I'm a techno DJ but you never know what to expect from me

An interview with Dasha Kolosova
Daria Kolosova
One year ago today, Daria Kolosova changed her Facebook status to "Working at System 108. Resident-DJ". The following two years were quite difficult for for the world club scene, but it seemed like our heroine didn't really notice anything. The quantity and geography of her performances only grew, and quite drastically. Her performance schedule today is full up to this summer with practically no free dates. But despite active tours around the world, she never forgets about her hometown Kiev, where, for example, she performs at rave-rallys in support of clubbers, while continuing her residency at System 108 after numerous performances at the Signal festival and the "System" Saint Petersburg event. Anticipating Dashas performance in Moscow we decided to talk to her about life, psychology and the mad pace of groovy-techno with which she rocks festivals and clubs around the world.
Do you remember the first track that you listed to that made you think "Oh yeah, this is techno"? What did it make you feel.

It was Das boot by U96. Back then I didn't know it was techno, I thought it was just some type of electronic music. But that track was different in terms of thrust and crazy energy. I heard it when I was about seven years old. My Dad was a big fan of electronic music and I found it listening to one of his tapes. It was a real revelation.
Have you played it in your sets?

Actually no! Its pretty slow and I haven't tried speeding up the bpm. Maybe I should? Ive never thought about it. (laughs)
After watching a lot of your interviews and listening to a lot of your sets I feel like limiting you to techno alone would be wrong. Do you yourself identify as a techno DJ?

Its obvious that I define my main genre as techno, while it can be quite diverse - from melodic to rough and groovy. But it has always been important to me that im not associated with only techno music. Thats why I like experimenting in my sets, I can play brake-beat and electro, then try some jungle or ambient, downtempo or house in an atypical slot for myself. People know I'm a techno-DJ, but they never know what to expect from me.
Daria Kolosova
You left the "Culture of sound" school because of your tight performance schedule?

I temporarily stopped teaching about six months ago. At some point, it became difficult to combine active touring with teaching at school. At first, the idea of teaching DJing came to me as a side effect of quarantine. There were few performances, I wanted to occupy myself with something, and then I got an offer from the school. Moreover, I git the offer from the guys at "Culture of Sound", at whose events I performed several times, and they themselves are very involved in what they're doing. I loved their approach. I taught at the school for about a year, I liked doing it. I can definitely say that the experience was very interesting. It turned out that I'm not a bad teacher. (laughs)
And you're not only good in practice, but also a great theorist?

Yes, it's one thing to be able to play, but another thing to be able to share your knowledge correctly and easily, to teach someone. When you start teaching, you overestimate your knowledge, you start looking at it from a different angle, wow, it turns out I know so much.
And your students? What kind of people were they? Those who are eager to conquer the industry, or those who are just looking for a hobby?

They were all very different. I probably had the most active flow of students out of all the teachers in the two schools (one in Kharkov, the other in Kiev). That's why I had the opportunity to choose my students. The first lesson at school is introductory. The student meets the teacher, tells him about himself and why he came to school, the teacher shares what will happen in the learning process, and eventually they decide whether they are suitable for each other or not. That was very important to me. I didn't want to waste my knowledge. I collected all my experience bit by bit, and wanted to share the information I got over the years with the most motivated people. Of course, there were some students that came to me and said, "I want to tear up dance floors , I want swarming crowds of fans." So what they needed first of all was fame and Instagram followers. I told them "I'm sorry, but we have different paths". That approach isn't really about culture and music. We are the "Culture of Sound", and thats exactly what we're about. But there were also some students who shared touching and motivating stories about how they got to know music, about their love for it. I was happy to take on training those people. There were also those who came and said directly: I don't understand DJing, I've only just started listening to electronic music, but I'd like to try and see if it will work or not. Thats also an honest position and I was also ready to work with such people.
Among those students, were there any who were inspired by you?

Of course! Last summer, a big interview with me was released on Nastia's YouTube channel. And my story apparently inspired many of them and they came to school with a desire to learn from me.
In addition to the technical aspects of DJing, did you somehow teach them other things, such as interacting with people?

In addition to the technical base, I tell students about the history of genres and their differences, the history of DJing. In general, I think it's important to know music history, it motivates and gives you the opportunity to feel what a big and important culture you are a part of. I also talked about the psychology of the dance floor, the dynamics of the set, how to engage in self-promotion. I had a student who joked that if he knew in advance how difficult it was to promote himself, he probably wouldn't have come to study.
Today you are a very popular DJ, whose performances are scheduled for many months ahead. Are you more often scheduled for primetime (where there is not much space for genre performances) or are there still opportunities for creative freedom?

I mostly perform as a headliner, I play at prime time, and the opportunity to play other slots doesn't come that often. For example, last Saturday I played at the Tantsa festival in Sao Paulo, Brazil and I wrapped the techno stage. I felt that 8 o'clock in the morning was not the best time for aggressive techno, and I played groove techno mixed with classic trance and acid, and finished my set with classic Plastikman. Tomorrow I'm playing at a party at the Arsenal Club before Phase Fatale. In this case, I decided to revise my EBM collection. So if there is an opportunity to experiment, I'm in.
You also worked as a vocalist in a rock band! And were interested in grindcore and all kinds of experimental music. Can this be considered your background? How seriously does it affect you today?

