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Interview: Svarog Talks New Projects, Techno In Ukraine & Staying Sane During COVID

We chatted with Ukrainian techno producer SVAROG about music creation and inspiration, the current state of techno in Eastern Europe and beyond, and how to keep up as an artist during COVID.


Hailing from Lviv, Ukraine, Svarog aka Oleksa Moroz began his music career in 2015. He got his start on labels such as Circular Limited, Nachstrom Schallplatten and Affin, quickly establishing the Ukrainian artist as a prominent techno producer whose international recognition is growing. Svarog delivers his own type of hypnotic techno but goes far beyond that. 

The name for the project was inspired by ancient mythology. Svarog is one of the Ukrainian mythology gods, the god of metal, the forge operator, the god of fire. Svarog is currently preparing a new EP, which release will be announced shortly.

Discover more about the Ukrainian artist in our interview and find out about Svarog's creative processes, inspirations and drive as a music producer and DJ today.

How do you keep up with creating music and preserving yourself as a techno artist these days?

Every morning I get up and do what I can. And the main thing is that I want to do that. If for some reason I can't be on stage, it doesn't stop me from making music. It's like doing sports - if the gym is quarantined, you can go for a run outside. Problems are always there. Just do what you can, set the goals but don't expect the results.

Tell us about your native Ukraine and your exploration of techno music there? Are there any parties or specific persons that contributed to developing your sounds in the country?

Techno has been developing quickly over the last few years. There are a lot of people who do a really nice job there nowadays. I can't say it's just about techno. It's about electronic music in general. I don’t want to name anyone specifically because almost everyone is an important participant in this movement, even if not everyone knows about them yet.

Eastern Europe has a specific approach to electronic music, especially with the Romanian scene. How about Ukraine: where do you think the country stands for today for electronic music?

It is difficult for me to give any thoughts on this because I am a participant in the Ukrainian techno scene. I need a side view. In my subjective opinion, this culture is not so mature here and it just copies everything that happens around. Uniqueness can happen only if we become independent of what is happening with techno in the world. Local phenomena are possible, but in the format of its presentation rather than in the sound of music.

Where does your fascination for mythology comes from — from which you take your artist name? Any book or story that relates to this artist name you chose?

When I decided to start my musical project, I made a few tracks. They sounded deep and atmospheric. That's how it came out from me, I didn't think about mythology at that moment. But this sound motivated me to develop a mythical and epic concept. The name of the artist was chosen according to the criteria stated in the idea of my art. Although mythology, philosophy and art are things that interest me, choosing the name was a very pragmatic thing.

Also, congrats on your new release on No Way Records and Affin. This deep techno is aligned to your style and love for foggy atmospheres, deep textures, and distinctive sound elements. What has been your production secret since your first release in 2015 on Circular Limited?

I use a ghost producer, hahaha (joking). I don't have any secret techniques. I just enjoy the process. The main thing is to be honest with yourself and make music you like. It's hard for me to create something that is ordered. If you do not know what you want and rely on intuition, it is not good at all. It's like throwing a penny to make a decision. It is better to be clear about what you want to create.

Your productions evolve from dark atmospheric techno to ambient soundscapes with a subtle bass and evocative ambiances. They have been released on prolific labels like Northallsen records, Illegal Alien Records, Affin, Faut section with NÖRBAK to name a few. Could you say you found your voice, or do you think you can evolve further with your music and digging into new universes?

I think that sound changes are constantly happening. It's just that they don't happen that fast to be noticeable. Of course, the individual character in my music is already there and it is easy to recognize. However, new things are still about to happen. I think you will feel more cinematicity in my music in the future because now my work is more influenced by other music styles than just techno. Technologies in sound production are now evolving and provide new opportunities for music creation. I think it's worth taking advantage of.

What is your view of techno nowadays? Where do you think the genre is going toward — for instance futuristic techno as you mentioned earlier when talking about, “mysticism, kaleidoscopically and futurism"?

I guess today techno is a fully formed genre, like rock. Everything you try to change or add will go beyond the genre. I think it happened a long time ago. Talking about kaleidoscopically or futurism, these are the terms I use to describe my art to make it easier for art critics or other scientists to categorize it. It is likely that futurism will always be relevant but unlikely to be popular with the masses because people are always hungry for something new. But the novelty is not always clear to the general public. It is easier for people to understand things they have known for a long time.

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What are your main influences, music-wise, both in the underground and mainstream? What are influences in the arts, architecture, films, nature broadly you’d love to mention?

