Cxemcast 080 – Virginia W

You’ve been involved in electronic music for almost a decade: first as a music journalist, then as a promoter, DJ, and activist. How did you become interested in this field?

It all came naturally from listening to a lot of Krautrock while growing up. All electronics were elements from other worlds, summing up to the motorik beat, and this tantric flowing and growing of patterns is what always triggered me, and still does. Electronic music is what has always given us the most of our possibilities, think about The Dreaming by Kate Bush, an album that shows how experimenting with electronics and looking for creative freedom often go hand in hand. So, the experimental electronic environment is where I feel more freedom: in this field we have the power to overcome genre barriers and definitions, and this is also a good reflection of an ideal society, I believe. 

What did you start doing first, organizing events or DJing?

I love the word “promoter” because I love to promote what deserves to be amplified. I’ve been a promoter before I was a DJ. Throwing a party, creating a situation in which the rules of society can be all overturned, creating a space for freedom, a space for liberation — that is very powerful. So, I always tried to do that in my spare time. We all live in cages of some kind, and being able to spend some time as if these cages don’t exist is so vital, it shows you a way out. I started DJing more “seriously” after I quit my job as a music editor. When music wasn’t a proper job for me anymore, I could go towards a very specific angle and dive deep into my personal taste. 

So, how exactly do you choose the music for your mixes? Do the mixes reflect your inner state at the moment?

Well, there’s certainly a huge emotional side in my mixes. At the end of the day, it’s all about feelings. This mix in particular comes in a very introspective time for me. There are a lot of contemporary sounds, stuff I just discovered and fell in love with. For example, tracks from a very recent EP by @pat16120. But there are also tunes from some years ago, like this D’Eon track called Thousand Mile Trench from his 2011 split EP with Grimes. It just resonates with how I feel right now. 

Although things have changed in the last decade in terms of cultural and stylistic diversity, European nightlife still seems to be often about people in multilayered black outfits, four-on-the-floor beats, strobes — a harsh, brutal vibe. Is it different in Italy somehow? 

Yes. In Italy, there’s also a lot of that kind of vibe, a very masculine and “straight” energy, in the broader sense of the term, but we also have a Mediterranean side, so maybe this prevents us from getting too dark? With Spiritual Sauna we bring to the club a less sharp feeling, a warm, inclusive and fluid vibe, and I think you can see it with the artists we book. The intent is bringing an uplifting vibe, a spiritual energy that unites bodies and souls. This kind of vibe also needs the right space and place to grow, and that’s the hardest part for us, because there aren't lots of places in Milano with the right energy for this. 

Proper clubs can be cold, and that’s the opposite of the atmosphere we’re looking for. So, we started from a bar called Love (it is in Porta Venezia, which is both the LGBTQ+ and the Ethiopian/Eritrean district), a place run by a woman, Abeba, and her three daughters. We loved that matriarchal vibe. Now that we’re bigger, Macao is a perfect place for us, also because we had the chance to collaborate with different collectives and individuals who also orbit that space. Also, sharing this experience with people who have a similar vision has been vital to our growth. For example, we met with Anonima Luci in Macao, and working with them for the light installations of all our last events really made a difference.  

You describe yourself as an “ideologist” in social media. What exactly are the principles you are guided by?

Total freedom for all bodies and souls, universal love, empathy, intelligence, communion, fluidity. As for the mixes, I try to build something that flows like a river of sexiness. 

You are interested in New Age aesthetics. Would you say you approach this topic ironically, or is it sincere?

I’m totally sincere about that. I think the ritual and meditative part of music is fundamental. It can be healing, or at least liberating, and that’s the same you get with proper meditation. Yes, I’m a hippy.

And yet, how can one combine cheerful (and even escapist) New Age imagery with being vocal about social and political issues, addressing which can often be anxiety-inducing for the audience? Or is there no contradiction, actually?

I think being vocal about certain issues is less anxiety-inducing than knowing there are some problems we have to face and staying silent because of the loneliness you feel in facing them, so there is really no contradiction. Trying to show there’s an alternative way of seeing our social interactions and building spaces for imagination is not escapist. Maybe it’s utopist, but I’m not trying to go anywhere, if not in a deeper or higher level of here and now.  

