Last year, the world was sent into a frenzy as coronavirus posed a host of new challenges for the creative industries. With fashion weeks halted, gigs cancelled and just about every venue temporarily shut down, it’s fair to say that creatives have been amongst the hardest hit. In this new series, YUGEN explores how the creative industries have responded to lockdown and turned trash into treasure, starting with London-based Athenian producer and DJ Die Arkitekt.
Introducing Die Arkitekt
Emerging from the city of Athens, a place famous for its natural outstanding beauty and mystery, is experimental artist and producer Die Arkitekt. Known for his Margiela inspired masks, the techno powerhouse made a name for himself on the London club scene with immersive sets that transport the listener into his dark fantasy world. Through otherworldly soundscapes and avant-garde techno tracks, the multifaceted artist has showcased his effortless ability to subvert and fuse genre conventions.
Teaming up with YUGEN, Die Arkitekt has produced the exclusive new track District Minor which you can now watch below. Ahead of the track’s release, and the euphoric return of live music, YUGEN sat down with Die Arkitekt to discuss his upcoming debut album, creativity and lockdown, and what the future holds for the independent artist.
Tell us more about the project you've created for YUGEN
Die Arkitekt: The track is called District Minor. I was location scouting and discovered this huge abandoned hotel just outside of Athens. I found that to be the perfect space to create something ambient that’s going to reflect the image you see from the hotel. I went down with my modular synthesiser and composed the track and then, shortly after, we filmed it. It's basically an exchange between the scenery and the music so I was composing and processing everything on the spot, on location rather than in the studio.
Modular synthesisers have been one of the things you've been working on over lockdown. Firstly can you explain what they are, and why you decided to embark on this new creative venture?
Die Arkitekt: Okay, so modular synthesisers are basically machines that take electricity and turn it into sound/a pulse. And that pulse, you can tune it and make it into a note. And then there are literally millions of modules available to order that take that tone and process it in a way that sounds more musical. And the possibilities are endless as there’s no limit to how many modules your modular system can have. In short that’s basically what it is. So you need to kind of learn to patch the signal through different modules and you know, each module you patch it through it gives it a different aspect and a different sound. During lockdown, I came across a couple of videos from Colin Benders, who’s a modular synthesiser producer and I was really amazed by his work and his ability to create music on stage rather than having everything prepared beforehand. I found it to be a very interactive experience making music in the moment, on the night at the time people are actually at the gig so during lockdown I ventured into it myself. These things take time and of course you need to practice a lot and get familiar with it because it's a whole different system and experience than what modern producers work with. Generally our work is in the studio in front of a computer and this is having hands on experience of making a completely different sound. I think it shaped my sound, it made it better and made it closer to where I want it to be.
Images Left Captured by Anargiros Bouzoukis, Right Captured by Christos Symeonidis
How would you describe your sound?
Die Arkitekt: I have to admit it's very hard just finding a genre that will totally describe my sound; it’s somewhere around techno that's why I refer to it as avant-garde techno. It's more that I kept the technical sound and incorporated other musical worlds like classical, or even pop when it comes to song arrangement. I have a lot of influences basically, coming from my background. When I was younger, I was listening to a lot of metal music, then I had a huge pop phase that I went through and then everything came together into this composition. And, you know, while someone might not listen to anything that sounds pop to their ears, producing-wise and structure-wise, I think it has a lot of influences on different types of music. My music’s not like ordinary techno, it has a twist.
What was life like for Die Arkitekt pre-COVID?
Die Arkitekt: Before the pandemic kicked in I was organising a launch event for my EP in Athens. The plan was that after the launch I'd do a series of live performances across the summer. Then obviously COVID hit and that all fell through.
How did your workflow change when lockdown was announced?
Die Arkitekt: Apart from not doing live performances, nothing really changed. But as far as the creative process is concerned there was this major shift where I suddenly found myself with loads of time that meant that I could focus more on perfecting my material and writing way more new content.
Images Courtesy of Die Arkitekt
A year on do you think you would have had time for this creative development if lockdown hadn’t happened?
