Browsing Articles Written by

Kaajal Shah

Interviews

Juli Jah: Just a smalltown girl…

October 7, 2017 • By

Having hitchhiked from Lithuania to Berlin on a whim, Juli Jah – stemming from a background in architecture – has found a home in the capital city. It was by both circumstance and coincidence that her art met her passion for music, but now as one of the go-to designers for record labels in and out of Berlin, one could deduce that the two are inextricably linked. With a number of labels forming part of her repertoire, interior and exterior design too, the opportunities for creativity set against the backdrop of the city seem to be determining a career path for the girl from Vilnius. There are many components to the business of music, this business somewhat synonymous to Berlin itself, each feeding into its energy and raw output. Here’s one of them, Juli Jah: ‘the illustrator’, ‘the artist’, or just ‘the girl who likes to draw’ – you decide.

 

So for those that don’t know – you’re an ink and watercolour artist. You use isograph pens to create something that’s really quite special, though it’s not a well-known fact that your roots in fact lie in architecture, which in turn feed into your direction today… so does being an architect not appeal to you?

I’ve been drawing since a very young age; that was the reason my parents sent me to art school, I was only 9! Gymnasium in the morning – art in the evening. Then a year before finishing secondary school I started preparing for exams and luckily I got accepted to the Academy of Fine Arts in my hometown Vilnius, back in Lithuania. But I was only 18 and somehow it seemed to me that studying to become an architect would be a ‘safer route’ than trying to make a living outright as a sculptor or painter, for example. During those four years of studies I wasn’t very happy though – I was looking for that something else…  illustration worked the best, it always had, and it became the language that I wanted to speak – the perfect way for me to really express myself. So I came back to the fine arts.

But I have no regrets that I did my bachelor in interior architecture, it’s impacted on the way I draw, it’s taught me patience, and as a result I’m more organized too – never a bad thing!

Would you ever change medium?

Watercolour and ink pens help me to reach the best results in what I am doing, but I’m also experimenting a bit with different techniques like pencils, oil paint, markers or spray paint. Creativity is a journey and I’d say that my journey is just starting…

So how would you define your current direction? Let’s start with the base notion of artist…

Who is an artist and who decides the attributes that determine an artist? I really don´t care how people title me, whether it’s ‘the illustrator’, ‘an artist’ or just ‘a girl who likes to draw’. I love what I do, it’s what I do best, and in the end what I’m doing is what I am.

Is this something that you’ve known – you’ve identified with from the very beginning?

Obviously it’s not some kind of dancing in the dark. I know what I want and I know that only hard work will bring me the results that I am seeking for.  It’s not all about talent as many people say, of course that matters but that’s not all that helps artists to create mind-blowingly insane stuff. 

My friends tell me that I am way too self-critical. But on the contrary, I think that there can never be enough self criticism, because that’s the only way I can progress and force myself to evolve, to then go on to be happy with myself and with what I create. Hard work (and soft drinks haha!) is the key if you ask me.

A lot of people would associate you with label artwork. Tell me about the very first piece…

Old love never dies… I’ve always had a deep love for electronic music: when you’re passionate for the concept that you’re working for, you reach good results. It was always one of my goals to work in the music industry (definitely not as a DJ or producer), and here I have a lot of freedom and the possibility to show my work, which is a reflection of my self, to thousands of people – whether it’s through the form of vinyl artwork, posters or flyers. It’s an amazing opportunity for an artist.

The first commission I got from a friend of a friend, some 5 years ago if my maths is correct. To put it quite simply, I was broke and my friend let me know that there was someone looking for an artist to produce the artwork for his label: ‘Why don’t you draw something for him?’.  I put together a first draft but the idea was killed so I had to start again. The finished design worked well – the vinyl was released with my artwork on the label. It’s crazy, just a few months back I had pretty much nothing, and then I started being commissioned for album artworks for different record labels, across Europe.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Do you say yes to every label that approaches you?

