Primavera Sound Festival Madrid 2023

When we think of European summers and the festivals that define each month, drenched in sunlight with the heat on our skin, one such festival that joins ranks beside the northern titans like Dekmantel and Glastonbury is Primavera Sound. Initially beginning its legacy in Barcelona in 2001 and now for the first time in Madrid, the festival has become a pioneer in the events space, becoming one of the largest and most-attended festivals in Europe. Boasting headliners such as The xx, Tame Impala, Kendrick Lamar and Patti Smith, but also spotlighting smaller, local artists, it’s a place where creatives big and small come together and revel in the Barcelona heat.

With a focus on gender equality and their role in the sustainability of the location, this year’s Primavera Madrid debut is an opportunity to reexamine their track record of eco-conscious achievements and active gender equality efforts. In this interview, I chat with festival curator Joan Pons about the music scenes of Spain, TikTok-era festival etiquette and the broader subjects of inclusivity and sustainability at Primavera.

Is there a specific moment in time or influence from the music or creative scene that inspired you to get into the curation game? Were you an experienced raver or partygoer all along, or rather somebody more behind the scenes?

Of course. We have always explained (almost taking on legendary dimensions) that the idea of the festival was born from four friends, who at the beginning of the century wanted to bring the alternative and electronic music artists of that time who were not touring in our country. We believe that this initial idea remains: we still consider ourselves music fans and we still want to bring our favourite artists of our present to our home. More than a raver, personally, I consider myself what I said before: a music fan who has been to many festivals, of very different music styles and each one of them is enjoyed in a different way. Some are for dancing, others for sitting and relaxing, others for a singalong, others to surprise you and others to provoke new sensations. I think Primavera Sound, in the end, is a festival where you can find all these kinds of possibilities. In other words, we have made the festival in our own image and likeness.

When considering the rave and music scenes, Madrid and Barcelona might not immediately spring to mind for many. What is it about these cities, specifically the Spanish and Catalan music scene, that might draw more people to these places to rave? Is there a stark difference between the two?

I would like to politely disagree with the apriorism from which this question arises: Barcelona and Madrid are two cities that, at least in this century, have been very important places on the map through which almost all relevant artists and tours have passed. Proof of this is our own history – if we did a festival, it was because there was demand from the public, artists and industry. Also, international interest – for years now, more than 50% of our audience has been from abroad, and 30% from the UK. So we understand that if you say Barcelona, for some people, the first thing that will come to mind will probably be the football team, but for music fans or those with cultural interests, it will probably be Primavera Sound. Obviously, this cultural vibrancy and musical life make cities a hotbed of club scenes, concert halls, music scenes and important artists. Some of them were maybe born around the festival, performing their first steps and finally being headliners, like this year’s Rosalía.

You’ll often see on platforms like TikTok the discussion of festival etiquette, and that many partygoers have ‘forgotten’ how to behave or act respectfully during concerts and events. This was most likely borne out of the Covid lockdown, with a lot of Gen-Z’ers experiencing their first nights out and festivals without the ‘practice’ of partying in their later teens. With Primavera focusing on sustainability and inclusion at its core, how does the festival foster the environment of making people feel free to experience the music in their own way, while also recognising the need for respect and care of the artists and organisers?

The Primavera Sound public is very abundant and diverse, and there will be both aware and escapist people – you can’t tell. What we can say is that the festival is aware and doesn’t want to be a bubble detached from reality, and if some of our gestures, decisions and actions in this sense can help the public that attends the festival to be so too, then that’s perfect. We have done visibility actions and we’ve been involved with both Open Arms and Greenpeace. We also believe that by moving forward on the path of sustainability we are raising awareness among our public (such as the reusable cups, with the almost total elimination of plastics), with tarpaulins explaining the UN programme of 17 sustainable development goals, of which we have been part of since 2019, because the organisation itself made us aware that we were complying with many of them.  There are also pioneering initiatives such as Nobody’s Normal, which was born as a protocol to prevent, inform and act in the face of sexual aggression and is now a plan for the promotion of sexual and gender freedom. 

Finally, there are our identity decisions, which may seem artistic, and also speak of the reality surrounding us with an inspiring and transforming spirit: the parity poster, increasingly inclusive and diverse because reality is also increasingly inclusive and diverse, not by chance. We believe it is a duty to our time and our reality, and this is what our assistants have told us with very positive feedback that we did not expect after the first year of implementation. They said that they were finally at a festival where they felt free, safe and comfortable to show their sexual identity. So in the end, maybe we do have an aware public.

Primavera boasts a 50/50 gender and pronoun lineup from 2019. With the fact that many bigger industry names feature in Primavera each year, how do curators ensure that smaller artists, some of whom might be LGBTQ+ or gender non-binary, also get the spotlight, as well as financial support? What is the process for research there?

We believe that there is no small print at Primavera Sound and that every name on the line-up matters. If it’s at Primavera, it’s because we love his/her/their music, that’s for starters. Each artist fulfills their function, whether in terms of artistic balance or diversity. The truth is that there is not much mystery in creating an inclusive and gender-balanced line-up, you just have to want to do it – once you have that in mind, it almost works itself out. We also feel that the smaller names actually get the same exposure as the big names because the line-up comes out with all the artists at the same time. They share the spotlight with each other. Also, we create individual assets for each and every one of them and promote all of them equally. It would be disrespectful if that weren’t the case.

I would like to think that this year we have made progress in the gender-balanced lineup, because it’s no longer 50%, and we have taken into account 10-20% of artists who do not identify with a binary separation of gender. We believe that percentage will get higher and higher because, in reality, it will also be higher and higher. If in some way we manage to make this aspect visible through our artistic programming, we can only be proud.

The festivals obviously draw thousands of partygoers each year. In cities like Madrid, where there are issues with heavy tourist flows and the pollution and impact on the local residents that come with it, how does Primavera ensure that the residents of Madrid are not negatively impacted by this large presence of festival-goers?

We believe that our impact on any city that hosts Primavera Sound does not have to be assumed to be negative. In fact, in economic terms, it is highly positive for many sectors (public transport, restaurants, hotels, museums and leisure). In more intangible terms, it brings a cultural value to the life of the city, which during the days of the festival becomes more vibrant and with the eyes of the whole world on it. 

On the other hand, we don’t believe, based on our studies and attendance data, that Primavera Sound festival-goers are an annoying type of visitor to the city. In fact, when we talk about it with the institutions of each city, we tend to consider them as cultural tourism.

Primavera has renewed its partnership with the UN Sustainable Development Goals Campaign. With pledges like gender equality and education on the docket, does this alliance inspire Primavera to become a leader in this sustainability and inclusion space – what are you hoping to inspire with this alliance? Do you see yourself as an example in the festival scene?

We like to think that if we are really so insistent on the issue of inclusion and gender equality, it is because Primavera Sound is such a popular festival with so much media attention that we believe in and defend this policy. With this, it can be inspiring for others and ultimately transformative. Whether it really is, I can’t say. But it definitely would NOT be if we didn’t do it. About sustainability – although we received the A Greener Festival award, we know that it is a long road, a process which we will improve little by little. So, if we are an example to anyone, it is to ourselves: each year’s progress should be a benchmark to be beaten in the next edition.


More info · Primavera Sound Festival Madrid
Special thanks to Chris Cuff (Good Machine PR), Joan Pons and Henry Turner (Good Machine PR)

Tak Sugita

Tokyo One Day


Photography · Tak Sugita
Styling · midori at W
Hair and Makeup · Katsuyoshi Kojima at Tron
Model · Kanon Hirata at Tomorrow Tokyo


  1. Full look MSGM
  2. Full look MSGM
  3. Full look KENZO
  5.  Dress and Sandals ACNE STUDIOS, necklace JUSTINE CLENQUET
  6.  Top and Skirt SPORTMAX, Sandals STELLA MCCARTNEY
  7.  Full look VALENTINO, ear-cuff ±BALANCE
  9.  Dress JENNY FAX, sandals ACNE STUDIOS and necklace JUSTINE CLENQUET
  10. Full look FERRAGAMO

Lucas Christiansen

The Better Me


Photography · Lucas Christiansen
Styling · Jeanna Krichel
Casting · Chisom Abuba at Whitecasting
Hair · Maria Ehrlich at Collective Interest
Makeup · Haneen Ajub
Set Design · Kristin Baumann
Model · Jojo Schneider at Tigers
Photography Assistants · Louis Headlam and Florin Elbel
Styling Assistant · Nutsa Khurtsilava
Retouching · Studio Gessner
Location · KMX Studio


  1. Top and string SELEZZA and bodysuit Stylist’s own
  2. Dress ZIMMERMANN, tights WOLFORD, boots BOSS and gloves Stylist’s own
  3. Top and Skirt NAMILIA, tights WOLFORD and boots MARTIN MARGIELA
  4. Coat SELEZZA, bodysuit WOLFORD and shoes MARTIN MARGIELA
  5. Top and Skirt MARINA HOERMANSEDER, tights FENTY and shoes SAINT LAURENT
  6. Top MARINA HOERMANSEDER, dress MARIE LOUISE VOGT, shoes Saint Laurent and bracelet Stylist’ own
  7. Dress and Trousers KILIAN KERNER, shoes MAISON MARGIELA and rings LOTTA DJOUSSOU
  8. Dress MARIE LOUISE VOGT, latex socks Stylist’s own and shoes SAINT LAURENT

Chloe Cherry

One Life To Live

Every few years, an ‘it-girl’ arises and claims her throne, crowned as such by loyal fans and social media enthusiasts alike. The contemporary it-girl is not only defined by her looks, but possesses the intelligence and self-assertiveness to back it up. Chloe Cherry is all of these things. After leaving her rural hometown of Lancaster, Pennsylvania to pursue the adult film industry, she shed her inhibitions and opened herself up to the world. But it wasn’t until a few years down the line that Chloe would realise just how much that fortitude would pay off. 

