It’s a well-documented phenomenon that Berlin is, and has been for some time, a true have for musicians, producers and artists from all walks of the creative sphere. A city low in restrictions, rent and living costs it doesn't take a genius to work out why so many artists have made it their home with the possibilities it offers inspiring them to leave behind their places of birth and familiarity. Both the Romanian born, Cosmin TRG and Stroboscopic Artefacts boss, Lucy, have been calling the city home for quite some time now and have fully benefited from being part of a thriving community of techno focussed artists – finding themselves in the right place to thrive with their creative output whether that's having the time and space to produce and run their respective labels or being well placed to reach the key European club outposts on the DJ circuit.
It’s no coincidence that they're both sharing the bill in Room Two this coming Saturday night so with these commonalities in mind and both suffering from depleted immune systems post NYE, they made their way to a local Berlin haunt to discuss their similar experiences of being the touring DJ and their motivations for running their own labels…
Lucy: Do you find yourself at ease in this job dealing with the rhythm and roll?
Cosmin: Yeah I guess that now I find that I'm more of a professional than I used to be 10 years ago. Meaning that basically there’s this routine that I have whenever I fly out, whenever I play out and I guess it [touring] affects me way less than it used to. For example some friends of mine decided very spontaneously to join me for this New Year's gig that I had in Hamburg which was basically a train to Hamburg a three hour set then a train back to Berlin and by the end of it the guys were really, really exhausted [laughs].
Lucy: And for you, was it kind of normal?
Cosmin: Yeah I was just in and out, did my thing it was great. I think I got way more energy out of the gig and playing, I guess I was releasing more endorphins than the people who are just there too party.
Lucy: You've made me think about something, sometimes I personally feel a bit like a fish out of water in the scene because generally I don't like to just hang out with other DJs, I try to keep it kind of refreshing for my mind and not talk about the same things. It's kind of strange when you're back from a big tour after a really punishing schedule and people ask you ‘how have you been?’ It's really hard to explain to people with normal jobs to get into the same mind wave you know, I find this quite alienating.
Cosmin: It’s because it’s basically two different types of mind-sets and two very different paradigms, obviously if you have a very active creative period you're a bit more reclusive. Then, to be yanked out of that reclusiveness and chucked into this very social thing that you do is also very confusing.
Lucy: Talking about sociality, do you think that this kind of gap between the way a producer or artist lives his professional life and the normal life that you try live can be fixed by running a record label? Meaning is that the right approach to present a very intimate world to the wider public for you?
Cosmin: It's a very tough question that I ask myself every couple of months because when I started the label I did it to present something very personal. The concept wasn't to just grab tracks from people and release them it was more like I wanted to present a product that was 360 degrees made by me and it's sort of tough to not let it seem very egocentric...
Basically I read all these articles recently about the trends in arts over the last few years and they're all very me-centric. The most successful artists for better or worse, and I'm taking about arts in general, were the ones who were obsessively focussed on themselves and their personalities and less on an actual product which is fine to an extent where you can really separate the artistic product from the person.
Lucy: Which is why what I've tried to do over the last five years with Stroboscopic Artefacts is to kind of detach the actual product from the image of [the person] who created it. It's kind of difficult because often artists, and I'm also talking about me here, are often quite jealous of their own product in the sense that they really want to state 'this is mine'. Talking about the general state of the techno scene at the moment and in the media where there's all this obsession of the ego trips the result on the collective scale is the complete annihilation of any identity into a huge amount of similar output.
Cosmin: You mean all this anonymous faceless techno scene? It's very interesting from a theoretical point of view because you have all these very brainy dudes you know doing things that are very conceptual but they want to stay anonymous. So, sometimes the products are interchangeable if there's no very specific sound from a specific artist then it's hard to pinpoint.
Lucy: You've made me think about something actually, the huge hyper-hyped phenomenon of the latest Aphex Twin album [Syro]. If you think about how things were back in the day the most fascinating thing for me has always been this kind of confusion around identities and different facets of a personality. The result was very intriguing [with Syro] but I haven't listened to the album yet because I was so bombed by a lot of Aphex Twin here, Aphex Twin there etc it was like the next YouTube video cat meme.
I was like it's just out of my interest zone, the release could be a masterpiece but I always say that the main point is the approach not the actual artefact. In a way this makes me think about how time has changed in the sense that I always see a phenomenal extreme like a mirror of a state of a specific age. He is genius though one of those people who are gifted to be a symbol of an era if you know what I mean...
Lucy: So, moving on to another topic. Where are you from and do you think that kind of ex-pat state helped you keep true to yourself or do you feel like getting lost in a scene is actually a good way. There's two possible points of view here…
Cosmin: I'm from Romania, I lived in Bucharest for 10 years and before that I was born in a city just an hour from Bucharest. Basically, coming from somewhere that's more peripheral and going into a scene that is very vibrant is very seductive I can definitely understand the people who come [and get lost in the scene]. I know someone from Kansas who came to Berlin and get lost in the scene, it was actually very beneficial to him because he found a universe that was so remote from where he was coming from that he actually reinvented himself and reinvented his approach to music and life in general so it worked for him on that sort of level.
Lucy: How did it work for you when you came to Berlin?
Cosmin: Well I've been involved in different scenes over the years so I guess the impact of Berlin's music scene in general it wasn’t such a culture clash, I was in a position where I could cherry pick the things that I liked about the scene and the city and run with those. How was it for you?
Lucy: When I came here 6 or 7 years ago I didn't come for actual musical reasons, I was living in Paris in a very difficult situation with money - where you have to fix your pants with patches. Coming back to Italy wasn't an option for me for many political and intellectual reasons and because of how the situation has been going recently. So, I was like where to go? Berlin was the most stimulating solution, a place where the 'grey area' of the artistic community was still very strong, and mainly that the city allowed that community to exist and flourish. That was the situation where SA started to be thinkable and actually possible to become a real cross-pollinating platform as I was imagining it to be.