In Conversation With: Marina George
For the electronic music industry, Ibiza is a referent, and since the pandemic started, everyone’s eyes were on the white island even more. With the clubs shut down, events were cancelled. People ceased to come on holiday or to work. Artists were left without gigs among other disastrous consequences the island faced. Despite the drama brought by Covid-19, we have examples of people that managed to resist during this challenging time and even be creative. The online communication between DJs, Producers and Labels has been stronger than ever as the virtual world still seems to be the only world available for the event and music industry.
Marina George, originally from Greece and living in Ibiza, is an example of perseverance and dedication even in the toughest of times. She signed her first release on Suara‘s _POWER compilation. It’s been available since the 7th September on Beatport, Bandcamp and Spotify and she is willing to tell us all about it and more.
If you want to have a glimpse of how the quarantine was in Ibiza. What feelings run through someone facing an artistic desire. What the inner-process of creating and publishing music for the first time is like? If you want to know how it is to be a woman in the music and event industry and how profound and eloquent Marina George is with all these matters, then this interview is for you.
When did you know you wanted to become a producer and what determined you to do so? What are your style influences? Who do you look up to in this musical journey?
When I moved to Rotterdam in 2012 for my Business studies. I was immediately fascinated by the underground scene in the Netherlands. It was kind of a new world to me at the time. People didn’t care what you looked like, what you were wearing, no VIP tables, hardly any lighting. Just DJs and a crowd completely lost in the music.
I had already been developing an infatuation with electronic music (my previous loves were rock, grunge and punk), but living the experience of underground music and the entire culture is brought to life. That’s what pushed me straight into the deep end of an instant obsession. I’d end up spending almost every weekend at venues like Toffler and Perron, listening to amazing artists from all over the world. I would find myself back home exploring their work further, sliding down the rabbit hole of different labels, histories and subgenres. It took up more time than I allocated to my studies. Needless to say, I wasn’t the most academic student in my class!
It was about a year or two later that I decided to nurture the growing desire to create my music. I wanted to communicate through sound and felt strongly that I had something to say. I wanted to create a window in time for people to get comfortably lost in and find a deeper connection with themselves. In reality, that’s what techno was, and still is for me. An intimate relationship with myself. A warm embrace with my shadows, a gateway to freedom. An incredibly empowering experience.
I suppose my inspiration is relatively eclectic. The main constant has always been a strong attraction to slightly dark, melancholic and bizarre tracks. Dissonant chords, unpredictable arrangement and experimental integration of vocals. People who genuinely inspire me are artists who blur the lines between genres while maintaining a distinct sound of their own. For example, producers like DJ Koze, Trentemoller, Mr.C, Black Light Smoke, Greymatter, Marcel Dettmann, Ellen Allien and Ben Klock. I’m also quite infatuated by artists who (in my view) seem to take a cinematic approach in their music. People like DJ Lily, Fidelity Kastrow, Francois X, Paula Temple, Maceo Plex, DJ Oil. Sorry, I don’t have a shorter list for you!
Where were you and was your lockdown very strict? How did it affect you? Were you productive? Any anecdotes you can share?
I had just gotten back home from some gigs in the UK when the lockdown hit, I think I made it back just a couple of days before Spain closed its borders. So, I count myself so lucky to have made it to Ibiza on time. Just being near the sea helped calm my mind so much at the time.
I’d definitely say our lockdown was strict! I remember being followed by the police to the supermarket one evening, I guess they wanted to make sure I was leaving the house for a valid reason. The funny thing is I had just recently been learning how to drive a manual car, and being followed like that made my driving even more awful. Maybe they sensed my nerves and thought I was up to something illegal. Who knows!?!
To be honest, I can’t say I minded the time alone during the quarantine. My life usually runs at quite a high pace, so I appreciated the chance to confront my own thoughts and make use of the time at hand. That’s not to say I didn’t face any difficulties. I struggled with severe peaks of anxiety and trouble sleeping, but it all pushed me into some heavy inner work.
As strange as it may sound, I remember feeling like I was running out of time. I had never previously had the time and space to just focus on my own goals as an artist. They were always on the back-burner of my previous jobs. The pandemic left me (like many others in the industry) unemployed. I felt that I needed to make the most of every single minute and work hard on my music. It was also the first time I properly had the chance to focus on finding the right home for my tracks. It was actually during the lockdown that I sent my track ‘External Body’ over to Suara!
I understand ‘External Body’ is your first release. How was the relation with Suara?
Yes, this is my first ever release. I had sent them my track through Hello Demo, a platform for producers and labels. They replied with positive feedback. Now, a few months later, I can officially share that my debut release came out on Suara at the beginning of this week. It’s really exciting. I’ve followed the label for years and the track was quite important to me since its conception. So I’m very happy they connected with it. It’s also really great to work with a label that aligns with a cause close to my heart by using its platform to support animal rights. I’m definitely going to visit the Suara Foundation next time I’m in Barcelona, where they foster beautiful rescue kitties that need adoption.
How do you find the process of producing a track, besides the intimate moment of composition? Any anecdotes you can share?
I find the process of producing a track very meditative. It effortlessly brings me to the present moment and the white noise of all my thoughts in overdrive just goes quiet. Some years ago I started writing again, and I tend to approach every new project with a message as my vision. Music is such a powerful platform of communication. I view each new project as an opportunity to share something I find important with the world. That’s really exciting to me.
