a context for people to get together. It’s the perfect vehicle to share emotions and feelings, to share a moment, celebrate life (or even death) together. You find music accompanying rituals of all sorts. We use it to describe our emotions to the world. And music is able to make us feel part of the same thing. Even when we are not physically next to each other, even when we have different backgrounds, walks of life and habits.
What do you think is the biggest curse of postmodernism?
Forgetting our roots and destroying the future of our planet and of the next generations. It’s funny you mention this word, as I have just been told I am a postmodernist. I love how technology enables us to do things that are incredibly useful and fun. I see it as a blessing and I am all in for the progress.The curse of progress is that sometimes the price to pay is our future health. The world just woke up to huge environmental issues that our lifestyles have been causing. The issue arises because we are used to trading long term sustainability for comfort and consumption in the present. I still believe human-kind is smart and capable enough to flip the script and prevent a massive disaster. I am sure we can marry progress with sustainability and respect the planet and its inhabitants. For this, we need to change our habits, set laws that give animals and our planet rights just like for humans and we should use technology wisely. This is a challenge that I started to think about a lot.
What do you like and dislike the most about yourself?
I like that I am an inexhaustible source of energy and I am an optimist. I dislike that I worry too much about things. And that I wish to do well for everyone but often end up disregarding the happiness of people I love or of myself. But all in all, I like and love myself enough!
You’ve recently released a music video for ‘The Day I Didn’t Want To Wake Up’ with Tonia Nee. What was the process behind its creation and do you think the techno genre lacks the accompanying video medium and some storytelling?
That was a huge project. Probably the most challenging, crazy and exciting that I have ever worked on. The track itself was produced by me without vocals and by pure chance, Tonia Nee and I worked together on the lyrics in preparation for a live at Corner last November. The version used in the video is called Club Mix because it’s basically the one recorded during that party. If you pay attention you can actually hear a layer of background noise with people talking and screaming in the club. The tune is about breaking the mental chains that are imposed by someone else and thinking with your own brain. It resonated a lot with people and I wanted to do whatever I could to give them as much exposure as possible. I spoke with my friend Benas Bar about doing this with a video clip. Benas is kind of an artistic genius and together we came up with this idea of having someone running on a treadmill to represent one’s life journey. Basically this person – interpreted by our friend Ugne (very expressive and talented actress) – keeps running while loads of weird things try to block her. She endures the adversities until she even starts enjoying the ride. But as life is never that simple, she quickly realises that maybe running itself is not taking her anywhere and… but I will let you watch it and check for yourself 🙂
A bunch of good friends, including Flaminia, helped us a ton and I feel blessed to have received so much help for this to happen. It feels like the message of the track was meant to be expressed this way! And I definitely feel techno is lacking storytelling and video as a media. I feel that the general attitude to keep it underground may limit the forms of expression. I believe music should be free and I am all up for artists doing what they like. For me, music is a powerful tool to communicate a message and combining it with stories and videos is a great way to enhance it.
What book would you recommend and why?
‘`The 7 habits of highly effective people’ by Stephen Covey. This is the book I wish my parents, people I work with, my teachers and my friends had read. When I started it, I thought it was all about how to run a business, but found out it’s much more about our personal core values, our spirit and how we connect with others. The core principles that I took away are:
* Find and stick to your own purpose (your why) and don’t be afraid to share that with others -> this leads to personal fulfillment.
* Always look for win-win situations or be ready to abandon the deal -> this creates constructive relationships in the long term.
* Seek to understand to be understood -> this is counterintuitive but helps you resolve conflicts by uncovering what the other’s needs and pain are, instead of trying to shovel your opinion in someone else’s ears.
Just these three things would likely make people happier and much better with their relationships.
What question would you like to be asked in an interview and what would your answer be?
Why ‘End Train’? If you know me – you may think there is some kind of secret or well-thought reason… but you would be surprised about the why. But we’ll leave the answer for next time!