There are artists who, under the influence of emotions, begin to create something. A particular thing or situation can inspire or motivate them. But it's not about me. Emotions keep me away from focusing on the creative process. Of course, my work is an experience, an impression, but its somewhere in the past. In this case, it is difficult to understand what specifically affected. When I sit down to make a track, I have only an idea in my head, a picture that I have to create. At this point, some other things are just a distraction. Probably that's why my music is so meditative and hypnotic.

Tell us about your encounter with techno: any party, any club, any DJ/ producer that drove you there? And about the events series you launched in Ukraine Textura?

I came to techno step by step. I can definitely say that it was not a party or a club. I was listening to many different types of electronic music, but when I started doing music myself, I realized that the closest thing to me was techno. Five years ago, there were almost no techno parties in the city where I live. The promoters who used to create them have stopped their activities, and there was no one instead. So I was encouraged to start doing it on my own. Now the party is organized by the whole team. It is good that there are like-minded people.

What do you find most inspiring in your daily life? You mentioned in an interview with Joachim Spieth (Affin) the singular architecture and mountains of West Ukraine had an imprint on how you create music. Tell us more about this creative process.

Step by step I am beginning to realize that I do not need inspiration for creativity. I think doing something is already interesting. I used to need a lot of new experiences, but after a strong passion for something or somebody always comes disappointment. I'm glad I understood that. Because each time you expect the sharpness of impressions to be stronger, so it would be difficult to be inspired. If you need an emotional resource for inspiration, your productivity will be low, you will chase after impressions or sit and wait unhappily for inspiration, and there will be less time for creativity. Just love what you do. Ukrainian Carpathians are an old friend for me now, always happy to see them, and never get tired of walking around my hometown.

Which relationships with close artists do you preserve today? Are there specific labels or producers you truly cherish who contribute to your inspiration or work?

I probably have a good relationship with artists who are close to me. I think I have the closest collaboration with the Affin label. We even did a showcase of this label on the anniversary of Textura. However, I also enjoy working with other labels. I recently had releases on Lowless, Informa, and Edith Select. I am happy to work with them. In fact, on my creative path, I meet very interesting and smart people. We have many values in common.

What can we find in your studio? What do you like to experiment with? How do you develop your own ideas, since you mentioned it was critical for you in a Monument interview from 2019.

I'm a bedroom sound producer :) So here I have a bed where I sleep, a vessel with the elixir of youth from the Carpathian molfars, various ethnic flutes, the sound of which was tuned to the church bells in a far Carpathian village or the buzzing of bowls in a Tibetan temple. A few funny books that I can't finish reading. I often don't experiment. Experiments are for those who search for something. I think I've already found what I needed and I'm going my own way. I have a concept which I’m interested to work within. These things resonate with my values, perhaps worldview, although life experience has erased quite a few beliefs from my head. I don't see anything critical in working on other people's projects, I'm just not interested. It's like being a tourist, not a traveler.

Now as a DJ, what’s your favorite setup or mixer or DJ equipment? Or doesn’t it matter for you?

Of course, there is a setup that is more convenient for me to work with. But my technical rider has several options.

What are your best memories as a DJ? Any country or club or party you really loved? A festival perhaps?

The best memories go to places like Hidi in Tbilisi or Lantern in Beijing. But people always leave brighter memories. It was just a fantastic time spent with promoters doing parties in Slovenia called Formaviva or a fun walk with a group of friends that are doing “La Berlinoise” parties in Toulouse. I was especially lucky to meet Ksenia, who is a co-organizer of the Under festival in Riga. Extremely energetic and clever person. There are many stories like that.

Since COVID-19, we saw a lot of streaming DJ setups, especially with United We Stream: do you think streaming could be a long-life outlet for DJing and engaging with an audience?

Live broadcasting won’t ever replace the feeling of a live concert. For me, it's a different format of consuming music as a listener or performing as a DJ. A few weeks ago, I was at an online broadcast with a duo of musicians on the Internet. There were many listeners behind the cameras. When they finished playing, the crowd began to applaud. It’s difficult to describe the emotions of the musicians at that moment. There is no substitute for direct contact with the audience.

When Svarog doesn’t produce music, what does he do?

I am keen on traveling into the wild; I usually go to various cultural events, art exhibitions. I adore doing sports. I spend a lot of time with my friends. I am surrounded by wonderful people. When I don’t have plans for an evening, I just sit and play my musical instruments.

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