Interview: Elena Savlokhova

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Catch Erta Ale on the 27th of June in Kyiv’s otel’, hosted by П О I Н Т

What do you sacrifice for your calling?
To be honest I don’t really know what I’m sacrificing because I can not imagine a life without music. I can not imagine myself doing a 24/7 job that is not connected to music. For sure I’m sacrificing having more money. Or maybe not, because the situation around isn’t easy for everyone. 

You’ve studied composition at the conservatory of music in Rome. Do you still incorporate that knowledge in your current approach to work?
I was asked this question several times in my life and the answer is always: I don’t know. I studied a lot of classical music in my life. I got my degree in Rome then I got my masters in Berlin, I wanted to have deep knowledge in music but it was something I wanted for myself. When I found my way into dance music, I quit writing music for the orchestra and the ensemble, because the approach is totally different, the instruments are different, the intention is different (people have to dance), but for sure every time I play a chord or I’m improvising something on a keyboard, my background comes out. At the same time I avoid using classical chord progression for instance or stuff like that. But it’s also true that somehow my past experience in music is always present, probably in an intuitive and spontaneous way. Without thinking too much. In any case I’m glad I studied music. I’m glad I can read music and I can play several instruments. But if those things are helping me in producing and playing dance music? That I don’t know. Probably yes but on a subconscious level.

If you were a musical instrument, which one and how would it represent your personality?
Nice question! I would say a percussion, maybe even a percussion ensemble. Tribal drum ensemble I would say. Rhythm has always played an essential role in my music; for me as a composer and as a guitar player, and now, rhythm for me is the key to everything in music. Also a single tuned sound has its specific rhythm made of its own frequency. A single sound has its own rhythm, it’s fast but it’s a rhythm.

In a philosophical way I could say that everything in the universe is a rhythm.

Besides, percussions can be really energetic and the energy is maybe one of the most prevalent aspect in my music production and in my music performance. I’m looking for intense energy even when I play ambient music. It’s just something I can not avoid. 

What are you trying to convey to humanity with your work? Have you always known what you wanted to say with music?
I’m always looking for a “flow state” in music, both for myself playing and for people who are listening and dancing. This concept:

listening while dancing and dancing while listening are the key of dance music and this is why I love dance music.

This correlation between dancing and listening, helps me and helps the crowds to get that moment I call “being in a flow state”. It’s not something new. In sports they call it “being in the zone”. That moment when you are present in the here and now,  you feel the reality without having any thoughts. Especially in music, being in a flow state means being strongly connected with the reality around you and the reality within you. It’s sort of like “Participation Mystique” as Carl Jung would say. It’s a higher level of being alive and I think it’s an essential state for human beings. Music has always been an essential part of mystical experiences. Every time I play I seek out this mystical experience together with the crowd, and when it happens then I know we got what we needed. I don’t have to and I don’t what to say anything in music because

one needs to “feel” through music that the world out there is a mystery and being alive is magical and full of surprise. 

What’s the best and most flattering compliment you’ve received?
I don’t know, I’m not looking for compliments, or let’s say, I’m not looking for verbal compliments 🙂 I know when I’m doing good. I know through the crowd if I’m doing good or not. When we reach that point together (a flow state) then it is the best compliment for me. I brought them to that state and they brought me there in return. We arrived there together, that’s it. If I was “great” during a set it’s because the crowd was great and vice versa. That’s why I don’t like the “superstar DJ”. I don’t like that “look at me” attitude. I really hate when the attention is directed only at the DJ as if the star of the night. That’s bullshit. It’s not what it’s supposed to be. Stop with this superhero bullshit, really. Only together we can reach a higher perception of reality and of being.

What is the best concert or party (or both) you’ve ever attended as part of an audience and could you please describe it?
The best concert I’ve ever seen was Prince in Milan in 2005, but in general, I prefer parties to traditional concerts (for the reason I discussed in the previous question). Right now I don’t remember just one particular party. Instinctively what comes out from my memories are the first parties when I discovered Berghain. It’s kind of a clichè for someone living in Berlin, but for me, it was really a fantastic surprise. I arrived in Berlin in 2007, without knowing anything about the scene. I went to Berghain the first time without having any expectations and it was so new and inspiring. For sure now, after so many years it’s losing a bit of its power for me but it’s still one of my favorite places to go dancing. 

What common misconception or stereotype irritates you the most?
As I mentioned previously, I don’t like the idea of a DJ to be seen as the superstar of the night. A dance party is not a U2 rock show at an arena or something like that. To build up a nice party you need a lot of components: a proper sound system, a proper selection of people, good services, and so many other things… For sure also good DJs that play good music but really, the DJ just plays a role. It’s an important role but it’s still a component. So a DJ superstar status irritates me the most!

