*WARNING - THIS ARTICLE MAY TRIGGER YOU INTO THINKING FOR YOURSELF*
Reverberations of the last US election have spanned the globe in the past weeks uprooting some of the most outrageous claims and reactionary behavior seen in decades. Like the attention span of children in midsts of a tantrum, this rather unfathomable result of a celebrity real estate investor now voted into highest office, has brought a multi faceted uproar against the electoral process. From the “cry-ins” and organized “dog-petting” actions to soothe college students, to the riots which have been said to be paid for by the opponent´s own funds, we now face an even more ridiculous - yet serious - threat to free speech, thought and action with the emotional meltdowns suddenly qualmed by mass media declaring “fakenews” and Russian hackers responsible for the outcome.
Instantaneous information and a promise of digital freedom has now finally met its maker. As major news changes at an alarming rate on a weekly basis since this last election, I am forced to pen this article based on the prejudice I have encountered myself recently. Being of two nationalities, I could not vote in this election if I wanted to. Having never voted in my entire life, I was not going to start now, however I had an opinion on both candidates and still remain curious to see what occurs tomorrow, let alone next month when this business mogul is supposed to be sworn into office. As my rather vocal opinions find their way onto Facebook, in differing volume to be perceived as they may, I was denied having a recent interview published because of my stance on the situation. I never thought the fact that I was vocal about an election I legally cannot even vote in due to my heritage, would sequester publishing my experience on being a woman in electronic music - especially as the only reason the writer contacted me was because of the last blog I wrote about being censored as a free thinking creative woman. And so goes this age of anti-eloquent, quick to judge, emotionally biased media which now threatens to block and delete information on mass scale due to personal bias.
My personal perspective on other´s religion, choice of porn viewing, political affiliations, sexual inclinations or matter of dress should never take precedent in being published - as everyone who knows me is aware of the fact that I am not one to go down quietly in the face of an ever advancing war on free speech being declared just this week. The social media posts which incited the ban on publishing the following interview were spawned by inciting dialogue. Which dialogue you may ask, if you are lucky enough to not be subjected to it? ANY dialogue. What do I get instead of dialogue? A refusal to publish my thoughts on being censored after an apology from the interviewer about not understanding my posts. It is unfortunately at this point of writing where I am forced to think of Nazis. These days the word “Nazi” is thrown around ever so easily and lightly by anyone who wishes to brand others who do not agree with their thinking. It is a personal affront to me as a cosmopolitan, international artist who is descended from Nazi heritage to have to back up my opinions ever so suddenly because of not supporting the losing candidate in an election which suddenly has given rise to an army of finger pointers. Perplexed, I am having a hard time imagining the emotionally insecure citizens actually fighting the supposed guilty Russians in a war, as I can only envision them rather choosing to take the easy way out. Public acceptance of corporate and governmental control over what can be read, digested, pondered or written about scares me more than any sexism, ageism, racism, or religious jihad - which is why I still have a very difficult time digesting my Grandfathers affiliation in WWII
Having studied the history of WWII extensively the thing that always strikes me to the heart is the Nazi extermination of expressionist artists and the mentally ill, some of their first victims. Their clamp down on any free thinkers, also including detainment of members of the O.T.O. is a point which is overshadowed by the prominent number of Jewish victims they claimed. The death toll of WWII is one which is held in reverence by any living human and will remain so until the Third. The amount of Russian lives lost far outnumber any others, yet they were victorious at the end. A battle is never without casualties and in this age of state imposed “political correctness” I still have a hard time grasping at what it is exactly which is being imposed. The Nazis leave a legacy which makes it very clear as to what what accepted and what was not. The new school of “political correctness” is as transparent as a walk through a carnival maze of mirrors. It seems like every day I check the news, fake or not, I am faced with having to be forced to accept another unsightly perspective and being forced to swallow it without question. Radical as my tastes in music, art, sexuality may be - I have a difficult time imagining forcing them to be accepted worldwide, nor to I have any inkling to make it be so. I always found the journey towards discovery to be a personal one, and do not stand for state sanctioning of sexuality or persona on any level.
With this preface, I will publish the entirety of this interview which was spawned by the interviewer having read my last blog post about the Wikipedia/Nymphomatriarch on whatever channels he found it on. I am very happy to have my own space to present my work - direct to you without editing or censoring… feel free to post with your opinions as everyone is entitled to their right to speak openly and publicly… and after being in the music industry for half of my life I have heard any insult you can throw at me....
(all typos subject to change)
You've been pretty nomadic over your artistic career, and that's placed you within the inner circle of a number of scenes as they came to fruition and prominence. Do you have any insights into the creative spark that ignites a set of ideas and turns it into something groundbreaking?