I often use the rhythm of the verses I write (my spoken word) to guide me into a beat. Then I use the overall message as a core directive for finding the right sounds to create the emotional atmosphere I have in mind to enhance it. The finishing touches actually come from what I hear in the empty space. When I listen over, my mind hears elements that aren’t there, and then I try to recreate them. It’s something I’ve learned to properly tune in to overtime. I see it as the turning point where a track starts to take on a life of its own. It can be extremely invigorating. It’s basically opening communication with the “voices” in my head!
Now we go to more intimate and perhaps more critical questions.
Because I went through the lyrics of your track I couldn’t help myself to turn our conversation in this delicate direction. I personally interpret, with your lyrics that you are gambling with the thin line between being an artist and becoming a product. Correct me if I am wrong, and we can take this line of thought in a different direction.
One of the things I’ve always found beautiful about poetry is that the interpretation is really in the eye of the beholder. This is such a great example of that and I love your interpretation. It could actually be seen as a logical extension of the original message. ‘External Body’ is one of two pieces of writing (and individual tracks) induced by questioning. My vision was to open the mind to question how it is that we define our own identity within our minds and the core attributes we tie it to. So, in the case of ‘External Body’, I began by questioning how we equate our identity with our appearance. The questioning in the track is basically an internal monologue, but you could say it’s triggered by external influences.
We grow up tying so much of our value as people with our external attributes. In reality, we’re targeted by this very messaging on a daily basis. The “normal” pace of modern life doesn’t really allow for moments to stop and question the general narrative. Which tends to make media messaging so impactful, especially on the subconscious brain.
In my writing, I question the emotional emptiness in placing one’s identity on just his or her “body” and touch on the concepts of unattainable perfection pressures and ageing. I remember reading a book on Buddhism many years ago that emphasised on how rapidly changing the very attributes that we place our entire identities on, are. Our bodies are constantly transforming, yet we are no less of ourselves.
I think even the most awakened people have suffered from these types of pressures at one point in their life or another. I think it’s sad because it takes away so much mental capacity from the cultivation of other innate gifts or skills. When I started writing I wanted to open the mind to questioning and bring it to awareness. I think awareness is the key to any change, healing and/or unlearning of negative patterns. It’s very much a part of my own personal inner journey. Although my perspective as the writer may be female, I know just as many men who struggle with these same issues in silence.
Describe your experience and journey within the electronic music industry as a woman. What are the difficulties and what are the privileges (if there are any)?
Starting from my college years, I’ve worked in quite a few corners of the industry besides DJing. Stage management, event production, promotion, artist management, bookings. It’s an intricate question to answer from each perspective.
On the business side of things, I know quite a few women who feel they need to be wary of “being too nice”. Like a filter they need to apply to their basic nature or personality in order to survive in the industry and not get stepped on. To be fair, I think anyone, regardless of gender realises that a thick skin is advisable in this area of work. But, it’s unfortunate that it tends to come at a higher pressure for women and it’s something I’ve felt too.
A very simple example from my own experience in simple day to day logistics. In negotiations, a “no” or an urgent request would generally be accepted faster in male to male communication. There were times I had to involve a male colleague or employer in time pressing situations or was warned that a certain person “didn’t really like dealing with women”. At moments it was almost comical. It wasn’t the majority of interactions, but it’s unfortunate this kind of thing happens at all in any industry.
From the nightlife perspective, the things you hear working and networking in the backstage can sometimes stay with you. From comments on appearance to movement, infiltrating to technical skills. I wouldn’t hear the same observations about male artists while they were performing. I hate to admit that sometimes those voices play like a cassette in the back of my mind when I’m playing. Often even before I get on stage! It’s something I’m still trying to shake off. It’s 2020 and female artists are finally stepping into their power as an equal gender.
We’re seeing more balanced line-ups than we did even 5 years ago. Of course, there’s always room for improvement, but I think that we’re seeing a turning point. One where being a female in a previously male-dominated corner of music is now a massive strength. For example, we’re seeing a rise of women in techno, which has been a long time coming. I see men celebrating the talent and the power these women exude as much as their female peers do. I’ve felt so genuinely supported by friends and peers in my industry around this debut, as well as by the label. It feels amazing to have my first ever release come out on Suara’s _POWER compilation, alongside other highly talented female producers.
On a personal level as an artist, I’m learning to embrace my own femininity in my music as well. Hard and dark music expresses me the most. But, I love to balance out that heavy energy with the softness of some chords or my own vocals. There’s so much beauty in male and female energies individually, and I’ve been having a lot of fun playing with them both.
The most exciting thing to me at this time is that I see a shift in the industry. It used to set female headliners in “competition” with each other (perhaps because there were less of them) to a movement where the value of female empowerment is really being recognised. Some of my closest friends are hard-working, beautiful, talented artists and we are genuinely so happy for each others’ successes. There is something incredibly powerful about women in this industry supporting each other, it’s truly beautiful to be a part of.
And now with the easy questions. Favourite colour, favourite food, favourite track, favourite artist, favourite party!
Food: My mum’s vegan bolognese.
Track: Almost impossible to answer. On the first impulse, Herbert – ‘It’s Only”‘(DJ Koze Mix) and Trevino – ‘Eclipse’.
Artist: Salvador Dali ;).
Party: Any visit to Hammahalle (Sisyphos, Berlin).