Jamie crosses the border and links up with Mila_mila 207 for a chat about everything that matters in the Slovakian drum and bass scene.
The birth of jungle in the UK caused a massive shake up underground and has grown massively since the early 90’s. How did jungle or drum and bass reach you in your part of the world?
“The rave culture started here at a similar time in Czech and Slovakia.I was about 15 when i got my first experience of drum & bass and jungle music at various big raves such as Czech Tech where the sub genres where all mixed. The smaller raves didn’t stick to one genre, they would have different sub genres like techno, ragga jungle, psytrance and drum & bass. This music and culture all came together after the fall of communism when Czech and Slovakia split and became two different countries. Czech is like the big brother of Slovakia so Czech was first to embrace drum & bass and rave culture.
Even though I’m a Czech chick, I’m representing the Slovak drum & bass scene more so let’s talk about the Capital of Slovakia, Bratislava.
DJ Gabanna who was a well known hip-hop DJ started playing drum & bass records in the late 90’s. This is probably what really got drum & bass noticed in Slovakia for the first time. When I moved here from Czech in 2004 to study music I was already really into drum & bass, plus there was already a scene here. I would go a famous club in Bratislava, called U club (now Sub Club) which is situated in a nuclear shelter under the Bratislava castle. I would go straight from the party to school with no sleep!
In Middle Slovakia, the father of drum & bass is DJ Kato. He bought drum & bass to the not so open minded people of Partizánske Town (now known as Party-zanske town) by bringing loads of beer and parking his car outside one of the local disco night clubs and blasting drum & bass out of his car whilst handing out free beer. Obviously everyone likes free beer so they would come and see what was happening and then they would dance to this strange new music they had never heard before. DJ Kato is now running the big drum & bass parties in Slovakia such as Let it Roll Slovakia, Hospitality Slovakia, Trident festival, Let it Snow, Solid festival etc.
We have at least 10 drum & bass parties per weekend in a country with a population of under 5 million. London is over 20 million people so thats something to think about…
Do you have that one stand out memory of your first taste of jungle or drum and bass music?
“It was 25th December 2002 in Ostrava (Czech) at Fabric club. My dad took me to the club as I was too young to get in on my own. This was a very special memory for me. The event was called Slim Slam Drum. This crew now runs the biggest event in Ostrava, along with a DJ school, radio show and a load of talented producers.
When people talk about drum and bass and the international scene, Slovakia isn’t a place that would naturally spring to mind. What makes it so unique and popular where you are?
“The scene still seems quite young here and it’s heading in its own direction – there is probably more freedom to experiment. For example, I hosted a set last year at Solid Festival with 2 DJs back to back (Kato and Beaty). The set also featured a live saxophonist, drummer and UK MC Jimmy Danger. I’ve also sung with my live drum & bass band called Space Cats at a rave in between two DJ sets. The ravers loved it because it’s different and you can’t beat a live band.
In the winter we have drum & bass parties combined with snowboarding and other winter sports in the mountains. And in the summer we have lakes, bbqs and wake boarding, so we combine these activities with drum & bass. There is also bike fest and MT bikers festival so after a day of adrenalin sports there must be a great drum & bass party. It’s the same with the stand up paddleboard marathon on the Donau river, afterwards there will be a massive drum & bass party.
And everything is super cheap here…”
How do you represent your passion for the music?
“I’m not really sure, I guess I was born with a passion for music. I have been studying music since primary school, then I started studying Opera Bel Canto at Conservatory before moving to University in Bratislava. I did many gigs in theatre and other classical projects.
About 4 years ago I decided I wasn’t happy just doing what I was told by directors, conductors, choreographers and vocal technique professors. I went back to my roots and I’m enjoying my music expression more than ever. I have a project underway with my drum & bass band I previously mentioned. I’m working with Lan3no Cubano, which is a band playing all types of latino rhythm combined with jazz, Slovak folklore, Balkan and electronic music.
I’m still hosting improv jazz events with some of the best musicians from Slovakia but bringing all this influence to drum & bass is really how i represent my passion.”
No doubt our readers will want to know what a typical event is like in Slovakia, is it vastly different to a rave in the UK?