Basically I always give a priority to commissions for full cover artwork. Of course there are exceptions, but full cover design gives you a better opportunity to speak to the audience, size really does matter here. And of course I prefer to work for people who don’t just see me as a tool for projects lacking any real excitement – what I’m saying is that I don’t like to be told how to do my work. Some clients, they just don’t want to leave you any freedom at all, in that case I just offer them to draw their things by themselves. It’s also always easier to work for people who are willing to put their trust in me, open to suggestions, able to compromise…

When you’re drawing for a living, art and design becomes a process that is subject to and reactive to client needs. Naturally you must have had to deal with both positive and negative feedback… do you find there often to be a contradiction between your output and the client brief?

Let´s say there are some ´yes sir, no sir´ zones. Especially when it comes to the more serious projects that are run by companies etc. It used to drive me nuts when I would have to make changes, but in the end this is how you learn how and what to do to make your working process as smooth as it can be, and the most important aspect for me – making it joyful, because without joy my works are crap. So sketching, talking, interacting with the client, asking questions and developing a relationship is very important. Of course, I have had ‘interesting’ clients with very ‘unique’ views or those with no clue at all as to what they want. These clients can literally drive you crazy, but that’s the price you pay working on commissioned work – you’re not as ‘free’ as you’d expect an artist to be… It can get pretty challenging. Sometimes you lose, sometimes you win. But as I’ve mentioned, different people – different requirements – different expectations. There are those who trust you, they don’t tell how to do your job, and then there are monsters, haha! But in the end it’s cool – we work together to create a vision, how can I not love that.

So what motivates you – as in how do you get from the white piece of paper that you start with to the end product?

The biggest motivation is to be interested in the project that you are working on, but I’d be lying if I said that I’m bringing a huge fat piece of motivation each time that I sit in front of my working desk. Sometimes I am lazy to start working, damn it sometimes I am lazy to be alive, pathetic isn’t it! It’s a challenge. I can’t really say what exactly the rich sources are here: music or a few kilos (!!!) of chocolate. Whatever, both.

In the end: the stricter you are the more you do.

You’ve said to me that you don’t see your work as conceptual. But surely any manifestation of creativity involves putting a concept to paper, whether or not that’s your intention…

I am almost allergic to this mega conceptual art – that’s so genius and conceptual that often it’s not even understood by its audience. I just love to draw and I won’t create poems about that or the message that I want to transmit to my audience.  I am the creator of something that hopefully evokes some kind of thought or emotion in a person who decides to take a look into my work. That’s the main concept of the concept of my concept. In the end, to display what you have created is like getting naked in front of someone, even more. It’s being honest, at least to yourself.

So when you first arrived in Berlin, you applied to study at Universiteat der Kunst, for which your application was actually rejected, on the basis that neither were you talented enough, nor would you be a right fit for the school. Knowing your work – and loving your work, I still find this hard to believe. Since then you’ve lived this city – night and day – for sure you’ve lived out a chapter of your life experience in Berlin. Perhaps you’ve been moulded into UDK ways, without even knowing it. Would you consider making an application again?

I should admit that at the time I struggled to see that as good news. Applying to the universities like UDK is like swimming in a pool full of sharks: you can only imagine how talented the people are that apply and how cutthroat the professors teaching there must be. But I guess that I wasn’t enough for their big appetites. Actually, what I’d also say is that these universities, they search for people with the potential to be shaped, moulded in some form or other, maybe younger and with less experience. I haven’t decided yet if I’ll apply again. Not because I got rejected, but more so that I have to decide if I really want and need to study again. Of course there are lots of people who think that art doesn’t need a diploma, but I’m sure that studying can always develop something new within yourself.

You’re also working at Hoppetosse and Club Der Visionaire, venues undoubtedly at the core of Berlin’s music scene. I imagine that it adds a different aspect to the everyday… something fun – something light?

