Snippets of a Browser – In Conversation with DJ Gigola
Interview by Edgar Chávez | Text edit Renata Iberia | Photographs by Hernán Esquinca
In perfect echo with Paulina’s personality, this dialogue takes place in a museum in Mexico City. It is immediately noticeable that she feels totally at ease with sharing her story within an inspiring scene in motion. Immersed in an environment of visual stimuli, the conversations flow spontaneously and lively. It could even be said that this type of setting is precisely the one that sparks her creativity, since from a very young age she has lived in symbiosis with the hustle and vibrancy of her hometown, Berlin.
To further illustrate the above, just imagine a small Paulina holding her mother’s hand at Love Parade: “I remember we went downtown and there were people in crazy outfits. I loved this, you know, the sunflower bras, the fashion. My mom always tells me that when I was a little child they showed the Love Parade on TV and I was dancing for three hours just in front of the TV.” Berlin’s techno cultivation is the setting that appears at the mention of childhood memories. Her core is there, both creatively and emotionally, as she now even works with some of her friends in the label Live From Earth. In front of us stands a woman who loves her home and who also recognizes how privileged she is to have grown up in this metropolis. She has never parted from her roots but quite the contrary: through DJ Gigola she manifests the desire to stay united with her home and to discover herself through the most sincere creativity.
One of the most striking characteristics is her ability to keep her eyes wide open to small details, for instance, the sensation of cloth or the underlying rhythm of a song. She considers the way in which we relate to objects as something that goes beyond a superficial encounter: “I am really interested in languages and I think there are spoken languages and subconscious languages, fashion is one of the most subconscious languages. I feel like people dress in a certain way and it tells a lot about their background, their interests, and what they are looking for in life.”
IN MEXICO CITY
Paulina is a born collector, or as she prefers to call it, a “browser girl”: “I just love to dig and browse (…) when I go to a city I can browse the streets forever by just looking around because I love to encounter new things all the time.” The insatiable curiosity that characterizes her originated in her childhood and has taken shape to this day. Guided by her visual and sensory intuition, this quest has resulted in the unique archive or collection of second-hand fashion and the musical expression present in her bouncy sets. There is a key rule though, which is to buy a garment only if it is very cheap and not a blow to the budget: “It is not about saying ‘hey, yo, this is my outfit look at this’, it is more like an expression of who I am and it is nice that it is subconscious and that it tells something about yourself. It is not about background, big money, brands, or something like that. I despise that.” Her music and style are both ways to present herself to the world and, most importantly, to own the narration of her own story.
The project on which Paulina has put a great amount of creative energy is her multidisciplinary artistic collective Live From Earth. This group is for her the perfect definition of a big patchwork family. Decisions are made horizontally, they are a united group with one purpose in common: always keeping the ball rolling, inspired by Berlin’s local subcultures. Loyalty and a committed presence are the two fundamental elements that strengthen the bonds of this creative family.
However, it should be noted that when starting the Live From Earth label, Paulina was the only woman on the team: “In that moment I was like ‘I am playful, I am fun, let’s make it gigolo but with an ‘a’, so it says that I can be like the boys but I am a girl, you know. This was kind of spontaneous but it stuck to me.” So DJ Gigola came to life, a challenging character who never loses sight of her more cheerful side: “I really like the name, it has something playful to it and in a way something even very feminist. The word does not exist, it is a neologism. To transform the gigolo into a female persona is to change something that has been male-dominated for such a long time.”
The first nights at the club came almost inevitably and with a fake ID in hand. At a time when tech-house dominated the scene, DJ Giogola realized that she enjoyed this genre but also other sounds in German popular culture, such as hip hop and funk. This is where an eclectic taste started to develop, “I was dancing to hip hop and funk music and I felt it would be enjoyable to have more popular music incorporated into the mix just because sometimes it is just nice to listen to Madonna. I think some DJs take it very seriously to be the biggest diggers in the world and I love that because you need to have this engagement in order to show what music can be about but sometimes I love it more when people are able to open up to popular music on the dancefloor. And that is what I do, I can play a popular song and everyone enjoys it.”
Ultimately, what stands out the most to Paulina’s ears is rhythm —even more than melody, she says—. She takes techno’s tribal feeling from her early years as a raver and “sprinkles” it with popular music in order to create a steady, energetic flow, “I love to express how I feel the music throughout my body. That is why I love percussion and tribal rhythms, I try to go with that because it is what keeps my body moving. For me, only drums would be perfect.” This rhythm-driven technique gives DJ Gigola an old-school techno edge: the mix turns into something communal, the night’s line up becomes one and at the end, it is about the crews and packs that represent the music.
As a person who constantly remembers her roots, her formative years and earliest influences, it is no surprise that DJ Gigola’s musical selection seeks to awaken the most nostalgic side of the dancer’s memory: “Music is so emotional, when you perform on a dancefloor you give energy and emotion and a lot of the popular songs are connected to memory flashbacks (…) so even if the person does not like Madonna maybe they have listened to Madonna in the car as a child.” DJ Gigola encourages us to let our guard down for a bit and remember something essential: music is something fun, enjoyable, it is felt in the body. Sometimes returning to pure, intuitive dancing reunites us with the reason why we love music in the first place.
When talking about her growth in music, the word “career” comes up, and although many would associate it to an arid and boring professional field, on this occasion the word acquires a fresh meaning. Paulina thinks of DJ Gigola as a passion that deserves to be taken seriously and cultivated, this is how she will forge a path for herself and at the same time excite others: “The old term of career means that you have an impact on what you do. In the creative world, you try to give what you have inside you, you try to shape it, and maybe you are lucky that people like what you do and want to see you.”
Establishing an admirable balance between enjoyment and discipline, Paulina knows where she is going and how she is going to get there. Although she recognizes how difficult it is to make a living from what she does, she also knows that her hard work is born of sincerity. This is what connects her with others. “I do it because I love it,” it is as simple as it is strong. “I don’t pretend to be someone else, it is just me and if people like it’s cool, if some people don’t like it I am also cool with it because there are enough people that like me for the way I am,” this is the belief that allows us to talk today and also what will keep this ever insured woman growing with taste and endless, joyful curiosity.
The interview took place in Mexico City the 11th March 2020
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