Interview: Sev Dah (PROLETARIJAT)
I know a guy, artistic name is Sev Dah. I wanted to have him on board, buggin' him for a long time to do a podcast. And finally he sent me this masterpiece. We were talking a few times months back, planning details about what we can do, to make this podcast special, and I'm super-surprised what he has done, from sevdah and sevdalinke to more experimental electronics. Hope you will enjoy like I did for the last couple of weeks. No playlist here, just enjoy.
Datzee: How’s electronic music, especially techno, got in your life? Which album do you think took you over to the techno side, and is there any other kind of music you prefer?
Sev Dah: I have always felt that I’m not like the others, in a way how I dress, eat etc. Different in general how I think and how I want to live my life. I felt inside myself that I need something more than ordinary life, I felt that call, and that something wanted to get outside of me. My first contact with electronic music was somewhere around 1994, maybe a little bit earlier. There was some style, in Germany, I do not know if that still exist anymore, people around me called that style „cosmic“. I can’t remember any artist or track, and all I know is that the music was slow and different from anything I heard before. Later I discovered old school techno, in which I found myself. That’s the fact, some things challenge you, push you to go beyond limits of your mind. And I find that attractive, and Techno have that, let me say, power to push you to do that, and it still does. I’m a big fan of trip-hop, heavier hip-hop, and always have a place in my heart for dub and reggae. When you asked me hip hop, in my formative years there were a small group of people and bands that did the sound I liked. I could easily name Freundkreis from Germany. Albums like Esperanto and Quadratur des Kreises, they had that combination of oldschool, jazz and some deeper things, which was different at that time from anyone else. I said deeper, and darker, with that I mean they had deep and wise political lyrics, and much darker, self-consciousness and state of human existence.
Datzee: "Cosmic", what do you mean “cosmic”. Can you describe?
Sev Dah: I don’t know, frankly I can’t remember... it was something like Goa Trance but on 100bpms. Maybe it sounds strange for the people when I said, I drain inspiration for my production from all kinds of different musical styles. I listen a lot of music that isn’t easy to find like Bosnian “sevdah” and “sevdalinke”, and they are direct influence on my sound and production. Also focus is on dark and melancholic elements and parts of genres and styles, to feel them, to understand them and then to turn them into the sound.
Datzee: Since you are Swedish I assume that leaving your home Bosnia also was that certain factor how to feel the music. Would you still make music, generally electronic music if you didn’t leave Sarajevo?
Sev Dah: Well generally I didn’t do anything but electronic music while I was living in Bosnia, and from this perspective it was getting me down. I was limited either because I lived there, or maybe it was because lack of my age and experience, which I got now. But the fact that I left Bosnia broad my vision and knowledge of the music, DJ or production-wise. Still I have my memories from Sarajevo and Bosnia, because it all started there: first gig, first serious production, and I had a vision (like all of us – editor’s comment) and I wanted to start something there, but because lots of reasons, I decide to start that somewhere else, outside Bosnia. I think that leaving from hometown and that environment is a major influence and I think it made me find myself as an artist. I see some positive things in Bosnia that I didn’t see while I was living there, or I think I didn’t want to see. I still wore these positive things proudly on my forehead from where I came from, to use something pure Bosnian and try to translate that into my music. I strongly believe that I’m on a good way. If I didn’t leave Bosnia, probably I would continue in that same direction. I would, for certain, produce techno records, but right now I’m focusing more on experimental Techno. Maybe that nostalgia for Bosnia and all those positive things that are still there makes me want to try something new in the studio.
Datzee: Did you find an underground techno/house scene when you moved to Sweden, and was it easy to find clubs and happenings? Is there any kind of electronic scene in Helsinborg?
Sev Dah: I lost 3 years of my life trying adapt myself to my environment , and I didn’t worked much on music at that time. Scene is pretty small because the state doesn’t support much anything about techno at all, everyone knows that Swedish artists are giving so much to the Techno scene but there are lot of rigorous laws and rules than you might think that those who want to do something legally will not be worth the try On other side, the positive thing is that underground scene is strong. There are STILL people who do it and are trying to bring it to the next level. They held their parties in abandoned factory halls with dirty walls on highest professional level – and that keeps local scenes alive. I just became a member of one crew in Helsingborg who own a factory floor, where we clean up couple of smaller rooms for cultural happenings (painting studios, audio studios and rooms for workshops). We even tide it up and now we are trying to decorate the club, and we hope that it could be in use after the Summer. It’s a space for around 500 people, and I’m so blessed to be the part of this project. But when we speak about Swedish DJs and producers, that is the most positive thing! They are all passionate and evolved their own unique style, and I play their music a lot. They work really hard, they really live techno, and even if you got strict laws and rules, you need to work harder, and there are visible results. Their music is played almost everywhere – and that is positive, that spirit to do as much as you can and that you can succeed. If you ask me I love that uncompromising and rigid sound that Swedes are known for. That is also my philosophy of techno: it should be simple, sometimes raw, but with healthy dose innovation and modern sound, all wrapped up into one killer beat! That is why I know I’m in the right place when we talk about inspiration, and I feel good, like it is a place where I belong. There is also that Scandinavian climate, that pushes people to more prolific, maybe they aren’t so sociable at first (like us – aut. com), they have their social rules, their work, and that they are committed 24hrs a day so there is some kind of bitterness and isolation that you can feel in their music – not everybody likes it, but on contrary, I enjoy it. I like that, they do not separate music from other forms of art. It is the same thing, but with different tool and different working material, and most important: they all are into the art, and making no differences between the arts. I don’t like to say that I’m part of certain scene cause I feel my sound is universal, and I’m continuing to work that way.
