Let’s see. She has become one of the most wanted female DJs on the planet. Not long ago she released her first DJ mix on M_nus and started up a new label Items&Things together with Troy Pierce and Marc Houle, with the first release coming soon. She says that she was not always this hardcore into music, but something happened, and now clearly, she’s hooked. In this exclusive interview for electronic beats, we get to the bottom of what makes Magda tick, talking about how Detroit influenced her and wondering how minimal today’s minimal techno really is.
What was your initial idea for the mix?
I wanted to reflect more the club feeling, but also find the right balance between more experimental sounds and dancefloor tunes, so it’s not too far out. I’m a DJ before anything. It was important to me to give something to the people, that’s familiar to them.
How did you get down to such a long and versatile playlist?
I wanted to use old and new tracks that I like. Metro Area for instance was one of the tracks. I usually played the first minute or two of the drums. They’re kind of disco and someway uplifting. I know at the end, that I didn’t really use much of it, maybe 10 or 20 seconds. I just wanted to use some of the favourite stuff I was playing through the years. I had so much more that I didn’t use. This is honestly the most work I’ve ever done on a project. It took forever.
So the tracks become tools and together they create one long track?
Sure. That’s the fun of it. Building a groove, using these cool moments in these tracks. I had a big argument with people saying, I should leave the tracks as the producer meant to leave it and mix it that way. But I wanted to see, what I can come up with it. As a DJ, it’s my job to play with it, to come up with something artistic at a club – isn’t it?! I really think some people can do that so well, just take 16 tracks and make it beautiful and dynamic, but other people do it differently. I really don’t like when people tell you what’s wrong or right, because it’s not like that. It’s really what you personally prefer.
The mix is nevertheless very dark and twisted in a way, in parts kind of morbid.
I like morbid and dark, but I don’t like cold…
Ok, but where does it come from?
I think Detroit. (laughs)
How was living in Detroit like?
Totally rough! Polish immigrants in the middle of the ghetto. But there was also such feeling like ‚Yeah, I’m from this tough place and it’s mine!’ Just the whole raw feeling of the city, then me discovering the whole techno thing there.
What was the turning point, that lead you to electronic music – was it Plasticman?
I went to my first PLUS8 party in 1994, my first Plasticman live PA, and yes, it changed my life, the whole atmosphere, the music, even though I had been to parties before. That year I discovered a lot of Detroit artists like UR, Dan Bell, Claude Young and the whole PLUS8 thing. And yes, after the PLUS8 party, I started to listen to the ‘Sheet One’ and other Plasticman stuff, because it was really new and interesting for me at the moment. But this was what was happening in Detroit. At that time, I didn’t know more. Actually I’m all branded from Ectomorph. We used to go to his house and I was hanging around with him and some other local DJs and he opened my eyes to a lot of old stuff, like some early 80’s electro and some really obscure stuff I never heart of before. Then of course I discovered Moodyman, Theo Parrish and that whole thing. That was the good thing about going out in Detroit, it wasn’t just the techno parties. So much was happening!
With all those influences you had to have some ambition?
By that time? No! (laughs) I just wanted to buy the tracks I was hearing and I only could get them on vinyl. It was fun and sure I wanted to see if I can mix them. Then I played once on a party and I really sucked. Later I became part of DJ Minx’ Women On Wax collective. You know, I came over to Minx’s house and I had to mix a few records and I was like Oh my god! O.K. mix 3 records together and let’s see…’(both laughing). Well that was cool, to meet some females doing this at the time. We got together and played records and did some parties here and there.
All in Detroit?
Yeah! There was nowhere else I could go. I started to play some raves for these promoters called System, they were doing some really good parties at that time, but to me after that point, around 1997, there was a big change in Detroit. It turned shit. A lot of people started to make parties, but it became not the same atmosphere like before. There were a lot more thugs. That sucked! Such a weird period, before it all moved to the clubs. I remember the last rave when I said I would never play in Detroit again, with this Russian mafia involvement. Guys with guns, you know??! It was completely ridiculous!
So that was why you decided to leave that place?
