“The Greek word daimōn derives, through the Persian dēw (…) from a probable Sumerian original *DA-IA-U-NA , meaning “having power over fertility”. The demon thus had the power of affecting, for good or ill, birth and death and the various stages of health in between. The medicinal drug had similar powers, and the Hebrew word for ‘be sick’, dawah , and its cognate noun in Arabic meaning ‘medicine’, come from the same root. So the demon of health and sickness and the drug are radically one and the same” . This is the interesting explanation of the word DAIAUNA by John M. Allegro in his essay, “The Sacred Mushroom and The Cross: A study of the nature and origins of Christianity within the fertility cults of the ancient Near East” (2009). A word that has been chosen by composer, DJ and producer Hüseyin Evirgen aka Magna Pia as a title for his recent album, recently out on Berlin-based label Feral Note. Let’s check why and let’s discover this interesting sound artist through his own words.
Chain DLK: Hi, Huseyin! How are you?
Magna Pia: Thanks, I’m fine. I hope you are too.
Chain DLK: Can you talk to us about the way you started getting interested in electronic music? Any eureka moments or inspiring artists or scenes that sparked this love?
Magna Pia: I think my interest started around 1988 with Acid House. I was a 10-year-old kid back then. I used to love to dance to this music, and I was really curious how they made the sounds. I started playing the piano with 7, and I was always interested in different genres. I played in a metal band as a teenager, and that later on turned into free jazz. My taste in music became more and more abstract. So I think that’s why I eventually got into electronic music. Artists like Goldie, Photek, Aphex Twin and Autechre influenced me a lot in the 90s. At some point, I realized that techno is one of the most abstract forms in the music.
Technical side of the story: I didn’t grow up with a computer. I bought my first computer when I was 17 years old. A friend told me that I need to spend a lot of money on the audio interface. I got a Roland Rap 10 audio interface and this came with some DSP software. A few of my friends who played instruments would come over to my flat to hang around and I used to make them play some sequences, record them with a cheap mic and process the sounds later. I think this is how I started making electronic music. Later on, I studied composition at the University Mozarteum in Salzburg and there we had a very professional studio and lots of courses to attend.
Chain DLK: What are the images, the thoughts or the emotions that electronic music manages to render against other musical genres or styles?
Magna Pia: For me, electronic music is not a genre or style, it’s rather a medium. As a young artist, my comprehension of abstract music was not fully developed yet. It used to be easier for me to comprehend the content if I imagined massive landscapes. With the acoustic instruments, you are always limited to the physical surrounding and the skills of the performer. I’m not saying it’s better or worse; both mediums have their own plus and minus. As I got into electronic music production, I somehow realized that I’m finally not limited to the room around me or the human performing skills as much anymore and I can create those massive landscapes just as I want. I think this is the first difference that comes to my mind among many others.
Chain DLK: According to your discography, your debut came out on Ed Davenport’s imprint, but it’s pretty different from what you do now… Can you tell something about that release, your expectations after that output and the meeting with Ed?
Magna Pia: Well, it was the first release as a solo techno artist after years of producing, releasing and touring with Cassegrain. Alex and I made so much music together over the years that I had the need to get back to solo production, make my own individual techno and play it alone on the stage. Ed is one of our dearest and closest friends. It seemed like a good idea for me to give it a start within the family.
I don’t really agree that it’s so different from what I do now. My focus is still in techno. Daiauna is a very special album for me. But I don’t necessarily see it so differently than the techno music I make normally. It might not include any straight bass drums but it’s still full of techno aesthetics. It is definitely not the music for the peak time in a club and also not for after hours. But it’s maybe the music you could listen when you get home with your lover after a long club night.
Chain DLK: Your interest in ancient cultures and myths is even clearer on another output, Artemisia… How do you pour such an interest into music?
Magna Pia: I think many aspects of the way I grew up made me feel different than the surrounding people. I always needed to imagine about the ancient and the far future to be able to understand, embrace and fit into the reality of now. Also, we all carry thousands of years in our DNA and we still have no clue what we are, how we ended up here being so different than the rest of nature and how we used to live even a couple of thousands of years ago. The more I dig into history, the better I understand the society we’re living in.
I also worked a lot in the theater; I wrote and directed several pieces which were combining ancient practices and futuristic science fiction ideas. Maybe this is where the idea behind my alias comes from. Magna Pia is a fictional character for me. Definitely female. Maybe living sometime between 1000 BCE and 1000 CE, possibly an amazon warrior or a shaman. 🙂
Chain DLK: What’s the origin of sound or music according to all the myth of your studies or readings? … And according to your beliefs?
