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An in-depth conversation with Berlin-based artist, Alinka

An in-depth conversation with Alinka

Born in Kiev, Alinka has a unique power on the decks and in the studio, influenced by the city of Chicago, with toes tipped in Detroit techno and Europe’s key cities. Immigrating to Chicago with her family as a child she immersed herself in the scene, digging for records and becoming resident for Justin Long’s Dotbleep party at Smartbar. In 2012 an impromptu meeting with former Hercules and Love Affair vocalist Shaun J. Wright changed her life. The pair launched their Twirl parties and label whilst continuing to evolve their collaboration.

The result has been an impressive catalogue of material from, with music featured on Jackathon Jams, Crosstown Rebels, Leftroom, The Classic Music Company and of course Twirl. Now living in Berlin, Alinka has used this base to play at parties across Europe including the likes Panorama Bar and Circo Loco, whilst regularly returning to the US to play for promoters such as Ladyfag. 2020 will see Alinka’s evolution continue, with a packed schedule of releases and her newly launched label Fantasy Life.

Connect with Alinka on Soundcloud | Facebook | Instagram | Spotify

Hey hey, how are you holding up in these crazy times?

Hey! I’m doing ok. I’ve been very up and down emotionally, as I’m sure everyone is at the moment, but I’m very grateful that I’m at least in Germany and have some support. It’s obviously a difficult time, but I’m trying to stay positive and focus on the good things. It’s definitely made me a lot more present and grateful for everything in my life.

Let’s dive in and talk about your release. “Control Transmission” is your new solo work that’ll be released. What makes this one special to you?

This record is actually the first music I made after quitting my day job and going full time with music last fall.  So it was the first time really in the past 20 years that I finally gave myself the time and space to really explore and be creative. I watched a lot of documentaries on different art forms and artists and drew inspiration from that. These tracks showed me what I’m capable of when I have the head space to be fully creative and how vital that is for me. So I’m very proud of that time and this release, it will always be very special for me. 

What was the inspiration behind the release? Seems like you are a space fan?

Day zero was actually inspired by one of the designers in a documentary I was watching. He was speaking about how our perception changes depending on how we look at something and how we create our own reality as we move through space, which I found really interesting.

I’m a pretty sensitive person so I’m like a sponge of feelings and pull a lot of inspiration from that.

I’m a big fan of all things that inspire creativity, visual art, cooking, music, writing, photography, and etc. All of those things instantly trigger your senses, and I’m a pretty sensitive person so I’m like a sponge of feelings and pull a lot of inspiration from that. It’s part of why I really love DJing because you really absorb the energy of a room and you create this magical space with music.

I learned to play from standing behind my favourite DJ’s and watching the crowd react to different tracks and then going home and practising non-stop but never letting go of the power of that feeling. Music has the power to make you feel instantly as do the things that trigger your imagination, that’s what I’m drawn to in life.

Space to me represents the unknown and our need to explore. It always sets off your imagination thinking about what’s out there in the universe.  So that’s the connection to Control Transmission. Collectively they’re inspired by creativity and exploration because that’s also the space I was in in my life when I made the tracks.

“Control Transmission” is your second release via “Crosstown Rebels”. Tell us about your relationship with the label or Damian Lazarus in particular. What distinguishes them from other labels?

I love Damian because he knows exactly what he wants and has incredible taste. He’s a legend, I’ve been a fan for many years. I’ve followed the label since it’s early days and they’ve always done an incredible job curating the music and the artists.  I’m very honoured to be working with them. They’ve been super supportive, and it’s honestly really refreshing to work with people that believe in you and your music and really push it. It means a lot to me. 

For most artists, originality is first preceded by a phase of learning and, often, emulating others. What was this like for you?

I think you learn the technical part first, it’s like learning to write. At first you just need to hold the pen correctly, and then you eventually get your thoughts across. I never wanted to emulate anyone, for me it was always about creativity and finding myself in the process. I can listen back to my first tracks and even though I had no idea what I was doing I can still hear a bit of myself in there.

When I started making music there were no Youtube and free tutorials you had to learn by trial and error. So it took time for me because I taught myself everything. I didn’t want anyone taking credit for anything I did because I saw how successful women were treated in the music industry. This was always in the back of my mind. Now I can listen back and hear the progression in every track I made as I learned something new, and it’s a nice feeling.

How would you describe your own development as an artist and the transition towards your own voice? What is the relationship between copying, learning and your own creativity?

I think life’s work and the journey is figuring out who you are as an artist and what you have to say. That takes time. I think I’m finally in the place I can really get my voice across in my music and it’s the best feeling in the world. It took me like 10 years to like anything I made.

