Reflections on 2020 By The Artists We Interviewed

Article by Helena Markos

2020 has been the year that marked the whole of humanity, one in which the world faced a common enemy; a new virus. COVID – 19 has transformed our lives; it shook the entire globe and took the lives of millions of people. The changes we have experienced in so many areas have had a tremendous impact on our society, technology, economy, physical and mental health. Subsequently, electronic music has also suffered tremendous consequences, with many people losing their primary income. Numerous venues are closed for good, and others will find it difficult to survive. Our rave culture is now facing significant challenges, with a potential long term impact on our socialisation, artistic expression and entertainment. On the other hand, out of isolation, great sounds and projects have emerged. We also had plenty of time for reflection to redefine our priorities and values. Moreover, we experienced an incredible shift, with labels and artists participating in numerous charity VAs, showing solidarity and supporting the most vulnerable ones.

At the start of the pandemic in Europe, Tales of Psychofonia created a forum where artists/ DJs could share their feelings and views about the current situation and the post-virus era. Today, we say goodbye to this eventful year by highlighting some of their words taken from their interviews with this article.

We asked them:

1. How the pandemic and the current events in the world are affecting you? 

2. How do you think the electronic music world will emerge in a post-pandemic era?

Alienata (Discos Atónicos)

I think with the whole situation we’re living through the COVID-19, a lot of things are going to change in our electronic music scene. At the moment, our precious spaces and beloved dance-floors are ‘cancelled’ and in danger of not being able to survive economically to the uncertainty reality we have. Promoters and agencies are having a hard time. Artists need to pay the bills but the shows are frozen and so are the pockets. And the sweaty crowd is forced to live at a social distance. We’re at a point where we need to support each other more than ever and strengthen community ties.

We need to change the rules of the game. Stop being so selfish, otherwise we will lose our freedom. As Aphex Twin quoted in a recent interview regarding to the “invisible manipulation” that we are experiencing in our COVID-19 present: “Do you know what rights you could lose next, can you guess?”.

Reeko (Mental Disorder, Polegroup)

It has affected me (the pandemic) in the same way as the rest of the people working in the sector. It might have affected us even more in Spain, a country particularly restrictive, but despite of all that, I am very happy to be able to spend more time in the studio and to be able to work on projects that I had in mind, but that due to the travelling (for the shows) was impossible to start with. This album (Dualidad) is the proof of that. I always wanted to make something like this album so it was the first thing that I began to work on when I saw the future that waited for us. I miss the energy of a dance floor, inevitably that’s something I think all of us who do this miss when we can’t perform, now is when you understand the importance of getting that energy out, for both the DJ and the clubber.

I sincerely don’t know. The world is too strange nowadays to be able to predict such a thing. I think it is not the pandemic that will make things change, I think this depends on the mentality of society. As long as social networks are still more important than music itself, then everything will come back in the same way as before. And you may have to wear a mask at the club or not, but what must change is our mentality and that I cannot predict from here.

Years of Denial (Veyl)

…Regarding our present moment during the pandemic, not much has changed for us. We’ve been isolated for a long time beforehand to be able to work on music as well as to keep a healthy lifestyle. The difference is, that our previous isolation was voluntary and now, of course, it’s imposed, which is more challenging at times. Our tour was about to begin just when the Covid-19 hit, supposedly our first decent tour, and after those years of hard work in a remote place, it is certainly painful and sad. What needs to be done to prevent the population from getting the virus at the same time is to shut down and self-isolate. That is right now more important than anything else. We need to think globally with solidarity, think of humanity, not about politics, not about conspiracy theories. As it is well known, some type of collapse would occur soon or later. “It’s depressing, but not surprising.” Perhaps, as cruel as it sounds, humanity needs a slap in the face, the problem is, those who suffer the most are vulnerable people. As most of the time, this is a tyrannical worldwide fairy tale.

Everyone has a lot to process, reflect, but maybe also think about how to make a difference in the future? Now is the right time to feel and accept human failure…Wash your hands or wash your soul? “Long for forgiveness as we long for spring rain?”…It’s a wake-up call. Yes, thoughts are constant and feelings flow in between angst and bizarre excitement. The world is not perfect and never will be. Let’s stop blaming governments, they were always hideous and useless. The only positive aspect of this pandemic is some kind of sentiment, co-operation between people because it is a global obstacle that brings us closer to each other.

