Photo: Press (Volvox)
If there ever was a DJ who found the fitting moniker, it must be Volvox. Derived from the Latin “volvere” – “to roll” -, Ariana’s pseudonym is the most apt description for her hard-hitting techno sound. Starting out in Boston over a decade ago, Volvox nowadays seems busier and more relentless than ever, organising two regular parties in New York City, co-running a label and touring internationally. It might also not come as a suprise that she describes her contribution to our Groove podcast “a gnarly journey through the dark side of the DJ lifestyle touching upon moments of uncertainty, aggression and madness but ultimately resolving upon affirming themes”. At around 130bpm and more, of course.
You started out in the Boston scene in the mid-noughties, while Europe was still deeply immersed in Minimal Techno. How did you experience this particular community?
Boston was and still is home to a tightly knit community of die-hard music lovers. Despite economic obstacles, lack of appropriate venues, and extreme policing the scene there has continued to foster talent that goes on to receive recognition in the U.S. and worldwide. My former residency Make It New has been running weekly for 13 years now, and the city also hosts Together, an annual music and arts festival that brings loads of international talent to Boston. These events and more are a testament to the ongoing energy and dedication of longtime players as well as energetic new minds that are constantly being drawn to the city. I was very lucky to receive unwavering support during this early stage in my career, even as I explored a variety of genres over the decade.
In 2016, you have also paid a visit to your native São Paulo and spoke very fondly of the city’s Techno scene afterwards. What characterises the local spirit and sound?
The São Paulo underground scene has developed immensely over the last few years. Two years ago I started spending the month of February there as it became important to me to get to know the country I was born in better. I remember a few years ago the musical preference was still very melodic, definitely gentler than what was going on in New York City or Berlin. Stripped back styles seemed too abrasive at the time. But lately thanks to the efforts of artists like DJ Amanda Mussi as well as Thingamajicks and his label Subsubtropics more harder edged and experimental techno is being embraced in the dance scene there. I’m very excited to return this February to get updated on the latest events and producers. Like NYC, Sao Paulo is expansive and gritty and I think that plays into inspiring darker and more twisted music.
In New York, you have two monthly residencies, Jack Dept. at Bossa Nova Civic Club and UNTER. Whereas Jack Dept seems to focus on a specific musical idea – Acid and Electro -, UNTER seems to devoted to certain themes with each issue. What’s the approach behind both series?
Jack Dept. has always focused on a down and dirty house party vibe. The growth of the event has mirrored the rise of Bossa Nova Civic Club as a destination for new music in Brooklyn. The bookings focus on key DJs and producers from across the U.S. as well as international acts who we especially love and fit the musical concept of the night. We also put on loads of local NYC talent as promising young DJs come onto our radar. Musically, Unter focuses on the harder edges of Techno. Each theme draws curatorial and editorial arcs that give flavor to each event, sometimes suggesting certain clothing options or more extreme levels of engagement. The irreverent tone of Unter promotion sets it apart from the majority of Techno events worldwide. The bookings highlight the diversity of talent available within the genre with loads of women, people of color and LGBTQ-identifying artists represented on the lineups. The organizers go to great lengths to protect Unter as safe space for queer audiences to enjoy this music hassle-free, making it one of the most vital events in NYC nightlife today.
Together with John Barera, you have also started the digital-only Jack Dept label in 2016. What is the concept behind the label and what are your plans for the future?
Jack Dept. the label was born out of our party and carries the same musical thrust. Over the last year I was receiving more and more unreleased material I was excited about and so the label was born. We are focused on introducing new artists to the global scene that bring with them fresh takes on techno, house and electro. It’s important to myself and John to get this music out quickly and with as little hassle as possible which is what drove us to pursue the digital format. I buy most of the music I DJ with off Bandcamp so it made a lot of sense to also set up shop there. Nonetheless, I think getting onto vinyl will be an important step in the evolution of the label and is our main goal for the next year.
The New York City Cabaret Law, effectively banning dancing in all venues that do not have a specific license, has recently been challenged with many in the city calling for it to be repealed. Which possible impact would that have on the NY underground community?
The repeal of the Cabaret law would make dancing in New York City safer by allowing more venues to legally host dance events thus reducing the need for illegal, poorly organized venues. This license is expensive and most small venues which cater to the underground scene have difficulty obtaining it. Abolishing the Cabaret law opens up the possibility of more small venues to open and flourish.
Your contribution to our Groove podcast focuses on Acid-tinged Techno. What was your idea behind it?
I incorporate a lot of emotional content and life experience into each of my mixes. This mix is a gnarly journey through the dark side of the DJ lifestyle touching upon moments of uncertainty, aggression and madness but ultimately resolving upon affirming themes. Each mix I make is so closely related to what’s happening to me at the time listening back to them all is like reading a diary of my journey.
Last but not least: Where can we see you behind the decks in the near future?
I’ll be in Europe early November for my first gig in Paris and another round at Panorama Bar in Berlin, then back again in early December for two UK gigs and Barcelona. I’ll also play Los Angeles, San Francisco and NYC a few times in the next couple months. I’m excited to have four dates around New Years which I can’t reveal the details of yet but is going to be major! I couldn’t ask for a better start to 2018.
Stream: Volvox – Groove Podcast 130
01. Furfriend – At The Party
02. Frankie Bones – Bump Your Head (Len Faki Hardspace Mix)
03. Arnaud Le Texier – Equanimity
04. Hoshina Anniversary – McL
05. Janice – B
06. Insolate – Human Conductor
07. Nastia Reigel – Trust, Intimacy
08. Anthro – QPO
09. D-Rex – Savagery
10. Inter Gritty & Frida Hugo – Untitled
11. Dimi Angelis – Whiplash
12. Matrixxman – Deep Mind
13. Hobo – Whiptrack (Charles Fenckler Interpretation)