Interview with Jana Dark, the woman behind the Russian (currently living in the US) noise/dark ambient/experimental project Darkrad who has released on the legendary Cold Meat Industry, and most recently Audiophob.
Firstly, can you give us a brief history of your project?
I started Darkrad in 2008. I was always very active in the scene, doing different things: DJing, promoting concerts with Tanzfront, doing radio shows… But eventually I started to feel this is not enough and I need something more to be able to express myself, so it just naturally happened that I started to explore the world of music making and created Darkrad. I never thought of having or joining a band, I wasn't really interested in that. I felt it should be just a one-person project and this is how I still feel. There’s just way too much, too many personal things associated with my creativity in Darkrad, and it has to be concentrated on my inner. And it was then, in 2008, when my first show in one of large Moscow clubs took place as well, which went great. The process went slow, I was very busy with other things in the scene, but eventually my attention shifted to my music.
What inspires the music you make? What draws you to dark ambient / noise / death industrial?
Anything can inspire me. Nature, people I meet, literature, art, music… I like lying down in the evening, turn on some music and put on the intimate dim lights or candles. I just like to lay and think, observe, meditate, dream away to the outer space, to the non-existing worlds. This is when I get most of the ideas and I write them down in a special book. I like the details surrounding me, often very small intricate details. I often have weird dreams and when I wake up I write them down too. I use them in many ways. I like walking around in the streets or nature, capturing small signs from this world, trying to reflect on the messages I receive…I lift my head towards the sky, see clouds pass by and I feel myself very real. I see myself like in a movie, moving in the endless flashing of images and sounds, a lost creature in this world, searching for my path.
Dark ambient, industrial, noise and similar genres are very emotional for me. They have endless fields of experiments and expressions, merging together in one synthesis. This isn't just music; it’s a culture, way of life. I like the contrasts, the ability to define and stress the pure unrestrained emotion. The cold, pulsating hypnotism attracts me. It’s a dance before the death, somewhere underground, when the world outside is broken and torn apart, and one can hear the heavy pace of the approaching apocalypse and taste its rotten entity.
Tell us a bit about your studio – what gear are you using, your favorite gear, etc. ?
Me and my husband (he’s also a musician) share the studio. We have about five analogue monosynths, two analogue polysynths, an old rackmount Roland rompler… I spend most of my time with a Korg MS-20, which is controlled by a Doepfer Dark Time step-sequencer. Along with that I use the Pro 2 and Mono Evolver Keyboard, which are both hybrid synths from Dave Smith Instruments. For pads and other atmospheric sounds I use an Oberheim Matrix 1000 and the Roland U220 rompler, both controlled by an Oberheim XK. When I perform live I like to have a Korg Monotribe with me, along with a Kaossilator and the MS-20. And of course we have some old tape players and such, and the last but not the least – microphones. Voice is my important gear. I’m not really a “gear nerd”… I always think that it’s not what kind of equipment you use, that matters, but what actually comes out of this equipment.
Your track “Izvergi” appeared on Wounds of the Earth Compilation 6. Can you tell us a bit about how this track came into being? The process behind it, inspiration, etc?
Initially this track was a part of the possible EP, I was working on, and it was in a way brutal and more dynamic and noisy than the latest album. I started working on it right before the album release. Izvergi is a transliteration of the Russian word, which can be translated as “Tortures”. These track as well as some other materials created together with it, are the mirror of my inner chaos happening also during creation of Little Black World. A suffocating pressure, an atmosphere of despair and misery, embracing and swallowing you. A torture of mind of body, done by those, who do not know mercy.
Your first full length was Abnormal Love, released in 2012 on the legendary Cold Meat Industry and was a mixture of dark ambient, noise, and industrial. Can you tell us about this album and the inspiration behind it?
This album had quite a long way. The title of the album comes from the track with the same title. This idea happened to be in my mind when I was filming the “Abnormal love” video in one small German town. This was during the winter and it was cold and snowing. I stretched the hands and faced the piercing snow. I felt it prickle me and tear me apart. I thought of the feelings and just let mind go. This abnormal love is a piercing feeling, something that blows on you at high speeds and hits you hard. Some small pieces, which are very strong.
Last year in 2014 you released the follow up, Little Black World which seemed to be a bit more personal in that it featured hand-made and numbered packaging. What can you tell us about this release?
