Interview by Mike D.
Hailing from the capital city of Ukraine, Kyiv, electronic producer and singer Dari Maksymova present her brand new solo work as 6TH CROWD. She is best known as front-woman, synth and bass player of the post-punk band On The Wane. After the band disbanded, she took an intensive course in electronic music production, run by Kyiv’s techno community Modular UA – thus was born 6TH CROWD. What led me to ask her an interview was her almost beyond belief turn in her musical course with striking results as the first tastes from her forthcoming EP, anticipated for early 2020, took me literally by storm. We talked about 6TH CROWD, her past with On The Wane, the conditions now in Kyiv, her future in music, technology, and art.
Hello Dari, tell me please what is Module Live? What is it all about and what does it stand for?
Hi Mike! Initially, Module Live was a series of parties where producers primarily improvised live, mostly with modular synths. It is a community of musicians who admire the concept of creating music here and now when it’s affected by everything around a musician – crowd, place, weather, time, etc., etc. Those people have a lot of experience, some of them studied production abroad (like my mentor Synthkey), so they decided it’s time to share the knowledge and get the new blood into the community. I was in the very first class they launched back in early 2019. And by now they have done like 4 or 6 courses.
Their Facebook page has a pretty succinct description: “Module Live is not only a series of parties but a whole community of electronic musicians with regular courses and workshops. We promote inclusivity, where the founders guide newcomers – whether it’s vintage synthesizer experts show Ableton live enthusiasts how to combine both during a live set, or professional sound designers show singers how to add noise layers on top of distorted field recordings. And everything in between.”
You have recently released your debut single ‘Samozvantsy’ which will be included in your forthcoming EP. I’d like to ask you about the song’s lyrical content and its sonic approach, please.
You’ve probably heard of Impostor Syndrome when a person feels like they don’t belong where they are. Whether it’s a job, or a relationship, or a friendship. And they fear that not only do they not belong, but other people think they don’t belong. Their greatest fear is that the truth might be revealed at any second. Nowadays, loads of people suffer from it in different forms. We’re taught to be cool and fearless, never make mistakes, and always know what to do. We’re taught to be superheroes, you know? So we all pretend. Successful, respectable, reliable, all those adjectives applicable to a “good adult person.” But honestly, who isn’t afraid to make mistakes? Or to get rejected? Oh man, I can talk about it for ages.
So, in the beginning, the song sees us in those fake shells searching for the dancefloor to find relief. There, in the darkness, we can finally throw away all our masks, stop our fake perfection, our fake independence. No one expects you to be strong and confident on the dancefloor. You only gotta be free. The refrain celebrates the pointlessness of our burdened existence: “life leaves circles under eyes, we leave circles on the water.” The second verse is an anthem of situational escapism, I’d say. Every now and then, we need to stop planning our future and get temporary relief from that constant anxiety of the unknown. A dancefloor is a decent place for this moving meditation.
The audio landscape of the track is quite confident and anxious at the same time. The solid repeating bass keeps everything kinda still, whereas the upper-ranged synth is going crazy, changing octaves and rhythms, bringing uncertainty, and a bit of excitement. My voice is doubled in some parts because I wanted to underline the “we” in the lyrics. I didn’t want to sing about only myself. I feel like it’s a thing of the whole generation.
There’s certain dissonance between the gloomy-ish lyrical part and somewhat optimistic sound, and it’s absolutely intended. Life isn’t cake, we do admit it, but while we’re here let’s have some fun!
When do we expect the EP and what should we wait to hear in it?
The EP will be out sometime in April, right after the next two singles I am going to release (the very next single is called “The Day Is Over,” and it has just come out). The EP is named “Avoid The Void,” and it’ll have 5 compositions on board. Two of them (“Samozvantsy” and “The Day Is Over”) have the most traditional structure. You’ve heard the aggressive energy of “Samozvantsy.” “The Day Is Over” is the opposite – a sweet lullaby for tired people.
In two other tracks, I gave all the freedom to my craziness, so there’re unexpected compositional pivots, a lot of glitchy synths, a few modular sounds, and weirdo voice parts. For one of those, I have invited friends and acquaintances to record a phrase in ten languages. It’s like I really wanted everyone to understand this phrase!
The 5th track is instrumental, and it has my favorite tender melody in it. Although the overall record sounds quite dark and aggressive, the little central theme was written on old detuned piano in an Airbnb apartment.
What software and hardware did you use to create it?
I’ve got Korg Minilogue, Roland TR 08, and that’s pretty much it hardware-wise. One track was initially written with a bass guitar. I got up in the middle of the night from a bad dream and somehow decided that I needed to get my hands on a bass guitar (I hadn’t played it for 6 months or so before that night). And the main riff was born. I use Ableton. There are a lot of Omnisphere sounds on my EP (it’s a mighty software synthesizer by Spectrasonics). I also use some groovers from Native Instruments Reaktor for creating percussion. For creating modular sounds, I used VCV-rack (software platform recreating modulation in all details). Oh, and Fab Filter has done a fantastic job on equalizers, saturators, and effects. So it’s quite a mixed bag of analog, digital, and software gadgets here.
