Interview: Ljubov Dzuzhynska
Photo: Cristina Cipriani
Unhuman is the electronic and experimental music project of Manos Simotas, who is also the founder of Liber Null Berlin.
What’s it like to be you?
What it’s like to be me? I don’t know, ordinary, like everybody else?
What have you learned through UNHUMAN?
Unhuman is my solo and main project. I guess I would say that the moniker is a part of myself that brings the results of a constant journey in exploration. I love to be influenced and dig through new genres and sounds in music. I discovered all that when I started with Unhuman. After the years I got into solo production even more and started releasing music on records, soon it became my main project and activity in life.
What was the most memorable gig you’ve ever played?
Honestly, there are a lot of good ones, a lot of good times. It’s very hard to pick one because a memorable gig could be anywhere as long as the right people are there to share the music with you. The latest memorable highlights are for sure the BITE showcase at Berghain. Possibly, if not the hottest, then one of the hottest lineups I got to dance to in the last 5 years and what a party! It felt great to finally play that dancefloor which I know very well. I really thank all the friends who made it through this one and made the whole night unforgettable!
On Christmas, the BITE crew also visited the Khidi and that was my first time visiting Tbilisi in general. Khidi is one of the best clubs in the world and carries a unique atmosphere that makes you want to go on forever when you’re DJing. It’s a beautiful crowd and amazing dancers, I would love to get the chance to go back and double the seven hours of my last closing set.
How do you survive in the nightlife?
Yeah, that’s a good question haha. I don’t know? I’m 31 now, going to be 32 soon and I’m still hanging hahaha, so let’s see what happens. There is no retirement. So I don’t know how you survive in the nightlife. I guess you have to be a bit organised; try to be healthy and focused on your goals.
What excites you the most in music?
More than performing?
Yeah, maybe. Because making music is a hundred percent personal. With performing you’re in a space with other people, which is great, of course. Don’t get me wrong I love playing gigs and I couldn’t stop DJing but as you know, being in a room completely alone locked with yourself, your thoughts, and creating music is something unifying and liberating at the same time – nothing can beat that actually.
What excites you outside of music? Do you have any hobbies or anything like that?
I don’t know. As I grow older I get more simple, so I don’t have many hobbies anymore.
So your whole life is all about music?
Well yeah, the most part of it. I mean, I do love movies. I used to read books when I was younger. I got into Burroughs and Lovecraft and later on, I would use those books to get ideas and write lyrics down, so I guess everything has to do with music with me. I don’t read that much anymore though.
You simply don’t have time for anything else?
No, definitely not, unfortunately. Time always tends to become shorter and things more demanding as my project grows and also as I grow older.
If you could choose a film reality, which reality would you like to experience?
That’s so hard. I don’t know. I never thought about it.
This is your chance haha.
Blade Runner? It is a bit relevant with our times haha.
What about if you could travel in time, to the future or the past, where would you go and why there exactly?
I would not do either. What is done is done, and it would be a loss of time to change things, I guess. Everything’s connected, so if you break a part of a circle – a new piece will come and take its place. And then there is nothing for us in the future hahaha. I mean I don’t care what is out there, nor what is coming.
No, it’s not depressing. It’s more liberating.
What modern trend annoys you or bothers you the most?
I find most of the trends annoying and quite ridiculous. I believe in new things such as new music and inspiring creations but I totally have no interest in trends and the ’going with the flow’ thing. There is a big difference between something that has been created for commerce and money and something that has come out of inspiration and creativity.
The music industry tends to mix up with everything by taking subcultures and manipulating them into new forms that are supposed to be more accessible to their customers. I find this disgusting and abusive. Something you see a lot of in clubs, – and maybe the biggest part of electronic music, – is not really art but a commerce product that gets hyped for a year or two. Trends keep on evolving with culture and nowadays people are locked into social media. To have a profile on any of those platforms is an obligation. It’s important to be listed in there, – you and all your data, – in order to be accessible and easy for people to understand because the mass of information people are receiving is just nonsense. And as this grows the quality goes down and
everything that can be unique and pretty gets lost in the mass of nonsense.
What’s your own perception of beauty?
You have to be more specific. What do you mean?
How do you integrate a sense of beauty into your work, into your music?
