Liza Aikin (Tresor.West) – Groove Resident Podcast 31

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Photo: Press (Liza Aikin)

„You can always rely on the residents. They know the club, the crowd, the sound system, and they are a pillar of the musical identity of a club, just as important as the architecture, the acoustics or the interior design,” Nick Höppner once said in Groove. Our monthly Resident Podcast aims to give them the attention and respect they deserve.

It was a small sensation when the Tresor club announced it would open a dépendance in Dortmund, but the euphoria did not last long. After only a few club nights between the autumn of 2019 and the spring of 2020, Tresor.West had to close its doors again. Having reopened in May this year, the 1000-capacity club has added a new outdoor space to its location and is finally hosting regular club nights while the Berlin mothership prepares itself for a slew of anniversary events at Tresor, Kraftwerk and OHM over July and August.

This also means that Tresor.West’s residents can finally settle in. One of them is Liza Aikin, primarily known from the Berlin club scene and her production work on labels such as Obscuur, Mord, and Berlin’s Gegen, where she also play regularly. Primarily known as a live act, Aikin consciously approaches her new residency from a DJ’s perspective and was able to test the waters two weeks ago. If her mix for our Resident Podcast is any indicator though, the members of the Eclectique collective doesn’t hold back: this is hard-hitting techno through and through, stylistically varied yet straight to the point.

How did it come about that you were named resident of Tresor.West?

It was very unexpected to be honest. I played at Tresor Berlin before, but didn’t have any contact with the promoters. You see, many people think you must be friends with the organisation or something like that, to get gigs like this one. But at least in my case this has practically never happened. The club promoter contacted me, as she hhad been listening to my production over the years, and thought it would fit the Tresor.West sound aesthetic and musical direction. We had a chat in person, and worked out some DJ gigs. Obviously, I am very humbled to have been given such an opportunity based on my production aesthetic.

After reopening in May this year, Tresor.West has so far hosted a slew of events and you played there for the first time on June 18th. How has the experience been?

I felt very welcome. The staff was friendly and easy going. I felt at ease, which is something people are often missing these days in some establishments. That day, Bas Mooy and VSK were playing. We have all released on Mord, which is Mooy’s label, and one of my biggest inspirations in terms of musical style. It was honestly refreshing to see people dancing and enjoying this style of non-mainstream, highly produced techno. Another noteworthy thing is the sound system! It’s been years since I have played in a place where the sound is powerful, but also not splitting your ears. You could comfortably stay without earplugs and not worry about destroyed ears the day after! Brilliant.

Apart from playing regularly at Berlin’s Gegen parties, you have been and are a resident at the events of Berlin’s Eclectique collective before. What did you learn as a DJ and performer through these club nights?

I mostly played live sets at those events. Because of this, I grew quite confident playing live after a time in which I had found it technically and mentally very challenging. If you play often at the same party, chances are that you’ll find the same crowd over and over again, which means you can’t play the same live show at the next date again. Because of this, I made it a habit to produce and record new samples for every show in order to make it interesting and new for both me and the crowd. A consequence of this is that you have a lot of material to make new tracks. It became apparent to Eclectique’s promoter that I could start doing more DJ sets in which I could test those new tracks. At first I was very afraid of it and found it challenging, but since the crowd was used to my productions at that point, translating my taste and vision into a DJ set was the natural next thing to do. What I learnt through this is that even If you find something challenging or threatening at first, you must keep at it, and eventually you will learn and it will become part of you.

As a resident, you will also shape the sound of Tresor.West. Do you have a specific aesthetic or goal in mind with what you do at the club?

When I first saw the club and the surroundings it screamed industrial to me. Dortmund has historically a strong link with industrialisation, and although a large portion of the town was destroyed during the war, you can still see and feel this link. I believe creating a link from the physical world around you in music is what makes a sound unique, and can make people really feel connected. This is a theory I have always drawn on in my production work, too, and I believe can be applied to a DJ set as well. Obviously, you will hear a lot of industrial techno, but not only that. I personally like to keep sets fresh and interesting by doing lots of style variations. Generally speaking, the goal is to not follow a trend, but rather crafting your own sound vision together with the people there.

