music

Yuka electronic music producer and DJ

Introducing: Yuka

Electronic music producer and DJ: Yuka (Russia / India)

The very first time I came across Yuka‘s name was a few years ago, when I was scrolling around on YouTube, searching for Boiler Room videos.

At that time, there wasn’t any movement yet, sweeping across the electronic music scene in order to lift up deep-rooted barriers for a more balanced industry where equal opportunities are granted to everyone and where no discrimination occurs on the grounds of sex and gender. I remember wondering myself, how many female DJs and producers there are in the scene and I remember that I was particularly happy to find someone at the time whose ambient productions felt so pure and close to me as hers. Therefore, I have decided to contact her and asked her, whether she would want to contribute to my starting project. She agreed to it right away, but since this blog is just a one person initiative, it took me years, till I was ready to contact her again to finish off this interview. I felt extra lucky, when our paths crossed and I had the chance to get to know her in person during an artist dinner, right before her set at TRESOR Berlin. We had a long talk about the scene and her current life, full of adventures and beauty, but also full of difficulties.

 

LC: You were born and raised in Bratsk, Irkutsk Oblast (Siberia), located on the Angara River. You described it once as an uncomfortable place to live due to air pollution. I was wondering though, how was your life there as a young child? 

Yuka: I remember that during the winter, there was lots of snow and that was a lot of fun – you could do so many things, from ice skating to tunnel digging and sledging from the hills and so on. During the summer time, we’ve been traveling with my parents and my sister all around Russia to visit relatives (my family is big). I liked it very much and perhaps because of that, I’m still traveling a lot.

LC: Which was the coldest winter and the warmest summer / or most memorable winter or most memorable summer that you remember having experienced as a child in Siberia? Which was your favourite season as a young child?

Yuka: Every winter in Siberia is cold and really long. I remember days when it was -50 C. But on the other hand, it’s also sunny and beautiful – everything is white and sparkling because of hoarfrost. I especially liked winter because of New Year’s Eve. I loved to decorate the Christmas tree! We never celebrated Christmas – the event around the 24th-25th-26th – in the USSR, but we always had a tree that we decorated. The colourful small lamps on the tree were creating a very special atmosphere in the room and me and my sister liked to play with them making elf kingdom on branches. 

Russia Siberia winter landscape period snow ice scenery steppe Siberian field roads sky

The hottest summer was when it was +45 C. Dry and sunny. Days during the summer periods are usually very hot, but the nights are rather cool. Sometimes we were unlucky, because the entire summer was cold and that was heartbreaking. But I loved summer anyways, because that was the time for us to travel. We almost never spent the summer school holidays in Bratsk, but somewhere far away, visiting relatives. One of the most memorable summers to me was close to the place where my mother was born. It’s a village next to Chinese and Mongolian border and my uncle gave us horses to ride. We did it from early morning till evening, every day. We rode great distances on the steppe and climbed the hills. It was such a great experience as a child! 

LC: I have recently read about another Russian born producer who now lives in Denmark. She has mentioned classical ballet as being her first encounter with music. What was your first connection as a child with music?  Did you learn to play any instruments?

Yuka: I played the metallophone in the children’s orchestra in kindergarten when I was 5. That was folklore music for kids. At the age 6 my mother sent me to music school and it was my first encounter with classical music.

traditional indonesian instruments metallophone metal russian orchestra music instrument

LC: Any musical instrument consisting of tuned metal bars can be called a metallophone which is struck to make sound, usually with a mallet. Metallophones have been used for musical performances in Asia for thousands of years. In this way, it is similar to the xylophone; however, the xylophone’s bars are made of wood, while the glockenspiel’s are metal plates or tubes. ]

LC: I watched once a documentary which talked about the fact that Western music was forbidden in Russia during the Soviet era and yet, people took prodigious risks, just to be able to listen to their favourite tracks. Did music play an important part in your parents’ lives when you were small? What types of music did most people listen to – was it radio or more classical music on vinyl, or how did in general people get in touch with music?

YukaAt home I was mostly listening to music from “The Who” and “The Beatles”, because my father liked it and also to some Russian and Italian pop from TV and radio, because my mother was listening to it as usually most of the people do. Later on, I preferred underground music like rock’n’roll and punk – genres which were illegal in  the USSR. I made recently a re-post on Facebook about the list of illegal music in Russia around 1985 – all famous punk and rock bands are on this list. My personal favourites were Pink Floyd, Sex Pistols, Janis Joplin, Jethro Tull, Can, Jefferson Airplane and King Crimson. Somehow we managed to have all this music at home, since my father was listening only to illegal music! We were making copies from cassettes or bobbin tape, and some of my friends even had them on vinyls. There was always a way to get it somehow. Either on the black market or sometimes somebody (like relatives or friends of someone’s parents) went to other countries like the GDR to work and brought some records from there… I never had the feeling that it was something really dangerous, but to tell you the truth, not many people were listening to this sort of music – music that was not easy to find around the time. As for me, to a teen, it was definitely cool to have it! I didn’t like any popular music or music that was played in the radio everywhere. Until today, I still prefer it that way – I love searching for good music which is not known and therefore, special. The habit, you know, I don’t trust anything that is easy to find. 

