I was thinking about how you came to dance music as a dancer, but that you used to dance to all different styles of music. What was it specifically about club music that appealed to you the most?
I think it was a couple of things, like it was the continuousness of it. I think as someone who grew up in like a tumultuous home, I kind of understand people that have trauma and I’ve worked with people who have trauma; I’ve worked with a lot vulnerable people and youths, and continuousness and consistency and routine is so important for getting out of that trauma and not being retriggered. So there’s safety in the music because you feel in your body when the drop is going to happen. It’s very predictable and I feel like people who are vulnerable need predictability, and I think the rave, even though for some people it can come off as crazy, it also comes off as very comforting, like you’re wearing the same sort of ‘fit. I still wear the same jeans and T-shirts, it’s like my uniform when I go out. And even if the DJs change, the music is still the same. There’s this comfort in the music. Also, since it’s so rhythmic, it’s so wonderful to dance to. Then also coming from this background and dealing with vulnerable people, having a space where you feel like there isn’t this pressure to do or be anything…there are so many options at the rave if you don’t want to dance. You can sit outside. If you don’t want to talk to anybody, you don’t have to talk to anybody. There was just so much comfort that I didn’t feel in any other scene. And I think a lot of it has to do with this type of music and the tracks rolling into one another.
You mentioned that you were using clubbing as escapism before the pandemic. Do you feel comfortable expanding on that?
Yeah, I think DJing saved me in a way because I love the rave and I loved that feeling of comfort. I’m not ignoring the fact that this comfort can easily turn into something bad for a lot of people because there’s lots of drug use and staying up late and alcohol use. Pre-pandemic, I was addicted to that comfort. I felt like I was living two lives. I had my day job and was working in the sciences, in public health and doing research. But I was waiting to be who I thought was my true self all day. Almost every night I was going to some party, and even if I wasn’t I was waiting for Friday or Saturday when I could. I didn’t necessarily have any drug issues, thankfully, but it was this addiction to being around people who didn’t know who I was. I was addicted to talking to strangers, it was my favourite thing and I have this big love of humanity. A big part of that scene is being around humans of all different backgrounds and that just works well with my personality. But I lost sight of why I was going out, to the point where I didn’t really know why I was there and I was searching for something, but I didn’t really know what it was and I wasn’t really finding it.
When I started DJing after the pandemic, I remembered why I went out in the first place and it was to dance, it was to create beautiful moments. And it was for the love of the music. DJing helped me turn something that was becoming unhealthy into something that was healthier, because now I kind of view myself as someone who has to guide the party. I take that very seriously with my DJing, it’s more than just the music for me. I’m here to show people what it looks like to rave in a way that is positive. My public health background kind of moulds into this. It’s about finding a healthy way to fit this into people’s lives and it’s not like an escapist journey anymore. When I go out it has such intentionality and my DJ sets are very intentional. Now, if I don’t feel good, I don’t go out.
Whereas before it was more like, I just have to go out?
Yeah, now it’s like, if I don’t feel I can bring a positive energy or if I can’t accept the people around me then there’s no reason for me to be there. Same with DJing, it doesn’t start with the set for me. It starts before the set and it’s after the set too. With most sets now, I have an intention. Sometimes it’s about looking at the crowd and seeing what they’re feeling, sometimes it’s like, don’t look at the crowd and see how you’re feeling today. Or it’s like, play these five tracks and no matter where this is going, you want these five songs to tell the story. Or maybe the last track is what the set is kind of curated around. But it starts at home in my head and I’m trying to get myself in a good space. Then I try to go to the party before my set, I want to talk to the dancefloor, I want people to get ready, not just for my set but for their night, and I want to be this positive influence on people. Then playing the show, of course, is very important. Then after the show and just being part of the rave – I’m a raver first but I get to DJ now and to be a little bit more in the spotlight. My Mom always used to say, when she’d clean up she’d say, well, it’s not perfect but it’s better than it was before. So that’s how I think about the rave and me being in this position. I want to leave things better than I found them. And that’s how I feel about the spaces I take up. I want to do good for the rave and do good for the party.
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I know you’ve been dipping your toe into production lately. How’s it going?
I’ve been having more fun than I thought I was going to have with it because I think there was a huge pressure for me to produce which made me not want to do it. People are like, ‘when are you going to produce and when are you putting something out?’ There’s this pressure on DJs, especially if you’re moving up. But now that I’ve dabbled in it, I really like it. I like learning new things. I remember when I first started DJing how frustrated I was when you’re just sitting there for hours and not able to get it. But that type of frustration when you learn something new is really fun and I’m kind of in that place right now. I don’t really know where it’s gonna go, and that’s exciting. When I first started DJing, I didn’t think any of this was going to happen. I just wanted to play a couple of shows and I didn’t know where it was going to go, I just knew I was having fun. And here we are, and that’s kind of how I see the production thing. Like, let’s have fun and let’s see what happens.
Can you see yourself doing this – the electronic music thing — for the long haul?
I mean, I think I always want to be part of the scene in some capacity. And I’m really open for it to change, and as long as the scene will have me I’ll be here. I do think I want that service work to come back into play as I get older. Whether that’s doing workshops with young people in regards to music, or lectures or panel discussions…I have this trauma and I have what I call my trauma-informed approach to raving. We need to treat people with sensitivity, with kindness and respect, and you’re dealing with traumatised individuals. So you’re trying to alleviate that as much as possible. I love touring and I love playing shows and I want to keep doing that, but I would like to incorporate giving back to the community as I get older. I think that would be the most fulfilling way to wrap this up.
Any final thoughts?
I feel like the hard techno scene — even though I love it and it has captured me — I feel like the scene has always been about being cool and it’s about stoicism, and when I started DJing, I wanted to bring sensitivity and joy to it. You see people dancing to house music and fun music and they’re smiling and happy and blissful. I wanted to bring that energy but play the music I like, which is a little scarier [laughs]. If I had like a goal for all of this it was to bring happiness to something that I think traditionally has this air of mystery and mystique. That was a big thing because I’m a pretty bubbly person. People come and talk to me after my sets and they’re like, ‘oh, I didn’t think you would be like this’. And I’m like yeah, you can be both, you can play this music and still be happy.
How would you describe this Impact mix?
I wrote a poem to describe it. It’s all about the kick, the drive.
We are drum people
So when you see me
Roused and moved on the dancefloor
Spine bent and snapped
Do not interrupt or imprint
Because I came for the kick
KYRUH is closing Basement’s main room for the first time on June 23, on a bill that includes LYDO, DAIYAH, Massimiliano Pagliara, Tama Sumo and Lakuti
Annabel Ross is a freelance writer, follow her on Twitter
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Written by: Tim Hopkins