Zamilska: ‘I’ve never been a techno queen’
Zamilska‘s debut album Untune was released to critical acclaim in 2014. Her bass-heavy live shows, which Zamilska is particularly passionate about, are full of energy and immediacy. She was nominated for SHAPE by Unsound Festival. You will have a chance to see her live at several SHAPE events this autumn, including RIAM, Maintenant and Schiev.
The debut you released on Mik Musik!. I guess you were collaborating with Wojciech Kucharczyk, an important figure in Polish independent music.
Natalia Zamilska: I’m really grateful for this, but I must embark on a new way.
In what way?
NZ: It was a hard time when I was making my first album. I wanted something more, I wanted to go to a big city. I released one track online and everything went crazy, I had had a really quiet and pure life in Silesia and then suddenly, I’m in showbusiness. I grew up a lot between that and the release of my debut album Untune. I didn’t feel ready. I wanted to find my own sound, something that would be really me and not just a technical combination of sounds. After Quarrel, everybody wanted to know who is this Zamilska. I really love Untune, but now I want to make something new. I got to the point as an artist where something changed in me and the new material will be more melodic and emotional.
The track titles – Enemy, Quarrel, Army, etc – as well as the sound of Untune is more direct and masculine in a way.
NZ: It’s about my feelings and my past, my internal war. I don’t use any vocals so everything I say needs to be expressed through sound. The album is political. It’s about war in life, war in the world.
When you were making Untune, were you trying to tell a certain narrative?
NZ: Yes, the story of my life. I had a really difficult past.
You also studied social and cultural animation.
NZ: I was working as a barmaid and I studied. Then I started to work at the Foundation For Audiovisual Culture and I was doing more visuals at that time. I also did the video for my first single Quarrel. I do montages, sometimes I’d search for a video for a week and end up using 20 seconds from it.
In terms of African rhythms and samples, I was wondering why did you decide to use it, what specifically do you like about it?
NZ: I’ve always been interested in world music. I started with Dead Can Dance when I was 14. Music from India, Africa and Islamic countries is really magical. I was 15 when I started to use electronics, and the most important samples even then were African or Indian.
So this ritualistic, tribal aspect to sound is important to you?
NZ: Yes. I’m fascinated by Muslim and Hindu culture. It’s the most important aspect of my sound.
Are you also inspired by Slavic mythology and culture?
NZ: Yes. It is a big part of Untune and it will be a big part of my next release.
You said Untune was a result of a difficult part of your life, so what is the next one inspired by?
NZ: It will probably be a big surprise to a lot of people. It will be emotional, but still have some kind of darkness and a lot more sounds from India and Islamic countries. I’m prepared for those fans of mine who see me as the queen of techno leaving and those who come to listen to me in a context of a concert, not a party, probably staying.
So you don’t like this “queen of techno” description?
NZ: No, I’ve never been a techno queen.
I guess people like to make these simplifications and labels.
NZ: But only in Poland. I think it’s better than a few years ago, but still, they have a problem with me because they don’t know which musical genre to put me in. Everything in Poland that is slightly strange and hard and is electronic gets labelled as techno, even though it’s not. People also often confuse a live act for a DJ set. I’m also pissed off if someone calls me a DJ. It’s hard here, I’m very rebellious and not everyone likes it. People have a problem with tolerance for difference. I have many fans here, but also a lot of haters. But I think it’s good because it’s better to be loved or hated than ignored.
So you think your perception abroad is different?
NZ: People abroad come to my concert, not a DJ set. I’m a producer there, at home I’m a DJ. In Poland we have an issue with women in electronic music. It was difficult for me in the beginning, nobody would take me seriously and nobody expected me to know anything about electronic music. People treat a woman who does electronic music with a mixture of fascination and disbelief.
Do you feel a lot of pressure after the success of your debut album?
NZ: I was scared while making the new material but this is a consequence of being an authentic artist. I got depressed after Untune. I thought I would never do another album again, I thought I used up all my talent. But I mustn’t be afraid to say what I want to say. People either like it or not, I’m not afraid.
You were also doing these workshops for kids.
NZ: Yes, it was few years ago. These workshops were about making electronic music and using hardware. It was instructive for my work as an artist, I learnt more from these children than they from me. They possessed this natural freedom and when I make music, I try to recollect this immediacy of a child.
What were your perceptions of these children and their rapport with electronic music, as compared to your generation?
NZ: Right now, music is getting professionalised, which is both good and bad. We have many artists and I can always find the best album to listen to for a month. Internet is flooded with musicians, and it’s not good.
Has there been something that surprised you in music or your music career in the last few years?
NZ: I have a problem with that, because it’s really hard to surprise me. When it comes to my own music, I was surprised by the Quietus putting me at no 12 of their albums of the year. I cried when I saw that. I was also floored when my music got used for a Dior fashion show in Tokyo. The most important for me was playing with Gazelle Twin in Glasgow, she’s my hero. Many good things have happened after the release of my first album. Three years ago, I was poor, I was a barmaid and now I live in Warsaw and make music, doing what I love the most. I have a really beautiful life at the moment.