Nadja Arast or Viscerale is a Hamburg born, Berlin-based DJ whipping up intense, inner-felt music journeys, derived from experimental, fast, hypnotic sounds. Her dedication to explore the intuitive, sometimes uncomfortable corners of industrial techno, EBM and trance have naturally led her to play at Berghain’s Säule, the infamous party Herrensauna, showcases of the labels Instruments of Discipline and Vaarg, a residency at Copenhagen’s Ved Siden Af club and debuts across US and Europe. Dressed in discernment and poise, Viscerale is making a statement with each act, taking her audience to a place of high energy, unexpected turns and playful command.
She opens up about her newly developed bonds with the Scandinavian ravers, gaining power over fear through DJing, her favourite drum machine Rave-O-Lution and experimental music festivals.
Hello Nadja, it’s a pleasure to be talking to you again! We first got in touch over a year ago as I was following your SoundCloud page and felt drawn to experience the intense, brutal and experimental techno mixes you share but within a club. You played at Griessmuehle’s Silo room in 2018, invited me there and I think it was one of your first gigs? I was impressed with your stillness while the cold walls were literally shaking. Could you share more about the beginning of your DJ journey and what made you want to pursue this passion up until it reached this peak point?
To be honest, I never intended to dj in the first place. All I loved to do was creating mixtapes at home, until some friends asked me to play at their parties. It wasn’t fun at first, because I actually had no clue how to use a mixer properly and how to dj in general. All I felt was pressure and anxiety to play in front of strangers and had nothing to do with what I did at home, so I decided quickly it’s not my place to be and felt more comfortable to be just on the dancefloor.
After 2 years of silence my friend asked me if I would like to play at his birthday party at home. It was the first time in a private and relaxed context and I enjoyed it so much, that I gave it a second try and put out a new mix, which was a great success.
The party „Herrensauna“ was my favorite at that time, which was in a small basement back then, and it gave me so much desire and inspiration to play there too, that I started to learn how to use CDJs and how to mix properly. A few months later I had my first gig at Acud, the place where I would practice alone almost every week. And shortly after the Griessmühle gig followed, where we met! It was an unbelievable feeling to receive positive feedback and to share what keeps me moving. I was seeking for more moments like that, especially because I went through a very dark time in my life. It was the only way to get through it and looking forward to something in the future, I felt glad to wake up with a new focus every day. I could express and process my feelings through it better than I could do with anything else, which became the perfect channel for my struggling mind.
The day I got finally booked for Herrensauna was unreal, especially cause it moved to the Club Tresor and suddenly I thought I wasn’t ready at all. I didn’t have much DJing experience yet, and I felt like getting pushed into the deep waters.
It was a complete game changer and forced me to establish a set up at home to practice regularly.
That gig was probably the most intense experience I ever had in terms of challenges. I realized that I could control my fear simply through concentration and focusing on the mixing, also the exchange of smiles with the dancing people in front of me were important to calm my anxiety. I discovered how to dissolve completely through the exchange of power and energy, which strengthened my mind on levels I couldn’t unveil before. I´ve been on the dancefloor for many years, but this kind of satisfaction and resulting happiness on both sides, this newly created bond between the ravers and me, became the main reason to keep on doing it.
Your name and vision is consistent since the beginning, have you found a way to still continuously surprise yourself and the audience while embodying the stern, unapologetic Viscerale persona? What inspires your alter-ego?
My sets are usually driven by my mood, which makes them unique and quite emotional. Varying from aggressive to dreamy, melancholic and excited, they differ from conventional Techno sets. I continuously discover new and old sounds and find ways to combine them with what I already know.
The inspiration I draw is mostly from exchange with friends and artists, who can open my eyes and ears for new things more easily. My sets developed on a more personal level as I created bonds with like-minded producers and knowing the people behind the music became important to me. I have never created so easily such new deep connections before.
I found the perfect partner to express my persona and my visions through photographs. The press pictures are all made by Abi Shehu, who shares the love for darkness and light with me. I felt quite unsure about putting my face out there at first, but also realized that I cannot hide forever behind images from old fetish magazines I was using at first. It would also create a more personal connection with the people who are in touch with my music.