Magna Pia: Nature.
Chain DLK: Let’s finally focus on Daiauna… Before focusing on single tracks or some technical aspects, can you tell us something about the source for inspiration? Did the myths and deities you mention relate to personal events or feelings that occurred during the making of the album?
Magna Pia: I made the album in a very emotional phase of my life which I’m still not fully out of. I had limited time to make it; I closed myself into Feral Note Salon pretty much 24/7 for two weeks due to my residency there. I barely left the studio. I decided to make the music only for myself without caring about my stance in the techno scene and my background as a new music composer and pianist. I wanted to be honest to myself. I also limited the gears I was working with and I remember that the first thought I had in my mind was not to touch the drum machine. I somehow managed to get really high over two weeks by only diving into the music very deeply. I spent a long time on the post production but almost 100% of the musical material was made within those two weeks.
The possibility of the word “Daiauna” being the origin of the words “demon”, “remedy” and “drugs” has a very personal meaning for me. Maybe the demons inside us are made of the same substance which can help us to get rid of them. And I came across this while I was researching and reading about fertility, sexuality and the use of drugs in both ancient and still existing religions. So if you would like to look for some special meanings in the titles, you need to look carefully into every myth and the deity using these keywords. And this, of course, relates to my personal events and feelings just like everyone else’s.
Chain DLK: I noticed the almost ritual use of percussive elements along with the whole album… Did you use traditional drums or percussion?
Magna Pia: There’s absolutely no recorded drum sound in the album. There are two sound sources for the percussive elements: One is the noise generator of the module called “Warps” by Mutable Instruments running through lots of effects, and the other one is the muted strings of the piano.
Chain DLK: Did you try to mediate elements from ritual or folk music in any of the tracks of Daiauna by chance?
Magna Pia: No, I never do that. Since I was a kid, I’ve always been interested immensely in the non-western musical traditions. I think what you hear is a general influence of that, combined with my microtonal ideas and the ritualistic elements coming from techno.
Chain DLK: The title of one track quotes the mysterious extinct Indo-European linguistic and ethnic groups known of Tocharian… What can you tell us about them? What did you try to render in that track?
Magna Pia: My mom’s origin is Uyghur, coming from Kashgar which is now in Xinjiang, China. I have a strong connection to the culture and the history of this region and the Tocharian culture is still a big part of the cultural influences there. I also believe the separation between east and west as we learn at the school is something made up artificially somewhen in recent history.
But if you would like to know what I really wanted to render in this track, we would need to down several shots at a bar first.
Chain DLK: The track named ‘Giants’ and its mysterious halo let me guess you believe in the theory of Annunaki, ancient cosmonauts and Nibiru, don’t you? Would you say that your music somehow mirrors the disquieting question that many men keep on not asking to themselves about the origin of mankind and the manipulation behind religions?
Magna Pia: No, I don’t believe in those things. I’m just aware of them and I’m interested, but I’m generally a skeptical and curious person. I pay attention to the esoterics and the conspiracy theories, but I never fall into those blindly. I see those things rather as artistic inputs. I do love the ancient Mesopotamian aesthetics and the whole sci-fi aspect when you dig into their religions. And I believe many civilizations had some kind of connection with them in history. But there’s no way that anyone could know what really happened back there. I’m just trying to read between the lines and try to make the connections between eras to make some sort of sense of the world we live in right now.
The track “Giants” is a trip in a tunnel. It’s just me trying to reproduce musically what a portal might be.
Chain DLK: How do you recommend enjoying your release?
Magna Pia: Completely up to the listener. But some people told me that it’s good to listen to it when you travel.
Chain DLK: Are you going to turn Daiauna into a multimedia experience? Did you bring it on live stage?
Magna Pia: I already played two debut live gigs this summer in Berlin. First one was a peak time techno set only with hardware at Berghain. The second one was Feral Note’s release concert at St. Elisabeth Church with a grand piano and electronics. Both really different experiences. With techno, you need to open yourself to the crowd, but to play the piano in front of an audience, I needed to close myself completely. I would love to expand this setup for Daiauna with a visual artist in the future.
Chain DLK: Any work in progress?
Magna Pia: I will just concentrate on making more music in the next months, for both Magna Pia and Cassegrain. I’m also looking forward to having more Daiauna gigs with a piano.