Truly, I have lived nomadically for most of my life and have found myself in several instances closely involved in music scenes or movements as they stood on the precipice of becoming more well known. Many people find themselves lucky enough to catch one legendary wave in music in their lives, I have been granted more than my fair share. When I look back on what I have witnessed and been a part of, I find the recollections to be daunting - both in what I experienced and also by what I learned from each episode along the way. Seeing that I have never actually put this down in writing, no matter how many times it has been mulled over in my head, I think a list might be a good idea in this case….
Detroit Techno/Toronto Jungle 1992-1995 - documented by many, still havent written much about this
New York Club Scene - 1994-1996 - pre Michael Alig killing and subsequent club crack downs
Digital Hardcore/ATR - 1995-1997 Just as they were signing to Beastie Boy label, Grand Royal
Free Party/Hardcore/ Datacide/Hekate Crew - 1998-2000 Praxis / Ambush / Hekate in London (pre Breakcore)
Breakcore - 1999-200? - the rise and fall :)
Things I missed entirely….
Early days of Black Metal
Dutch Gabber parties
In response to the second part of your question, I am forced to say that usually by the time something becomes “groundbreaking” or historic - it is either already in its deaththroes or the fabric for its dispersal is already woven into the mix. This is due to the mechanisms which are next to impossible to avoid when you start dealing with international press representation, as magazines always seem late to arrive to anything culturally substantial. Some of the scenes I have been involved with did their best to avoid commercialization, whilst others welcomed it openly….
In the case of Breakcore, both “underground” efforts and energies were at play as well as major press - with some artists completely shunning the media and others only seeking to make a name for themselves. Funny enough, many times you would find a good cross section of both playing at many of the big events. There are a few aspects to consider in any musical movement. You have the inception and formative years which generally involve some type of legendary parties (I must give a shout out to Doormouse and the Wisconsin Barn Parties here!!) and first releases. Then you have some type of dissemination where it seems like a viable way to live or live off of due to the interest and following distribution of the music and touring, at this point “second/third wave” producers come into play. This usually leads to some type of (usually negative) event or publication which splits up the members… And from that point usually people are led to fend for themselves which disperses the energy that was once there at the start, the more communal spirit which brought forth the “happening” to begin with.
If you look to the 20th Century´s biggest wave in music/cultural phenomenon, even the way the 60´s played out… this same rhythm is found. Like any good book, a music scene is not only remembered for its music but also the characters, dramas and memories which are woven in. With the crux of many artists work now relying upon social media to make themselves known, these general “rules” may end up changing, although I cannot foresee any music based movement really making a lasting impression without physical contact/concerts/productions.
Your career spans a truly impressive number of genres. Is there something that drives you into different types of artistic creation? Is it curiosity or restlessness or something else that leads you down these paths?
Although my music could be compartmentalized into several different genres, rarely did I ever make my records knowingly trying to “fit” into any of them, with the possible exception of my Sub/Version release since it was a label dedicated to Drum n Bass. The common thread found in all of my works is the atmosphere, which is rather foreboding and in several cases utilizes eerie samples and vocals. Since having made more time for my other creative projects in the past years since slowing down my releases and gigs - my output remains just as dark still drawing heavily from the Occult and Sexuality. These topics are ones I draw sustenance and inspiration from whether I am painting, sculpting, writing, screenprinting, performing or composing. I have to say I have been very lucky to be able to live out my creative dreams without any internal censorship from management or labels for the most part… of course luck was not the only thing going for me - I am also very stubborn, once I get set to do something… I will make it happen under any circumstance.
Zhark is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year. You released your own work, as well as records by an impressive array of talent. Do you have any personal favorites from the Zhark back catalog? Looking back, what are the high water marks that you see in your own work, and from the selection that you curated?
That is right, 20 years since our first release! Resident Advisor did a very nice write up on the label a couple months ago, for your curious readers to check out. It is hard to sit here now and tell you of my favorites. When I was Djing alot I always had my “go-to” tracks to mix in, but Zhark released alot of experimental pieces or things not necessarily meant for the dancefloor. Recently working on my artist website http://rachaelkozak.com I had a chance to go back through my work and have a deeper reflection of it now that I have spent some time out of the whirlwind which lasted for over 13 years at a breakneck pace…. To be honest, I stand by everything I released on all of the labels I ran - Zhark Int, HWF, and Still Raven. In regards to the other artists on my labels, I must say every single artist knew if they were going to be released by me - They had to give me their BEST and their DARKEST - that was always my criteria. Never did I take a demo CD from anyone and say “oh I will take track 3,8 and 11” or something like that. We would make an agreement that, no matter how long it takes (very long in the case of Xanopticon, which is an amazing 12”) you will deliver me with your best quality, sickest work meant only for me and inspired by the label itself. Through having this type of agreement with my artists I know I was able to let them push themselves, all of them knowing their was no limit to what they could do.