You are not only a DJ, but also play live. What approach do you want to follow at Tresor.West?

At the beginning, as you build a sound and a taste with the crowd, DJ sets are definitely the way to go. I recognise my live performances are not the standard techno you’ll find, and the same applies for many other live performers, so it’s an acquired taste. If the crowd becomes more interested in more particular sounds, then it will be a natural thing to see more live performances at Tresor.West.

How do the space itself and the audience influence your playing, especially when you play at a certain place regularly?

The unique advantage of playing regularly somewhere is that you can build a bond with the crowd. Because of this, over time you can set a great mood on the dancefloor. As a resident, I believe building a middle ground between your personal taste and the crowd is the key. One can learn a lot from the people in a club, and you can both get influenced by the environment and style of the people. As an artist you should definitely have your own unique style, but this doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be open-minded.

What was the idea behind your contribution to our Groove Resident Podcast?

For this mix I tried to avoid playing my own tunes, and really get into the “DJ mood” instead of my more comfortable producer character. I wanted to showcase a variety of different styles of techno without falling into the current trend trap of playing strictly hard techno. My aim is to showcase great producers and their talent through my sets. As a producer myself, I can almost feel all the hours and hard work these people put into their productions, and it deserves to be known and appreciated.

Apart from modular synthesis, field recordings play a big role in your own music. What kind of sounds are you drawn to and how do you integrate them into your productions?

I am a big fan of synth leads, pads, and harmonies that can carry an emotional value. A big contrast to this is my passion for harder sounds such as heavy booming kicks and distortion. I always record kicks the analogue way, with my machines, and eventually add some extra character to them in Ableton Live through various plugins, or simply by EQuing them and layering them with other more clean sounding kicks, to make the rhythm stand out and feel almost drilling.

After a few standalone releases, you have recently collaborated with Monolog for an EP on Evar after the two of you had shared a studio for a few years. What did your working process look like?

Sharing a studio with somebody you can trust is a big advantage. Not only can you maximise the gear in it if you are into analogue stuff, but you can also benefit from observing a different musician’s approach to production. Eventually you discover workflows and techniques you had never thought about, and make them yours. In this specific case, Monolog is a proficient drum’n’bass producer with a very deep understanding of analogue synthesis and modular gear. We started by unifying our modular gear in a unique rack instead of having it separated, eventually started to buy synths together and share them, both saving our presets in them. As I started to learn those synths I tried some of Monolog’s presets in my stuff and thought, wow that actually fits! So by using each other’s gear, we found out that even if you have different backgrounds and styles a collaboration can work! So we started making tracks together.

Last but not least: What are your plans for the future and what can we expect from Tresor.West in the coming months?

The plan is to grow a strong community with a special sound direction with Tresor.West. As it’s happening now, people from Berlin are traveling to Dortmund specifically for the Tresor club night. I hope this exchange becomes a staple, and more people also from the surrounding areas will join this community. Personally, I am looking forward to more collaborations in terms of production. I will keep producing new stuff, and always have new unreleased material ready for my Tresor.West sets.

Stream: Liza Aikin – Groove Resident Podcast 31

01. Marcal – Liturgia
02. Klint – Raison
03. Facundo Fernandez – Mind (Ichi Ni San Chi)
04. Vulkanski – Core Facts
05. Juri Heidemann – Hesef (Kwartz Remix)
06. Stephen Mahoney – Embers
07. Wallis – Hard Definitions
08. Atze Ton – Hard to the Limit
09. In Verruf – Defeat
10. Mp3Heat.ru – Tension
11. ArchivOne – Raw Samba
12. Alessandro Nero – Cerebral Warfare
13. Quelza – Oliver
14. Anastasia Kristensen – Volshebno (Planetary Assault System Remix)
15. d_b (Déformation Booléenne) – Freak Me This Rhythm
16. Slam & Rebekah – Believe in the Night
17. Non Reversible – Deviance
18. Unspent – My Room My Rules
19. RAAR – One Floor (Synth Version)
20. CTRLS – Your Data
21. DJ Ogi – Obala
22. Kontain – Execute

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