Photo: Artur Lääts (Pikkauch & noa)
„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.
The best clubs are not simply spaces in which you can forget about the grind of everyday life, but hubs that transcend geographical, cultural, and even generational differences. Tallinn’s HALL club seems to squarely fall into that category, booking internationally renowned artists while also nurturing local DJs from different genres, walks of life, and ages.
Sofiia Ratsiuk a.k.a. Pikkauch and Kätlin Õun a.k.a. noa belong to a younger generation of Estonia’s club scene and have been shaping the sound of HALL as residents in different form. What unites the two, however, is a penchant for rough-edged sounds on the darker end of the stylistic spectrum.
The two also share a clear love for the acid sound, which is why it is only fitting that their contribution to our Resident Podcast—their first ever B2B behind the decks—leans heavily towards an aesthetic that continues to fascinate people some 40 years after a few Chicagoans toyed around with a bass synthesizer without having read the manual. It is March 3rd after. This is acid.
What drew you to electronic music, and how did it come about that you started DJing?
Kätlin: I was influenced a lot by my older relatives regarding electronic music. Eurodance was explicitly the first touchpoint. Massive Attack, Darude, Daft Punk, and Faithless was also played a lot in the late nineties. I vividly remember listening to Prodigy tapes and being so enthralled at what it was. But from there, my longest and deepest affection in terms of the genre was growing into psychedelic rock and old-school hip-hop. When I moved to the city, started going to clubs, and discovered the rave scene, my taste was progressively infused with electronic music.
Sofiia: I’ve always liked the drive it gives me. I love finding new music and discovering more genres and new artists. I think the first ones were drum’n’bass, happy hardcore, and witch house. When I met my partner Artur Lääts, I naturally started sharing the tracks I’d find. One day he offered to teach me DJing. He liked my track selection and my excitement about music. I was practising at home first, and a few months later, I had a chance to try out the proper club setup at one of the after-parties at HALL. After that, I was booked for my first opening set at a small underground club. My official debut at HALL was also a B2B with Sofia Zaiceva, it was the first party after the lockdown. Now I play more solo but never miss a chance to get Sofia & Sofiia back together.
Kätlin, you, on the other had a rather unwilling debut, being added to a line-up without your knowledge. How did the set go? Did it lead to you pursuing DJing more seriously?
Kätlin: It definitely did. I met a promoter there, who invited me to his next event. The set itself wasn’t extremely significant, probably, but the room was filled with energy regardless of that. I actually learned all the technical basics for this particular gig. I hadn’t even tried it before, never thought about it. I couldn’t be more grateful tho, as it certainly gave me the creative outlet that I had been craving. Sometimes you just need a little extra push.
Both of you joined the HALL crew rather recently. What led to you picking up your respective residencies at the club, and how are you involved in it apart from playing there as DJs?
Kätlin: It was a rather gradual process. I think I met HALL booker Artur Lääts in 2018 in Tartu, a city in southern Estonia, where I am from. I didn’t know many promoters in Tallinn then, but he started booking me consistently, so, at one point, picking up a residency felt only logical. Now I’m also working a little bit in the marketing and communications team. HALL is a family and a really supportive, creative community. If you know or can do something well in your field, there is the possibility to contribute.
Sofiia: I think I can say that as a DJ, I was born at HALL. I went there every weekend to dance, it has always been a safe space for me where I enjoyed being, and so many amazing things happened. Apart from playing at parties, residents can curate the events and participate in other projects like festivals, master classes, etc. Last year our guys built a studio where we all can produce music and jam on machines.
Is there a specifically memorable night that you had at HALL during your time as residents so far?
Sofiia: The most memorable night was when I had my debut at the Beats From The Vault party. It’s the oldest EBM, industrial and goth event in Estonia, and I was so happy to finally play all the EBM tracks I had been collecting.
Kätlin: The best moments are always on the dancefloor, listening to the absolute bosses of the scene. I always love playing on the Mesila stage, which is HALL’s smaller but more intimate room. The Helios club nights are always special, held by superb selectors Tanel Mütt and Arto. Uncompromised and delivered with passion.
The club’s motto is somewhat mysterious: “Everything is forbidden.” What does that mean—at least to you personally?
Sofiia: It is a bit of a mysterious motto indeed. For me, it means that you should stay on your path and do what you like and let nobody get in your way.
Kätlin: It’s undoubtedly multi-faceted. However, the original meaning revolves around the idea of not taking anything for granted and respecting the spaces and communities that provide value. There is a sense of unity that enables you to experience something unique without judgments, that allows you to feel safe and free and enjoy music in its rawest forms. The approach of escapism in music is very close to my heart. So for me, it’s a gentle reminder that, without this club, I might never have found its true essence.
HALL regularly books internationally active DJs but also puts an emphasis on regional talent from different generations. How does this approach tie in with your respective roles as residents—do you feel like it is your responsibility to represent or even shape the tastes of a local and perhaps younger crowd?
Kätlin: Good question. I haven’t thought about it consciously, but in some sense, there probably is some responsibility. If it’s shaping someone’s way of thinking or experiencing music, then it’s a job well done. More responsibility rests on the shoulders of the clubs and bookers still because they contour the form they present, choosing the DJs they deem fit for that particular event. HALL does a really good job in this regard. The variety of events and genres is substantial. For DJs, appreciating the concept and the space is vital, in my opinion.
Sofiia: Yes, I think it’s very important to teach the young crowd about underground music and clubbing culture and being respectful to each other. In Estonia, we don’t really have so many people who go clubbing every weekend, and I think because of that, our local talents are always ready for a new challenge and keep people occupied on the dancefloor all night long, making them want to come back next time.
