In Conversation With… DJ Eli Iwasa
Moving dance floors in ours and in far away galaxies for 15 years, Eli Iwasa is a DJ as a whole. Her refined sensibility leads not only to a profound understanding of her audience, but to a constant musical renovation tuned in with her astral times. She’s updated, but has never abandoned her references – how could he possibly forget seven years conducting the stellar Technova party at Lov.e Club, an essential spot in Brazilian’s music history.
Just like Patti Smith and PJ Harvey, strong women who are her most significant inspirations in life, Eli is multiform: sidereal artist, business woman owning Club 88, in Campinas, and curator of her own radio show. It’s a journey towards infinity, irradiating energy wherever she goes.
We jumped on a call on with her ahead of headlining The Zoo Project X Warung party at Egg London, to talk about her career, her earliest influences and DJing at her residencies in Brazil.
Nice to meet you and can you tell us where you’re from and where in the world you are now whilst we’re talking to you?
I am from São Paulo, Brazil and right now I am in Barcelona, for Sónar.
Going back to your early days, can you tell us when and how you first noticed music or really developed a feeling for it? What were the first songs or artists that you really liked?
Music has been important in my life since I was a kid. My nanny was passionate about music, she loved rock bands such as Led Zeppelin, and also Steve Wonder, Michael Jackson, so at very early age I was exposed to that. We used to take trips to the department stores near my parents house, and spend time together at the records section, picking up 7” and albums.
Did this passion inspire you to then get into DJ-ing and who were your earliest influences? And do you still follow them?
As I grew older, I started collecting records for real, spending whole days at Galeria do Rock, a mall in downtown São Paulo famous for gathering all these amazing record stores in just one place. I was very into post punk, goth, industrial bands etc and always looking for obscure artists and rare CDs and records. Around that time, something really exciting was going on in São Paulo, with clubs such as Nation, Massivo, and later on Hell’s Club. Once I went to their parties, listening to DJs like DJ Mau Mau and Renato Lopes, I never looked back. I still get to see Mau Mau a lot – we play together sometimes, and I also book him for my club.
What got you into the electronic music scene and who do you count as inspirations in this genre and what were/are your favourite tracks?
I feel very lucky to have enjoyed all the experiences at that particular time in electronic music, when a scene in São Paulo started really coming together. It was naive, fresh, inspirational, spiritual, and life changing. All the people involved with it were doing it for the love of music…partying and bringing people together. It was definitely a turning point on my life. I had just got my degree in Advertising and MTK when I organised my first event, but I never actually worked in the area – and I am so grateful for having the courage to go against my family’s expectations and pursue my dream. I always say that I am a happier person for doing what I love, which is a privilege, for making my dream of working with music become true. I hope I give something back to people with my work as a DJ and club owner, promoting artists and music I am passionate about, and sharing moments with people they will carry close to their heart forever, like some many of the moments I have lived myself.
What was you involvement at the Tuesday night Lov.e. For Friends at Lov.e Club in Sao Paulo, which is now considered a seminal night that shaped the electronic dance music scene in Brazil? I believe you also played their Friday night party Technova and can you share some of your favourite memories and highlights from your 7 year residency there?
I understand Richie Hawtin was a regular too alongside some of the scene’s leading names.
Actually, I promoted Technova, which was Lov.e Club’s Friday Night, that really shaped the techno and house scene in São Paulo and also in Brazil. Technova was an important chapter in dance music’s history in Brazil because we booked some of the best artists such as Laurent Garnier, Richie Hawtin, Ricardo Villalobos, Luciano to name a few, along with DJ Mau Mau and Renato Cohen, the resident DJs at that time, to play at this very intimate 500 people room, that had this amazing family vibe. Our friends would come every Friday to my parties, the atmosphere was magical, and the chance to see some of the finest people in the world scene in such environment was very special, and we all knew that. I think that one element that is present in everything I do is that I like the feeling of having all these familiar faces around, bringing people from different backgrounds together, and building up a real community. It happened at Lov.e Club, and it definitely happens with Club 88 as well. I never wanted to become a resident at my own party – even though I played there occasionally, I had just started my career as a professional DJ and never took the easiest way. I really felt I had to create my own path as an artist to be respected.
And what about the legendary Paradise After Party which I believe carried on at the club – again any memories you can share with us?
