Interview, photo: Elena Savlokhova
Your productions illuminate a strong outer space atmosphere. Is the cosmos something that deeply fascinates you?
Yes, sometimes sci-fi movies are a part of my influence, I’m a big fan actually. I love the melodies and soundtracks of sci-fi films. I’m also interested in the galaxy in itself.
So you believe in life outside of this planet?
Yes. Some of my music is connected to this dark and mysterious aspect of it, but it’s not a fascination. One of my labels New Flesh is similar to that idea of when your whole life is not bound to Earth and you can travel to other planets.
What’s your favourite sci-fi movie?
‘Soylent Green‘ (1973). It’s not exactly sci-fi but in the film vegetation is very rare and food overall is scarce, so in order to survive people have to eat a green wafer that is supposedly made out of a high-energy plankton.
Your sets also resonate a strong feeling of a constructed narrative from beginning till the end. Are there any storylines that go on in your head when you’re playing?
For me in DJing it’s important to tell a story through the music and to create a certain atmosphere, to control the introduction and to choose how the story unfolds, depending on the crowd. I can take the crowd for a sci-fi adventure through space, or I can choose only to play techno if people want plain and raw energy, actually in both cases it’s important to tell a story by building something exalting.
What questions do you hate answering the most?
‘When can we hear a live set of Umwelt?’. I get that question a lot.
Why is there such an urge to associate techno with ‘darkness’?
I think that with darkness you have something more emotional and I love emotional music. I listen to all types of music but I produce this sort of music because it has a strong emotional element to it, it has something more mysterious within it. I love ‘dark’ music because it’s a strong tool to deliver a message, to communicate a feeling, and to tell a story.
Do you have any rituals when producing music, something that helps you get the creativity flowing?
Not sure it’s a ritual but I like to have a lot of time when working on music. When I produce music I sometimes stay in the studio for 3 days. When you’re not pressured by the limitations of time you have the opportunity to explore more. It’s very difficult for me if I only have, for example, 2 hours to work on a track. The only ritual for me is to take my time. A lot of producers create music when travelling, but for me it’s technically impossible. I need a long time to experiment, to push myself into unknown territory, to cross my limits. You know, it’s like a gig, your only task is to focus on music, and eating or sleeping is secondary.
What do you realise as you get older?
As I get older I’m more pragmatic. I take the time for living and to appreciate life.
You’ve played in Bassiani earlier this year and you’ve expressed your support during the protest with a symbolic ‘Bassiani or Die’ post. Do you think there will always be judgement and prejudice towards the club culture?
It depends on the country, of course, but it’s often a matter of politics. Just like in Georgia we’ve had the same situations in France or in the UK, only way earlier. Also the scene in Georgia is so new compared to the historical scale of electronic music in other places. Normally I never post anything political on my social networks but I did for Bassiani, because I played there and the reaction of people was so powerful. Playing in Bassiani was a great experience. It’s a very dark club (laughs)! It was cool to create a sort of trance atmosphere in that dark space.
What topic fascinates you the most currently?
I think there’s a very important mutation with civilization because of migration and how it is managed. It’s a result of politics since a long time – colonial politics, ecological politics etc. I think people don’t have the choice in it. It’s interesting because at this point politicians are very selfish and haven’t anticipated it all, they let us deal with it. It’s happening and it will only grow again as politics, religious and ecologic troubles won’t stop spreading. It’s fascinating how people consider their own country as an isle outside of Earth – we are all humans, and we are destroying our planet and its inhabitants… To me, this is very weird. There is so much historical, political, religious, financial stuff polluting human relations that we are slowly but surely destroying ourselves.
Do you ever feel nervous before your gigs or is it a habit at this point?
Sometimes, it depends on the club and the travelling aspect. If there are no problems with travelling to the gig and if my records bag is safe then there is nothing to worry about.
When was the last time you were worried?
I think it was in Amsterdam for Unpolished. I was supposed to play b2b with Helena Hauff and I packed my records bag only for the b2b set, not for a full DJ set. But Helena couldn’t come that day so I was very nervous, since I wasn’t prepared to play a solo 3 hour set. Gladly it was all ok thanks to the B sides of my records! Sometimes I’m in a situation that can be a little stressful. For example, when I’m playing at a festival with a lot of rock bands that play in the daytime, and then I have to shift the audience into an electronic music night, and they might end up not very receptive to that sort of music.
