ZINE ARCHIVE: AN INTERVIEW WITH IGNIS
IGNIS. You’re a DJ, music producer, avid music lover, graphic designer, adventurer, and, if you allow me to say, just an altogether crazy soul. We’ve known each other for years and I’ve seen you grow and develop your talent, so I’m so thrilled to sit down and get to the root of all things. Ready?
Well, first, to begin: let’s talk about where you began. Looking at where you are now, knowing who you are, it’s very easy to assume you’ve always been in love with techno (the genre you specialise in). However, I personally remember a time when you were not so eager to listen to that sort of music or even go to a party. As I recall, that changed during a trip to Ibiza when you were 19. So: how did you first discover the magic of techno and do you think it has anything to do with the fact you first experienced the music in one of the party capitals of the world?
Yes, indeed, I mean, Ibiza is the place to start listening to techno if you’re going to start listening to techno. One of our dear friends, Chorko, he really wanted us to go to a techno party, so we followed him and, you know – I’ll always remember my first party in Cocoon and it will always be sentimental to me because we were all together. If I went to Bulgaria for my first techno party, I probably would’ve needed to go a few more times until I was hooked. The techno scene here at that time just wasn’t as advanced as it currently is so yeah, Ibiza definitely played a big part to convince me to go ahead in this endeavour.
A lot of people might not know what a DJ actually does. Can you explain the difference between being a techno producer and a techno DJ and why did you recently choose to change directions and go more into music production?
I’ve always wanted to be a producer first. Production is making your own music, DJing is mixing other people’s music, production gives you a lot more satisfaction. DJing is all about finding the right music, the skills a DJ has definitely matter, but the basics of those are actually really easy to learn. Making your own music on the other hand, that’s way more interesting, and a lot more complicated. So I wanted to start first with the easy part, the mixing, but now I’m moving more into production and maybe starting my own label. But at the very beginning, I was a consumer, so from that point of view I was just curious to see what it would be like to be a DJ. But I’ve always wanted to make my own thing, yeah.
Right. So when you’re part of the line-up for a party as a DJ, you’re usually mixing some other artist’s music. Do you feel that takes away from your personal creativity as a musician or is it moreso a creative challenge since while you’re taking something already existing, you’re also making something entirely new out of it?
It’s a challenge because good DJs are able to create a new sounding track from multiple pre-existing tracks. That’s what I strive to do, I want to create an atmosphere and develop it as my set progresses. I try to create something new every time, I don’t just play the tracks as they are, I always add something, or I mix them differently, or I loop them differently. I think it gives me more creativity, but that depends on the amount of gear I’m given, to be honest. If I have four players, I can create so much more than if I only have two players, and then when you add effects and samplers, the creativity can just explode! What I tried to do when I started producing, actually, was I’d make my tracks in a way that they could be looped in different sequences, but they would all sound great together. I wanted to create a one hour set with five or six tracks, but looped in different ways.
Is there a performing side to this art? Lots of DJs have a stage persona or at least tweak certain parts of themselves slightly while on stage. Do you? When DJing a party, do you feel like you’re in the midst of a performance or do you yourself usually take a step back and let the music do most of the work?
I think it’s a bit of both. I started as a party-goer and always liked when the DJ was engaging with the audience and not just looking at the decks. It’s better when they are excited and interact with people. But I do try and make a good selection of music, too. IGNIS is kind of Iana, but I’m highlighting some parts of myself, yeah, so I guess it’s performative. I do have a flaming persona, in a way, and the red hair helps!
In the past year, you’ve been a resident at the organisation Metropolis and have been a part of the line-up for a few of their parties. Can you talk a bit more about what that experience is like? How do you feel when you’re behind that deck with a sea of people ahead moving their bodies to rhythms you create?
It’s actually kind of insane! Cause I never thought I’d be doing this. This year, I had a lot of people come to me and thank me for playing and they were saying they were dancing to the music, and I was like, this is so bizarre! But it’s super nice to hear from people that they are actually enjoying this and I’m very lucky that I am a resident at Metropolis and that I have a place to express my music and that I get bookings. Nowadays, every second person is a DJ, it wasn’t like that a few years ago, so it’s really cool that I get the opportunity to play my music. I don’t take that for granted. I love music, I love dancing, and it gives me so much satisfaction when people dance their hearts out to the tracks I play.
I’d like to take a step aside from DJing and talk about music production a bit more. You spoke before about the magic of techno, but I’d like to ask still: why choose to create this genre of music specifically? Why not continue to DJ, but start producing in a different genre, why stick to techno?
