London city-based producer and DJ Maya Medvesek can look back at a rewarding year. A name change from 8Bitch (the moniker under which she released her debut almost exactly one year ago) to Nightwave became fact in the Spring, to prevent any possible commotion that came with the old alias. Armed with this new epithet she put out a wonderful EP named “The Feel” through Svetlana Industries in July, contributed to Local Action’s “Tribute To Cassie” with an amazing cover for “Me & U”, and brought forth some eclectic mixes for a couple of platforms including Juno Plus and most recently Clash Music. The mixes show that as a DJ, Maya herself is known for her diversified selection, not apprehensive in the slightest to capriole from Drexciya to contemporary Southern hip-hop and back again, which also goes for her productions – from misty basslines and musing vocals to straight-up footwork and trippy modulations, she’s never constantly delving into new highways of sounds instead of sticking with one. About to put out a third EP this autumn, we caught up with Maya to speak to her about this release, discussed the fine art of DJ’ing, the princess of R&B and Maya’s own background in singing, amongst other subjects.
Maya! How are you? “Hello! I’m really well-been very busy just doing gigs, travelling at getting ready for RBMA.” Great news about RBMA! With so many incredible artists both new and established vying for places every year, how did you respond when you heard the news you got in? “I was very happy obviously, I found out on the day of my birthday party and EP launch so the celebrations were pretty wild, haha. To be honest I’m not quite sure what to expect but I look forward to meeting new people, making tunes and attending the lectures! Not looking forward to being away from my boyfriend for two weeks though..” Can you tell us a little about other stand-out moments of the year for you? “Well, it’s year’s not over yet! I’ve still got a few things coming out like an EP on Fortified and a single on Unknown To The Unknown but yeah, it’s been good! I’m particularly proud of supporting my heroes Dopplereffekt and hearing my tunes played by people I really admire.”
You seem to be moving between Glasgow and London quite a bit. Which city has your preference and what aspects of both cities are your favourite? “I’ve lived in London for the last year and a half and I only lived in Glasgow for seven months or so. I love both cities as they both have a lot to offer. London is very handy for international travel and has better weather, but the parties and the energy of people up in Glasgow don’t compare to anywhere else in the world. It’s a very unique and powerful place for music I think.”
Do you see a difference between how your DJ-sets are received in these cities, as well as others? “Probably, yes. London is usually very good, everyone’s pretty open minded. On the continent it’s a bit of a lucky dip as some cities haven’t quite got the hand of programming or are a little bit ‘behind’ with music but that’s cool as long as the people are open minded. I think it’s important to adapt ever so slightly to the crowd you’re playing to, not by playing stuff you don’t like, just enough to make sure everyone’s having fun.”
In an older interview you’ve said your sets didn’t go down too well in your hometown Ljubljana, but it sounded like it went well the last time around. Have the people somehow familiarized themselves with the sounds of your sets or is it more of a case where you adjusted yourself to your crowd? “It was great! This was actually my first gig back home after many years; I think I was still playing pure techno last time around. I’m so happy people are starting to get interested in what I do and following my production! I pretty much played whatever I wanted and people seemed to like it apart from maybe a couple of confused looks. I have a lot of respect for the promoters who push a relatively unknown sound-it doesn’t always work if people are so rooted in what they already know but if you only get one person to start looking outside the musical box, you’ve succeeded.”
What other factors define a good dj-set to you? “Good question! I’m a big fan of turntables so anyone that hasn’t switched to CDJs or Ableton gets a few extra points from me. I’m not a mad vinyl purist but it’s nice to see people still using decks. A good DJ for me is someone with a good selection, even if the mixing isn’t that great. If I want to see skills I’ll go look at some turntablists on youtube, I don’t think it’s necessary in a club. I love a good eclectic selection with a lot of energy and it’s important the dj’s having fun.” Who have mastered this art in your opinion? “My favourite DJs at the moment are Oneman, Rustie, Kutmah, Jackmaster, Ben UFO and Eclair Fifi for example.”