LC:  At the age of 17, you moved to Irkutsk and then later on when you were 24, to Moscow. You have mentioned that it was in the capital where your music career started when you became resident DJ at a club. May we know which club it was and if the club still exists? Did the club have its own equipment that were needed for the artists to perform?

Yuka: That was a big club for rock concerts and night parties, called “Tochka”. It doesn’t exist anymore. It was a professional club with good sound system and all needed equipment.

LC:  What kind of music did you play at the time? Was electronic music already in or was the scene for it still only developing in Russia? Did you get to listen to music from other countries that inspired you regarding your productions?

Yuka: That time my preference was deep house, house and so on. Most of the music I’ve played were from my small collection that originated from the UK.

LC:  What were your most cherished records you had with you when you’ve started your residency at “Tochka”? How did you stock up on records? Which were your favourite record shops, do they still exist and can you recommend any record shop now, if someone would want to go digging in Moscow or St. Petersburg?

YukaI honestly don’t remember anymore what they were… Probably something from the Glasgow Underground scene…

Back in that time, we were unable to buy music online. We had only one record shop and a couple of record dealers in Moscow – some guys who had connections with European records stores. Somehow, they could make orders and receive parcels by post. It was not easy to travel outside Russia, so around that time, I’ve never got the chance to leave the country. Then the USSR collapsed, but the law was still the same. Once in a month, all DJs went to visit these dealers to buy new records. We had the option to listen to what they had purchased and to choose the records we wanted to buy, but our supply was limited as these guys chose music according to their own tastes and we could only get our hands on records from their collections. In those days, I was always selecting music by listening to the records first, never according to producers or labels. I’ve looked at the author’s name as last, usually when the music impressed me a lot. Most of the time, it was enough for me just to remember how the art on the cover or how the label itself looked like. That is why I don’t remember one name from that time. Nowadays, I remember many names because I play digital format and the only way to remember every track is to remember the names. 

The fact that we could choose out of their pre-selection was also the main reason, why my “golden collection” of records started growing only a bit later – when I finally had internet access and could order my music from the shops directly. Nowadays it is so much easier to search for new music, using the internet and the situation is also better now in Moscow and St.Petersburg as we have also more shops, but I’m sure that record digging is still better to do at Space Hall or Hard Wax in Berlin.

 

LC:  Recently you’ve become a citizen of India and during the dinner you told me that you spend nowadays more and more time there, traveling. Where and when do you get to produce music and  how do you manage to get some studio time? 

Yuka: Whenever I get to stay in Russia or in Berlin, I spend my entire time with producing music. In India, I do it less. The life in India is different from my life in Russia or in Germany and I prefer to spend more time with things like yoga and meditation which are also very important to me: for my mind and my health. These help me to feel balanced and to stay happy.

LC: Now you are able to travel around with an artist visa. Is Berlin your favourite European city? 

Yuka: I love Berlin. It’s a very international place, full of creative people. I don’t know any other cities with such a big and interesting night life. There is so much art, so many festivals, performances and so on. The city has its own, special, attractive atmosphere, even if the architecture is more industrial than classic.

LC: I would love to hear more about that collaborative project with that throat singer from the Altai area that you mentioned in a previous interview. (Do you have any music material left over that we could share about this experiment of yours?) bolot bairyshev altai throat singer siberia

Yuka: The name of the singer is Bolot Bairyshev (Болот Байрышев). Around that time, we wanted to record something together because he really liked my additions to his singing which I made for our performances, but we didn’t have enough time to go to a studio together to record anything. DJ-ing was not my main job then and I was busy at my work. (That period was so intense, that I even had to give up DJ-ing for a while). So, unfortunately, there is nothing left from that experiment and it was such long time ago that I don’t think we would ever be able to pick up where we left that project.

LC: You mentioned that currently, the scene is more varied in St. Petersburg than in the capital, and you enumerated some experimental artists who in your opinion are really talented, but because they are not well-known enough in Europe, and because of the distance, they rarely get booked.

Did you do any collaboration with any of them / or is there anything planned? How did you get to know them?

Yuka: Egor Sukharev (Khz) is a resident of Fullpanda Rec, too. He is a great musician, a professional sound engineer, sound designer and collaborates with artists for exhibitions or video/movie projects and he also works for theatres. Time to time he is DJ-ing or does live sets. He is also a very good friend of mine and he helps me with mixing and premastering my productions. Roman Korablove kindly lets us to use his amazing studio with special equipment when we need it. He is a good producer and has many interesting projects.

[ LC: Roman Korablove has a slow electronica project with Anton Kubikov, Ilya Shapovalov and Sergey Sapunov called ‘Raw Code’. ]

Yuka: Then, I would mentions Stef Mendesidis and Alex Unbalance. I know them personally and we share our music with each other from time to time and have honest discussions about it. I know also Snezhana (Rzeng) and Andrey Svibovich personally, because sometimes we perform at the same events in Moscow and in St. Petersburg. 