Die Arkitekt: Oh, my god no. For me it was, and I know this sounds weird even as I’m saying it, but it was like a major gift. I had so much time, and I wouldn’t have been able to do what I did throughout this year without lockdown, there’d be no possible way. That is why I consider it a gift, in a sense.
Do you think once the pandemic is over that your creative mindset will have changed permanently because of this isolated period?
Die Arkitekt: I think a lot of things are going to be different from the way we used to think before. Things are going to be different for me now from the way I write music, to distributing my time and creativity. Once we get our lives back, reality is going to kick in again; we’re going to have some of the old responsibilities back, so having exactly the same workflow is not going to be possible. But I feel I’ve taken on some good aspects of giving myself and my music the proper time needed and it has truly been a big lesson. Sometimes we artists feel like we need to set up a release date and be in line with that date and our own deadlines. So when the deadline comes, you feel like oh my god, I need to release it now because it's time. But the way that I've managed to enhance my sound and make the songs that I’d already finished and planned for release better, it's really taught me that the music has to come first, regardless of deadlines. When you're 100% happy with your material, then it's time to release so I think that it's going to be a change of mind and that’s definitely due to quarantine.
What have you been working on over the past year?
Die Arkitekt: Well, like I said, I had an EP ready to be released, so that was pushed back due to the pandemic and I just decided to go in and convert that into a full length album. So this new album includes the original tracks from the EP as well as 6 new songs I wrote during lockdown. And apart from music, I’ve been able to find the time to focus on researching and creating new masks. I found new and interesting materials and techniques such as 3D printing, where I can create a design that’s perfectly sculpted to my face, and as well as that I spent endless hours gluing, and stitching rhinestones. While I love other people’s mask creations and I often collaborate with other artists, its always special to wear a headpiece on stage that I created.
Images Left Damian Frost, Right Forbidden Designs
You’ve become known on Instagram and the London techno scene for your stage aesthetic and the masks. Why did you decide to incorporate the masks into your work?
Die Arkitekt: First of all, masks solve a big problem - I hate taking pictures of my face, but aside from that I was looking for ways to generate more of a stage presence and create more of a statement rather than just playing. I drew a lot of inspiration from Margiela’s masks for AW12. I obviously like the aesthetics of the masks and the fact that they hid the model’s faces, but it was more than that; they were transformative and I loved how that elevated the whole look.
Where have you drawn your inspiration from over the lockdown period?
Die Arkitekt: Well, inspiration questions I’ve always found very hard to answer because I don't always know how inspiration reaches me. It usually comes from you know, a very small thought I have during the day, or a sound that I hear. Like it could be a musical sound or literally a door shutting. However, after getting that initial stimuli when I am in the studio and I work on a full song, that song usually gets a life and meaning of its own and I am not quite sure if I am the only one in charge. It grows and becomes a story and I invite everyone to listen to that story and become a part of it. I guess what I am trying to say is that for me, art is less a search for the initial inspiration but rather a silent conversation with oneself after the story is told.
Tell us more about your upcoming album
Die Arkitekt: Dark Colors is the title and it was basically an endeavour that started the summer before last when I was working on some tracks for what I thought would be my then EP. Interestingly enough, most of the original EP tracks are way darker than the rest of the tracks that I composed during quarantine. And now that I reflect on it, l really thought that it would be the other way around you know, the more hopeful and brighter songs would come out of having the normal freedoms and, a darker sound would emerge from quarantine but the opposite happened. What I composed during quarantine was basically a reflection on hope and how you can make the best out of a seriously bad situation. And that was what changed the name of the album, so the EP was going to be called Dark and since writing the brighter songs during quarantine, I realised that there was more to it than dark sounds. So I decided on Dark Colors to reflect these two qualities of the music within the album.
Images Left Anargiros Bouzoukis, Right Courtesy of Die Arkitekt
What does the future hold for Die Arkitekt?
Die Arkitekt: My album is going to come out soon. I’m also working with Kid Moxie, an American writer and producer, creating a modular techno live set called Temple. So the genre of this live set is going to be transcendent techno. It’s going to have lots of choirs and dark elements hence the name. Our first live performance is going to be on the 29th of May and will be streamed by Stavros Niarchos Foundation Cultural Center on their YouTube.
Text: Sam Pennington