When you talk about Krakow's electronic music scene, Olivia and Chino are two names that immediately spring to mind.
Individually the pair have helped to put the Polish city on the international map; Olivia through her ferocious selections and skills behind the decks, and Chino via his masterful live hardware sets and acclaimed electronic productions.
But as a unit, their musical endevours, both in Poland and further afield, are just as compelling. As well as being partnered in life, the couple are the powerhouse behind the We Are Radar collective and parties and have extended that collaboration to the studio, with the formation of their live project Radiation 30376.
Having debuted the project at last year's edition of Unsound - the experimental electronic music festival in their stomping ground of Krakow that the pair have close ties to - they are yet to perform again. With the spread of Covid-19 came the cancellation of their upcoming bookings, one of which would have seen them debut at Berghain a few weeks ago.
Chino and Olivia already know one another inside out, which in the case of this interview makes for a deep, stimulating and reflective conversation that touches on digging habits, survival as an independent artist and life after Covid-19...
Olivia: In very strange and uncertain times we talk now. We were supposed to have rehearsals for our upcoming live performances at Berghain, De School and Drift Festival, but instead we are sitting locked in the house in the time of epidemic. How do you feel about that?
Chino: It’s the weirdest time in my life to be honest. I remember when we were in the Italian Alps something like two months ago and we were listening to the radio. The main word that was used was obviously "Coronavirus”, even if it was a few weeks before the main epidemic there. It sounded like a far off problem of some foreign community — at that time I didn’t even think that the situation in the whole globe could change so dramatically. I also didn’t think that it would totally hibernate our scene and the whole music world/industry.
As you mentioned — all of our spring/early summer gigs got canceled. I feel very disappointed about it, but also I understand that isolation is the only solution for this situation, and the more we follow the recommendations of specialists, the faster we will get rid of the problem. I have a feeling that so many things have changed during the last week that it feels like it could be at least 6 months. On one hand I feel totally locked, but on the other hand I have a lot of time for things that I always had to postpone.
Chino: But I’m in the lucky position of being a person who has another job besides the music. I know that the situation is much more stressful for all artists that live only with their music or art. You’re currently in this unlucky situation. How do you feel about this and what are your ideas for this forthcoming time? How long do you think independent artists can handle this weird period?
Olivia: Well, for me it is very stressful. It’s only been one year since I have resigned from my other job and tried to live only from my gigs and now I really regret this decision. For me nothing is more stressful than lack of financial stability and thinking about how I can pay bills next month kills my creativity. Now I have so much time I try to spend time at the studio every day, but it’s difficult for me to concentrate. I’m checking the news all the time, which is obviously not good. I’ve always been interested in politics and what’s happening around the globe even before the pandemic. It makes me really angry, when I hear governmental and Polish media manipulations. Luckily I have a steppingstone in the form of our Radiation 30376 duo! We try to make the most of the situation, spend time in the studio and make music together.
Olivia: It is much easier for me to do music together, I really go deep into it and for those hours I can forget about the pandemic and uncertainty of the future. How does it work with you now, do you prefer doing music alone or with others?
Chino: Actually both. These are two completely different situations for me. Making music with someone else is like playing in a band when you have to hide your ego in your pocket and listen carefully to what the other person is playing, find your specific gaps in the groove and sonic spectrum. I think it’s always a great time to make music with you and also a very good musical exercise. But I think it would be a bit more complicated if both of us wouldn’t be gear-kind of producers. I had some experience in making tracks with some computer producers. It was always sitting for many hours in front of the computer with only one person controlling the mouse. Fucking nightmare! No fun at all! On the other hand I’m an only child, so I really got used to spending a lot of time alone, so making music alone is also great fun for me. But it’s more like a meditation I think. It’s more private.
Chino: What about you? Our first live was a few months ago. Third time was supposed to be in Berghain. What is more exciting and important for you? Playing live or DJing at the moment?
Olivia: Both are just as important. Starting to play live was really refreshing for me and gave new energy to my music life. I’ve learnt a lot and started to understand music structure. Opened my mind and broadened my horizons. It also taught me patience. Before I made my first proper track I spent hundreds of hours learning how to use music equipment, to understand how it works. Also it is two different things to sit at the studio alone and make tracks than the ability to jam with another producer. I also had to learn how to cooperate and know my machines well to be able to jam and have fun. Now for me the best part of making music is jamming alone or with others. But being a DJ is my big passion, I love doing it. I’ve played as a DJ for about 15 years and it is something I can't live without, this is an addiction. Looking for new music, buying vinyl and then playing it for people is something I love so much. Now when I can’t do it for a few months because of the pandemic it gets me nervous and depressed. I need to do it to be happy.
Olivia: You also started playing as a DJ a few months ago, when I met you you only played live. How do you feel as a DJ, do you like it as much as live performance?
Chino: My situation it’s just the opposite of yours. I have been making music since I remember and playing live for around 15 years as well. During these years I learned how to react to what’s happening in the room with playing on all that gear. In my case the live set is like a DJ set but with machines instead of records. But now I've started playing DJ sets, I always want to change something in the structure and arrangement of the tracks that I’m playing. I’m learning how to be more patient, but DJing is definitely great fun and a new way of expression. It’s sad though that we have so few record shops in Poland to go digging.
Chino: When we’re talking about DJing can you tell me something about your favourite way of digging? We don’t have that many record stores in Poland. Which is more effective for you? Online stores or stationary shops, maybe Discogs or Bandcamp?
