- Zilka Grogan
A chat with Eluize
Moving from Australia to Berlin had a deep impact on Eluize’s sound. Away from the outdoor parties that are a staple of the summertime scene back home, she found the space to experiment with darker, weirder sounds that are more fitting of a Berlin club. It’s in Berlin that she’s found her feet as a producer, DJ and label head, with productions and mixes that fuse techno, house, acid, breaks and more, though always building to those uplifting moments reminiscent of the best Australian day parties.
Following her recent contribution to our mix series, we had the chance to catch up with Eluize just as her latest Australian tour got underway. Below, she shares some insights into her upcoming projects and passions, ranging from why she fosters cross-continental collaboration with her label Night Tide, to how she’s found a flow as a DJ and new mum.
A big congrats from all of us on the recent birth of your little one! How are you settling into life as a mum?
It’s so bizarre honestly, it’s totally surreal that we brought this wonderful, funny, sensitive, energetic and inquisitive little boy into our lives. Of course, at times mum-life can be exhausting, but he brings my focus into the moment like nothing else, which is pretty magic.
You’re now back to playing regularly and have a tour coming up. Did your pregnancy impact your playing, either before or after giving birth? How did it feel to get back to into the swing of things?
During my pregnancy I kept playing. It brings me so much joy that I felt it was important. I adjusted a bit and worked with promoters as I got further along to make things fit in terms of the type of space, volume, set time and length, everyone that knew was really excited for us.
After the birth, I had a short break before easing back into performing in Berlin at first, then gradually further out. I didn’t quite know what to expect or realise how intense being a new mum would be. In the beginning, if I was traveling overnight he needed to come with me which was tiring for everyone so I had to be selective, rethink my calendar a bit, and chose to postpone some away gigs until next year. Now I can go overnight, but full weekends are still on hold and I’m not in the studio as much as I was before. I’m so lucky that I can spend so much time at home with him, but moments for creativity and performing are important for me as well to bring balance and calm to my mind. It’s a gradual process but we’re gently finding our flow as we get into a family rhythm.
The very first show after he was born felt strange. Everything in my home life had changed dramatically and I’d been in our family bubble, then suddenly I was back in this environment that felt totally unchanged with high energy, loud music, and a smiling crowd. I was right back in doing something that felt so natural, that I love, but had temporarily settled in the back of my mind while I was busy with this new little person. I’m happy it was all there waiting for me; I’m not sure what I expected but it felt good to be back.
I read recently that you started your career as a classical instrumentalist. Can you tell us a bit about your musical background? At what point did you decide to switch to electronic music? I studied classical and jazz from when I was about five, through school and a little university. My main instruments were woodwinds, piano, and voice. I had a bit of a burn out with it in my late teens, I couldn’t see myself in an orchestra or as a pure instrumentalist and the hours rehearsing and exam pressure were too much. At that time electronic music production wasn’t an option I was aware of so I took a break from music and bounced around some other fields, studying engineering then architecture for a while and worked on the door of a club. It was there I fell in love with the community and sound and learned I could combine my passion for music, maths, and sciences. Perfect 😉
How has moving from Australia to Berlin impacted your career and your sound?
I’m most influenced by my mood, what I’ve been feeling and thinking about and the people I’m surrounded by. Generally speaking I think moving to Berlin gave me the inspiration and platforms to go deeper into ideas and experiment with darker, weirder and sometimes harder things, more acidic tones and ravey sounds.
The city and the climate were big changes, the long winters give you plenty of time to be introspective and a dimly lit, fog-filled, sweaty club with snow outside calls for a different soundtrack to a sunny outdoors day party. It has given me more opportunities to travel and perform in cities throughout Europe and be surrounded by artists from all over the world to collaborate with and talk to about their perspective on electronic music. Set times are usually longer, generally 3+ and sometimes up to 12 hours, which gives great freedom to explore and delve deeper into these new sounds and ideas. No matter what, I still love the daybreak moments of a morning set when I get the chance to reach for go-to faves from rooftop parties in Aus for a mood peak.
You’ve said your label Night Tide “stands for beauty in electronic music and international collaboration between sonic and visual artists”. Can you tell us a bit more about the concept and the criteria you use to select the music?