It’s compelling that you grew your presence simultaneously within the Berlin and Copenhagen underground scenes, holding a residence at the Danish Club Ved Siden Af. Could you unravel some of the factors that made Copenhagen an inspirational environment for you and the affinity for this scene?
Yes, my first contact originated at Herrensauna x Fast Forward Night in Berlin, where I met my favorite artists from the label who inspired me a lot.
I followed the label Fast Forward and Euromantic already and integrated their sounds in my sets, which also opened up my heart for Trance. After I got invited to play at the Endurance Rave in Copenhagen, my love was sealed. I experienced a great sense of community and felt like I found my place, and reached the „Honor Citizenship“ of the Copenhagen Techno community quickly. To be able to play all the tracks of artists I admire in front of them, to get to know them, to celebrate it together, was the next level of exchanging energies. I guess back then it was also surprising for the Copenhagen ravers and artists, that an „outsider“ is so involved. An inspiring trade of music and friendships began, which made me love what I do even more. It finally made all sense to me in a very fulfilling way. My second gig there was the label Euromantic, it was another dream coming true and I realized that people were really enjoying my distinct interpretation of the specific sound of the scene. When my friend Resonant Pole asked me if I want to join their new agency and label „Another Name“ from the Club Ved Siden Af in April, I felt truly honored and happy to be on the Danish roster.
How does it differ from your acts in Berlin and do you think you are a bridge between those two capitals in terms of the music exchange? Is there something from Berlin you bring to Copenhagen and vice versa?
I`m always super excited to play in Copenhagen, as I am sure we are on the same wavelength and it’s a very fast one. Last time I played there was at a hardtrance/gabber night at Culture Box – it was outrageously fun to mix over 160 bpm. I wasn’t surprised that the crowd took it so well, because in my experience they are the hardest ravers I know. I think I bring lots of dancefloor experience from Berlin to Copenhagen. I see lots of effort and evolvement there, to make the spaces more safe. I enjoy the intimate atmosphere there a lot, it’s intense but way more easy going than in Berlin, where too many drugs rule and destroy the vibe. I feel like the Danish ravers appreciate their scene a lot and take care of themselves and each other in a different way.
I also got the great opportunity to bring the Berlin x Danish vibe combined with IBON to New York last spring. It was a very touching experience and resulted from a Mixtape I made with his new track in it. We share the love for hardcore and were pushing each other a lot during gigs, his relaxed nature thought me a lot about myself behind the decks.
I also built new bridges to Oslo and Malmö after playing in both cities, a new source of inspiration and friendship began. They also carry the strong sense of community as Copenhagen and nurture an environment for different music.
You recently played at the Vaarg label night which sits on the experimental and ambient side of electronic music. Are you considering playing some slower and intrinsic pieces more often?
I might start with an Ambient track but then would slowly drag the audience into my faster paced journey again, just can´t help myself. I wasn’t sure if it works out, but it did surprisingly well and we will repeat it again with an Janushoved Label Night at Ohm!
These experimental nights especially provide space for surprising moments and it’s exciting to have a different audience for a change! Since I have a deep connection with experimental music, it’s a pleasure to create a bridge between those genres on the dancefloor and move the audience in my way.
Speaking of different genres, you also play at a very spontaneous Trance party, organised by Dan from Weeirdos. Do you think there should be more regular trance and gabber nights or which ones already happening do you support?
YES. More of it please, I would support it 100% and was very happy to join this happening with my friends. It was absolute fun to play a 160 bpm Trance themed set, and refreshing to take myself less seriously and have uncompromising fun with the crowd. I don’t see it so much in Berlin yet and thought often of throwing Parties myself, especially for Gabber Hardcore. But the troubles of being a promoter pulled me rather down after trying it once a long time ago. There are more opportunities to come since the scene is opening up for faster and ravey sounds, and I will use every chance to support it!