Basically I am doing one, maximum two shifts on a weekly basis, but I was spending the same amount of time there before I started working behind the bar. Goofing around on the dance floor or hanging in front of the DJ booth with my head and ears almost glued to the speaker – ‘last person standing’ as my friends say. I’ve joined an amazing CDV crew, and as long as working there is fun, I’ll do that with a big pleasure and smile on my face. With CDV no matter how busy and crowded the club gets, you always have enough space to dance and not have to wait ages for a drink (99% of the time). But the most important is that I am always surrounded by a great crowd, a ton of friends hanging out and brilliant music in the background. Jackpot if you ask me.

So for sure it brings you further stimulation? 

It brings some extra colours into my life. Of course it’s my side job, but it’s a family place where I feel safe, happy and I am surrounded by many extraordinary minds. Another thing is that I am working for a person with a true and pure love for the music – those kind of people inspire and keep me moving forward.

It’s hard to find someone in Berlin who doesn’t love music. And you, like others, are contributing to the vitality of the scene.

Music is my crush, without it I wouldn’t be the person that I am, and ultimately my works wouldn’t be, look and exist as they do.

For the moment, and perhaps for the foreseeable future, Berlin is home. Having a base that stimulates you, where you feel truly good inevitably impacts on your daily attitudes and projections. Would you say that since moving here your art has become more positive, dare I say more complete?

No, but art became my full time job here. Not because I became famous or something, there were no red carpets and stuff, but Berlin is the place I call home now and there’s nothing better for me than being at ‘home’.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Do you see the city as a vehicle for your art? More so than Lithuania?

I love my country, Vilnius is my hometown – I grew up there, I studied and lived there for more than half of my life and I am always happy to go back, visit my family and friends, walk on my streets. I wouldn’t say that Berlin is a vehicle for my art, I think I could create anywhere. The question is would I enjoy living in another city as much as I enjoy living here…

Most memorable exhibition that you’ve seen, and why?

Hoffmann Samlung: a private collection of Erika und Rolf Hoffmann. You can see many interesting pieces, and the exhibition is changed yearly. The works are exhibited not in a museum but in the house where Eva Hoffmann is still living. The piece that I liked the most, a short video showing two girls looking up at the birds flying around in circles in the sky. Huge rocks and a very dark and stormy sky as a backdrop. I felt fear – an unexplainable anxiety watching that, something like fight-or-flight response, but it was exciting! – enjoyable! – I couldn’t leave. 

If someone were to ask me where I see myself in 5 years’ time, I’d struggle to answer – I don’t think that my present moment defines my future, nor do I want it to. Can I put the question to you?

I am pretty happy here at the moment, cannot imagine moving somewhere else. But I could also not say that Berlin, or even Germany is the last city that I will live. I’ve lived in a few different cities, and these experiences, they only make you emotionally richer. It shapes your view on life. So back to your question, 5 years it’s a very long time, hard to say where exactly we’ll be then. But what I am sure about is that we will see each other from time to time, dancing, smiling and listening to Zip playing that’s for sure.

My hero [smiles]. So finally, tell me about your best moment – whether it be at sunrise, sunset, twilight; morning, afternoon, or night in Berlin! I think I have a story for each ha!

You know this moment when you are on your own, walking down the street for example… and simply start smiling? This is it. Smiling with no reason, with a pure, honest, happiness in your heart, just enjoying the short moment of your life. Right here. Right now.

You just gave me goosebumps girl.

 

 

 

 

Snippets

Atonal: Dissolving boundaries between space, art and sound

October 3, 2017 • By

It’s so loud that you can’t hear your thoughts. So big that you don’t see the confines of the empty powerplant. The flashlights bounce off the fractured walls. In front, some are dancing – moving as though it were dependent on life and death, whilst others are sitting, standing, listening and nodding. Besides the fact that the vast majority are in black, almost a brutal heavy goth fashion reminiscent of the punk and pop movements of the 80s and 90s, there exists a complex variety amongst the Atonal crowd.