Datzee: Now that you have kids, how many time do you actually spend in the studio and behind the decks right now? Does the new-born child influences your music and how?
Sev Dah: Well, I try to spend all the free time I can get, but it is hard these past months with two kids and full time job, which really is draining me both physically and mentally. This year I’m more focused on shows, and I want to spread the message and agenda what is behind PROLETARIJAT. Unfortunately that means a lot less music, and I haven’t planned many releases on PROLETARIJAT in 2017. But with every gig I get inspired, every time I come home I want to go to the studio and transfer all that experience, which I have gain, into my sound. Yes, it’s hard, but got no time to pity, cause that’s what I want to do. When times are hard, the sound gets better, and better. When I became father for the first time in 2010, many things turn better in me. I’ve became better person. I can’t really say that this life-event changed my sound drastic, but changes of priorities have changed their places, so I learn to less indulge myself in everyday life. I will stick to my plan, that till 2019 I will quite my daily job and try to live only from the products of my music. Right now, that sounds like impossible from this point of view, but i will try to manage to come to this goal. I’m also glad that in 2017 was my busiest year in my DJ/producer carrier, I’m proud of the achievements I did in this year, and I’m looking forward to my next gigs. I’m happy to be able to do at least 2 gigs per month, and sometimes I can’t accept more because day job and my family – but those gigs allowed me to live Techno to the fullest, so at those gigs I give my maximum. PROLETARIJAT has been little bit left by side, and we plan Proleterijat004 to release at autumn. There will be even more, but still not sure when – but there will be more info about it later for sure.
Datzee: How and when did “I want to be a DJ“ bug bite you? Can you recall the place of your first gig and the reaction of the crowd? Can you remember that special moment when you know you got the crowd in your hands, the moment when you become aware of your role and power of the DJ?
Sev Dah: Since I’m into this kind of music, I always wanted to perform in front of a crowd, to create my own version of that music. After my first serious production steps I wanted to test it in front of the crowd, and I think it is a logical and natural step, to try myself as a DJ. First gig was somewhere in 2006, in a club called AG in Sarajevo. I was very nervous, it was my first contact with pro gear, even I thought I made a mistake for accepting the gig. It is funny story, because I didn't have money for two turntables and proper mixer. And four days before the gig I meat this guy who had everything, at least for bedroom DJ, and with help of my friend who knew him, she arranged a meeting between me and the guy so I could come to his place the and to prepare myself for gig. We told him I have experience and I just need to practice a little, to get in form since I didn’t play for a long time. What a lie! I never stood behind the decks before! But that moment when he asked me what style I play I responded: "Techno", just like that! He just pull out two techno records and said, here you go. And when I started, it was like I was doing it for years. My mix between those two tracks were almost perfect. I was shocked, but I also felt that I’m born to do this! First gig was, at least for me, perfect. I had jitters, that drained me emotionally, but at least I knew people had a good time. One of the best feelings in the world!!! But for the very first time where I knew that people are “eating out of my hands” and I had control of every aspect of the ambient was at Beghain. And I will remember that for my whole life, and I will take that with me as one of my best gigs ever done. I know I can take crowd on a journey, I had experience, but again Berghain is a very special place, where all things are on the highest level. 4 hours of darkness on the best sound system, under my control, left the mark inside of me, and that experience I’m trying to transfer to every place. I feel so lucky I was able to do that, and I think Universe collide for that brief moment – for letting me do that – to do what I want to do! And once you asked me how did it happened to play at Berghain. Well there is a story: I was invited by Luke Slater, at that time we planned my release on his Mote Evolver. That year Luke was on his world-wide tour “22 Light Years Of Planetary Funk” where he invited almost every artist he has released on Mote Evolver, even before Mote Evolver-phase, and that was a reason for putting me on the bill for the Berghain show. I was ashamed of my prejudices about Berghain that the whole place was over-hyped – I was super wrong!!! The whole vibe, professional organization and the people who flock there every weekend is really something over-the-top… I still can’t describe my feelings and emotions about that evening and morning. I remember the night before the show Steve Bicknell (legendary English techno dj, driving force behind legendary LOST club that even create myth about Jeff Mills before he even came to play his first show, just for example) asked me if this is my first visit to Berghain, and when I answered yes, he just whispered with the smile: “mate, be prepared to stay longer inside than you are used to stay inside a club! this place has some kind of strange magical magnet inside". Everything he said was true. I would like to point out that Berghain was one of my highest point of my carrier, I meet new friends and made friendships with the people who were my heroes. And one more thing: you get orgasm when you play your tracks in there. It was the honor and I hope it is not my last gig there .
