The first in our Game Changers series, which spotlights exciting young acts worthy of attention, we hear from Gabriella Vergilov, the Bulgarian newcomer earning the praise of some of the best names in techno.
Bulgarian-born Gabriella Vergilov is nothing if not tenacious. Just seven months after making first heading into the studio, Ben Klock was playing her debut release at Berghain. That conspicuously titled Her Beginning EP, released on Thema Digital Series, caught plenty more attention, earning the Brussels transplant praise from some of the biggest names in the game, including DJ T-1000, Nicuri, Jon Hester, KiNK, Eric Cloutier, Coyu and DVS1, who included her track “Boring Shit” on his 2017 fabric mix. She’s also been featured on B.Traits’ BBC Radio 1 show, and is becoming known as a prominent vocalist, having grown up wanting to become a singer.
Since then she’s played Copenhagen’s Culture Box, Brussels’ Epicerie Moderne, Berlin’s KitKat, Suicide Circus, Griessmühle, Chalet, and Salon zur Wilden Renate, and Antwerp's Ampere, where she now holds a residency. She’s also been scooped up by Dustin Zahn, who signed her latest EP, One Step Ahead, to his Enemy Records imprint, which included remixes from Dustin himself, Cosmin TRG and Doubt.
Not bad for a self-described “small town girl” who grew up under the austere eye of communism. Though as she tells it, it’s her “hot-blooded Eastern temperament” that gives her music its unique character—emotions that come pouring out in walloping doses, something she also expresses in her bright, colourful taste in fashion. Put simply, Vergilov is hard to miss. But that’s exactly why she’s changing the game in her own special way. Catch her next at Shelter in Amsterdam on June 23rd with Juan Sanchez.
What have you been up to lately?
Listening to a live performance of Khruangbin and having watermelon! Jokes aside: I’ve been up to a lot of music producing! A few days ago I decided to count the number of tracks I have on my hard drive, and with a risk to sound a little cocky (and I’m not), I concluded about 490 tunes are ready to go or works in process. That makes it tricky for me to go through all and pick three more tunes for another release I’ve been asked to put out due this fall. I think it’s going to be faster if I just start three new tracks rather than scrolling through tons of music I got.
I also just got another record deal, and now I’m pumping up the tracks with a proper mix down. I work mainly with ideas, and technicality for me comes a little after I lock up the core of a project. This time I’m using extra help from sound engineer for the final mix-down. I have to say it is not my favourite part. I love to create, and everything that screams of some kind of “rule” or “order” or practicality, or even pragmatism, is a potential creativity killer, and I can’t afford to have that. Every second of worrying about my music is an idea lost. So worrying about “I need to get that perfect kick drum rolling” is not my game and I would gladly let someone help me.
I’m also busy with a fashion brand, which is going to use an unreleased, stripped back, down-tempo cinematic track of mine for their social media video campaign. It’s so strange in a way to me to realize that what I am up to lately is simply doing what I always loved and wanted: music. I also come from a fashion background and that makes the project even more likeable for me as I have big passion for fashion.
Where and when was the mix recorded?
I recorded the mix a week ago at one of Belgium’s finest clubs for electronic music—the Antwerp diamond “Ampere”, where I also happen to play a lot. The club is the first place in Belgium to show quite big support towards me. We discovered each other only six months after I moved to Belgium. We did several nights together where we both came up with artists we want to invite, and so far we had Marco Shuttle—and my all time fav, DVS1—Chris Liebing, Nina Kraviz, and Nikita Zabelin. More are about to come in the near future.
What equipment did you use, and what was the idea behind the mix?
I used two standard CDJs, turntables, XONE92. The idea behind the mix turned out to be completely different than what I had in mind: initially it was supposed to be a conceptual mix with a lot of atmospheric space and rather subtle elements. But at the end of the day I had a purely dance floor-oriented mix because I recorded it in a club. I could actually imagine the sea of bodies dancing in front of my eyes. And I’m saying this with a hint of self-irony, but also a big smile. So you get a dance floor-oriented mix from me, with the sound of Detroit, a tiny bit of Chicago to NY, blended with Bulgarian temperament. There are a lot of percussives, and in a way, tribal elements, in the tracks I picked. I included some tracks of the old techno days of Gene Farris and Jerome Baker. DVS1 opened my eyes to that particular sound. You can also hear three unreleased tracks in there—one by Kirill Mamin and two by myself.
You’re originally from Bulgaria. What’s the scene like there?
I am born in Tutrakan, a small Danube riverside town, which makes me a small town girl by birth and a city girl by heart. Back in the day, Bulgaria was quite behind in the whole clubbing culture and art in general, and many people there probably had no idea what techno or house music is. There was a lot of restricted art during communism. My father had a small recording studio after the regime was over, and this is how I discovered music's endless genres and styles. He brought CDs from abroad and we would listen to them together. I fell in love with Vangelis, Jean-Michel Jarre and disco at the time.
Things today in Bulgaria still happen slowly. There is an obvious shifting for the last two years or so. I don’t live in Sofia anymore, but I still see where things are headed. Collectives pop up booking interesting artists and not only A-list DJs.