Emilie Engbirk looks back at this year’s Atonal in a conversation with founder Dimitri Hegemann:

Atonal – both an experimental music festival, and a five-day techno marathon. This categorization may not necessarily be wrong, nevertheless it’s hard to label an event of such scale that has constantly reinvented and evolved perceptions of sound, visual art, history and the notions of space, elements that fuse together to extend the established boundaries of performance.

Fis and Renick Bell – Berlin Atonal 2017 © Camille Blake

It was some 35 years ago (1982) that Atonal first took place at SO36 in Kreuzberg, Berlin. Already in the first year the standard was set high with Einstürzenden Neubauten, Jeff Mills, Psychic TV and 808 State on the bill.

Dimitri Hegemann, its founder and a pioneer of Berlin’s techno scene – having brought Tresor to the forefront of the electronic forum in the 90s and early 00s – attended the festival each of the 5 days. You may have caught a glimpse of him in the middle of the night in Tresor’s ‘techno dungeon’. His primary objective to change the listening habits of participants – something that seems to have worked when observing the different behavioural patterns of the crowd. “Atonal takes place in an incredible space; even entering the power station is an experience in itself, you don’t expect the luxury of space before you, and the voyage of discovery that you are about to embark upon. The music program is designed to fit and work with the space. And the artists are forced to work with this space (shadows included) – it’s a work of art. All further enhanced by the opportunity for a serious dance at Ohm and Tresor.”

The Main Stage occupies the entire first level of the powerplant – by far the most impressive, overwhelming space, cultivating an all-round sensual experience. This year saw the installation of the ‘Control Center’ where hardware, in the form of analogue sound, was set up amidst the machines that once served the purpose of the plant, while interspersed with an array of night flowers and duvets!

Berlin Atonal 2017 © Camille Blake

“Thinking back to 1982, Berlin was the city of the Genius Dilettantes. Bands like Einstürzende Neubauten were developing sounds that encapsulated the spirit of West Berlin. Test Dept and Psychic TV followed. All analog. Me and my team of curators (Laurens von Oswald, Harry Glass, Paulo Reach) struggled to realize ATONAL 82, despite this direction being able to develop the Berlin underground in a most authentic fashion. It was a question of assembling the protagonists of a then independent scene. What particularly fascinated me was the idea of ​​bringing together almost all of the important formations of Berlin, on one stage. It was a counterbalance to the then-mainstream new wave pop influences. The beginning of a new condensed scene, partly the spirit of the punk movement, all the while industrial. And West Berlin provided the unusual setting. These artists developed their own style, their own music and expressions, in turn developed by other like-minded artists from all over the world (Hackney, Sheffield, New York to name but a few locations). So whilst in the first year, we presented mostly Berlin-rooted artists, Atonal soon grew beyond the borders of the city. Locations got bigger as the attendees grew in number. Atonal established itself – becoming an influencer in the musical landscape of that time and the resulting techno movements.” 

This year Atonal presented the likes of Moritz von Oswald, Demdike Stare, Regis/Main, Stingray, Apeiron Crew, Belief Defect, Puce Mary, Shed/ Pinch, Anastasia, Trevor Jackson and others.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

It’s a historic event in Berlin, across the 5-day programme you’ll find something that you like, and you’ll discover something new across the showcase of performances from established and up and coming artists.  The image of Atonal is one that is raw – with a focus to develop and enhance the listening experience, all the while pushing the limits for performance and thus perception.

“Atonal will always serve as a refreshment between the mainstream of daily life, bringing us together as a community (like all music). I see those images of men and women marching in North Korea, who would actually prefer to just dance no.” 

(Dimitri Hegemann)

Sunday – Berlin Atonal 2017 © Camille Blake

Snippets

May Day: Politics won’t divide us

April 28, 2017 • By

In 1910, Herr von Jaegow, the Berlin police president, attempted to prohibit demonstrations on workers’ May Day, and threatened to proceed against the demonstrants with arms if necessary. He was answered when hundreds of thousands of workers poured into the streets. Von Jaegow did not dare go through with his threat. But that which even the minions of the Kaiser did not dare to do, was left to be accomplished by the German social democracy. Shortly before May 1st of this year [1929], Von Jaegow’s successor Zoergiebel issued an order prohibiting public demonstrations or meetings of any group in Berlin on May Day. The order was aimed directly at the Communists, and the answer of the Communist Party was a call to the workers of Berlin to fill the streets on May Day.

