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The Russian techno DJ talks about her new 'DJ Kicks' album and space travel

Nina Kraviz has been one of the most significant breakthrough international DJ/producers of the past few years. Brought up in the Siberian city of Irkutsk in Russia in a music-loving household, she was inspired to start her own radio show in the late '90s after hearing Armando's acidic 'Downfall'.

Settling into her day job as a dentist, it was after securing a place at the Red Bull Music Academy in the mid-noughties that she was able to start devoting herself to music full-time as her DJ career took off. Her debut album on Rekids helped put her on the map internationally, and now she's just been asked to mix the next instalment in the prestigious 'DJ Kicks' mix comp series...

It's quite a significant moment in an artist's career when they get asked to mix a prestigious 'DJ Kicks' comp... how did you feel when you got the call?
“Well, it felt damn good!”

How did you approach the mix? I assume it took a bit more planning than just a regular weekend DJ set in a club...
“You are right. In a regular set that is normally from three-to-five hours (at least), it’s much easier to build up the vibe and to go through as many genres as you want. It’s live, and it has this natural high energy of a live performance. This is something that you can't do in a one-hour studio mix. In one hour you can't jump around with genres too much... And that was the most challenging part for me.
“I like so many things and in the past, apart from techno and acid, I was playing funk and disco. So I thought, 'It’s my DJ Kicks, I need to present what I am all about'. But finally I cooled down and came up with this trippy underwater mix...”

How did you mix it — Ableton or vinyl, or what?
“Even though I really liked the idea of live mixing with just two turntables, this time I did a little bit of everything. I recorded my mix partly from records and then summed it up digitally. So my mix still has my favourite analogue feel, plus all these layers when three or four tracks are being played at the same time.”

I really like the mix, it's really atmospheric, experimental, a bit murky in parts, even ghostly... it's great that you've got a bit of Bowie in there (with Goldie), what do you like about his voice?
“This song is taken from my favourite album of Goldie and one of my most loved albums ever. This beatless song left a big impression on me when I first heard it back in the days in the late '90s, along with the hour-long masterpiece of a track 'Mother' — an absolutely stunning piece of music. It immediately triggered something in me... its honesty, intimacy and naked emotion that Goldie delivered so masterfully influenced me a lot as a musician. This lost and at-times dark, going-nowhere trancey atmosphere, a human voice tripping and diluting itself in a lonely and ice-cold space.”

Your voice crops up from time to time during the mix as well, doesn't it? In a way that is more like an additional instrument...
“I used loads of different voices to create a bit of a murkier, trippier atmosphere.”

Was it important to you to get something by Armando in there?
“Yeah. He' s been a big inspiration for me and his raw, very physical sound was one of the key elements that formed my audio perception as a music fan and later as a DJ and producer — especially in its acidic corner. Plus his 'Downfall' was literally the first acid track that got me into electronic music when I first heard it on the radio.”

The whole mix has definitely got a twinkling late-night radio vibe to it — that's a medium that's been close to your heart, hasn't it?
“Yeah, late night radio is like a key thing, it's basically what got me into electronic music when I was a teenager. I used to love tuning — travelling — in between FM frequencies on a radio receiver, and you know there would be those spaces in between stations where you are in a really mysterious twilight zone with some strange intergalactic sounds. I would imagine that I would connect to outer space like this. I think radio is a great thing and it helps to develop imagination.”

There are a few WTF?! head-fuck moments on the mix, which is always a good thing... when would be the ideal time/place to listen to your 'DJ Kicks'?
“The most important thing is to listen to it as one piece, without a break. In the car on some late-night trip, or at home in more of a quiet atmosphere.”

There are a few of your own tracks from your label peppered throughout the mix. But how do you pronounce the name of your label, трип?
“It's 'trip', like a train ride, only one that it is in your head.”

Ah, OK, cool! From weird electronica — Aphex, Plaid etc — to acid and beyond, you obviously have wide musical tastes. Is this important for a DJ?
“Yes, I think it is.”

When we last met, you said you might want to do more of a vocal-led poppier album sometime — is this still something you want to do?
“Well, that still could be a good idea. In fact, to produce a good pop song is a real challenge. A good song that touches something really deep inside of you but is still accessible for many people.”

Would you like to travel in outer space?
“Well, sometimes when I play it feels like I am actually travelling right there. The same thing happens from time to time when I plug in some old crappy synthesiser and get some things going on with it. I hope the day when the first space travel agency opens its doors is not too far away. I will make sure I get a ticket. Venus would be nice.”