Get To Know: Magda
Polish born DJ and Producer Magda seems to have been made for music. Raised in Detroit and now Berlin based, in some ways she has experienced the best of both worlds. Indeed, she describes these cities as sisters, industrial wastelands with a similarly raw approach to music. And while Detroit shaped her sound, Berlin now gives her the freedom to play extended sets, in the city’s more free, less temporally restricted nightlife climate.
Magda’s ascendancy through electronic music has given her a considered and refreshing approach to music, as we found out over the course of our interview. Outspokenly disinterested in the darker side of electronic music, characterized to some extent by sadistic bouncers and ego-trip, popularity hungry DJs, she seems intently focused on music and its value as artistic expression. Over the course of our brief encounter at Houghton, Magda revealed this attitude to us, while hitting such notes as; exalting Craig Richards and the festival, indulging us with musical inspirations and upcoming live projects, talking early days residencies with Richie Hawtin, giving us an insight into her imprint PERM Records, letting us in on her tequila brand and even reaching the heady heights of what it’s like to perform in a hot air balloon.
Born in Poland, raised in Detroit and now based in Berlin - quite a mix! Can you start off by comparing the music scenes in those cities?
Detroit and Berlin have always been sister cities. Although everything is different now, in the past both cities were industrial wastelands so the music resonating from there had a similar raw feel. Growing up and being schooled in electronic music in Detroit definitely shaped who I am and what my sound is. The thing about Berlin that's unique is that there are really no rules regarding club life. Some clubs stay open for days with waves of people coming in and out. This allows a lot of freedom and experimentation for a dj who can play four or six hours instead of one or two. It becomes a whole different thing and can become never-ending which is so often the case. I think the longest I played was thirteen hours. That is something that was always lacking in Detroit since clubs had to close as early as 2am.
Talking Berlin - what are your thoughts on the renowned entry policy at the Berghain? You may have read about legendary Chicago house producer, Felix Da Housecat, being rejected entry into the club two years ago which shortly after resulted in an online rant.
I've seen such incidents time and time again and I just don't see how that’s necessary. When I moved to Berlin in 2003, one of the things that struck me was how nice the bouncers were, even at the old Ostgut/Panorama Bar. They were inviting and easy going. however, trying to get into Berghain (even for us dj’s and industry people) is a very unpredictable and unpleasant experience. If the bouncers get a thrill out of being unfair and sadistic, good for them but I’m not feeling it. No thanks.
Ibiza, an island you have played on many times before, has had a tougher time in recent years with restrictions being put in place on the party/nightlife culture. Over the years that you’ve been visiting the White Isle what are major differences now and what impact are the authorities actually having on the island?
To be honest I’m not the best to answer that question because I became pretty disillusioned over the past few years so I decided to take a break from the island. I couldn't deal with the ego-trips and power hungry dj’s doing stupid stuff just to look good on social media and be more popular. It left a bad taste in my mouth and I needed to step away for a bit. what I really loved about Ibiza at the beginning were the open air rooms at clubs like the space terrace. There were little restrictions then and much less infrastructure and things felt much more fun and free. To me, once they closed those open spaces, everything changed forever and it has never been the same. The authorities keep getting tougher each year with loads of drug checks and party closings among other things. Total buzz kill.
Your roots are firmly in Detroit having grown up there for a large part of your life and having discovered electronic music there. A city where so many legends in electronic music have come from, if you had to pick one, who would be the artist that inspires you most and the one you respect/value the most for what they’ve done?
It's a tough choice between Juan Atkins and Daniel Bell. I relate to their sounds the most. Cybotron and Model 500 changed my life. The way Juan Atkins combined funk, early electro, and Italo was completely unique and it resonates with me to this day. Dan Bell is the true king of minimal and bleep and few are able to do what he has done. The early DBX Records were one of my biggest influences. So simple but with so much soul and dirty Detroit funk.
I understand you were “thrown in at deep end” touring with Richie Hawtin’s Minus in the late ‘90s. Was that quite daunting at first? How did you and Richie originally cross paths?
We met through a friend at a loft party called ‘Hot Box’ in 1998. This was my favourite party at the time where Kenny Dixon Jr. and Theo Parrish were residents. We sort of hit it off and hung out a few times until Rich asked me to be resident at his small club called ’13 Below’. I then stated working for the label and it all took off from there. I think 2000 was my first European tour and I didn't think I’d make it out alive. The schedule was mental and I was thrown into all kinds of situations. Many nights I was like ‘ok I quit techno’ but then there would be amazing nights where I understood why I was in it and what my path would be. It was a very intense experience.
Can you tell us a bit about the concept behind your recently launched Perm Records and the events?
PERM is a project inspired by my musical and aesthetic influences growing up in Detroit and always searching for the lines between things. I wanted to create a cozy living room atmosphere where artists feel free to experiment as they wish and get as weird as they like. The emphasis is on quality of sound and the events are also heavily based on visual installations and various multi media collaborations. Each party has been different in one way or another but thats what makes it fun and exciting. I wanted to step away from the traditional dj club set up and make it so the performer is right in the middle of everything. It has been a great experience to watch it grow so far and to hear all the positive feedback. I’m looking forward to launching the label and taking PERM on the road.
Over your career in music what has been a particularly jaw-dropping moment for you?
It will definitely have to be when I played in a hot air balloon last year. That was one of the craziest experiences of my life. There were sixteen people in the basket and I played while we flew over the Swiss Alps. It was pretty surreal to say the least. The music up there sounded amazing but the best part was when we tried to land and couldn't because we kept bouncing back up. Once we finally landed, we hit the ground pretty hard and all fell out of the basket.
Last week you played a brilliant set at Houghton, a festival curated by Craig Richards - do you have a history with Craig, if so, can you tell us about how you know him?
I know Craig from way back when I started touring in Europe and played fabric for the first time where he was resident. That was about fifteen years ago. We have become friends through a close mutual friend of ours, Derren Smart who passed away three years ago and left us devastated. He was truly one of a kind and Craig dedicated much of Houghton festival along with the main stage to him which was very touching.
What did you think of the festival and the line up that Craig curated?
I think it's one of the best curated lineups. These days, so many festivals book the same acts and things become monotonous. The Houghton line-up was so rich and diverse ranging from known acts to quite obscure artists of the highest quality. It was hard to check out even half of the sets I wanted to because everything was so good. I wish I could have cloned myself. The highlight for me was Andrew Weatherall in the quarry. I’m still getting goosebumps from that set.
I know you launched a Tequilla brand recently. What does the rest of the year and beyond entail for Magda?
Yes its called Maria Pascuala. It has taken quite a while to get everything going but finally we are shipping to Europe. I started this project with a friend out of the love of Tequila and Mexican culture. Most people have a horror story about doing one too many shots and getting very sick but with a proper organic 100% Agave Tequila you actually feel really good and its tasty! Thats why I wanted to bring it to Europe. The rest of the year I’m going to work on a live project called 'Blotter Trax’ with my friend TB Arthur. It's something I’m really enjoying that I have never done before so lets see how that unfolds. Actually our only performance thus far has been at my PERM party back in April so there are definitely more to come. It's fun twiddling some knobs on a drum machine instead of a mixer for a change.
Intro: Hugo B
Interview: Ben C