Magda, neé Magdalena Chojnacka, is one of the most revered techno DJs in the world today. She became interested in the rave scene after growing up in Detroit, and has toured as part of Minus recordings and supported Richie Hawtin as sole opener since 1998. Now she has announced her departure from Minus as a recording artist to focus on her Items & Things label with Troy Pierce and Marc Houle. In the meantime she continues to support Hawtin’s live show, touring as part of his Plastikman 1.5 tour. I caught up with Magda to talk about the influence of Hawtin, her upcoming tour with him, and how she is preparing for the next chapter in her own story as an artist and DJ.
Pulse: Magda, you're supporting The Plastikman 1.5 tour. How did you first meet Richie Hawtin and what kind of influence did he have on you? Magda: We met a long time ago, I would say around '97. I lived in Detroit, he lived in Windsor and we met through friends. He was a huge influence on many of us back then. He was doing things that no one else was doing, especially with the warehouse parties. I would have seen him play perhaps as far back as '94. He always did right as far as the sound, the venue and the whole presentation were concerned.
Hawtin was one of the first people to combine DJing with some live improvised elements. Is that something you have also embraced? I've never played live. However it's in the works for next year when I tour in support of my album. Richie has always been a pioneer in that aspect, not least in the way he has integrated visuals into his sets. He's already way ahead of the game technologically. His interest in visuals goes right back to the Xmix video that he did on VHS in the 90's and the visuals at the warehouse parties back then.
And what's your personal take on how important the visual aspect of the experience you provide is? I really think the whole way people experience music is changing. I think we're on the tip of something new and exciting. People like Amon Tobin and Plastikman, are just a couple that spring to mind who are really experimenting, and there are many others. I think it can really lead into a new and exciting era, especially when you combine that with the use of things like surround sound.
It has been quite well publicized that you have stopped recording for Minus in favour of releasing on your own label, Items & Things. What were the artistic reasons for that? I think when you work with a label or someone for so long people go off in different directions. It's natural. There always comes a point where you start to feel either on that path or away from that path. It was definitely my time, I felt, to go in a different direction. I support him 100%, we're doing this tour together, there's no 'beef'. Minus is his baby, and I'm at a point where I really want to focus my full creative output and my ideas into something that I can call my own.
So in terms of the things you want to release and the things you're playing, what changed since you first joined Minus? I just feel that Minus went off in one direction. Marc and I don't really fit into that any more. For example, Marc records a lot of different things, a lot new wave, a different sound I suppose. Maybe that sound would fit 6 or 7 years ago when we first started, but it doesn't seem to fit right now. Rich has always been very open and he has let me do what I want with no pressure. I've been playing a lot more disco influenced techno and experimenting more with different genres.
Actually I remember hearing Troy Pierce drop Konrad Black - Coma Couch Surfing (Items & Things) at Bar 25 years ago and being really surprised it was a Minus artist behind the track. It's a big misconception. I've played that sound for a long time, and people seem to have me pigeonholed in the 'minimal' sound and genre. It's quite funny, really.
You mentioned 'minimal', it's a word which has picked up some negative connotations. Do you think it's relevant to the music that you're still making? It means music in its purest form, to me, but it has become the basic definition for anything generic sounding. It lost its true meaning. If I really to think about it, my tracks tend to be stripped down, but the 'minimal' definition of today is not what I consider 'minimal' to be. For me it still has to have lot of soul and richness and meaning. It can't just be a simple formula.
Tell me about the plans for the Items & Things label. Will you be releasing stuff only from yourself and Marc? Or will you be bringing artists through the ranks and developing the stable. We have been working with two artists very closely, Madato and Danny Benedettini. Danny's been giving me tracks for years, they always had a lot of potential but I wasn't sure we'd release his stuff. He really wanted to be with us though and eventually there came a moment when it finally clicked. Madato has a particular sound. It's weird but very warm and unique. One thing we wanted to do was to be a platform for people we believe in. We want to keep it simple and easy, without any pressure. We want to put stuff out that we like.
And will you be working on an album for Items & Things? I'm working on an album for next year and also on a live show.
So how do you think albums work for electronic music today, compared, say, to how they worked back when the first Plastikman album came out? It's different from when the first Plastikman album came out. It’s a lot easier to put an album out today. The Internet wasn't so readily available. Back then everyone had to be part of a label, whereas today people are more independent. Everybody is a lot more in control of their career. As far as my own album is concerned, I'm not looking to make the next big thing or something life changing. I want to do something that I feel good about and that makes me happy.
Finally, of the gigs that are coming up on this Plastikman 1.5 tour, are there any gigs you're particularly looking forward to? The whole tour is pretty cool. ADE should be pretty fun, of course! Each date is going to be quite different. I'm looking forward to it.
Magda joins Plastikman for the 1.5 Live concept performing at Manchester Academy (1st Dec), 02 Academy Brixton (2nd Dec) and Glasgow Barrowlands (3rd Dec). Tickets and info are here