You are playing at Artlake Festival happening in August. This is your first festival gig, how do you feel about conveying your music journeys in an open,natural environment instead of a dark and heated club? Do you have an idea what you’d like to play there?
Actually I played outdoors for the first time last June in Oslo. It was one of the most impressive parties I ever played at and felt so honored when Uteklubb invited me back to play deep in the forest with them.
Especially because their nightlife is pretty limited to the early curfew, people were embracing it and it was such a nice feeling to play in this incredible nature. I think the crew never gathered so many people in their scene before, and everybody was happy to let go without restrictions.
I feel way more connected with nature, than I used to be with dark dancefloors when I was still only a raver. So I was craving for more outdoor vibes and was happy when Artlake Festival invited me to play a closing set. My selection was probably wild as usual but played less dark industrial and went bit more bright and outgoing trancy in the end. Hypnotic grooves and nostalgic melodies were in my focus when the sun was rising! It’s a very honest experience, since you cannot hide in the foggy dark. I guess the only minus point was lack of sleep and real toilets, but the nature and beautiful lake made up for it the next day!
Which festivals do you see yourself playing at or attending and why?
I haven’t experienced many outdoor festivals yet, rather than the indoor ones like CTM and Atonal in Berlin. I go there for many years and it would be amazing to take part one day. I would also like to visit Unsound Festival in Krakow and Creepy Teepee close to Prague, of course playing there would be the ultimate dream. Those interest me specifically because of their diverse Experimental acts and more intimate atmosphere.
I guess there are many more I haven´t heard about but am curious to experience!
This summer saw your debut at Berghain’s Säule. Was this something you’ve been anticipating dearly? Do you feel it was a sort of a breakthrough in your career or that it pushed your skills development as a DJ?
After receiving lots of feedback from friends and fans, I realized it was a real breakthrough. I think I felt so nervous, that I tried not to think too much about it and handled it as every other gig. I’ve been going to this place for about 10 years, although it wasn´t the Berghain floor, it felt special and scary to play in the same building.
The selection of acts that night was great, also I knew the other artists personally so it made me feel safe. The line up of Säule in general became a lot more tempting for me after many years of the usual Techno on the big floor.
The pressure that night and beforehand was immense, and all I could do was trust myself and enjoy that my friends went crazy when I started playing. Their great support gave me such an huge push and natural high, and my fear was transforming into joy.
Your music journey started with classical piano. Do you ever find yourself thinking about producing and composing? What would it sound like? If yes, what are some labels you would like to be associated with?
I started creating sounds with Ableton before I started djing, but I never really followed that path consistently. I couldn’t find enough space or freedom to develop sounds and felt easily frustrated when something didn’t work out with the software. My urge to learn the program was very little, it didn’t feel right to me and something important was missing.
After earning money from my first gigs, I spent it to buy some Synthesizer and other gear to create a more playful way of producing. My favorite machine I got is the Quasimidi 309 Rave-O-Lution from 1992. The name speaks for itself!When I started djing, the urge to produce dancefloor tracks grew but lack of time and space were still holding me back.
When I meet special people it feels easier producing music together, probably cause I don’t overthink so much and am able to let go. Just recently I met an incredible artist named Some Ember, and we had a spontaneous studio session with a good outcome and our contrasting styles emerged to something new.
It was the first time I finished a track with someone and brought it to the dancefloor a week after. To see and feel the reaction of the crowd was really fulfilling and scary at the same time, which inspired me to continue this path in some way.
What projects or acts are you most looking forward to in the near future? I am curious to see how your passion for music unfolds!
Like I said above, I’m looking forward to find more time to develop sounds in collaboration with other artists and by myself.In the near future I am looking forward to my debut in Lyon, Leipzig and Vienna. I am especially thrilled for the Dark Arts Festival in Dublin by Darktrax with an incredible Industrial and Avant-garde line up! It’s always a big pleasure to return to cubs I already played at – like my favorite Ved Siden Af in Copenhagen, Corsica Studios in London and extremely looking forward to play at Säule/Berghain in Berlin again! I am also really curious to see what the future holds and look forward to sharing it with you!