I don’t know. I don’t see my music as beautiful, haha.
But would you say it’s reflective of you?
Yeah of course it is, but I don’t seek any beauty. I don’t really know if beauty is positive or negative these days. Maybe. Or maybe not. I think the word ‘beautiful’ is a very superficial word and it doesn’t mean much to me, so I don’t know what to answer to this.
You travel a lot, do you have some fucked up or bizarre stories from your tour life that you could share?
I think one of the most adventurous tours was when I joined Operant in Australia and later, Seoul, with the Constant Value crew. I had an accident on the plane and I puked all over myself and the people next to me. Because of this I was moved to A-class and arrived in Melbourne completely spaced out and covered in vomit. When we arrived at Busan we had lunch that was mainly fish which made it pretty hard to take the bones out and not easy to eat with just chopsticks haha so August almost choked on a fishbone. Then right before the show, Luna got bitten by an exotic bug and we had to get her to the hospital to check it out. She got a huge shot and returned to the club to do the gig haha.
That’s quite a disaster.
Yeaaaah, we are all still here. We survived.
How different is the crowd in Korea compared to the European crowd?
Oh, it’s way different for sure. If you compare Seoul with Berlin – it’s like day and night. If you even compare the Japanese and Korean electronic scenes – it’s different. So imagine Berlin and Seoul. The Asian and European scene in general differs. The Korean electronic scene is small and is not the center of the Asian electronic scene. But it does exist and has great things to offer; it is unique in its own way. Looking at the city I live in, Berlin, you have the center of collaborative culture at the moment. There are plenty of clubs to go to. There are all kinds of music and artists every single day, it’s non-stop, you have access to parties, drugs, and alcohol 24/7 – the electronic music scene is focused there.
In Seoul, it’s totally not like that. There are just a few places you could go to listen to nice electronic music or techno. Not many international artists are visiting so you don’t have many options. Drugs are totally forbidden but people do have access to alcohol and drinking is part of their culture. So the way people enjoy themselves is already different as there are no 3-day raves there. Although the parties in Seoul definitely carry a strong taste to what a rave party should be because their crowd is way more selective and into music compared to what I could see in bigger scenes.
What was the wisest thing you’ve ever heard?
Be yourself. I think that’s a wise thing to follow.
What are the most challenging aspects you face when starting to work on new material? How do you approach a new piece of music each time?
Every new release or record is a new challenge. There is a period when I decide to start something new and so I will re-setup my machines and create a new temporary library of sounds and I will start recording with that. I do it because I want everything to be evolving, to try new techniques and ideas to approach the sounds I like. I let myself run through patterns and rhythms I feel and I try to combine them with new influences. If I also had the possibility to update my gear that often it would be just great! The concept of a release is a long story and often times is not even really coming from the same time as the music. Especially in electronic music, sound is dominant and is a strong concept itself. An artist’s sound is something they build over the years; a chain of lessons through exploration and communication.
What was the moment you realized the power music carries within itself?
Music became very important to me since my middle childhood. My father loves to listen to music and because of that I got influenced and learned to appreciate and love it the same way and more. I bought my first guitar when I was about seven years old and I was already jamming with other people at the age of ten. I never stopped listening to music because music is always there for me.
People can fade away but a song that speaks to you or through you will live eternally.
Are you confident in your vision as an artist overall or is self doubt something that you have to deal with sometimes?
My vision is basically to do what I love and Unhuman is quite an open-minded project, sonically, so I don’t like to set boundaries. I am very confident about this.
Do you let an idea freely take whatever form it wants or do you tend to follow certain guidelines when creating?
There is no standard. I like changing workflows between tracks and projects. Projects differ from each other. I have an idea in my head that I will score in a few hours or in a day and sometimes I will make stuff from experimenting with sounds or learning new ideas and techniques. I love making new music through the process of learning new things about my job, I find it very creative and challenging as I develop new inputs by researching new fields.
What have you been up to during the pandemic creatively?
Being apart from the nightlife the last months gave me more time in the studio and more personal time. I’ve been constantly producing new music and have a lot of exciting projects that someday will see the light. I also have time to read books again and learn new techniques and methods, studying some stuff on audio acoustics, improving my production skills, and so on. But In general, I don’t see a drastic difference in my creativity. I was already productive and always wanting to create music at any chance I get. During the pandemic, time might get looser but actually a lot of new problems appeared that lead you to spend more time surviving and solving situations, rather than being creative and positive.
