Terr: “I love to play in front of people and feel the collective vibe, to be part of a great dance ritual”
Originally from Bela Horizonte in Brasil, Daniela Caldellas (aka Terr) has been living in Berlin for two years after an initial flirtation with the city back in 2006, and a constant stream of visits ever since. Like so many others, Daniela was attracted by the club and art scene and the over all vibe of Berlin – and the fact that so many friends from all over the world were living there. From Berlin she runs her Clash Lion label as well as her own DJ and producer career.
Daniella, how hard was it to acclimatise?
It was quite easy, in fact. I have a lot of friends in the city and I know some people I’ve been working with – DJs, producers, agents… I had a really warm welcome. And there are tons of people that are not from the city like me, so there’s always some lonely soul that want to have a coffee and talk about the weather.
And what would you say are the most significant differences between the countries for you – in general and when it comes to the music scene?
Everything is quite different – in my hometown we have like 350 days of summer, so I had to get used to the cold. People react different, the food is different, the language. There are pros and cons everywhere. Regarding the music scene, I am obviously on the best place I could have been – Berlin breathes electronic music and arts in general. There are so many interesting artists here, so many galleries, clubs, shops.
You come – as so many of us – from a punk rock / hardcore background, which was and is in South America quite a big scene, right?
Punk rock was the first obvious choice for teenagers that wanted to express themselves when I was younger. You didn’t need many skills, just time and energy. I had some school bands, nothing too serious, but with them I made my first shows.
You also played in a few bands back then – can we get some names?
They were more like proto-bands, we played for some weeks and then disbanded and formed other bands. I don’t think we took ourselves too seriously or had great plans, we just wanted to have fun.
But it needed electronic music to free you in the way you felt it before only inside I read somewhere else. That’s quite an interesting quote.
Yes, some time later I discovered that electronic music was somehow more punk than punk – we didn’t even need ‘real’ instruments to play or express our ideas. And there were no boundaries, if I could think of any sound, I could create that. That’s the main beauty of electronic music, it’s like a blank canvas where you can do whatever you want. From Stockhausen to gabber techno, from Brian Eno to Aphex Twin, every idea can be brought to life.
How did electronic music seduce you?
I started going to parties here and there with friends. I loved the overall vibe, that kind of friendly energy and communion, like a shamanic ritual with the hypnotic beat and all that crazy and space sounds. The endless music, the sense of friendship, the psychedelia, the rhythm, the energy.
What does electronic music offer that guitar music doesn’t?
Evert genre is different, every instrument is different. Techno can take you to a place that samba can’t, and vice-versa. I love guitars and I love music made with guitars, but electronic music I don’t need a proper band, for example. I can make everything by myself: my beats, my bass line, I can mix… And the possibilities are infinite. I can take a hi-hat and change its parameters until it becomes a bass, for example. The computer screen is like a blank canvas, and I can paint on that for days with different colours and textures until I think it’s good enough.
Your debut EP was called „Burn The Past“ (released on Scuba’s Hotflush Recordings) – so I am suggesting: the beginning of your love affair with electronic music was the end of your interest in punk / hardcore?
No, in fact I had another electronic project before Terr, since 2006. It was called Digitaria and we had a lot of releases on great labels. But of course ‘Burn the Past’ is a phrase that means that something new is coming and that we should not hang too much on the past. Something like ‘all the matters is now, burn the past and go on’.
Clash Lion, the label you run together with Shall Ocin and Daniel Watts, made its name quickly with the „Return EP“ of Maetrik. Since then we’ve seen releases like ANNA, Third Son, Fiberroot and Risa Taniguchi on it, as well as from you and your label co-runners. What’s the ambition behind the label and how does it relate to the music you make?
The philosophy that runs the label is the same one we use for our musical projects: we are all very open minded when it comes to art. All we want as a label is to release the music we love, creative artists, interesting stuff. We have very different ideas about music and we are all very hard to please, so if the three of us agree on a release, you may be sure it is good.
You worked recently with the two German labels Permanent Vacation (run by Tom Bioly and Benjamin Fröhlich) and Correspondant (the label of Jennifer Cardini) as well as the London label Phantasy (of Erol Alkan). Is it easy for you to switch between working under your own full control and being in communication with labels whose owners are also musicians and for sure have some ideas / input to your productions.
Of course it’s a bit different, but I like both. On Clash Lion we have control, so it’s more work after the music is ready -– we have to think about promotion, cover arts, press stuff, etc. It’s like living alone: if you don’t clean the flat, it won’t clean itself. But in the end it’s fine, I am very proud of all our releases and I am sure we are making the scene a small bit more interesting.