If you could travel in time then where would you go and why?
In the future? No. In the past? In terms of music, for example, I would go to Long Island in New York to see the gig of Public Enemy in 1987-88.
I was pretty sure you would say that you would only want to travel into the future.
But if you go to the future you might end up in the middle of nothing (laughs).
Do you think there is a certain philosophy and beauty about the rave culture?
There is a philosophy, of course. Raves were created as a space of liberty. But it’s all different now, you have to pay to get in, you have those superstar DJs, so at this point you can differentiate between a rave and a mainstream rave. Mainstream and underground. Or mainstream underground (laughs). There’s also a club culture but I never fully understood what it is, because a club is always a business, and I don’t think it in any way shares the philosophy of the initial raves. Raves are political. Regarding my post “Bassiani or Die” – it’s a reference to “Rave or Die”, a slogan from the 90s, when the police raided parties and people wouldn’t stop dancing. The philosophy is completely different now, even though some of these raves are still happening, they’re just not on the network and don’t have big names attached to them.
What’s the worst piece of advice you’ve recently heard?
That I need to play digital because it’s easier than records ! For travelling especially. But it’s not good advice specifically for me.
What’s your take on digital media? What are the negative effects the digital has on music?
It’s cool to search for information, but there’s a lot of fake news, fake music, fake producers (laughs). But jokes aside, it’s cool to have all these options – the media opens up a space of information, and you don’t have to spend all that time on buying magazines etc., so it’s good for the ecology even. Vinyl is not good for the ecology though, but it’s music, it’s art, so the sacrifice is tolerable as it is sustainable. Digital music is ok too, it’s part of the new generation, but I personally prefer vinyl when DJing. People have a choice, but it’s more difficult now, because there is just too much information to look through, it’s all very fast paced and I think that’s the negative aspect of the digital.
Do you see music and the night culture in general as a way of escapism or is it more than that?
Yes, of course. A lot of people work hard during the week and they need to recharge with music, even if you just listen to it on your headphones at home. For me, the night is a place where you come together under the halo of music and you respect one another.
What is your family like? Are they into your music?
My wife is in music too, she manages the Rave or Die label & New Flesh and is a manufacturer of cutting vinyls, we’ve actually met in the music network. My parents are not that much into it (laughs). But now that it’s my job and I travel a lot they became more understanding.
How did you keep your passion for music alive for all these years and not make it feel like a routine?
I’ve been DJing for such a long time and I think I can keep that passion because it never felt like a job and it only became my only job 3 years ago. If I continue to stay positively open to music and to what the new generation brings into the scene then I’ll keep the passion alive, but If I lose that, then it can all become routinely robotic. If one day I come to a party and play like a robot, then I think it will all be over.
Do you think that’s going to happen soon?
I don’t know, but it’s possible when you play a lot, so you have to keep that in mind too.
What do you think the downfall of the industry would be?
There was a big fall of electronic music 10 years ago with vinyl during the mutation with the digital and a lot of businesses closed. Now it’s all very big with all the festivals, labels, and new artists. I think the industry will fail when everything becomes mainstream. There is this part of mainstream music and in this part, there are Djs, agents, labels, and so on, that say they ‘reclaim’ and ‘recreate’ the underground. I think when the underground will be considered mainstream then that would be seen as a failure to me.
What is the best gig you’ve attended as a viewer?
I have two! 1994 in Zurich I went to this big rave called ‘Energy’. I was young and I saw Luke Slater, Juan Atkins, Dave Clarke, Acid Jesus and other artists play. The other best gig was the time I saw “Nine Inch Nails” play in Nime Arena in France.
If you were a part of the SpaceX Mars Colony plan, what thing would you miss the most about Earth?
If I’d go with my family then OK, I can see this scenario happening. I would miss my vinyl collection or my 808 – just things that are symbolic to me. I could go with a USB stick and produce music over there (laughs).
A rave on Mars.
** Make sure to join Aught’s celestial journey under the guidance of Fred Poncet at Kiev’s Arma Comes Closer on the 15th of September.