I love that electronics and machines in the right hands can make something beautiful that evokes feelings. For the music I try to find pieces that stir moods. I look for something that perhaps doesn’t precisely adhere to a genre, that exists as its own little cosmos and draws the listener in. I like the idea of people from different places collaborating. We all have our own personal experience, music and cultural education, and I find it interesting connecting people to see how they interpret and add to someone else’s art.
Once the music is signed and the EP is finished I usually ask the artists to send me some images they like and I reach out to photographers that have a similar tone, send them the music and see what they come up with. Last year I collaborated with Belgian label ensemble to do a release event where we played music from the two labels and exhibited artwork from people involved with the aesthetics of the records. That was a really nice way to bring it all together and share it in a collective way. I’d like to do something similar next year with the addition of video art as I’m directing more focus on clips to go with the music in 2019.
What challenges are involved with running a “cross-continental label”, as you’ve described it?
Nothing that unusual when you’re an Australian, we’re so used to working with people on the other side of the world in different time zones. Shipping is a challenge and expense when it comes to getting physical products from Germany to Australia. It’s also always nice to meet people in person that you’re working with on a project, which isn’t always possible, but sometimes interesting things happen when the collaboration process is a bit more complex.
You also do some of the artwork yourself, which is super cool. How important is the artwork and photography when it comes to setting the tone of your releases?
Artwork is extremely important. It can make the difference between someone listening to the record or not. For me analogue photography links well to the tone of Night Tide releases. The grainy nature of the images matches the analogue touched sound. For my new project Bermuda Series, a more experimental digital imprint where I’m focusing on highlighting music produced by women, the artwork is bolder, brighter, centred around flora and has a more illustrative influence. On doing it myself – being a small independent label, there’s not a lot of budget so the DIY approach works wherever possible. I enjoy experimenting with images so it’s a fun thing to do, but the goal is to have an artist or designer who connects with the music collaborate on each release to bring more ideas and interpretations to the table and share more work from amazing people, hopefully one day 🙂
You’re heading back to Australia to tour later this month. How are you feeling about heading back home to play?
I’m SO pumped. I’m playing my first Subsonic and Rainbow Serpent Festival sets, plus going to Hobart for the first time to perform at Grand Poobah and returning to staple favs Sugar (in my hometown Adelaide) and Revolver. It’s my boy’s first time in Australia, so I’ve scheduled plenty of hang times between to meet friends and have cuddles!
You previously worked as a booker and party promoter in Sydney for several years. What impact have you seen the lock-out laws and other restrictions have on the local scene? Do you have any friends who have been affected by these changes?
I moved to Berlin in early 2013, before the lockouts really began so I haven’t come up against it first hand very much. I’ve definitely seen it impact friends, promoters and venues. I’m sad to hear that The World Bar is closing, the most recent of many places that have come up against the challenge of the lock-outs. I loved playing and dancing there and put on a weekly Sunday party called Dust with James Taylor for some time. That place was a hive of activity and interest giving the floor to different promoters, pushing all sorts of sounds, providing artists with a great space to perform and a place for people to connect. Many fond memories. From what I can tell, despite the closures and challenges the Sydney music people have rallied and continue to work hard to keep the scene alive, doing warehouse parties and experimenting with new spaces. I think there’s some very cool things to have come out of it, but it’s not been easy.
How do you see the Australian music scene now that you look at it from a distance? Or are you still involved in some way?
It seems to be thriving from what I can tell from the internet, in record stores and on line ups. There’s a lot of cool music coming out and artists coming through Berlin on their European jaunts, plus some great collectives and labels making a lot of noise internationally. It’s been almost two years since my last visit so I’m excited to check out some festivals, catch up with people to see what’s been happening “in real life”.
What else is on the cards for you in the last months of 2018, and into 2019? My debut album Confide comes out on Craigie Knowes in early 2019, I can’t tell you how thrilled I am about that seeing the light! There’ll be another new record from my acid, early rave and new beat project Cashminus that I do with my baby-daddy / fav collaborator Gratts. The last bit of this year I’ll be spending tonnes of time with family and friends in Aus before kicking things off early Feb back in Europe with the first date of my 2019 residency at AWAY at ://about blank in Berlin.