I was already going to school in up-state New York and just coming back for the parties. Then I lived in NYC for about two years, but that wasn’t the same. The roots there weren’t the same. There’s a bit of everything here and there. I needed to go back to Detroit, if I wanted to try to do the DJ thing for real and try to learn stuff. I needed to be in my hometown, where I was influenced, where the good music was, so that’s why I decided to move back and take it more seriously and try to do something. Around 1998 I met Rich (Hawtin), while I was always trying to do these mix tapes for promoters to try to get bookings. I got some and then none. So it was really frustrating and I thought ‘Just fuck it!’ I was just doing it for myself.
But what happened after you met Rich?
We had mutual friends by that time and we actually met in Miami and hit it off and he offered me a night in his little club in Windsor. I don’t really know why he offered me to play there, because I didn’t think that he had heard me play before. He said he had once, but at that time I was playing all this funny stuff. (laughs)
What were you playing?
I was a house DJ for a long time. I always tried to mix stuff together in a way. I don’t think I’ve ever played one style. So many tracks that I’ve played are so funny. A lot of good stuff and also a lot of stupid stuff that I don’t like anymore or would never play now, maybe like some disco house.
But there must be still some beloved records?
Oh, there are tons of good records that I still have, but they’re all in Detroit. I have to get them over here.
Would you play them today?
I totally would!
What lead you finally to minimal techno?
Maybe around that time, when I was getting to know lots of german stuff, like Playhouse and Perlon. I made this mix CD to give around, which contained a lot of that stuff. I still like it in a way.
You should release it!
I will, I just have to find it. It’s so funny. Maybe online.
What is the whole minimal techno thing for you?
How would you define it? Today I don’t know what minimal is anymore. I think it’s a term, that’s completely overused. The whole point is, that I want people to get the same feeling from music that I like. But when everything becomes labelled minimal and it’s not, it just looses the original point. It could be anything.
Regarding for instance the Concept series or some Sähkö records and the Studio One series as well, I ask myself, how minimal is today’s so-called minimal techno?
It’s not minimal! It’s more of a fusion of different styles. It’s techno, it’s house, it’s tech-house, a bit of minimal inside. It’s all of those things. Even a lot of the M_nus tracks aren’t minimal. They’re busy, there’s shit happening…
Niederflur is minimal.
There you go! But I guess if people ask, I have to just say I play dance music. (laughs)
We should just beware of being too one-sided.
Absolutely. Some people do have the amazing talent of sticking to one thing and doing it really well, but other people do this cross-over thing. But I also find that a lot of people are doing similar things, that also can get boring. Luckily so many people now are producing. I get so many tracks each month, it’s so difficult to keep up with, which is really cool. It’s such a wide range of things. As long as the sound doesn’t stay in one thing too long then it still can be fresh.
What really catches you at the moment?
I hate to use this word, but if something is somehow funky. Like my favourite producer at the moment is Bruno Pronsato. To me he has got the ultimate funk. I guess, what I look for nowadays, is the difference. There are so many tracks that sound like maybe Gaiser or Barem, who have got a particular style, which is really cool and I love that. I’m just noticing how many people are doing this now.
But you know how difficult it is to come up with new stuff nowadays. Even if sounds are getting more and more similar in parts, you still find tracks that do work and attract, even if they’re not bringing in something new. But fortunately somehow something new always comes sometime.
That’s the great thing. Just as it’s getting boring, something comes along like ‘Wow!’ This is what I was waiting for.
Tell me about Items&Things, that you run with Troy and Marc?
We wanted to have a label that we can put different tracks on, not catering to one particular sound. Because there’s a lot of stuff that Troy and I play that we love, but that just doesn’t fit anywhere, especially on M_nus. We wanted each release not to be the same and not just us, but rather to promote new artists. Each release has different concept. So the first one was like ‘Space Disco’. Because at the end of every party, you get to this space-disco-set, that totally works, like old stuff and some of that new stuff. There’s this feeling with the first EP. We did that, because that’s our favourite time.
What are you listening to at the moment, when you’re not behind the decks?
There’s this indie rock band called Versus as well as a lot of Prince again lately.
Photo by Tina Winkhaus