Before she knew it, Chloe had landed the role of a lifetime, debuting for the first time in the mainstream entertainment industry as the beloved Faye in the viral hit sensation Euphoria. But prior to morphing into her aloof alter-ego behind the camera, Chloe lived a quintessential life — her down-to-earth, authentic disposition is undeniable. Like many of us, she grew up sourcing fashion inspiration from YouTube and discovered her favourite beauty looks by experimenting with technicolor eyeliners and iridescent glitter. Her small-town upbringing left her constantly yearning for something bigger. After speaking to her, it’s really no surprise that she struck gold — in every meaning of the sense, Chloe is a true star. 

Even as a young child, Chloe knew she was destined to be seen, but her insular surroundings didn’t often yield big-screen stars. She reflects on growing up, remarking that Lancaster was a small-town environment, that she was different. She dreamt of bursting that bubble and making a name for herself, but she knew early on that she’d face some hurdles along the way. Luckily for Chloe, she managed to topple those hurdles through a rock-solid confidence in herself.

You were born and raised in Lancaster, PA before playing Faye and your life changing forever. I’m also from Pennsylvania and I’m very familiar with the restrictions that can come along with the lifestyle many lead in that area. How did your hometown shape you as a person and dictate your path?

It was definitely a small town with a lot of small-town values. People were very gender divided — where I live in LA there’s so much gender fluidity and we didn’t have anything like that. People generally weren’t as open-minded about things and I feel like even I wasn’t as open-minded about life and people when I lived there. They also don’t really think that much bigger outside of what they were born into. It was a very close-minded community that thought religion, specifically the Christian religion, was the correct way to live, and that you were just supposed to follow a certain amount of correctness. That changed me, because it made me really want to break out and do whatever I want. I very stifled by the judgment that people had there. 

I feel like it yielded this person that is truly not afraid to show her different sides.

I’m not afraid to do anything, pretty much, if I want to. I think growing up there kind of told me that it’s okay to break a mould, do you know what I mean? It’s okay to do something outside of what is ‘normal.’

Before Euphoria, you were in the adult film industry. This is an experience that you have described as liberating. Have you always been in tune with your sexuality? What gave you the personal fortitude to shed your inhibitions and show that side of yourself to the world?

My comfort in my sexuality basically just came from really wanting to put myself out there. Being from Pennsylvania, in the middle of nowhere Pennsylvania, you don’t really have any connections, especially to Hollywood. I think that just made me want to try literally anything just to get out of that. Even though it’s totally fine to live this way, so many of the people I grew up around kind of live the same way that their parents did. I’m really grateful that I took a huge chance in life and that it got me somewhere. Where I’m from, people don’t really take chances. 

What is the most valuable lesson you learned from the adult industry that you brought with you into mainstream television? 

One of the most valuable lessons I learned is how to act, how to be on set, and how to follow directions — that’s where I learned to be an actor and a good performer in general.

What I feel radiates from you is an unbridled sense of self-assuredness. What is your advice to others who may not be as comfortable in their own skin? 

We only get one life to live. We’re all born and we all didn’t choose to be born, but we definitely didn’t choose to have to work to live. So I just really think that we really shouldn’t judge ourselves on what we do for work in order to live, because it’s all about what kind of day you can get through. You can’t really live your life based on the people around you because those people might be out of your life one day. And then what matters? At the end of your life, it’s only gonna be you, so you need to make sure that you’re happy with your choices.

I’m sure that being on a TV show and all of the amazing things you’ve experienced lately have been a big 180 for you. When you were younger, did you always aspire to have an audience-facing role? What was your dream back then?

Growing up, I always thought I would be some kind of performer or that I would be on camera. At first, I never really knew that I was that good of an actor because when I was acting as a kid, in school plays and stuff, I never really got the big roles. But I was a good enough actor for the adult industry. So it’s been actually a pretty crazy surprise to me that all this has happened, but it’s taught me that sometimes people just have natural skills. I think that’s what I have more than anything — natural skill. A lot of it, especially playing Faye, just kind of comes easily to me. It didn’t really take a ton of training or anything.

Faye became such a likeable character because I think many of us saw ourselves in her. She said the things that we were all thinking and she also acknowledged her own flaws and shortcomings — she was real. In what ways do you relate to Faye, and on the flip side, were there any qualities of the character that were difficult for you to channel? 

One quality that was hard for me to channel in Faye was just not caring about anything, but I feel like part of that is also being on drugs. So I’ve done a lot of research about being on drugs. The way that she doesn’t care what people think and will talk back to people — I feel like I don’t really relate to that. But I do relate to the way that she really likes to find a sense of community and a sense of home. I feel like that’s what she’s searching for by staying with Fez; she wants to belong. 

Your life outside of Faye underwent such a drastic transition. Have you found that sense of community yet?

I feel like I have a decent amount of community here. I’ve met a lot of people, but it’s funny — I find myself so easily becoming friends with a gaffer or a makeup artist. But I don’t as easily become friends with people that are the other actors. I know a lot of them, but I feel like a lot of my friends are people that are behind the scenes and are just really fun and easygoing. 

In some ways that makes sense because you can probably relate to those people more, given how quickly all of this picked up for you. After falling in love with your character, many fell in love with you for your genuine personality, your quirky, colourful style and infectious charisma. You’ve become a Gen Z ‘it-girl’ in your own right. So, I want to know about the ‘it-girls’ or individuals that paved the way for you — who were your icons growing up?

I loved Chloe Sevigny’s and Alexa Chung’s style for a really long time. I always loved Ryan Murphy’s shows and was inspired by the fashion on his shows. Miley Cyrus is somebody that I’ve looked up to and I also really love Claudia Sulewski’s style — I watched her videos for a while.

I can see all of those coming together to inform your style, and even Faye’s personal style in the show. I wanted to revisit your experience playing that role. I really appreciated the point where you mentioned that playing Faye feels natural — I think that’s why you and the character mesh so well and we all took a liking to her.

I don’t know if I’ve said this in an interview before, but there’s this one moment of my audition for Faye that I’ll never forget. I came in and I said the lines and I had this whole act that I would put on of being like, fucked up. I was doing the lines like that and then Sam goes, ‘No, stop. Just say it how you would say it.’ And then I just said the lines to how I would say it and then I got the role.

Which is amazing. It was effortless.

The only thing about being related to Faye — I think it’s so good. I just hope it’s not the McLovin effect where I’m typecast for the rest of my life. But I mean, I feel like it’s perfect. It comes so naturally to me. Faye is almost like a side of me. If I had kept going at my craziest and just kept going on drug and party binges, I might have ended up like Faye.

Faye is like you in another dimension. 


You brought up a really important point about wanting to avoid being boxed in. You’re at such a pivotal moment now; it’s only the beginning. I listened to you on Emily Ratajkowski’s podcast, where you reiterated that as a young girl, you always yearned to have a flashy persona. You wanted to be the ‘hot bimbo’ that everyone knew. It reminded me of a recent article that The Cut published titled, ‘The Reclamation of Bimbohood‘. Basically, it was about how our contemporary understanding of ‘bimbohood’ encompasses attractive and socially-engaged women — they are self-proclaimed bimbos who ooze confidence. Do you resonate with that at all? Especially coming from the realm of adult film, how have you managed to reclaim your own sexuality and identity?

When it comes to Faye, I feel like she’s a bimbo, but in a way that you wouldn’t always imagine. She’s kind of a low-end bimbo, you know what I mean? The trashiest version of a bimbo. But with adult films, being a bimbo was very empowering because so many people would like you when you looked like that. Part of me sometimes misses being a part of such a sex-positive environment where instead of people constantly making threads on Reddit saying my lips are so terrible, people were like, ‘Oh my God, you look so amazing.’ I kind of miss that different view. Even if it was a more perverted view, I kind of thought it was almost more positive than such a perfectionist perspective. Doing adult films actually made me a lot more confident in my looks and just everything about me. I feel very physically confident about things since doing that. I think Faye is also the same in that way. Faye is also somebody who uses her sexuality and looks to get things in life and she’s very confident. 

Totally — and there’s a profound power behind that. How has it been navigating the scrutiny now that you have opened yourself up to a whole other world?

