Today’s guest blog is ona:v, an EPIKa Edinburgh artist helping and encouraging female and non-binary DJs playing techno music.
1. Tell us about you and why you created the EPIKA collective
My name is Vera, my artist name is ona:v, and I am a DJ and producer from Edinburgh, originally from Poland. To be honest I don’t really remember my thought process before creating EPiKA (https://www.instagram.com/epika.edinburgh/) - I think I felt there is not enough music that I liked in clubs, and I wanted more of it. I also, over time, noticed that female and non-binary DJs playing techno are not very visible. Putting these two together created the EPiKA CiRCLE nights.
2. Why is your focus on promoting female and non-binary DJs?
I think there are a few layers of it, but one of the things I have noticed is that there are more men playing heavier electronics in our local scene. If you wonder why, there are two possible explanations. 1. Maybe men are just better at playing techno, or perhaps more interested in it :) 2. Maybe female and non-binary DJs somehow get fewer opportunities to either learn or to play in clubs, or maybe they feel less welcome in the scene. So, the first reason is sort of intrinsic - it explains the phenomenon (of having fewer non-male DJs) by some traits of female and non-binary people (less good, less interested, less keen etc). The second explanation is extrinsic - it explains this phenomenon by the presence of unfavourable conditions currently found within the scene. I personally do not see a reason why our gender would determine DJing talents - DJing is really not that hard and anyone can learn it quite quickly :) So I believe reason 2 is more likely to be the true explanation. And then, if I think how to change this, the best thing is to try to counteract the systemic issues. By teaching new female and non-binary people to DJ, booking them, and creating an environment where they feel comfortable. And you can do it all by running nights :)
3. Tell us about your music/albums/next events
I will mention a few separate things :) First, one of the music genres that I am a big fan of is electro, and I feel it is less popular in Edinburgh then, say, North of Scotland, for reasons beyond my understanding :) So now, occasionally, Epika will run smaller, electro-exclusive (or nearly-exclusive!) nights in Sneaky Pete’s. I feel the Edinburgh crowd has definitely the potential to enjoy classic electro, and I am hoping people will love it. Our first electro-exclusive night is on 25.01.2023 (this is the ticket link: https://ra.co/events/1629715v), and the headliner is Penstkart (https://www.instagram.com/georginapenstkart/), one of the best -perhaps the best - electro DJs I know :) Who is also an Epika resident.
Then, we are back in April with a techno night in the mash house. No ticket link yet, but I am already excited about it - the mash house is such a unique venue that reminds me of European clubs because of its darkness :)
I am also making my second EP - after my first EP being released only a few weeks ago. I feel i have put a lot of pressure on myself with that debut EP, because - to my own partial surprise - I managed to put a lot of emotion into these tracks. When you are a beginner producer, like me, you always wonder - do you have it in you? And now I think I do have it in me, so I want to be as good as I possibly can be, and I think this stresses me out :) I should probably stop overthinking:)
4. What do you like/find channelling about the Edinburgh music industry?
The Edinburgh electronic music scene is very welcoming, and the techno community especially, is extremely supportive. It’s great to go out and meet so many friendly people on the dancefloor :) EPiKA has got lots of support from the scene early on, which I think was key to building some early following.
5. Where do you see yourself/EPIKA in 5 years?
Yes, I often wonder about this! Running a collective and nights is actually some work, and I don’t do it for money (in fact, all the money from tickets that does not go to artists is kept for the collective, to offset future losses or fund some kind of collective-wide activities or things the collective needs). And i do have a quite absorbing ‘day-job’, as we call it :) I am not sure I can do this with the same intensity for the next 5 years, especially since I would like to produce more.
For me personally, in 5 years, I would like to have a few more EPs released and perhaps an album that can be more genre-spanning than what I have produced so far. As a DJ, I would like to play in venues with good-sounding booth :) (if you ask any of my friends, I constantly demand better-sounding DJ booths :) ). As EPiKA, I am hoping in 5 years we will be a more tight-knit community where DJs support each other and therefore help each other grow (this is already happening! but I want more :) ). If you look at cities all over the world, those where people, sort of, root for each other, those are the cities with best music, original productions, thriving club culture. I want EPiKA to play part in giving Edinburgh a stronger club culture in the next multiple years.
6. Can you recommend any organisations that help musicians/any that you receive help or advice from?
I personally got lots of advice from a collective I belong to, Sisu (https://www.instagram.com/sisucrew/) and learned lots from them. Also, local Edinburgh crews were really helpful. There are also very good discord channels. My recommendation for anyone trying to start a night, or starting to DJ, would be to just approach people who already run nights or DJ, even if you dont know them, most people are very happy to share. Same for music production - most musicians will be the happiest to tell you about their plugins, synths etc. You might even regret asking at some point :)
7. Who inspires you?
Ha, I don’t know! I often wonder about this (lots of people ask this question). I think I am inspired by passionate people, not famous names or brands. I often get inspired to make music after chatting with some random person on instagram who comments on my story and sends me a soundcloud link with their stuff. If I see someone’s true passion - for music, for club-culture, or for challenging the status quo (i.e. the male-dominated music scene), then I get excited about what they are excited about.
I actually also get inspired by going out. My first EP was made after a weekend where I DJed on Friday and then went out to dance on Saturday, and all this clubbing experience made me full of energy that I wanted to capture.
8. What advice would you give a musician at the start of the road?
I guess similar to point 7. Just talk to people. Don’t be shy to message a stranger. Of course, be nice - said stranger has a full right not to have time to be your mentor or friend :) But I feel this is the best way to learn how things work and meet like-minded people!
Thank you, Vera!
Follow her at: Instagram.com/onav_onav_
Follow Epika: Instagram.com/ epika.edinburgh