Name: Valya Kan
Occupation: Producer, sound artist, DJ
Current release: Valya Kan's new EP, Heartbeats, will be released on her own Wild Nation label August 20th 2021.
Recommendations: Book: Patrick Besson, La Maison du jeune homme seul; Painting: Arkhip Kuindzhi - Moonlit Night on the Dniepr
If you enjoyed this Valya Kan interview, visit her on Instagram, Facebook, Soundcloud and bandcamp for current updates and more music.
When did you start writing/producing music - and what or who were your early passions and influences? What was it about music and/or sound that drew you to it?
I started to listen to minimal techno - deep grooves, atmospheric sounds, minimal beats - when it was 2007 I think.
I used to follow all those communities on the Internet, where members would post about music and then I'd go to private parties. I was really inspired by the idea, that people there knew exactly what record a DJ would play. I now feel that I was so privileged to be a part of it.
So then I was listening to music all the time whenever I had free time. I finally started to produce in 2008.
For most artists, originality is preceded by a phase of learning and, often, emulating others. What was this like for you: How would you describe your own development as an artist and the transition towards your own voice?
I was very much influenced by other artists and genres. I don’t know if it is possible to hear those influences, hopefully not. I always wanted to make my own music. This is something that happens within time: You realise what is yours and what is not.
It’s very important to be unique and to be honest. But I guess this is more still a sense of creating your own individuality.
How do you feel your sense of identity influences your creativity?
I think they both are in inseparable. The moment when I create something, while I realise what the persona I am - it is never gonna be the same thing ever again. Therefore music is changing.
What were your main creative challenges in the beginning and how have they changed over time?
I used to be really lo fi for a long time. So my main challenge in the beginning was mostly struggling how do I do this and that, and how do I come up with the result I want to achieve technically at least.
Now my main challenge is how to create emotional moments within a song and how to build up tension and give a release.
As creative goals and technical abilities change, so does the need for different tools of expression, be it instruments, software tools or recording equipment. Can you describe this path for you, starting from your first studio/first instrument? What motivated some of the choices you made in terms of instruments/tools/equipment over the years?
I didn’t have a linear development in this regard. In the beginning I had access to the best studio gear, then at some point I was only using a laptop, headphones and Ableton. It’s always been in flux. I tried many things and am still searching for my perfect set up.
Now I’ve got some midi controllers, a microphone and Ableton live. Because I sing, use my voice, play keyboard, and I use samples.
Have there been technologies or instruments which have profoundly changed or even questioned the way you make music?
No, at least not yet. I think I kind of try to find a technology/instrument, that would allow me to make music in a more efficient way. That would be great actually to get to know something that would make me question the way I make music. But so far it’s never been an instrument or a technology.
Collaborations can take on many forms. What role do they play in your approach and what are your preferred ways of engaging with other creatives through, for example, file sharing, jamming or just talking about ideas?
I am not good at collaborating with other people in a creative way like making music, at least till now. What I am really looking for is finding a guitar player. But I don’t know that many people who play guitar.
Take us through a day in your life, from a possible morning routine through to your work, please. Do you have a fixed schedule? How do music and other aspects of your life feed back into each other - do you separate them or instead try to make them blend seamlessly?
I guess my ideal day would consist of me making music the whole day and then, in the afternoon, going to the gym or for a run and in the evening go out to a concert or dinner.
I like the feeling when you make music non stop, it puts you in some kind of interesting mind state - it’s very alive and you feel like you're burning. I don’t know how to describe it. Sadly I often get distracted by doing other things, that I have to do.
Can you talk about a breakthrough work, event or performance in your career? Why does it feel special to you? When, why and how did you start working on it, what were some of the motivations and ideas behind it?
I guess if speaking about work it is the album “Dust and Haze”, released by Work Them Records. It is special for so many reasons but I don’t want to name them. I think it tells its own story. The only thing I regret is that it didn’t get a proper mixdown … But other than that, I think its a perfect DJ record and not just that.
Regarding an event I think it was a performance at Synthposium festival. I think for me it was the first time I played in a club with such a good sound system and a professional team.
There are many descriptions of the ideal state of mind for being creative. What is it like for you? What supports this ideal state of mind and what are distractions? Are there strategies to enter into this state more easily?
It is the intensity of doing that puts me in an ideal state of mind. I noticed it takes around 2-3 weeks of constantly pushing yourself to make music and then after its just flowing, it's like you don’t do anything, it's just happening.
What could be a really good idea I think - making music when you pull an allnighter and after a show, when you don’t sleep and do it all night. Also sometimes I feel like I'm not able to do anything creatively. And then I push myself to do it, like I tell myself: I can do it no matter what, and it works.
Distractions are mostly boring things like paper work, also I have to promote music since I got my own little things like label etc, and I noticed somehow it doesn’t blend very well with the creative process. So, I try to schedule those things.
Music and sounds can heal, but they can also hurt. Do you personally have experiences with either or both of these? Where do you personally see the biggest need and potential for music as a tool for healing?
I don’t know much about healing. But I noticed that music does influence your mood.
There is a fine line between cultural exchange and appropriation. What are your thoughts on the limits of copying, using cultural signs and symbols and the cultural/social/gender specificity of art?
I think being inspired is always amazing. But copying is never good, because you can immediately recognise when you see a copy of something, even if it’s of an excellent quality. We live in a world of grey copy robots, and I would rather like to see diversity of unique individuals.
I think using cultural signs and symbols could also be good, it depends on the context and on the goal you want to achieve. For me it’s not important.
Our sense of hearing shares intriguing connections to other senses. From your experience, what are some of the most inspiring overlaps between different senses - and what do they tell us about the way our senses work?
When you're making a song that you know is something that can stand the test of time, I think you can recognise that - and your whole body feels different. This is I think something more than just an overlap of senses.
Art can be a purpose in its own right, but it can also directly feed back into everyday life, take on a social and political role and lead to more engagement. Can you describe your approach to art and being an artist?
For me it was important to express myself through my art and to make it as good as possible so people could enjoy it.
Now while I still try to create a little world by my music and sounds, another very important spectrum is speaking out. I see it as a medium, where I can also express my thoughts, speak out and still being an artist there too and explore myself.
What can music express about life and death which words alone may not?
I think live music is a very good example for understanding about life and death because this is something that exists only at this exact moment and will never happen again. There is no single live performance that will ever be the same, and it helps to understand the short-lived nature of life.
My new record Heartbeats is about that, too. It is about how many heartbeats there are until death. On the cover, there are skulls and lightnings, which are symbols, that inspired me to create the record.