Translated from The MilitantVol. II No. 11, 1 July 1929, p. 7.

May 1, 2012 Berlin. By Sean Gallup

Berlin May Day 2014 on RT

Presently, the origins of Berlin’s Revolutionary May Day are associated to some 30 years ago – the year of 1987 – when police apprehended a street festival in Kreuzberg, using batons and tear gas in response to an overturned vehicle and several construction cars being pushed out onto the street. Inhabitants and activists quickly mobilised to resist the police attacks. Barricades were set up, police cars set alight, an urban uprising that forced the police stealth out from the confines of the district. Whilst the Revolutionary May Day demonstrations between The Left, the “Autonomen” (autonomists) and the police have become somewhat of an annual tradition, in true Berlin fashion there’s also a party to be had…

1st of May 2013, Berlin. By Katja Avant-Har

“With the rhythmical formula you can convince anyone in the whole world of dancing, just dancing. It’s a universal language of music, an anti-Babylon, it doesn’t matter from which culture you come, which political background or opinion you have… We all belong together – this is what music is able to show – that there is a culture uniting us, that we can communicate with one another, love one another, dance together without having any problem.  All these people are dancing to the same songs.

(Ricardo Villalobos)

“Our movement is a bubble, a still accepted bubble that has no political meaning… that means that they leave us in our bubble. We should protect our bubble, be happy that we are able to make our parties and have that time where we are able to do what we want to do: dance and be together, this is something that we have to be very happy for. You have to work very hard to create that bubble, maintain that bubble and defend that bubble, to not let it become an instrument of political meaning.”

(Ricardo Villalobos)

In the name of peace, international understanding and socialism, let’s dance!
Club der Visionaere 2017

The Perlon heroes, billed each year as “Die Üblichen Verdächtigen” (The Usual Suspects) will grace the decks of the infamous Club der Visionaiere, bringing the sounds of minimal, electro, dub, techno and house for family, friends and dancers united by a passion that arguably makes up the heartbeat of Berlin. This year expect no less.

Whilst two causes – one of protest the other of rhythmical formulas – will and do characterise the capital, common themes of conviction, solidarity and revolution essentially underpin both, propelling the heartbeat of the city even further and deeper for the Summer months to come.

“The revolution is cool, everything else is Quark (cottage cheese).”

(Rosa Luxemburg)

Snippets

Being Conxi Sane

February 9, 2017 • By

Albert Einstein once said “Creativity is intelligence having fun” – a life theme wonderfully underpinned in this comic drawn for us by the talented Conxi Sane [Ivvoki Studio].

We look forward to more of her art, characterised by an acute perception of the darkness that strays amidst the rhythm of our daily lives. 

 

 

Snippets

fabric is safe for now, but is London’s night culture?

November 24, 2016 • By

Monday 21st November saw Islington Council, the Metropolitan Police and fabric come to an agreement to re-open the fabric nightclub. Hailing a bitter sweet victory for the London establishment dancers worldwide rejoice. 

The decision comes at a crucial time for the city of London that has seen the loss of 50% of its nightclubs since 2008. BIGGER THAN FABRIC – curated by Nathalie Wainwright – explores the demise of a once vibrant club culture, beyond that of a single club and asks the all-encompassing question of whether ‘it’s too late for London’?

Insights are brought from Irvine Welsh, Bill Brewster, Kate Simko, Sacha Lord-Marchionne, Debonair and a number of experts with specialities ranging from harm reduction to club promotion.

“It’s fantastic news that Fabric has its licence back but there’s an awful lot more work to be done to support London’s night time culture and the people who contribute to it”. 

