How a conversation that touches upon fear, war and connecting to people in a world that lacks empathy, results to be the most uplifting thing ever.
Written by: Pat Aliyeva for NSNS (Oct 2018)
Photos by: Rezzie
Dominick Fernow (aka Vatican Shadow) arrives at Yu Yu a couple of hours before his gig. We meet in the hall and I show him downstairs to the club. We leave his suitcase in the dj booth and go upstairs to the record shop to have a chat.
Dominick looks tired. His touring schedule is pretty tight. He talks about the gig he had last night, he was playing for a crowd of ten people. He talks about places. Nice and not so nice. South of the US is not that nice, New York is good though.
We talk about DJing and about “killing the vibe”. Dominick says it did happen to him quite a few times.
“And how do you know you killed the vibe?”, I ask.
“Oh, you can tell! You can always tell!” he laughs. “But such things happen, it’s ok, it can’t always be the same or always good”.
We accommodate our chairs behind the counter and lock the shop.
Pat: I always wanted to ask, what’s the thing with dadaism? Were you inspired by dadaist philosophy at some point?
Dominick: Yes, but I would say I am more of a futurist…- he puts a cough drop in his mouth.
P: Have you been using any of the dadaist methods when making your art? Have you been using cut-ups?
D: Yes, of course!
P: “Is Vatican Shadow a cut-up?”, I am about to ask, but then I decide not to. Something is telling me this question isn’t quite polite really.
P: That’s what I thought! Your friend and collaborator Nico Vascellari was using it in his performances too, wasn’t he? How did you actually meet Vascellari? And how did the two of you end up performing at an Italian Vogue party?
D: Which one? – he smiles.
P: Rome, I reckon?
D: Maxxi museum, probably.
P: Yes, right! There were a lot of fancy people there, smiling at the camera and all that, I’ve seen photos! And then there were the two of you performing…
D: Are you trying to say we were not fancy? – he asks with a slight laugh.
P: No, I didn’t say so! But, seriously, how did you end up performing there?
D: It was Nico’s idea. He is a professional infiltrator and a very talented artist. I met him in New York. He came to my shop, Hospital Productions, and asked if he could take some photos for a magazine. It was GQ I think…I remember, when those photos got published in the magazine, they put it as HOTEL PRODUCTIONS…
I’ve been racking my brain in search of the right word to describe Vascellari’s work and finally Dominick gave it to me. “Yes, infiltrator is exactly the word!” I exclaim.
D: You know, he is involved in various projects with big fashion brands…
P: Yes, he works with Fendi, making prints and stuff…
D: …But he always finds a way to do something controversial, he really is an infiltrator.
Dominick gives me his next-question-please-look and that’s how I know I can go on.
P: You have a lot of monikers, tons of them, I can’t even remember all of them…
D: Yeah, me neither!
Of course, that’s not true. By this time I also realise that Dominick Fernow has a very good sense of humour and is unfailingly polite.
P: But why Vatican Shadow? It’s probably the most famous one, right?
D: Well, that’s not for me to say, wouldn’t be able to judge that.
P: But if you are playing live or djing as Vatican Shadow, you do know people will come to see the show, cause they know you…
D: Not necessarily. I just played a show last night, there weren’t very many people there, you can never assume anything. The music business is ruthless. My friends and I talk about this all the time. You’d be 20 years in your career and still playing rooms for 10 people, you know? There are no guarantees. The only guarantee is if you’re passionate about what you are doing. Otherwise there is literally no point. Because every time you do something you’re gambling.
P: And why Vatican Shadow?
D: Ehmmm…That’s a complicated question, that I don’t usually answer – he says with a sigh.
P: But quite an interesting one though. I mean…Why VATICAN shadow?
D: Ambiguity is essential to the project. There are people who take a lot of issues with ambiguity here. I personally know many people, some of them journalists, that do. That only reiterates its importance, especially in decline of journalism in the last 15 years. You know, the purpose is not to tell people what to think, the purpose is to present a familiar story, the story of militarism and the story of post 9/11 era, when most people were bombarded through media…- he resumes after a pause – My mission is to recontextualise the story on an individual basis through ambiguity. When you are presented with a familiar story, but the sequence is out of order, that is a device which, I hope, can lead people to drop some of their prejudices and think twice about what they are already bringing to this story. So, for this reason, the ambiguity is essential to the project. And its ultimate purpose in trying to break apart the assumptions that many people carry, when they approach a subject like that, is to ultimately overcome fear. The project is really about fear and overcoming it.
