Entrevista: Magda & things

Esta es una entrevista que encontré en Resident Advisor que me pareció más que interesante; el crédito va todo para ellos. No la voy a traducir porque evidentemente se pierde mucho al hacerlo, pido disculpas a aquellos que no lo puedan leer en inglés.

Ah! ¿les dije que amo a esta mujer?

Magda in a nutshell: born in Poland, grew up in Detroit, resident in Berlin and now an in demand DJ who seems to spend every weekend on a different continent. Given the huge rise in her profile last year, you might think Magdalena Chojnacka was a relative newcomer to the M_nus minimal sound, but the association actually goes back a long time: Richie Hawtin fixed Magda up with her first residency back in 1997, and if you’ve seen Hawtin on tour this century, and you arrived early, chances are you’ve also seen Magda.

Magda also (famously) spent the best part of the early twenty-first century at Hawtin’s house, painstakingly transferring his record collection over to digital to use with Final Scratch. It might have been during those long hours that she first saw the potential of the re-edit to meld DJing with production: her debut mix CD ‘She’s a Dancing Machine’ in 2006 surprised many by chopping and blending seventy-one (count ‘em) tracks, while recently she’s also been moving more seriously into production, releasing bouncy, bass-heavy cuts on M_nus, Mobilee and now her new label Items & Things, which she runs with longtime friends and fellow Run Stop Restore members Troy Pierce and Marc Houle.

Her sights might be set on more production, but with the international demand for her DJ services at an all time high, it’s a matter of finding the time. And in 2006 Magda got around: she played Europe, the US, Japan, Russia, Australia but this weekend Ronald Kohn caught up with her further off the main circuit: in Santo Domingo in the Dominican Republic.

You began DJing being instructed by some of the best, like Dan Bell and Claude Young, but what were your musical influences before you began spinning?

I was into indie rock before I discovered techno, and also some early electro stuff actually, like from the ’80s.

Any synth-pop?

Not so much synth-pop. I mean Kraftwerk of course, but actually some more experimental stuff as well, because I was really into Moodyman and Theo Parrish. But I guess that’s also around the same time when I was already playing. But before that, no. *laughs*

Very few DJs seem to remember what they were into before they began spinning.

Yeah, see… No, I remember I used to be into indie rock, New Order, Joy Division, shit like that.

When you were starting out your DJ career, what was it like?

I was really nervous. It was difficult I think, especially to have people take me seriously, because a lot of girls got booked at the time just because they were girls, it didn’t matter if they sucked or were any good, so, it really took a long time. Not so much anymore I feel, not like back then. But yeah, but it took a while, it took a while… I used to plan out all my sets, you know, record for record. *laughs*

What did it feel like at first, when you got the chance to go on open for Richie Hawtin the first time?

Uh, crazy and very stressful. The mixer was bigger than me“ it was a huge Allen & Heath *laughs*. And yeah, I was really super-nervous. I don’t think I played well… Yeah. That’s what it felt like. *laughs*

How was the jump from DJ to producer for you?

It’s great, it’s totally different; it’s just another way to do stuff. I mean, I love DJing of course, but it’s not as creative as sitting down and making something from scratch. Yeah, it’s really cool. I need to do both to not get bored.

With the approach you guys at M_nus are taking with Ableton Live, live edits, loops, it’s a bit like live production, so does it feel like you’re producing or remixing on the spot, or is it just an extension of DJing?

Uh, no, I wouldn’t say it’s producing, because I’m just using effects right now. I mean eventually, you know? I’m not gonna carry a modified mixer with me like Troy or Rich because it’s just too much for me but, I think in the next year or two we’re gonna see. I mean Allen & Heath have already made one, it’s compatible with Ableton, so I’ll be able to do this. It’s a lot more spontaneous, much more interesting. Although I think it’s sometimes fun to play just vinyl, with nothing else. To see what you can do with it by being limited in this way is also fun, but I can’t imagine playing now without my little gadgets. I don’t know. So it is a bit like playing live, for sure “ it’s like producing and DJing at the same time. Still, producing your own stuff is much more different […] in a different way. *laughs* I think DJing is more spontaneous and producing you can really get in your mind and see what happens.

What kind of tools do you normally use to make your tracks?

I started just using software, softsysnths, VSTs, now I’m getting much more into analog gear. Especially now living in Berlin, buying a lot of gear lately, I just combine it. I think it’s better, for me, personally,

What is the production process like with Troy and Marc when you make tracks as Run Stop Restore? How do you fit three ideas into one track? How does that work?

Yeah, someone, usually Marc, starts with a loop, maybe twenty seconds, and we go from there. Whenever we have time or we’re together or we send the file back and forth, we’ll work on it, you know?

So you guys never work on it together?

Well, it’s because we’re never in the same city. I mean Troy and I are neighbors so it’s easier, but Marc is living in New York at the moment. But he’s coming to Berlin as well so I think once he arrives we’re really gonna sit down together in the studio and do it… properly. *laughs*

How would you say your sound has changed since the last time you were here in 2004?

