Magda: Building Crossroads Between Art and Club Culture
During an interview in 2008, Magda told me she’d probably work as a librarian and raise four kids if she had stayed in Poland instead of moving to the US with her parents when she was a kid. We then met during Contakt, a gigantic event by M_nus that inspired dozens of artists – both musicians and art directors – all around the world.
8 years passed and Magda seems even busier than back then, proving her parents’ decision – probably unconsciously – led her to the right path all those years ago. Together Troy Pierce and Marc Houle, both Magda’s colleagues at M_nus, she launched and built a successful label Items & Things which has showcased artists as diverse as Jimmy Edgar, Rework, Danni Benedittini or Thomas More, among others.
PERM is her newest venture and one of the main topics we touched in our second chat – this time online. It’s because I really wanted to publish the interview before Magda arrives in Vilnius to make sure none of my readers misses her first Lithuanian gig. Jäger Blow-Out is scheduled for Friday, April 7th in Opium Club.
Leandro Quintero
Have you ever considered publishing memoirs as there must be an awful lot of stories you didn’t ever tell the journalists?
I was just talking to a friend about that and how ridiculous some of our experiences have been. It would definitely make for a good read. Often times I feel like I’m in a warped movie and yes there are many censored stories we don’t speak about much…
‘Clubbing’ as such is quickly becoming a commodity. Parties are advertised in ‘overground’ media, DJs buy votes to be crowned the best, galleries and videos are released online when the party isn’t over yet etc. What are your thoughts about that? Where is the thin line in becoming too commercial or remaining too deep underground?
It makes me sad but it is what it is and we must somehow find our way out of the BS. I like honesty and an organic approach to music. The management and marketing business has become so overwhelming that the actual merits of music have taken a back seat to the social media circus and purchased marketing.
When I was growing up, I could turn to mainstream radio and TV shows and learn about underground music and now it’s often driven by the amount of likes a track has before it gets airtime. I feel this kind of approach kills subcultures.
We all need inspiration and knowledge from the past so the wonderful obscurities which push music forward aren’t forgotten. For me personally as a DJ, I started to pull away from the more commercial events, especially places like Ibiza, to focus on smaller venues where I am free to truly experiment with the sounds I like. That’s what makes me happy. The underground scene has become very strong again thanks to all the BS you mentioned. People and promoters want quality and humility – more and more.
Is PERM kind of a solution to the issue I've stated above?
It absolutely is. It’s a collaborative effort between audio and visual artists and its aim is to create unity between the experimental and dance scene. We don’t need a huge hype machine to oversell, we actually go against it.
PERM is presented as 'crossroads between art and club culture’. Isn’t club culture art itself? Anyway, how has the label been doing recently?
Yes, club culture is art. Anything can be art. It depends how you perceive things.
The PERM events provide a platform for multimedia artists to push the visual aspects through various installations and environments. The PERM label will be launched this year and the releases will feature artist collaborations from the events and beyond. To me, creating this kind of community is very meaningful and inspiring.
Do you believe in lasting relationships - professionally, I mean? I noticed Ali Demirel working with PERM; I remember the artist from the Contakt tour and beyond. Also, Items & Things were created with your mates from M_nus.
I do. Most of us still remain friends and support each other. There is no reason not to. Only good can come from that.
Festivals! Do you ever have the chance to actually experience the weekend from start to end? And, if you had to choose, a club or a festival gig?
I prefer small cozy clubs and I like more underground festivals which take risks. Outline in Moscow was one of those festivals until it got shut down. They worked with tons of various artists to create something truly unique. If a festival is inspiring, of course I try to stay and hear certain performers and enjoy the vibe and dance, if my schedule permits.
A couple of years ago you collaborated in creating the VERSUS DJ controller. Are there new projects similar to that one visible in the near future? Why do you think it’s important to constantly try and create new products?
That was such a fun and interesting project to work on. It was a great experience to design something together with Faderfox and Nyma and see what limits we can push.
Right now, I’m working on a new project called Blotter Trax with TB Arthur and preparing a live set using new software as well as old gear and modulars. It feels exciting to try new things and go out of my comfort zone. Isn’t that the point of experimentation?
Some, after all, might argue a 2-channel mixer and a pair of Technics is all a DJ needs. Where’s the line between innovation and making it too easy for DJs?
You can minimize dj’ing these days even to an iPhone but that’s not the point. The point is to use technology to challenge yourself. For me, that’s more in the studio and performing live rather than in the DJ booth.
I left Traktor behind and went back to CDjs and vinyl because I realized that I prefer mixing and building grooves through simple elements and I don’t need tons of extra sounds, loops, or effects. The tracks are rich enough in themselves.
How much of ‘old’ music do you incorporate in your DJ sets and what helps a track made 10 years ago stand out from the crowd today?
I find that sounds refresh themselves every decade or so. For example, now I’ve gone back to music folders from 2006 and 2007 and many of the tracks are perfect with the music scene happening today.
I always incorporate old and new music into my sets. At the end of the day, I want to keep challenging myself as much as I can and continue having fun dj’ing even after 20 years in the business and those old tracks definitely deliver. They just have an edge that’s unique to that time period.
How much of a DJ’s value is created by his or her social image - in your opinion?
These days everyone has to play the social media game. I’m more of a private person and I post what I feel is relevant but I try not to overdo it, I never have. Perhaps that has hurt me a bit but I prefer to be natural in social media. I’m not a fan of people buying likes, etc. It’s just weird.
It’s disappointing that a DJ's value is so heavily based on social media. I know some incredible DJs with mind blowing skills and record collections that simply don’t get the exposure they deserve, because they aren’t active on social media. It’s just the world we live in, isn’t it?
Interestingly, more and more men DJs are beginning to talk about misogyny and gender issues in general. Why do you think this kind of a trend right now? Why now?
Well, for example, it has been ridiculous to see the RA poll this year with only about 5 females represented there. I mean, come on. It’s as if we are going backwards. Unfortunately, the industry can be misogynistic and until these issues are brought to light and discussed, nothing will change.
D.D. 2004 - 2016
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