There is a common root in all that music — it's all aggressive and crazy. There is a lot of energy in it. When I decided to become a DJ, I knew that I wanted to play aggressive music. It was in techno that I found such energy. How does it affect me? From there, probably, stems my love for experimentation, a combination of the incongruous, new music and some old classical electronic tracks. Recently, a party was closing in Stuttgart and the audience asked to play another track encore. I turned on Propellerheads "Take California" and the crowd just went crazy. It's curious that hardly anyone from the current generation of ravers know him, after the party, ten people asked to me in Yandex.direct "What was that track?", although it was a hit at one time!
Can you name two or three moments in your career that you consider crucial for yourself?

The first such moment occurred in 2014 or 2015, when I decided to quit commercial music, and I was invited to perform in Krasnodar for the first time under the new nickname Dar:k. Then I indicated to myself that I wanted to move in a different direction and play techno. The second gig was my cooperation with Nastya. She offered to perform back2back, and for the first time we played in that format at the Arma17 birthday party at the Funkhaus in Berlin. And the third turning point was my performance at the Berlin HOR. I don't understand how or why, but this video has gained 670,000 views. I just came there for fun and played music that I really liked.
You've played on the Kiev 20ft radio more than once…

Yes, I somehow decided to play a vinyl mix on air and for some reason it also blew up. Promoters started writing me, asking me to record a podcast for a cool Erratic project (https://soundcloud . com/erraticnyc/erratic-podcast-174-daria-kolosova). And 20ft is made by a team of excellent Kiev DJs. They made a radio in a real 20-foot container. The initiative is absolutely non-commercial, it lives only on donations. Thanks to them, many new Kiev artists have become more recognisable.
If we talk about the Ukrainian stage in general, and Kiev in particular, it seems that everything is runing as it should. What's going on there?

We're really doing well. After the Maidan revolution, there was also a revolution in Ukrainian electronic music, new clubs, promo-groups, new super talented local artists. And then the quarantine happened. And this also went to our advantage! We experienced quarantine differently than Europe. Yes, everything was closed, but parties were held anyway — legal and illegal. At some point, the party-goers from Europe, tired of sitting at home, realised what was happening in Kiev and started to come here to hang out. Some ravers and DJs even stayed here for several months. Plus, a new awesome club was opened, which quickly became a kind of mecca. The club has no name, and everyone just calls it "Kirillovskaya" after the name of the street. It was immediately crowned as the local Berghain. Arsenal club opened in the summer, Closer is still working. Plus, there are all kinds of promo teams, from small local clubs to large ones, such as NECHTO.
Many DJs say that performing back2back with other DJs is a great art and not everyone can play like that. You often play b2b with Nastia, played at "Island" with Etapp Kyle. Can you describe how such a performance is different from a solo one? What is the difficulty (if any)?

When Nastya and I played back2back, we didn't prepare at all. We played great the first time. We are very similar — both in taste preferences and in energy. That's probably why we got together. (laughs) I'm very comfortable with her.
Okay, and how did you play with Seryozha Etapp Kyle. You are in a relationship with him so Its probably different than with Nastya?

Promoters immediately lunged at this opportunity. We played at the "Island" festival in Kiev once and then it started. We already have a lot of joint performances planned for next year. Seryozha told me that he wasn't a big fan of back2backs and hasn't played with many people. But since we are in a relationship, it's a completely different vibe, now he is my favourite partner for back2backs.
In an interview for Afisha you told me how impressed you were with Etapp Kyle in terms of technique.

Oh, yeah! I had already understood what was going on before, but during that performance of his, I was amazed by the depth of Seryozha's techniques. I was inspired very much then. It was a moment of revelation for me.
Daria Kolosova
Haven't you started writing music yet?

I have! Seryozha and I were listening to music at home, just fooling around, and he says, "Why don't we write music together? That would be fun!" Yes, l agree. But in this area I feel his advantage and so far I'm a bit shy. Therefore, I want to focus on production again, to tighten up my knowledge. Seryozha constantly works at home, for example, right now he is finishing work on remixes, and he inspires me very much. On the other hand, I have a very active touring activity right now, and it's extremely difficult to find time to write. I sincerely admire people who tour a lot and still have time to write music. I don't understand how they do it.
Who inspires you?

Seryozha is certainly one of my favourite producers and DJs. I also like the creativity of Blawan — he's very talented. Lately I've been digging more into techno from the 90s and 2000s and I'm more interested in artists whose names are unfamiliar to me. I discover new names, a new sounds. I am inspired by what comes to me at the moment.
Here's why I'm asking — your popularity is going up steeply now, and if it weren't for covid restrictions, then maybe you've already been somewhere in space. But the common burnout can happen. Do you feel pressure and how do you cope with it?