Ooh, I’m trying to remember what I played back then, but I can’t.

Geht’s Noch maybe?

Oh no, that was Richie. I don’t think I’ve ever played that track.

I’m almost sure I heard it twice that night. But still, could you comment on the difference in your sound between now and then?

Well, I think my sound changes all the time. I think I get bored too easily, and uh, right now¦ I think back then I was more just… bleeps, and now I’m more just… bass. *laughs* I don’t know, you’ll have to tell me.

Do you think you are still the same person who got behind the decks back in 1996?

Yes, absolutely. Yeah, I don’t like this ego rockstar bullshit.

Don’t you think being famous, going all around the world, doesn’t it change you even a little bit?

No. Not inside, not the way I treat people or the way I approach life. Maybe I can, like, eat good food all the time *laughs*, travel around, go to nice places, so that has changed. But no. I’m really conscious of that, making sure, you know, I don’t become an asshole. *laughs*

How does the club scene of present day Europe compare to Detroit back in ’96?

I think Detroit was super good in ’94 when I started to go out, and I think it ended for me about in ’97 there. Everything shifted from raves to clubs and it took a little bit for me¦ Yeah, and that’s when trance hit and kind of ruined everything. New York was also the same. I didn’t feel it really had roots in anything. There was everything there, but nothing super solid, and it wasn’t until I went to Europe that I saw the light. *laughs* It’s really really deeply part of the culture there. You can really see that. It’s good, and the people are into it. Sure, they’re crazy and there are drugs, but there I feel like they really do enjoy the music, and they support it a lot. It’s a good place to be. And it’s cool because it’s not just young people or not just one type of person that goes out. You’ll see a lot of people that are into rock, or maybe different stuff, unlike, I think, what I’m used to in America. It wasn’t like that. It was very separate. So Europe for that matter is really cool.

Minimal techno has really gotten big lately. Do you think it has gotten better or worse because of it?

Well, I have a problem with the word minimal because I think it’s really misused nowadays. It’s gotten slowly out of control. When I think of minimal, it’s not what we play, you know? Minimal to me is like Basic Channel, early Studio 1, really just that. Few sounds. And now, what’s happening, it’s built upon that idea, but now if you really listen to the tracks we play, there is a lot going on, a lot of sound. You can’t really say it’s minimal. But I think it’s really easy for people to attach that word to anything that’s not fast or hard, you know? In general I think it’s good, I think the important thing is for people not to make the same stuff as other people because then it’s just saturated and then it gets boring. And I’m already bored with a lot of it, actually. It’s okay because there’s so much new shit “ this is a good thing. This music has gotten so big because of the Internet and because of people being able to get software more easily and make stuff. It’s a good thing, I think, because I’m always getting a lot of tracks now, online or whatever, people sending me, and they’re not all the same. There are different styles, different things, people are going in different directions. Thank God for that. Just hearing the same stuff, even if it was popular, I think I’d get bored. It’s really important that this music progresses, keeps moving to whatever direction it’s headed.

What future goals have you set for yourself?

Make more music and faster. *laughs* Yeah, I really need to be in the studio. This is a problem I was having. I love DJing of course, but I really feel like I’ve had no time at all in the last six or seven months to do anything and I really need to. This is really the next goal “ to just learn more and try to make something I’m happy with. I don’t think I know enough yet as far as production goes. I just really wanna focus on making more music.

If you were not a DJ and producer today, where do you think you would be?

I think I would be a graphic designer ‘cause I went to school for art. A graphic designer, yeah. That was my goal in the first place, and then this happened. *laughs*

What was your initial reaction when you saw the ubercoolische.com website?

Yeah, well, I have a sense of humor so it doesn’t bother me, and it was funny, but we all tried to figure out if they really hate us or is it a joke? And then I got booked in London for a gig and I realized it was the guys who did the site. So I’m like okay¦ *laughs* And they were really funny. But you know, in the end, it’s the best promotion I could have asked for, so bad or good, thank you, you know, it got my name out there.

If another guy from the M_nus crew had to be in the next episode, who would you say it should be?


Why him?

Because he’s a total freak, that’s why. I love him, he’s great, he is really funny. A funny character, yeah.

What’s the relationship like between you and the rest of the M_nus crew? I saw the videos of the Connected Tour with all you guys talking. What’s it like being around those people?

Well, it’s good because we knew each other before and it just kinda happened. You know, Heartthrob, Jesse, started to make great music all of the sudden, and Rich signed him, which was really good. And Troy I knew from before as well, and Marc I’ve known forever. I used to live with him before I even met Rich. The new guys, there’s new artists now, maybe three that I didn’t know, also really cool guys. And that’s the thing: I think it has to click in every way between us. I don’t think Rich would sign anyone with a shitty attitude or a bad outlook on life. It’s important for the dynamics that everyone gets along. So yeah, its very good that we’re all really close.

And with that, Magda proceeded to head towards the stage to make sure all was in order, taking control of the decks from our local DJ. Thanks to Magda for her time.

This interview was originally published in Spanish on http://www.809k.com.


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