What shape and direction are current projects taking?
After moving from Berlin to Vienna in 2012, I set out to focus more on my painting which took a backseat after leaving Art School in New York and going on to start Zhark. I had my first art exhibition there and even sold some pieces. I was also getting back into video editing in Vienna and cut that tour video ft. Abelcain Val Xanopticon and myself in Europe, which was a blast. It goes without saying that I have also been active with Austrias Belphegor - having written the title tracks (and many more lyrics) for their past 2 LPs.
Now that I am here, surprisingly married in Northern Finland, Í have focussed on getting my past output more organized, with the website/stocks/etc and have been very active with a screen printing studio which lasted for the past 5 months, as well as weekly ceramic sessions where I am making strange pendants and Magickal items for the home. The past couple of months saw me perform a live Industrial Black Metal performance featuring some ritual bondage in Helsinki and I also was invited to Tampere to DJ at a cool underground Hardcore party in a cabin right outside of town. Both of those gigs were really fun and wet my appetite to play some more and also work on some new music.
I still have some unreleased tunes that I thought I almost completely lost due to a burglary of 2 of my computers and harddrives in Berlin, but I actually recovered the tracks after years and they may see the light of day after all…. I am not very fond of selling mp3s or having a “online only” based career, as you know I was releasing mainly vinyl my whole life so I still fetishize the packaging and cannot view a release as finished unless it comes out in some type of manufactured packaging. Many people are asking me about a release these days….Let´s see what happens… anything can and most probably will! :)
Recently your artist page on Wikipedia was removed and traffic was redirected to a one-off project from fifteen years ago. I've known a few artists that have had similar difficulties, but none with a resumé as extensive as yours. How ridiculous is it to have twenty years of dedicated work as a solo producer, collaborator, graphic artist, and label head replaced with a single record that isn't representative of your body of work?
As you can tell by reading the piece on my blog “Nymphomatriarch: A Study of Censorship and Sexism in Electronic Music”, I was far from happy about the debacle which led me to pen that tale. Getting things here in Finland going, I was very happy to finally get my artist site up but of course while checking if it showed in google searches I realized suddenly that my HECATE artist page which has been there for over a decade was deleted and reassigned to the Nymphomatriarch release. I took it up with Wikipedia, four exchanges to no avail, with them refusing to change anything. I am not one to point my finger and declare myself a victim of anything, especially sexism as it is always an easy way out and usually doesnt fix anything. This culture has been hit recently by an unnerving jump to blaming others for their own “victimization” which I find deplorable and in some cases absolutely senseless. However, at that point and having NO WAY to correct this strange editorial decision of Wikipedia - I thought I should tell the real tale behind what I experienced while making and after releasing that record. If your readers have not gotten that far yet, I had to deal with an enormous amount of one sided press where Venetian Snares was hailed as some genius and me some lowly slut even though I was one of the first labels to even release him in the first place. We were given an award which I was never informed of, Jay Leno made jokes using my full name on National TV and the list goes on… So after all of that, having my entire life´s work being redirected to this one release seemed completely disrespectful, especially when you look at how many other collaborations I have taken part of which reached even larger audiences. The worst thing was thinking “why do I need to be tied to one collaboration” if any? I have cut out my own world out of nothing and resisted many who were not so fond of my outspokenness and prevailed. Thankfully, about eight hours after posting it, some coder read my article and went into Wikipedia and fixed what they refused to! That really made me happy. Not only did I get to write a strong and entertaining piece about what happened behind the scenes of that whole release but I successfully got my page restored by a reader! I told you I am stubborn :)
Your own post about the problem pointed to gender bias and outright sexism as a large part of the problem. The disparity in the number of female producers certainly supports this. What are some of the issues that need to be addressed if we're to have a serious conversation about this topic?
Having dealt with this problem since I started, I am still at a loss as to a clearcut answer. Back in 1998, I started the Homewrecker Foundation as a sublabel of Zhark as not only a place for women to release their music but also some type of forum or network to give each other tips on gear and programming as that is an important part as well. By 2001 I decided to stop releasing records on HWF and bring the focus back to music without dealing with the topic of gender as I was never one to be a social warrior and the ladies I released were not exactly doing their best to present themselves. It has been awhile since I pondered the whole thing, naturally the recent wikipedia thing brought back a lot of old memories. Maybe it would help to make some list as this question in itself could end up as a book and I do not think we need to get that indepth at this point in time.
REASONS WOMEN ARE NOT GENERALLY FOUND IN ELECTRONIC MUSIC
It takes TIME AND PRACTICE - endless hours in front of a computer or synths which many young women do not have a passion for investing in
ACCESS TO EQUIPMENT AND SUPPORT - granted, you can do it if you really want but it is not so readily available like photography or other arts, and generally need a man to introduce you to it.