Dude, it’s so weird now. What I don’t miss in porn, is people would call me fat all the time because I was showing my body, but now I don’t really get people calling me fat anymore because I don’t show my body as much. People now scrutinise my looks in such an interesting way. They’ll say, ‘Oh my gosh, she’s so fake. Look at her lips.’ Whereas people used to not really say that. 

It’s very intriguing to hear the difference between the two types of entertainment from your perspective. Part of what makes your character and your true persona so endearing is your affinity for making people laugh. You don’t seem to take yourself too seriously and have cited shows like Curb Your Enthusiasm and It’s Always Sunny as your go-tos. If you could be a character in any comedy, who would you choose and why? 

I personally consider Succession a comedy. I think I would make myself one of Cousin Greg’s mean girlfriends — that would be funny. I do really like Curb Your Enthusiasm. I would love to be a part of that. I feel like I could be a waiter that Larry David fucks with or something like that. 

Not only are you a multi-faceted actress, but you have modelled for Laquan Smith, GCDS, Blumarine and more. You’ve gotten to live out the experiences of any fashion enthusiast’s dreams. Have you always been into fashion?

I’ve always been really into fashion. I love looking at fashion online and it’s something that I’ve always followed on social media. It was really surreal for me to be able to walk in those shows and I really hope I get to walk in more one day.

I would describe your style as effervescent, frisky and engaging. I’ve seen you take a liking to graphic tees and Y2K-era silhouettes. How would you describe your own style and what types of pieces do you usually gravitate towards? 

I usually gravitate towards stuff that — this sounds kind of weird — but I like stuff that looks like something that I personally would’ve worn as a kid. It’s basically just because I have the same taste that I did as a kid, so I dressed very Y2K because I grew up in that time period. I’m really attracted to stuff that was ‘in’ back then; it’s just ingrained in my brain. I also like really weird stuff, stuff that looks really unique. But for the most part, I constantly wear clothes that are reminiscent of the 2000s. 

You were also the face of Urban Decay’s Bond Liquid Lipstick. Urban Decay is one of the first makeup brands that I fell in love with as a tween getting into beauty regimens. What are some of your earliest makeup memories? 

Actually, one of my earliest makeup memories involves Urban Decay. The first time I started wearing makeup, I was in sixth grade and I didn’t really wear real makeup. I would just take this glitter eyeliner and put sparkles on my eyelids every day. Then eventually I got this Urban Decay blue eyeliner and then I started doing that.

I had the exact same blue eyeliner and I loved it. How has that routine evolved as you’ve matured?

I’ve never told this to anybody, but when I was 15 years old I discovered Lily-Rose Depp; I found her Instagram and I loved her aesthetic and the way she did her makeup. It was so simple. She would literally just do a little bit of blush, mascara, and nice eyebrows and I was just obsessed with it. So I completely dropped all my crazy makeup, started doing really simple makeup and I’ve just done it like that ever since. 

You’re just getting started showing the world who Chloe Cherry really is — you’re an esteemed actress, a model, a style icon for many, and even a SoundCloud rapper. How do you hope people remember you decades from now? What’s the legacy you’d like to leave behind and what are you working on right now that you’re excited about?

A few years down the line, we’re on Euphoria season seven. I maybe have my own fashion line, maybe my own skincare line, I’m doing more beauty campaigns and just doing all sorts of high fashion campaigns. I love being on Euphoria, but if that ended, I’d love to be a regular on something else. I just want to keep continuing to do what I do because I love it.


Talent · Chloe Cherry
Creative Direction · Jade Removille 
Photography · Ricky Alvarez
Styling · Kathryn Typaldos at Forward Artists
Hair · Ericka Verrett at A-Frame
Makeup · Rob Rumsey at A-Frame
Styling Assistant· Nicole Grasty
Location · FD Photo Studio Los Angeles
Interview · Kayla Curtis-Evans
Special thanks to Lucy Greene at Anti Agency, Amanda Horton at ALH PR, Hannah Hardison at A-Frame


  1. Top and skirt RICK OWENS
  2. Tank TNA
  3. Tights GRETA GARMEL and shoes RICK OWENS
  4. Top from Archive Vintage, shirt and skirt ECKHAUS LATTA, socks COMME SI and shoes ARIELLE BARON from conti comm
  5.  Top and skirt ELENA VELEZ and earrings MEJURI
  6.  Hair clip SARAH APHRODITE, top PRADA from Archive Vintage, skirt POLLUX, shoes VALENTINO, bracelet MEJURI and leg warmers vintage
  7. Dress JEAN-PAUL GAULTIER from Archive Vintage

Bambou Gili

Les Dîners de Mamito, 2022

Painting and the challenge of storytelling

Bambou Gili’s paintings are world-building projects, sprawling in narrative and unified by rich, tight colour palettes. Throughout her body of work, fantastical landscapes activate the feminine figures inside them, allowing for nature to become an ally, a co-conspirator, a unique character in and of itself. In each series, the artist — whose inspirations range from the animation of Hayao Miyazaki to the French Impressionists — dives into a singular colour spectrum to experiment freely and tap into possibility. Oil drippings in green, blue or purple produce a textural, eerie stillness that moves across tableaux like an omniscient spectre. Gili’s surrealistic scenes, imbued with this energy, are both clandestine and playful: lush plants, serene bodies of water and ethereal trees conceal subjects from one another as their concurrent stories unfold, and each protagonist exudes a presence that matches the magnitude of her surroundings. Within Gili’s alternate universe, environment and human emotion vibrate at an equal frequency somewhere between waking and dreaming.

Your paintings deliver an intriguing sense of mystery, a haunting quality,sometimes spectral but in some cases almost ironic. The subjects are oftenwomen portrayed in nature or domestic settings. One particular work or yours, Sleep Paralysis(2021)reminds me of The Nightmare by Heinrich Füssli(1781), while others bare similarities with the secret forests of Rousseau. Beside arthistorical sources, what are the inspirations behind your works? Do you look at peoplefrom your personallife,photographs,magazines,socialmedia?

Yes! Neighbourhood Sleep Paralysis was based off of Nicolai Abildgaard’s Nightmare (1800), after Heinrich Füssli. Regarding inspiration, nothing is off-limits. I tend to gravitate towards working in series. I like to focus on an idea for a long period of time and see what bodies of works come out of it. While I’m doing research for that idea, I scour everything. If I see something that makes me think of the series, I document it and store it in my series folder. So, take my last one — I was looking at imagined scenes from Calvino’s Nonexistent Knight, 14th-century armour from the MET collection, Scooby Doo  stills, etc.

While looking at your works one can clearly notice the predominance of blue and green, applied both for living figures as for landscapes. Where does this fascination with these tones come from?

Ha! I get this question a lot. Fun fact: In Zulu, ‘blue’ and ‘green’ are the same word. When I go to the MET, I’ll end up staring at a bright green Lisa Yuskavage painting, admiring the use of colour.

In my last solo, The Non-Existent Night, the series started as an exercise to focus on colour at night. A way to consciously limit my palette to greens, blues and purples. That’s not to say I want my next series to focus on these tones exclusively.

Aggie & Pieter, 2022

Talking about light work and how important it is for you, I was reminded of theimpressionists, who often tried to capture the same subject under different light. Can you tell me something about this study of light and how you incorporate it inyour practice?

Light at night is notoriously hard to capture. You don’t often see a true representation of lowlight scenes. Photos and videos often do a bad job portraying those blues. Which is what led to my night series.

I find the dichotomy of timeframes in your work very interesting: on the one hand, the depicted subjects don’t belong to a specific era historically, on the other, they’re located in the specific — and narrow — time frame of the night. How do you look at time when addressing a new series? Is there a straight conceptionoflinearity?

Honestly, I have not thought about it! I think that the red thread here is the fact that all humans have experienced the night.

I had the pleasure of seeing a preview of your new series, which you willexhibit in your next solo show at Night Gallery (LA) in March. Can you explain the inspiration behind it and how you shaped it through paint?

The work is based on, built around Goodbye Earl, a country song by the [Dixie] Chicks. It’s an upbeat tune, just four minutes or so, but as you listen, you’re introduced  to an entire saga — two childhood friends grow up together in a rural area. One moves out, the other stays. The one who stays ends up in an abusive relationship and, try as she might to leave, can’t seem to escape. Well, after exhausting legal outlets, she falls back on her old friend, who returns and helps hatch the plan…Earl has to die.

Now, the thing that intrigued me about the song was the storytelling. They manage to build this entire world — give you details about the friendship, walk you through a murder, get you on their side — in a matter of minutes. Not a movie or a six-part series,  but a short song. But somehow, there’s considerable depth, a lot of colour to the story and the characters.

As a painter, I thought that’d be an interesting challenge. Can you, like The Chicks have  done in a song, tell a story in a series of paintings? A story you physically walk and move through? And more than just illustrating a story, can you express the same depth? Have it stand on its own — draw you in, intrigue you, where is this going? ‘Oh shit! But, wait, oh yes, let’s go’. In short, can it move you the way the song does? A world-building exercise.