[ LC: As described by the artist, Snezhana herself with her own words: “Technically, “Rzeng” is a manipulation of the prepared effects of analog synthesizers in real time, and occasionally, an experimental modelling of the sound space using some digital effects. Stylistically, “Rzeng” is a synthesis of such musical directions as: IDM, Electronic, Glitch, Noise, Jungle, Techno, Breakbeat, Broken beat, Ambient, Industrial, and Experimental.”

Andrey Svibovitch is an audiovisual artist “currently based in Saint Petersburg, Russia. He was born in Kirovsk, a town beyond the polar circle in the Khibiny mountains on the Kola Peninsula. Nevertheless, the contrasts of the nordic nature had a profound impact on Andreys artistic vision. He received mostly private education, studying the theory and practice of contemporary dance, fine arts, music, sound engineering, sound art and visual programming. The experience of various practices led him to a synaesthetic approach in art: the combination of graphics, light, sound and motion into a common audiovisual structure, where each element is essential.”

(Synaesthesia is a condition in which someone experiences things through their senses in an unusual way, for example by experiencing a colour as a sound, or a number as a position in space). ]

Yuka: Oleg Makarov has always amazed me with his music. Actually, all of these artists I got to know through their music first and only afterwards in person. They are all such great musicians! I would really like to collaborate with everyone, but it’s difficult because most of the time I’m not in Russia.

LC:  You are a resident producer on the label of Dasha Rush at Fullpanda Records who you’ve met after you have invited her to Moscow to perform on an internet radio station. Which radio station was it and is it still up and broadcasting? Are there other (internet) radio stations / radio programs that you would recommend us to follow to get to know the scene more in Russia?

Yuka: First Dasha‘s live set was on Megapolis FM which is a popular radio station in Russia (but it is not an online radio station). I couldn’t listen this program, because I didn’t have a radio receiver, that’s why I invited her to play on RTS FM where I was a resident and yes, both of these radio stations still exist! 

[ LC: RTS.FM Moscow is a unique internet radio with audio + video stream and live shows from Moscow, Berlin, Budapest, Bucharest and Riga ]

LC: You mentioned that you are also a resident DJ at “All You Need Is Ears” which is an event series of Fullpanda. Is there anything planned for 2019 with the label?

Yuka: Yes, there are some plans for the summer 2019. So far, most of the events took place at Tresor Berlin, but for the next event series anything is possible due to some changes. Anyways, the night will be great as usual, I’m sure! 

LC: Do you produce a lot with analogue equipment? Do you have some favourite ones? (Russian synthesisers are amazing!) 

Yuka: I don’t use a lot of analogue equipment for producing, because I can get only ideas for my music when I’m alone and never at a limited time, f.e. when I’m at my friends’s studio. I can use it and sometimes I do, but to get a track ready, it’s not enough. But I use it for mixing and premastering. Honestly, I would love to have my own studio full of analogue equipment and expensive modulars! I could spend days / months / years discovering new amazing sounds and rhythms, but it’s not possible with my life style – I’m moving all the time and I don’t have any permanent address on this planet. Maybe in the future, when I get old and decide to ground myself and grow roots in one place, I will create my own studio! (*laughing) For now, I use programmes like Reaktor and LogicPro, plus I use a lot of pre-recorded sounds. For example, during my travels, I always have my Zoom recorder with me to catch interesting sounds. I believe that it’s doesn’t matter, which instrument you use to make music – talent and inspiration are more important. 

Russian synthesisers are amazing, indeed! I love Polivoks ever since I tried it for the first time (which was 25 years ago) and Alisa (because of its crazy sounds).

The Polivoks

The Polivoks (also occasionally referred to as the Polyvox (Поливокс) is a duophonicanalog synthesizer manufactured and marketed in the Soviet Union between 1982 and 1990. It is arguably the most popular and well-known Soviet synthesizer in the West, likely due to the uniqueness of both its appearance and sound. It was intended to appear and sound similar to American and Japanese synthesisers from companies such as RolandMoog, and Korg. The Polivoks was engineered by circuit designer Vladimir Kuzmin with the appearance of the instrument influenced by his wife Olimpiada, who took inspiration from the design of Soviet military radios.”

Polivoks Pro: “The one and only Vladimir Kuzmin, creator of the original, worked on this spectacular 21. century recreation – which, now with more consistently reliable parts, finally really gives that original genius its due deserved place in the studios.”

The Alisa 

“The author of the Alisa-1377 was Eugeny Tjurlenev. The “Alisa – 1377” electronic musical synthesizer intends for signal’s design of audible range of band with a possibility to play solo musical compositions. It can be used to create audio effects if connected to the outward acoustic device. The synthesizer can be used as a non-standard electric signal’s source for scientific and educational needs.

The synthesizer “Alisa – 1387” (Luberetskiy factory of musical instruments) has 3-octaves keyboard, a modulation wheel and the control system (regulators and buttons). The instrument consists of the following main blocks: tone generator, filter, contour filter, signal contour, modulation, sound mixer and output.

“Alisa-2500”: This instrument was made in a single copy at the Luberetskiy factory in 1984. Alisa-2500 is the development of Alisa-1377. It was used with success by well-known Soviet musicians in the course of their studio and concert activities. The device was not put in quantity production because it would have been fraught with enormous financial and labour costs. The author and the developer of the project was Dmitry Isakov. Tjurlenev, the creator of the Alisa-1377,  also took part in this project; he developed analogue frequency multipliers x2, x3, x5, ripple filters (“pseudo overdrive”).”

