“Everything I do is just is a reflection of something”
Nina Kraviz is as deeply mesmerising as her music. Sat in the centre of Amsterdam at Amsterdam Dance Event 2013, our conversation is one that I will never forget. Kraviz is at the top of her game right now and showing no sign of stopping. Making and playing music across the globe that takes you on an inward reflective journey of emotional self-discovery. Addictively honest and openly frank, she thinks differently than most. In it for the music rather than the fame or the charade and she has come up against barriers because of it. Her eyes tell a story almost as fascinating as the words that she speaks.
How has music changed your life?
Wow, that’s a really deep question. It needs some time for me to answer because I don’t want to give it a superficial answer. I’d say it definitely changed my life. I’ve been doing so many things before; I grew up as a doctor, as a promoter, as a singer, as a model. So many things I did. As a waiter suddenly I realised that the only comfortable place for me, with where I feel myself complete and in the right place, is music. I guess, now it’s the time when I really feel myself at the right place, you know? Definitely music is something that I feel connected to and it’s harmonising. That’s where I feel free because when I was a doctor, it was nice but I couldn’t say most of the time I was free. All the other jobs I did I was doing them with pleasure but they didn’t give me those options of freedom, of free spirit. Music does give me that. That’s the most important thing and it stimulates me for creativity because I cannot imagine myself without creativity.
You’re doing something that makes you feel free every single day of your life. That’s amazing because not many people get to experience that freedom…
It’s also a lot of work. You know how difficult it is and how easy it is at the same point too? This unlimited freedom can also be very boring, it can be also very disorganising. You need to be ready for it. Not everyone is ready for it and sometimes it’s even harder to restrict and organise yourself and to concentrate your energy to the right place. When you go to work everyday, like I did for some years as a doctor, you are definitely organised. You must be at work. Under no circumstances you can leave because there are at least fifteen clients or patients waiting for you. They need you and it’s nothing that you can miss because they are in pain or they need to have something done urgently. Also when you’re there it doesn’t matter how much you have actually slept or what mood you are in, you must deliver. You must treat them and you can’t go wrong with it, you have responsibility. So this really gives a lot of strength and also it gives a lot of discipline.
All this experience gave me this kind of discipline, that I think I needed because my core personality is very free, creative, artistic and this was a right balance for me. To settle me down a little bit, my crazy mind because I’m absolutely hyperactive. I’m always drenched in a thought I’m up and down and a very expressive person. My job is amazing but also people sometimes think that it’s so free and so cool that you do whatever you want, you can play your favourite music an it gets you tons of money. I know that only five percent of people can actually do it realistically because it’s so much energy. To keep yourself focused and inspired this is the most difficult part of the job because for me. I’m going to the record stores as much as I can because I’ve been playing so much and I get tired of the sequence of records that I have. I need always some fresh, not always new records but the records that I haven’t heard before. The creativity, it’s a very sensitive thing; you always need to work on it. People think that creativity is something that comes but sometimes it doesn’t, you need to be inspired. You need to share something with people who pay for a ticket, they want to see the show and you just had an eight-hour flight and you have periods for example. They don’t give a shit they want you to perform. You need to be fresh, beautiful, young always of course. Looking like you were just born.
Do you ever hit a wall and go “I’m just so tired, I need time out” Or do you just keep going?
If I confirm shows, I can’t cancel anything. I think I can remember only once cancelling the show. I’m a workaholic, you need to deliver but sometimes the magic doesn’t happen. I have to be a good artist because they trust me, they believe in me.
How do you make sure that you do that?
I’m doing my best, but sometimes there are human factors that are very tricky because when you travel and change time zones, you can be really, really moody and almost bipolar. Lack of sleep does unpredictable things with people and your mood suffers a lot. You can over react to something that doesn’t even matter because you’re tired. You want to be alone; you don’t want to talk to anyone. When you DJ sometimes songs are just perfect, the vibe you get in the club, the people are screaming because they want to see you and every thing is ideal but something is not there. I think it has to do with ego; the balance between your ego and the crowd has to be right. If yours is a bit too much, then the chances are that the voodoo effect on the dance floor won’t happen.