When you can get to the point technically where you can just sit down and get your ideas out the way you want that’s when the magic happens

I always tell young producers that anyone can learn the technical part, and I’m far from the best producer but I know there’s only one of me, and if you can get to this point where you sound like yourself you become irreplaceable. So that’s the ultimate goal. When you can get to the point technically where you can just sit down and get your ideas out the way you want that’s when the magic happens.

For me it’s always been about self-discovery and my own growth as a human and an artist, that’s always been the goal. It’s a longer journey when you work that way but I think it’s much more rewarding.

It feels your sound is inspired by your trips around the world. How did your sound evolve over time? Where did you start?

I started in Chicago, it all really goes back to Chicago. In Chicago, you say you’re a House DJ because as they say House is a feeling, and it’s part of you. But really you can play any genre and your taste is very diverse because, in the end, I think there are only two genres “good” and “shit”.

My trips around the world opened me up a lot. Berlin is so open creatively and there’s so much talent here. It’s been super inspiring as a DJ and a producer. I think I evolved a lot after moving to Berlin also because you have a sense of community and support here that gives you the confidence to really grow as an artist and find yourself. For me, that was the pivotal point in my journey, and since then playing to different crowds in different places you, of course, grow a lot.

Was there music you recall from your very early days that inspired you up until today? How does it have an influence on your current sound?

The first Hercules & Love Affair albums were really what saved my life. I actually quit Djing and making dance music for a few years, but in that time I was still quietly trying to find the inspiration again. My friend sent me the first Hercules record and was like you have to listen to this.

I remember I was working an office job and pretty lost in life when I first heard it, and I felt very alone at that time like I had no one I could really relate to around me. Then it was like whoa people that I can relate to making music I love, so I was super inspired. That made me go home and keep trying.

The crazy part is a few years later I was in a band, and our manager one day out of nowhere said: “Shaun J. Wright from Hercules & Love Affair just moved back to Chicago and is looking for producers to work with do you want to meet him?”. I jumped out of my chair and screamed YES. Then Shaun came to my house and we were instant friends for life. And that’s how it all kicked off again for me. I went from sitting in an office watching them on Youtube and it got me out of deep depression and gave me some hope but I never thought I would meet any of them, and then life made magic happen and that’s why I’m still here today.

Could you take us through a day in your life, from a possible morning routine through to your work? Do you have a fixed schedule? How do music and other aspects of your life feed back into each other – do you separate them or instead try to make them blend seamlessly?

I used to try to have a routine and work every day but truthfully I don’t want to be mechanical with how I work. My music isn’t mechanical it’s emotional for me, so I need to work when I feel creative and inspired.

My music isn’t mechanical it’s emotional for me, so I need to work when I feel creative and inspired.

When I quit my day job I locked myself at home and didn’t see anyone except when I had gigs and I finished like 11 tracks the first few weeks. But that was at a time I had so much creative energy pent up from not having the headspace or freedom for so long to just wake up and make music that it really just flowed out of me and it was pretty magical. I remember sending my manager Matt a new track every day and both of us freaking out, it was a really special time for me.

Now it’s a bit difficult with the lockdown and corona, because emotionally I’m so up and down and I don’t have the DJ gigs to draw energy from. I am still making music because I need to be creative to survive. But I really had to find the balance with how I work because some days I just don’t feel like I have anything to give, and other days I can pour everything into a track. So I just try to wake up and see how I’m feeling that day and take it day by day.

My music and other parts of my life are very connected because I’m very connected emotionally to my music, I can’t really separate the two.

Usually, I sit down and write a couple of loops I’m not super into and then the 3rd is a track I finish in a few hours. Every track I’ve finished I usually got the main idea the first hour and then finished it that day or a few days later. If I get stuck on something I usually scrap it and don’t look back. But yeah, my music and other parts of my life are very connected because I’m very connected emotionally to my music, I can’t really separate the two.

What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learnt along the way in this crazy music business?

The most important thing is to have people around you that believe in you and give you the confidence to be yourself. Because once you have that you just keep growing.

Who is the talent on your radar we should keep an eye on?

A recent discovery I’m into is Matisa from Italy, her stuff is really great. Also, Amanda Mussi and Ananda from Brazil, Brame & Hamo, Cromby, Sally C, and P.Leone are making crazy tracks I’m playing a lot in my mixes. There’s so much talent really it’s hard to narrow it down to a few. I would have to say everyone on me and Shaun’s label Twirl, since it’s mostly very talented underdogs making crazy music.

And finally, what’s the record from another artist that’s meant the most to you this year?

I really love “Forever” by Curses and Chinaski. Luca (Curses) has been my good friend since we met right before we both moved to Berlin. He’s just so talented and versatile, and I’m super happy he’s getting the attention he deserves. I really love this record, I think it’s brilliant, and it reminds me of a lot of the music I grew up on that’s influenced me.

Thank you!

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