It has quite some background behind. At first, it was recorded very fast. It was like a flash of emotion, striking me. Little Black World is a metaphoric resemblance of both inner physical condition and an environment around. There were changes in my life happening with my moving to the USA to a quite remote and isolated location. The feelings were gathering in me like a lump of snow. Isolation felt somehow as being stuck in a black hole. The more I felt it the more I started to realize that this devastating Little Black World isn't just the surrounding environment. It is inside me. It can be interpreted in many ways. I’m sure all of us hide their Little Black Worlds within.
I released this album on a cassette tape as part of a set containing also various merchandise items elaborated in DIY style. I wanted to retain certain privacy behind it, I felt I was whispering a secret message in a low voice and those having this personal release will hear this message.
By the way, this album was re-released on a CD by the German label Audiophob. Bonus tracks were added, as well as remixes. I’m very happy this release happened, since I was intending to release it on a CD after the tape release. Mirko – the musical mastermind behind Audiophob had seen my performance during the Wroclaw Industrial Festival in Poland and he and his partner Carsten got interested in a CD release.
Little Black World was released on cassette - a format which is coming back into vogue, especially for underground genres that focus on dark and lo-fi soundscapes. What made you want to release on this format and what do you feel the place of a cassette is in today’s musical landscape?
I like cassette as a format, I love the lo-fi sound and atmosphere, as well as special fleur and aesthetics.
Cassette can’t live long, it’s time frame is limited. It is like a book, it gets scratched, colors fade and there is degradation involved. It makes it especially unique, with its own history. Using cassette for such music styles as industrial, noise, or whatever obscure and experimental, is very organic, it is part of this music community; it has the aesthetics associated with these genres and culture.
For me, working in experimental genres not only in music but also visual arts, the choice of a cassette and a DIY packaging was the best choice. My goal was to create not just a musical release, but a piece of art, which will help to establish more sensitive connection with my audience.
I myself was active in making mixtapes and radio bootlegs both for me and friends. Those times are gone, but cassettes are still there and receive a new approach. But I believe the nostalgic aspect and being part of the retro mania hitting the world, is only a part of it. It’s not the pure snobbism or elitism (however this is present as well). This format focuses on the personality, on the actual individuals standing behind, much more than on anything else. Many cassette labels are run by young people who don’t have nostalgic feelings about it in the first place. Many duplicate them in digital form available for downloading. In search for the new, we always look back at the past. Cassette revival is in my opinion one of the ways to look for something new. What will that be – future will show.
In addition to being a musician you are also a visual artist under the moniker Jana Dark. Tell us about how you approach visual art, how it compares to the process of creating music, and how these two artistic fields coexist for you.
My approach to visual arts transforms over time. I have been active in visual arts for a long time, long before I even started music. I worked in design, interior, graphics and video art. I also paint, draw and do photography. I don’t stick to any format, tool or medium. Everything works and blends together, everything is important for me. I’m always searching, sometimes it seems I found, and at that point of time it might be the case, but time goes and things change and I find myself in completely different states of mind and there are different things that inspire me.
Industrial music has a very strong connection with art, much more than many other genres. It basically has no boundaries, it can go as far as you can or can’t imagine. It is very organic and natural that different kinds of art merge with this kind of music. It is not just sounds, but the creation of an atmosphere in the first place, where all the senses are involved.
Darkrad is a multidisciplinary project. It’s not only music, but it is an interactive synthesis which merges sounds, visuals, texts, physical experience and performance.
What lies in the future for Darkrad?
I have quite defined ideas for the new album. It will be a continuation of Little Black World message of being trapped behind the walls that you don’t see, growing isolation and fear, waiting for the bombs to fall and start the fire. This will be an art object again, using more experiments and interaction with the listeners. I don’t play so many shows now as I used to, due to my geographical location changing and I’m temporarily away from any happenings. But changing this is a matter of time. My show program and approach is experiencing changes and I’m preparing new ideas for the next opportunities.
Sometimes I start to feel having one music project like this isn't enough, because there are way too many new ideas flowing into my mind, that cannot be elaborated by Darkrad anymore, they are just of completely different kind. Time will show whether there will be a new project or not. But Darkrad is moving forward.
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