Acidwitch are a new feminist DJ collective based in Budapest. They run their own fortnightly »Séance« night, where they go on musical explorations without limitations of genre. Ulrich Rois talked to the two High Witches Alexandr and Yinna about their musical background, the Budapest scene and the role feminism, the psychedelic experience and witchcraft play in their musical and political work.
Hi, can you tell us a bit about how Acidwitch came together? What was your main inspiration to work together and start the »Séance« series?
Yinna: It was always obvious for me that I have to do something together with Szandra. When we started it, I didn’t know any sisters in the Budapest scene who would play similar music. What Szandra was doing around that time was very inspirational for me – I remember we would send the newest outsider stuff to each other back then. She would dig up amazing new music, and I went totally crazy about that we finally have something new here. And we didn’t only match in music – we both wanted to do something powerful, something that’s not about wanting to fit the stereotypical female image on stage for once. It’s about making an acid party, which is by the way made by women.
Alexandr: We have »Séance« every second Wednesday in a pub downtown. One of our inspirations for starting this series was Salon Des Amateurs in Dusseldorf. Here we can play music that we can’t – or don’t dare to – in a club. We’d like to test this concept in a club situation now. Our February Séance will be the last one for a while, so we can concentrate on all-night parties.
According to your facebook page, you define yourself as a feminist DJ collective. Can you tell us the reason behind choosing to explicitly define Acidwitch as a feminist project?
Yinna: There are still too few well-known female and non-male artists in electronic music. This is a problem because they do want to make music and they have the talent too, they just don’t get enough opportunities. The fact that we’re feminists boils down to three things: First, we’re women (and feminists) who support each other. Second, we try to dig up and play lots of female/non-male music (and we try to make sure not to play sexist music at our parties). And third, our goal is that everyone feels safe at our parties, regardless of gender and any other attribute – and that women should not fear harassment or have to confirm to any kind of standards. When we made this explicit at our first party, co-organized with SLANT, it caused a big trouble (even a government-side journalist, Zsolt Bayer wrote about it). By the way these rules also apply to my show Outline on Radio Tilos.
Alexandr: Before this project came to life, there was some effort in a feminist group that a few of us girls should get together, throw a party, and support each other’s music projects. We had a meeting planned but, in the end, only Nikki (Yinna) and I went. Originally we wanted a DJ collective with more artists like Discwoman or female:pressure, but then we decided to do it as we are and it became our DJ/organizer project.
Your DJ sets seem to comprise quite a broad variety of musical styles. Can you tell us a bit about your respective musical development, how you came to electronic music, started DJing etc.?
Alexandr: I became a music collector in my teens, since we have internet at home. This hasn’t changed a bit. Sitting in a room and discovering music for days on end, nothing tunes me out like that. Electronic music has been a special love from the beginning, although I like all kinds of music. But it was totally accidental that i became a DJ. There was an alternative/indie party going on in Budapest with lesbian audience back then and I liked showing my music to the DJs there. It just never occurred to me that this would make me a DJ, too. After a while they asked me why I am not playing at their parties instead. Everything started there. I love showing my music and talking about it, that’s it. The rest came later, and the last few years have been about finding my own sound. I’ve always loved DJ mixes, I practically grew up listening to them. As a DJ my primary goal is to play my tracks that I gathered from many different directions in the right order, because that’s what makes it or breaks it. I play a more conservative fusion of house and techno under my own name, and I bring my more frantic self to the front in Acidwitch, a more visceral, rough, dark but unchained side.
Yinna: Haha, my story is a classic one, in my teens I loved rock music but after my first psychedelic experiences I turned towards electronica. Now I still listed to lots of psychedelic stuff besides electronic music, I’m interested in the intersection of these genres as a producer and as a DJ. I found myself in outsider things in the past years - I don’t mean that kind of lo-fi house that’s become mainstream and boring, but everything outside of this. The DJ thing came pretty early, back then there was a vibrant club life here in Hungary. I remember my friends couldn’t really party with me because I would spend half of the night in the first row, watching what the DJ is doing. Then I had a bit of luck, I managed to put my hands on two turntables when I was 17, and I never really left them alone for a few years.
You are based in Budapest and there seem to be a lot of interesting things going on there in the electronic music world recently. How do you experience the music scene in Budapest and how do you think your projects fits into the whole thing?
Yinna: You’re right, there’s a lot of exciting and inspirational things going on. I feel very lucky that I’m head over ears in this, and that despite all the obstacles, I got so many opportunities in the past years. I see many reassuring things, like at my label Farbwechsel they’re very happy and proud that I’m the first woman on the team, and they want to have others too. Luckily there are so much more women in the scene than a year ago. All that said, I don’t think that everything’s alright outside my little bubble, and that Acidwitch is a thing that fits everywhere. Just think about techno, it wasn’t white in the beginning, and wasn’t the boring background music for men who want to pick up girls on a Saturday night, instead it was very political and critical of the society. We also aren’t part of that world and we don’t represent that.
Alexandr: It’s interesting that I didn’t only become a DJ but an organiser too. This happened about 6 years ago, and since then the Budapest scene made lots of progress, but with all this experience I have I can see that there’s still room to improve. Still, I don’t want to be the person always complaining. My main area is LGBTQ parties, and I have a party I’m organizing with two mates called OMOH that’s been running for 2 years. Nowadays I’m researching the concept of safe space, which is a totally natural thing abroad, like in Berlin, but at home it’s not. Acidwitch is also a project where we can experiment with ideas that have no roots at home. The team of SLANT helps us a lot with that, they do great work.
Your project name as well as the name of your event series »Séance« seem to suggest an interest in spirituality and witchcraft. What role does this element play for you in your musical and political work?
Yinna: I won’t comment on my own relationship with witchcraft and spirituality, these are very personal topics for me. But I’m happy to talk about the political aspect of this, which is part of everything we do in an abstract way. Not only Acidwitch for me it’s in Outline, and for Szandra in OMOH. Just think about who were the ones known as witches and being hunted in the old times: those who didn’t fit into the patriarchy, or didn’t suit the church, those who only believed in true knowledge and didn’t serve this pile of crap. Many times, simply being a woman was enough.
Alexandr: It’s interesting what Yinna says, I have to admit there’s truth in that for me too. It’s been a long way to accept my witchcraft, this is a role that comes with big responsibility, and the danger of burning yourself too.
If I’m correct, Acidwitch is a pretty recent project. What are your plans for the future with it?
Alexandr: Perform as Acidwitch as much as possible at different places, start a party series focusing on female artists. One of our long-term goals is to produce music together.
Yinna: Give acid to the people!