The many shades of Nina Kraviz
As obvious as it might be, the best word for Nina Kraviz is ‘beguiling’. From her debut album on Radio Slave’s Rekids label to her presence behind the turntables (make a beeline for the Carl Cox arena at Stereosonic to see for yourself) to the way she approaches an interview, the Russian producer is a true original. “A lot of people didn’t really believe in her because she’s this incredibly beautiful girl and she’s not a pin-up DJ,” Radio Slave told inthemix last year. “She’s had to fight her cause because of this. The music she makes is incredibly deep and she’s a real romantic at heart. That’s what I love about her.” One of the international speakers at next week’s Electronic Music Conference, we took some time to quiz the deep-thinking romantic about searching for the ‘diamond’ records and why she relishes the chances to techno it out.
It looks like you had a pretty fantastic summer Nina. What were some of the highlights?
Oh, my summer was very exciting. I played so many good festivals, met many amazing people and visited so many different places in the world that I would not have had the chance to visit if I didn’t play music and didn’t release my album.
How did you feel about the Boiler Room show you did? Did you find the chatty crowd a bit strange, or didn’t it faze you?
Well, first let me explain something. I was offered to play a later time rather than the opening set, but because I wanted to participate at the ADE DJ cook-off the same day, I had to play first. So when I started it was two in the afternoon on a Wednesday. I repeat: Wednesday at two in the afternoon. People needed some time to get into a party vibe. It’s just not so natural to shake in a trance at two-pm on Wednesday…well, unless it’s some hardcore after-hours. So I felt absolutely fine with it.
I came to the Boiler Room show straight from the plane and I really enjoyed that chilled ‘beginning of the night’ vibe. I wanted to enjoy playing music without a necessity to rock it because rocking duties were left for later when I played at the Dekmantel/Paramount artists showcase at the MC Theatre later.
Tell us how the DJ Cook-Off went at ADE – what did you cook?
Oh! I totally loved it. It was such an amazing event. I was cooking traditional Russian borsch (beetroot and tomato soup) and I had such a pleasure cooking it. Goodness. It was something completely different. I will never forget it.
It’s been a little while now since you released your album this year. How do you feel about it now looking back on it? Are you proud of how it turned out?
Thank you for this question. After I recorded my album I didn’t listen to it for quite a while. After all the hours spent on editing, mixing and mastering, discussing and collecting opinions, I was just done with it. But a few months after the album was released I listened to it again with so-called ‘fresh ears’. And I liked what I heard. I liked its rawness and honesty and I was a little bit shocked how personal it was.
It’s like suddenly finding yourself standing in the centre of the most crowded square totally naked. I think I didn’t even notice how much of myself I was pouring into it when I was recording it. I liked the texture of it and I liked its untold, trippy darkness. It happened to be a real album, not a compilation of tracks, but a story. It’s a story about a girl that reminds me of myself so much.
I’ve read that you are committed to really digging for those rare records that other DJs might’ve missed. Is there a certain quality or ‘feel’ you’re always looking for in a record?
Oh yes. I’m constantly searching for records. I like checking second-hand record stores and private collections. I have no problem asking a DJ that I enjoy about a particular record. And so I always tell people what I play because I believe that music belongs to everybody and nobody in particular at the same time. The more people that are musically educated the better.
Sometimes I am just exchanging some records with friends – musical fans to the bone like me. As a result I have loads of ‘personal hit’ records that were discovered by me or my friends and brought by me to the bigger audiences and after I’ve been playing it again and again other DJs would start playing it as well.
Sometimes I experience ‘fails’ and feel a bit like a child when I play a record that was discovered by me by searching through hundreds of records. I might share ‘the diamond’ with my DJ friends and then when I play the record somebody would come to me and say, “Oh, nice record, DJ X is playing it a lot.” Pffffff. Childish I know, but it feels horrible.
How would I describe the records I play in terms of ‘feel’? It’s very hard to describe. But the record should just fit and hit. Fit into my aesthetics and hit my heart strong enough that I just can’t leave without getting it. It needs to hit a certain nerve. It needs to be not too obvious but stimulate imagination. The records that I pick must be emotionally fulfilled. It can be very simple and at first place have a very lifeless, minimalistic groove or just a loop but it needs to offer a reaction in me, a change. You know what I mean? I guess it’s almost a chemical reaction.