P: Fear of what?
D: Fear of…the self. Well, as a person who suffers from anxiety disorders…Which is (anxiety – NSNS) the process in the brain, that is based on the visual side of the brain. it’s all about your imagination, about what’s not happening, it’s about what-if scenario, what if this happens, what if that happens?
A lot of people suffer from it, anxiety is somewhere in the future or in the past, never in the present, we are always in the future or in the past, that’s where anxiety comes from…- looks like I suddenly start talking about myself.
D: But anxiety is different from an anxiety disorder. AD is a process in the brain, which accelerates what isn’t happening, but what could happen, it is connected to the visual side of the brain, but the physical manifestation of it is a panic attack, which is just a release of adrenaline in your body. It’s shortness of breath and it says that you are in danger and its either fight or flight. So, of course, everyone has anxiety but an anxiety disorder is something that is more specific, so the whole goal is to try and learn to live in the moment. There is much stress that accompanies doing this stuff, but it does occasionally have a potential to be a transcendent experience that forces you to be in the moment. And that is when you are able to overcome all of the obstacles that are in your way, you know, like a different soundsystem every night, a different crowd every night, the weather…There are all these things that are out of your control. And when it goes well and you can manage them, eventually, you may be able to reach a state where you stop thinking about all those things. And that’s where the audience comes in, because the audience is an extremely critical factor in all this. I see it as a collaboration between the performer and the audience.
I don’t know how many times Dominick has already been talking to people about this, but he is doing it very well. You don’t even have to ask. He certainly is very engaged, collaborative and supportive. Maybe a little bit guarded still. He goes on.
D: I don’t see it as ME playing for THEM or THEM watching ME, it’s something that WE are in together. And it can either go badly or it can go well, depending on what happens, but the intention is to try and break down a little bit of the expectation, of what is associated with club culture for example, what’s expected of the dj or an artist, and in some places to do that through exaggeration.
P: In what sense?
D: By making a fool of yourself. By at least creating the impression that you don’t care. By engaging with the crowd. And if you can, well, it’s a risk, because you can come off like an asshole and you can come off like a fool, but if you can get the audience to live the moment by kind of re-establishing the terms of what happens or what’s expected of them and of me or the artist, if you can do that and get them to be actually aware of what’s happening, rather than assume what will happen… or what they think should happen, and what they think their role in it is, then, in theory, if you can get past that by re-establishing the terms of the agreement between the audience and the performer, then, may be, you can let go of some of those assumptions, and prejudices, and presumptions, and expectations, that they have brought.
Now Dominick is really engaging and he doesn’t look guarded anymore. It’s all going so suspiciously well, that I get paranoid the recorder might not be recording our conversation. I look at it and, obviously, everything is ok, but I pause it, start it again, check it, all good, pause it again…Dominick is talking about how the Internet and social media are pure evil, then he asks “Are you ok? Is everything fine? Are you sure?”
P: Yes, absolutely! But wait, why are you so against the Internet?
D: It destroyed everything.
He always has two versions of an answer, a shorter one and, as I would call it, a proper one. We are up for a treat here, I can tell. So I immediately request “the proper one”.
P: Like what?
D: Let’s say, you heard about a band, for example Bad Brains. You could hear about the band and how important they were. Maybe you saw guys wearing their t-shirt, or maybe you saw they were thanked on a record, and you might never actually hear their music for a while in time. You might have heard about it and, let’s say, you go into a record store and you finally see and find a Bad Brains record! But it’s one of their later reggae period records, and it’s not Pay to Cum. So, there you are, and you finally found a record that you were always hearing about and hearing about how much of an influence they’ve had on people you loved or were inspired by, and the record is completely and totally different from what you thought it would be. So you got it and you’re stuck with it. And maybe, you didn’t like it, but it was all you had. So you kept listening, you kept listening because you wanted to try and fit what you actually found with the stories that you’ve heard. And the point is, that there was an intention of trying to like something, the mentality was that you wanted to get into what you had, because, first of all, it was the only way that you could hear the music. And secondly it might be all you had. It wasn’t like “Oh, I don’t like that one, I’m gonna just move to the next one, blow through the band’s catalogue of 20 years in just a few moments and just get a sense of it”. So, because of limitations, of how you arrived at obtaining the record and how you had to deal with it once you actually got it, based on what your perception of it was going to be, based on the reality of what it is, even if in the end of it you have decided “I don’t like it”, but still you had the experience of trying to match perception with reality. And that is gone. That’s just one tiny example of how the apparatus of instantaneous consumption changed and destroyed the process and the joy.