What is your first significant music-related memory?
My first music memory was when I was 4, or maybe even 3 years old. My older cousin came to me with a music cassette and he played an Italian song for me. I still remember that moment of deep pleasure. Something happened in my body, it was not just beautiful to hear, it was a sort of pleasure for my body and my soul. A body pleasure that was connected with a sense of enthusiasm and excitement in your brain. I was happy, I was surprised, I was enjoying that thing (music) so much. And it never stopped to have that effect on me. That’s why I’m doing what I’m doing. 

If you could have a conversation with any historical or famous person, dead or alive, who would it be and why?
Oh there are so many. If I could meet a music personality, well, probably I would like to meet the great one – Mozart. I think it would be funny. I mean, Mozart was an alien of sorts, I guess. In terms of other people who are non-musicians, I don’t know. I love reading, I would love to meet some writers or philosophers. I mean, if I can really choose whoever I want then let me meet Buddah haha. I would have so many things I’d like to ask him. If we are talking about someone still alive I think I would like to talk with someone like Yuval Harari, or if music related I would like to drink a couple of beers with Gilles Peterson, I love this guy and his dance music knowledge is incomparable. 

What excites you the most in what you do?
As I said I’m always looking for that “flow state” not only during my set but also when I’m producing music. I like to play with my machines. I never sit at a desk in front of Ableton. I believe that music comes out from a muscle, I like to stand in front of my mixer, play some tune on the keyboard, jump thorough drum machines and when I think I got in that “zone” then I push “record” on my Tascam. This is how I work and this is what excites me most.

What bad experience turned into a great one for you?
Basically almost every bad experience turned into a great lesson for me. Not in the moment, for sure. I made and I’m making so many mistakes, it’s almost incredible how many mistakes I’ve done and keep on doing every time, but after some time I look back and I always learn something super important. It can be related to producing or playing on the dance floor. On the dance floor, there are always so many things to learn: connection with the crowd, relationship with the owner of the clubs or the manager of the parties; dealing with the technical problems (there are always some big or small technical problems), managing the energy within yourself, getting in the mood, taking a break after or before playing, and so many other things.

How is your personality a trauma and how is it a blessing?
I’m not a calm person, I’m often impatient and I have to deal with this. Mostly it’s a bad thing, at the same time it also shows my energy and enthusiasm for life. But it’s really not easy to deal with sometimes. Only in the last year, I’ve decided to manage this part of my personality through meditation. It’s helping me a lot. Right now I’m meditating 1-2 hours every day. Every single day. It’s becoming one of the most important part of my day. I’m learning to use my energy in the most focused way. My fire can either burn me down or can help me achieve what I want, but in any case, it’s a dangerous flame. I suggest meditation to everyone who is struggling with anxiety or depression. It helps a lot! I’ve never been depressed but most of the time I’ve been dealing with anxiety and I really didn’t like it. With anxiety you constantly live in the future. You are never present in the here and now.

Living in the future disconnects you with the present, and the present is everything we have. The past is done, the future is not here yet. Then, what’s the point?

Why do you think music is such a vital element to (y)our existence?
I think I express this concept in the previous questions. But if I can I would like to use a quote of an Indian musician from the 18th century: Music as we’ve known in our everyday language, is only a miniature: that which our intelligence has grasped from that music or harmony of the entire universe that is working behind us. The harmony of the music is that background of the little picture that we call music. Our sense of music, our attraction to music, shows that music is the depth of our being. Music is behind the working of the whole universe. Music is not only life’s great object, but music is life itself.

What is a rule that you always follow both in life and work?
I don’t know if I’m following a specific rule. To achieve something, in general, I don’t think there are specific rules. In any case I try to be myself most of the time, although I don’t really know who I am. But I’m trying to follow what I feel every time in every situation without thinking what other people might think. I mean, for sure I like to ask what people think about my music, about my life etc., but in the end, I take it only as an external opinion. It’s something that can help me see things from another perspective but I don’t take what other people say about me and my work too seriously. At the end of the day I have to be sure about what I feel, not others. In our field of dance music, I think there is a lot of competition and a lot of fights, probably way too much. I’m trying to be at the least honest with myself and with others. I’m trying to be myself and be true to myself, without causing damage to anybody.

Everyone is fighting a war you don’t know anything about, sp try to be kind!

This is my motto. 

What question would you like to be asked in an interview and what would your answer be?
The question, in this case, would be: is this interview long enough to understand something about your personality? Ad the answer would be: Yes, no… maybe! The only thing to take seriously is humor!