LC:  I have seen that recently you’ve dived into tattooing. How does one start with it? (I’ve always wondered myself. Got one tattoo for now, but since that I am planning to have more…)  Is it true that people use pig skin first to practice?  Or does one immediately start tattooing family and friends? Where do you get your inspiration from?

Yuka: I’m Siberian and tattooing is in our culture historically. Many tribes of Siberia were making tattoos for many reasons, for example for healing, for protection, or to show social status, or belonging to a specific tribe or family. For me it was always interesting.  Since I was a student of an Art Institute, I’ve learned ornaments, stylisation, design and also about the meaning of Siberian tattooing. When I got all the needed tools and inks, I started practicing on my own skin. I never used animals skin for practice, because I know how to draw and the technic is not so difficult. Soon my friends began trust me, so I started doing it for them. My inspiration is in my roots and in the works of other great masters.

(Instagram: @yukatattoos)

The Pazyryk people

The Pazyryk people were described in the 5th century BC by the Greek historian Herodotus as a nomadic tribe. The Siberian permafrost, a natural freezer, have preserved many burial sites (known as kurgans), where during archeological expeditions, next to valuable archeological findings, the mummified remains of a young female shaman and two male warriors have been discovered and dug up. On their bodies, the permafrost beautifully preserved certain parts of their skins and therefore, some of the very first tattoos in human history dating back to the Iron Age (2500 years BC) could have been revealed. The intricate reconstructions show us an entire language of animal imagery. The Pazyryks believed that the tattoos would be helpful to their owners in another life, making it easier for the people of the same family and tribe to find each other after death. Moreover, they also defined one’s position both in society, and in the world. The more tattoos were on someone’s body, it meant that the longer the person lived, and the higher was his or her position. The remote Ukok Plateau, now a UNESCO world cultural and natural heritage site has been since declared a ‘zone of peace’ by The Altai authorities, so no more scientific excavations can take place.”

LC: And at last, but not least: what are your plans music wise for 2019-2020? Can we expect more productions / releases from you?

Yuka: I’m preparing some new releases for many different labels simultaneously. Out of own experience, perhaps it is better that I do not say too much about them, before everything is done. A remix of mine for the Swedish label, Mountain Explosion Device was released this February 2019 (track: Dadaab on the EP titled Lönnmördare Fick Betalt i Frimärken’). There is another track coming out on vinyl soon for AboutBlank (ab007).

LC: Will we see you more often in Europe? 

I hope you can see me more often in Europe this year! There are plans for some interesting festivals and gigs in the summer. One of these is a Finnish festival called Visio where Dasha Rush is the curator of the Saturday line-up and she has gathered some very cool artists. I’m preparing a special set for this day!

promoting Visio festival banner date visiofestival july 2019 Finnland(SAT
Dasha Rush (RU) | Curator
Korridor (SE) | LIVE
Samuli Kemppi (FI) | LIVE
VRIL (DE) | NEW
YUKA (RU)
Rasmus Hedlund (FI) | LIVE
Trevor Deep Jr. (FI) | Curator
Lando (US)
Wewerka (DE) | NEW
Roberto Rodriguez (FI) | Curator
Vesu (FI) | LIVE! 
american woman electronic music pioneer wendy carlos

Electronic music pioneers of the USA I.

(Part 1)

I started working on this blog post years ago. It was meant to be an interview with a Chicago-born DJ and producer, but unfortunately, it never got finalized due to personal circumstances.

During this interview, I realized that while I was very much familiar with some of the most important European electronic music pioneers like Daphne Oram (UK) – the inventor of a drawn sound technique, the Oramics, Eliane Radigue (FR)Delia Derbyshire (UK)Dick Raaijmakers (NL) (aka Kid Baltan) and Tom Dissevelt (NL) from the Philips Laboratories (Natlab), or Mika Vainio, I knew way too little about the American pioneers of electronic music who should be widely admired for their groundbreaking inventions and work.

The interview took place just a few months before I started experimenting with electronic music production. As a fresh producer, I found it very important to learn the roots. I wanted to know more than just some names and some tracks. I wanted to know the entire story. I wanted to know how it all happened…

There are many artists around the globe and many sources that wrote about them extensively, but I wanted to do a blog post that summarizes the most known ones in one place. Of course, it is not possible to mention every one of them in this column, so there was a selection that had to be made, but the list is long enough.

I started my research with some of the inspirations mentioned by my interviewee (Juana). By following that path, each name I researched led to many others.

The primary sources used for this article were the biographies of the artists from Discogs, Wikipedia, some other journals and blog articles, and sometimes the artists’ websites. These sources are always mentioned or linked throughout the blog. I am not inventing anything new here – simply attempting to summarise what has already been written.

This blog piece is for everyone who is yet unfamiliar with how the electronic music scene started and developed overseas.