Storytelling is thus pivotal to your work. Whether it’s to convey a specificsense of mystery, like in the 2020-22 series on the night, or an actual concatenation of events, a single painting exists in relation to the other. Thinking in these terms, what was the difference between your old works and this last series?

Surely there’s some stylistic coherence. So they’re loosely related. But I mean, every year of my life you could ask me to look back two years in the past, and I’d be slightly embarrassed of who I was and what I was doing. You could read that really pessimistically,  but the way I see it…if you’re not feeling that way, you’re not evolving.

Blue Kitchen, 2021

While talking about your upcoming show, you told me that the theme of the song slowly became close to your personal life while you were painting the series. In what sense do you think that this song by the Chicks and your translation of it in paint can be relevant for yourself and for collective society, women in particular?

Making the works, you’re forced to view the Goodbye Earl narrative through the cultural context of 2022. It’s not just an arbitrary story. It’s about friendship, relying on your fellow women, revolution if you will. That if it really has to come down to me or you, well, I’m choosing me, bitch. Fuck you. That rings different after 2022, after overturning Roe. Gives it a stronger bite.

But still, there’s a femininity to the murder. They kill Earl over dinner. Compare that to, say, the Goodfellas painting (from this series) — the opening scene, Pesci, DeNiro and Liotta are driving down a dark road, they hear some bumps in the trunk. They pull over, open the trunk, where there’s a guy, barely alive and covered in blood. Pesci stabs him a bunch, DeNiro shoots him multiple times, and Liotta’s voice-over: ‘As far as I can remember, I always wanted to be a gangster’.

You gotta love that these ladies didn’t want to kill someone, didn’t want to take it there —  so when they’re forced to, it’s considered, it’s bloodless. Just a poisoning of peas.

How do you see your work developing in the future?

It’s an opportunity to experiment with new colours, new themes. I hope it feels completely  different.

Evil Twin in Vivienne Tam, 2022


  1. Les Dîners de Mamito, 2022. Courtesy the artist and Jeffrey Deitch, Los Angeles Photo: Charles White
  2. The Face Stealer’s Pond, 2021. Courtesy the artist and Perrotin, New York
  3. Neighborhood Sleep Paralysis, 2020. Courtesy the artist
  4. Aggie & Pieter, 2022. Courtesy the artist and Night Gallery, Los Angeles Photo: Nik Massey
  5. Mind-Body-Body Problem (After Junji Ito), 2022. Courtesy the artist and Lyles and King, New York
  6. Blue Kitchen, 2021. Courtesy the artist and Arsenal Contemporary Art, New York
  7. Evil Twin in Vivienne Tam, 2022. Courtesy the artist and Lyles and King, New York


After the release of her EP Circulus Vitiosus, the London-based artist has proved one thing: never let them know your next move!

‘I guess I’m ready to get married,’ Martyna Maja, better known as VTSS, jokes over video call after she fell down the stairs of her apartment last night. No cause for concern — it takes more than a stiff neck to get her worked up. As a matter of fact, the Polish techno misfit has been taking care of herself lately. She took a one month break and now takes life one existential crisis after another. Frankly, Maja has never been feeling better. ‘I finally like where I am and who I am,’ she says of a stellar career since her breakthrough in 2018. 

Ever since her EP Circulus Vitiosus was released at the end of last year on Ninja Tunes, the Polish-born artist showed the world that VTSS is more than just your favourite DJ. It’s an exploration of different alter egos –– never the same, always surprising. Not only for herself but also for her loyal stans, who are rightfully obsessed with her virtuosity and the way she feels utterly relatable, cracking jokes while constantly refining her very own take on techno music. ‘The idea of not pleasing anyone and not pleasing older generations was a bit of a breakthrough for me,’ she admits, knowing perfectly well what she’s doing behind the decks and not taking any hate from some internet troll hiding within the cracks of anonymity. 

VTSS has been growing up — she found her superpower and the answers that have been inside her all these years. 

Let’s start with some self-reflection. What’s something you learned about yourself recently?

That I’m not invincible. I learned how fragile we are as humans, how this nightclub lifestyle I’ve been living for almost half of my life really takes a toll on my health. With this career path, it’s normalised to tour 52 weeks a year. I feel like I’ve been lying to myself, telling myself, ‘it’s just one more week, and then you get a break’, but you can’t fix yourself when you’re physically exhausted. That’s why I called January off, which was the first time I ever had a holiday in 5 years. Now, I’m trying to figure out a balance of living this hedonistic lifestyle and not making myself feel worse. 

You’re hugely inspired by the process of becoming and self-healing. Could you share a bit of your journey? Where did you start, and how did you end up where you are now?

As a kid, I was quite good at everything, so I never really found this one thing I’m exceptional at. When you put all your eggs in different baskets, you’re kind of a social butterfly. As a result, I never really found myself until I found my purpose, and my purpose turned out to be work. That was probably when I was 20. Until then, I have been doing random shit I felt I was supposed to do. I went to law school and economics school just because I had a bit of interest, but back then I didn’t know what I really wanted to do. I fell in love with clubs, and music turned out to be the answer to missing some part of my identity. It has been a bumpy ride, we all know how careers in music are. Now, after almost 15 years since I started clubbing, I’m trying to find a purpose outside of work.

«It feels great to also be a person outside of being a musician and my work.»

I imagine it to be quite difficult when people put you in a box and expect you to be that one thing, no in-betweens.

Absolutely, and if this is your whole identity, it will really affect you when someone says something bad or mean. I guess that’s the case for a lot of people, and it’s a scary and dangerous place. When it’s all your life and all who you are, there’s nothing left if anything goes wrong. I’ve been working on this for the last 3 years, and it feels great to also be a person outside of being a musician and my work. It’s a process that is going to last forever, but it’s fun to go on this journey and to feel like finding this identity that I’ve been looking for, and finding the answers that have been inside me all those years. 

Your EP, Circulus Vitiosus wasreleased at the end of last year on Ninja Tune. What feels like a vicious circle in your life?

At one point, everything felt like a vicious circle. It’s been a journey to break all of them, so it doesn’t feel like that anymore. With this EP, VTSS got her voice –– it’s not just beats, there is a story behind it. I realised that VTSS is an exploration of all the versions of me if I had made different choices at some point. Some of those might hit closer to the truth than others, but I guess this really helped me to figure out what the truth is for myself. 

This issue is all about virtuosity. Have you always believed in yourself and your skills, or do you have moments when you don’t feel good enough?

It took me years and years of active practicing, touring and working every single week to be where I am and what I do the way I do it. I’m quite comfortable DJing in front of people, but last year when I started to go in the studio for the first time, I was absolutely terrified. It was the first time I started to make music with other people, not by myself at home, or sending stems back and forth. It was also my first session as a vocalist in front of strangers, which is such a new thing for me. I did my first session with Boys Noize, and we made an amazing track I’m really excited about. At the beginning I was so insecure and scared of going into these sessions that I don’t know enough, that I’m not technical enough, and that I will be so embarrassed. Afterwards, I learned that it’s actually OK to admit you don’t know stuff. It’s not like anyone is going to laugh at you, and if they do, it means they are mean people, and you never want to have anything to do with them anyway. Everyone does stuff in their own way and that’s the magic of it –– even the most DIY ‘unprofessional’ ways can be incredibly inspiring to others. 

When I think about my first Boiler Room for example, I might cringe about some technical aspects or mistakes that I hear, but skill comes with practice! Especially in creative arts, there are so many ways to do stuff. There’s no rulebook.

«Even if user10735 will tell you this is not the right way to do stuff, it doesn’t mean anything. You just have to keep going, get better and find your way.»

While we’re at it, what’s a secret skill of yours not everyone knows about?

I give amazing relationship advice. That has always been my obsession. You know, if someone says something silly, I’m holding it in — so I don’t give unsolicited advice. 

Imagine, you start all over and become a therapist…

Maybe at one point! That would be fun. Let’s see where music gets me and if I have the capacity to do it for the rest of my life, or at least for the next 20 years. But if not, this is the closest of what I probably would get into. When I speak to my therapist, I’m always like, ‘rate my coping mechanism!’

«Sometimes it’s really hard to work on yourself when your friends expect you to be who they know you are.»

You’re someone who embraces change, and not only moved from Berlin to London, but also shifted direction with your music. Do you feel like change comes easy for you, or is it a certain feeling you just have to act on? 

For me, change always felt natural. When I was a kid, I changed schools quite a lot. As I said before, I didn’t know my place and nothing really felt significant enough for me. I guess this is also my ADHD, which I didn’t know I had back then. It has always been very easy for me to move on, and I always loved the idea of starting over. That’s why London is so great because it’s so big that if I’m done with it, I can just move south and might not even run into anyone I know. I do love a little reset, getting rid of all the expectations and ideas of you, even the ideas your friends have about who you are. Sometimes it’s really hard to work on yourself when your friends expect you to be who they know you are. Sometimes it’s nice to have a clean slate, especially if you have many identity crises like I had, apparently. I had always lived by this quote from Sharpay of High School Musical fame: ‘It’s out with the old and in with the new.’ Now that I’m growing up, I don’t have the energy and time to play that game anymore. I finally like where I am and who I am, so maybe I don’t need to run away that much.