[Matt Gooden – Who Wot Why]

“It’s fascinating to explore what’s really going on in London as well as meeting some of the people trying to keep their culture alive in a city that’s changing beyond all recognition”.

[Wayne Holloway – Director]

“Clubland contributes hugely to the culture and economy of London. It’s important that we look at what’s causing its demise, to find a way to protect its heritage and to see it thrive as part of London’s cultural landscape.”

[Nathalie Wainwright – Producer]

Video created by Matt Gooden, Sean Thompson and Ben Walker of Who Wot Why, directed by Wayne Holloway, edited by Spenser Ferszt at Marshall Street Editors, sound design by Wave and post-produced by Absolute.

Producer Nathalie Wainwright tragically lost her brother to an ecstasy overdose in 1997.

Snippets

Lize: The Last Summer

September 29, 2016 • By

The Lize collectif celebrated some final Summer moments on the wooden decks of Club Der Visionaere last Saturday. Patrick Specke, Bruno Schmidt and Ettore joined Sebastian Rudolph and Patrick Poitz for a near to 24 hour marathon.

Here’s a snapshot of Ettore’s set, a first set in Berlin that won’t be forgotten in a hurry!

 

After solid releases by Isherwood, St. Joseph and Levat, Lize Records is on its way to releasing their fourth release very soon! Keep and eye out…

Snippets

Belgium: More Than Just Popcorn

September 28, 2016 • By

Cities within our reach that offer great venues, music and vibes…

Belgium – a country known amongst electronic heads for the birth of Popcorn music, R&S techno, stealthy record diggers and highway parties. Even though the country had its heyday back in the 70s, 80s and 90s, the scene today has evolved and most would say it’s definitely back on its feet.

Brussels and most recently Antwerp are now considered in the same line of thought as the exploding scenes of Kiev, Ljubljana, Tbilisi and the more established Paris, Berlin, Frankfurt and London. The Belgian collectives are throwing parties and giving a place to DJs straight out of the club “archeology scene” – diggers that play the old (and new) gems – rave, breakbeat, electro, deephouse, techno, minimal, UK bleep all included!

Snippets

It’s not over…just yet!

September 7, 2016 • By
The doors at fabric opened earlier this evening… 
:

 

There is still hope that those infamous doors will open once again to the public. fabric will be appealing the decision made by Islington Council to revoke the club’s licence. According to mixmag, the Nightlife Industries Association stated that the ‘Fund For Fabric’ campaign plans to raise up to £500,000 to support the club’s legal fees.

Keep up-to-date with all developments (including what we can do to help) via the campaign site.

Not forgetting that we can continue to lobby local MP Emily Thornberry, councillors – James Court, Raphael Andrews and Alice Donovan and Mayor Sadiq Khan.

We leave you with a quote from Lawrence Batchelor’s “The Making of a  Modern Superclub“:

‘It’s a group of people enjoying themselves, having some fun and in amongst it all we’re promoting music we believe in…We set out to do what we wanted to do’

 

[Image: Chris Williams]

[Video: Isis Salvaterra]
Snippets

The council says NO to fabric’s licence

September 7, 2016 • By

The closure of a single establishment will most definitely not combat drug culture, moreover the allocation of blame simply masks the failure of licensing law, policing and drug legislation.

See below the premises upon which fabric‘s licence was revoked in the early hours of this morning:

Flora Williamson of the Licensing Sub-Committee stated:

The following facts were found to have occurred, two patrons have died at the venue this year, after purchasing drugs inside the nightclub.

People entering the club venue inadequately searched, and it was abundantly obvious patrons were under the influence of drugs.

Deaths at the clubs have involved people that are young, with numerous breaches of the licensing agreement, as a culture of drugs exists at the club which management cannot control.

The Licensing Sub-Committee has considered adding more conditions, but it does not feel these would be adequate in tackling the issue.

We therefore decided that a revocation of the licence is appropriate in that regard.