The infamous Lov.e Club’s afterparties on Sunday mornings. The club had a strict door policy – Berghain would be jealous lol :-). Marcelona used to be the host, in full drag at the door, holding a baseball bat in case any customer would got a little too angry when denied entry lol 🙂 In early 2000, the club scene in SP was really blooming, there was a lot more freedom and this hedonist sexy atmosphere that I find lacking nowadays. I can only say that those were exciting crazy times, and we are all very lucky there were no cell phones or digital cameras back then lol 🙂
From there you managed to get your own cub Campinas, still within the Sao Paolo region, and was this something you had always dreamed about and worked towards?
I moved to Campinas to move in with boyfriend at the time – he is my partner in the club, and a good friend now. He owned one of the most important clubs in the state of São Paulo called Kraft, and when I left São Paulo 10 years ago, he invited me to join him when the club had to move to a different venue, and when his old partners gave up running the club. Club 88 is our 3rd club in the city – and we also do open air events such as Warung Tour and Raww Room with D-Edge, and promote rock and hip hop concerts in the region, and really push the music that we believe in. After being a promoter for so long at Lov.e Club, I guess it made sense to have my own club when the time was right.
Can you describe what Campinos is like – is it open air, how many people can party there and floors etc? Are there any special features as a DJ that you’ve introduced to the club?
The club is located in a historical building from 1877, and it is a very intimate club for 450 people. It has this warm, family vibe as well, as we are the only club in Campinas that is promoting an electronic music night on a weekly basis, so everybody kind of knows each other. The most important thing for us has always been the artistic vision in the club, booking artists whose music we love and that have a close relationship with our crowd. I am very happy with what we have accomplished in 4 years. I still feel so emotional and moved by the moments that we share with people in this place that we call home, so I know my heart is in the right place, and that Club 88 exists for the right reason.
A real tour de force in the Brazilian electronic music scene, you’re also a regular at the legendary beach club Warung, and can you tell us how you came to work with these guys and what the club itself is like?
I love Warung, and you have to be there to really understand what the club is about. Words are not enough to describe the energy of that venue, the spirit of the people, and yes, the amazing work they have been doing for 15 years now. They’ve played such a big part in developing the dance music scene in our country, and I can say that they are really some of the most professional passionate people I know in the business. I feel very lucky to have the opportunity to play there and to work with them so closely. As a DJ, I have lived some of the most emotional moments playing both the Garden and the Inside, as their regulars call the main room.
What are your favourite experiences from playing at Warung?
Closing the Garden on my birthday was such a precious gig – as soon as I played the last track, everybody started singing “Happy Birthday”, and there I was trying hard not to break down in tears.
Doing the warm up set for 5 hours for one of the Resident Advisor’s parties in January was quite something too – the intensity of the main room is mind blowing. I also debuted Bleeping Sauce’s live show at the Garden last year, which was very special to us. As I always say, every gig at Warung is special, I have to say that every time I go into the DJ booth, I get butterflies in my stomach.
Yourself, Dj ANNA and Amanda Chang – it’s great to see Brazilian ladies making it in electronic dance music – and is the culture more supportive of women or is the timing right now for women to make it? Do you see yourself as an example for aspiring female DJs and what advice would you give to those trying to make it? Any new names we should be looking out for?
I think it’s a combination of both: the culture is slowly becoming more supportive of women, and we’ve all had time to develop our own personalities as artists. ANNA is definitely a role model, she has been working so hard for so many years, and she is like an ambassador for all us. Talent, hard work, and a life dedicated to what you love and believe will always pay off, I think. If I could give an advice to girls starting out, I would say don’t compromise, stay true to yourself, work hard, and always do what comes from your heart. Aninha is not a new name, she is one of the Warung resident DJs, and one of the best DJs in Brazil. I really like Blancah as well, who releases music on Steyeyoke, and Any Mello has impressed me with her set at Club 88.
Love your personal style and are you a fashionista? What influences you and how would you describe your style and any particular designers or makes that you follow?
I am not a fashionista, but I do like dressing up, and I think I always try to look very feminine. With all the travelling, I tend to choose pieces that are comfortable and easy to combine. I used to be into post-punk and goth bands, so that has always been an influence in the way I dress – lots of leather, stilettos, black everything lol 🙂 I love shoes, and I always wear high heels if I am playing in clubs. When I come to Europe, I go shopping for designers that I can’t find back home – such as Damir Doma or Army of Me, which I love.