Datzee: Please could you tell me how PROLETARIJAT started anyway? From basic need to release your own music, or are there any other reasons?
Sev Dah: The idea was to just work on my own production, without any restrictions. I never intend to sell my music, I just needed artistic freedom. From the first moment I knew I will have to pay for everything from my own pocket. On the other side, all I wanted is just to start and get this thing going and I was mentally ready, because I thought it will never sell enough, I will always be in minus. It was pure luck, and pretty right time for that kind of music. I was able to get myself out, so I can press another records. I feel grateful that people react and bought my records, thanks to them, all the ravers all around the world. I spend a lot of time for planning, what can be concept, and even name itself. I realize, I’m proud of resistance of my/our people during WW2, and concept could easily fit into techno esthetic. Techno was all about struggle in it’s core. Connecting the resistance movement from history – it was a perfect match. With sound I can easily wake my other artistic potentials, so every release of Proleterijat have a specific story. I wanted through my music and artwork to present spirit of community, spirit of friendship and mutual respect. PROLETARIJAT is essentially my own platform for expressing my own freedom of speech, without someone over my shoulders telling me: „No, you can’t sell that, it is not the right time“. In nearby future I’m planning to release other artists. In short, PROLETARIJAT is a rebellion against all that "cheapness" on the Techno scene! Datzee: I’m very honored that you made a special mix for our podcast series. I have listened and it shows your other side, the oposite of what you regularly play at your sets and clubs. I’m glad it is different, but why did you want to record this kind of mix? Sev Dah: I always wanted to play something else, that don’t fit into my sets, so I got finally the chance to do that. Opportunity came and I grab it, I always wanted to go beyond my own limits wothout restrictions. I want to prove myself that ambient and darker dance music have much more in common then people more think, same emotions and stories except the fact that you can lay on your bed or sit in your couch while listening. With this mix I wanted to connect different styles and tracks that I love and connect with drone, ambient, some bleak trip-hop and electronica, with sevdalinka style of music into one coherent story. I hope I can reach deeper, and to trigger deeper and newer emotions into the listener. And I wanted to leave a mark, some kind of longevity to the mix, and to challenge listener and myself, with traditional Bosnian folk music and newer tracks.
Datzee: I wanted to ask you, do you know and are you in contact with ex-pats, people from Bosnia who also make Techno and House and other forms of electronic music? I ask you that because I want to know are they doing something special, are they giving some special touch to the scene?
Sev Dah: Oh man, I suffer from that disease, so you can call me Yugo-nostalgic. I consider all of our newly created small and young countries my homeland. So I got my ears on what is going over there in Serbia, Macedonia, Croatia etc. I see lots of our producers making great trackswith worldwide reputation. I would like to mention Nihad Tule and Suncica (Insolate), both of them actually inspired me for the last 5 years. I really follow what they are doing right now, and where they at. They are also owners of labels Sloboda and Out of Place, and I regurarly play their tracks in my sets. Also I would like to mention LAG from Novi Sad, Serbia, and all I can tell you about his music: it‘s fire. I would like to give my credits and great support to the guys from Drugstore from Belgrade, Serbia, and I wish them to stay at the top of the game for the future as they usually do. We got a lot of things that goes into our advantage to move up together – like a language and state-of-mind, but there are also many things that hold that idea down. Hopefully that will change so we can achieve even bigger goals together, for the best of our scene.
Datzee: I know what PROLETARIJAT stands for and message the label spreads. It is wonderfull to see that people escape from their problems with music, but what is the deeper message? Is there ethos that stands on the other side of escapism?
Sev Dah: Great question. Techno is religion for me, I can see goodness in people, unity, and united we can change the World. Techno is love and respect. I want to bring people together through my music, to connect them. My primary goal is to make people loose themselves, and in the end to find something new, something better that was laying inside them. It doesn’t matter would they remember the tracks or what I played that night. Just want them to feel good, to feel love and some kind of unity between themselves. I think that is the first step to the final goal: unification.
Datzee: For the end - can you give me your top 10 all-time favorites? And after that, can you name some producers we should keep on our eyes/ears in the times that comes??
Sev Dah: I’m still a big lover of hip hop, and it is very hard for me to mention my favorites in one specific style but here is the list:
10: Fugees - The Score 9. Freundeskreis - Esperanto 8. Freundeskreis - Quadratur Des Kreises 7. Cypress Hill - Temples Of Boom 6. Kontra - Sutnja 5. Umek - Cavist 4. Gecko - Close Your Eyes 3. Hardcell & Grindvik - Square 2. Nihad Tule & Bauri - Metal 1. Amotik - Satrah
And the artist of the future, by my humble opinion: Neznan (Split) and Oetam (Rijeka).
One more from me: Loves Conquer All!
And the artist of the future, by my humble opinion: Neznan (Split) and Oetam (Rijeka).
One more from me: Loves Conquer All!