Julia Govor: “Going home and making music was my place of refuge”
With her deep, hypnotic, pulsating and warm productions and sets New York City based dj and producer Julia Govor who was born in Abkhazia (originally Georgia), established herself as an artist of many layers. Besides her solo career, Govor also established her own label JUJUKA – so far she released 13 records on the label, three by herself, the others by artists like Victoria Mussi and EMIT.
Julia, what does a musician need to get your attention for a potential release on JUJUKA?
Julia Govor: I really adore artists who can dream! Who are full of enthusiasm and full of characters; I can hear it in their music. But most of the time those artists don’t know about it – I like to discover it myself and approach them with an offer to make music for the label. That’s why I never accept any demos. I rather like it when the music inspires the musicians to do things they really like instead of them trying to do things to fit in. I try to keep my label innocent and honest.
I found this little fan clip on the internet someone produced of your first hit „Litmus“ (that originally came out in 2014 on Hypertone Records) combining it with images from „Suspiria“ from Dario Argento.
Do you have images in mind when producing?
All my music has a concept and ideas behind it. I try not to talk about it so much and let the audience dig and imagine ( like you did). Every single project I release has a meaning or purpose.
As mentioned, the name of the track is “Litmus” – I dedicated this project to all women who have a strong personality and wise character and are by that enabled to observe everything around them, become even more powerful, not broken or angry, the opposite!
I produced this track when I just moved to NYC from Berlin. At that time I experienced a transformation and tried to fit into society and culture. The main character of “Suspiria” is the perfect idea for my video: “An American woman who enrols at a prestigious dance academy in Freiburg run by a coven of witches” – in reality an Eastern European woman, an artist moved to NYC and been chased by fears and confusion, I had strange dreams and I was meeting people from my dreams on the streets randomly in real life; I was so confused and frustrated and I was often asking myself if it was right to move to the US and If I ever will fit into the American culture. So going home and making music was my place of refuge.
But to come back to your question: I don’t imagine anything at the beginning of my productions, my mind flows with and between rhythms, harmonies and other elements which helps to engage and connect with one another. 99% I really don’t know what I am doing and where I end, but almost at the end I start seeing images in my head, or faces or who I would address the track. I start feeling something…
I experience your sound as deep, hypnotic, pulsating and warm. Did you have role models when starting off for your path?
I am glad that you experienced it like that. Most people try to put my music into categories, I try to run away from categories. I look after artists who create music differently. Every project has its own way and place to be, different parts, unpredictable parts become one big part. What inspires me is music which goes “zig-zag”, not from “point A to point B”. My husband Kamran Sadeghi is one of the role models of mine, heworks that way. Every record he makes is a kind of psychosis which put me in a place where I have to use my own imagination.
And do you feel you are a role model to a younger generation?
It took me half of my life to truly understand who my real role model was, before that I was just confused, distracted and brainwashed. So, maybe I am, but this is not my mission to begin with. I want people to be able to figure out for themselves what works for them and what makes their brains look at things differently and feel something they’re truly connected with. To be individuals, to be leaders, not followers. To do things from the heart, not from the head, and to appreciate art that helps focus attention on important topics: that time consuming and deep immersion into projects is good and to go through analysis are even better.
You are based in New York, where you are active on the local DIY radio The Lot and run shows exploring the more sonicly challenging side of electronic music. How important is New York and the local community for you as an artist?
This is a very important aspect for me! I live for the local community, our “Radial” events are very inspiring. We curate it at Fridman Gallery; it is a very unique place in the heart of Soho, next to all important studios and galleries. I have enormous fun inviting artists, helping our guests explore new directions and territories, connecting and introducing artists to creative people, from other disciplines. I really get a kick out of putting on an event like this. I learn a lot from our guests and performers, I get to talk to them, study their craft.
Let me quote your artist bio from Resident Advisor: “She also is a consummate cat wrangler, experienced squirrel whisperer and can rock the hell out of a vintage ski suit.“ How important is humour for the artist (and person) Julia Govor?
