Photo: Maria Ermoshina (Soela)
Soela‘s Genuine Silk LP, released on Dial in April last year, was one of the most astonishing debuts in recent times. Having previously released on labels like E-Beamz, Lobster Theremin’s Lost Palms and Kompakt, the Berlin-based producer and DJ showcased a knack for sound design and arrangement that was second to none while also showcasing her varied interests for different genres and styles. Her mix for our Groove podcast is even more diverse, ranging from experimental ambient music to dubby techno and breakbeats.
First off, how has the past year been for you?
It was a tough one. Of course, I learned some things – I started to work as a food photographer, found new students for music lessons. And, of course, I got convinced that music industry is very fragile, and sometimes it’s impossible to rely on music-related work.
Already at a very young age, you started to play the piano and went to music school later on before getting into DJing and then later producing. How did you get into electronic music as a listener, and what made you take up DJing?
At the age of 15, my friend Sasha and me were really into music. We were trying to find new artists, sounds, and were reading a lot about labels and musicians. I remember that I was coming to her place and asking to download some tracks since I didn’t have a good internet connection at home. That’s how I found labels like Kompakt, Plastic City, Hospital, and others.
You’ve also been active as a singer in the past, but only rarely use your own or other people’s voices in your music, at least not prominently. How would you describe your approach to working with vocals?
I hate my voice! It’s a huge torture for me to record vocals all the time. I have produced a lot of vocal pop-oriented tracks, but I need to work more to make them sound better, and I hope to release some songs next year. I even bought a new microphone because I thought that it would be an additional motivation to record more vocals but… fat chance! So now I mostly record vocal samples and use them in house tracks. I’m not really into other people’s samples, it’s faster and better to record a vocal track, and make some little fragments.
You’ve stated that you have also been working on more piano-based, “neoclassical” music. Do you already have concrete plans to release such music and is that something that you’d do under the Soela moniker as well?
I don’t have concrete plans about piano-based music, the only thing I know is that I finally have a great instrument at home to record with. Now it’s time to produce and re-record my old pieces. About the moniker – I think piano-based music could be released under the Soela name as well because I don’t want to split the things that I do. I don’t think it’s a bad idea to release different music under just one moniker. That just represents different sides of one person, one artist.
On your debut album, Genuine Silk, you have collaborated with Module One and Christopher Ledger for one track each. Especially Module One is a frequent collaborator of yours. What role does collaboration generally play in your work as a producer?
I love to collaborate with other people. My musical path started with a collaboration with Victor [Kiktenko, a.k.a. Module One], when I came to his place and started to play chords on his synthesizer Juno G. This track was released on FauxPas Musik, and I still love it – it has a big sentimental sense. And we still produce a lot of music together. Chris is an incredibly talented guy, and his way to produce music and collaborate with other people is very nice. I sent some tracks to him, he has chosen the one that he liked, and I didn’t implicate the process. The result was amazing.
You have also worked together with Steve O’Sullivan on three tracks of his massive Dimensions album. How did the collaboration come about and what did your working process look like?
The collaboration came about spontaneously. After the release of Genuine Silk, I received a message from Yossi [Amoyal, Sushitech founder]. As I remember, he said that he liked the album, and I was surprised to get the feedback from him. Sushitech is a closed community – I know that from my own experience, and I didn’t expect to receive a message from Yossi. Then he said that Steve is working on a big album project that consists of collaborations with different artists – Dana Ruh, Ricardo Villalobos, Christopher Ledger, Lawrence, Conforce, and others, and invited me to participate. Then I sent some music to Steve, he liked all the tracks that I’d sent him, but we ended up choosing two of them and I worked with one demo of his as well. I don’t know how two artists who never worked together managed to understand each other so well, but I was absolutely happy with the process, and the result. Now we frequently share music with each other and talk a lot. I really hope to work with Steve and the Sushitech crew in the future.
“When you work as a producer/DJ you depend on other people. It’s hard to understand and accept that,” you’ve said in an interview with 5 Magazine. What kind of dependency exactly were you talking about – and why does it need to be accepted rather than overcome?
Probably, some description was needed to this phrase. I meant that you depend on different people: promoters, A&Rs, music journalists, listeners, label managers, booking agents, etc. In the beginning it’s a bit hard to understand as you totally think about your input only. And sometimes you can get frustrated if something goes wrong. I will give a simple example: sometimes I used to be booked on Hard Techno line-ups where I wouldn’t fit in musically because some promoters didn’t really check what I usually play. Or sometimes you are invited to play, let’s say, a vinyl-only set, but the turntables are sitting straight on the subwoofers and you can’t simply mix two records because of the powerful feedback and the needle jumping. At the end of the day you get really upset and start thinking that it’s your fault, but not everything can depend on you. So that’s what I tried to say previously, that much of a musician’s life is dependency on other people and in the beginning it’s a bit hard to accept.
What was the idea behind your mix for our Groove podcast?
The idea was to make a versatile mix where I can show the music that I simply love. It’s the main idea of all my mixes – to share the music.
Last but not least: what are your plans for the future?
No surprises: I plan to make new music, listen to new music, look for inspiration, teach my students at school, and probably try to make the first steps as a music journalist and photographer. I’m not sure if I’ll be good at conducting interviews, but it’s definitely worth a try.
Stream: Soela – Groove Podcast 295
01. Jonny Nash & Suzanne Kraft – Hanging Glass Structure
02. Anokie – Wake Up in 7 Lightyears
03. Bruce Brubaker – Opening (Laurel Halo Version)
04. Robag Wruhme – Brucke Eins
05. Killer DJs – 2.4
06. Al Wootton – Ashe
07. Christopher Ledger – Because This Must Be
08. Mr Signout – Pabbi
09. Floating Points – KG Beat
10. Crypticz – Ocean Blue
11. Hidden Element – Mindbugs
12. Keita Sano – How I Feel
13. Mono Junk – With You
14. Douala – Mysteries of Life
15. Ivano Tetelepta – Back In The Dayz (Roger Gerressen Slowtek Mix)
16. Module One & Soela – About Us (Tripmastaz Remix)
17. Marc Brauner – Tears Of The Fallen Angel