Ninna V – Exclusive InterviewSeptember 28, 2018
Ninna V, a pillar in the Portuguese Techno scene for the last 25 years, has never deviated from her craft or genre and stayed true to her roots and passion and deserves to be out front and centre!
I asked her opinion on what she thinks of the scene and how it could be done better …
Mike Mannix: Hey, nice one for talking to us about your musical foundations, leading up to falling in love with banging beats?
Ninna V: Well, it all started back in the 80’s when I heard electronic music for the first time, listening to Kraftwerk, Vangelis etc I was never a big fan of rock/pop music back then, and felt something was missing within music to completely fall in love with it, then
I heard acid house and acid techno and that was it for me, fell in love and never looked back!
In 92 I started working at a record shop called Impact where I had access to all music, learned to mix and practiced for months in a row till I had my first booking at a big club for about 3000 people, fell in love with DJing too and dedicated the rest of my life dedicated to techno.
MM: Was it always your goal to want to play alongside the heavyweights, Dave Clark, Roger Sanchez, David Alvarado, Kid Loco, Victor Simonelli, and DJ Vibe, a dream come true?
NV: Yeah it was as it’s always an honour to share a booth with such legends, I felt privileged to be allowed to play alongside them.
MM: What was it like for women in the early days of the dance scene in Portugal, and has anything changed, and what needs to change?
NV: Well actually I was the first female DJ in my country back in 92, later there was more but I was the first one! In those days it was hard to be taken seriously, I had to really find a way to go around the whole scene and actually start the first DJ agency in the country, that way I could book artists from abroad, play with them, book national artists and get gigs all at the same time, so that’s why I got gigs all around the country and abroad.
But, I remember hanging at the record and DJ equipment shops, buying records and admiring and talking about all the gear, wanting to work there as well and learn all about it, after I had to close my DJ agency, I was always told no, not that I didn’t know enough about gear but I guess cause I’m a girl! Gigs got harder and harder to get along the way, as the years passed as I never conformed to what was required to get gigs, I did it my own way, the right way, keeping my integrity and always remembering why I started!
What has to change is the whole mindset of the artists, promoters, bookers, and public! Change in a way that talent is valued instead of looks, instead of social media likes or SoundCloud plays, instead of selfies, instead of the sexist mind-set
especially, instead of a girl that looks cute in the DJ booth so let’s book her so we look good too! Book because of skills and experience! BTW, I’m still the only female techno DJ/Producer in my country, top DJs play my music around the world in their podcasts like Dave Clarke did in his White Noise podcast, and others like Ben Simms, Paul Mac, Tom Hades, Carl Cox etc.
I don’t play here anymore, haven’t played for a while, even if I’m the only one, they don’t book me cause I keep it real, cause I work by myself, cause I’ve accomplished a lot without their help, cause I don’t look like a 20 year model and I’m older. There is a mafia that controls everything and everyone here so I’m out of the game, but I keep doing what I do always, being real to my music and myself, even at that cost!
MM: Are we reaching a Techno saturation point?
NV: No we are not reaching a saturation point, or we are but of a different kind,
we are reaching a point of what is real is set aside and what is fake is praised,
that is the crucial point here! Since music was made digital a new trend started and while many DJs were loved back in the 90’s, not everyone had the skills to actually mix on turntables, with digital all was made easy and with internet, even more, now anyone can be a “DJ” but not everyone is an actual DJ.
Also, someone once set the rule that to be a DJ you had to produce and release tracks as well, so then there was the big boom of “DJs” and “producers” and nowadays it is what it is, there are zillions of people aspiring to “make it big” and play at huge festivals overnight, with no experience nor music culture whatsoever and that is exactly what is doing the damage and killing the scene…..I for one don’t see this getting any better anytime soon either unless there is a huge turn in the scene which is very unlikely to happen.
MM: Who would you like to work within the studio?
NV: Well there are a few actually like A. Paul, Advent, Mike Humphries, and Steve Stoll, some of the old school heads who got me to fall in love with techno. I know it won’t ever happen but I still dream that one day it will happen…
MM: When you get the inspiration to create a track, what’s your usual production process in the studio?
NV: Well, first of all, I kinda write in my mind first, so then when I get into the studio I already have an idea, although sometimes I just start something with no idea at all and just let it flow. Sometimes, I start with drum loop first, kick, bass, Hi Hats, snares or percs, etc and get all the drum parts to work together especially with kick and bass! Then I start the synths which may take several days or weeks to make them and get them just right, or it may take a few days, depends if my idea actually works and is doable with the drum loop idea.
As I go along I try my best to mix every channel and make it sound perfect with all the rest so when it’s done sounds are not a mess and doesn’t make it hard to level all the sounds and mix it right! Something I also do often is to get away from the computer and Ableton, I export the track and get it into my iPod, I walk around the house or outside listening over and over again to get a new idea or check what must be leveled up or changed, it’s great to walk away sometimes to create a different perspective of the track, I think often producers who get creative block get it cause they force it sitting in front of the computer and that never works,
creativity can’t be forced nor rushed, it must flow in its rhythm and pace, no matter how long it takes!
