Music & Interview
Lifka … young DJ and producer based in Hamburg
Hi Luca. Very happy to have you for the special “Music & Interview” feature with an exclusive live set. The first time I met you was at a Staub party taking place at PAL. You were introduced by a common friend of us: Mike Fly, DJ and party promoter from HH (Thanks a lot for this, Mike!). A few months later I heard one of your live sets at another Staub. But let’s start with the very beginning: your childhood and youth 😉 So please tell us where you were born and raised. How was your childhood? When did you discover music and what kind of music did you like being a teenager?
Hi Jürgen, I’m glad we finally get to do this. Thanks for having me! I was born and raised in Munich. Growing up in a creative environment with my mum being a very gifted tailor/textile conservator and my father working in photography I spent most of my childhood/early youth with skateboarding and doing all sorts of odd hobbies like collecting Warhammer 40K, archery, making huge bonfires and building tree houses in the gravel pit next to my place. I always liked to put my focus on more than just one thing at a time, so I always had an alternative, when I was bored with one of the activities. The first song I remember liking was „Hey Bulldog“ by the Beatles played on my father’s record player at age 5 or so. When I got a little older I discovered most music through skate videos. Lots of old school hip hop, psychedelic rock, punk rock and other gems. Not really knowing about music history and genres I never really drew borders between different styles, I just collected what appealed to me. During my youth I was more focused on metal music due to playing the guitar. A little later I found my way into electronic music with artists like Gesaffelstein, The Hacker, SebastiAn, Surkin, and Mr. Oizo, combining harshness with funky grooves and heavy beats. That was also the time, when I felt the urge to buy two shitty turntables and a mixer to teach myself DJing. In Munich, I only played a few bar gigs, because, being a little shy, I didn’t really get to know anyone working in the electronic scene, so I rather just went partying and listening to DJs I liked. Despite having had a great time growing up in Munich I always knew, that I didn’t want to stay there any longer than I had to, I just wanted to make new experiences, visit new places and from there see where it takes me. So after finishing school, I applied for graphic design studies in Hamburg and eventually got the place. So it was clear, that this would be the next step for me to take..
(Promo picture of Lifka)
Living in Hamburg you are a vital part of the scene there with gigs at clubs like PAL, Rote Flora etc., but also with releases on labels like Ohne Kommerziellen Wert & Snork. Please describe the scene there for us.
I had my first contacts with the Hamburg techno scene, when I went to the monthly party series called SubspAce. I was immediately blown away by the vibe, sound and impressive light concept. Since then I got more and more involved as a DJ and with my crew Vinka Katt.
The core of the Hamburg techno scene is quite small but there is a really strong bond between the participating artists and crews. Basically, it’s one big clique with a large variety of very talented, interesting characters. There’s a lot of support and exchange like collaborated parties and label projects such as Ohne kommerziellen Wert, a label run by Stute and Strathy, where vinyl production costs are split between the corresponding artists of every release. We often meet and plan upcoming events, have listening session, when a new release is out, make music or just hang out in the park. It’s very cosy. Another vital part of the scene are techno clubs like PAL, that stands for its top notch booking, open minded party series like NACKT or guest parties like STAUB.
(flyer of the first “Nackt” party)
You’re part of the collective Vinka Vatt. What is the crew about? Who is part of it?
Vinka Katt is a Hamburg based DJ-Collective and mostly non-commercial party series. On my first week of university I met Matvrak and we quickly noticed, that we had a lot of mutual musical interests, so she asked me if I would like to play at a studio party for their party series called Vinka Katt. That was basically the start. I was really happy, that I had such a good start, moving to a new city, knowing almost nobody. Thinking back, I don’t know where I would be now, if this had not happened. The Astra Stube was the first regular location for Vinka Katt partys, followed by Kraniche bei den Elbbrücken, and currently Gängeviertel. Same as choosing rather small locations for our parties, our booking mostly consists of locals or befriended DJs. It’s more about capturing and cultivating the Hamburg underground scene and attracting people that exactly want what we provide, than booking headliners and just luring masses. With the founders Matvrak, in:research, Konglomerat and Jeremy Liar, there are 5 (more or less active) members: Oiko, acp, Haiko Nahm, Union Versus and me. Each artist has his or her own recognizable sound and style. In order to keep it interesting and to have enough time for guest-acts we often do b2b sets.
(full stream of Lifka’s “Ubu Roi”, taken from VFR057)
We already mentioned your releases and live sets. Which equipment do you use for the production? What do you have onstage?
Within the last years I went from solely using Ableton live to getting more and more hardware equipment until I got independent from using a computer for production about 2 years ago. My main source for percussion and drums is the Analog Rytm. I’ve got a 303 clone for the most obvious acid sound, the Blofeld for pads and atmos or sometimes additional synth parts and my beloved modular synthesizer, the center piece of my setup, which I use for almost all lead parts of a track. The equipment I use on stage is pretty similar to my studio setup at home, except a few things that are too big to carry or that I rather use for experimental purposes like an old 70ies tape delay or the Moog DFAM I recently got. Another important feature of my setup is the Octatrack. I use it for sampling and processing unique synth parts of a track, that would be too difficult to reproduce in a live environment or sounds that I spontaneously come up with. Also, it makes me more flexible, when playing live. All the machines are synced with midi and get mixed on a 24 channel analog mixing desk. I’ve got a few pedals for delay and reverb. After finishing the recording of a track I process and, if necessary, edit a few parts on the computer in order to get it ready for mastering.