What should one planning to attend Spiritual Sauna expect the party to feel like?

Super sexy! You know, me and Luca (my bro and co-founder Rapala700) are both Scorpios, the party was born during Scorpio season, so you’ll feel a very warm sensual energy.  

Spiritual Sauna is based in Macao, “a museum made by militant artists.” Tell us about this collective. How did you become a part of it? 

Macao was important for this city since the beginning, when the collective occupied a building called Torre Galfa. People felt the urge to reappropriate some spaces of the city and give them a new communal sense, and the birth of Macao made Milanese people (also people who are not from Milan, but live in the city) feel like they were building a place of their own, liberated from all the capitalistic logics that run the city. This is so important for a city like Milano, and that’s why I wanted to be part of it since the beginning. 

Before Sauna, I organized a migration/frontiers themed live action role-playing game inside Macao, as the right-wing forces were rising in Italy and sovranist parties were very loud about closing borders. I don’t think this could’ve been happening in any other place in Milan. I am not really part of any collective inside Macao, mostly because I don’t always have the time and energy to be always present, but what I try to do is work with the Transfeminist Queer Lab and also with Tavolo Suono, the collective behind most of the musical events and Saturnalia Festival.  

What are other collectives, venues, and artists from Milan we should check out? As the creative industry in general is quite developed in your city, there must be a lot of interesting stuff going on.

One of my favorite parties in the city is Buka, their creative direction is so interesting. I love Terraforma Festival, which takes place during the summer in a forest around a beautiful villa just outside Milan. The festival is totally sustainable, the lineup is always mind-blowing and the atmosphere is fantastic. As Sauna, we collaborate with Vitelli, a sustainable fashion brand that uses recycled yarns and has a psychedelic vibe, so we feel their creative direction is close to what we do. I also love Hundebiss, Sine Confine, Tomboys Don’t Cry, Index, Lobo, Haunter Records, Ansia, Clam Records, Katatonic Silentio (great DJ and producer). Also, a squat we worked with called Cox18, spaces for arts like Spazio Maiocchi and Marsélleria, a sound-research studio Standards, a performative collective Strasse, M¥ss Keta, and Motel Forlanini. There's a lot of other people I’m forgetting right now. And of course there’s my other party, the epic Just Cavalle.

Yeah, tell us about this project. What is the idea behind it? 

It all began when me and my friend Nicol (an actress and theater teacher) started DJing as randomly as possible and as badly as possible, just for our own amusement and to entertain our friends. It turns out, we were so good at entertaining people that things escalated quickly, and we went from 20 to 1000 people attending very easily. We changed names a lot of times (just like Prince) and started new projects from scratch, because we always wanted to keep a cozy dimension for our parties. So, now we are called Just Cavalle (the name is a word joke: the female version of the Roberto Cavalli’s youth fashion line). It’s a very queer, a very funny party and a very unusual situation for Milano, a city where sometimes even if you’re out dancing you have to worry about your looks or social status. Just Cavalle is popular culture at its best, it’s for everybody, totally inclusive and zero posh. We do it in a bar called Doria, run by a lovely elderly couple and their son, so we have a little family there. 

How do you feel about Italian pop culture in general, by the way? You worked with X-Factor and Sanremo festival; however, your coverage of the latter in your Medium is quite sarcastic (I Google-translated it, though, so I probably didn't get all the puns).

I’m so sad you can’t get my Italian because I can be really funny. Italian entertainment industry is so fucked up, so you have to study it closely if you want to change it. While you wait for your chance to do the entertainment revolution, you either laugh or cry at the current situation. So I choose humor as a tool/shield.  

What are your plans for the near future as a musician and a cultural activist?

My main focus is to keep studying, learning, and bringing energy to that special glue that unites people. Writing some music, and writing in general is a goal for my 2020.

Cxemcast 080 – Virginia W
Interviewed by Mykhailo Bogachov.
05.03.2020
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