“Not really. I think one difference is you can find a big UK headliner playing in a small village in the middle of nowhere. Its all good vibes here, super friendly.
You can see that the people in the scene here are all doing it for the love of the music and art form. It’s not so much about money and business, more about making great party and keeping everyone happy.
The girls here are not raving in high heels and bikinis like I’ve heard in the UK.”
Headline DJs in the UK contain many household names that have grown with the scene since it’s early beginnings, is this the same situation for you in Slovakia?
“Of course! Every name and brand is growing with the work rate and time they put in. For example, the guys that first started the scene here are still here, stronger than ever, still pushing the music and events. Drumatique crew with DJs Gabanna, Galagha and Lixx, or Trident crew with DJs Kato, Kukurica and Beaty have been here from the start and are still here now doing their thing.
The young people in the scene have their own crews and things going on, they are closer to the fans so they know what they want. A fairly recent new crew are BASEMENT and Stále Málo, these young guys are bringing the jump up/neurofunk sound to Slovakia with their own events. It’s becoming really popular over here and even though it’s mostly the young people listening, I don’t see age as important.
They are great at organising a very good rave with positive vibes and wicked DJs.”
The battle with local councils in Bratislava sounds very reminiscent to when the UK brought in the Criminal Justice Bill. What happened and is it still an ongoing struggle?
“Last year we were all a bit scared as the council in Bratislava were really pushing to close many venues that were playing music on ground floor level. But actually it wasn’t that bad, only a few small venues had to close. The bigger venues didn’t need to worry so much as the owners have good public relationships with the police and the council. But on the other hand it’s a shame that the smaller clubs, without help from the council made deals with developers, and now we have expensive modern flats instead of small clubs with character.
I’m gonna try and look on the bright side and say it’s positive for the scene because now there is never a half full club.”
You have been running your own events for sometime, how did this initially start? What do you enjoy most about being a promoter?
“I like this question. Once upon a time the much younger version of me wanted to go to a party with her friends, but the party was so far away and would have cost so much money. So we did what any resourceful raver would do, we made our own party with our friends DJing. Then we used the money we made to travel to the party we wanted to go to. The end!
Na, this was the first party I organised but after a few events I started to get more serious with my studies and priorities, so the next event i organised was about 5 years later- named Anomality, an improv event aimed at combining music with dance and art. Shortly after I discovered I enjoyed writing a lot so I started working for advertising agencies, magazines, publishing, web portals etc. I moved towards my position as a PR manager and now I’m working closely with the people in the scene who matter to me. The greatest thing about being a promoter is watching an empty club with no atmosphere fill up into an amazing environment where people will create friendship and memories that last forever.”
You’re also an artist, that must keep you busy! Do you think there’s a certain stigma globally still with female artists or have these days now passed? If so, how do you deal with these objections?
“A lot of people think that it can be easier or harder to be a woman in a scene dominated my men. At the end of the day what really matters is the quality of your music.
It can be difficult sometimes but most of the time it’s all good. there are idiots in every scene, in every country, everywhere.
I ignore these kind of people.”
If you could put on an event with an infinite supply of funds, what would your dream line up be and why? Where would you hold it?
“It’s gonna be on top of a mountain in a massive Igloo, packed full of UK girls in bikinis cause they don’t feel the cold. My dream headline act would be Guv back to back Teddy Killers with Andy C on the mic, and obviously no dream rave is complete without Kenny Ken back to back Kenny Ken…
No seriously, I’m already planning some new events so you will see in time.”
What’s forthcoming for you as an artist and for your promotions set up?
“My next booking is with DJ Beaty at Let It Snow Slovakia 20-22.1.2017. I’m gonna be in the studio a lot this year working on a EP with my drum & bass band Space Cats and some producers. Im also doing vocals for a few labels and of course working behind the scenes on websites, PR, promotion, events. The list goes on!”
Any shouts or big ups?
First of all i would like to thank you Jamie for taking the time to find out about our small but beautiful countries’ drum & bass scene.
Big ups to TRIDENT.sk, DJ Beaty, my sister in crime Fedi, Radio Show Scena_FM, my lil brother DJ DCKDST, everyone who is pushing drum & bass in Slovakia, the ravers and everyone behind the scenes who does so much but goes unnoticed.”