Criticism of the wider dance music community and especially international electronic music media’s neglect of Eastern European scenes—or at least anything East of Berlin—has become louder over the past few years thanks to the efforts of collectives such as Oramics. Have you followed these debates, and if so, what is your stance on this? Does a local scene like Tallinn’s get the attention it deserves, and/or do you think that individual DJs have it harder to get recognized on an international level?
Sofiia: I haven’t been following those debates, but I think it is harder to get recognised as an individual DJ in Eastern Europe than in places where the countries are more connected, even though lately it is becoming less complicated thanks to social media and a growing community.
Kätlin: It is positive that such collectives have emerged and highlight fundamental problems. HALL, for example, is closely connected with Scene Clubbing Heritage, a collective that connects local electronic music communities worldwide. I have followed some of the discussions, and this is a complex and wide-ranging topic with many nuances that sometimes contradict each other. As a general issue, I definitely see a strong business focus. Take for example a streaming platform like Spotify: It is almost impossible for lesser known artists to benefit from this, but at the same time, it is necessary for some visibility. Not everyone wants crazy attention, but they would at least need fair treatment. The big festivals have somewhat ruined the balance and the probability of equal opportunities, strongly affecting the club scene. Promoting lesser known artists is risky, the wage caps are colossal, and local performances are promoted as a privilege. A few months ago, I talked to a DJ in London who said he gave up trying because it’s impossible to get a shot in a big city. In this respect, a small scene even has its own advantages. From the media perspective, I generally think that Tallinn does not get the attention it deserves. Artists with PR teams and agencies have more coverage, but even then, it differs significantly from artists with bigger audiences. Therefore, local media outlets are essential in supporting local acts. In Tallinn, we have online radio called IDA Radio, which has given local artists an excellent platform to share their music. Cultural newspaper Müürileht introduces new DJs and actively reviews artists’ new releases. I think all this is also very important. Obviously, there are a lot of alternative scenes and selectors that do not put international recognition on a pedestal. So it all depends, really.
Sofiia, besides regularly stepping up to the decks at HALL, you have also played more and more international gigs in places like Helsinki or Berlin’s Tresor. Do you approach those gigs differently from your sets at HALL?
Sofiia: I approach every gig the same way, I always have a playlist with new tracks and a playlist with my favourites that I never get tired of. The only difference is that at international gigs, I get a chance to include more of my favourite tracks into my sets, the ones that I have played in Tallinn plenty of times.
Kätlin, you have spoken about the importance of the environment and the crowd’s receptiveness. How do you usually prepare for your sets?
Kätlin: My magic formula is giving myself enough time to assemble. I take preparation quite seriously, but I love it. I usually have a vision or idea around the concept of the event, and then I build a narrative around that. As I am really into long blends, I must know my tracks well. I rarely select something that I haven’t listened to before.
Today is March 3rd, and you both share a fascination with and love for acid, for which HALL provided a platform with its now-defunct House of Acid series. What draws you to the 303 sound?
Sofiia: When I hear an acid bassline, I get the same feeling that I get on a warm sunny day. It just makes me happy!
Kätlin: Acid always triggers an emotional response in me. I like its energy, and I like the flow. It doesn’t matter if it is a more blissful uplifting jam or a more intense, rough-sounding piece. It always has its distinctive drive. The House of Acid series actually still lives! It’s not yet confirmed when the next event will be held, but it’s coming.
This mix actually marks the first time the two of you have teamed up behind the decks. How did you approach putting it together and recording it?
Sofiia: It was definitely an amazing experience. I like Kätlin’s selection and was excited to do this B2B. We shared some tracks for reference while preparing our playlists and recorded in HALL. I think everything went smoothly.
Kätlin: Oh, it was a pleasure! Recording a B2B mix can be tricky, but we really enjoyed it and balanced each other out while maintaining our peculiar preferences. Sofiia is really knowledgeable and adaptive. We have a lot of common ground, especially in electro. It all came together organically and emphasised the progression rather than the narrative.
Last but not least: What are your plans for the future, and what can we expect from HALL in the coming months?
Sofiia: This year, I want to focus more on producing and learning new studio gear. Also, on the 14th of April, I’m curating my first event at HALL. It’s called Sonic Impact and hopefully, it will become an event series. The next months at HALL are going to be amazing with new events and new artists, both small and legendary. Also later in 2023, HALL is starting its own record label with releases by its residents. Stay tuned!
Kätlin: On a personal level, there is definitely lots of digging ahead! In June, there’s also a fashion show for which I am curating the music. Many exciting events are coming up in HALL, and some have already been announced. The Dark Side of the Moon festival in August is undoubtedly the biggest event of the year. Three days filled with music from world-class guests and talented local acts. Overall, I highly recommend visiting Estonia. It is especially fun here in the summer. The vibrant scene, gifted artists, local nightlife, and record stores with good variety make it definitely a lovely experience to have!
Stream: Pikkauch B2B noa – Groove Resident Podcast 38
01. N-GYNN – Selective Hearing
02. _codebox – code_z
03. Gostwork – Other Side
04. L.F.T – Demons In My Head
05. Phaser Boys – Bialetti Break
06. Kompo – Function
07. Cero Gordo Feat Mijo Rodion & Mammarella
08. Rudolf C – Globular
09. Out of Orbit & Sandman – The New World (PRZ Remix)
10. FSK24 – Sub Terra
11. victor.b – sweeping
12. Fear-E – Marching Pooder
13. Slick ‘N Flash – T.I.O
14. Colargo – Millimetric
15. Mr. Ho – Angel Number 909 (HOUSE MIX)
16. Kovyazin D – Red Line
17. Hooverian Blur – Panic
18. Euphonic – Death Warmed Up