Creating music that doesn’t fit into a mold but is crafted from her own style, Soela aims to continuously express an often overlooked aspect of electronic music: sincerity. A dive into her catalog of releases on labels like Detroit Underground, Fauxpas Musik, Shall Not Fade and KOMPAKT reveals a signature sound that remains unrestricted by limitations, where tracks range from downtempo to deep house to techno while maintaining a musicality that is evidence of years of experience as a pianist and vocalist. Soela’s DJ mixes follow the same formula of experimentation and emotion, connecting to the crowd through diverse genres and blended rhythms.
Soela brings to 5 Mag a vinyl-only DJ mix that showcases her style and substance, while we catch up with her to learn about her experiences in the industry and what to expect next.
Soela photos by Victor Kiktenko
What’s going on in your world lately that you’re excited about?
I have an upcoming release on Australian label Nerang Recordings. It’s run by my friend Chris, and I made an EP especially for him. I can say that it’s the first time I produced something for a label because usually I make some tracks, put them in one playlist and send to labels my music could fit with.
Another reason is that I asked my friend Vladimir from Ukraine to make a remix on a track. He’s a very talented producer, and I was really shocked when he said that he produces everything on an old laptop and DJ headphones, because his music sounds so good! It’s not my first collaboration with him, but our previous track that we produced together seems to be not as good as I want from the perspective of mixing and arrangement. But I’m sure that it was a big step for both of us. After the first collaboration we started to understand each other even better, even though we don’t know each other in real life.
I have some music coming up as a part of compilations on Shall Not Fade and Furthur Electronic and a solo EP on Axaminer Records.
And I’m also excited because I finally feel that I’m ready to produce more music. I was in a crisis during last 6 months, and I had a break to get some new thoughts and understand why I make music in general.
And now I finally came back to the music. For example, some time ago I started to produce neoclassic and ambient. I’m a pianist and I was listening to a lot of classic music and jazz when I was learning the piano and music theory and music history.
Listen: Soela – A 5 Mag Mix #89
Do you think your approach to, or feelings about, working in the music industry has changed since you first began?
Yes, definitely. It’s naive to say that the industry hasn’t changed during the last few years because of social media and marketing-related things.
When you’re a newcomer, and you just start to make music and upload it to the internet, you’re thinking that people are going to like it and you will get plenty of fans very soon, you’ll play as a DJ and just end up being a happy person because you do a thing that you really love. And of course, you hope that you will earn good money for your work.
But the reality isn’t like this. You have to be not only a musician and DJ, you have to be a good manager and PR agent, and every person who has ambitions in music has to understand that there’s no guarantee that you will achieve a successful career. I was lucky enough to understand this earlier than the majority of DJs and musicians I know. I accepted this fact, and it pushed me to work harder. I became a very purposeful person.
Do find it difficult to stay out of the social media/popularity games that so many artists are playing? How do you think we can change that trend?
I can’t say that I’m totally out of social media, but when I go somewhere I leave my phone at home. It’s a time killer if you’re surfing and making “content” (I hate this word, by the way) all the time, but you can use them wisely as well.
But as I see people are insane about how they look on social media. Everybody tries to look like a successful person and make news and information out of nowhere.
How can we change the trend? I think we cannot. But people are already tired of social media, and their influence may diminish. At least, I hope so.
What do you think is the most challenging part of being a DJ and producer today?
Expectations. I think it’s the hardest part. I’m waiting for something all the time. But usually the expectations aren’t met.
When you work as a producer/DJ you depend on other people. It’s hard to understand and accept that.
As a musician with an altered mental status, sometimes I think that I have a “mission” and my music can change the world. The next day I can think that my music is very bad and nobody likes it. The week after I feel like my music is very good.
But when I think of something like this, I stop myself and say that the main goal is just making people listen to your music. No missions. No ambitious goals.
What is the most valuable or important quality of music for you?
Sincerity. I want to explain what sincerity in music is from my point of view. The industry says that if a musician wants to be popular, he/she has to find a genre or at least a style and produce all the music following some criteria. But at the same time, different genres of music becomes relevant and irrelevant depending on plenty of circumstances. And if a DJ or a musician wants to be in demand, he/she has to follow the trends. From my point of view being sincere is making your own thing without paying attention to trends.
Is there a feeling, message, or story that you always aim to share through your own sets or tracks?
When I play in a club, the main thing is making people dance and enjoy themselves. If I see that people are ready for some experiments, I play more interesting and difficult music than four-to-the-floor. Of course, every set and track is connected to different thoughts and emotions. I can’t describe my music and my sets properly.
Some time ago I was playing at a party has been held on a moving train. It was a “techno carriage” and I was ready to play pure techno set. I started from soft and beautiful track “Astra” produced by Etapp Kyle. Then I played plenty of great tracks from genres like UK Garage, Detroit Techno, Dubstep and House. I made a mixture from these genres and I saw that people were feeling the music and all the emotions. They got the story that I wanted to tell. It was one of the best gigs that I’ve ever played.
If there was one thing that “Soela” was known for, what would you want that to be?
It’s such a difficult question and it took around a month to find an answer.
I’d like to be known as a person who says what she thinks.
What are you most proud of?
I’m working as a music teacher at a school with my boyfriend Victor. We work with kids and teach them how to produce electronic music, figure out interesting melodies and rhythms. And last year we were working with a guy who was totally into the music.
He is a really open-minded and ready to explore everything new. This guy has an illness, which restricts motor function and sometimes it was hard for him to press the pads of NI Machine, which we’re using for our lessons, or the keys of a midi-keyboard.
And after a few months of the lessons, he produced four very well-sounding tracks. He entered upper school this year. At the last lesson he said that music helps him a lot and he wants to make music in future.
And I’m really proud of him and his willpower.
Is there anything that you’d like to be doing more of, or would like to learn how to do better?
If I talk about everything I’d like to learn, this interview would become a big and boring book. There are so many interesting things around!
Of course, I will be happy to improve my skills in music, especially in mixing. I would like to produce a soundtrack for a movie or a theater piece.
I would like to learn German. For me it’s an expression of respect to the country where I live.
Photography is my big passion as well, portrait is my favorite genre. I will be happy to learn how to retouch the photos and make them look like they do in magazines.