Birmingham-born techno artist, DJ, and producer
Interview: Elena Savlokhova
What’s it like to be you?
It feels like I have had many lives within one and I’m only halfway through. When I was younger I was running around on impulse and didn’t really like myself very much, being so hard on myself, everything had to be perfect. Nowadays I’m more relaxed, things have changed a lot, being sober and clean has given me way more insight and I learned to like myself and talk to myself in a nicer way. It’s a cliche I suppose, as you get older as a woman you are more at ease with yourself but it didn’t really come naturally, I had to fight for that. On a day to day basis, I can still put a lot of stress and expectation on myself to get things done, and in recent years I have noticed that I am busy doing the background stuff rather than the important creative work, so right now this is my challenge, to push myself more in the creative pursuit with a quality over quantity ethos.
Are you confident in your vision as an artist? Do you always trust your own judgment and taste?
There are moments when I am confident in the direction and see a clear path before me, with the techno scene growing and so much music out there it’s easy to get lost. I arrived a year ago at the point where I felt everything has been said but then I would stumble across a piece of music that is fresh and doesn’t sound like anything else, so I know that there is still more to be said within the genre. The past year I have had more fun playing some records I would of before deemed cheesy or having too long a breakdown but I wanted to see the reaction of people and give the dance floor a different energy, it’s definitely a more playful approach but getting the balance right is also important. As a DJ I have always tried to push people in the faster and harder direction, its been amazing to see the new generation come in and enjoy this, and in fact want it even harder than maybe I am willing to go! In the studio it’s a different story, the moment a track I am working on becomes too obvious or easy I discard it or challenge myself to change it. As I am currently working on my album and feeling quite overwhelmed by the many options of where I could go artistically it has helped to set some parameters of what frequencies and keys to create within, this has actually freed my creativity for this project.
What were you like as a kid? What were you into?
My younger years you would of found an awkward child, an only child. So growing up I felt very much alone and I lost myself in to different obsessions, including a love for music very early on. I received a hifi and some records on my 5th birthday, I would sing and dance with my mama who was an original 70s punk, so music in the house was the norm for me. But I was still lonely, my mom was very young herself and we both had to grow up together. To overcompensate I was good at school until I hit 14 years old and then lost interest very fast and rebelled. I listened to bands like Nirvana and Red Hot Chilli Peppers but was also obsessed with Robbie Williams from Take That at some point, my only teeny-bopper experience. Jungle arrived when I was around 15 years old and my friends and I would visit underage parties where we would hear the more commercial rave tracks plus this new jungle sound emerging and I loved it and loved to dance.
With everything in the world being on hold because of the pandemic, what are some personal realizations you came to?
That I definitely needed a rest, I hadn’t been at home much and when I was it was just always a rush to get things done like those pesky non-creative errands and to be getting ready for the next trip. Now I am reading books, journaling, sleeping and being creative. It’s the reset my soul has needed. With another two months minimum to go I am sure there will be more insights to be made.
How would you describe the thrill of performing? What does it feel like to acknowledge having power over a crowd on the dancefloor and being able to set a certain vibe?
I suppose I never see it like that, my view is that it’s a two-way thing. I feel the energy from the people and feed off that, I can come in and set my energy down in to the room and see how its perceived, sometimes I have to change direction or ease up. I never feel like I am powerful, its only with retrospect that I am like wow they allow me to play and I’m holding this set together and in control. But its never at the time, I would lose my head if it was during, I need to stay humble and keep myself focused. Being sober it’s harder to lose yourself to a flow state and I suppose that’s what I’m aiming for, I find it easier to access this in smaller darker rooms, where there are less eyes on me. Bigger stages can be tougher as you are already far away from the people, a lot of DJs don’t take as many risks in this environment, choosing to play safe and more prepared, accessing an intuitive state would be impossible with a pre-planned setlist.
Yet you’ve recently played a set for United We Stream at Griessmuehle [ed. note – see link] in front of an empty dance floor. How surreal was that experience for you? What went through your mind?
It was actually quite nice, the sound in the booth was great, so it was just an extension of playing in my studio, I was still aware of the cameras so it was still harder for me to let go, but I enjoy the music I play, and if you can reach one person…I am happy!
What is the most beautiful thing you’ve ever seen or experienced over time? Does your perception of beauty differ over time?
So many experiences but the ones when I am alone are the most vivid, with no distractions, a time for reflection. Most recently I fell in love with hiking alone. I was in Colorado and visited the Rocky Mountains National Park, seeing the sunrise over Chasm Lake under Longs Peak mountain was just stunning and it’s those moments when you realize that
all the problems and day to day concerns are actually irrelevant. The natural beauty of the earth will still be there long after you are gone. The realization is that life is short and you must make your dreams happen, go after them and if you fail, you try again. Fear is all consuming but all the good stuff is happening just beyond fear.
I took up rock climbing to overcome this fear and now have a dream of summiting mountains and aiming to pursue mountaineering when the world opens back up.
In one of your interviews, you mention that you are a TV series junkie. In which TV series reality would you like to try and exist in for a while?
The ones I obsess with the most are the zombie apocalypse ones, so you could say I am already close to experiencing this with Covid-19! I just like the idea of being a bad ass using my strength to survive and going on epic adventures, the fear of something that could literally kill you is the ultimate in facing your fears. But it needs to be done with humour so I would opt for Z Nation rather than the Walking Dead, if I hear Rick Grimes say “I did what i had to do” one more time….grrrrrrrr! In fact, when I leave my studio late at night I always fantasize about walking out on the street into a ghost town and that’s where the beginning of my zombie apocalypse begins.