I think techno is my biggest love. I like all types of music, but electronic music has always been more special to me, its had a bigger part in my life. I feel like that type of music gives me more freedom and more areas to explore, it doesn’t put boundaries on me. I find a lot of other types of music require using more commercial types of sounds or lyrics, and I’m not good with those, so through techno I can open things up more to the sound design of the actual samples, rather than making things that are more ‘well put together’. I find techno gives you more freedom, and it’s such a developing genre, too. Techno is still new and it’s still changing a lot.
Do you like the direction in which it’s changing?
Yes and no. Back in the day, people were enjoying the underground scene of techno more; now, it’s grown in popularity a little bit too much and people are going more and more just for the party side, not the music, so the community has definitely changed most.
Speaking of your choices, IGNIS: it seems you’re drawn to creating sets that have a higher-than-average BPM (beats per minute): more recently sets like Chimera, Indicus, Fervidus Amare, but even in your early start, too, with sets like Numinosity and you know I can't not mention the one you so touchingly dedicated to me, Histrionis. Why so? What makes you prefer higher BPM to say, more melodic techno?
Well, I’d actually say I do melodic techno, but also rhetoric. I always, no matter what, I always have something with vocals in my sets. I like to bring back tracks from the 80s and mix those with techno, I like how that sounds. When it comes to the high BPM, I just find that more people these days enjoy faster techno. There’s a bigger audience for the harder parties and myself, as a consumer, I do prefer those, too. I started with melodic, but I got bored of it, and I started seeking something faster because when I got to a party, I just want to dance my heart out and get wrecked!
For anyone who knows even a little bit about this genre or has been to even one party, it should be very evident that the community of techno is a very specific and powerful subculture. From the venue of the party to the all-black clothing people tend to wear, it seems like this techno world has a lot of unwritten rules and it seems, also, that the community not only agrees to those rules, but enjoys and indulges in them. How do you draw a line between being part of the subculture as a hobby vs. listening to the music for the music only, as those two things seem to be inherently connected? In this day and age, what comes first, the party or the music?
Great question. It depends on the organisation. For some organisations, I’m not going to name them, but some have great headliners and invite cool people that play very different and interesting techno. But then they market the party in a commercial way, so that’s what people expect, and then they go and the DJ is playing something very different, and then in the end people are disappointed because they thought it was going to be, like, a rave. So there’s a great division in the party scene right now because some people go and think it’s going to be just a big party and others go just for the music. I’m a bit of both worlds, I usually go for both. I’d say for people, usually, in the start it’s just the music, but then as more time passes, yeah, it definitely becomes more a hobby. You go, you meet people, you vibe. For me personally, now it’s important to be present at parties because that way I show support for the locals and promoters notice me there. As far as the unwritten rules go, it’s actually really fine. No one really cares how you dress or how you dance.
Do you think then it’s one of those things that when you look at it from the outside, it might seem that there are many unwritten rules, but then when you actually go to a party, you realise those things don’t really matter?
People don’t actually care! It’s a stigma from an outside point of view. You go to techno parties – you dance how you want, you do what you want, you dress how you want, nobody cares! Techno music has been portrayed as one of the most accepting genres, in Berlin for example people do literally whatever they want. Nobody cares, so just relax and have fun!
We’ve had our fair share talking about music, but just before we wrap this up, I need to also mention: you’re a very talented artist. You’re an incredible painter and also actually studied graphic design. You even draw your own covers. Is there a connection between those two arts: music and drawing? And if so, what?
Well – to be fair, I don’t think there’s that much of a connection, I just knew graphic design before I knew music, so I sort of just combined the best of both worlds and began designing my covers and my sets. Instead of paying someone, I was like, I know how to do it, and it also just gave me yet another way to express my style.
Lastly, IGNIS, let me thank you so much for the time you’ve taken today. I’ve had a blast talking to you and understanding some more about a world that often seems veiled in mystery. The floor is yours now: what do you have going on, what should we look forward to, what’s the future holding right now for DJ & techno producer IGNIS?
Well currently, I'm a resident at Metropolis. In the future, I’ll hopefully be getting a second residency with an organisation called KЛTRAN. So when you’re a resident with these organisations, when they make parties, you’re always in the line-up. Meanwhile, I’m completing my advanced production course and I’ll be looking for labels to join in the future. On the 4th of November, I’m DJing an all-girls techno party in a club called KUPE in Sofia, so that’s going to be really fun.