PIONEERS IN THE FIELD OF ELECTRONIC MUSIC IN THE USA [Part 1]

The early pioneers

Louis en Bebe Barron

Let’s start this journey with a couple – husband and wife, Louis en Bebe Barron – who are credited with writing the first electronic music for magnetic tapeand the first entirely electronic film score for the movie Forbidden Planet (1956). 

Magnetic tape is a medium for magnetic storage, made of a thin, magnetizable coating on a long, narrow strip of plastic film. It was developed in Germany in 1928, based on magnetic wire recording.

Devices that record and playback audio and video using magnetic tape are tape recorders and video tape recorders respectively. Magnetic tape revolutionized sound recording and reproduction and broadcasting. It allowed radio, which had always been broadcast live, to be recorded for later or repeated airing. Magnetic tape begins to degrade after 10 – 20 years, and therefore is not an ideal medium for long-term archival storage. Source: Wikipedia

Clara Rockmore

Clara Rockmore (together with Robert Moog) were the pioneers of a very unusual electronic musical instrument, that was controlled without physical contact, the ‘etherphone’ or as later named, the Theremin. Clara Rockmore was one of the most famous ‘thereminists’ touring around the USA.

Lev Sergeyevich Termen

The instrument (which was originally known as the etherphone) was invented in 1920 and it was named after its inventor, the Russian Lev Sergeyevich Termen (known in the West as Léon Theremin). After a lengthy tour in Europe, Termen moved from the Soviet Union to the United States, where he patented his invention in 1928.

However, after the Second World War, the theremin fell into disuse as newer electronic instruments were introduced that were easier to play. Nonetheless, a niche interest in the theremin persisted. 

Robert Moog

Robert Moog, who began building theremins in the 1950s, while he was a high-school student, stayed enthusiastic about the instrument and he credited the theremin experience as leading directly to his groundbreaking synthesizer, the Moog.

Wendy Carlos

Wendy Carlos, best known for her electronic music and film scores in Stanley Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange and The Shining, was one of those overseeing the development of the Moog synthesizer.

Annette Peacock

Once the Moog was on the market, the experimenting had begun. The very first person who tried to combine her own voice with one of the first Moog synthesizers in the late 1960s was artist Annette Peacock.

Laurie Spiegel

The Chicago-born Laurie Spiegel, who worked for the Bell Laboratories in computer graphics, is known primarily for her electronic-music compositions and her algorithmic composition software called Music Mouse.

Pauline Oliveros

Another internationally acclaimed American composer, performer who has explored sound for four entire decades was Pauline Oliveros – forging new ground for herself and others through improvisation and combining electronic music with rituals and meditation.”

By clicking the following link, you can navigate to read Part 2, which summarises the American House and Acid pioneers of Chicago and New York.

Stu Crosbie electronic music producer, DJ and label owner of Dark Arts

Introducing: S. Crosbie

Electronic music producer, DJ & label owner: Stu Crosbie (UK)

The first time I connected with Stuart was after purchasing a record from him that was released on his label, ‘Dark Arts’. The DA08 EP showcases tracks that are continuously balancing on the verge of different genres and sub-genres: ‘Radius’, for instance, is on the verge of techno & electro, while tracks like ‘Blueshift’‘Final Orbit’, and ‘Further Out’ are like balancing acts between dub-techno, deep house and downtempo.

It’s been one and a half years since our first interview. Since then, Stu has released another EP (Dark Arts 09reviewed by Matt Sever, while some other tracks of his, like ‘transmission 9’, were supported by artists like Jane Fitz in Rinse FM podcasts.

I have never met Stu in person, but every time I talk to him, he comes across as a down-to-earth, polite, and kind guy who keeps releasing deep, experimental music that touches the soul – and he does that without trying to force himself into the spotlight. His humbleness is another reason why I respect him so much.

I usually like to start personal stories ‘ab ovo usque ad mala’ as the Latin says, thus, from the beginning till the end – as I am genuinely interested in the different paths everyone walks, together with its joys and struggles to become the person they are today. However, this journal will also be like a journey back in time with a quick dive into the UK’s electronic music scene through the memories of Stu.

GF: How did you get in touch with electronic music? Which city has nurtured your artistic tendencies?

S. Crosbie: “I studied just outside London and I went to lots of gigs. I was always more into guitar music when growing up. First heavy metal then more indie type material, but I was getting interested in bands like Ministry and NIN, so I guess an electronic element started creeping in. Also towards the end of my studies, I met a new group of friends who were heavily into clubbing. I have to admit I was cynical at first. I went to a couple of house nights, but the night that changed things for me was a party some friends of friends were putting on called ‘Boo’. They had booked Evil Eddie Richards as the guest and it was amazing – probably the first time I heard techno and house music – I was hooked.”

[GF: Ed Richards or Eddy Richards, aka Acidman / Jolly Roger / Key Largo / Kode, etc. was one of the very first people to play house and techno in the UK back in the mid-eighties. Under his many different aliases, he has done several remixes, amongst them multiple ones for ‘The Shamen’ in 1991, f.e. ‘Love Sex Intelligence’ or ‘Oxygen restriction’.]