The post virus era might be tough, it will take time to shake off the collapse, especially from the economic point of view. On the other hand, we can learn from that. At this very time, we genuinely experience what it is to have and to lose in no time.  Perhaps we will all appreciate what we are part of and stop taking everything for granted. Be a better man, kind, mindful, respectful and radical in our collectives, territories and subcultures. Hopefully, we can focus more on the mysterious side of music rather than marketing and selfie culture. Stars are in the sky let’s leave them there.  Hopefully, we become stronger and more engaged. I am not keen on the term “scene”, however, whatever we like to call it, we better fix those unnecessary toxic aspects of it. And we might be able to do it after this mind-boggling, hair-raising condition. Let’s take sunglasses off our faces and look inside people’s eyes.

Polyxene (Tales of Psychofonia)

I’m doing very well actually so far. I am a person who anyway enjoys a lot being at home and recharge on my own during the week so my routine didn’t change so much apart of course from the mad weekends  when I was DJing. I feel so fortunate that I have music in my life and the  fact that I have to deliver mixes and making music. This kept me in a good and active mood during the first days while all of us were in shock. There is plenty of focus now on productions something that I was trying to give more time to so there is a win on that ! I enjoy my house so much and I feel so lucky to be on this safe spot at the moment. Furthermore, now I give time to things that I kinda forgot that have meaning to me and make me relax more…I’m thinking that some routes, dreams and plans will  have to change but that is not the end and it’s good to prepare mentally as much as we can for this new era.

As it seems now that we’re heading back to the new ‘normality’ still all this feels like a new strange world. Even if many clubs will open again and will be filled up with crowds still will not be the same. Because it is not about reopening and throwing the masks…every music lover’s and dancer’s life is affected and this will affect the scene. Venues from countries that they don’t have the strength or they don’t prioritize the nightlife are closing, the workers of the industry are rethinking to change their jobs and as I see already many artists are planning to find another ways to make their living…

I assume that straight afterwards every promoter will keep it ‘simple’ by avoiding to book big international artists and will focus more on how to support their residents so that the community can grow steadily. I believe something new and fresh will born, which we cannot even imagine right now. New technology will play the first role to the reconstruction of consumption and the entertainment in general. Creation though seems to flow unbothered, whilst there is more time for some to work on music again and not bother so much about social media, promoting their shows etc… Also, artists will feel more free to express their feelings, because the lack of the unknown grows more and more, leaving no space for doubts and procrastination of the past.

Velvet May (Tears on Waves)

The current situation is affecting me in many good and bad ways right now. As an artist, in the first lockdown period of this very bad pandemic situation, I thought that there would be at least some positive aspects that I could get, like the opportunity to be more focused and have more time to work on new stuff.But what I can say now, after many days of quarantine, is that the situation is getting very boring, it’s ok to have more time to focus on music, but unfortunately, without getting all kinds of emotions from the outside and without freeing your mind it’s difficult to create good things. I’m at least speaking from my point of view. I hope everything goes back to the way it was before. I’m enjoying days in the studio and at the park but I miss a lot travelling and seeing a lot of people who I miss.

The major challenges are certainly shameless and sometimes inappropriate competition in certain situations. Trying to make yourself visible in a saturated environment where it is difficult to express yourself, especially in the lockdown period we are facing. Many artists I know who were getting ready to perform in gigs and tours, are now seeing everything cancelled or postponed, and they’re seeing the fruits of their hard work fade away for a while and then they’ll have to work even harder.

SMforma (Mario & Jogile)

Mario: The truth is that at the beginning of the lockdown we realised that our lives didn’t change that much as most of the time we are working from home, although now has come the time when all this is too much. A situation like this shows that we are nothing and shows how easy it is to push the human being to the limit. Nature rules and either we start to change our habits and relationship with the environment or we are condemned to be exterminated.

It makes us laugh when everyone puts their hands on their heads when they see a Chinese market selling all kinds of animals but their pulse doesn’t tremble when they go to the supermarket to buy chopped animal bodies. The human duality is like that, we are able to sign against bullfights while eating a ham sandwich.

