Over the last few years, Magda has had a growing involvement in the legendary Minus label from Windsor, Ontario founded by Richie Hawtin, and her profile as a DJ and producer has grown exponentially. Now an internationally touring DJ, Magda reflects on the dynamics of her evolving career. "Playing the first DEMF, and three years later playing the next one, it was interesting to see that people actually knew who I was and they were excited to hear me! And Mutek was really good for me to do - something that I like which was more weird and experimental". As an artist and a uniquely spirited woman, Magda values artistic integrity. "I don't ever like to go and have to play something I don't like. I don't want to play because of a certain crowd. That I have always stuck to. I can't forget the fact that ultimately I am a DJ, and I am there to provide music for the people and not for myself, but I want to present that in a way I'm happy with. I think there is a way to get the people in and still stay true to what you do - and I think that's a challenge. Because in a lot of places they've never heard your type of music.."
Certainly traveling with Richie Hawtin as part of his De:9 Closer to the Edit tour has increased the aptitude of people for Magda's unique DJ sets, but she remembers well how it started. "We have mutual friends that we met through a long time ago. He had a small club in Windsor, 13 Below, and he made me weekly resident for one of his nights, and he asked me to open up for the New Years Eve Epok party. That was the first major event where I actually played with him, and that was exciting. Ever since then, it's been building up to this point." Anyone at the Control event would have witnessed the complementary musical styles of Magda and Hawtin. "We play well together - Yet we're a lot different at the same time", says Magda who regards her own style as mellower and more sporadic.
Magda's ingenuity and passion for difference become evident when she describes her roots and the path she took to be where she is today. Born in Poland, moving to Texas, then to Detroit at age eleven, later studying in New York and returning to Detroit before once again relocating to New York City where she has been for the last two years, Magda is now ready to move into a new apartment in Berlin. Magda's influences have been both multifaceted and long-lasting. "Detroit totally shaped my entire sound. I started going to parties in '94, right at the peak of cool Plastikman Live PA's. At about the same time, I got into weird house and underground parties with Moodyman and Theo Parish. I don't play that way now, but it was an influence. The thing about Detroit, with myself and other DJs that I came up with, was that we were exposed to other styles. I wasn't just listening to Detroit techno or electro, people were doing cool electro, house, and techno and we played all of them. I'm thankful for that. My biggest influence is earlier minimal stuff." In addition, Magda has profited from her recent years living in New York City, being surrounded by a flourishing arts community and experiencing things beyond electronic music. "In my neighborhood (there are) a lot of great shows I go to - weird experimental bands, a lot of post punk, old-new-wave, German stuff, and the Ya Ya's and The Liars. It's cool to see what other people are doing and that has influenced me. Living in a place like this you hear about other people that are doing super interesting stuff. I have friends doing weird fashion photography, in bands, or independent films and they're all talented people."
So, now that Magda is touring, what is it that peaks her interest? "It's super hectic - hard and exhausting. But I love it all - the sleeplessness, the airport crap. Just going to a strange place in the middle of a weird country is exciting and it's interesting to see how people there interpret music or their perceptions of techno. Sometimes it's completely different. It's challenging to figure out a way to get through to people, to show them what you're trying to present, but still not being completely out there where they're scratching their heads. Touring has really opened my eyes up to a whole new thing."
One thing Magda has been absorbing is the difference of dancefloor cultures. Because Magda has chosen to uphold her integrity as an artist playing only the kind of music she likes, she says, "It's tough to find a market these days. I remember years ago it was easier for me to get gigs and make more money, in more places. Now there's tiny pockets in the country that have cool nights, but so few of them. I find North America pretty frustrating because, playing at a club, people will just stand around and watch you like it's a concert and that kind of freaks me out. Why stand there and watch me twist some knobs? I don't play abstract where people can't dance to it. Here, people first start drinking and then they dance. I notice in Germany or Europe, the first thing the people do when they get to the bar is dance and then they go to the bar. It seems like a slightly different mentality and people really listen to music. They pay attention, and if they like it they react. It's amazing. The law is a bit more relaxed. In Detroit, or New York, when the bars close, "That's it, get out. No more." It's frustrating, because I'm just getting going around one o'clock. When people try to do different events in other venues, then they might not have a license and those get busted. It's frustrating for all, because people just want to go out, hear some good music and have a good time, not have to stress." For Magda sound is the most important element of an event. "In Europe, the number one thing is sound quality, and that's what I do not find in North America. That's what makes the whole night to me, because there are so many intricate little things in records that people don't get to hear if the sound isn't right. As a DJ, if you can't hear something, you can't perform as well, and it makes all the difference."
