Since 2005 she's experimented with techno and ambient on her labels, Fullpanda and Hunger to Create, releasing two full-lengths and a handful of EPs. Her work has also appeared on Sonic Groove, the imprint run by her friend Adam X. It's impossible to pigeonhole her: she brings a unique sensibility to the darker strains of techno and industrial, and also excels when DJing experimental and ambient records. Her most recent live project, LADA, with her partner Lars Hammerling, is another attempt to find what she calls "the missing element" in electronic dance music today. Hers is a strong, independent voice that electronic music often lacks. But she's not going to try too hard to make people listen. As she says, "All you need is ears."
Can you tell us a little bit about your early working life and how music became a greater part of it?
I lived in Russia till 1995. I left Russia in January 1996 when I was 16 and went to Paris to model. It was just a way to get out of Russia. After moving to Paris I started to travel with work—I lived in London and Japan, and by that time I was investing a lot of the money I was making into my music. I'd started to DJ before I left Russia but I was using other people's records.
What kind of records were you playing at 14 in Russia?
It was quite difficult to get records at that time. Someone would have a friend going to Amsterdam and he would bring us a couple of records. I like dark acid techno and then actually, later on, I was playing hardcore and gabber [laughs]. That was a spread of my anger and adolescent thing—to be hard, you know? So I guess that was influencing the music and the records. But when I moved to Paris I could start digging and collecting my own stuff.
You moved to France and stopped playing gabber?
It kind of morphed into what I really liked, as I'd calmed down with my rage and then also developed my taste in music. It's not that I stopped, it just morphed to techno, but I still have my rough moments.
When did you start producing?
Around 1998/99. I had a friend in Russia who was a computer freak. He basically showed me things that I didn't know and I started learning. He was living in Moscow and we were staying in touch all the time, and when I was visiting we were doing music with him and then I just started doing it myself.
Yeah Fullpanda is much further on, around 2005. I guess that was a natural moment when I felt like I wanted to share something and put something out. All the guys that I had rang liked hard music, so the first Fullpanda was not hard enough for them. They were saying, "Can you do some hard tracks for us?" I said, "No, this is actually what I want to do." So I thought the best way was actually for me to do it on my own. So I just figured out how to do it and did it on my own. It was not easy, but it was the easiest way for me to put music out. I was earning some money at that time with the modelling so that gave me a certain freedom to do it the way I want. I always want to do it my way.
Yeah, that's interesting, because I think your first album on Fullpanda wasn't hard at all.
I have one track, where a vocal or element is not in the place you'd expect it. That's the sort of music I want to make. With music itself, it's not always related to dance music, which is why I have a problem writing an album because I spent too much time playing techno at gigs. And I love techno, and I love dance floors, but sometimes I really need to do something else. I think it's important to explore those fields of music where you cannot have a definition of style, which you can't put into this frame, or that frame. And I guess for the listener they do it, but personally I follow my intuition.
I say I never follow a tendency but then I realise that when I talk to my friends and colleagues like Adam [X] and Donato [Dozzy], we're all saying, "There is something missing" and then we realise that we're all experimenting trying to find this missing element. Isn't that following a tendency? But then, we're connected to a similar perception of musical flavours so it is probably something that makes us all feel that way. Even if no one else would be doing something like that, I'd continue to experiment. It's hard to put this "missing element" into words. In one way you know what it is, but for everyone it's different. Perhaps it's a man/woman thing. There is a gender sensibility that is very different. Adam is very clinical and productive, whereas I am very flustered and over excited.
So how does gender play a role in these "missing elements"?
I don't know how it works for all women. I know how it works for me in my own creative process. If I have to put a word on it it's a "spontaneous" thing. I'm not so calculated or productive.
That's because it's not easy to talk about, because there are a lot of clichés. I'm not really a feminist or gender theorist. If I like the artist it doesn't really matter what sex they are, but there is a certain difference in the sensibility of men and women by default. It's a natural thing. There is something. Even the way to express or approach things. Music, literature, any kind of expressive activity or art, and it is different. For women, they have this cycle every month, this hormonal cycle that influences perception, reaction, expression, impression. It's different for men. I feel my sensibility is more psychotic during that part of the month [laughs] and then two weeks later it could be something different... I feel my feminine sensibility is related to my hormonal cycles. That's biology. So I can't deny it. This is part of the whole aspect of intellectual, creative process. You have to accept it, and work with it.
OK, so that's how your biology influences your creativity, but what about how the scene receives you as a woman?
There is the other side of it, that "techno music is masculine music." [It] is not really masculine on purpose. It's just a society that's developed a certain way. There are certain situations, ridiculous situations, where people are very sexist. I know women who bring their sexuality to DJing and there's absolutely nothing wrong with that. I have a colleague of mine, she was playing Panorama Bar, and she very "girlish," which is cool.
This critic, a friend of a friend, said, "She's just moving her bottom and moving her tits, it was not about the music," which was totally not true! It's just not the way the music would affect him. The music is sexual. Personally, I think techno is liberating—like any music, actually, if it's good. But for me, it's the physicality of techno. There is a proved theory I think, where they found a certain range of frequencies of very, very low bass—I can't remember the exact hertz—that provokes excitement on a women's organs. The woman likes bass.
You mentioned above that you like to do things your own way. I'd like to know how this translates to your live duo, LADA?
For Lars [Hemmerling] and I it's difficult because when you're a duo I think there's a first exchange between the two and then it goes to the crowd. So it's hard in that first exchange because sometimes we argue, music-wise. Or where the kick trigger is located when we're playing because it's not too accessible for me, it's too far. And I like to have to control that. Sometimes it works, and sometimes it doesn't. When we're playing live we do have elements and things prepared, but at the same time there's a space to improvise and there is a space to feel each other. Sometimes we do feel each other and it works, and sometimes we don't feel each other and it becomes a mess. But sometimes our disagreement or friction can create something that is out of our control that is really cool, you know?
So LADA offers a lack of control?
Not exactly. When the music is too calculated to make you dance and to make you do something, when it's too functional, it's boring. Dance music is diverse. I would say 70% of the music is a product made to make you move your butt because you have to bring a lot of people because the club has to work. So it's an industry. So I don't mind music as entertainment, and I can cope with the business to a certain extent, but it has to have a heart. Music is an art as well as entertainment. If I lose this artistic element I will stop making music. If I hear music that is only functional, everything is so perfect and arranged in a box, it's boring. With LADA we try to perform music that's there [points to head], there [points to heart], not only there [points to bottom].