On to the production aspect of things! Please tell us a little about your new EP on Fortified Audio. “Hopefully it will come out in November. It’s called Festivus and consists of four tunes, it’s quite a fun EP with a jazzy juke track, tropical grime track and a glitchy tune I made ages ago but am very fond of. Very varied again, but that’s how I like it. It’s not the case of ‘Ooh look, I can do all these different genres‘ but personally I often get bored if someone’s record is all ‘the same’.”
Can you describe the creative process behind your releases and reveal a little about the setup that you use? “I’d love to say I have a big fuck-off studio with loads of synths and every Roland drum machine ever made but that’s not the case. It’s just my computer, keyboard and my ideas. Lots of times I just lie on my bed and make music, that’s the reality of it! I like to start with drums first and then add layers of synths and melodies, or with a good vocal sample if I’ve found one. Generally the drums come first: I love percussion and quite intricate drum patterns that form a lot of the melody as well. With releasing stuff I quite like to just put random stuff together so each track stands out more!”
You’ve mentioned before that you wanted to do more vocals, both for your own work as well as appearing on other people’s music. “Yeah, I’ve done some vocals for some big producers recently and I’d like to do more as well as release a small album with my own songs, possibly a jazz album. If I had to choose between producing and singing I’d choose singing straight away. It’s very special, almost spiritual to me.” How do you usually go about incorporating vocals into your music? “I’ve not used my vocals much with electronic stuff. If I do want to use them, I generally sing over the final product and then process the vocals to make them a bit nicer. I think all this is something I still look forward to exploring, I just haven’t had the time yet!”
What inspired you to start doing vocals in the first place, what’s your background in singing? “I’ve been singing all my life and I trained in jazz vocals a while ago. I’m also going back to jazz training next year for a year, I’d really like to properly improve my technique and improvisation skills. Singing is very special to me and definitely a form of therapy when times are hard or when I feel a bit fed up with everything. I’ve recorded quite a lot over the years but I don’t really want to say what or who for, as I want to keep that separate from Nightwave stuff.”
The end of the year is almost in sight. How do you feel about 2011 in music, and were there any records in specific that you really loved? “This year was great for music, I think! Some absolutely mind-blowing game changing albums like Rustie’s “Glass Swords” and Thundercat’s “The Golden Age Of Apocalypse”, seriously good stuff. It’s also been a sad year as we lost Amy Winehouse and DJ Mehdi. Amy was a very important artist for me and I was very affected when she passed away but I know she’s in a better place now.”
Over the year, the electronic scene you find yourself in has been getting more and more popular attention too, in some cases from the mainstream even. Is this something that you look at as a positive development? “Hell yeah, bring it on! Pop music has been terrible the last few years, so how great would it be if good music took over pop? Hip-Hop has been okay recently but I’d love to see ‘underground’ producers making beats for big mainstream names. I can only see that as positive, as long as no one works with Akon, he needs to disappear!”
Talking about underground and mainstream crossovers,what would your dream pop collaboration be and why? “Well, Amy is gone.. I’d love to work with Nicki Minaj or Trina. I’ve bootlegged them both already, haha. Oh God, and Prince of course!” And say, if you could be reborn as a nineties R&B diva singer, who would it be? “Well, I’d say Aaliyah because I really love her, but she was so unique and no-one can ever take her place. She had so much class as well as talent. It saddens me to see how modern female artists just can’t move away from being slutty. I don’t understand why a lady with talent should have to use sex to sell so much, it’s not really helping the position of females in art. I’m not a prude but you know, hopefully my work speaks for me, not my tits.”
Complete this sentence: At heart I’m just a frustrated… Egyptologist!
When was the last time you danced? Last night, whilst cooking. I dance every day, usually badly. •
Buy: The Feel EP by Nightwave.
Photography: Rosa Maria Koolhoven.