What changes do you expect or would like to see in the world after the quarantine, both in the world and in the music industry?
I’m definitely not a specialist to say what’s wrong with people but it’s obvious that we have been living in an over-saturated capitalistic ‘democratic’ system that needs changes and that we didn’t need any pandemic to show it as we had major problems in our world already. Maybe the pandemic pointed out some of our problems like the healthcare system so if people see that now and start working on fixing that, then that is a good starting point!
About the music industry, we all saw more or less what happened and I hope people start to understand that artists tend to be part of the nightlife and depending not just because we love playing gigs or whatever but because nothing is regulated correctly and art, or better, let’s just talk about music, which has no reasonable values and is not understood worldwide. Artists, producers, engineers – they spend an incredible amount of time on their work. This has never been questioned ever, right? So entering the digital era, the main thing in our days is that we should also reevaluate things because
it seems we took out all the manufacturing efforts to digitalise music and make it more accessible but we mustn’t forget the effort of the artists themselves.
Could you tell us about your recent collaboration with Petra Flurr? How did the two of you decide to work together?
I met Petra Flurr on my first days when moving from Athens to Berlin. I knew his music already but then I also saw a stage performer that I admire greatly. Petra’s energy is unique and then our mutual love for this specific music brought us together. I love producing music that will have lyrics later on and Petra gave the life it needed. The first time we collaborated was for my debut release on Bite Records with the track Seuche. Then She Lost Kontrol records asked me if I could do a full release. I got really excited about the idea of the project and started pulling together an album and it was so fast! I finished the whole production in four weeks. The whole idea is to respect the music I love and grew up with which is all goth, post-punk, and guitars but also to try to sonically give a new meaning to it and translate that sound closer to now. I want to introduce more depth and low-end feelings, tunes that can be played in clubs but also that can be listened to at home as you would listen to a band. I wanted to extend the idea of a techno or dance set and introduce those grooves in little different tempos and keep the voice as the main instrument as you would hear at other bands’ productions. The album should be available by She Lost Kontrol and ReadyMade distribution at the beginning of June.
Petra and I have been quite creative together and we’ve been doing way more music than the upcoming album. We are planning to set up a live set and bring that on stage. We also decided to introduce the project better to people and give the opportunity to support it with a single release that captures a part of our sound. [ed. note – ’Had Enough’ is now available under name your price on both Bandcamp pages of Unhuman and Petra Flurr]
What is your goal and purpose as an artist and musician? What do you want to achieve with your work?
I want to and to be able to create music till the day I die. Isn’t that obvious?
What else are you working on right now or in the near future?
What I am very much excited and looking forward to is my next 12’’ EP as Unhuman – it’s a step further to darker and more distorted soundscapes. Offbeats and broken grooves merging with four to the four aggressive dance floor tracks with dissonant distorted sounds that keep a really dark atmosphere. It’s raw and imminent but also gentle and atmospheric, surrounding the dancers with different emotions. More news about that release during the summer of 2020.
Are there any other news that you would like to share or any announcements you would like to make?
A lot of music is going to be released in various compilations curated by labels such as Amok Tapes, She Lost Kontrol, June, Strange Therapy among other great artists and more remix work and collaborations I am working on are already on the schedule.
Ecstasy and Transmutations is the first record in series, released by the Colombian collective and record Label Rubber Mind; various artists with Vanity Productions, ANFS, Morah, Common Poetry, and myself. Rubber Mind is based at the capital city Bogota and their parties are really unique as the city itself carries a strong vibe. Their formula is very similar to Liber Null events, they merge extreme art and performance with dark music. Something I find fascinating is to meet people around the globe that are following the same aesthetics and ideas. The first news is already announced about the Nostromo remix of the 90*s EBM project Fatal Morgana on Mecanica Records. More stuff is coming out right after the summer as well as a massive release on Liber Null but it is too soon to announce details.
I hope all the artists can return back to their gigs and we will be able to share dance floors and emotions again! Till then stay safe, stay tuned, and support your favourite music!