…and what inspired your lyrics and music?
Well, there are no love songs. The lyrics are mostly the realization of one’s place in society as a person. And other people’s needs and our connections. It’s like I got my shit together after a massive shipwreck, made peace with myself, and realized that oh, now I need other people. I talked to those people around me and saw they have similar fears and problems. They put the same effort into making peace with themselves, and they do crave support in their shipwrecks, and they do need other people. So this short EP is kind of an anthem to being connected to people around you. We’re in the same boat, let’s help each other out.
I gotta admit that musically the EP is quite eclectic. A couple of years ago, I opened a whole new field of music for my thirsty self. And suddenly, I got myself running around new genres and artists like a dog off of a leash. Friends say they hear the influence of The Chemical Brothers and even Prodigy on my EP, but I’d say my musical vision implemented on this release has been formed by Siriusmo, Modeselektor, Four Tet, Agar-Agar, and Marie Davidson.
Dear Dari, what an impressive turn is this in your musings? You were the front-woman of On The Wane which used to be an immersive noir-garage rock band with fabulous music ideas. Can you share with us why this outfit disbanded, and what led you to put down your bass and follow the underground alternative electronic scene?
On The Wane broke up for most of the reasons that bands usually break up. We’re people, you know. I have fond memories of my time there, it formed a lot of who I started off as a musician, and I made some friendships that will last a lifetime. Don’t get me wrong, I still love guitar music (and miss it somewhat), but on the point when I got to T.P. Heckman’s set I was fed up with all the alternative rock I was listening to and playing for years and years. I needed to make sure there are new musical ideas for me to get excited. I found a new unknown pleasure, and my inner child woke up. It dances around and messes with sounds and rhythms, and I am thrilled to watch it.
Shall we see you again on the front of a rock band in time?
Two years ago I’d be hell surprised if you told me I was gonna be a techno producer. So anything is possible.
What are you scheduling for 6TH CROWD?
My release schedule carries through the spring. The next single “The Day is Over” is out now, in late march the modular song with ten languages “You are not an Island” comes out. In April I’ll release “Avoid the Void”, the full EP release. The music video for “Samozvantsy” will take its place shortly after.
Currently, I’m working on remixes for the new release of Dani Mari’s Primitive Heart and preparing my live set. I plan on giving a lot of concerts and dance sets around Kyiv in late spring and summer. And of course, I already have some new material, but it’s too early to plan the next release.
What does the name 6TH CROWD commit to?
In collective behaviorism, psychologists name 5 types of a crowd due to the purpose of its gathering. I figured that a person’s inner crowd might be the 6th type. So 6TH CROWD stands for the gathering of dancing inner demons.
Dari tell us please, what is the situation in Kyiv and in the rest of the major cities in Ukraine after 2014? What is the condition of mostly the youth? I recall how you spit the lyrics of ‘Human Race’ on the microphone back in 2017 and all that pain and the anger of yours which suddenly filled my room…
In the last six years, youth evolved into daring entrepreneurs. A bazillion of small new bars, some real production facilities (people make clothes, furniture, accessories), an all-new level of services and education appeared. Leave alone our nightlife, which is also developed by youth for youth. Though I’m not entirely optimistic about the next six years, I must underline that our young generation is smart and brave.
Shall we destroy the world as it is now, or shall we struggle to modify it into a new model of coexistence?
Ha, it’s a good one! I think humanity is a very, very young form of life on this planet. We were living in cages not so long ago, we were selling each other -recently- and women got to vote less than a century ago. We’re wild and stupid yet. So it’s too early to destroy us on purpose. We’re violent only because we’re uneducated. You know, like a kid pulls a cat’s tail out of curiosity. Or play matches because it doesn’t know yet it’s harmful. So there’s a pretty big chance that we’ll set our home on fire before we grow up and find that new model.
Can music be only a refuge or a weapon as well?
It’d be easy to listen to something like “The Jericho Records” by Ancient Methods and say, “Well, music is definitely a weapon,” right? It’s aggressive, loud, jarring. But what about the fact that that music gives a chance for their fans to feel heard, and find like-minded people, and express an emotion that society might not let them otherwise? Wouldn’t that make it a refuge? It’s not always as straightforward as whether something is a refuge or a weapon; a lot of it is perspective, and a lot of it changes every day.
A song that might be a refuge when you fall in love with a person could quickly feel like a weapon if that person breaks your heart. Life changes and your relationship with it changes too. That’s why it’s so amazing. Music, that is. Well, life too.
Give us please the best music albums of your life
“Good” by Morphine
“Rather Ripped” by Sonic Youth
“Blow your Headphones” by Herbaliser
“Check your head” by Beastie Boys
“Mezzanine” by Massive Attack
“There is love in you” by Four Tet
“Masseduction” by St Vincent
“Post” by Bjork
“Party girl” by Michelle Gurevich
…and your current top-5 too, please?
“Mosaik” by Siriusmo
“Obverse” by Trentemoller
“Crush” by Floating Points
“Hard Normal Daddy” by Squarepusher
“Working Class Woman” by Marie Davidson
Why do you do music?
To avoid the void.