Following the release of mini-album “The Emancipation of Mitzy” and just before the forthcoming EP “Just Fuck Me” on Meerkat Recordings (with remixes by Gavana, Anna Bolena and Taapet) we had a chat with capricious Berlin-based techno-amazonian Rona Geffen. Just listen to her declension of techno and enjoy her replies!
Chain D.L.K.: Hi Rona. How are you?
Rona Geffen: Not too shabby! 🙂
Chain D.L.K.: Compliments on your recent “The Emancipation of Mitzy”… could you introduce it in your own words or in Mitzy’s words?
Rona Geffen: Thanks 🙂 Mitzy is my nick name and the title is of course a take off on Maria Carey’s album, it’s my salute with great honor to raves and Hard Dance. I’ve always adored the massive bass electronic music generates and “The Emancipation Of Mitzy” represents my idea of a dance floor – raging, propelling and chaotic, going back to my roots and how it all began – dancing. The themes of the tracks vary from life to politics – “Tehran Nights” is based on a youtube sample from the green protest in Iran (2009), when people where shouting Allahu Akbar from the roofs. You see this video and its very musical and for me as a Jewish Israeli it was almost outrageous to hear someone shouting “Allah akbar” and identify with them. The track closing the EP, 30, also deals with this issue – my culture taught me to fear the Arabic language and Muhamad but you can’t not admire the singer, and that dissonance is the core of the track. “Empty & Broke” on the other hand is just about that – being useless and fucking broke. It’s always about life.
Chain D.L.K.: It seems that you brushed up on old techno codes and styles… how come?
Rona Geffen: I’ve been around for a while 😉 When I started going to raves in Israel in the late 90’es it was dominated by Trance music, still in its prime, I loved dancing and my pursuit for music led me more and more to the Techno scene which was also bubbling in Israel at the time. I was never too keen on low bpm and dance music based on melodies. I wanted kicks and rhythm and Techno was just what I was looking for. I just loved the repetitive rhythms, big kicks, inner rhythms. Base is my basis, my bread and butter.
Chain D.L.K.: Your musical world is somehow luxuriant and anarchic! I’d like to ask you about these specular images… are there any sounds or tunes that specifically mark what stands out in Rona Geffen‘s world?
Rona Geffen: I would say the rhythm section and the heavy/aggressive/drown/lush vibe of it all. When I write music I usually start with the kick, the basic groove, then the other grooves. Even if I have the melody in my head its sound will come last, only after I have the “sound-image” of where it will be placed. It’s kind of like painting – there is a feeling or an idea I’m describing with my colors – sounds, rhythm and melody. Just the kick with its sound can say so much, I consider my kicks to be very heavy but each one has to fit the idea of the track. And that goes to any sound or line I use, everything I write represents me and my world.
Chain D.L.K.: Any forthcoming sequel to “The Emancipation of Mitzy”?
Rona Geffen: For sure, I’m going to release a single to my song “Just Fuck Me” with great remixes by Anna Gavana, Anna Bolena and TaaPet on July 17th, this bundle will also be very dance floor oriented and explore different dance genres and zones. It will be followed by a full length album entitled “Bilono” which will be more diverse in its genres than “The Emancipation of Mitzy”. “Bilono” is more a blend of Techno, Downtempo and lets say Pop, there are quite a lot of songs but they are more heavy than you might expect and very explicit (as you might have already noticed ;).
Chain D.L.K.: You might be considered a scientist of rave and underground parties and you keep on performing all around the world… is there any club or city where you particularly like to perform? Why?
Rona Geffen: I love performing everywhere where there is a good party and nice people, but I must say I have a sweet spot in my heart for the London crowd. They are so open and supportive, it’s always a treat.
Chain D.L.K.: How do you remember the Tel Aviv underground parties and social and musical scenes there? Is there something you miss of that?
Rona Geffen: I miss my network and my car… Since its a pretty small scene in a pretty crazy place Tel Aviv underground parties go from super pathetic to the best party you could imagine. In general the music in the underground scene is very good, with excellent DJ’s and producers. The vibe driving Tel Aviv can be described as “enjoy it while it lasts” and that creates a sizzling scene (at times) in spite of its small community.
Chain D.L.K.: Could you tell us something more about your collaborations with Mad Professor and choreographer Yasmeen Goder?
Rona Geffen: I met Mad Professor in Tel Aviv a few years ago when he was plying there and gave him a few tracks to listen to. We kept in touch and I’ve toured with him in Europe, that was my first real encounter with “the industry” and I loved it. Nothing like the super small-scale of Israeli scene. We recorded a few songs, one of them (Profit & Loss) is already released as part of the Dance-Opera STRIKE! (another collaboration I’m working on). Yasmeen Goder is a wonderful Israeli choreographer I had the fortune to work with for her piece “Singular Sensation”. I’ve worked with dancers before but nothing in this scale and nothing like the madness and lust Yasmeen brings on stage.