S. Crosbie: “For me, the timing was absolutely the key. This was in London in the mid 90’s which was the most amazing time for the scene. It was such a fertile period. It felt like you could go out and hear the best of any given scene 7 nights a week. But for some reason I was instinctively drawn to techno and to clubs like Club UK and The Complex. Lost in particular was something I’d never come across before – it was just so single-minded. For music so intense and uncompromising to bring so many people together was very inspiring.”

[GF: ‘LOST’ has been going on since 1991 and the mastermind behind the record label (Lost Recordings) and the event series was Steve Bicknell himself, throwing notoriously dark and sweaty parties in the best bunkers London had to offer at the time, influencing everyone who’s anyone in the UK underground scene and beyond.]

S. Crosbie: “And bookings like Mills, Hood, Young etc – this was where I really found the Detroit sound of the time. One I particularly remember was Suburban Knight playing! It was so stripped back yet filled with so much funk.”

[GF: Steve was one of the first people ever to bring Jeff MillsRobert Hood or Richie Hawtin overseas to London. Without him, the UK techno scene would not have been what it became. As described by Arthur Smith, “LOST was a real gateway club and its atmosphere was incomparable with any other UK clubs. Every single person was zoned in to exactly what was going on: no-one was talking to each other, no-one was distracted, everybody was hanging on every single moment of the music that was being played”. Bicknell is still actively present in today’s scene. He is also known as one of the members of the formation LSD – Luke Slater, David S. aka Function and himself. They have been performing in the Netherlands at last year’s Reaktor Events during ADE. In 2018, they were performing at Dekmantel festival in Amsterdam and at Draaimolen festival in Tilburg which is a big deal considering the fact that LSD for a long time was a “Berghain-exclusive act”.]

S. Crosbie: “There was definitely something unique about the Detroit artists approach to futuristic music, though I never underestimate the importance of the UK artists either. For me some of the most enduring music of that period was coming from artists like Stasis and labels like Ifach. I’m not really sure if the word ‘underground’ is the correct term but at that time, even though the scene was huge, you felt as part of something that was taking place away from the spotlight. It didn’t need (nor crave) attention to justify its existence, and Lost was the perfect example of that. The opening of  The End was pivotal – I think that was very important for clubbing in general.”

TheEndoftheEnd2009

THE ENTRANCE OF ‘THE END’ IN LONDON

[GF: ‘The End’ was a nightclub in the West End of London, UK. Started in December 1995 by DJs Layo Paskin and Mr C, it was also responsible for the label End Recordings. Musical genres played there included techno and house, drum and bass, breakbeat and dubstep. Throughout its nearly 14 year history, it was regarded as one of London’s most popular mid-sized venues for electronic music of all kinds.]

S. Crosbie: “Again, just quality music, whatever night you went to, and yet such attention to detail in terms of the venue, sound etc. That dance floor is undoubtedly the one I’ve spent most time on – I went the weekend after it opened and was still going when it closed. I admire the risks they took with programming. I was getting into drum and bass around this time, too, as there were definitely links between the deeper end of d’n’b and Detroit. I remember a Promised Land night at The End and being blown away: a) by the depth of the music on show and b) by the atmosphere (it was so friendly at a time when d’n’b had a reputation for moodiness). I always felt you could trust The End to be presenting the quality end of any scene. Fabric opening was also important for the scene  – underground sensibilities but in a beautifully designed space.”

GF: Did you get to visit some clubs outside the UK, too?

S. Crosbie: “I went to Berlin’s Tresor for new year’s eve 2000 – 2001 – the atmosphere in the Globus room that night was something very special. It actually felt much more like a party than I expected. The Tresor room was, of course, so intense but the venue as a whole felt very open and welcoming. There’s definitely a thread running through these nights – Lost, Tresor etc – it feels very inclusive, you feel part of something but they make no compromises on the music which, let’s be honest, is the beating heart of the scene.

GF: Any memorable festival visits?

S. Crosbie: “Yes, ‘Tribal Gathering’ 1997. I have to mention this – anybody that was there will know why. An entire tent dedicated to Detroit artists. And Kraftwerk in another tent. The whole thing was a blur – a lost weekend – but I genuinely get goosebumps thinking back – took me a long time to recover!”

Tribal gathering 1997 poster

LINE-UP OF THE TRIBAL GATHERING FESTIVAL ’97

GF: So after attending all these nights and parties, how did you get started with DJing?

S. Crosbie: “Around 1996 I bought a pair of Technics 1200s – and I’ve still got them today. After that, record buying becomes a sort of compulsion. You start to view money in terms of how many 12 inches you can buy with it. But again the timing was vital.  London was packed with amazing record shops, tucked away in back alleys.”

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RECORD SHOPS OF SOHO 1946-1996

S. Crosbie: “I always tried to take a few risks when buying – picking something up without listening to it. Maybe buying just from the description on the shop’s label or something. It’s funny how specific moments stick in your mind. I remember buying my first Robert Hood solo record in Soho’s Tag. It was ‘Apartment Zero’ – I can genuinely remember seeing it on the racks and taking a chance on it blind. Got it home and to this day it is one of my favourite records. I have to mention Glasgow also – I’m Scottish and my parents still live there so whenever I was visiting I would go record shopping to Rubadub or to Rat Records. It was these trips, in particular, that got me hooked on electro. I remember buying on labels like ‘Interdimensional Transmissions’ (TA: Detroit based electro label run by Ectomorph.) and picking up Drexciya 12″s. That was next level stuff for me – in fact it still is.”