Jogile: We’re definitely living in interesting times and, obviously, that what we were imagining as the far future, which would be more like a scene from a sci-fi movie, has actually become reality now. What a slap for humanity!

I like to say that ‘everything happens for a reason’ and we should try to do the best out of this situation, contemplate and reflect. It’s a chance for many to think and do changes. Maybe for some, it is changing the work, for others eating habits or a lifestyle. The truth is no matter how scared, anxious, or insecure we are, we must find the way, even if we are limited. We can cry and do nothing, or we can keep ourselves busy, stay positive, and create a better future. Starting from ourselves and now.

Mario: I have no idea and I’m so bad being Nostradamus, but I’m sure everything will change and since we read something different every day I don’t even know what to think.

Jogile: Sometimes I think that the music scene is gonna turn to a non-stop online broadcasting loop. What is totally fine but at some point, we would need a human connection and not just a screen in from of us. Another thought is that we might have a virus test security at the door of the clubs. And the theme parties ‘Virus’ would become a thing. Don’t know let’s see… I want to be positive and will say that hopefully, we’ll be able to come back on stage again soon, as we really miss it!

In Atlas (WOMEN OF V.V.I.A.)

You’re welcome, thanks for having me. Well, the Corona virus has affected me – like everyone – in many different ways. In general I am taking things a bit more slow now, staying home, reading, painting, making music, drinking wine. I think i’ve become more introspective. I also bought an electric bass, which I realised is very difficult to play. Haha.

Oh, that’s a question which is impossible to answer, since we haven’t experienced anything like this before…with crisis comes expression, so I guess we’ll see lots of art coming out of this? I just really hope that this new thing with home streaming live concerts and raves isn’t the new way of partying, and will disappear soon again together with the virus. I really miss experiencing music and dancing with other people.

Unconscious (Detriti, X-IMG)

I believe that this pandemic made me see even better how much we are slaves to this system, but at the same time it has forged even more my anarchist soul, both as an artist and as a man.

I think a very big challenge is that of not having the opportunity to play, to capture the energy and magic that people give you when they dance hypnotised by the music you are playing. This energy doesn’t exist behind a monitor.

Autumns (Downwards)

 I’m actually very fortunate to be from and living in Ireland during the pandemic. The infection and death rate has been really low in comparison to other countries, and there’s not been as much of an impact on me as there could have been. However, the pandemic is still affecting me, the biggest change is that I’m now working night shifts in a supermarket to get by because all of my gigs have been postponed or cancelled. A lot of my releases have also been pushed back a little as well, but I’m happy to wait because I think they’re some of my best yet. Overall, I’m safe and healthy, and I’m still earning a living. I count myself as very lucky as my loved ones and friends are all safe, healthy, and are mostly still able to work.

The music industry is always changing and hanging on by a thread. I can’t really predict how it’s going to go as it’s an impossible task. I can only imagine that there’s going to be a lot more focus on local events and smaller venues. However, I really hope that people start to champion the underdogs more than the superstar DJ’s that are charging extortionate fees and playing every single club and festival every weekend/year – I think people are sick of it.

Torn Relics (Sacred Court)

Hey, thanks so much for having us. It’s hard to believe that we are half way through 2020. The pandemic has been really tough for everyone. Aimée works for the NHS, so has been grafting throughout lockdown. Music has been a total escape from the realities of living through COVID. The tense feelings in the world right now have definitely shaped the sound pallet and emotion of tunes we’ re making presently.

If you look back to any period of global depression, conflict or struggle, artists and musicians always come back fighting, mirroring what’s happening in their environment. We’ve noticed a real shift towards creativity during lock down and a communal effort from some artists, producers and promoters to do what they can to fight racism by education and standing in solidarity with the BLM movement.

Things will return to a new normal for us all, and we imagine there will be an abundance of art/ music to dive into, but it might be that there are fewer places to experience it in. Hopefully there will be a rise in the DIY scene/ alt venues and less of the superficial clubbing experiences, and hyper monetisation of electronic music that we are so frequently seeing in the scene nowadays.

