Name: Gabriella Vergilov
Occupation: Producer, DJ
Recent release: Gabriella Vergilov's I Am Here Now EP is out via Symbolism.
If you enjoyed this interview with Gabriella Vergilov and would like to find out more, visit her on Instagram, Facebook, and Soundcloud.
Music can heal and music can hurt. Do you personally have experiences with either or both of these? Why does the topic of creativity and mental health interest you so much?
Music is Mental. I grew up in not so functional environment. Being critically judged for this and that, and scolded for my style, for example, was a daily thing in my life for quite some time.
I informed my parents I wanted to be a singer and dancer at the age of 3. It is videotaped; we still talk about it in the family. Ever since then, I have always known my calling.
Right at the very beginning of my career, a few months after my debut release, 'Her Beginning', I managed to get myself into a painfully toxic relationship, which lasted for the first 4 years - such a crucial time for any artist's growth.
I couldn't give my art the needed focus, it was all so blurry and I was on autopilot. My mind and body was in a loop of constant burnout. That caused me to make inexperienced choices leading to a very unfruitful growth of my artistic life, missed momentums and weirdly communicated needs.
After all, I did manage to release 35 tracks in total since 2016, not that bad if you ask me, and my hard drive has now more than 500 tracks since that year too. I can, after all, survive with and in music even if my inner AND outer worlds are both collapsing.
On that note: Creativity is Mental.
So producing and performing brings me closer to people, and therefore to myself. We don't know what or who we are without others around. Same for artists. I would define it as a self-exploratory journey. It entangles the greatest mystery of life: why are we here, mental enough I believe. To acknowledge this all makes me feel lucky and grateful.
I started with classical ballet and piano, moved to contemporary dancing, and then shortly volunteered within the Bulgarian scene. All in all, 15 years with and in music before taking a little break, until now. I have been actively producing for 7 years and playing gigs for 5.
This is how I have been preserving myself. And I have only come to this conclusion recently. That is not just 'talent', but a self-preservation process.
Magically and ironically, music is what has kept me sane throughout my life, when I couldn't bear any more surprises. I have danced to escape my troubles. So in the beginning, It was more of escapism than a coping mechanism, as it is now. At the same time, music is how I become my best version of a human being. It's more than just a passion, love or profession. It's the one state where I am mentally ON POINT, sharp, VERY alive and absorbing.
Someone recently shared an interesting POV: If Picasso had failed to become Picasso, he would be Jack the ripper. You know about his obsession with and demonisation of women, right? He portrayed those in his art in a fractured and broken form, and that actually kept him sane. Obviously many artists become artists with the urge of being understood, loved, or seeking the attention they were missing in childhood, even if they deny all that. Of course- talent is there. But nobody has said artists are immune to life either, right?
So I think aside from owning this talent phenomena, we use creativity to cope with ourselves, turn pain into love and darkness into light. Music is more than ever now my way to GIVE. It is THE Absolute feeling for me and my purpose. Period.
And what is happening now in my head and heart makes me believe that back in 2016, when I dropped my first EP, it wasn't really my beginning. It was the prelude to my beginning, which is here and now. I called that first EP ''Her Beginning'', and my newest one on Ben Sims' label ''I Am Here Now''. Do you follow my thought?
This isn't intentional. What it is is deeply existential and human. I was in for a ride. And I feel like I'm only now beginning to understand how to ride...
Tell me a bit about your sense of identity and how it influences both your preferences as a listener and your creativity as an artist, please.
I have taught myself to keep from being a music snob. Snobbism is a form of extremism that I briefly experienced myself during the beginning of my DJ path. I thought just because I played vinyl only; everyone else SHOULD play viny too, otherwise, they suck. Glad It took me just a few months to realise I was thinking like a teenager.
I've become a fan of a more diplomatic approach. I have since been heavily influenced by all from rock to pop, hip hop, experimental, jazz, psychedelic, electronica, rave, trance, folk music, etc. I still enjoy satisfying my music curiosity and not being afraid to experiment with those influences in my DJ sets.
