Maayan Nidam Talks
If her chosen name means anything—which it surely does—it's not that Ms. Nidam is some sort of misfit. It might be more accurate to say that Maayan shapes sound to fit her own singular sensibilities—a strategy that has resulted in a significant and growing body of recorded work and a reputation as a talented, versatile DJ who unerringly takes listeners to special, unexpected places… so says the press release. A few weeks since her R$N podcast dropped we caught up with with rising star and Cadenza stalwart to hear her thoughts on genre straight-jackets, inspiration and why she's proper techno
Hi Maayan. You were born in Tel Aviv and now live in Berlin, as well as the influences from your adopted city, do you also draw musical inspiration from your home town?
Of course. I spent the first 20 years of my life in Israel and so the sounds of that country, and not just life in TA, have left their mark on me both as a person & as a musician. There is a very specific vibe that comes from a combination of Mediterranean, Jewish, Arabic and east European traditions. It comes through the rock ballads, the poetry behind pop songs, how pianists sound like they are in the theatre… It might be also the constant duality of living a simple life but constantly aspiring to a higher state of consciousness.
In a world where genres sometimes act like straightjackets and it can seem everyone is increasingly striving to sound the same, your music sounds different. How do you approach the act of making music and what gear do you use to carve out your own sound?
It really depresses me to go to clubs and spend the whole night listening to djs playing one boring tool after another. I can't imagine a world without inspiration where all is the same and the fun is just sucked out of our lives. The funny thing is that making something personsl and unique takes less effort than trying to copy the top100 tracks. I don't try to make my music sound different, I just let myself go and have a good time in the studio. Sometimes it doesn't work but it's still a nice way to pass the day. Other times, tracks that I thought to be super weird, turned out to be quite popular. You can't tell until you try.
Whereabouts in Berlin are you based and what are your favourite things about your particular neighborhood?
When I just got to Berlin I stayed in kreuzberg. It was many years ago and at the time xberg was cool but not cool enough for a lonely traveler, experiencing her first European winter, so very soon after I moved to Prenzlauberg where the people were on the streets and the bars were open for long hours.
A few years later I found myself taking the tram to xberg on a daily basis and figured it was time to move back.
I'm still at the X and I love biking through Gorlitzer park to Treptow, eating at Golden Hahn, shopping for small delicacies at Bergman strasse, drinks at Paloma, dancing at Farbfernseher… The list goes on and on. I guess that's the 'thing' about this hood, there's just tons of different things to do and see, mostly on a small scale, so you can feel at home everywhere you go.
Secretsundaze have a long tradition of pushing the party through Sunday daytime, there is a particular decadence in going wild on the supposed day of rest. In Berlin, of course, the party can seemingly go on forever. How involved are you in the hedonistic party scene over there?
It's very difficult to keep in touch especially when traveling a lot but I make the extra effort and instead of going to sleep ill go and play a long session at club der visionaer or Wilde Renate.
I also take nights of my own and invite friend djs to play with me. The next one will be on August 18 at Chalet with Eddie C, Cesar Merveille & Shaun Reeves.
Outside of music, where do you find your inspiration?
Dreams. I've always had very intense dreams and at times i dream of sounds and even full songs. A few years ago I got deep into Carl Jung's books and theories about dreams and subconscious and since then I make an extra effort to remember dreams and details from the dream. I think that if I put myself in a relaxed place and try to go back to some fantastic dream I had, I could bring some fantastic ideas to real life and hopefully to the music too.
Having previously released on Wolf and Lamb, Perlon, Raum Musik and Freak n Chic, do you feel you’ve now found a long term home in Cadenza?
Only time can tell how long a relationship will last. I took my time before releasing the album there and this is a mile-stone for the label & for me.
I have a lot of freedom at Cadenza and they give me tons of support to do what I do , which is rare these days. I do plan to keep releasing on labels such as Perlon, Raum & the wolves, maybe even Apolonia. I consider all of them as family.
You’ve worked under various monikers, Miss Fitz, Laverne Radix even Spunky Brewster. Were these pseudonyms created so you could explore new musical personas and are you now settled on using your given name?
At the moment I'm focused on the main project under my given name and the infamous Laverne Radix project.
Under my name I'm almost writing a diary. 'Dear diary, today I walked the tight rope between grand hotel and pacha's roof…'
Laverne is more of a way out of the daily life. It's easier to say that laverne is another side of me, even more than some alter ego. The creative process is fun and doesnt involve much thinking, it's either magic happening on the spot or it ain't happening at all.
I'm going to start two new projects (with cool names) with cesar merveille and Alex picone called The Waves and The Kicks, and yes, every project has its own style but more in sense of musical attitude than in genres.
Some of your music is built around or includes samples. As you develop your musicality and grow as an artist, do you feel that sampling will be something you leave behind in favour of playing and singing everything your self, or do you feel there is a specific magic in using samples that is almost impossible to emulate through playing?
I think I just use more & more samples. Of course because you can't recreate magic made on records with live music , but also because I want to share my favourite little music moments with the rest of the world.
I think there's a lot of charm to sampling but it's nice to make something of your own from them and not just rip off Grammy winning artists by taking a full song and adding a kick to it. that's just monkey business.
As a DJ, do you feel a greater pressure to conform to genres, musical fashion and bpm’s than you do as a musician?
It's a trick question!
Sometimes a dj's work is to create a techno vibe with deep house records.
I arrive with records that I want to play and at times everyone's excited about that but sometimes they don't know what's going on or even what they really want to hear. I try to make them feel comfortable and happy with records that are maybe more challenging, cause at the end of the day it's all about the context. The magic moments are when you play an unexpected record at an unexpected time and it works. And that's what makes a dj unique, that's why I'd get out of my house at night, instead of sleeping, and go dance to a dj playing records. For the special moments created live.
Complete the sentence: I'm proper techno because… I got cool grooves that 'talk' and I'm not just covered up with hi-hats.
Are you a kick drum, hi hat or a snare? And why?
A snare and a kick. Cause sometimes that's all you need.
Should DJs educate or entertain? You're not allowed to say 'both'.
A dj doesn't need to feel like a clown nor act like a know-it-all prick.
If you have a message, come and play it. The only thing is that you have to learn how to express yourself in ways that the people in front of you will not only understand you but will also trust you and eventually get down with you and contribute to the set.
Maayan plays Secretsundaze this weekend. Full details here. Revisit her podcast from a few weeks back below.