In My ROOM WITH PAULINA
Next up in our Berlin series is Paulina also known more famously as DJ Gigola in the electronic music scene around the world. We sat down at the end of 2022 to reflect on her upbringing in the city and how early experiences at parties in warehouses, open airs and bars influenced her relationship to music and safe spaces to explore.We discover how the opportunity to play a DJ set at her local bar paved the way for her to meet friends that ran Live from Earth, the international artist-collective, who subsequently signed her to the eponymous label. Paulina, who now regularly plays in renowned clubs around the world, is known for her hybrid sounds, has started to release her own music with hits such as Papi, No es Amor and recent single Affirmation Practice. We round our conversation with her relationship to her home, her refuge where she can escape from the world, and her most cherished objects in it.
RF: Fantastic. Well I think it's really interesting that I get to interview you or speak to you. Seeing how I met you through an interview in 2016 to where you are now makes me so happy.
Paulina: That was my first year of Gigola, basically the whole span of DJ Gigola is from when you met me to now, it's insane. DJ Gigola didn't exist before 2016. Live From Earth didn't exist before 2015, it's insane.
RF: Okay wow, that’s so cool. Let’s take it back a little bit for the people who are going to read part of this and be like, how can you jump straight into the present day without giving me some context about who you are. So please just share a little bit about how you got here and your story a little bit.
PS: So I would say I'm a Berlin girl. I've always been in the city, it's my home base. It's difficult if you live here not to get in touch with Berlin music culture, which was not as industrialized and capitalized as it is nowadays. It was more, I would say, the second generation or the third generation from Berlin music history. So you had the weird Punkish times before the wall came down. Then after the wall came down you had the empty spaces and the wild raves. And then when I started going out, around maybe 2005 there was an established scene but there were still house projects, there were still illegal parties, there were warehouses, there were open airs, this was the time when me and my friends started exploring Berlin.
We had friends that had parents that were DJs. We had friends that threw their own parties and that’s how I got into music. This whole idea of a club as a ‘safe space’ and the energy of it really drew me into it. And ever since then I was in touch with music at the time without Shazam and everything. Then you start digging and you start finding producers that you want to listen to. Then I started going from producer to producer, seeing them play in the clubs and now that I'm a DJ, I know there’s definitely a difference between a DJ and a producer and vice versa.
Then when I turned 18 or 17, I started doing Hip Hop and break dance and I was really into that music. This was game changing for me. And I had friends at that time that did lots of old school parties. So I explored the millennial RnB sound, the golden era, and funk. Sorry this is a long story. I'm nearly finished…And then one day I started DJing at a bar with a friend, Anna, and then we grew as a DJ team.
RF: So how did you get connected to Live from Earth?
PS: An old friend of mine was actually also a break dancer and he was the first in-house DJ at Live from Earth. And he told me I needed to meet the collective and I was invited to play. It was in May 2016 and this is where DJ Gigola was born. It was all out of a vibe of collaboration, sharing music, sharing ideas for hybrids sound that you actually have an interest in a broad spectrum of music that you like to integrate.
RF: That sounds so organic.
PS: We were just all down to have a good time, have a party.
RF: How would you define the sound of DJ Gigola?
One part is silly and the other likes to provoke and test boundaries. I always love to find something old that everybody, or that nobody is using yet or listening to, and just put it out there, try to put it in a beautiful mix and just make it something new just because I put it out of its original context. I remember I got so much shit from the techno scene in Berlin at the beginning because I was really mixing a lot of different genres with electronic music. They were like you can never play this if you want to be a serious DJ. But since I was studying, I never thought it would be a serious career, I just wanted to have fun with my label friends and since we were having the best parties and we were having crazy energy at the parties and everybody was supporting me from the label, I just indulged in the music and developed my own approach towards club music and what I like to play at the party.
RF: Tell me a little bit about your journey from DJ-ing to producing your own songs.
So in 2019, I hadn't produced before. I always liked the idea to create something. I think either you're a producer and then you're drawn into DJing because people ask you to play your songs or you DJ so much that you feel like you need to add something to your set. That's how I felt. And I was very lucky to meet Keving in 2018 because I told him my ideas about what I wanted to do. I think we both just clicked. I had a crazy idea and he just had time and wanted to do something else and get some inspiration and that's when we started creating music together. And this just put me on a different map in terms of my DJing. Now I released my first solo record. I had a collaboration EP with Keving and Perra Inmunda this year. And this, I think, has changed my DJ momentum a lot because now people also understand what kind of sound I stand for.
RF: I’m a big fan of the releases you’ve put out so far. I really understand what you mean by the mixing of hybrid sounds. I'm curious to understand where your head's at right now with everything that's happened with COVID, knowing your own journey, getting to know your own identity as a DJ and artist. What is it that you're striving towards as a creative?
PS: This is the essence question of every artist person or basically, it's the sense of life, the sense of artistry. I think this is a question that's currently changing all the time for me. Right now, I've realized that sometimes I can't believe where I am right now because I started DJing with the idea to just have a good time with friends and it turned into a 360 career that I'm sometimes overwhelmed with. Now, I've come to terms with it and I really accept this as my job because sometimes I find it hard to say because I think there's a certain romanticism about the creative being and the creative life as an artist.
