Photo: Press (Viscerale)
Viscerale belongs to a new breed of DJs for whom industrial techno and hardcore’s brutalist pessimism and the luvved-up ecstasy of trance are two sides of the same coin. Originally from Hamburg, Nadja Arast slowly made a name for herself about five years ago when her first mixes started circulating online and has ever since become a household name not only in Berlin’s party circuit, but also in Copenhagen, another key city for European techno in the past few years, with a residency at Ved Siden Af. Viscerale’s contribution to our Groove podcast once more blends moods and styles others would consider to be diametrically opposed to each other – murky dark drone music and colourful, lysergic belters go hand in hand in this mix.
A quick glance at your DJ CV makes it seem as if you became one almost incidentally: after a few online mixes, you received your first bookings and are now internationally active within the global scene. How did you start out as a DJ?
I always loved to create soundtracks or playlists. After putting out my first mixtape on SoundCloud five years ago, some friends asked me to play at their parties. The pressure felt real. The parties were public and I had no clue how to DJ. It was mostly frustrating and not fun at all. After two years, I gave it another go at a small private party at my friend’s place, which was really fun. This finally got me motivated to practice and to perform live.
Your sound is inspired by Birmingham techno, industrial and EBM but also hardcore, gabber and trance. How did you get into electronic music?
I grew up in Hamburg. As a kid I was really into eurodance and Neue Deutsche Welle! Later I discovered more experimental sounds or electro on the dancefloors of Golden Pudel and other clubs. When I moved to Berlin in 2011, I got into harder techno and industrial. My interests in genres were always shifting, that still happens when I’m mixing. In the past few years, the more melancholic trancy sound of the Copenhagen scene influenced me a lot. I also built connections to the Scandinavian scene in cities like Oslo, which made my interest in progressive trance grow, and Malmö, with their more uncompromising up-tempo beats. I always love to discover new sounds so it’s an ongoing process.
You took your name from Visceral Pleasures, a book on 4AD’s in-house designer Vaughan Oliver. What does his work for the likes of Cocteau Twins and Pixies mean to you?
His work was really progressive and he created a lot of sinister, morbid and surreal worlds. I was really fascinated by his work. It also leaves a lot of space for your imagination and you might not instantly understand what you are looking at. I found that really special. In fact it was always my dream to design record covers – I’ve only done this shortly though – and I started using the name “Viscerale Pleasures” for a Tumblr to collect inspiration for moodboards while I was studying fashion design.
You’ve made your initial steps in the Berlin club scene at clubs like ACUD and Griessmuehle. Your first set at Herrensauna has apparently been especially important to you. What does the series mean to you – and how did your set go?
Herrensauna became my favorite party to visit when it started. I enjoyed the more intimate vibe and the excellent line ups. I made my first personal contact to the Danish music scene there, when the first Fast Forward night happened at Tresor. It appeared to be the most important turning point of my musical development. I got so inspired that I decided to practice to mix on CDJs to be able to perform in the best possible way in a club. When I got booked in 2018 it happened earlier than expected, and I didn’t feel ready yet. Since I had no equipment to practice at home, I tried to buy it online but I got scammed. The gear eventually arrived at the day of my gig which gave me little time to practice. Nobody knew it was only my seventh gig, so I was super nervous. Thinking back I still believe it was one of my best sets. The energy in the basement of Tresor was mental. I got lots of support from friends and finally allowed myself to let go and exchange energies with the crowd, step away from my fears and insecurity. The positive feedback gave me more motivation for the future. So this was a very important night for me. It was a sweaty dream come true.
You can also check off a musical education, having received piano lessons early on. You also still make music. Do you have any plans to make your début as a producer soon?
Creating music was always part of my life and I started to engage with Ableton a long time ago, I just never stayed consistently on that path. After I earned money from the first DJ gigs, I started to buy some hardware like synthesizers, which felt more natural for me to play around with. I had little projects with friends but when I make music myself, it usually doesn’t turn out very dancefloor-orientated, and so far I didn’t feel the urge to finish or release it. But I definitely want to go more into that direction and I’m looking forward to what might happen there. I just need to be patient.
You’ve become a club resident just last year, however not in your current home town but rather at Copenhange’s Ved Siden Af. How did that come about?
The Copenhagen techno community became very important to me and after experiencing very nice gigs there, lots of friendships were made. I always love to think back of my first dream gig at the Euromantic Label night at Ved Siden Af. So it happened very organically!
You’ve recorded your contribution to our Groove podcast in a “very special mood,” as you’ve put it. What was the idea behind the mix and how did you record it?
I recorded the mix after three weeks of intense solitary in quarantine, and I felt how my interest in techno slowly faded and made space for different moods and sounds. In the first week of quarantine I produced some dark drone soundscapes, which grounded me a lot. That was followed by a lot of psytrance which put me in a super light mood. So I tried to create a mix which would express my mood development over the weeks. It begins with a more slow and eerie atmosphere, which eventually morphes into trippy organic sounds. When I recorded it, I found myself dancing in my room in the end – an almost forgotten feeling.
Last but not least: What are your plans for the future?
Most of my plans got postponed or canceled due Corona crisis, so it’s uncertain if any traveling or gigs are happening this year. Until then I will engage in virtual raves and try to focus on my well-being. My plan to start my own label this year is also diminished for now but I hope the best for 2021.
Stream: Viscerale – Groove Podcast 254
01. Funeral Future – Nocturnal
02. Draag – Aborted
03. Nastia Reigel – Disarm to Surrender
04. Schacke – All Over My Body
05. DRVG CVLTVRE – Digital Ascension
06. Samuel Kerridge – Operation Neptune
07. Sinus 0 – Sidh
08. Peder Mannerfelt – Black Alert
09. Ōtone – Porous
10. K.U.R.O. – Lifeforce
11. CONFO – The Beast
12. Binair – Before That
13. Eerigeist – Spookyfield
14. Operant – Carnal Abstraction & Design
15. PTU – (M1n0r) F1ss10n
16. Orphx – Circuit I (enclosure)