How do you manage to be your unapologetic self throughout this journey? 

It took me a long time to find out who I am, and I obviously made a lot of mistakes and burned a lot of bridges along the way. But you shouldn’t be scared of disappointing people if it’s for the greater good, and you shouldn’t let people’s expectations of you hold you back in any way.

That’s one of the most important things I learned in my whole career. Especially where I come from, there has always been this one idea of what techno music or what a DJ was supposed to be like. When I was younger, I tried to please a lot of people with my sound, because I knew if I would play too like this or that I would get hate for it. The idea of not pleasing anyone and not pleasing older generations was a bit of a breakthrough for me. I’m not Gen Z, sadly, but what I love about this generation so much is this unapologetic attitude of just doing your own thing.

«It was a really stressful process knowing this is who I am, but the whole world doesn’t know about it yet.»

There will always be haters, you can never please everyone.

Exactly. Even if there were moments when I was really affected by what was being said online, I got through it, because I knew the end goal and the only reason this is going to work out was authenticity. For me, it was also the courage to use my own voice with the last EP and release the music that wasn’t expected from me. I let go of my shell, and that was the breaking point for my identity process. I have always been struggling with vulnerability in everything –– in public spaces, but also in social relationships. It was a really stressful process knowing this is who I am, but the whole world doesn’t know about it yet. It’s been interesting to release something unexpected and invite all the hate. It made me feel stronger and helped me to be more vulnerable. You can’t be authentic without being vulnerable.

What’s your advice to help push yourself out of your comfort zone instead of postponing your ideas and dreams to the perfect moment, which doesn’t exist in the first place?

There will never be the perfect time, and waiting for hard things to get easier is not going to make us any stronger. I know that when you’re struggling to survive every day, it’s incredibly hard to see the potential in yourself and in your life. When you see people who share the same qualities do well on social media, it can either be inspiring or often make you feel so much worse because it seems like they are so much ahead of you. When I started to make music, I just had an old laptop I couldn’t even install Ableton on. So I borrowed an old white MacBook from a friend –– absolute vintage vibes –– and cracked the program. I didn’t have production headphones, so I just used random earpods and watched YouTube tutorials. It was an absolute nightmare, and I wanted to quit because I couldn’t get anything to work. None of the channels could hold more than one (even built-in) plugin, so I had to freeze and flatten every stem after every move. There will always be obstacles — what you have to do is nurture the drive inside you. Your mind will try to distract you, it doesn’t want to change stuff, it wants to keep the safe routine of the bare minimum. 

There’s nothing sexier than saying no. What’s the last thing you’ve been saying no to?

I’ve been saying no to alcohol for like a month and a half now. I realised how it was sabotaging the love for my work. When I woke up after a gig, the hangxiety was the only thing I remembered after a few days. I also said no to a work relationship, which was really hard to say no to because it felt like a good idea, and we’ve been nurturing it for a second. With stuff like that, it’s an act of kindness to let go and move on. I highly recommend saying no! If they don’t come back with a better opportunity, someone else will. It’s not the end of the world. If you don’t feel it, you shouldn’t push it. The universe has a way to find the right thing for you! 


Talent · VTSS
Creative Direction and Photography · Erika Kamano  
Styling · Natacha Voranger
Hair · Chrissy Hutton
Makeup · Mathilda Mace
Set Design · Louis Gibson
Photography Assistant · Steve Braiden
Styling Assistant · Aoife Akue
Retouching · Anna Pinigina
Location · Little Big Studios London
Interview · Juule Kay
Special thanks to Ludovica Ludinatrice at Modern Matters


  1.  Dress RUI ZHOU, shoes SINI SAAVALA and earring ROHAN MIRZA
  2.  Necklace ZWYRTECH, dress ANNA HEIM, panties SEHNSUCHT, leg warmers ANNA HEIM and shoes MATHILDE FENOLL
  5.  Head piece SOMA FAITANIN, leather piece SOMA FAITANIN and bodysuit PATRYCJA PAGAS 
  6.  Full look JOYCE BAO, shoes SINI SAAVALA  and earrings MILKO BOYAROV 

Cruel Santino

Born in 1992, Nigerian-born artist Osayaba Andrew Ize-Iyamu, aka Cruel Santino, has spread his talents at a pace and rhythm that has led to rapid development in his oeuvre and skillset.  Entering into Santino’s world is no easy feat.  An analysis of his work is cumbersome and tiring. It almost feels like walking into a packed gallery with great artwork but not enough walls.  In this case, there is a word limit. Looking at Santi’s work is difficult because, no matter what area is observed –  whether it is his video-game production, filmmaking, graphic designs or music, it makes no difference – there is a level of quality and intimate love that has been squeezed through the medium.  Since he released Mandy & The Jungle (2019), Santi has been seen as a musician. This box has various conditions that assist and obstruct an artist’s ability to create. He has since outstretched his wings and engulfed a wider array of mediums, a decision that has allowed him to reach a diverse range of audiences and express his entirety to the world.   

Observation involves a negotiation of the mind. When examining his work, it is easy to become amazed and overwhelmed by the impressive variety of skills the artist has and the  breadth of knowledge in each area he produces.  He is an example of how technical assertions and a devotion to craft can foster prosperous results for him as an artist and those who ensure his ongoing production.  In doing so, he has made a lot and has no plans of slowing down.  NR attempts to decipher the man who has no limits to his portfolio.  As he digs his toes into game design, creative direction and art unmarked by labels, Santi advocates for a movement towards creative freedom that is accessed by all.

 Santi is not merely an artist with raw talent but somebody that devotes his entire being to his work.  His intentions? To ensure others can do the same. Unbound by the conceptual chokehold of artistic monogamy, Santi sits down with NR to delve into how dreams are more than concepts: they are an impetus for potential action.

There is more to Cruel Santino (Santi) than meets the eye. To list accolades or only discuss his music would be reductive.  His art sets a scene that is unbound by the rhetoric of constriction.  His art is the object of the discussion, and he is the subject.  So, where are we, Santi?

I’m in London right now.  I’ve been here since the end of January and have another two weeks. I came here to try to get a different space to work in.  I had a bunch of stuff to do here, and I’ve been producing and doing everything here.

And you were just celebrating the first anniversary of your last album release: Subaru Boys: Final Heaven, released last year on March 4, 2022.  You celebrated through ‘Subaru World’.  What is that?

I did an installation and show in early March to celebrate the one-year. It definitely doesn’t feel like it has been a year. It was unplanned, but it was pretty well done. Showcasing the characters and the world of ‘Subaru’, the Institute of Contemporary Arts (ICA) instilled an immersive anime experience in collaboration with NTS Radio.  It felt great seeing the world we had built, the sounds made and the distance we have covered and will continue to cover.

And what were your inspirations for the album itself?

I usually have four things that make up my being: gaming, anime, film and music. For ‘Subaru’, the two main ingredients in its production were gaming and anime. Those are things that have always been around me in my life, and I have consumed them for my entire life. Even today, I checked how many games I had played between the release of PlayStation 4 (in late November 2013) and PlayStation 5 (released in late 2020) eras. It was about 340 different games.

That is… a lot.

It is a lot. And If you check my body, all my tattoos are anime related, so I feel like those two things are definitely the main ingredients that have made up ‘Subaru’.  I also took a lot of inspiration from Hideo Kojima, who really pushes the boundaries of what a game is and is meant to feel like; he’s just trying to tell you that a game can be anything. It doesn’t have to be one-dimensional or the same thing every time: he proved that a game can be anything.  I like to apply how he treats games to everything I do, whether music or video.  In doing so, I’m making music that can transport people and doesn’t have a box, music that can build a world that can be taken wherever through sounds.

And how do you see gaming transposed onto your work? 

Lots of games are played as drugs to release you from feeling, but I like to play AAA Campaign games, which really differ from Battle-royale type gaming.  There’s more of a narrative.  There is a world behind it, with excellent sound design, great voice-acting and graphics. I study all those things, and they all inspire me.

When did this all start? How did gaming become the conduit for your self-expression?

I didn’t realise until recently (maybe around 2020), but gaming shaped my sound immensely. When I was younger, I didn’t really have a way to hear various songs back home (in Nigeria). I found so many songs through Fifa, for example. I really only found songs through the games I played.

Released in 2019, Mandy & The Jungle (your first studio Album) was inspired by a lot of things…cartoons, the dancehall era, and gaming.  But things changed after that.

