Name: Sofie Fatouretchi
Occupation: Artist, curator, DJ, producer
Current Release: Sofie's album Cult Survivor will be out June 26 on Stones Throw. In the meantime, check out her new single "Asleep" on bandcamp.
Recommendations: To listen … Los Chaskis by Argentinian musician and arranger Rodolfo Dalera. To read, “Sesame and Lilies” by John Ruskin.
If you enjoyed this interview with Sofie, follow her on Twitter or Instagram to stay up to date on her busy schedule.
When did you start DJing - and what or who were your early passions and influences? What what is about music and/or sound that drew you to it?
I didn’t really start with the approach of becoming a DJ, first and foremost I’m a musician. I grew up playing the violin and went on to study it, but I’ve always had an inclination towards selecting music.
Music has so inherently been a part of my life in so many aspects that there I wouldn’t consider it something that I’m drawn to, but rather a necessity of existence. As is the absence thereof.
DJing ended up being a natural byproduct of my work at Stones Throw and Boiler Room. There were two turntables in the Stones Throw basement, where I’d practise, and we’d throw a party at Mr. T’s Bowl down the road every week, where I’d play my first gigs. The very first episode of Boiler Room LA sees me playing one of my earliest DJ sets, and I ended up having to DJ regularly because of Boiler Room, too.
For most artists, originality is first preceded by a phase of learning and, often, emulating others. What was this like for you? How would you describe your own development as an artist and the transition towards your own voice? What is the the relationship between copying, learning and your own creativity?
Piano accompanied by singing is something I did so much of as a kid, in elementary school, I used to write the silliest songs, and I stopped after getting teased about my voice, ultimately focusing very rigorously on classical violin.
I loved figuring out the chords to Serge Gainsbourg songs, who in turn will have gotten them from Bach or Brahms or Chopin, classic music I grew up playing on the violin. With my latest record Cult Survivor it hasn’t been about emulating that (it would do Serge a disservice, honestly), but more about trusting myself, and making music that I needed to make for myself, if that makes sense?
What were some of the main challenges and goals when starting out as a DJ and how have they changed over time? What is it about DJing, compared to, say, producing your own music, that makes it interesting for you?
I never really had a traditional start as a DJ nor was DJing ever my sole career, simply something I did alongside my work at Stones Throw and Boiler Room. So with that in mind I think what is expected of a DJ will always be invariably situational and subject-dependent. Currently it’s perhaps almost diluted, saturated, to a certain extent.
As for comparing DJing to producing – they’re siblings, not twins! I love selecting music, but one of the earliest things I fell in love with before DJing was the physicality of vinyl, the covers, the inclination to consume music on something that wasn’t digital.
However, after three cross-continental moves I’ve become a conservative collector.
What was your first set-up as DJ like? How and for what reasons has your set-up evolved over the years and what are currently some of the most important pieces of gear for you?
I’m probably going to get crucified for this but I never had decks at home. I would always practise in the Stones Throw dungeon.
How do you make use of technology? In terms of the feedback mechanism between technology and creativity, what do humans excel at, what do machines excel at?
Aside from technology in my day-to-day life to function, I probably make use of 10% technological resources when I create, whether that’s recording/making music, to not at all – painting, etc.
I wish I could harness technology better to help me out, especially in terms of producing. I’m curious in regards to this supposed big divide that is human vs. machine – to disengage the human from the machine is cute, but also such a human thing. I like Coupland or McLuhan’s approach to this. Humans created technology, so isn’t all technology therefore human?
Let's say you have a gig coming up tonight. What does your approach look like – from selecting the material and preparing for, opening and then building a set?
This is so dependent on where I’m playing, what the event is, on my mood, and what I’ve been listening to that past month. I’m not a big purveyor of getting very prepared. Spontaneity goes a long way!
Can you describe your state of mind during a DJ set? What supports this ideal state of mind and what are distractions? Are there strategies to enter into this state more easily?
Ideal state of mind is enjoying yourself, your own enthusiasm at something translates best to a crowd. The answer both to what supports it and distracts it are – people.
What are some of the considerations that go into deciding which track to play next? What makes two tracks a good fit? How far do you tend to plan ahead during a set?
It really just is an intuitive feeling, and a subjective one at that! I don’t really plan ahead too much, but I’ll have tracks I definitely want to play, and build around that while I’m DJing.
Would you say you see DJing as improvisation? As composition in the moment? Or as something entirely different from these terms?
Art can be a purpose in its own right, but it can also directly feed back into everyday life, take on a social and political role and lead to more engagement. Can you describe your approach to art and being an artist?
I end up making it because I need to make it.