You’ve also said that you enjoy reading. What book would you recommend and why?
I do! Reading was always an escape in to different worlds for me when I was growing up. I tend to read less fiction nowadays though. I usually have two or three books I’m reading at one time. It could be self-help where I am working with the book. A biog to keep me company and to enjoy the gossip of someone else’s life, Ozzy Osbourne’s book was a fun ride through humble Brummie beginnings to rock n roll madness. And maybe a reference book about whatever I’m in to at the time, could be sports, nutrition, climbing, modular synthesis. the best book on the latter is Patch and Tweak and is literally the holy bible of modular. Another great book about the UK music industry which falls under fiction is Kill Your Friends by John Niven, its about an A&R guy from the 90s.
You’ve previously described yourself as an ‘all or nothing’ type of person. Do you perceive such an approach as an advantage, both in work and life, or are you trying to seek out balance in things?
It’s definitely helped to become single-minded about things in my life, to be able to achieve goals and dreams I believe this is necessary but it can have a downside where you become selfish and isolated, you have to make some sacrifices along the way and many people don’t see or understand this kind of obsession. Another downside is that it can also be all-consuming and when a new obsession comes along the previous gets discarded. I am still in the process of aiming for balance but I find there is always something that is more in favour and sometimes at a cost to my well being. As an example I was flat out with sports earlier this year and would head out to my weekends of gigs totally exhausted and not performing with the full energy that is necessary, something had to give and a restructuring of my sports schedule had to be organised. I tend to learn the hard way in most cases!
You’ve said in one of your interviews that over time you are trying to make amends with those you’ve wronged in some way. Are you a forgiving person yourself? Is it easy for you to let go?
My resentments can be held on to for a long time but
I have learned to try and put myself in the others shoes more nowadays, also forgiving myself and my own mishaps and flaws makes it easier to forgive others theirs, we are all human after all and I like to hold on to the fact that people are doing their best so I don’t take things so personally.
Usually, when I am acting a dick I generally am not happy with some aspect of my life or situation and try and make amends asap, so now I can see that in others too when they are acting a dick. With this insight, I hope others can forgive me too.
Looking back at the beginning of your music journey, what do you wish you had known back then?
To only play the music you love, no matter what, no compromise, no people-pleasing. That you will never be perfect at DJing and that’s ok and to start music production right away.
Is there still a lot of fire in music for you? Is it difficult to keep the passion alive over time?
My love affair with music can stagnate from time to time but its generally when I am stressed or over-tired or in need of a break. I can grow out of certain styles and feel I am still searching for something else and I believe everyone feels the same as that’s why the genres are always developing, nothing stays the same. So if it’s not where I 100% like it, I know that I can dig deeper or listen to other genres (i.e. not techno) to find some interesting tracks, and then just wait a while until the latest fad has passed. Overall the music still gives me life and I am still finding those wow tracks to share with people. If that stops maybe I would consider giving up playing but after 20 plus years it’s still harder to give up than to carry on.
Who is or was your biggest teacher in life? What are the lessons you’ve learned from him or her?
It’s really not one person but an accumulation of all the people that could hold a mirror up to my behavior and to make me more accountable for my actions. And my nana, her constant nagging about pensions and saving money finally made me succumb to her way of thinking. And with the Coronavirus now that rainy day she was always on about I am a little more secure, for the next months at least.
You’re very open about the challenges you’ve been through on your music path. What would be your advice on how to get through times that suck for those of us struggling right now?
The biggest block in my way was myself, I didn’t realize how negative I had become to the outer world. I see so many people not taking responsibility for their shortcomings and I don’t want this to sound patronizing as I did it myself which lead me to be paralyzed with fear and unable to take the risks needed to try as I was so scared of failure.
But in reality there really is nothing stopping you from achieving your dreams. You have to quit the victim mentality, start being nice to yourself, i.e. change that inner voice that tells you that you’re useless and no good, in to your biggest cheerleader.
Be clear about what you would like to achieve and where you see yourself as an artist heading. Then make a plan of how that is achieved, modelling on others that have gone before you and the steps they have made can help in your research.
When was the last time you were truly mesmerized by something? Are there things that still surprise you?
I am super emotional and I love to see people win things, to overcome challenges, I just watched the crossfit 2019 games film which has just been released and watching the athletes finally go above and beyond what is expected from them is truly spectacular. I wouldn’t say it surprises me but its this feeling of connectedness, the tears in their eyes of pure elation and everything they have trained for coming together in that moment. It’s like their soul is experiencing it and my soul resonates with that. But then again it could just be the dramatic music, I definitely cry a lot with films…lol!
What do you think will truly matter at the end of life?
In the end, I have narrowed it down to relationships, one with your self and one with the people closest to you.
You will have your memories and hopefully lived a life full of no regrets but it’s the people you have around you that will matter the most.
What question would you want to be asked in an interview and what would your answer be?
If you could put an end to one argument in the world which is dividing people what would it be? With so many creative hours lost in the process of debating, trolling and just being dicks I would propose we put an end to the digital vs analogue debate once and for all, we file it as undetermined and everyone moves on with their lives. This would allow people to be free to play how they wanted to with what format they choose and the world, well the internet would be a slightly happier place to be.