By now, we hope you’re familiar with what our Rave Revolution series is all about. Underground music’s most eclectic artists and collectives sit down with us for a chat on, essentially, the sonic and socio-political power of rave culture and electronic music. Amsterdam favourites Spielraum and NYC artists Volvox and SHYBOI have already served us plenty of food for thought and, keeping the momentum going, we turn our heads nowhere other than Portugal.
Hailing (and raving) from Lisbon is Violet—label head, DJ, party organizer and community-focused Rádio Quântica co-founder and resident. She’s the multi-skilled and extra-talented vanguard of rave and underground culture, both on local ground and beyond. With emotive tunes spilled straight from the heart and restless devotion to diversity and inclusivity, Violet is someone whose energy arrests us with amazement: we stop and reflect to then carry on with the collective mission to amplify each other, to spread love, to believe and to hope.
When Glamcult slid into Violet’s DMs, we had our fingers, arms and legs crossed she’d get on board. Our hopes met and surpassed, the resulting talk was an uplifting experience that took us back in time to critically inform the present and, at last, to present a vision on a future we’d give all to achieve. Read up below and swing by The Hague this Friday, where Violet will grace the queerest Frenzy in town, together with Murat Önen.
Do you remember your first encounter with music?
The first ones that I can remember are me around 3 or 4 years old in my dad’s living room, sitting at a tiny desk, drawing and listening to a huge variety of music—from Mozart to Miles Davis to James Taylor. I remember asking my dad to play ‘the wolf record’ a lot, that is Never Die Young by James Taylor (check the cover).
How did it make you feel?
It used to really set my feelings and imagination off. I wasn’t a particularly happy child, but that record would somehow really ease my baby angst. My older sister says that around that time I’d hum Beethoven melodies too; that was simply what I’d hear around the house. Later on, through my mum, I found solace in Leonard Cohen, Joan Baez, Aretha Franklin. To this day I feel like Leonard Cohen and Phil Collins were second fathers to me, and Aretha and Baez second mums.
Why and how did you delve deeper in electronic music in particular?
In the early ’90s, dance music was huge all over the world and Portugal was no exception. We had our own superstar DJs and mix CDs that would go gold and platinum. In a way, that was my introduction. I knew all the house and Eurodance tunes by heart, beat by beat. I mean, every kid would know them, yet looking back, perhaps I was slightly more obsessed with those tracks. But then I grew bored of those genres and thought I was too cool for machine music, so I got into grunge, punk, ska. Hip-hop also came my way, then early dubstep and UK garage. The latter led me back to dance music via the futuristic strains of techno by people like Shackleton and Peverlist. Through Photonz and One-Eyed Jacks, I got deep into the jack sound and the The Hague’s electro, acid, gothy scene.
When did you start DJing? Did these early influences play out in your sets and sound too?
It was in 2006 when I started to DJ and make music with my cousin/bestie Maria for our group A.M.O.R. Indeed, all these influences had a role in what would become my take on electronic music, which solidified around 2012 when I started to DJ in club environments more frequently while working on and releasing my first solo EP, Collective Data.
What is it about the genre that pulls you in?
Today, my favourite new music is made by the friends I made along the way. They’re spread throughout the planet (thank you, Internet), but I feel like the sense of togetherness and discovery, and the sonic and political possibilities to help shape the future, are somehow encoded in electronic music. That’s what pulls me in.
A bit about your creative process behind a track: where do you start, is there a consistent flow at all times?
I normally start with a drum rack on Ableton Live. I’m crazy about drums and percussion programming, and also about sampling and chopping breaks. This rhythmic aspect is the first to appear almost every time. Other times, however, I have an idea before even starting at all. I’d think: Maybe it’d be cool to make a rave-inspired track that’s really sparse but somehow super ravey too, ha-ha! And in those cases I have a different flow, where I’d start with a bass or some stabs.
When listening to your tracks , I can’t count the multitude of references they pull in. Where does this kaleidoscopic approach stem from?
As mentioned already, my parents’ influence on me was key to this kaleidoscopic exposure to music. But I’m also quite a curious person mentally. I can be physically lazy, but metaphysically I’m always moving and discovering new things that make me feel like being alive is mysterious and exciting. New music is very immaterial and stimulating, so it naturally ends up playing into my vision.
Does the concept of inclusivity play out in your music-making process too?