(Lifka and the shining machines)
Talking about the equipment leads to the question how your production process looks like. What inspires you? How do you start the production of a track and how do you continue with it until you have a satisfying result? How do you select the label for your tracks? Do you bundle them at that point or are they already a complete EP during the production process?
Usually there is nothing concrete in my head, when I start a new track, although I admire the skill of starting a track with a specific direction. At the moment I rather build the elements of a track by experimenting and figuring out what suits, both sonically and mood wise. Hardware and especially modular is perfect for finding things you would never have thought of. Sometimes I know, that there is just one missing part and I get stuck trying to find it, so it’s really important to have sources of uncertainty, which surprise you in the right moments and drive you to go in new directions, when being lost. All my productions are live recordings. I like the feel of it and the progression of a track is much more natural and organic in my case. When producing with Ableton, I often struggled with the arrangements and was just too impatient to sit on Track4_FINAL-2.3, drawing automations all day until I had a satisfying result. It’s more like entering a dialog with your track and trying to figure out and feel how it wants to be played. You could call it machine empathy.
Since releasing my first EP on Cirque Du Minimaliste last year, I’ve been working on finishing requests. My plan now is to finish a new EP and send it to a few labels of my choice.
When compiling a new EP I try to use harmonizing tracks that fit the overall concept of the release and sound of the label. But sometimes it’s that forgotten demo track, that suddenly works in a new context. In my opinion the cover art and track titles also play an important role in adding a semantic level to the music.
Talking about inspiration, since last year Lucinee, my girlfriend and partner in crime, also started producing her own music. She’s very talented and already released her debut EP and another track for a VA this year. It’s really inspiring to see her progress and to have a partner with the same passion and interests.
We met a few years ago in the techno scene through DJ gigs, co-hosting events and our crews.
Also, I often find inspiration in non related things like movies, art exhibitions or theatre visits. When I’m unmotivated I have a few go-to YouTube videos that somehow give me immediate inspiration like Benjamin Damage’s “Against the clock”, some gear demos or a few boiler room live-sets. It’s always nice to realize, that there are so many more things to learn and paths to take!
(another picture of Lifka)
Besides making and playing music what are you doing? Are you a student? What do you study/work and what are your non musical dreams for the future?
As I mentioned earlier, I’m studying Graphic Design. I’m doing some freelance work from time to time, but I am not that active at the moment. Besides this I’m having a regular part-time job. I always try to keep enough time for music. To be honest, there aren’t a lot of non music related wishes for the future at the moment.
(full stream of “Mechanical Skin” by Lifka & Lucinee, taken from SNORK98)
Do you have some all time favourite records/tracks? Please name them and let us know why they are important for you.
Ouff, there are so many – that’s difficult to determine. I’ll focus on stuff I normally wouldn’t play in a techno set. You can listen to my technoid favourites in my DJ-sets. 🙂
01. Carrier by Rhythm & Sound
02. Dark River by Coil
03. Loner by Burial
04. Secret Garden by Susumu Yokota
05. Wildcard by INIT
06. Tour De France Étape 1-3 by Kraftwerk
07. Beige Eyes by Easter
08. Feed me by Tricky
09. Amo Bishop Roden by Boards Of Canada
10. Strom by Atom™
(official video of Atom™’s “Strom”, taken from r-n155)
Let us talk about the mix/set you delivered with this interview. How did you work on it? What was your intention?
Preparing a live set can get really intense sometimes, because there are a lot of things you have to prepare in order to get a fluid flow. I always like to set contrasts, I tried to keep a nice mixture between melodies and sound textures, light and shadow, soft and hard, full and empty, the beauty and the beast. It gives a good overview of what inspires me and what drives me. I like bold changes in mood and maneuvering through different emotional passages during my sets. This particular mix contains a few tracks, I always like to include in my live sets, some previously released ones, and some new stuff, that hasn’t seen the light of day yet.
(Lifka behind the machines)
Already the last and final question: what are your future plans? Any new releases? Some special gigs?
My remix of MSKD’s track „Hypnotic Circle“ just got released on Vector Functions Records, definitely check out the whole EP!
Matrheim, a meanwhile really good pal, invited me to play my first foreign gig in Paris at New’s Cool invites Eradys Records, a label I’ve previously released on. I’m really looking forward to finally meet the crew and spend some time together.
There will be a Split EP together with Valura on Space Trax, an upcoming record label by Philipp Drube and Frank Heise. Also, you can expect me on one of the next releases of Ohne kommerziellen Wert. In addition Lucinee and I are working on a split Ep.
(snippet of Lifka’s remix for MSKD, taken from VFR058)
Lifka’s “Ubu Roi EP” on Vector Functions Records
Lifka’s “Otherworld EP” on Cirque Du Minimaliste
sampler “OHNE001” w/ Lifka track on Ohne Kommerziellen Wert
sampler “VAcid” w/ Lifka track on Eradys Records
sampler ” Lost Gems (Part One)” w/ Lifka track on Vault Series
sampler “Black Moon” w/ Lifka track on Snork Enterprises
MSKD’s “Solar System EP” w/ Lifka remix on Vector Functions Records
Tracklist of Exclusive Mix:
this is a live set