Techno titan Nina Kraviz: ‘People were suspicious of a pretty woman making music’
The Russian producer became techno’s most divisive figure after filming an interview in the bath. Here, she discusses sexism, her ‘emotional’ DJ sets and raving on the Great Wall of China
Musicians are often said to be on top of the world, but rarely are they actually perched on one of its wonders. Way up in the misty hills of Mutianyu, north-east of Beijing, the Siberian DJ and producer Nina Kraviz is soundtracking sunrise at the Great Wall of China.
Forty ravers have gathered on an ancient watchtower to dance as dawn breaks, while two replicas of terracotta army soldiers preside over the decks beside her.
A few hours earlier, the authorities had cut short Kraviz’s headline show at a nearby festival, claiming – incorrectly – that it was overrunning. So, this otherworldly afterparty feels subversive. It is being livestreamed on Facebook, which is banned in China, along with most western social media. Wine is passed around as though it is the prohibition era. Kraviz’s metallic sound feels thunderous enough to bring the terracotta warriors to life.
Moments like these are why Kraviz has become the most talked-about DJ in techno. One of the first women to become a headline act, she thrives on challenging her audience. Her sets stand above other DJs’ slickly synchronised, clinically pristine beats as she plays fast and loose with ghetto house, old-school hardcore, footwork, trance, drum’n’bass and her favourite genre, acid. Her style is unkempt, never dull.
“When I DJ, I’m fucking alive,” she says. “All my channels are open. People think I’m on drugs, but I’m not – I’m just really experiencing it.” She calls her approach “raw”, but she dislikes how that has become a byword for anyone who plays vintage-sounding house music through software:
“Fuck you, man, [your show is] pre-cooked, taken out of the fridge and then burned in the fucking microwave.” By contrast, she never pre-plans her sets, let alone stands still while playing. “I’m putting my physical presence into it. And it’s different from one show to another because I’m a different person every day. I’m the kind of person that goes from highest point to the fucking lowest point in a second.