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August 23 , 2019
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Interview with Dimitri Nakov

Looking at your past, collaborating and working with people like Sasha & Digweed, and knowing from experience how good a techno DJ you are, can you please explain how did you end up in the psytrance world of all places? Do you like it here?

Dimitri: Of course, I love it. The trance scene, although very young minded business-wise, is an amazing scene full of life and originality, lots of passion, and above all, freedom in the spirit. Not to mention the places we go to enjoy it. What a scene we have! I’ll never forget the Samothraki(s). Look at the photos today and you realize quite how individual and original it was to go to a lost island, some 15000 people that is, and enjoy the freedom, the music, the people, the place- and problem free.
The trance scene been has great to me and I have given as much as I have in me, every time.
It did all happen a bit by mistake though. I was living in West London and working as an assistant in the studio for Sasha, also in West London. I would meet the trance people often, regularly bumping into Raja Ram and I had also been going to Ibiza for many years already and was friends with the North island crew, so I knew Riktam and Bansi since we were all 16, just for example…
I got offered a job at TIP as André, infamous TIP DJ, whom I also knew, was leaving the UK. Richard (who ran TIP) gave me some sets to play at the occasional party. I’d always been aware of trance, also having met Joti and Dino and Atomic records crew in the early 90s, so I’d been playing as a DJ for a bit, although I had also been playing warm up sets for Sasha and occasionally filling in for John previously. It all flew from there. Lucky break I guess. I never looked back.

As for the diversity in DJ styles, I am into music and I am a DJ, first and foremost. Styles, trends, sounds, are all mediums for communication, so I don’t concern myself much with pigeon-holing, that’s for others. I am not into routine nor the banal, I enjoy diversity, abundance and variation in life, musically I like to reflect and represent that. Much in the same way we all need to learn to live together, one has to embrace diversity. I don’t eat the same dish every day so why should I listen to the same music, in the same format?
Hence my DJing tech-house and techno, as well as, psytrance. And anyway, psytrance grew from other forms of dance music, as it was not the first electronic music around. I followed Warehouse to Acid-house, rave, then trance and back around again to techno as is the trend today.

Can you share with us important stops in your musical journey that got you to where you are today?

Dimitri: Tricky question. The good festivals, although amazing, quite testing, especially if you have to prove yourself which I always felt I did. And certain friendships. My friendship with Dado for example, without whom my production career would be different, he was the first person to come up to me and invite me to the studio. No one else had even thought of it, not even me!

Tell us about your personal “good old days” as a DJ/dancer- when were they and why? What do you miss about them? What are you happy to have behind you?

Dimitri: Honestly I don’t feel so old yet to have good old days. I still feel I have a lot to do. Except maybe for the Samothraki years, and the Solstice Music festivals on Mount Fuji in Japan. What an era! Trance was rocking and growing so much at this time and it was before “full on” which meant there was a lot of good music, in a lot of styles within the trance spectrum. And the concept behind both these festivals (amongst others) was very broad and well constructed and conceived.

On what equipment did you DJ in your first gig? What do you use now?

Dimitri: I was always using SL1200’s as I started in vinyl times, DAT for a while, although I never got very used to DAT, a different concept in DJing. Used CD for a long time and now I play with a laptop, using Ableton Live, sometimes Traktor as well. Occasionally I do a vinyl set for fun, and usually, although not exclusively, I use CDJs for my trance sets, although I do like to use laptop as well as CDs.

Do you think the medium affects the outcome? The way the DJs play? What is your take on laptop DJs? Is it just a way in for lazy ppl or an opening for a new way of DJing?

Dimitri: I do, but as such it creates new opportunities, and it all depends on your approach, how you use your laptop, or not, and how creative you are feeling.
It does influence the way we play, which can be seen as either good or bad. In my case I see it as good. I opt more often for Ableton as it can be used in the way I played with CDs, but better. And Ableton DJing can be very trance sounding as its all above long seamless mixes and different levels of intensities. Much like trance used to be.
Originally I would have 3 CDJs, and you can’t pile up too much in trance as the tracks are so full of information already, but there is space, and loops can be made. With Ableton now I have the equivalent of 4 CDJs and I can do long seamless mixes for as long as I like as I was always wanting to and tried my best to do with CDs. Laptop mixing is all about creating your own structures, and doing so you can really accentuate different elements. I like to focus on groove, so you eventually see everyone on the dancefloor responding to the same thing in the music.

What about all that equipment coming out all the time- digital turntables, DJing softwares, super complicated CDJs with lots of knobs and buttons- is it really necessary? Does it make any difference?

