5 questions to get to know…
For the first episode of our new interview series, we have invited Aleksa Alaska, Bucharest-born and based artist, whose rise to international DJ status has been incredibly rapid. It was 2016 when she started recording mixes, following requests from online radio stations and websites that had followed her on Soundcloud and Youtube.
We chatted with Aleksa about the scene in Romania and how she managed to craft her very own style, in a country dominated by minimal and tech-house. She told us about her influences, her early days as Dj and she also prepared a great mix for our Unmasked discussion, where you will find “EBM, industrial techno and acid, 90’s rave and trance”.
Enjoy the interview and the mix!
Q: Hi Aleksa and thanks for taking the time to answer these 5 questions for Unmasked. You are based in Bucharest, how would you describe the scene there and in Romania, more in general?
A: Hi guys! Thank you for inviting me. I’ve always found it difficult to talk about the local scene, especially since I started travelling more and being exposed to all kinds of experiences. For me what happens here can be quite confusing and I’m sometimes having a hard time trying to figure out the dynamics of the local scene.
I do remember vividly how it was 10 years ago, but a lot changed since then. For instance, I remember that the techno scene was completely different. At the time parties were happening sporadically and in more diverse venues, not necessarily clubs, which made them more interesting. But since 2015 when a big a club burned down causing multiple deaths, a lot of clubs, bars and restaurants shut down and never reopened. The laws and regulations became way more stringent and this had a ripple effect on the whole scene.
As opposed to 5-10 years ago, the scene has now fragmented into many smaller sub-scenes and now there are way more events every weekend, but each of them smaller than what we were used to a few years ago. Another thing that I feel has affected the night scene are the low-cost flights to Berlin, which made people pickier when it comes to partying. On the upside, we’re lucky to have the freedom to party for as long as we want, because clubs don’t have to close at a certain hour; at ‘Guesthouse’ for example, there are events where you can easily party for 24h straight.
Of course, in Bucharest, we still have some established names such as Rokolectiv Festival, Maschine, Queer Night, alongside many new crews and event series, all of them promoting mostly underground names while bringing together the younger generations with the more seasoned party-goers. I also started to see more activity in other Romanian cities such as Sibiu, Cluj and Timisoara, opening themselves to techno and EMB and constantly inviting underground international artists.
Things look promising but there’s still a lot of work to do to catch up with our neighbours Serbia, Georgia, Ukraine and most recently Hungary, and put Romania back on the list for the hottest Eastern European countries when it comes to clubbing.
Q: When it comes to deciding where to live, many artists seem to choose Berlin (and a few other cities) over their own hometowns. Did you ever think about moving somewhere else?
A: I fantasied about living somewhere else since I was a kid. Now with Djing, it became much easier to relocate and I will do it in the near future. Travelling often requires me to be better connected to the rest of the world and from Bucharest, it can be sometimes a bit more inconvenient to travel to where you are needed. But it won’t be Berlin. I always enjoy visiting it for a few days, but it’s not a city I’d want to live in. I don’t need the FOMO that I know I’d feel every week because there are just so many cool things happening every day. The day-to-day vibe there doesn’t really resonate with me, whereas the one in Amsterdam 100% does.
Q: Romania is well known for its minimal techno scene and heritage, how did you manage to create a style that’s so different, considering that? What did influence your taste in music, in terms of artists who inspired you and the type of sound that you like?
A: Indeed, minimal and tech-house are huge here, it’s just that I wasn’t ever fully into that scene. I’ve never been into that sort of music, it just didn’t sound engaging enough for me, so I pretty much ended up subconsciously avoiding it. The first big minimal party I’ve been to was quite recently, 4 years ago at Sunwaves and despite not being into the music, I’ve been attending every edition of the festival ever since. Sunwaves is very different from much of what’s happening in Romania, also the May edition attracts people from all over the world and suddenly it doesn’t feel like being in Romania anymore. It’s such a well-made festival where you feel they have a lot of experience in handling everything that I have to admit I love it. However, not being part of that male-dominated scene and not truly feeling that kind of music until I first danced on it while high, are the main reasons why my approach is different. With techno it’s different, techno is something I like to listen to when I wake up in the morning, could never do that with minimal!
I am and have always been a child of the Internet and I’m one of the first generations that instinctively know how to use it to its advantage. Everything I know, I’ve learned online and all of my connections and the entire network, especially music-wise, were created online. Being born in 1989, few months before the fall of communism, and living in a small and remote city until I was 18 years old required me to do a lot of online digging and exploring to find what suits my personality and what would better shape it, as there were no other external influences.
Q: I read something very interesting about how you became famous online, ever before DJing, as curator of your own Youtube channel, where you would present your favourite tracks on a weekly basis. Can you tell us a bit more about this project and how you then got into DJing? Did you expect this to happen?
A: Actually, I first started uploading music on Soundcloud 8 years ago, but then they changed the copyright policy and started taking everything down. I now only have some private tracks uploaded from back then. I started recording mixes and uploading them on Soundcloud on a weekly basis, at around the same time as uploading music on Youtube, which I have to admit I wasn’t really into at first, but I eventually came around and started to love it.
I started Djing because my boyfriend had some gear at home and I asked him to teach me because it was something I wanted to do since I was in high school but never tried. Of course, I never expected this, but I made a lot of jokes about it with my friends. They were telling me how I would end up being an international Dj and I’d have to promise to add them to the guestlist, and now this actually happens! I also remember my first interview ever, and how I said that I’m not taking Djing too seriously, but now I can’t say that anymore. I am very serious about it, while respecting the industry and the people I work with, and now fully dedicating my time to it.
Q: Tell us something about the mix that you prepared for Unmasked.
A: Lately, besides my radio show, I’ve been doing mixes that offer a glimpse into what I play in the club. Since there’s a large range of music I put into my online mixes, there was some confusion regarding what I play live, so I’m on a mission to clear things out and show the world what I’m currently into. This time I started with some EBM (both old and new), industrial techno and acid, ending with 90’s rave and trance.
Interview By / Stefania Trinchero.
Published / 02.04.2019