- Zilka Grogan
A chat with Vivian Koch
When Vivian Koch talks about producing music, she conjures up an almost spiritual, deeply personal process. For her, production is a way of getting distance from her emotions, of processing them - and ultimately of creating something of meaning and beauty for others to revel in, too.
It’s no surprise then that in these turbulent times, the versatile Berlin-based talent chose to deliver an ambient mix as her contribution to the Patterns of Perception series. In a follow-up conversation about her mix, Vivian filled us in about her unique production process, revealed some upcoming projects, and explained why she gravitates towards music with a particularly hopeful quality.
First up, a more personal question: How has life been for you lately? What have you been up to?
Apart from what’s going on in the world, life has been very good to me I have to say. This year has given me so much time to check all my book and film lists. Besides studying certain topics about meditation and healing, I sometimes wrote music and spent loads of time in nature around Berlin. I’ve started working again and used the last weeks to prepare another project with my dear friend Caro. All in all, I’ve been focusing on basic stuff, which to be fair still feels like a recharge and detox.
Your bio refers to the German word Tausendsassa, which roughly translates as a Jack of all trades. As a DJ, producer and event promoter with your collective Olympe Fatale, how important has that diversity been in your work?
Diversity is essential to me up to the point where close friends always make jokes about me and my volatile nature. That being said, there’s definitely a naturally driven thirst for knowledge in me. It is tremendously important to feel variety in life, which means I continually want to learn something new and connect all kinds of absorbed direction to my life. My main goal is to get the chance to dig deeper into any perspective of an entire field I’m in at that very moment. Another motivation that kept me going to reach this possibility of being a promoter was sort of a commitment I felt between me and electronic music. Due to many personal reasons, after spending so many years (in the scene) I was like, ‘man I have to give something back to the circle’.
So, playing and writing music still meant to experience just one point of view. But there were so many questions on my mind regarding bookings and the way promoters would organise events so I just wanted to find out how and if it actually would work with my personal approach. I forced myself to look behind the curtain, also feeling financial pressure by throwing parties in a city like Berlin while being a student. Nevertheless, I usually prefer working by myself and I’m not the biggest fan of teamwork I have to admit. So all things considered, I jumped in at the deep end by developing this collective of wonderful sweethearts and I am more than grateful I did. We’ve not only been able to invite so many inspiring artists and friends but more importantly, it was so much fun to create lineups, to manage club nights and to see so many guests enjoying our program.
Your sound is rich, varied, and for us, often hard to pin down. How would you describe your sound?
Why do you think you gravitate towards a more hopeful sound?
At the end of 2017, I started producing during a freaking crazy period and it was literally a gate to heaven. It was sort of my own therapy to process life. And it still is. I don't have any fixed studio times where I sit down and think, ‘let's make a dance track’ or ‘today I should try ambient’. There are times when I don't open Ableton for weeks and I can't push myself even if I want to unless there comes a strong feeling where I'm strongly convinced there should be something said again.
There's a very, very sensitive part in me who sometimes just feels way too much but doesn't even know it at the time. I need so much distance to actually understand what's going on inside of me, but since I started making music it kind of catalyzed this whole thing.
So as soon as I sit down and let go of everything around me, I get involved in this meditative journey of hearing endless melodies in my mind which I try to convert technically somehow. At the end of the day, I listen back to my session and then I know exactly what's going on. It's a beautiful egoistic passion of letting go of emotional baggage, getting closer to your pure essence, where you might even please other people with the outcome afterward. Isn't that fantastic? You paint pictures in specific times and you can always jump back, look at them, feel them and not only get the chance to understand even more what you've been through as a human being on this planet earth, but also acknowledge this illusion of identification with a certain persona you thought you were back then.
To finally answer your question: I guess if I write music I definitely deal with something bigger and, ironically, the final stems express hope because during the process I just don't feel any of it. It's a magnificent possibility to heal, and I will never be able to describe its full potential.
Is there a difference between Vivian Koch the producer & Vivian Koch the DJ?
From my personal point of view not really, other than the fact that as a DJ I specifically choose music to create a journey based on my personal taste and I decide consciously where to go with it. I think I am more in control somehow. When writing music I feel like I don’t work consciously. I don’t identify with the role of creating it. I don’t think, ‘I’m the producer’ and everything which implies the term. I rather prefer the state of mind in full presence which contains working as a channel. Ideas and melodies can achieve their existence through me and I convert them into songs which first of all make me feel happy and totally fulfilled. But I never know where it goes and that makes it so unpredictable. I’m just involved in a translating process of spirit, which means often catching ideas from something higher and bringing them to earth so we can listen to them at some point.
You’ve mentioned that you wanted to create something quiet and peaceful with this mix, and it strikes me that it has quite an optimistic tone. What was the inspiration for this mix and what role has music played for you during this difficult time?
That makes me happy you use the word optimistic! Honestly, at the beginning of the year, I almost felt like I was bored with dance music. But this phase has proven to me that apparently, I was not looking in the right spots to find something which was inspiring again. I understood again that as soon as I struggle with indifference it has nothing to do with the music itself! It definitely has to do with the way I perceive music because there’s something changing within me - which happens quite fast all the time. And there’s a part in me which enjoys silence more often these days, too.
I would consider myself a very reflective person but even so, this year has brought so much stuff to light that I just couldn’t deal with any fast or unsettling music. It almost felt like noise to me. So that's why I didn’t record a conservative DJ mix with usual club music. I just wanted to create a journey you can always listen to if you want to relax or hang out with friends. Needless to say, Patterns Of Perception is an ideal platform to present your favourite ambient/electronica records so I was more than happy you asked me to contribute.
How has Olympe Fatale managed with the changing landscape since Griessmuehle closed and coronavirus restrictions hit the music industry? What do you see on the cards for the collective in the future?
I don’t even want to think about that right now. We first wanted to throw our parties somewhere else and then one month later everything was shut down. I am very busy with my personal process and professional development. I have this feeling that this is a topic I want to think about as soon as everything is kinda back to ‘normal’.
In what ways have you seen the Berlin scene adapting over the last months? Are you optimistic about where things will be when this is over?
I believe Berlin has proven its character as a role model again in regards to the electronic music world. HÖR has done its absolute best by providing a platform where at least artists have the chance to express their musical journey at the moment. OXI has achieved a huge accomplishment by organising smaller and bigger events with the best lineups possible. Griessmuehle has opened again and I can totally see more potential rising in the city which makes me happy to see. I just really hope that everyone has learned their own lesson from it and can appreciate events & music even more nowadays.
What else do you have coming up for the rest of 2020, and going into next year?
The last part of the year I just want to keep focusing on reading and studying. Maybe I’ll do another meditation trainee/program to get deeper into my own spiritual path, seeing my beloved ones and keeping gratitude. There’s gonna be a compilation release with one of my tracks, another mini-LP early 2021 and a wonderful guided meditation release for one of my favourite teachers for whom I had the chance to write music. As I mentioned earlier, Caro and I are about to launch a new project which is going to be all about healing and I couldn’t be more excited to share it with the world.
Lastly, is there any new music you’ve discovered lately that you’d like to share with us?
All the Miami kids have left me very impressed over the last couple of months! Danny (Daze, from Omnidisc) introduced me to many incredibly talented artists and since then it's been so much fun to see what's happening over there. Especially to watch those two lovely boys INVT, Alexis (Sister System), Johnny from Space and Nick León who’s label Space Tapes continuously releases all kinds of genres.
Another new discovery is this lovely record from Hotspring called Obit For Sunshade which I can absolutely recommend listening to.