With increasingly rich experience behind her, Magda is still a relatively new DJ to hit he world as part of the so-called "next wave of Detroit" to make its presence known, and yet she is humble. "I'm a fresh fish in the pond. I'm sure I'll have more to say in the next few years. But I've always felt I don't want to be afraid to surprise people and I don't want to play safe. Not everyone loves it, but if some people really like it, it makes it worthwhile. As long as I feel it, whether it's weird or not, I want to present that to people whether it's unfamiliar or not to them. I feel it's my job. I don't want to be afraid to do it." And do it she will. Magda appears to be developing an ability to manage the tensions that inevitably any artist will face, in order to carry the music she loves to the world.
As for the challenges facing an artist in terms of compromising artistic integrity versus the underground paradigm, Magda is hopeful yet critically conscious. Says Magda, "There is a lot of techno that's super commercial, just like anything that is popular. It needs to be popular for the other parts to be kept underground? Who's to say what I play isn't completely commercial? But, it's always evolving. I'm always searching for something new, something else. I think I'll always be looking for new stuff that?s not really commercialized. But it's all business, it's all a market. And as much as I'd like to say, "I'm cool, I'm underground, I'm not part of that," - what if that happens to what I'm doing?" Magda is quick to stress that techno with the rest of the world must inevitably change, and that it is not a static, ahistorical, un-changing entity floating in time in space. "Techno and dance music really got popular around '97. It really blew up on a commercial level and people found out about it. ?Where ever things become commercialized, ultimately it pushes the subcultures more underground. I feel like now something new is going to happen again. It's been kind of stagnant. Now most people know about it, so I think those people who came into it later, through trance or more commercial stuff are looking for other things. With the invention of technology and final scratch people are making super cool stuff, and it's creating this new subculture. That's exciting to me."
Comparable to many North American cities, Magda's primary place of influence, Detroit, has been experiencing a lull where once there was a booming scene and lucrative market for techno music and events. "As far as techno, I think it's not good right now. It's just hard to keep things consistent and keep people excited and going out. I feel like there?s a big gap? I think we were the last ones to come out of the experience of a community in Detroit that was excited and I think after that was the whole mainstream rave culture blow up and that was completely separate from us in a way. So there was no mentoring system that continued. Now that has died, so people are trying to create new things and see what's going on."
As a DJ with goals for the future, Magda is conscientious about her state of mind and body. "Keep myself sane? It's all chaos, all the time! I try to have my own time to myself, not rush all the time. It catches up to you. One thing about traveling is getting into that mode, and you have to pay attention to make sure you've slept as much as you can, because a lot of times you sleep wherever you can - on the plane, in the car, a nap in the hotel. Straight to the club, get on the plane - same thing every day. I pay attention, I keep hydrating myself, taking vitamins - just eating well is key. I don't want to run down my body and be useless. It's tough; you definitely feel like shit if you've been going a couple of weeks, and I have to not drink all the time! You go to places where you have friends you haven't seen and there's a good party, great music and you want to have a good time, but I'm learning that I can't do that all the time."
For Magda the key is balance. Feeling her way through the maze of options, and believing in the way she presents her music and evolves in her career are important. "You need to find your own style. I see a lot of DJs gravitating to the five popular hot tracks of the month, and people tend to play similar stuff or the same. It's important to look different places and not limit yourself to one particular style. A lot of styles are intertwined. It takes time to find out what you like and your taste changes with your ear being more refined. That's most important."
Recreatieschap Spaarnwoude, Velsen Zuid
Poema, Utrecht Centrum
Robert Johnson, Offenbach am Main
Flanders Expo, Gent
Pickup club, Amsterdam
Recreatieschap Spaarnwoude, Velsen Zuid
Robert Johnson, Offenbach am Main
Now & Wow, Rotterdam
Club NL (Nieuwezijds Lounge), Amsterdam
Diverse locaties in Barcelona, Barcelona
NDSM Docklands, Amsterdam