Another thing I’m a bit guilty of is trying to reach perfection, and keep tweaking till the track gets almost destroyed and get sick of hearing it and then hate it, I’ve learned the hard way that when a track is finished it’s done, don’t go back to it over and over again.
MM: Tell us about the biggest challenge you’ve faced and overcome?
NV: Hmmm I guess learning how to produce tracks on my own, learning the process and getting better at it, release on better labels along the way until I reached one of my goals to release on vinyl! I always had that dream, ever since I started playing them (vinyl) and dreamed about it till it happened 2 years ago on SubDivision, a techno label from Detroit, which made it even more special! Another even bigger challenge is obviously getting bookings nowadays, it’s unbelievable how hard it is to get noticed, even though I’ve played music for 26 years, around my country Portugal, Europe, South Africa, and even Detroit USA, that’s my biggest challenge now without a doubt, to break through the sea of artists there are nowadays.
MM: I’ve been listening to your 28 Podcast mix and it’s slamming, I love the fact you hit the mix straight away laying down the bangers rather than building the mix up gradually, what’s the idea behind your mix?
NV: Well the way I do my mixes depends a lot on my mood the day I record it, it might turn to be hard from the start or it might have a build up till I play the harder stuff, but I always try to not wait too long in the mix to hit it harder, as I get bored very easy so it must challenge me and take me into an abyss of techno sounds.
I picture myself on the dance floor and imagine what I would like to hear and dance into a journey where I loose and find myself all at the same time,
especially if I’m playing a gig and the crowd is responsive to what I’m playing and don’t want the journey to end, which is what usually happens.
MM: Is the emphasis more on social media stats, branding, logos, and image than about the music in today’s scene?
NV: Yes obviously, sadly enough is all about that nowadays, it seems
people go to parties nowadays more to be seen and photographed than to actually hear the music,
I know many still go for the music, but most don’t! Most people don’t even care who’s playing, which format the DJ is using to play, their skills nor even the music, as long they can take selfies lol
social media has destroyed talent,
and promoters don’t book talent, they book image, as long fills their endless pockets with cash.
MM: Back in the day DJs and producers really had to put in some seriously long hours, dedication, patience and money to learning the beautiful art and skills of mixing vinyl and producing original tracks. Now with the advent of sync buttons, constructions kits and templates are today’s electronic DJ’s / Producers at a disadvantage or advantage?
NV: Well I still put in some seriously long hours, dedication, and patience into my work, but advantage in one hand and disadvantage on the other, advantage as it’s very easy to use all that with no skills what so ever, but disadvantage cause they will never learn the true craft of mixing and producing, and I think that’s bad on all levels, which means they are not true artists.
To be an artist takes way more than just gluing some loops together on a DAW and hitting sync buttons on Traktor
, I don’t care which format any DJ uses to play, but I do care if he/she learned how to mix properly before using sync button and Traktor.
There is a whole lot of music coming out every day, which doesn’t mean it’s good or well made, that’s the problem nowadays, everything is made fast, everything is also forgotten faster, and why I think there arent the beauts of tracks we call classics today! There is good music if you dig deep, but there is a whole lot of mass-produced awful tracks as well, that disappear faster than they appear. There is a sea of tracks going around that only last a week….it’s sad…In the past those instant classics were played everywhere by Top DJs, radios etc over and over again nowadays they are maybe played twice and set aside for new ones…..
MM: MM: What drives and motivates you?
My love for music, my first and everlasting love, especially for techno,
like I said before, I remember why I started, and that is still the ONLY reason that motivates me, despite everything!
MM: What are your biggest stand-out festival/gig moments where you thought ‘fuck this is real this is amazing….’?
NV: My gig at The Works in Detroit, without a doubt, it felt unreal I was actually there playing a gig, feeling the weight and pressure of all it’s history on my shoulders, I was actually very tired and nervous with two nights of no sleep due to flights and preparations here before leaving for the US, it was another goal reached. Another one was when I played in South Africa and went 1200 kms in a jeep from Johannesburg to the town where the festival was held in Grahamstown, it felt unreal crossing Africa with all that beautiful scenery, was there for 10 days playing, loved everything about it, although apartheid was still every evident everywhere I went.
MM: What’s next?
NV: Next I’ll continue working on my productions, releasing tracks, and hope for the best lol continue the struggle for bookings and hopefully get to play more this year.
Here are my next releases:
Ninna V – Phases EP – Naked Lunch Records
Bas Thomas – Poisoned Mind ( Ninna V remix ) – Naked Lunch Records
Ninna V – XXXY EP – Fresh Cut ( Marika Rossa’s label )