S. Crosbie: “I had played at a few house parties, but a friend I knew from work who was putting on a mid-week drum ‘n’ bass night asked if I wanted to play in a bar. Unbelievably this bar turned out to be the Blue Note in Hoxton. So yeah – crazily my first proper gig was in one of London’s most iconic venues. It was packed and I was so nervous but it went down a treat and I was asked by one of the guest DJs to come and play at his night. It kind of snowballed from there but the sound I was playing at these nights wasn’t my real love. I was supporting artists like Faze Action and playing jazzy beats, deep drum n bass etc. I love the buzz of DJing but my real passion was always techno / electro. After a while I realised that I wanted to focus on something that felt a bit more honest. So myself and two mates started our own night – Shady Brain Farm. There was still a wide musical range played across the night but at last I felt I could play what I wanted and take a few risks. It ran at various small venues for a couple of years and we had some great nights but eventually after a fall-out with the owner of the last venue, we wound it up.

I still love DJing and I’ve been involved with several nights since then (at spaces such as London’s Corsica Studios), but for a few years now I’ve definitely focused more on the production side of things. But DJing is another great way of expressing yourself and I have re-discovered the passion for it recently.”

GF: I guess this is time to ask how you started producing and what led you to establish your label…

S. Crosbie: “I got a second hand computer from one of the guys I eventually ran the night with and he had put a couple of basic programmes on there – Acid Pro and Soundforge – so I started messing around with loops etc. I loved it and started to obsess about it. It immediately changed how I listened to music, starting to try and work out how things had been put together. I guess if I think back, I’ve probably been doing it for around 15 years or so. It’s a strange one for me – I have a daily battle with self-confidence. I think it stems from questioning what my role is – I don’t really consider myself a musician, don’t know a great deal about the technical sound engineering side of things.

When I’m producing I’m just looking for something that provokes a gut feeling. And often that is achieved (to these ears anyway) with a relatively small number of components. Hence my material often being referred to as stripped back. I’m endlessly fascinated by how some producers can get so much swing out of so few elements. I tend to find the groove I’m looking for and then remove different elements to make sure it all still works. At times, by doing this I find that the idea is stronger with a reduced number of elements.”

“Life is just so busy with work, my amazing family – these are all extremely important to me, so finding the time to get into the studio can be tough. And of course there are some studio sessions where you can create something strong very quickly, and others where you toil away for hours and end up with nothing of value. But I’ve learnt something recently – if an idea is good enough, whenever you go back to it, it will still sound good. My battle is learning to trust my instincts. The last EP took a year to get finished. I can be quite scattergun in the studio with ideas flying around all over the place. With releases on DA  there’s not really a pattern –  I just know when I’ve got there and am happy with the tracks. I always try and put out an EP that, even if it contains disparate styles, stands up as a cohesive whole. That’s always felt important to me.

In 2005, myself (under the dubious name ‘marbles’) and a very good friend, Spencer (under the marginally less dubious name ‘shockt’) put out a 12″.

It didn’t set the world alight but Spencer’s tracks in particular did get some support from people like Swayzak. After that I was still producing in the studio but was lacking vision – enjoying learning about it but not really with any focus. Then my wife, daughter and I moved from London to Brighton and I set up a much better studio space and more cohesive ideas started to take shape.

In 2012 I decided to take the plunge and launched Dark Arts. One story sticks in my mind. I had used up all my savings to press up DA01 myself. So when it arrived I took a few copies down to my favourite London record store to see if they would stock it. “You’re in luck – the buyer is here at the moment” said the bloke behind the counter. So I stood at the counter whilst I heard them flick through the tracks in a back room… only to come back out: “Sorry mate – not really for us”. I was gutted. I thought I’d wasted my time and money and the self-doubt kicked in. It took me quite a while to build up the confidence to let anybody else hear it – but I got in touch with Diamonds & Pearls in Berlin to see if they would possibly take on the distribution as they looked after some of my favourite labels at the time. They turned everything around for me and I can never thank them enough. They took a chance on me, took on the record, it was stocked across the world and within weeks it had sold out (even in the London record shop that had initially rejected it). Some very strange things started happening – I got an email from a guy called Zak saying he’d ordered his copy but it wasn’t going to arrive on time for a gig and he was desperate for it so could I send him the wavs. He was so genuine and polite that I sent him the files – ‘Zak’ turned out to be DVS1! Tracks started being charted and turning up on mixes / radio etc.”

“So of course this gave me the confidence to persevere and DA02 and DA03 continued to do really well. People like Answer Code Request, nd_baumecker, Dario Zenker, Stenny, Roger 23  and Resom were supporting the label. And as someone who loved The End so much, it felt very special when Mr C put a track from DA02 in one of his Superfreq mixes.

I never thought that I’d be here over six years later, having just released DA09. I think if you listen to all the Dark Arts back catalogue, it’s quite varied but there is a link running through everything – maybe there’s a little bit of myself in there holding it all together. It is such a labour of love, there’s no money to be made in production but that’s just never been the point.”