DEALING WITH PUBLIC PERCEPTION - many women have a hard enough time in this world based on appearance to even have the self esteem to be happy with the way they look, let alone facing a male dominated industry which harbors many “armchair” critics, generally men on their computers, waiting to rip a female producer apart if she doesnt fit into their vision of what one should be/sound like/dress like/act like
THE ECONOMIC PRESSURES - I have a hard time envisioning many women who have the time , courage and resolute to learn how to make songs, be saavy enough to make business contacts and present themselves and then be able to carve out a space in the music market where they can present their tunes or perform. This takes luck as well as a lot of effort, and you have to be tough. The economic pay back is close to nothing in most cases, of course their are rare exceptions….
I am sitting here typing and almost laughing thinking… hm…. After going through those points. Maybe women are just smart enough after all --- NOT to get involved :) of course I do not think thats the case but you also have to realize, there may actually be 2-3-400 women out there with amazing songs they produced 100% by themselves but they dont have the connections or the self esteem to actually get them out to us! Who knows!? The music industry is not a nice place to be for anyone, and electronic music is no different.
You spearheaded The Homewrecker Foundation, an imprint dedicated to releasing work by female artists - and you've been outspoken about how women are treated by the music world. Have you seen any positive steps toward a wider acceptance over the two decades that you've been active?
I will keep this answer short. No. No, I have not seen it get any better, in fact it has probably gotten worse. I was not even accepted to be a member of “female pressure” forum when I was posting about the Wikipedia thing,, which is fine as I really didnt want to be involved with that, but wanted to post it to them in any case, as it was most definitely on topic. With the rise of social media, “selfies” and the subsequent “social justice warriors” I feel the world is in too much of a materialistically driven space which lies far outside the realm of any movement forward in terms of rational acceptance of women being creative beings. In all respects, this should not even be a topic, it still is and it doesnt really seem to be getting any better. My mind wanders to topless female DJs and people like Lady Gaga or Peaches and I think I better stop there.
There are probably a lot of people who claim to have no gender bias with regard to music, but still make comments and act in ways that are problematic. What are some of the most glaring statements and actions that well-meaning people make that, if eliminated, might help to create a more welcoming environment?
After all these years, I will never forget a few reviews I had from my albums - one was a shining stellar review of my second LP Ascension Chamber where they went on about how much they loved it and then closed off the review by saying what a pityit was that I wear “so much eyeliner”. The other was when I released the CD version of my first LP in 2005 and WIRE had a male write review it saying that it cared him and seeing that the title was The Magick of Female Ejaculation - based on his fright thought that I had no clue or connection to Female Sexuality. Well, I found that one surprising, to say the least, having a male journo telling a woman what I know about my own sexuality. I think in the end, there is no way to deal with the topic eloquently, there will always be some young boys waiting to pounce on whichever woman has put herself willingly into the line of fire. There will always be a music manager (usually male) waiting to exploit the woman in whichever sleazy ways you can imagine. There will always also be someone who comes out of no where and blows your socks off. Unfortunately, there have been some women who have made one or two records but that generally doesnt stay in most peoples minds. Even with my immense catalogue I still find myself having to prove how much I have done - especially with this recent wikipedia problem. Maybe it is not what people shouldnt do, yet what they should…. Listen to music without regard to who made it, that might be a starting point. I still like some music made by people I personally detest….
In recent years Delia Derbyshire, Suzanne Ciani, Daphne Oram, Eliane Radigue and others have finally started getting the attention they deserve as pioneers, and there is a growing presence of women in the minimal synth scene. Is this something that you feel is encouraging, or a validation of your own work?
As minimal synths fall far outside my range of interests these days, I have missed any info on any of these artists. I may have skimmed some articles or seen a youtube clip but as I said, it is generally not my thing, with exception to older stuff like Bruce Haack or Wendy Carlos of course. I never thought validation of my work was ever necessary as I have released so much and played in such a vast amount of countries at so many different types of parties and festivals. Having taken a step back from the constant touring and releasing, I have found less of a need for outside acceptance, but I actually never based my work on seeking that out to begin with. I would have never had the wherewithal to do as much as I have if I was only out for other people to accept or enjoy what I was making, thankfully. Now that so many years have passed since my first record, and having been involved in some retrospective pieces and writing for myself lately, I think the history I made with my label and music should be given a respectful place, whether that involves my gender or not. As this situation with Wikipedia proved, it is easy to wipe out information from the internet and also easy to create some #fakenews these days… One thing that is not easy to erase are the records which exist in many people´s collection or the memories they had at wild parties where I have played.