I kind of miss the days when music was somehow deeply meaningful, production sounded intriguing, artists were being titled innovators, lyrics were poetically beautiful, and video clips were cinematic masterpieces.
The X factor of the state of today's modern music is somehow difficult to spot. I think it is because we have so much in the world. We are bombarded with information in different forms and by having way too much, we forget how to MAKE things out of nothing, experiment, make mistakes and push boundaries. Not all, of course, but the vast majority of popular art, I mean. Popular art in the 90's was still popular, but it was groundbreaking. People still had souls, not iphones. I have an Iphone, btw. It serves me very well. That last sentence is my snob talking.
If I have to mute her, I'm going to say I'm an open-minded listener and if we have to talk about techno, I am definitely finding inspiration from fresh new producers, or more experienced ones, who only now are having their momentum. Let me thank them for honouring the roots and yet daring to create their own - I play you!
Artistically and creatively, I am equally comfortable behind the decks as in the studio, singing vocals, directing my video clips or writing project concepts. The people who have represented me so far have used the term multidisciplinary or multifaceted to describe me. All of them. I finally agreed, 'fine', let it be that then. It's what I am. I do feel I belong to the new generation of artists who are indeed multitasking. I am always busy with something and am like a little bee - give me a task, music-related, and I'm ready to roll up my sleeves and give it a 110 percent kick.
But at the core of all I am a full spectrum musician. Maybe even an artist.
How do your work and your creativity relate to the world and what is the role of music in society?
It is not beauty that is going to save this world; it's music. Aside from all that it can do for our lives, music has the actual power to unite us, despite all differences. And this is already major news. Look at the world today. This is the only form of art with such a massive impact on humans of all ages, color, race, religion, sex, etc ... that can move mountains.
In a stadium where there is a football game being played you can often see people fighting. But in a stadium where music is being performed - extremely rarely, if ever. Music has never been a competition game, it has never been a platform to divide and it won't be! It is like an abstract parallel reality and a welcoming haven - anytime, any place, no borders, one universal language.
You can communicate with people from different nations and cultures through sounds, songs, instruments and lyrics. I'm a massive fan of cinema myself, but even films can't keep up with the magic of music. I know several film professionals whose biggest dream was to become musicians, for instance. I find that eloquent.
Art can be a way of dealing with the big topics in life: Life, loss, death, love, pain, and many more. In which way and on which occasions has music – both your own or that of others - contributed to your understanding of these questions?
In each moment of despair or ecstasy, I have made music. When I was happy or heartbroken, empty or full, I have made music.
So I don't require a specific state of emotions to actually create my art. I am genuinely interested in exploring my muse anytime, anywhere, regardless. When it comes to personal healing, music has LISTENED to me, a bit like what therapy does. It brings clearance and crystallisation of situations. When I say music, it is important to explain that I also mean my career path, the process of making EPs in the studio and definitely performing for people. DJing is what recharges me, and in those loud banging techno or chicago acid house jack-hammering moments on the dancefloor, I am often having epiphanies.
To say the least, I am in a trance. It's a moment in space, in eternity, where time stands still; although it is moving super fast, I can't explain it and that is the beauty of it.
I have had, for example, a very strong moment last summer during the first Boiler Room in my homeland Bulgaria, when in the middle of the set, I dropped a beautiful atmospheric yet sensual acid tune with a long break. During that break I turned my face off the camera and reached out with my hand to my best friend, who was somewhere in the craziness of people behind me. For me, that was a moment of understanding the concept of friendship. I whispered something in her ear. The camera was capturing the crowd from above meanwhile, you couldn't see my face.
I watched that moment over and over again at home, and it was only me knowing how sacred It felt on the inside and the intimacy of my thoughts and the connection with my friend, which was obviously mental and very very personal. Well, now that I just have said it - not anymore! (laughs)
But sometimes, I get these surprise moments when I expect them the least, all while performing a gig. I mean I did the first Boiler Room in my homeland, and it was off the hook. Who would've thought I was having deeply existential realisations about life in my head, while banging acid at the same time in a room full of 1000 sweaty ravers!