Jokasti & Nek (Mord)

Taking it day by day. Jokasti is running a vintage 2nd hand clothes business and Nek is doing mastering. We just make music, like before, in our spare time. To be honest we are lucky to live where we live (Kalamata, Greece) and our life styles are not expensive. We are lucky to have a beach near by, a studio and our health.

No idea…probably the same as before really. People are too busy trying to make ends meet and when (hopefully soon) things go back to normal, people will probably go back to what they where doing before. People tend to forget easily.

Surviving this pandemic at first. Probably get a job, until gigs start again. Mental issues might emerge and hold the creative process back…or maybe help it spread more than before. We guess that when there are no gigs to play at, people might create what they also like, besides peak time dance floor material.

Vinilette (Frigio)

Confinement didn’t affect me dramatically, as I usually spend a lot of time in my studio or home-working. I never thought that what I considered my normal life was suddenly being faced with such a challenge. For this reason, I have wondered what I had understood until now as normal life. On the other hand, my performances have been cancelled, so with the time I have now I try to get the best out of the situation, to change and work on myself.

It is very difficult to evaluate. The current situation in a lot of countries is uncertain, the governments are not helping the sector financially. Here in Spain, the government hasn’t made any effort and hasn’t given financial aid to clubs or music spaces, because we, especially the club culture is not enough important in our country. We need a dialogue with the government to discuss ways and solutions, we need urgently a perspective to survive. Of course, I’m trying to be optimistic, but it is a reality, our venues and clubs are at risk of closure if the situation doesn’t improve.

On the other hand, I think it will be the time to give more importance to local DJs and artists. I don’t think that the clubs (or at least in Spain) could afford to pay high fees to big names, clubs will have to save money. Now more than ever, we should be more supportive between us in our scene and create strong collective ties.

LINN ELISABET (Acts of Rebellion)

Oh let’s just say I’ve had my ups and downs..! It is definitely a time for something different. I feel lucky to have my music, and I’ve spent a lot of time in the studio. The pandemic also enabled us to make the ACT004 online game. At first there was a music video planned, which couldn’t be done because of the restrictions. Then I started thinking what could be done instead, and the idea of making an online based game came to life. I am missing many aspects of life before corona though, and I hope that this intense suffering and trauma that the world experiences at this point will be over soon. I still think it will make us stronger in many ways. So in the midst of all this crazy, I am trying to grow as much as possible from the experience.

I don’t think it will change more than the effort of personal growth people put into themselves during this time. It’s impossible to say at this point beyond the people I interact with personally on a regular basis, but I am lucky to be surrounded by many openminded and kind people who have experienced a lot of pain and loss, but also learned a lot about themselves and their attitude towards other people the past 6 months. I hope as many people as possible have taken this time to evaluate their choices and the effect it has on marginalized people, as well as considered how they can change their attitudes and behaviour to make the scene more inclusive for the people who actually created it again.

Merimell (Ismus)

Regarding my career, I think all artists are affected in the same way. We can’t perform and earn our rent, as we used to before. The music industry is the last one to get back to normal, I’m afraid. Here in Tallinn, they banned alcohol sells from 11 pm, and our clubs are allowed to be filled by 50% capacity. I’m sad that I can’t travel, see my friends abroad and perform at new venues but since I can’t change anything I’ve learned to accept it. I think it’s a good time to get to know your own city and find adventures there. I’ve realized that I feel at peace when I can follow my daily routine and traveling can interrupt that. It’s a great time to reflect on yourself, make music, and achieve goals, which I can do at home. I want to eat healthily, be active, and produce music to release them in desired labels. I’m most focused while having free time and when I don’t have to think about what’s happening on the weekend.

 I’m afraid it will never be the same again. I’m worried that we will always have some restrictions and we would have to watch over our backs constantly. I think we will loose a lot of artists who will go for the day job that is more sustainable and will guarantee them rent money. The optimistic side of me hopes there will be some kind of a riot from the people. That underground will raise and everybody will be at the same level. No difference between a 15k A class DJ and a local artist with no Instagram profile to show.

Marcel Dune (Repitch)

Like most musicians and DJ’s, the pandemic has negatively impacted my personal situation, but hopefully this will end soon. I believe it will be very tough to get back to where the electronic music world was before the pandemic hit, but if we all come together and put in some effort it might happen.