I’ve hear that Warung are bringing elements of a Brazilian temple with them to London, and how important is production in Brazilian clubbing?
The most important clubs in Brazil focus on great sound systems and lighting really. You can see amazing production work at the open-air events, there is a lot going on with decor, and also creating the perfect space to immerse yourself in the music but also to relax when you feel like it. There are a lot of details that we pay attention to the choice of the venue, the food that we offer is always special, the lounges… for our last Raww Room party, we flew an Italian artist who works for Universo Parallelo – one of the biggest festivals in Brazil that happens in Bahia – and instead of using a regular tent for the dance floor and the bars, he did everything with bamboos and wood, working for a couple of weeks straight away. The result was beautiful and outstanding and suited perfectly the beautiful Fazenda Atibaia and our day party vibe.
A Radio show host as well I understand you’ve just created the Bleeping Sauce band where you play guitar, programme and sing and who else is in the band and what’s coming up for your guys? how would you describe your sound?
Bleeping Sauce is formed by Marco AS, who used to be part of Clickbox, and I am the lead singer. We both have similar musical backgrounds – synth pop, post-punk, goth, industrial – and we moved towards something that reflected all the influences. It’s electronic music, but with a very organic feeling – guitar riffs, basslines, vocals, all recorded in Marco’s studio. It’s danceable, but it wasn’t written aiming at the dance floor. It’s very different from what people would expect from both of us, and I love that it’s so challenging for me.
Will you be coming out with your own record/digital label in the near future and if so can you tell us about your plans?
I have plans to start my own label, but honestly, I have so much going on right – the club, my DJ career, the band, my radio show – that it’s been a little hard to start working on that.
You played for Familia at Egg London four years ago and can you please tell us a little bit about your favourite experiences at the club that night?
I loved playing at Egg – everybody at Egg was so nice and welcoming and the vibe was amazing that night! London is the city where I really feel at home outside Brazil – I have friends in the city and I’ve been going there for ages, and always have long stays whenever I can. I think for any Brazilian artist, playing abroad, especially in London, which is one of the main destinations in the world for dance culture, should head to Egg.
Egg London are also touring their 3D World right now and recently played at with headliners Gui Boratto, Vinicius Honorio, Victor Luiz, and is seems that there’s real energy and new names coming out of the Brazilian electronic music scene and who should we be looking out for?
There are so many upcoming producers and DJs in Brazil right, and I feel the scene here is going through a very stimulating and exciting moment. Music production here is becoming quiet solid, and artists such as L_cio, Zopelar and HNQO are among my favourite at the moment.
What four records never leave your record box and why?
Four classic records that have a lot to do with my journey in music, at different times, and bringing so many memories back.
Underground Resistance – Hi Tech Jazz
Maurizio – M5
Choice – Acid Eiffel
Sterac – Asphyx
On the bill with Gabe and Leo Janeiro when Warung Vs Zoo Project including Ixia, Ben Raw, Samuel Deep hit Egg London on July 24th and are you looking forward to sharing the decks? What can clubbers expect from your set on the night and how do you usually start your set so people recognise your sound when you hit the decks?
I met DJ Hell this week at the Gigolo Party and I told him that I’ll never forget an advice he gave me, in the very beginning of my DJ career: the first track is very important, choose carefully. It all depends on the atmosphere of the night and I never know exactly what and how I am going to play. Sometimes it’s melodic and energetic like a lot of people expect, sometimes I go the opposite way and play slow and deep, but usually, I go everywhere musically if I have time for that.
What is it you love about techno music?
Techno music has changed my life. It has given me so much throughout the years, so many amazing moments and also allowed me to work with music, to be creative, to become a touring artist that I once dreamt of becoming, and which I thought was just an unattainable, distant dream. It embodies the past, the present, the future and it’s ever changing. It absorbs so many different styles of music into it, always pushing the envelope, questioning, evolving, and bringing people together to express their emotions and to celebrate life.
And before you leave us can you please tell us what we should be listening to before we head out the door to the Zoo Project Vs Warung party on Saturday June 24th at Egg London?
Please check out my set recorded at DGTL Festival in São Paulo.
Eli Iwasa headlines The Zoo Project X Warung party flanked by Oxia, Ben Rau, Samuel Deep, Miffy & Miller, Leo Janeiro and Gabe plus residents Kyle E and The Willers Brothers on Saturday, July 24th at EGG London All info at www.egglondon.co.uk