I played last year with Regal and Antigone in an old wing of the Bulgarian radio building, next to an old theatre building. The interior was kept from back before ‘89. The smaller room had wooden paneling and bright red lights; it looked like scenery from a Luc Besson movie. I loved it. And people were really hungry for some proper old school techno and house.
Therefore, techno and house music definitely need to be put in focus there if promoters wanna make Bulgaria a future underground music stop.
When it comes to making it as an artist there, composers are pushed to the wall by the ignorant Ministry of Culture and they can’t do much because they are forced to work for funny money to survive. DJing there cannot be a profession or a way of living either. You don’t get any benefits as an artist. And if people from the western world complain that they get small fees, they should try living the life of a DJ out there. It’s tough. But! I feel the wind of change is slowly heading to the Eastern region of Europe, and in few years from now, maybe five, maybe less, but also maybe more, we might have some interesting scene in there. And despite I live abroad already for so many years, I am pure Bulgarian, and you can hear that hot-blooded Eastern temperament in the character of my songs. I hope I’m helping the scene in my motherland to grow, even from abroad. I really hope so because until now there is only my friend KiNK doing this.
These days you live in Brussels. Why’d you move?
What brought me here was basically life, love, and I strongly believe also music! The country has a huge history in techno, acid, EBM, new wave, you know what I'm talking about. Ever heard of R&S?! And not only, of course! So I started to become step-by-step in love with the country and its people. I find peace and ever since I dedicated myself full time on music and not takin' any shit jobs on the side—I really feel this is the place I’m finally staying. I'm done moving. One thing I appreciate in Belgians is their lack of egos. They don’t like to fight, they are not maliciously competitive, which makes them very charming and super down to earth. And coming from a very temperamental country as Bulgaria, I really needed this low-fi manner of being, of communicating. And this all opens for me a huge door of freedom to be and to create, in peace. My career is also headed in a more productive and busy direction ever since I’m here, and I believe that is only the beginning if not even the beginning itself. It’s all connected. I'm not here by coincidence. That is for sure.
What have been some of your highlights from this year so far?
Number one goes to my vinyl debut EP on Enemy Records, coming with three dope remixes Dustin Zahn, Cosmin TRG and Doubt. I'm feeling quite lucky, but then again, it took me quite a lot to get my music to this stage, and I also believe that luck is a strange kinda talent. DVS1 made this monstrous fabric mix back in December and featured a track of mine, upcoming on Thema Recordings by the end of this summer. I was two times featured with tracks on BBC Radio1 within a month, once by B.Traits, and then by an old Copenhagen techno buddy, Anastasia Kristensen. I also happened to appear for an interview regarding music on the most-watched Bulgarian TV channel on their cultural block. It’s wonderful to catch the attention of people in your own country. But then again, I am Bulgarian by blood and a citizen of the world by heart.
What’s next for you?
I have three EPs confirmed till the end of the year. Two are ready to go, we are only waiting for the pressing plants. Hopefully by the end of August/September my EPs for Thema Recordings and Palinoia will be out. Marco Shuttle asked me for vocals, and now there is a track out September/October on a wonderful label, but I can't say more at this point. I have two more vocal requests. A lot of producers actually ask me for it and I love it.
When I was a child, I really wanted to sing, but I guess life had a different plan for me, which I am absolutely happy with. Now it’s really easy—I don’t wanna sample anybody’s voice, I just do mine and make my dream come true: compose my own music, use my own voice and pretend to be a singer.
Beside those, I'm doing my first-ever festival appearance this year starting with Dimensions, heading then to Laundry Day where I play in the company of Mills, Hawtin, Bjarki and more. I'm actually having troubles believing my festival career starts with such a huge project as Dimensions. I am one helluva lucky girl. Thanks universe!
1. Rouge Mecanique - Introduction a Quatres Mains (Original mix)
2. Plastikman - Gymnastiks (Original mix)
3. Gabriella Vergilov - Reach Out to Me (Original mix)
4. DJ Deep, Traumer - La Valle La B (La Spicy Mix)
5. Gene Farris - Blind Rage (Original Mix)
6. Peter Van Hoesen - Situation Two (Original Mix)
7. Arthur Kimskii - Verval Variance (Original Mix)
8. Jerome Baker - Dreams (Original Mix)
9. Gary Beck - Hold up (Original Mix)
10. Gabriella Vergilov - Boring Shit (Original Mix)
11. Ekserd - Disco Workout
12. Kirill Mamin - Track 7 M (Unreleased)
13. Gabriella Vergilov - The Perfect Lover (Original Mix)
14. DJ Bone - The Ritual (Original Mix)
15. Steve Rachmad - Sitting on Clouds (Original Mix)
16. Gabriella Vergilov - Get Up (Unreleased)
17. Gabriella Vergilov - One Step Ahead (Dustin Zahn’s Acid Mix)
18. Surgeon - Atol (2014 Remastered)
19. Gabriella Vergilov - You Ain’t Seen Nothin’ Yet (Unreleased)
20. Continuous Cool - Automatic (Original Mix)