Olivia: Unfortunately I can’t find records that satisfy my taste in record shops in Kraków, the music I play is not so popular here so I get why record shops are not having them in stock. That’s why from the beginning I was digging on the Internet. Nowadays I mostly buy in Side One, a record store in Warsaw, which has a really good selection. I also want to support Polish shops because I think it is important to support your local music scene. Warsaw after Krakow is the second city where I play the most so if I can, I always visit Side One. it's the same when I travel for my gigs to different parts of the world. If I can, I always try to find at least one hour to go to a local shop. It’s very important for me because in such places you can meet the local producers, their music and every shop has their own selection. So you always find something new and interesting. For many years I was a vinyl only DJ but about two years ago it changed because I had a feeling that vinyl started limiting me.
Olivia: There is so much great music released on tapes or digitally. From that moment I discovered so many amazing tape labels and artists via Bandcamp. Nowadays I spend similar time on digging in record shops, Discogs and platforms like Bandcamp and during my sets I combine vinyl with usb. I know you also like tapes, you collect them. What makes tapes special for you?
Chino: With tapes it’s a strange story. I almost don’t buy tapes on the Internet. I really enjoy buying them at festivals, fairs or directly from the artists at concerts/parties and from time to time at the record stores. It’s always very special because rarely there are some tape players for pre-listening. It’s always like this kind of Kinder Surprise egg. You can check it later at home and find some really dope music, but it can also totally not fit your taste. But anyway it’s always adventurous. I like that it’s a physical object that has a printed cover and can put it on the shelf. Something more than just a file, but not as expensive as records are nowadays, so you can make more risky decisions.
Chino: Your first release was on the tape, why did you decide to do it?
Olivia: I like tapes a lot for the same reason as you, so when the guys from K-Hole Trax told me they wanted to release my music on tape I immediately agreed and was happy with the result. But as you know I have a big love of vinyl, collecting them for years and I have a big collection. So of course my biggest dream was to release on vinyl. Luckily I found labels for my music and I was supposed to release three EPs in the upcoming months via the beloved Pinkman Records, at our close friend Eltron’s label Dom Trojga and a split release on Dalmata Daniel. Unfortunately the pandemic came and these plans were put on hold but I really hope we will be able to move forward with releases soon. In the meantime I’ll work on new music.
Olivia: What's up with your releases?
Chino: I was supposed to release my EP via Uncanny Valley but plans are changing all the time. Firstly it was to be released this spring, but because of some queue in the pressing plant, and all that usual process with test pressing, we decided that it’s better to release it after the summer. Now it’s hard to say what will happen. Another premiere of a record on Uncanny Valley that I have a track on - one of their 50th release compilation series - got postponed. It was supposed to be out this week or next week but will be out in a few weeks. Unfortunately there is no sense to release anything now when the record stores are closed. I hope that everything will go back to normal in a few weeks.
Chino: When we’re talking about our precious normality: lots of clubs, labels and artists are collecting money for their rent right now. Covid-19 really affected the scene. What will the club reality look like after the crisis in your opinion?
Olivia: I don’t want to sound too negative but unfortunately I don’t have good feelings. As you know the Polish scene has a lot of different problems and before the Coronavirus in Krakow it was difficult to find a good club. In our town there are mostly small bars and pubs. I’m really afraid that those places will not survive. The same with other Polish cities and clubs. Without clubs and promoters the electronic scene will collapse. We will have no places to play. I think the whole music industry must change the way of thinking about the scene. We should support more local DJs and clubs. It will be the time when we all should show our solidarity with small local scenes. Stop booking “big names” just to have a name on events. Underground electronic music became a business with crazy money in it, many DJs were taking absurdly big fees for their sets which had a negative impact on the local scene. Party income often barely covered import costs and local DJs were either not paid or paid with a long delay. We should allocate those financial resources to local DJs, clubs, and small promoters. DJs, producers and agents should take lessons from this and understand that after this crisis we have to work together to rebuild the local scenes. Without it, it will be the end of the underground electronic scene.
Olivia: I really hope we will take a lesson and turn it to something positive. How do you feel about this all?
Chino: Yeah… I’m trying to see the positive aspects of this Covid situation. The situation in the underground scene got out of control in the last couple of years. Sometimes it’s ridiculous how incredibly huge fees some of the "underground" artists demand. I also have a feeling that what I really love about the underground music scene is getting slowly destroyed by all those business sharks that are working their way in. Hopefully all that craziness will slow down and everything will get into its natural track. I hope that the audience will support the local scene more after the crisis. I also hope that there will be more place on the line-ups for all those not well known artists, that are amazing in terms of their taste and skills — not fame. We have lots of friends around the world that we always wanted to invite, so I hope it will be the moment for these kind of bookings. When I’m thinking about it, there are these long summer weekends with lots of friends in our house coming to my mind. All this long barbecue or cooking sessions with our buddies.
Chino: I know that we won’t be lucky to have them in our house in the near future, but I know that there are some cooking plans in your mind for the next few days. What can we (Artur and Radar the dog) expect from Olivia the Cook in the coming time?
Olivia: There is one big positive thing in my lifestyle in isolation. I understand how little I need to survive and how I can make a nice dish with a small amount of ingredients. I try to spend as little money as possible and use everything that we have in the fridge to stop wasting food. I already changed some of my habits in the past but it was because of climate change. I stopped eating meat and bought much less clothes and things, and now all of the stuff I'd tried to do before has helped me to survive this time. To answer your question about what I will cook, so for sure it will be vegetarian and healthy, maybe some curry and my favorite carrot - pumpkin soup with coconut milk.
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