I raised a whole family of squirrels who settled on our balcony, in a bucket made from wool, where I grew tomatoes. A mother squirrel made a nest of leaves in the bucket. I fed her with nuts daily. She quietly incubated her cubs a couple of years ago in the fall.
And my first job in the States was “cat duty” at an animal shelter. I guess I take everything very seriously but when things don’t work I laugh at myself and try to stay positive with a pinch of humor.
You are originally from Russia but live as mentioned in New York, together with your husband Kamran Sadeghi whom you met on a dance floor in the Ukraine if I am correctly informed. All that said I can only imagine how hard the last few months must have been for you two. I guess you are in constant contact with family members and artists friends in both countries – how easy / how hard is it to moderate between those two important communities in your life?
I was born in Abkhazia (originally Georgia) actually, which was occupied by Russia; I moved to the south of Russia in 1993 after the Georgia–Abkhazia war. My husband was born in Iran, we are both from very sensitive and damaged places and we are very lucky we got a chance to choose where to go and where to be. We met on the dancefloor in Ukraine in Crimea 12 years ago. Everyday we listen to the news and get information from our friends and families. The news and calls are not getting better, we are just getting used to it and instead of being angry and confused, we are working harder and appreciating every moment. Our responsibilities are now turned to a different angle: we cannot afford things we would do before, we are very aware of struggle and doing our best to support those who need us.
Please name female artists without whose music you wouldn’t be producing music? Why those?
Galina Ustvolskaya – When I was six years old I had to listen to a lot of Soviet classical music. I had to because in the Soviet era (I was born in 1984) all kids growing up were obliged to attend music school to study piano or vocal arts, as well as music history. Galina Ustvolskaya was my favorite composer of classical music. Her scores are very complicated, dramatic, dark and melancholic – true subconscious music. I would say that her work is the starting point of my musical taste.
Delia Derbyshire – When I heard Delia‘s work for the first time, I was a bit shocked. I liked the idea of how voices were blended into sounds and her speech became music. She is my big inspiration.
Dash Rush – Dana is also one of the artists who I was studying at the beginning of my music production journey. I appreciate conceptual production and ideas behind it.
Isabella Koen – enjoyed her raw craft and I learned a lot from her catalog.
Victoria Mussi – She is my biggest inspiration and also soulmate! She is fantastically functional but also very sophisticated. She has a very strong personality and I can see her true nature by listening to her tracks.
Lady Starlight – A proper techno producer, I get inspired by her drum programming, and her live sets better then any 4/4 DJ sets!
Debit – Her live performances inspired me to dig deeper into underwater sounds.
What do you think sets your voice or creative expression apart from others?
I would like to quote a music journalist from The New Yorker, Michaelangelo Matos:
“Nail-hard dance tracks with a liquid sense of tonality—a beguiling mixture that gives her work an approachability that’s rare for the style.”
What empowers you or helps you to overcome obstacles and challenges in your work?
My husband and the unwavering spirit of my grandmother!
Your most beautiful experience focused on your music?
The ability to find common ground with anyone, on any side of the planet.
Which music did you buy most recently that carries a lot of value/meaning for you?
Where did you buy it and what makes it special to you?
Ghetto Tech from the 90’s era, vinyls from American collectors who sell records from Discogs.
What’s a secret guilty pleasure, an idiosyncrasy of yours or something that would surprise people about you?
My spontaneity and responsiveness. The ability to listen and support.
Do you see a connection between your femininity and your work? And if so what is it?
Not really, I’m much more feminine as Yulia at home or with my close friends, as an artist Julia Govor or DJ – I’m aggressive feminine. I like to be sexless, to reincarnate into a wild beast and brew new energy at the speed of light.
This interview with Julia Govor is part of the ongoing photo-project “Electric Lights – Women in Electronic Music” by Hamburg based photographer Katja Ruge and Kaput co-publisher Thomas Venker focused on the role of women in electronic music. Each photoshoot is accompanied by a short interview, based on a personalised questionnaire. The interviews will be published on the kaput website on a monthly basis, before finding their way into a book.