Our series, “We are the night” presents artists, promoters, production managers, label owners and others who are bringing the music world of the Czech Republic forward, from the past to the present and the present to the future. This week we present an interview with electronic artist Dmitrievna. Photo credit: Monika Stern.
In these times, there is almost an overload of releases, both mainstream and non-mainstream. The proliferation of streaming platforms and their influence on listeners and their habits, and the related need to seek and find exceptional records and emergent artists with a strong identity, is what led me to initiate this series.
Conveying the value of a first complete album, trying to understand the concept behind it and the messages it can bring to the audience, but also the testimony it will leave of our current times is what I feel should be promoted, and now more than ever.
I wanted to discuss exactly that with Dmitrievna, who has just self-released her first LP “Parazit” this summer. From the genesis to the end result, I wanted to know about the path to that album, which I consider one of the most special and authentic of this year.
Where do you come from in the Czech Republic?
I’m from Northern Bohemia. I grew up in a small town called Jiříkov and between the ages of 11 and 19 lived in Česka Lípa. Then I moved to Berlin; I lived there for six years and moved to Prague in late 2019.
What is your first memory related to music?
When I was in third grade, I was at a birthday party of my classmate. Music was being played and one particular song caught my attention. I recognized the Russian lyrics and for some reason, I was really excited about that, I guess because I had only heard Russian at home on TV. It was a t.A.T.u. song, and from then on I was obsessed with them.
Do you have any musical education?
I was attending art school for kids (Czech ZUŠ). I started with dance classes, but I didn’t enjoy choreographed dance, I’m into improvisation. After that I started vocal classes. I was bad at singing. I wanted to find out if it’s something you can improve on even if you don’t have a natural talent. I did improve a bit, but I wasn’t satisfied with the teaching style and moved on to electric guitar. My teacher tried to show me a bit of music theory, but my mind is stubborn and doesn’t like this stuff. I still know nothing about music theory till this day. And I can’t really play any instrument apart from randomly hitting my MIDI keyboard.
When and why did you start to produce your own music?
I didn’t make music for real before producing. My guitar songs were complete trash and I thought I had no talent. I got to know about music production because I was following Grimes. She was the one to inspire me to try it. I was telling my friends I would start producing for two years, but kept on procrastinating. I think I was afraid of the amount of stuff I would have to learn. But after one really pointless rave in Berlin which made me feel like I was completely wasting my life, I told myself I should stop talking and start doing. Music production was a better starting point for me. It’s easier to make a basic techno beat than to make a basic pop song. I started when I was 21 or 22.
I saw you DJing.. was it something you did before producing, or did you start after?
DJing is something that happened very randomly. Funnily enough, my first DJ gig was in About Blank in Berlin, an opportunity a lot of DJs dream about. The promoter just liked my music, I guess. I keep getting booked from time to time, but I don’t consider myself a DJ at all. It’s just a fun thing.
How would you describe your kind of music to a novice?
I don’t describe my music. I just play it on my phone.
Could you describe your production process?
Usually I start with a beat, add a bass line or a melody and finish off with a vocal line and lyrics. With one song I started from the vocal, but I had to ask someone to accompany it with guitar. It’s not so easy to do it this way when you don’t know music theory.
You made 2 EPs and now one LP. How was the process of creating the whole album? And what is the musical evolution from your EPs?
I was afraid to speak about certain topics and wanted to quit music for fear of being cancelled. But in the end, I decided to express what I felt. In terms of sound I am pretty consistent, it is just evolving technically. As far as the process goes, I was mixing the album with someone. But in the end, thanks to the feedback of an amazing mastering engineer (shout out to Gaex), I realized my own mixes aren’t so bad. So I went back and improved on my original mixes. About half the tracks are my work. Mixing is something that I was insecure about. Now I am confident I can do it and bring my vision to life in a meticulous manner. And I can do it way faster now as well.
What are the main artistic influences on your music?
Of course the art and especially music I experience is influencing me on subconscious level in terms of sound, arrangement etc. But my best work didn’t happen because I was trying to imitate something. My biggest influence is being in touch with my emotions and inner processes.
What about lyrics? What are your main themes and do you write them after the music is produced or before?
I write lyrics when most of the music is done. Sometimes I change up the arrangement during song-writing. The themes for my lyrics change all the time as I cycle through different stuff in my life. The last album is about how human society functions. An individual vs a group, concentration of power, need for freedom, overcoming polarization. But I do have one love song in there, haha. With this album, I wrote all the songs in Czech. I feel there isn’t enough quality alternative music apart from rap that maximizes the potential of this language. I used to write poems, so it’s going back to my roots a bit.
Do you do remix for other artists?
I’ve done only one remix so far, for an artist called Xanah. I just chopped it up and did my best.
How did you experience the COVID times as a musical artist? Did it inspire you somehow?
I disappeared from social media, at first to take a stand against Facebook/Instagram as a company. But then I started to have a very disparate view on what was going on compared to most of my peers and audience. So I figured it made no sense to make music because what I wanted to express at that time would make a lot of people angry. This time revealed so many things to me about how our society functions. I was so nihilistic that I didn’t want to continue living in it any more. My only musical vision was to play a lyre harp in an off grid commune. I viewed the need to show certificates and tests as medical discrimination. Even if someone offered me to play a live show with such conditions, I refused. My return to music just happened to coincide with the easing of the restrictions. My last album is all about this.
How do you feel about live performances? I saw you have done some support shows lately, for IC3PEAK and Linea Aspirea. Could you describe how that was?
I live for concerts. I can express myself best on stage. The best moments of my life happened there. Supporting IC3PEAK was very cool because their audience understood my music very well. Lately I’ve been also seeing a lot of other musicians play live and it was so satisfying and inspiring. Live music is one of the best things on Earth.
What is your best memory of your live concert performances in the Czech Republic? Have you ever played in Brno?
I did play in Brno once. Can’t remember the name of the club though. I think my best memory is the IC3PEAK support gig and SUPŠ Hollahell event organized by art school students in Fuchs, Prague. Teenagers are the most passionate crowd 🙂
You made the first song on the compilation 4ua, released on unizone, which is at the same time very atmospheric and full of anxiety, probably due to the sound effects and the context you wanted to bring to it. Could you tell me what it is about?
“Plyve Kacha Po Tysini” is a traditional Ukrainian folk song, and the song on the compilation is my cover of it. It’s a dialogue between a mother and a son going off to war. I made it right when the war started so I was naturally emotional.
What are your next steps and projects for the future?
I want to spice up my live show with a new element. And I’m also planning to start working on a new collaborative music project in September.
Could you give us three tracks you would like to share with our audience?