Dimitri: Again, it all depends on the DJ. On the techno scene it's all about creation now. Music is created in the studios with these possibilities in mind. Some DJs make it really interesting and play in ways never before possible. For a DJ, so long as you are playing records other people don’t know you are wowing the crowds, and the other DJs… now you can also play these records in ways never before heard as well. It's also what opened up the music world again in the sense that it's not about what you have, but what you do with what you have. We are all equal, but we don’t all feel or think or see things in the same way, and now we can better express that through our creativity.

Open air or club- what do you prefer if at all? Good and bad in both?

Dimitri: Both are amazing when the space is nice. Two sides of a coin, we need both. Too much of one makes it banal.

What makes a good DJ?

Dimitri: Who am I to tell you?! For me though, it's someone who has rhythm and vibe, culture and feeling for music, the crowd, and hopefully some experience in the world of dance music. It’s not just about big tracks, it's about good music. Technique and selection are both important, and then that inexplicable third factor, feeling or vibe. And, last but not least, the dancefloor.

One important advice to beginners...

Dimitri: Be original, be yourself, and if it's what you really want and are good at it, believe in yourself, as that’s what will make it happen for you. Not much else, except maybe luck, which we all need as well.

One important aspect of DJing that people tend to overlook…

Dimitri: That’s it’s a full time job!

Your dream DJ set- where, when, with whom, how long?

Dimitri: Hmm.. you got me there. …
A beach party in Ibiza with all my friends (many of whom are DJs so the party could go for weeks) and an up for it crowd with freedom to play whatever I wanted

Why do you think DJs have almost disappeared from trance parties and it’s all about live acts? What does that do to parties?

Dimitri: It's been this way for nearly as long as I can remember. I loved it when I would go to a party and a DJ would play a wide selection of music. Then a live act. I remember times going to hear such acts as X-Dream, then a good DJ to finish off the night. A lot more impressive and memorable, and more exciting, fun and educational, at least for me. My best experience was going out in 1990 or 91 I think, and having all these great DJs playing. Then once in the night the music stopped. Moby came on, this was at the time “Go” was an underground hit. Then back to DJs. Also times hearing X-Dream or Juno like this.
10 live acts in a night is an amazing privilege for the crowd, but makes it all a bit mixed up and also makes the scene a little sycophantic. But trance has been about live acts for a long time, and with so many, all playing an hour it changed the scene. I won’t say it has become worse, or better, but every one having just an hour means they need to impress, hence the idea of full on (not to mention some acts thinking they are entertainers while on stage). One hour to blast it all. Changed our expectations and we lost artists like Hallucinogen who were all about subtleties and mystery while we gained lots of talented new acts.
I often marvel at how I have survived as a DJ within it all in fact. I may have been lucky, but also often boycotted.

I heard you playing an evening opening set a couple of years ago that started with Bodzin and ended 3 hours later with GMS, flowing perfectly. Seems very few DJs these days can do something like that, and even if they can, they won't think about it / dare it / be allowed to do it. What went wrong?

Dimitri: See above. No time I guess. A huge sense of urgency came into things and people too young and uninterested in others styles possibly. And maybe just a simple lack of information. It can happen. I always like to try and play a different set every time, every situation is unique isn’t it?

In all dance music worlds it seems that good DJs drift toward producing, sometimes it feels to me this is because of financial reasons or in order to be able to advance- how do you feel about it? Why did you start to produce?

Dimitri: Well, it's not necessarily a financial motive, although it can be. It's also the logical step when spending your life in and around music. It does most definitely increase your chances of success, as your tracks can often travel to places you haven’t been able to get too to play. I wanted to play and create music from the off although DJing took more of my time initially. Slowing I started finding myself in the studio.

You have been working a lot with Serge Souque and Dado as GBU and they are both present in your new album- can you share with us how has it been working with two of the people that influenced how psytrance music sounds so much?

Dimitri: Wonderful. They are amazing people and incredible producers and artists who have taught me a lot and with whom I first went into the studio and in whose studios I did most of my album. It was only normal I should include them on the album, as a thank you for all the time and friendship. Very special people and musicians.

Tell us about the new album - Interrupted - what can people expect to find there?