On the other hand, working with other labels is also very nice: exchanging information, knowing people, listening to their ideas about my music, different graphic designers, etc. I’ve been really lucky to have the opportunity to work with so many good labels ran by nice people.
Which music was the first to touch/inspire/move you? What made it so special and outstanding to you?
My mother says that the only thing that kept me calm when I was younger was music. She says that Elton John was my babysitter. So I think that since my early childhood music has been around and an important part of my life. When I was 5 or 6 I started playing my grandmother’s piano and, well, here I am.
Have there been people whose contribution to the development of your musical identity was of special importance?
A lot of people, in fact. Not just in the dance music realm, of course: Philip Glass, Elton John, Kurt Cobain, also the electroclash scene from the 2000. A lot of DJs which I admire, too many to mention. Some friends, my family, movie directors like Kubrick and David Lynch, book authors like Albert Camus, Charles Bukowski and Fernando Pessoa. My musical taste and my personality are in a constant evolution, there’s always a lot of new stuff coming out and I try to be as open as possible to new sounds, music and ideas.
Are you able to share the process of evolving your identity with us?
As I said above, I guess that everything is on a constant mutation. My identity and my tastes are also always changing. There is so much happening everywhere these days, everything is so connected, we have a kind of access to information that mankind never thought we would have one day. Everything is changing so fast.
What do you hope to find in music? (both your own music and the ones of others?)
Not just in music but in art in general, I think it’s more or less the same: Beauty, truth, passion. Art is a very beautiful and subtle way of expressing feelings that sometimes can’t be expressed with word. When you listen to thirty seconds of Philip Glass, for example, there’s something there that you cannot express with words. Real art is something you cannot explain to someone else, everyone have to experience it by themselves and see if it resonates.
What do you prefer, the seclusive working process in a studio or the live presentation of your music in front of the audience?
A bit of both. always loved to stay in the studio just doing experiments and stuff, playing, creating, discovering new sounds, I also love to play live, to dj in front of people – tens, hundreds, thousands – and feel the collective vibe, to be part of a great dance ritual.
What is your ideal space to listen to music?
I listen to music wherever it’s possible. Normally I don’t stay too much at home but I have tons of hours of waiting: planes, hotels, etc, so there`s always time to listen to music. Sometimes just for the listening pleasure and sometimes digging for new music for my sets and podcasts.
Please name female artists without whose music you wouldn’t be producing music?
Donna Summer, Miss Kittin, Wendy Carlos, Lady Miss Kier, to name just a few. They were groundbreaking and created new genres of styles of music, or have been involved in some way. And because they are all extremely talented.
Your most beautiful experience focused on your music?
Oh, there are so many:
Sometimes when I work on stuff for weeks and suddenly find some element that connects everything.
Sometimes I have just a beautiful explosion of creativity in the studio.
Sometimes when I hold a vinyl that I worked a lot on it.
Sometimes on that very special sets on clubs of festivals.
Too many too mention.
Which music did you buy most recently that carries a lot of value/meaning for you?
I bought 2 little music boxes. The music that it plays its beautiful called “Moscow Nights”.
Where did you buy it and what makes it special to you?
I bought in Moscow last time I went there. I bought ir for me and the other I gave to a very spacial person 🙂
What’s a secret guilty pleasure, an idiosyncrasy of yours or something that would surprise people about you?
I like to clean my house. It’s fun. I dance, I sing corny retro pop music and use the mop as my microphone.
What would be a fantasy venue or event to dj at?
No particular event come to my mind but a particular place: My fantasy is to play in Japan.
What is your favorite app/technology/instrument to create sounds with?
I really like to use real synths when possible. It sounds different. My favourites at the moment are the Alesis Andromeda A6 and the Moog Sub 37. You can feel the electricity passing through the knobs, it’s magical. But of course I can’t take moogs with me when I am traveling to play, so I use a lot of virtual stuff as well. It’s not quite the same, but it’s almost there. You lose for one side but win for the other, because nowadays portability and being able to save patches and projects is also very important to me.
Do you see a connection between your femininity and your work? And if so what is it?
I never thought too much about that. Being a woman is very natural to me. Sometimes people say that my music is womanish, or something alike, because some of they are emotional and people tend to assume women are more emotional than men. Like, violence and coldness are for men, emotions and beauty are for women. Maybe 70 years ago it could make some sense, nowadays I think that these kind of thinking is a bit pointless. Of course my personality is also shaped by the fact that I am a woman and all kinds of experiences that comes from it, good and bad – some kinds of oppressions, differences of opportunities, etc. We are still far from gender equality, I think. But we are on the right path, it’s coming sooner or later.
The interview with Terr 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.