Our new interview series Circle of Questions is an experiment. It is about taking a step back and giving a bit more space to the artists themselves. It is an opportunity for artists to ask fellow artists questions, and share their reflections with the community. For our very first round Mary Yuzovskaya, Michał Wolski, Amandra, Raär and Grand River each got the chance to help shape this first instalment of our new format by freely choosing questions and interview partner, giving us small glimpses into nerdy deliberations on gear, the best snacks for long hours in the studio or practical advice when writer’s block hits. Every week for the last five weeks we have been sharing one set of questions with you – now, the last one up being Grand River and Mary Yuzovskaya.
Grand River: How did this year of lockdown influence you musically? Did it change your perspective and are you planning to change things for the future?
Mary Yuzovskaya: The lockdown didn’t have much influence on my sound or music taste. I guess with or without the pandemic I would’ve bought the same records, signed the same music to my label and produced the same tracks. Regarding my work process: although in the first few months I wasn’t spending much time in Ableton, since the pandemic started I ended up making more music than I usually do. I wasn’t necessarily more inspired the second half of this surreal year, I just had more time on my hands and it was consciously dedicated to the studio. I’m dreaming of a day when I can be back to clubs and on the road again, but until then I’ll try to be as productive in the studio as possible. I’m very sensitive to the idea of lost time, so I try to use this lockdown era to my advantage.
General uncertainty and inability to plan my career in the given circumstances makes it hard to say whether I’m aiming to change anything in the future. But I have to say I’m quite at peace with my recent creative and work decisions. Now, I think, is a very interesting time for artists, liberating in a way. They can truly follow their unique tastes and not worry about what’s hot, relevant or trendy, what gets them signed or booked. You either like a track, or you don’t, and there’s no other criteria to that.
What have you learned by running your label Monday Off?
So many things! From mastering to manufacturing, from distribution to marketing, from scheduling to accounting. The most important thing, however, is that running a label taught me a lot about myself. All the ups and downs I’ve been going through with Monday Off helped me to get more familiar with my own perceptions of things that matter so much to me, because this project is my baby and I take everything label related very close to heart. Learning my reactions helps me understand my professional needs, my ideal workflow and my true goals, as well as setting boundaries and staying true to my vision. I’m definitely still learning, but I can see progress.
Why is it important to you to play your DJ sets only with vinyl?
There’s no fancy, nerdy or complicated philosophy behind my choice. I just really love records, obsessively! And genuinely can’t find any pleasure in the USB-sticks. If you take vinyl out of the process, it’s no longer fun for me personally. If there’s no fun, what’s the point? Throughout my career I got a few opportunities to play digitally, but all those episodes left me disappointed. I think it’s important to listen to yourself and choose what works best for you even if that might not match other people’s experiences.
How do you think the music industry has been changing in the last few years and during this last year of pandemic?
In the past years the electronic music industry has definitely gotten bigger, maybe even bigger than ever. The demand is growing globally. That, of course, gives us different outcomes. Some are good, others – not really (take toxic influence of social media on the scene in the recent years as an example).
The pandemic has changed the direction in a way that artists could no longer tour and perform, listeners could no longer go out to hear music and socialize. But people kept making, releasing and buying music, and many artists and labels tried themselves in different genres or creative concepts, which might have never happened if it wasn’t for the sudden shutdown.
In my deeply subjective experience there was much more music purchased in 2020 than in 2019 (both vinyl and digital). I believe that it happened not only because people are willing to support their favorite musicians, but also because now, more than ever, we need to treat ourselves in a way. When there are so many worries, bad news, fear, isolation, loneliness and uncertainty, purchasing a good EP has a much bigger positive impact on your mood and state of mind than it had before. I feel that we are developing more appreciation to art in general, as its healing qualities are especially irreplaceable these days.
Also, I believe that the development of the music scene happens in circles. We see certain patterns partly repeat themselves after a decade or so.
What matters to me a lot while I compose is the message of the emotion that is related to me in that particular moment. What does your music say about you?
I guess my music reveals certain aspects of my personality – probably my listeners would know better if that’s the case. Oddly enough, my emotional state doesn’t have much impact on my music. I mean, if I’m sad, frustrated or distracted, it will affect my productivity and focus, but, unfortunately, I’m not the kind of artist that knows how to channel their emotions through their creations.
What gives me the most ideas, aside from listening to music in general, is architecture, cities and nature. Or better yet, a combination of those. Walking down the street, forest, passing certain buildings, being inside those buildings and watching materials, textures, constructions and colors, as well as the relationships between, for example, a building and the color of the sky today, gives me direct ideas for my tracks. I do have to be in this experience – looking at a photo or a painting doesn’t do the trick for me. I have to physically walk through the space. It works the other way around, too. When I listen to the music, regardless if mine or someone else’s, certain colors and color palettes come to mind, and sometimes architecture, train stations, mountains etc. Simply put – what I see from my studio window has way more impact on my production than the mood I entered the studio with.