I needed to push the boundaries of what I was trying to make. At one point, during some period of quarantine, I was gaming too much, listening to music, watching anime, and getting to the point where I couldn’t ever see anything the same way anymore. I would look at everything in life and hear anything and its sound, run back home and try to fuse the sound, thinking, ‘oh, this would sound great in a game’, or when I would make songs, I would try looking for a clip of the game and put my music over it, watching the clip to see how it made me feel.  Everything felt like anime to me. The thing is, I wanted to make a world that would attract what I wanted. I want to make games, I want to make anime, and I want to make more films.  I asked myself, ‘how do I build this world with what I’m trying to do?’ and it came through the world of ‘Subaru’, which is slowly attracting everything I want.

When it comes to your movements in the creative sphere, you’ve done graphics for artists, directed videos for musicians like Goldlink and worked in many areas.  When did all that start?

I’ve done that all my life.  I’m not just a musician.  I have never been just a musician.  When I was just a kid, when I was ten, I used to act in Church and do Church dramas in schools and started writing scripts and stuff like that. I could have been anything at first: I could have been an actor or a writer or anything; I wanted to create experiences and create stuff. But, the thing is, music came out because of all these other things around me that I’ve crafted and sharpened to build up the music. Even down to the creation of characters in ‘Subaru’, I’ve been able to give people backstories and worlds around them. I feel like, if you know me and my music, you would never see me as a musician.

You are more than just ‘one’ thing.

Definitely, the way I see life and create music is like method acting.  It’s sort of like Daniel Day-Lewis, going into his own space and shedding off ‘the self’ for the role. It’s crazy because you think, ‘how do you go from playing this character to another’ and you realise he really is just shedding off the old and becoming the new , applying it to himself and growing. I feel that you can’t play a role that is not in you, so if you feel there is something in you for it, you just have to learn more about it to the point where you can become it and do it.  

Do you think you’ve achieved that level? Are you happy with how far you’ve come?

I feel like I’m still working on that. Coming from Nigeria, trying to do what I’m doing is… well, some people don’t think it’s even possible, so I’m just happy that I can do the things that I’m doing right now because I have the chance to do it and keep growing in that environment.

And how do you think people react to your multi-faceted style?

Some people don’t understand what I do, but I feel like I’m more concerned about creating. That’s the thing. People have received me well, they appreciate what I do, and that’s great. It keeps me going, but my focus is on the fact that I have to keep creating, and I have to keep making sure to keep pushing boundaries.

Over fame and novelty, you seem to really promote a priority of production – so do you just want to create? Did you always try to do this from day one?

Yeah, I just want to create. Success (and all that other stuff) will come if your creation is pure and timeless. I’ve always tried to incorporate myself into everything; all my videos are directed by me, and most of them are edited by me. I’ve always tried to be that person who can do most crafts.  My craft wouldn’t be mine if I didn’t do the work; you can tell something is missing. If I don’t put all these touches in my work, it will never feel like it’s ‘Santi’. So that’s why I try to have as many roles as possible in my projects.

Did someone inspire you to make a conscious effort to take on that burden?

I’m just good at creating stuff. Where I come from, I’ve always dreamed of making these things in my country, trying to improve all these aspects of my country. I want to hopefully make a game there, and if you have the infrastructure to set it up, and I  have the foundation of sound to set the music up. Now that I’ve gone from making sounds to making an anime, gaming world, I can see it getting bigger and going further. I want to keep making things that expand possibilities, and since I’m not just a musician, I’ll be able to do it.

When transferring a skillset and mindset from one album to another or one project to another, there must be variations in your level of confidence and experience. Where do you think you have improved?

Recently I’ve learnt how to make my music cinematic and learnt more about the technical side of film. Before, I could edit and direct, but now, I shoot stuff for my friends, I shoot stuff myself, and I go out and shoot a video and come back home and edit properly. All of that came later, though, after years of experience. 

Was there any group or person that inspired you to go into this multi-direction?

Nobody ever really gave me advice. I’ve literally always been in this bubble working. Sometimes I wish that I’d had a mentor. I don’t really have anybody else, and I started building all this up around covid, both before and around that period. 

How important is your team?  Does it feel special to work with people now?

It feels good. It feels great when people try to help you do stuff because people taking time out of their lives to help you is really kind. For me, generally, anyone that does that, I’m eternally grateful.

«As humans – and especially artists – we need to realise that you can’t downplay the interplay between us and how much it can help you build.»

You are only one person, and you can’t do it all by yourself, so appreciate anybody who is there for you in any capacity, no matter what it is.

Do you find it important to be in other people’s lives? Does it make you feel good to contribute to other people’s lives? Are you now in a community where everyone helps everyone?

It makes me feel better, but it’s more about their feelings. It is essential to make people feel. To make people feel like you know their worth, no matter what the person is doing. If people take their time to help you build your world, then they believe in you so much that they take their own time to work on you.  So you have to take time out of your life to help them. It makes you feel humbled and balanced, it makes you feel human. Sometimes when you are an artist, you are a step back from what is happening in the world. You can be so focused on what you are doing but be unaware of what is going on around you. I feel like taking time out to be around people keeps you in the loop. People keep you in the world.

So the community keeps you up-to-date with what’s going on. Does it help you keep producing new material? How does collaboration further this goal?

I just want to see it all happen. Collaboration is key in all of it. The journey of your world to someone else’s world is very important. A sense of community definitely helps. If I had stayed to myself,  I wouldn’t have grown as an artist. Meeting new people helps so much, and last year I took time off to spend time with my friends in their worlds, and they helped me so much with building ‘Subaru’.  

Do you have friends in the industry that have helped you? 

I don’t have ‘industry friends’. I just have friends that I’ve always known before. We all came together and found ourselves in this place, and I feel that’s also what makes everything feel so different to me.  I don’t have music people or anything. The people that make music are my friends? I knew them before we stepped anywhere near music, and they’ve always been with me, and that’s why our community is strong and the way it is. 

«Starting up together changes everything.»

Where does the media come into your world and the world of others? What do you think people have to say about you?

Everybody creates whatever they want to think or say about me. The media is going to come in and do their thing.  At some point, I was known as a devil worshiper because I liked horror movies. Later it was something else… It’s just a lot of things. I don’t think I’ve ever been described as one thing for too long. They just let me do my thing, and they are always in anticipation and will either like it or not.  I don’t think it’s ever been straightforward with me, and I don’t think there has ever been one way the media has interacted with me.

You can always keep them guessing. It’s probably better for you: you have less obligation to perform to a certain standard. People will eat it up no matter what, but does the fact that you make so much mean that audiences must experience all of it to truly appreciate you as an artist?

I believe that in everything I do, there is no specific audience or demographic. I make everything for everybody. There has to be some substance to draw from everything.  There are ways to draw people in, people from different sectors, and I don’t focus on one demographic because I’ve been inspired by so much that it should be for everyone.  

Surely that gets overwhelming… It can’t be easy when you are working with so many senses, especially since you aren’t just producing sounds but images, concepts, emotions and tactile substances.

Ah, yes, always. I need to try to rest. I need to start taking breaks because I never take breaks; mentally, I just can’t do it, and if I hear a sound, I just want to go back and produce and start thinking of what I need to do, or I start brainstorming a shoot. It’s a never-ending cycle, and I’m trying to work on it.  That’s the thing; sometimes, it’s just not the best. I can hear one sound, and I’m already zoned in.

Do you think that your drive is always going to be there? Even if you don’t rest?

No matter how driven I am, I feel the effects of me working myself too much and overthinking. I definitely need to work on that; as a human being, you can’t treat your body well without some recalibrations. But it’s not easy, and even if I’m travelling, I’m working or inspired to work.

So you have a bit of a full plate.  Does that impact your time management? 

Luckily, no. I take my time with everything, and since I’m doing so much, I have to really ensure that everything is balanced.  I can spend three months making the music and then spend another month on the writing. When I build up the music more, I have the opportunity to build up more of the narrative. Just giving time for certain things is really important.  After each project, I look at what I have done and whether I could have done something better. No matter how good or great something is, time needs to be devoted to knowing all the components; even if they take me a long time to develop, I must make sure that I treat every aspect of the concept and give every bit of it the same treatment and love. Everything has to have energy in it.

How do you see your work growing? What’s your end goal, and what do you feel is the best thing that could happen?

You have to just keep learning.

«My goal is to create a space where Nigerians, Africans and the world, in general, can tap in and create freely. I want to make a safe space for people with dreams.  I hate that they are just dreaming. If they want to do it, they should be able to.»

Once there’s a safe space for that, anybody can achieve their creations. There is so much talent in the world and people with dreams. What I have put down, what led me to create what I’m making, needs to be facilitated for someone. The codes must be passed to someone so that new things can be built; that’s just how life should be. If there’s a space where all of this can exist, then we will be able to create things forever.

The plan, then, is to facilitate people’s dreams. 

A lot of people keep to themselves. But people together can push boundaries. Lots of artists don’t really come together to produce something, and it puzzles me. Unfortunately, not every environment allows you to dream that much, and it’s nobody’s fault in particular. Some countries just don’t give room for that sort of creative freedom.  Everything I’m doing is a dream because it came from a dream, not from me seeing that it was possible.  It was just a dream and a belief that I could do this and change how things work. That’s what keeps me pushing. I could have chased the commercial route and chased solely making money. But that’s not why I’m doing all of this.