RF: So what would you say you’re dreaming of in 2023?
I have to tour a little less, I have to make smarter decisions about where I spend my time and really think about what is the sound that represents me. My dream vision for 2023 would be my album release and accepting the creative person that I've grown to be. I'm just looking forward to collaborating with lots of amazing people next year. I have so many ideas and I want to focus on that and see what grows from there because this is basically also hybridizing. I can do two songs and make a new one out of the sound of two different songs but I can also take two ideas of different people and infuse them together and see what grows from that.
RF: What does a normal day in your life look like? Could you walk me through from morning till bedtime?
PS: So it really depends on which weekday because on the weekends I'm not here. So on Friday my day revolves around packing, on a Monday it's arriving and relaxing. So we are talking about the Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday situation. And these three days I wake up, I would say 9ish. And then either I do sports or I just start working. Then sports can be running or yoga or sometimes it's training. And then I try to take a break for lunch or practice. Sometimes it's the same thing. Then I either see friends in the evening or during the day and then I have a second half of working. It's mostly either organizing stuff for the touring or working on my music
RF: Lovely, lovely. I'm curious, I saw your ear cigarette ashtray on Instagram, and obviously you're making music, you're mixing music. Do they have different kinds of creative processes?
PS: I'm a very curious person so I like to explore new things first of all. And then everything that I do comes from my general fascination, which is partly also my humor to play around with things. So for me it was fun to put an ear in pottery or put a cigarette inside. And I do this in my mixes and my music, I do this in every other outlet including fashion. Everything I do has an angle of taking something out of context and putting something in a new context. This is what fascinates me the most. I think that's probably my creative engine, my mantra.
RF: I'm very curious about Berlin, where it is as a city right now. I saw you do an interview about the many barriers that exist to create your own kind of success and creative expression in the city like if you want to throw a party, it costs so much to throw. So where is Berlin right now? What moment of time are you living in?
PS: I think we are entering the first generation of Berlin music history that is struggling with the reality of inaccessible spaces, either from a bureaucracy angle or from a financial angle. So the original freedom of Berlin places, especially Eastern Berlin, has completely changed. I think in other big capitals that didn't have this division like Paris or London nightlife is moving to the outer parts but this is very un-Berlin because the beauty of the city was that it was so convenient to party. And also with Covid, a certain scene has stopped partying and the new scene is claiming their space. So I see there's a change happening in Berlin and always feel I can't really judge it, it’s a natural process. I know that I've been part of the change in Berlin too.
RF: I see and feel that a lot of cities around the world are going through similar changes. In London, as you’ve said, the state is making it more and more difficult to operate night clubs or spaces in typically accessible areas so there is this new generation who will create a new definition of what going out is.
PS: That's something that is now Berlin’s reality too. I'm wondering if this uniqueness that Berlin always had can actually be maintained. I think it can because clubs are open forever but there's no conservation towards enabling younger generations to access the city and provide safe spaces and possibilities to try out things. So maybe Berlin won't be the Berlin it stands for soon. But so far I see lots of talented young collectives and artists that are doing a lot to push the city, which is very beautiful.
RF: I’m so curious to see how Berlin develops over the next 5 to 10 years. Moving from the city to where you are now, your home. I'm curious to understand what home means to you.
PS: I think it's a place that's filled with memories as well as personal rituals and belongings. This is what my idea of home is. And where there's silence. I'm not a real party hoster, I call it a refuge where I can escape from the world. Where it's just like me in my surroundings and it's clean and structured and it's my shit and there's silence, that's my home.
RF: If there were three places in the city that make you feel at home, what would they be?
PS: Okay, number one is Victoria bar, I spent so much time there with my best friend Anna, throughout our whole teenage years and shit, I've been there forever. And then I feel like another place where I really feel home, Krumme Lanke, this is a place I spent lot of time in during the pandemic. When I was a teenager I used to go there to play sports, so that's also very much where I feel home. I don't know how often I ran around this lake, but it represents so much of how I grew up and what Berlin is like. And then the third would be, my office, Live From Earth, it's my community space.
RF: Okay, here's my last question. Show me three things that kind of are really sentimental and meaningful to you in your home?
PS: I have a print in my bedroom that is a print from a series of two of, I don't know, 10,000 prints. But two of them used to be at my grandparents' place. And so I searched the internet to find one of the prints and it's a different one and has different colors. But I bought it and framed it and hung it in my bedroom. And every time when I'm in my bed, I see the print and it reminds me of my time as a child at my grandparents' place.
The second is a desk in my kitchen. It was always in my bedroom growing up. I have three siblings so I slept in my father's office because we had limited space in our home and we were way too many children so this table was always there. And he told me it was the first object he bought when he got a job. And I still have it. It's really run down but it still serves a purpose so now it's my kitchen desk.
Then there's my books, which remind me of different chapters of my life and of my family and friends and their stories. It's like my records, but my records are more like my work life whereas my books are my spiritual stuff, my growing educating self. That's probably my three top objects that I would always take with me.
RF: That's beautiful, thank you for sharing that with me and for everything you shared with me today. I appreciate you.