Photo: Shai Levy (Valya Kan)
The term “sound art” is a loaded one. Depending on with whom you are talking, it may refer pretty exclusively to site-specific installation art or more broadly to music in which certain aspects of how sound is being generated and sounds are combined with each are in focus. When Valya Kan describes herself as a “sound artist,” she falls squarely in the latter category. Albums such as her Dust & Haze LP for Spencer Parker’s Work Them or the EPs and occasional live set she has been releasing in recent years showcase a varied taste in and knack for different styles of electronic music, but are all tied together by the Berlin-based artist’s ability to make even more conventional rhythms sound exciting. Having just contributed to a compilation on Seb Wildblood’s All My Thoughts label as well as releasing a slew of records through her own Twist imprint, Valya Kan’s mix for our Groove podcast is dedicated to all things house – but also puts an emphasis on a certain sound and thus feeling.
First off, how have you been doing these past year and a half?
It was actually somehow the best time in my life, I think. I’ve been working on music a lot. Yes, it was tough all over the world, but personally the time helped me to grow personally and to transform into something that I wanted to be.
Two out of the three tracks on your recent Heartbeats EP were written last year “in isolation.” How did the situation around you influence your writing process?
Yeah, maybe isolation is not a right word, it was a deep lockdown in Berlin – a really weird time. I guess it definitely influenced my process, also I became faster and better at making music because I just was working a lot. Now I have a better understanding of how to work more efficiently even when I want do new things. With the tracks on the EP I was experimenting a bit with the singer-songwriting stuff. Singing is still a skill I need to practice more. I imagine myself singing in a dark club with a crowd of dancing people around. That would be a nice experience.
Somewhat unusually, you started playing as well last year, with no audience present. What inspired you to record your “Isolation Live Set?”
I talked to Spencer Parker, and I don’t remember it exactly, but he said something along the lines of that I should just record live, and that I don’t need much for it, just a laptop and a MIDI controller. He said “People just don’t know that you can play live!” He told me to just record and share it. So I just did it live on Instagram, and then Resident Advisor named it Mix of The Day.
Also in 2020, you launched your own label Twist. What was your motivation for starting it and how would you describe the philosophy behind it?
I was often sending music to Ben UFO and he said he liked it. I thought maybe I should share it. I uploaded a couple of tracks on Bandcamp, but then I thought about I could put it on Spotify etc., so I had to start the label. Just out of convenience. I now have got a second label called Wild Nation. I’ve signed with Prime Direct distribution because I wanted to press vinyl records in future, and I made up another name. I actually really would like to share what is the philosophy behind it, but I think it’s not the right moment yet. It is a fun thing to think about it though. I would like to create and develop a certain sound and also to be able to create tangible objects and do showcases with certain aesthetics.
You have also released music on Spencer Parker’s Work Them and more recently Seb Wildblood’s All My Thoughts label. What advantages do you see in collaborating with such labels as opposed to releasing music through your own imprint?
It’s thanks to Spencer Parker who released my debut LP for answering my emails, supporting and believing in me, that somehow pushed me to pursue the music career further. I was in the middle of nowhere literally, just making music everyday because it was the only thing I could do and then I thought “Why not try to send it to labels?” I think I just chose top labels on Resident Advisor and started to send out my music. But then I kind of gave up a bit until I received a long email from Spencer. I liked Church’s stuff for a while, and was just going to a party, where Seb Wildblood would play. He then offered to do a mix for them and an EP and also to play showcases. I was really impressed when he showed me the cover of the mix, which I hadn’t even recorded yet. Regarding the EP I think I wasn’t able to deliver something honest at that time, so eventually we only were collaborating for the compilation. I was really excited about it. I have no idea about my own imprint yet, what I am doing and how, so it’s hard to tell. I think I want to not just make good stuff, I want to make bombs and also release other people’s music that I consider to be awesome. Also for me it is important that other artists would be like-minded and have a particular mindset, and are not assholes. I don’t know about the advantages. It’s just working with people whose music I like and who I like as people and I enjoyed that experience. Having my own label is kind of a fun thing for me and I want to keep it small.
What was the idea behind your mix for our Groove podcast?
I’m recently getting into more house-y, disco-y music, Burning Man kind of vibes, although I have never been there. It’s kind of how my imagination works, what I think I would play there. I initially wanted to mix pop music with techno and house, but then eventually came up with another idea. The opening and closing tracks are by Navid Izadi, an artist that I discovered recently and I think my music is not even close to his. It’s very sad that he is dead. Also I included a remix by Paul Johnson, who also recently died. I think my dream is that when I will be dead, people will be still enjoying my music, dancing to it; loving each other and having sex while listening to my music. That my music would motivate people to be better, make life worth living. I picked up the hottest and sexiest tracks and just compiled them. It’s a soundtrack for dancing and making love. Yeah, some tracks go on for too long, but that is because I wanted to create a particular story.
Last but not least: What are your plans for the future?
I don’t really have many plans besides releasing a new record, which is almost finished. It is more dancefloor-oriented music. Hopefully I will be always giving something honest to people, that is my plan. I also want to go on a trip around the world and ride a bike to the seaside, and finally go parachuting.
Stream: Valya Kan – Groove Podcast 312
01. Navid Izadi – Ain’t Got The Time
02. Len Lewis – Projection Deep Dub
03. ADMN, Mister Joshooa – LFOs Are Tight
04. Spiritual Emphasi – Heaven’s Magic
05. ItaloJohnson – 10A1
06. Ron Trent – I Feel The Rhythm (Paul Johnson Remix)
07. Keisuke – At Last
08. Omni A.M. – In My Time Of Flying
09. Dauwd – La Nota
10. Soundstream – All Night
11. Pillow Talk feat. Navid Izadi – Weekend Girl