Dimitri: I initially wanted to do something very different, and in some ways when I started writing the tracks they were quite different from the rest that I was hearing, but being that it took a while to finish the album I now don’t find it different enough. But I did approach it without the pressure of making something banging and blasting all the way through. I always rebelled a bit against trance “albums” finding them more like compilations than albums, except maybe Juno Reactor and Total Eclipse albums. But I tamed myself a bit and brought together a collection of tracks reflecting my musical interests within the limitations of having tracks that could all be played out and work on the dancefloor. As a DJ most people already know I can bang it out when necessary, so the pressure to make a full on album wasn’t there. And actually playing this album live has a lot more intensity than I had expected from it. I have had some amazing reactions.

Basically I just wanted to do some trance tracks, and this is what happened. Some are deep, some light, some dark, some heavy, I find there is a lot in there and I find it colourful. I produced it trying to break the rules a bit too. Synthetic Freedom was made with a groove only usually found in house, minimal and live music, using a 16C Shuffle, meaning the elements of the notes, the bass and certain percussion isn’t always quantized to hit on the one of each bar in the music, thus giving it groove, a certain looseness which is the opposite of what trance is. Psytrance is very straight, almost mechanical at times. I find it worked trying this, it’s many DJs favorite, but I won’t hide that everyone to whom I said I was doing a track with swing like minimal techno turned their nose up at me, except Dado.

Interesting choice for a cover- only a graphic pattern and no name- why?

Dimitri: It should have had the name I guess, but it kind of ruined the visual aspect of the artwork image. I think the album represents quite a few levels of sound, rhythm and music, and is hence colourful and I wanted an album cover which expressed that. It's not simply a compilation of tracks…. And the artist who originally did, or should I say, inspired that image is a Hungarian artist. I preferred using something conceptual then some random computer graphics which is most often found in trance. I under glorified I guess. And I gave the graphic part to a friend to do, an Italian designer who originally worked with Etnica and now does films and documentaries, often relating to music. His new project will be on Massive Attack.

You have also been involved in the last years in techno and house productions (enough to mention the excellent remixes to Sasha). Your take on the massive (and quite successful) immigration of psytrance artists and listeners/dancers into (or is it 'back to') the techno & house world?

Dimitri: So far, so good. I have had the chance to remix Sasha and Smith and Selway which was great, and I have been playing at Amnesia in Ibiza with Sasha lately and I now have a spot on the radio in Ibiza. I was from the house/techno scene and always followed it and in the past years it just happened so organically. The trance scene sort of dried up of musical inspiration and evolution and all at once everyone looked to house and techno. Everyone felt it I think, the need to open up, and trance stayed a little stuck. As I am producing trance as well more full time now, I felt I could afford to be broader as a DJ. I will never turn my back on trance, but the need to travel musically is important to the evolution of the scene and the music I feel.

As someone who's been listening and dancing to this music from 89, I'm really fed up with all the 'genre'ising and distinction. Sure, they serve a purpose in helping us navigate, but they also seem to have put people into boxes and close their mind. What do you say?

Dimitri: Agreed, but it's natural for humans to classify and differentiate. And with all the music coming out one has to categorize in order to organize. A necessary evil I suppose. Not sure it makes it easier though… I personally stopped worrying about it quite a few years ago, but I do find it hard to describe in words what I play. I guess we need to define, don’t we, in order to be able to understand on some intellectual level.

Is it only about dancing and fun or is there something more to partying and party culture?

Dimitri: Dancing and fun is important, and of course there is more. Communication, celebration, and so much more experiences and motives to do things you wouldn’t normally do, and going places you wouldn’t normally go. It's been part of every culture since forever.

Please give us one track, one producer and one DJ that made an impact on you in the last year and tell us why.

Dimitri: So many. In trance Growling Machines and Ido are giving us something new musically to think about and dance too. Luciano as a DJ, while the track, you got me completely now, and I get tracks usually from the artists while they still don’t have a name. People ask me if I have such and such by such and such and honestly I have to say, play it to me as the name I have is something like “first mix master test” or “try 2”!

What's up next on your world?

Dimitri: I have a series of remixes coming for the album tracks, to be released early next year. So far Earthling, The Antidote, Dado & Tron have submitted mixes. I have also done a couple myself. We're still waiting for remixes by Tristan, GMS, Shanti and more. I have also organized the release of a track called "Minimal Tech" by 2 HI. I have done a remix to this as well. And, on the house tip I have a new single coming out in 2010 on Bedrock Records (John Digweed's label). So quite busy... And now off to Tokyo for NYE, then Universo Paralelo in Brazil.

Any last messages, links or general wisdom to share?

Dimitri: www.myspace.com/dimitridkn please send me messages and share some wisdom with me.


Thank you Dimitri for this very interesting interview!
 Interview by Shahar
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