Of course I feel it. But many things happen without your participation. Here you are, Dasha Kolosova, just a DJ, and then suddenly you are a super-popular artist and they put a lot of responsibility on you. Every set has to be super cool, people expect more and more from you and you have no right to stumble. That's why I work with a therapist, so as not to go crazy, not to burn out. This is my airbag.
Tell me, what mode do you live in now?

Well I play every weekend now. Europe, however, began to close off again, but it didn't really affect me, I still have no days off. The Awakenings festival and several performances for the New Year were canceled, but a replacement was quickly found and now I'm celebrating 2022 in Sofia.
How did the whole lockdown thing affect you?

Professionally it hasn't. Yes, of course it's a shame when tours are canceled or performances postponed. But in two years, everyone has already got used to such instability, you can't do anything about it, and you can't influence it either. You need to relax and accept it, shift the focus to what you can do at the moment.
COVID is unlikely to end tomorrow. Do you have any predictions for what all this will lead to? Maybe there will be a new wave of artists or the stage will be cleared or something?

I don't really know the honest answer. Previously, it would have been possible to foresee something else, but now everything is constantly changing every day and you don't know what awaits you tomorrow. There are no forecasts.. Of course, I want to be optimistic and believe that everything will end soon, but it seems like covid will always be with us. It's just that humanity needs time to figure out how to tame it so that it doesn't result in a pandemic.
You are a resident of System 108...

…literally 10 minutes before our conversation, I opened Facebook and in my memories page it showed me that on December 23, 2019, I started working at System 108 as a resident DJ. (laughs)
Daria Kolosova
How do you feel being a resident of a foreign promo group?

There aren't any things that are somehow very different. I adore the people that work there, they are all cool and friendly, it feels like we are one family. This is what got me interested in the "System".
Fight For Your Right To The Party. It is a well-known slogan. You played at a famous party in front of the Kiev Cabinet of Ministers. How much do you think such events can change the attitude of boring people who lead the state? How do you rate the results of that Kiev stage gathering?

Of course we have to fight. Declare yourself. What is there left to do?! The whole club culture is quite marginalised and stigmatised, in the eyes of the average person, far from electronic music, clubs are drug dens, and those who listen to such music are junkies. "Sink or swim". And we need to declare that we are a culture, we have rights and we cannot be treated like this. It helps in our country. During the pandemic, clubs, bars, concert venues were the most unprotected. They were closed first and opened last. But this is a big industry, huge number of people work for it and everybody needs to pay their bills. And according to my feelings, those performances of ours were not in vain. We would like to be heard, I hope we were heard.
On Facebook, you often post memes with Richard D. James. Is that some kind of love for Aphex Twin or are those memes just funny?

(laughs) Well, I still post them sometimes. But rarer now, funny memes with him have simply ended. In general, I have great love and respect for Richard. I have already said that I am a big fan of experimental music and IDM as well. I really like the stories surrounding him. For example, he had a tank that he drove on acid. Or how at one of the parties he played a piece of sandpaper instead of a record.
Such stories, it seems to me, are all about self-irony, about being easy-going on yourself.

Exactly! He just makes music and has fun, and people love it. I see a therapist now, and during one of the classes I somehow came to the idea that when you do anything sincerely, from the bottom of your heart, people will feel it.
Daria Kolosova
Я вот к чему спрашиваю — твоя популярность сейчас идет круто вверх, и если бы не ковидные ограничения, то, возможно, ты уже где-то в космосе была. Но ведь может случиться банальное выгорание. Чувствуешь ли ты давление и как ты с ним справляешься?

Конечно чувствую. Но многие вещи проходят без твоего участия. Вот ты, Даша Колосова, просто диджей, а потом раз и ты суперпопулярный артист и на тебя навесили кучу ответственности. Ты должна каждый сет отыграть супер круто, люди от тебя ждут все большего и ты не имеешь права оступиться. Поэтому я занимаюсь с психотерапевтом, чтобы не сойти с ума, не выгореть. Это моя подушка безопасности.
In an interview with Nastya, you said that you were very nervous before your performance at the Funkhaus. Does that still happen today, that you get cold feet before some kind of performance?

No, I haven't felt that for a long time. I even remember when it disappeared. Nastya and I played in Ibiza at Boiler Room. I had crazy jitters, we had been preparing for a long time, even though we were to play for only an hour! And I remember getting up to the decks and catching myself thinking that nothing new is happening to me. I've been to this club, I know what it looks like, I'll do what I always do. It's just that there will be cameras in front of me right now. Why should I be nervous?! And that's it, it let go of me. But the feeling of pleasant excitement, of course, hasn't gone anywhere. You feel it when you need to perform in a cool club or at a festival.
Can you name some examples?

I had that with the Awakenings. I was at school, I had a lesson. And then I received a message from my agent that they want to book me for this festival. And I was stunned. I ran out into the hall and burst into tears. It was very touching and very important to me. And even though the festival was eventually canceled, we still kept in touch. I'll have enough of them. (laughs)
Hero: Daria Kolosova
Interviewers: Ilya Voronin, Natalya Nagovitsyna
Editor: Arseny Nasonov
Photographer: Bogdan Balagur