«It wouldn’t feel right for me to do that, and my goal is to create an environment where you show love to everybody and ensure everybody tries.»


Photography · Lea Winkler
Styling · Emma Simmonds 
Grooming · Ryunoshin Tomoyose
Photography Assistants · Guy Parsonage and Tom Frimley
Location · Spring Studios
Interview · Billy De Luca
Special thanks to Jaisha Thomas-Hinds at Wired PR


  1.  Jeans VERSACE JEANS COUTURE at The Arc, jewellery BUNNEY, belt and trousers POLO RALPH LAUREN, boxer shorts ANDERSON & SHEPPARD, socks SHIRO, shoes CHURCH’S and angel wings COSTUME STUDIO
  2.  Blazer vintage at The Arc, polo shirt and shirt POLO RALPH LAUREN, hoodie COMME DES GARÇONS x MORPHEW at The Arc, jeans A1 DENIM, tie vintage from The Vintage Collection Camden, belt POLO RALPH LAUREN, boxer shorts ANDERSON & SHEPPARD, socks SHIRO, shoes CHURCH’S
  3.  T-shirt vintage at The Arc, hoodie COMME DES GARÇONS x MORPHEW at The Arc, jeans A1 DENIM, socks SHIRO and shoes CHURCH’S
  4.  Denim shirt POLO RALPH LAURE, t-shirt GAP, jeans A1 DENIM, jewellery BUNNEY, socks SHIRO and shoes CHURCH’S
  5.  Denim shirt POLO RALPH LAUREN, white shirt DEGE & SKINNER, t-shirt GAP and jewellery BUNNEY
  6.  Hoodie COMME DES GARÇONS x MORPHEW at The Arc, shirt vintage at The Arc, jewellery BUNNEY, boxing shorts vintage LONSDALE at The Arc, socks SHIRO and shoes CHURCH’S

Tommaso Montenesi Posch

We suck young blood


Photography · Tommaso Montenesi Posch
Art Direction · Luca Paolantonio and Tommaso Montenesi Posch
Styling · Luca Paolantonio
Casting · Morfosi Studio
Hair · Dominique Ascione at Blend Management
Makeup · Raffaelle Tomaiuolo at Blend Management
Set Design · Giulia Zollet
Models · Samuele C, Ko Eun Woo and Paul
Photography Assistants · Marcello Raguso and Maria Luisa Zoccoli
Set Design Assistant · Elisa Grumi
Poster Design · Pierfrancesco Gallo
3D Artist · Michele Ciniero


  1. Coat, Shirt and trousers VAIN, top MAINLINE:RUS/Fr.CA/DE and shoes SONORA
  2. No credits
  3. Shirt and tie GEORGE WENDELL, skirt JOHANNES AHLFORS and shoes SONORA
  4. Shirt and trousers ARTTU AFELDT, top MAINLINE:RUS/Fr.CA/DE and tie E.MARINELLA NAPOLI
  5. Full look PRADA
  7. Full look FERRAGAMO
  8. Full look ARTTU AFELDT, shoes GEORGE WENDELL, shirt and shorts ARTTU AFELDT and leggings stylist’s own
  9. Coat and Trousers XIMONLEE, shirt JOHANNES AHLFORS, gloves VAIN and shoes SONORA

Ellen Allien

Ellen Allien, the legend of Berlin’s club history, has found that cultivating a strong community has been crucial to her creative process and success since the 90s. Her movement is grounded in friendship, emotional support and sharing ideas and resources. While others may seek rapid growth and instant recognition, Allien values patience, diligence, honesty and a touch of eccentricity.

With an unrelenting passion for new sounds, names and ideas, Allien is always on the lookout for fresh talent to add to BPitch, her multi-genre label founded in 1999, or to feature at her ‘We Are Not Alone’ techno party series and releases. As the big boss and experienced traveller, she takes full responsibility for her decisions and avoids spreading negativity to those around her. While she’s open to other perspectives and voices, ultimately, she makes the final call on what’s best for her. All hail the queen of her own life, Ellen Allien.

Ellen Allien is an iconic name in techno culture, and when I hear your name, I think of unending energy. How do you keep the energy going for so many years?

I’m very positive, and this keeps me going. I try my best not to spread negative energy or bring others down. I’m very social and outgoing, and some might see this as being positive or energetic, but it’s mostly because I know what I want and what’s good for me. I’ve made the right decisions for myself, which allows me to be confident and enthusiastic about life.

While travelling and DJing, I’ve encountered many challenging situations, such as not having a hotel, cancelled flights, missing equipment. These experiences have taught me valuable lessons, and instead of complaining about the situation, I focus on finding solutions. I also witnessed the fall of the Berlin Wall in the 90s, which made me realise how quickly things can change in society. 

We live among other people, which means certain things are beyond our control. For instance, my assistant could decide not to work anymore, or I could choose to close my company. Sometimes, things happen that we have no control over, and we may not have a solution.

The first thing one notices about you is that you’re very community-oriented. You don’t always need to be surrounded by famous or successful people. You enjoy spending time with those around you and creating intimate and fun initiatives, like the lockdown streaming from your balcony to make things more fun. That mindset is unique in this industry, because people often turn into divas or burn bridges with others when they become successful — but you’ve maintained a sense of community, which is impressive.

I’ve been running my record company since 1996, and we’ve worked with many artists. I’ve seen some really unique and interesting characters, but I’ve found that the craziest people often make the best music. So, no matter how someone may seem, we’re always happy to work with them. As long as the music is great, we are willing to deal with people. One artist told me recently: ‘Oh, Ellen, I do therapy now.’ I said, ‘Yeah, the therapy is good for you and your friends. But you know what? Be careful that your music doesn’t change because you’re a genius.’

So it means you are good at handling chaos, right? 

I personally don’t have a lot of chaos in my life, but I do notice other people’s chaos. I try not to let it bother me too much; if I can maintain a normal sleep schedule and feel good, I can handle whatever is happening around me. I know that no one can destroy me except myself. If I let myself become too stressed or sick, then that’s my own doing.

Some people try therapy, and some do other treatments to feel better. Music is healing, and it’s something that I didn’t pursue because it was trendy or for money, but because it’s what I truly love. I’m obsessed with music and have been since I was a teenager. It’s my life. I love my job and I love travelling.

Producing something you love is beautiful. When the freshly pressed records arrive, you check a record sleeve for the first time. When you hold a magazine, you see the pictures and read the interview. When a painter paints an image and it turns out beautiful. You can analyse it and see how you can improve it, which brings you to another level. Being an artist is a beautiful thing because it’s created from your energy. Of course, people have to like it, but even if they don’t, you can still be happy if you love it.

It’s important to know your own tastes and trust yourself. It’s easy to fall into copying others, and it might be hard to be original because there’s so much out there. We all have influences, but if you take the time to analyse and understand how music or other art is made, you can try to create something similar in your own way. Many artists do this, and it can be a fun challenge in the studio. But, personally, I don’t approach creating in this way.

In one of your recent interviews, you mentioned that you don’t like this current trend with blends and edits from pop hits and radio music. It became especially noticeable when the internet culture hit the dance floor after we spent too much time online during the lockdowns. How do you not let the trends that don’t resonate with you affect your approach to DJing? 

Playing pop music that everyone knows makes it easier to make the crowd put their hands up for photos and videos, but that’s not what makes a great night for me. A great night is when people dance with their eyes closed or think while dancing, not just putting their hands up to popular songs by Britney Spears or Madonna. That’s the easiest way to have a big audience, but it should be more about finding a way to grab attention by doing proper research. Nowadays, people go online and take stuff they find without effort. They don’t go to record stores anymore, where the person selling records might have suggestions if you ask for something specific.

So, no, I don’t buy this. Maybe those DJs [playing radio hits] are going to grow fast. But they’re not doing anything original, outstanding or fresh. 

Time and people have evolved in today’s world, and so has the audience. As a DJ, we hold power to transform everything. We change the dance floor and the music if we take risks and blend different things together. We don’t just come to mix what’s already there. We must take chances. If you’re not willing to take risks, then you’re not a good teacher to me. Building a history or a specific journey is important, even if you don’t want to create something entirely new.

You mean building storytelling in music? 

Yeah, a story. I believe that for something to be considered art, it needs to have a story or meaning behind it. Simply playing music from other artists doesn’t qualify as art unless it’s done in a unique and handcrafted way. I love to bring people pleasure through my music. Seeing the audience react emotionally, whether it’s through smiling or crying, brings me joy. My goal is to create an atmosphere where the music takes over and the audience becomes lost in the sound and space. I want to create an experience where people can escape from their daily lives and immerse themselves in the music and atmosphere of the club.

Music is becoming increasingly global, with different scenes influencing each other. For example, many use Baile Funk or other edits of Latin American music in their sets. You’ve recently travelled to Brazil. Did you get inspired by the variety of music there and their unstoppable desire to dance? 

