From working with Sunwaves to founding one of dance music’s most innovative record labels, Melliflow co-founder Alexandra has been a fundamental part of a forward-thinking community between Bucharest and Berlin for many years.
In this interview, the Romanian native talks first gigs, battling inner demons and the party which “made it all very clear for me, I felt it with every fibre of my body and soul, I felt that magical exchange of energy that happens between the artist and the crowd.”
As a DJ, looking back on your career so far, can you pick out the landmark moments you can remember where DJing went from hobby to profession, and then to where you are today?
I believe I learned a lot and I am still learning from absolutely every gig I play. And all the gigs I played made me who I am today. But I’m gonna recall some intense moments.
In the year of 2009, my very dear friend and former Sunrise colleague Catalina and Dragos (one of the owners of today’s Club Guesthouse) were making parties together. Their brand was called Wicked and they had the guts to invite me, a total newbie, to play at their Valentine’s Day party in Bucharest. That was my very first official gig.
The same year, when the 5th edition of Sunwaves Festival happened, at a smaller and more intimate level with a free, jam-style line-up for the daytime, I ended up playing on a rainy cold Saturday afternoon, and that was my epiphany about DJing. That party made it all very clear for me, I felt it with every fibre of my body and soul, I felt that magical exchange of energy that happens between the artist and the crowd. That time I knew that I’m gonna work as much as possible to become a professional DJ.
Another moment I will never forget was in 2011, when Ricardo Villalobos and Zip invited me, unofficially, to play at a Get Perlonized night in Panorama Bar. It was such a thrilling experience, it went from agony to ecstasy. I was so anxious and nervous, I even cried before the gig. But it was so beautiful and magic in the end.
Another important moment for me happened in 2014 when I was invited by Dragos Rusu to play for his radio show called Radio Control, I think it was a Thursday night in the small room of Control Club in Bucharest. It was the first time I played different music zones than the ones for the dancefloor. I experimented with ambient, downtempo, trip-hop, experimental, IDM. It was a very powerful moment, I felt it like a breath of fresh air and energy. I discovered another side of me.
And the most recent milestone would also be a gig at Sunwaves 23, in 2018. For the first time in my career, I felt I grew up. You see, the first eight years were dominated by anxiety and the eternal search of a good way to tell my musical story. These years were shadowed by doubt and uncertainty, lack of confidence and fear to be in the DJ booth in front of the people.
Although I knew I am meant to be a DJ all these years, I fought with these inner demons. It took me nine years to build more confidence, overcome the anxiety and to navigate more clearly through my record collection. Now it’s so much fun to play music after I managed to chase the pressure away. The butterflies in my stomach are still there, but the feeling is much sweeter than it used to be.
What attributes or mindsets of yours have helped get you to where you are now? You seem like a very positive person. Has that mindset helped make a difference in your journey?
It’s true, I’m a positive person, an idealist, a dreamer and an optimist. I try to see the good side of everything and it helped me a lot to follow my dreams. I am very grateful for how my life turned, I am very grateful I have a job which takes me around the world, a job that helps me spread joy, happiness, love and emotions through the music I play.
All the moments of tiredness are meaningless when I can travel and see the world. That’s my mindset. Also, when I am in the DJ booth and I start playing music, I totally disconnect from my life before and after that moment. It’s like I enter another dimension. It’s like I meditate. I am only there and only that moment exists, and my focus is only in the music.
You recently made the move back to Bucharest after a period of residence in Berlin. What inspired the move back home?
Bucharest is my home. It’s the place where I have all the comfort and safety I need. I was missing the big windows of my apartment in Bucharest, the broad sky, the birds, the trees and the sunsets I see from home. These things are very important for my inner balance and for my inspiration. I need a lot of natural light and sun. I couldn’t adapt to the Berlin winter, so grey, heavy and flat. Bucharest is sunnier, even in winter. And we have proper snow here. I need that magic.
The term ‘post-minimal’ has often been used to describe the energy of this particular strain of music that you are involved in. Do you think that is an accurate term? How do you feel about that way of describing the music?
I think the best term to define this genre is eclectism, as it’s an intense eclectic journey through old and new, through decades in electronic music, through a vast pool of genres.
With the advent of Discogs and shops like The Ghost, and the rise of dedicated DJs like yourself who are popular for DJing alone, we’re seeing the resurgence of vinyl digging and a lot of older and multi-genre-spanning records resurfacing across dance floors.
As an artist who both runs a contemporary record label as well as pioneering a deep digging style of DJing, how do you feel this trend impacts the current vinyl market for labels selling new music and staying relevant in an already busy marketplace?
From the label point of view, this trend forces you to re-adapt to the market conditions, press fewer copies of each release and move on to the next one. Everything seems to happen fast and the focus is on the present moment.
From my point of view as a DJ, there are two situations – when I go digging for new music in physical record shops, if the selection of the shop is curated good, then I can enjoy the best of the new releases. And some of the new stuff today is absolutely splendid and diverse. Most of the times I am amazed by how good the new music can be.
But, on the other hand, if I dig online, on the big online retailers websites, I have to listen to tones of new releases, until I find something good, something to fit my taste. The revival of the vinyl market has a reverse side, which is quantity to the detriment of quality.
This year saw your first production efforts in a new project The Apricots, together with Pîrvu. How have you found this process in comparison to Djing and do you have any plans for solo endeavours in the future?
For me, music production is not so exciting like DJing. I am not the kind of person to spend time in a studio.
I’m a digger and a raver, I like to dance, I like the energy of a party. I like to be on the move all the time, I love to scout for music. I am a DJ to the bone. I plan to swim deeper into the process of making music, but it’s not in my priorities now.
Melliflow recently made the decision to make a selection of the catalogue’s once vinyl-only releases available digitally via Bandcamp. What was the motivation behind this decision?
We want to make our releases accessible to everyone, to artists, music lovers and listeners, and also to the parts of the world with no physical record shops, or where the shipping costs are way over the price of a record.
If I wouldn’t have had access to digital music 15-17 years ago, I would have never had the chance to find this world of electronic music and be part of it. Although I am a strong vinyl supporter, my gate was opened by digital music and it helped me develop my passion.
Of course, each of our artists decides if they want to release digitally too.
You were fortunate to have been part of an exploding scene in Bucharest in the mid-2000s. Since then, have you come across that kind of raw energy and inspiration anywhere else as a DJ?
Yes, in Ukraine and Russia. But these countries took the movement to the next level, probably with the help of a much more musically educated and opened minded crowd.
Closing out the summer, Melliflow heads to Hoppetosse on October 5th for a label showcase in the form of Melliflow: Aster. What can we expect from this autumn edition?
We’re celebrating the birthday of our colleague, my agent and my very special friend Zuzana (sixnines.de). Expect lovely music and vibes, more feminine energy and aura, as we are going to be seven female artists playing at this event.
It will be another 36h marathon, so we are preparing also the comfortable chillout room downstairs.
Can you provide us with any sneak previews of future plans for the label?
Our future includes releases from Z@p, Federico Molinari, Omar, Levat and Cobert
Also, Alexandra is joining our podcast series! You can now enjoy a 2h mix recorded at Dancing Mountain 2019 in Rasnov, Romania, where Alexandra played on Sunday 1st September.