GF: It is always an interesting question for me: what are your sources of inspiration – which artists do you follow, either from a DJ’s or a producer’s perspective?

S. Crosbie: “I tend to be inspired by people’s attitudes towards their craft, be it DJing or production. People who have a clear vision – it’s that singular idea running through everything. I have so much respect for so many producers that I don’t really like mentioning specific names (and of course it can change from day to day) but at the moment, people like Terrence Dixon, Marcellus Pittmann, Jamal Moss, Shake are up there – they are proper artists with a totally unique sound. They’re not trying to fit into any scene.

I watched a recent interview with Shed which I‘ve re-watched several times ‘cos I just love his attitude – he just makes music he likes, doesn’t compromise and trusts his own instincts.

But it’s not just big names I take inspiration from – some of the most inspiring DJs and producers are the lesser known ones. At a recent Night Moves event in London, the Until My Heart Stops crew of Duckett, Leif and Joe Ellis played. I reckon it was the best night of music I’ve heard in several years – within a house and techno framework but doing something very different rhythmically. It seemed so fresh. And I can’t mention Night Moves without talking about residents Jane Fitz and Jade Seatle. They have been so supportive of me. Jane got in touch about the label on Soundcloud and we met up for a few beers. I went along to Night Moves and immediately felt part of something very special. Then they invited me to play their Field Moves tent at Field Maneuvers festival last year.”

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FIELD MANEUVERS FESTIVAL @ PHOTO CREDITS: Resident Advisor

“It was one of the best DJing experiences I’ve ever had – everyone was so open-minded. And the music in their tent was next level all weekend – mostly played by DJs you’ve probably never heard of – just so inspiring. But what sums up people like Jane and Jade for me is also what sums up the best parts of the scene in general – they are totally ego-free and they do things for the right reasons. They made me feel totally accepted. Oh and they are absolutely flawless DJs.

I really admire labels that are brave and just put out what they believe in. I guess people who have a purity in their vision, and the confidence to follow that path – be it producing, running labels or putting on nights – that’s what I admire and take inspiration from.”

GF: … and here we jump in time and I will sum up the things that were about the happen in 2017… In August 2017 you got to play in Brighton (with local legend) Donga and Forest Drive West at one of the awesome Well Rounded parties. Then your  split EP with Frazer Campbell came out in September 2017 which got some great feedback and support.

S. Crosbie: “Through a shared appreciation of our productions, I hooked up with Frazer Campbell (Open / Mosaic) and he asked me to send him some material for his own label – Elliot Project. Frazer is such a good guy, supremely talented and just goes to show that one of the greatest parts of our scene is being able to meet up with likeminded souls.”

“I’ve also been lucky enough to release some material on other labels – the Venice based Where We Met label is quite rightly building an excellent reputation with music from the likes of Mihail P, Reedale Rise (aka Fernando The Lobster – another alias of the artist, Simon Keat), Derek Carr and some excellent new talent, so I was blown away to be asked to contribute. And also keep an eye out for the London-based EYA Records who have released 3 excellent records in 2018.  I’m delighted to be working on certain projects with other labels.”

[GF: Mihail Petrovski aka Mihail P is hailing from Vinica, Macedonia. An artist with passion for the deeper sides of techno & house. Simone Keat aka Reedale Rise’s biography on Resident Advisor writes: “His teenage years were spent listening obsessively to techno and drum and bass mixes taped from the radio, with the likes of LTJ Bukem and Jeff Mills being pivotal influences in terms of his current sound design and musical moods. Liverpool’s Bugged Out! parties led him deeper into the world of house and techno, with Carl Craig and some others becoming ongoing influences and inspirations. Reedale Rise’s debut vinyl release was a deep techno cut on Edinburgh based label Common Dreams which was followed up on the Rotterdam based label Frustrated Funk.”]

[GF: Derek Carr’s biography on Discogs reveals that Derek perhaps might not be the most-known figure in the scene, yet he has been producing and releasing Detroit-tinged electronic music for almost two decades. Derek got an early taste for finely crafted melodic techno through compilations like f.e. Warp Records’ ‘Pioneers of the Hypnotic Groove’. According to Discogs, once recognising the home made ‘punk’ ethos of early ‘Bleep techno’, he began to pick up second hand instruments including a cheetah sampler and boss drum machine and he started working on his own sound – influenced by techno pioneers like B12, the Black Dog, As One (aka Kirk Degiorgio), the duo of Nexus 21 and Rhythmatic just to name a few. In 2001 Derek launched his own label ‘Trident Recordings’ and released the ‘Copper Beech EP’ which has since become more of a collector’s item.]

GF: What are your plans for the rest of 2018 and 2019?

S. Crosbie: “I want to keep developing the label. I’m always toying with the idea of a side project / sub label to put out some of the more off-beat material I’m working on and I think 2019 will be the year that happens. I’ve also got a couple of releases for other labels lined up, which I’m really excited about. And I’d love to say that DA10 will hit the tracks but I can’t make any promises. I just want to keep meeting new people – there’s always something to learn about our scene.”

All images used in this article are courtesy of the artist and the promoters / owners of the mentioned clubs, festivals & events.