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Features

20 Questions: Magda

The Polish-born DJ-producer talks Lionel Richie, PERM events, and Terry Riley.

Magda is another one of those artists who shouldn't really need an introduction.

Born in Poland and raised in Detroit, Magda has soaked up the various characteristics of her surroundings, learning to find beauty and potential in the most derelict and depressed of places. She became fully immersed in Detroit's underground scene, and soon joined Minus and began touring the world as Richie Hawtin's opening DJ.  She honed her skills under the Minus umbrella but since has forged her own path, including almost a decade spent running the popular label Items & Things together with Troy Pierce and Marc Houle.

Today she boasts a touring schedule as busy as anyone out there. She's a consistent yet adventurous performer, with a fine reputation. As a producer, she's less prolific but releases do land here and there. In the fall of 2010, she revealed her debut on Minus, From The Fallen Page. It combined her love for Italian horror composition, Detroit techno-futurism, and straight-forward dancefloor functionality into a body of work that still sounds fresh today. She has also remixed the likes of Plastikman and Depeche Mode.

Collaboration has become a vital part of Magda's studio work. Most recently, she has worked with T.B. Arthur, releasing a 12” of hard-hitting, modular acid under the name Blotter Trax. The duo also performs live together. Also grounded in the concept of collaboration is her new event series, PERM. It began with a string of successful events in Berlin over 2016, all exploring innovative visual and musical ideas, and soon will branch out to become a record label with the same ethos. Off the back of another stellar few years, we invited Magda to answer our 20 Questions.

Magda will soon play in London for Unleash's sixth birthday / Geist Agency showcase. She'll be joined by Cobblestone Jazz (live), as well as Robag Wruhme, dOP (live), and more. More information can be found here.

1. What have you been up to lately?

I just finished a South American tour and am now focusing on learning how to use the new gear I got for my studio.

2. What’s the most fun thing you’ve done of recent?

Cooked a big meal for a bunch of friends yesterday. I find cooking to be really relaxing.

3. What was the first record you ever purchased?

Ha! It was Lionel Richie "Dancing on the Ceiling” when I was nine and first arrived in America.

4. How much time do you spend organizing your digital files before a gig? How do you organize them?

I spend quite a lot of time organizing files, doing edits, and preparing tracks. My digital files are organized by month and year which makes it easy to go back as far as two decades and look for tracks to play or see what I was playing then. For gigs, I don’t plan anything but I do make folders with categories to choose from such as “techno," "minimal funk," and "after-hours," just as examples.

5. What do you think separates a person who can beat match and has a nice record collection from a great DJ? What’s the missing link?

A great DJ has the knowledge and sensitivity to read a crowd and know what to play and when, as well as how to build and hold a vibe instead of just playing cool records.

6. How did you learn to make a set flow nicely? Is it just experience?

Lots of practice in various circumstances but most of all from bad gigs. Being thrown out of my comfort zone (especially when I first moved to Europe) really taught me a lot. I wasn’t used to four or six-hour sets coming from the States and that taught me patience and most importantly how to build a groove.

7. How much do you plan your sets?

I buy new records every week so I have those to test among previous ones but planning a set has never been my thing. I’ve always been quite attached to the crowd and going through it together is better for me, especially since I never know how I will feel in any particular moment.

8. What’s the best piece of advice you’ve given or been given when it comes to music?

Stick to what your gut says and don’t second-guess yourself or follow trends.

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9. Your PERM event series was quite a success in 2016. How do you try to differentiate from all the other events in Berlin?

First off, we wanted to create a cozy unpretentious living room atmosphere where PERM can sit at the crossroads of art and club culture, showcasing anything from an ambient performance to a left-field club set. A huge part of the project is its overall production quality with emphasis on sound and visual installations which change with each event so none are quite the same. It’s been a lot of work and experimentation but an amazing learning experience.

10. How do you choose artists for these events?

I sit down with the two PERM residents (Hamid and Baby Vulture) and we discuss who we think would work well. We are all in slightly different scenes so the end result is a nice balance between experimental, up and coming, and known artists.

11. Looking back, what was your favorite 2016 PERM event? Is there a set that stood out as particularly memorable?

To be honest, I enjoyed all the sets but if I had to choose one it would be Flanger. It was a very beautiful and deep jam between Burnt Friedman and Atom TM and also very interesting to watch technically.

12.  What’s the connection between the PERM Label and the events? Will only label artists play the events or what?

I’m still working on the label at the moment which I would like to launch next spring. I’m asking the artists who have done the events to contribute or collaborate but it won’t be limited to just them. I want to keep an open mind but also echo both the experimental and clubby vibe of the parties.

13. What’s in store for PERM 2018?

Taking PERM on the road! I want to find the perfect locations where the project makes sense and can really shine. Let’s see what develops.

Photo by Robert Bellamy
Photo by Robert Bellamy

14. How do you stay driven and motivated after all these years?

Monthly blood transfusions do the trick 😉 j/k.... Being inspired by new music and new artists in various contexts is key. I can’t just sit in some comfy techno bubble.

15. What’s the longest DJ set you’ve ever played?

I’m not as hardcore as some friends who can do 35-hour sets. The longest I have gone is 14 hours at Club der Visionaere back in 2004.

16. What do you think the electronic music scene could do with or without right now to push it forward?

It really could do with more versatility from promoters. Bookings are still so heavily based on social media popularity or things like the Resident Advisor poll where oftentimes the lineups feel monotonous and too safe.

17. Who is an artist (alive or dead) that you would want to work with, and why?

Kim Gordon. She’s been such a versatile and interesting artist throughout the years and I'm fascinated by her work.

18. What’s the weirdest thing a fan has done to you or given you?

Someone gave me a giant velcro reptilian tail. It was amazing!

19. If you had to listen to one record for the rest of your life, what would it be?

Terry Riley Persian Surgery Dervishes. I could listen to this is any circumstance, state, or dimension.

20. What will you do after answering these questions?

I’m going to eat and then check out Inga Copeland who is performing around the corner.

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