Svengalisghost makes dystrophic, acidic techno, comparable to a more distorted Levon Vincent, but his music still manages to be uniquely jaunty, savage and incredibly danceable all at the same time. This is something he certainly managed to prove during his live set at this year’s Distortion Festival. He arrived to an empty floor, but during the hour-long set managed to pack the tent with enthusiastic Copenhagen ravers. Najaaraq sat down with the refreshingly candid producer from the reputable NYC imprint L.I.E.S. for a spacy talk about his risky existence in the underworld of Mexico City and the essentiality of dancing.
Dunkel Radio: I know that you left Chicago to go to Mexico at one point. Why did you leave Chicago in the first place?
»I mean, just... You get fed up and I was curious about that culture, I mean, going to Mexico City was a dream of mine«.
What did people say about Mexico back then?
»I never knew anybody who went, I was the first person that I knew that went to Mexico city. Everyone thought I was playing around, I was like “I’m leaving for Mexico”, “yeah sure Marquis, whatever man”. It was originally going to be a two week trip playing like 3 shows, come back. And then I got there and basically stayed for 7 months«.
»Well I was seduced by the city, by the energy, never been really been out of Chicago before«.
What was the biggest difference?
»Man, people are fucking crazy there. I mean, they are crazy in Chicago but you know, it’s a mega city. I felt disoriented every day I was there cause I stayed 3 months in Mexico city and then I went for 4 months in the state of Sinaloa which is kind of a cartel warzone, and I was there right when that was starting to peak«.
What about playing there - how was the crowd?
»Extremely enthused. I mean, back in the day at that point in Mexico City there were hardly any people coming from Chicago, so I was really well received. Mexico is a fucking wild country and the people are really intense, so it gives it a really hardcore energy. If you’re not ready for it, it can overwhelme you, you know, and I think I got overwhelmed in a good way... I feel like, if you push your mind to the ultimate levels, somehow you achieve a greater understanding of the world. I’m an explorer of reality, you might say«.
What kind of places were you living in?
»At one point I stayed in a house, with 4 other nefarious characters.
Tell me about them?
»Well they were all kind of... One guy whose house I stayed at was basically a son of a trafficker, so the place I was staying in was actually one of his safe houses, for when he was doing his business. But I can’t really get too deep into that stuff«.
Shit…. What was the biggest lesson you took with you from those months?
»Wow, fuck, its like, basically don’t have any fear in your life. The universe is really good, we built up this idea of the world being antagonistic, and its really not the way the world is, you know. Put yourself out there, you allow things to happen, and you embrace that fluidity of reality that’s why I’m here right now«.
Change of topic: I read that you think a DJ has to dance, why is that so important to you?
» It’s important. I mean, without some kind of stimulant then how can you expect other people to be stimulated. The DJ to me is the modern day shaman in that you create some kind of sensory elevation music, through dance this ritual...partying is somewhat of a ritual, you know? The central figure in that is either the performer or the DJ«.
And how does that go back to dancing?
»To me dancing is the deepest connection you can have with the universe. It's something that I have to do - when I don’t dance I don’t feel alive. I mean, that’s what I love about Chicago. It was a place where it was nothing but dancing when you went out and really good dancers. In Chicago you have people doing circles, kind of like you see in hip-hop. But in Chicago you saw people move their bodies in ways just like my God this is like impossible! I had a friend that was like, my friend is SSPS... he just like did this one move where he was able to kick the back of his head. But its only possible when people reach a certain like awareness, you know, of their body. And it just happens through music. It happens because the DJ is punching these people«.
Who is the best dancer you've ever seen?
»I would have to say my friend John SSPS is one of the fucking illest dancers. The way he moves his body is like wow«.
What makes a great dancer?
» It’s a way that people respond to music that lets you know that they have become the music. I have been to some Santería rituals where you see people going into trances...it’s the same thing, this repetitive rhythm. I think that’s what I’m really concerned with: creating a trance-like rhythm, something that allowed people to lose themselves«.
What do you have planned for the future?
»Doing the sound for some artist installations, so I’m moving more into ambient stuff. I’m definitely releasing an LP, where I can explore a little bit more non-linear signals like, anti-beat, against the rhythm. I kind of want to make music that’s hard for DJs to spin. So many people do these long blends and they’re so pretty, but I come from spinning disco, so for me its more of an intense blend. You have maybe 30 seconds to really get the blend in and figure it out. So I call it DJ challenges. You have to push the DJ«.