Chain D.L.K.: Those are just two (although they maybe the most “striking” collaborations you’ve had) but what about other collaborations? Is there any of them that left a mark on your artistic growth?
Rona Geffen: I love collaborating with other artists, it’s always interesting and usually lots of fun. I would say my work in the BoomBoxing Crew, an Audio-Visual collaboration was very important as a musician, artist and producer. We made a big scale interactive sound installations and this fits my idea of “seeing” music, where you can almost touch the music – you enter a scene in which you are in another space or zone and we tell you a story or take you on a journey. The last installation “Ani Ma’amin/The Great Menorah Bites” was compiled by surround music, sculptors, smoke, and light. In general I can say the work was about the sacrifice we make in Israel, duplicating the binding of Izzak with so many lives. When we just placed the installation in the museum the guards were very cynical about it, but after a few days it was presenting they said they use to watch it again and again, they were totally getting it. All our works were crazy to produce with ridiculous budgets and that was a very important experience, if you can get 2 Porsche cars for your installation you understand you can do a lot of things if you just try 😉 My most current and very exciting collaboration is STRIKE! a Dance-Opera based on the classical play “Lisystrata” by Aristophanes. I’ve created it with Ann Streichman and Hilit Rosental, and we are about to release the album in September and start working on the show which we envision as a modern musical, a collaboration of artists from different disciplines (dance, video, designers etc) created in an open code environment. Here in Berlin the 2 more notable collabs I’ve had were my work with female:pressure on Perspectives events in //:about blanc last summer and with choreographer Eldon Pulak on The Wetting Party which premiered in Dock 11 a few weeks ago and was very successful. It was great to work on these projects with such talented people and develop themes on and off stage.
Chain D.L.K.: Would you say that your musical path within rave and techno scenes has been somewhat cathartic?
Rona Geffen: Dancing and creating are cathartic so I guess in a way yes. I’ve always played but never really loved the instruments I played on. When I started hearing that bass and then creating music on the computer… yeah, that was a beautiful and rewarding garden to enter. But the catharsis is momentary… there is always something new to do, it should always progress.
Chain D.L.K.: Politics is one of the driving forces of your music… what’s your actual perspective and your expectations?
Rona Geffen: I come from a very unjust place, it shaped my vision and the way I see life. Injustice affects everyone, you can’t be a part of an unjust society and not be affected. Once you treat one person as un-equal you can treat anyone as un-equal, your mind is switched on “them” and “us”. So you see one injustice done to “other” people (the occupation of Palestine, in this case) leading to increased misogyny, terrible racism, neglecting of the elderly and weaker parts of society. As a woman I’m of course also very aware of inequality, it’s exciting to be a part of this 3rd wave of feminism, things have to change for women and how they are perceived and treated by society around the world. People should be free and equal and all living creatures should be treated with respect. This is a driving force in my creation. My expectations are not necessarily too high though, society progresses all the time but there is still a loooong way to go.
Chain D.L.K.: European elections are imminent… do you imagine a destructive or an uplifting party for the occasion?
Rona Geffen: haha I must say I still understand very little of European politics, I’m much more informed about the Israeli politics, but any occasion is a good occasion for a party. Weather you win or lose dancing is mandatory.
Chain D.L.K.: …and what about the future of the music industry? Do you think that mainstream music is pursuing purposes that are other than just entertainment?
Rona Geffen: For sure, I think there are some amazing artists in mainstream music today, some productions are truly cutting edge. You have to have the mainstream, the big money and full industry blah in order to have all the rest. I’ve watched the last Eurovision, the worse cheesy entertainment mainstream, and it was a blast! It’s a competition for the ultimate pop song so you get the best singers and acts from each country, the stage was amazing in terms of light and design and most of the songs were pretty good (and some very funny ones). It’s kinda like the world cup, you get to have drinks and good laughs with your friends. And then you get the winner (great song, great show) and she carries an important message as well. Art is not restricted to the underground, and assholes looking to exploit it (for money, sex, respect…) are not restricted to mainstream.
Chain D.L.K.: A propos of collaboration, is there any artist (living or not) you often dream of collaborating with?
Rona Geffen: I usually don’t dream of collaborating with anyone… people can be disappointing and I wouldn’t want to be disappointed by any artist I respect. When it happens it happens and it’s cool. Some of my best collaborations were with unfamiliar people (or not yet familiar, like my collab with Ann Streichman as Geffen VE Streichman or with my brother Yonatan Naim writing kids songs), where the work process is so fluent the music just pours from you. But if I must I would say I always wanted to work with opera singers and percussionists are always welcome.
Chain D.L.K.: ..and is there any place where you’d like to play a gig?
Rona Geffen: Everywhere! The world is such a beautiful place and people in different countries and landscapes are so interesting… I’ve always wanted to share a stage with Mike Patton, that would mean something. So here is an open call for all them festivals, hit me 😉
visit Rona Geffen on the web at: www.ronageffen.com