As I’m making music, I’m in a very non-rational state. It’s mainly a sensory and emotional language. Of course my emotions are very much informed by my love for inclusivity and social fairness, and that’s perhaps why, indirectly, you could say it’s a concept that shapes my music.
Can clubbing effectively propose an alternative status quo?
In its essence, clubbing is a social gathering that gravitates around simple concepts: music, dancing, creating an alternative space and time to meet up, where everything feels different. It’s very ritualistic too. It encodes two essential ideas—we want to be together and we want to do it outside of ‘normal’ society. So, using that as a starting point, we can attempt to create something really beautiful; a resistance that we can hold on to and manifest in our daily lives too.
By learning to co-exist in these utopian spaces of sisterhood; by celebrating each other and ourselves; by dancing with a person or dancing with ourselves with our eyes closed. We must learn what our boundaries are too, and we need to know how to set them. This can be achieved through creating safer spaces that utilize effective door policies and house rules, as well as through communicating one on one when something doesn’t feel comfortable. Imagine taking all these ideas and planting them outside of the clubbing scenario, where capitalism slyly tells us to be individualistic and achieve self-love through labour and subsequent consumption. I think clubs can serve as an experimental arena for radical thought and action that can then be translated into something larger.
Together with Murat Önen, you’ll play at Frenzy (The Hague) this Friday. Its description reads: “We aim to create an equal and diverse space with room for people of all genders, sexualities and ethnic backgrounds.” How do you achieve this?
A simple way to start is to state this mission at the door. When deciding whether someone should come in or not, observe their reaction to these words. If the person acts like these notions don’t matter, or if they show some sense of jocosity towards them, then probably that’s someone who won’t treat as equals those who are different than them. Also, having a few house rules—on posters, for example—which clearly state that sexism, homophobia, racism, fatphobia or slut shaming will not be tolerated, is an effective way to set an intention for everyone attending. Of course, no space is ever completely safe. So, the party crew and ravers should look out for one another too and be ready to step in if some kind of abusive, violent or invasive behaviour is observed.
We’ve all undeniably noticed positive change when it comes to diversity of festival and club line-ups. An underlying concern, however, has been the implication that such representation has become a marketing tool or a ‘gender as genre’ public image of labels, clubs and festivals. What are your thoughts on this tension?
I believe that representation is always important. Always. The ‘gender as genre’ stance, when used to criticize efforts that guarantee representation, has a very dangerous subtext. It implies that, for some reason, the less represented gender is less represented because it has less quality. So, if historically there has been a majority of all-male line-ups, then 50/50 or all-womxn or all-queer line-ups should come as no surprise, unless you somehow think these people are less deserving than men to be in a line-up. Of course, political ideas have always been instrumentalized by companies’ marketing divisions, but in my opinion, in our small underground scene, it’s not hard to see who does it from the heart. And to be honest, the parties, labels and festivals that perhaps use diversity as a marking tool, well… they would use any other du-jour marketing tool anyway, so as long as we’re generally moving towards a more balanced set of opportunities for everyone, I’m not that bothered. And that’s regardless whether the womxn booked are mega talented or still very raw; countless men that appear untalented are doing the rounds too.
You run your own label too, and it has become a prime example for what a contemporary label should embody: inclusivity, diversity and intersectionality. How do you effectively achieve this? What are the risks, and what is at stake?
It happens naturally—I don’t surround myself with strictly white men! Also, real life is very different from what’s at the core of most social and creative platforms. That’s precisely why representation matters, because art, and the job market too, should reflect our world as it is and not as it is shaped by a small, privileged group of people. But I’m not sure what you mean by “What is at stake?” Perhaps I should invert the question and ask, What’s at stake if we aren’t intersectional in all areas of life? Then we’re headed to a very bleak and unfair place, I think.
And where do you believe we should be headed to instead?
Towards a continued path of exploration; sonic but also socio-political. In the sonic realm, I hope people keep innovating and experimenting with the intention to have fun but also with a de-colonized approach that leaves behind the European ‘grayscale’ aesthetic and that pays more respect to the colourful, emotional pioneers of Detroit and Chicago. Yet, we also must de-centralise the main axis of dance music from these American and Central European cities to other places, like Latin American, African and Asian cities as well as the margins of Europe, where new music is happening every single day. In this way, a balanced sonic vision can be reached. Socio-politically, I hope we move toward awareness and representation, with a sense of resistance returned to dance movements. It all started as a safe haven for marginalised people, and everyone should remember this!