In Brazil, there are so many good musicians in the streets and slums, playing drums and making music everywhere. There are so many talented artists exploring new beat structures and so on. The scene in São Paulo is amazing, and it’s growing. The Carlos Capslock Festival was also fantastic, most of the festival goers are Brazilians, everybody is so kind, you can meet so many people and quickly connect with them. It’s super inspiring. I think it’s essential for Brazilian music to grow because Portuguese is more widely spoken than English. This music has to grow, and it’s great that black artists are getting more recognition now. After Black Lives Matter, everything changed, and more black artists are getting bookings now. This has to be the norm. We need Brazilian and South American music worldwide, playing on the radio in England, America and Germany.

You mentioned earlier that you worked with Badsista on a track while you were in Sao Paulo. Is it something new that you will release together? 

We went in the studio and both recorded some vocals—she in Portuguese and me in German. We have to see later if we can use it.

I feel like after the pandemic, the techno scene has become more hysterical. Everyone is trying hard and fast to make it happen. It’s just like there’s not so much community spirit from my experience. To me it seems like many people are agitated to make a lot of money in one go. But how do you feel about the techno scene after the Covid?

I don’t have those feelings, at least not with our artist here at BPitch. Maybe at the beginning, some were nervous about paying the rent because prices for everything got very high. But I don’t feel like artists are hysterical because they have shows. Some promoters have failed, but some have become big. Many shows weren’t sold out last year, but now many of my upcoming shows are already sold out. 

On the other hand, too many artists want to grow fast because they see others doing it and want the same success. For me, it took a long time to start making good money. I had three side jobs for the first ten years, but that’s not something every artist goes through nowadays. However, you can grow fast if you have the right plan and a good manager. So, if that’s what you want, go for it! I just feel like if you don’t build a community around you, you will not last. I don’t care about those who don’t support or invest time in others. For me, music is sharing and caring. It’s also an intellectual exchange. 

To build a community in music, it’s essential to connect with people. You can invite your friends to collaborate on mix tapes or DJ sessions and make music with others as we did in Brazil. Even if nothing comes out of it, it’s still worth doing. This is a movement, and you’re just a little part of it. So it’s important to go with the flow.

If you’re nervous about business or money, people can sense it. They can see it in your face and on social media. Narcissists get anxious easily. They crave attention, money, and success; if they don’t get it, they freak out. They lack empathy and don’t care about building a community. They may create music that pleases the crowd, regardless of quality, just to gain popularity quickly. These people are not part of the true music movement. They have their own agenda and are only focused on their personal gain. Unfortunately, there are more and more people like this, as many grow up without a strong family structure or support system. 

Your own parties ‘We Are Not Alone,’ held at RSO Berlin, invite various artists from big names to local emerging talents. Are you planning to get more extensive and international with it, or do you want to keep it intimate in your hometown?

Our approach with ‘We Are Not Alone’ is what I meant by ‘the community.’ We invite artists we love but also ask friends from our BPitch family to play. We try to have a colourful, queer booking. Our lineups are made with love, and we research a lot. We listen to the sets and productions and make sure that the artists we want to present fit our lifestyle. For example, when people run labels, you can see they do something for the movement. 

I like how you use the word ‘movement’ and not ‘scene.’

Movement means that there is a big river and we take each other in the right direction. I find this metaphor powerful because it reminds me to create and not get too nervous, even when our governments are stirring up fear. I see this as a radical way to survive in big cities, by not giving in to what they try to put on us and working for small companies instead. By building our own companies and supporting other talented people, we can make our movement bigger and stronger. But it’s not possible to do when you are working with Madonna edits, there are so many other talented singers to work with and reference. Just do your fucking research!

When your Rosen EP came out in early 2022, you started using the metaphor of the mask from the album’s artwork by Erased Memories. Is this about becoming more genuine when one takes off their mask?

When I released the album, I wanted to play more with this alien figure with a gold aura, based on the artwork of my album cover. I then decided to wear masks on my face as a way to emphasise that the image people have of me is not me but a projection of their beliefs and values.

Everyone sees me differently, depending on their religion, education, and other factors. That’s why I feel like I’m a fictional character that people create in their minds. But I’m okay with that, because I understand that people’s perceptions of me are influenced by the stories they hear or the media they consume.

Wearing masks helps me to emphasise this fictional aspect of my persona. It’s like a visual cue that reminds people that what they see is not necessarily the real me. This concept also applies to how I write my lyrics, as I often use metaphors and symbolism to convey my message. I like to keep things open-ended. The sentences in my music have a spiritual quality to them, allowing people to interpret them in their own way and let their imaginations run wild. That’s what makes techno so important to me – it’s electronic music that can allow people to dream and fantasise in their own way. My music is not about me or my message, but rather what people can make of it themselves. While I appreciate punk bands and raw lyrics, I also need music that lets me fly and dream and put my own ideas into it.

I feel like often, because of this escapist and hedonistic side of the club culture, people lose connection to reality and forget what techno represented originally. The idea of escapism was also there, but it was initially about exposing and resisting the world’s injustices and striving toward a more equitable and inclusive future. In today’s techno world, people often lose the connection to the times and places where music was a statement.

Music is still a statement. At least, at our parties, music is a statement. Of course, there’s also the capitalistic side of techno now because promoters want to make money with it. But there are communities in the underground who seek freedom, and by exchanging their ideas, they get stronger. That’s why a club is a place where not everybody should be able to enter.

The community must have space to communicate and create new forms of life. In underground clubs or rooms that aren’t accessible to everyone, people exchange ideas and make changes. They can say, ‘Tomorrow, let’s take to the streets and stage a demonstration, and 5,000 people will join us.’

All of this is created on platforms, whether physical or online spaces, that are not accessible to everyone. The club scene is particularly important for this. I’ve met many people I work with at clubs, bars, and restaurants. These places serve as essential meeting points. They are not just drug dens like some movies portray them. Instead, they serve as platforms for people searching for something they can change.

I hope we can create change together and find people who share our passions, whether in politics, photography, design, or any other field. On the other hand, some people are consumers [of club culture], and they need these spaces as therapy. 

We need these experiences to lose ourselves and sometimes to find ourselves again. It’s also a way to feel reborn. However, some become addicted to the lifestyle and end up in financial trouble, and you don’t see them around anymore. They may move to a different place or start doing something else. On the other hand, some creatives draw inspiration from the music and the people they meet there, and it fuels their creative blood.

I’ve met many people who used to have regular jobs but quit to work with creative communities. This transition can happen if you meet a diverse group of people, not just those from your field of study. In Berlin, many people meet at clubs. These clubs need areas where the music isn’t too loud so people can talk, sit and communicate effectively. This is crucial because it’s where many great ideas and collaborations start, eventually leading to art and other creative projects in the city.

Berlin is still attractive for newcomers, but many are complaining about gentrification and how it’s changing the city and its club culture. Local creatives are concerned with rising rent prices and living expenses.

The solution is to start rebuilding Berlin further outside the city centre, where space is still available. It’s up to us to bring our energy and make something happen rather than trying to fit into already overcrowded areas. When I started living in Kreuzberg, it was an underdeveloped area, but someone made it happen. We should remember that and try to replicate that success elsewhere.

In an earlier interview, you once said that in the 90s, when you were starting your DJ career, being a DJ also meant being a freak. To me, it means that being a DJ requires a certain level of uniqueness or quirkiness. What does this ‘freaky energy’ mean to you today? 

Like I said earlier, if you’re not different from others, you can’t create music that is truly unique. Having freaky energy is always good when creating music. You can approach music in a mathematical way, and it can still convey a lot of emotion, but it may lack some empathy. I prefer music that’s a little bit dirty and strange rather than ‘clean’ or sweet. However, it’s up to the listener to decide what they prefer, and I think every type of music has the right to exist. Having a bit of freakiness helps to create something new and different.


Talent · Ellen Allien
Photography · Nina Raasch 
Styling · Fabiana Vardaro
Hair · Berenice Ammann  
Makeup · Sabina Pinsone 
Set Design · Stefanie Grau 
Photography Assistant · Žilvinas Tokarevas
Set Design Assistant · Lars Schefftel
Styling Assistant · Eimoan
Location · Plush74, Berlin 
Interview · Mariana Berezovska
Special thanks to Milena Brandy Crow and Melissa Taylor


  2. Trenchcoat RICHERT BIEL
  3.  Bustier FENDI, trousers SIA ARNIKA and shoes VERSACE

Matthias Leton



Photography · Matthias Leton 
Styling · David Herrera
Casting · Cameron Nedrick
Hair · Ruby Howes 
Make-Up Artist · Leana Ardeleanu
Flowers · Misha at Studio Linné
Production · Anytime Studios
Models · Tory at Modelwerk and Edda at Miha Modelmanagement
Photography Assistant · Nico Markschat
Styling Assistant · Maria Krementi 
Light Assistant · Ibrahim Cavas


  2. Jacket DAVID KOMA, top SF1OG, skirts OLIVIA BALL and OUR LEGACY
  3. Top and Trousers LOU DE BETOLY, tights FALKE, and shoes ANCUTA SARCA

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