Interview: Ljubov Dzuzhynska
Shakti is a Seoul based DJ and founder of the “Hämmern” event series.
What path led you to the decision of devoting yourself to music?
I started going to clubs when I was 16. Like all of the other clubbers, I just liked going out and having fun with friends. During my stay in India, I came across Trance for the first time and slowly started getting into various textures of electronic music and developing my own taste. Even after coming back to Seoul, I was still the same and you could find me hanging out with friends at clubs on any weekend. Then, at one point, I found myself so much into techno and started going out by myself and that’s where I began to enjoy music itself more than just hanging out with friends.
To me, the most beautiful sight is to look at people dancing and getting into madness completely, soaked in sweat. I like many different sounds but I realized that techno is the only genre that drives me to excitement at its maximum.
And one day, I realized that I was eager to see this beautiful sight where people are dancing in madness on the dancefloor which would be created by me and the music that I played. So yes, that’s how I decided to become a DJ and make people dance.
What was the most memorable gig you’ve ever attended as a viewer and why was it so special?
There were a lot of memorable gigs, but to pick one – the Bestial Mouths’ gig I saw at Urban Spree last January was insanely cool. I don’t know how many times I had goosebumps. Lynette was like a sexy ghost on the stage. I learned a lot from seeing how she overwhelmed the audience.
What have you learned through your music projects both professionally and personally?
I’ve learned how important it is to not allow negative vibes to affect me. Negative influences are everywhere and they can get to me on any random occasion. My attitude towards them will decide whether they will have any effect on me or no. If I deal with them wisely, I could probably transform them into a good outcome eventually. I believe that when I can finally control this, I will be a better person both professionally and personally.
Who or what do you depend on to challenge and sharpen your vision?
Mostly myself. But I also like discussing things with people close to me like my family and friends and ask their opinions when I struggle to make a decision on something.
You are a founder of Hämmern. Could you tell us the story and philosophy behind it?
From the clubber’s view, I’ve always thought that most of the people in Seoul are self-conscious while dancing at a club. I think it’s from our general tendency to worry about what others will think about us. The idea of Hämmern comes from the opposition of this tendency and I wanted to make a self consciousness-free event series based on hard, industrial techno. When Boudhicca, Samantha Gang, and Kirin Kim who shared the same energy with me all agreed to join, we got into our stride for directing and drawing an image of our series. Apart from music, there are STILLM45 and Junho Ha who are responsible for creative selections of our brand content and also sadoplay, the Seoul based harness brand that we collaborate with. As mentioned before, I think that people who rave in madness is an extremely fascinating and beautiful sight. I myself also try to get into that level even when I’m in the DJ booth. This helps me to read the flow and communicate with the crowd on the floor. Although Hämmern is just in its early days, the first few events have been all very successful because we managed to receive a vibe that we wanted from people and I am very happy about it. I think people could receive the Hämmern team’s energy. Plus, people see us as somewhat special because Samantha Gang adds her strong voice to our sets and it leads people to be even more focused. Some people think Hämmern is a sado party because of the brand name of sadoplay who is collaborating with us, but it’s not exactly that. The collaboration with sadoplay is intended to express the hardcore look pursued by the team by wearing harnesses and body chains.
I just wanted to create an atmosphere where people can put their worries aside about how others look and rave in their own way. The outfits people are wearing are not important, whether they wear clothes or not, it doesn’t matter who is who, or what sexual orientation they have. I just hope that people can experience this journey with us and discover themselves while dancing.
This is well expressed in our slogan as well. Currently, we are only organizing event series, but we are planning to come up with more interesting content later.
As a Dj from South Korea, is there something that disappoints you in the local underground scene? What are the pros and cons? What solutions do you think could improve the state of things?
Koreans are very sensitive when it comes to trends in general and this can also be seen in the music scene. There are many new techno-based festivals and events, but most people here are attending them just because it’s a trend and they want to be a part of it. The number of listeners is very small here too and this is one of the problems we face in building a bigger underground scene. Most listeners (there are very few music ‘maniacs’) do not really pay attention to local line ups. The lack of interest in local artists causes the venues and artists to struggle and I think it will take a lot of effort and a long time to improve this situation.
I hope that many interesting and local-oriented events will be created. There are still interesting and experimental techno-based parties occurring with clear themes, such as Fleurs du Mal, Hexen, Scopavik, T.Rex, Abrasax, Schlag, and many more. I think the key to a long-lasting event series is to combine music with various forms of entertainment/content – not be just music alone. I mean, the content could be anything and everything that links music to our lifestyle: photos, fashion, documentaries, slogans, goods, radio and so on. That way we can eventually build our very own unique underground techno culture here. Many of those existing events are already doing so well by developing their own content that attracts people’s attention but I look forward to seeing much more to come in the upcoming years. When the local scene is full of entertaining content, people will have more interest and this will make people curious about the music itself too and will help everyone involved to get through the hardships that we are facing at the moment, I hope.
