“Pop music all happy happy feel can basically suck it,” Ziúr recently said in an interview with Indie-mag.com. That quote could serve as a manifesto for the Berlin-based DJ and producer (real name: Mika Risiko), whose sinister, unsettling take on deconstructed club music acts like a middle finger at sugary, cookie-cutter pop. Earlier this year, Ziúr’s EP ‘Taiga’ on Infinite Machine established her as a rising talent in the experimental club music scene; she’s also gotten shouts from the likes of Peaches, who she recently remixed and went on a European tour with. A strong proponent of gender equality in dance music, Ziúr played the first party in Berlin by feminist collective Sister with Linnea, Mobilegirl, and Dis Fig back in March. Now, she’s cut a blistering remix of “Distopia” by Santiago-based artist Tomás Urquieta, on his new EP due on Infinite Machine on September 30. Check it out below, and read on for our interview with Ziúr about Berlin’s current clubbing climate and her “no compromise” approach to music.
Interview/text: Michelle Lhooq & Nadine Blanco
Photo: Claudia Kent
Before your music took off, what was your life like?
I tried studying some crap, but got caught up in promoting DIY shows, working in clubs, and driving/tour managing bands. I tried getting into the serious music business, but figured out it’s mostly jerks with an image neurosis. I had a vegan restaurant for a while, did some tour booking for friends, then was working more in clubs while figuring out my artistic career—and here we are.
What got you into producing?
I played in a punk band and the scene structure was dragging me down, so I tried finding new ways developing into something not as attached to classical structures. Basically I started using a computer as an approach to step out of my comfort zone.
Your music sounds like it is made with machines what is a must have for you (in terms of instruments, softwares etc)?
the only thing i desperately rely on is having good speakers, a computer with tons of ram and a second screen. i’m definitely a software person but also don’t mind recording a salad bowl for example.
A hard/ ominous tone seems to be the common theme in your music—what inspires you?
I had times when I wanted to write something really pleasing, but luckily I decided to go for an approach of “no compromise.” When it comes to art, nothing is worse than not being able to move people with your output. I am almost equally into playing people out of the room [as much as] blowing people’s minds—both happen frequently, and always reassures me that I’m doing something right. What I hate is when music doesn’t resonate with an audience. There’s nothing pleasing with putting people to sleep.
What is the process of making music like for you?
What are some of the upsides and downsides of being based in Berlin?
The music culture that has been talked about around the world and carries the Berlin smell is probably techno. I’m no rave gal and don’t pretend to be an expert, but even modern Berlin “mainstream” clubs wouldn’t be the same without the city’s history in punk and DIY culture. When the wall fell, the city profited by the confusion created by two governments trying to become one—people squatted spaces, opened clubs, and slowly built infrastructure that is still visible if you look closely, even though it’s now institutionalized.
The downside of all the freedom this city provides is that it is very inviting to be lazy, and people tend to not use their full potential simply because they don’t have to. The city is full of artists, musicians, and DJs, but unfortunately, most of Berlin’s creative output is rather on the medium side of things. Sometimes I think a more competitive environment would make people work harder. Don’t get me wrong—fuck gentrification and all, but half-assing it is never sexy!
What’s Berlin’s current club scene like?
Recently there is more space in Berlin’s club scene for underground club music that is not techno. This is a definite breather. Furthermore, it is really important and makes me happy to see see female collectives like Creamcake pushing female-identified artists without talking about it as an agenda. There’s a lot of work to be done but we’re on it!
What advice would you give to beginners and other female-identifying musicians out there?
Don’t believe the hype. There is no right or wrong in music—as far as it has a beat, a loop, a melody or even noise, it probably counts as music. Don’t be shy to go your own way.
Trust your ears, go with the flow, be inspired but don’t steal, be passionate, and most importantly, don’t be afraid to break the rules.
What artist or collective deserves recognition and attention right now?
Kablam is killing it—we played together quite a bunch recently, and she constantly makes my jaw drop! Kajsa is a total boss.
What are you working on next?
Besides doing tons of remixes, I’m focusing on my new record. I might do some collaborations with visual artists, vocalists, and theatre folks. More is more, you know!
Where do you think your music is headed?
The beauty in music is that it is not linear. Music is headed in all directions at the same time, and I would love to see the same thing for my own music. I think the only important thing is to keep on finding new ways of writing and not to get caught up in old patterns—mix shit up.