You can feel it when there’s a DJ on the decks and there’s a disconnection and a disharmony. You can also feel that with your music; it runs through your soul. With a lot of music you can feel when it’s just made for money and you can also feel if someone’s soul is embedded into it. With you, you get that connection; it seems more than you are just making a record for money…
I actually don’t really understand it. It is really interesting how people can do that, because I don’t know even if you came to me and said, “Make me a record for money” I don’t know to. I think it’s a really different approach. I don’t know what approach was Quincy Jones’s approach when he making all these great, sick records. You have to be Quincy Jones to understand that. Maybe he knew what he was doing.
Maybe he just did what was in his heart…
If you ask me, everything I do is just is a reflection of something. I cannot push anything. I can’t push buttons. The only buttons I can push is if I experience something extraordinary or particularly sensitive about something. Somehow happiness doesn’t really stimulate people to be creative, people don’t really go to the studio when they are hand in hand walking in the park with a lovely lady or boy and they are completely in harmony and this imbalance is kind of essential. Maybe there are people who can produce happy music but even any happier song that I could imagine producing would be tricky and it would be dark. There’s always dark side of the moon in my production.
How does having this job reflect your relationship with people in your life?
I’d say that I enjoy my privacy and I enjoy my loneliness much more now. I can’t really say how it has changed the way I interact with people but definitely there is a change. My life is just different. I have a little bit of misunderstanding with people that sometimes they don’t understand and they expect me to be the same responsible person I used to be five years ago and it’s just impossible.
Do you think that there will come a point where you think music will be too much or do you think you will always carry on?
I really don’t know and I don’t want to make any plans about that. It’s like God’s essence; it’s nothing that a human needs to take of. You can think about it here and there but who can really say.
Why do you think you’re in music now?
I think because that’s the right place for me and because that’s the best way I can express myself and translate what I have to the outside world.
Recently you had a really tough time in the press. Do you think that you are here to help other women to pave a way through music?
I definitely feel that I have a little mission because I think I’m in a very, very unique situation. I can afford to play music that no one really can afford. I think that’s why people are a bit angry because they cannot afford it. It’s a quality of music that I’m playing. People normally are very underground and no one really knows much about them. They are not on spot and I am on spot but I play what I used to play and I didn’t change. I’m not going to compromise, what the fuck! So there’s this kind of whole problem I make, the core of the problem and I think my mission is for you and I is to spread the virus, my little acid virus around. I really believe it’s a little bit childish but I really believe that people need to be more educated, get out of their shell. Be less narrow minded and be more interested in other things. I really want to spread this infection of music that I believe. I don’t want to say, “This is the best music of the world” but for me it is and because for me it is, I really believe in that. I really believe in it and I really support it and I want people that are doing cool things to be on top. I think it’s a cool thing and I want to give people that are doing something that I like as much support as I can. I want talented, honest people to be bigger; I want the balance in the world to be a bit less crappy. I want people to start thinking that music is actually about freedom, especially underground dance music. It’s about dance. Go to the club not to take a picture and not to think about it, you go to dance, and when you dance, that’s where you’re a free spirit. That’s why I always feel uncomfortable in places where people don’t dance. How can you be at a techno party and not dance? I think it goes into your mobile phone.
You want to go to a club to take a picture of a DJ? I don’t agree with that. I really am super inspired by the 90’s because it’s so real and I really wish that everything I’m doing is still makes things more real.
As I was meeting you today, I did loads of research. You inspired me and I sat there and thought, you know what, if you can do this, I can do this…
When we’re together, we are empowered. I’m not a feminist at all.
If there’s only one thing that I really want to break it’s rules. You don’t have to ask me if I produce my music just because I put some mascara on my eyelashes and you don’t have to tell me how to mix because I’m educated as fuck. I have a record collection that you would lose yourself in and just because I wear skirts, you are questioning this fact. This is bullshit.
And also being attractive amongst that…
As if they are not using a sexual thing in their jobs because they do and why not? It’s cool, I mean if the music is first place do it. It’s artistically a thing. I mean, come on, after The Rolling Stones put a penis on the cover… so what it’s all dead?