Good things about Seoul’s underground scene is that most of the artists here are very supportive of each other. Also, the owners of venues usually try to help the artists, giving their warm advice if needed. In particular, owners of underground clubs here are not running their venues to gain money, fame, power, or anything like that but only out of the passion to keep the Seoul’s scene alive and thriving. It is a true passion. Even though the scene here is still small and it is growing slowly, I believe that it can grow into something very strong and powerful when it’s the right time because it will be built with true passion.
What interests you outside of music?
I love traveling. It’s a shame that I don’t like reading, but guide books always attract me. I’ve probably read India guide book more than a hundred times when I was studying in India. I prefer traveling into places of nature rather than to big cities but ironically my favorite destination so far has been Berlin.
What modern trend irritates or upsets you?
This might sound funny because I am very active on my Instagram but people’s (including me) obsession with SNS kinda upset me.
What was your childhood like? What are some of the important things you’ve learned throughout your childhood that you still use to this day?
I was a very active and well-rounded child. I had talent especially in athletics and arts, so I used to win a lot of prizes in schools and even in large national competitions. I don’t know where these talents have gone to now haha.
My parents taught me to do whatever I wanted to try because I would never know if I like it before trying. And they supported me as much as they could. Thanks to them and their way of thinking, even as a grown-up, I do not have any fear of starting something new and I’m a person who always gives something a shot.
What book, film, anime, or manga reality would you like to live in for a little while?
I’ve been a huge fan of Harry Potter series since childhood. I even dreamed of marrying Harry Potter when I was little. But now I would rather want to become one of Lord Voldemort’s followers. Not that I want to kill people but Death Easters always wear black. You know.
Is there someone who inspires you, whether real or fictional?
HIDE is a musician that has been inspiring me since childhood. He was someone who first got me into heavy metal and I still love mixing my sets with heavy pounding sounds frequently with distorted vocals and psychedelic synths. Even though I didn’t mean to imitate him but I realized one day that my strong eye makeup has been inspired by him somehow.
I still watch X-Japan and HIDE’s live in the 90s on Youtube sometimes and think that he, in every aspect, is far ahead of the time. His music, fashion, performance, and attitude on stage never fail to amaze me, even in 2020. For those who do not know who HIDE is, I recommend watching HIDE with Spread Beaver ”DOUBT MIXED LEMONed JELLY MIX” studio live that was filmed in 1998.
What was the wisest thing you’ve ever heard?
盡人事待天命: it means do your best and leave the rest to God.
Did you reach your personal definition of happiness? What does happiness consist of for you?
It seems to be the most difficult question. I’m not sure yet. There are many things that bother me while still making me happy. For example, I’m happy if I drink a lot of tequila shots, but I know that I shouldn’t.
Perhaps true happiness is feeling happy and at the same time, there is nothing you have to worry about.
What is your goal and purpose as an artist and musician? What do you want to achieve with your work?
This might sound cliché, but I want to get a result that reflects my identity. I hope that my identity as Shakti can be strongly delivered to people through the passage of the music that I play and that I make and the event that I organize.
What are some of the things that you’ve never done but you really want to at some point?
Settling in Berlin has been my long overdue plan. Whenever it was time, something happened that made me stay in Seoul. Hopefully, I can make it in 10 years haha.
Are there any news that you would like to share or any announcements you would like to make?
I recently lost my side job that I was doing for money under the influence of Covid-19. It wasn’t something I did with affection but because of the financial problems, all the plans I’ve been looking forward to have been screwed. I had a lot of setbacks. But then I’ve been going to the forest once every two days to find a peace of mind and this made me feel a lot better. I am currently living with a friend of mine who is also a DJ, so our close friends visit us frequently and this also helped me overcome my sadness. I could finally realize that it’s a perfect time to have a break and dedicate myself to music. Now that I think about it, this situation in life is also quite fun and happy.
For someone who has never been to Seoul – what should you not do and where should you not go?
Seoul is not really generous with smokers. You might not be allowed to smoke where you are. It’s not a problem in Itaewon though – the district where most of the underground clubs are located.
Where should you not go… a raccoon cafe? Ever since my leg got bitten by one of the raccoons 5 years ago, I never go to one.
What question would you like to be asked in an interview and what would you answer?
All the questions were very interesting and I felt blessed answering so far. Thank you so much! Just to add one more question that I would like to be asked, “Are there any artists who inspire you in Korea?” And my answer will be: there are many artists who are respectable in Korea. To name a few, I respect two of Volnost’s owners and artists – Comarobot and Sijin. I could feel that they constantly study experimental events that appeal to many listeners and they try to keep the identity and color of the venue very firmly rather than just following the trend. Not just from the aspect of managing the venue and events, I learn a lot on the musical side from them too.