P: Okay, yes, its instantaneous consumption…
D: THE JOY – he repeats – of forming your own experience, not by rushing through something or settling an instantaneous judgement about it because you heard a three seconds sample. It was a completely different process. And why is experience value? Experience is value because experience is knowledge. So what has happened now, is that there’s a gap in the real world…of going through the underground, of not having access to things or having to search for them, of not having the information being totally clear presented within one moment, of having to search, having to participate, having to go to a show, having to try to find where a show was. If you went to the show, possibly, what they had at the show for merch was the only way you could get the merch or the record or the music or meet the people, because there was no chat room or forum or social media. It also was a way of forcing the community to form. It’s not just the experience of the product, it’s also the experience of people. And, you know, that’s just a fact, It’s gone, and I think that’s a much greater value because if you survived all the obstacles. It wasn’t just obstacles for the sake of irritating people, preventing them from doing something, it was the motivation behind conquering those obstacles and taking those steps, because in the end of the process you were rewarded with knowledge, you were rewarded with knowledge based on the experience you had getting there. So if you remove experience, you remove knowledge, what you end up with, is only a product. And then it’s only consumption. It’s eating without digesting, it’s just eating as fast as you can, it doesn’t fucking matter what it is and, goddamit, it’s pure capitalism! It’s a destruction of tradition. And not tradition for the sake of being stuck in the past, but tradition for the sake of forming an experience, gaining knowledge and being a part of the community. And other participants in that community also went through those things and overcame the same obstacles, or maybe they were different ones, but the process was the same.
Just the night before I’ve been talking to my best friend and he said : “We are like walking and talking stomachs, we only eat and digest, everything is “food”, everything is a product for our consumption, nothing is sacred. The challenge is to stay human, stay true to who you really are.” Listening to Dominick, I can’t help wondering how many more people feel like this nowadays.
D: And, getting back to when I was talking about why I think NY was a great city, it’s a great city because it has communality.
P: But you live in Berlin now, don’t you?
D: No, I don’t live there anymore.
P: Where do you live now, if i can ask…
D: I’m back in NYC.
P: Do you feel yourself part of the community there?
Dominick clears his throat and thinks for a couple of seconds.
D: Yeah. I mean…Community is a word that I use carefully. I think in this sense community is exaggerated, because there are so many divisions, I don’t feel part of A community, I feel a participant in MANY communities, not just one community.
P: Do you feel alone sometimes?
P: And do you feel alone in terms of what you are doing?
P: And what is it that you want people to feel, what is it that you want your music to transmit? And do you feel that sometimes people perceive it in some other way?
D: Yeah, but that’s just…
Dominick starts laughing.
I start laughing too.
D: Well, yeah, that’s just the way it is. But certainly I want people to feel something.
P: What is it?
D: That’s up to them to decide! Like I said, it’s not about telling people what to think, it’s about telling them to THINK.
P: Well, yes.
D: And there’s a big difference. I am not here to explain anything to anyone. It’s all about connecting with people in the sense that they are left with something to think about. It’s like going to a movie. If you go to a movie and you leave a movie theatre and you don’t have anything to think about, then the movie sucks. If you go to a movie you don’t like, but you keep thinking about it later, then there’s a good chance that you got something out of that. It’s not just about enjoying things…
P: Naaah it’s not…
D: It’s about experiencing them.
I start feeling like Dominick starts interviewing himself again, so I use this pause as a chance to regain some control.
P: Ok, well, so… All these things people say about you, like, for example, “extreme”, you got to this point by using certain images, media, religion, war, and …
D: But do you think that those are extreme images? I think they are commercial images.
P: No, no, no I don’t!..
I try to expand on this one, but it becomes obvious that this question was kind of rhetorical and Mr. Fernow is going to answer the question himself.
D: THEY ARE EVERYDAY IMAGES!!!!!! – he says eagerly.
P: Yes, exactly, and I don’t think they are extreme! The thing is that you CHOSE them, what were you thinking? You knew it would get to people, that they would react? Why these images? – I start speaking faster and louder, rapid-firing words.
D: Because it’s important!!! – he exclaims.
Then suddenly this little storm subsides.
“Because it is the fucking world that we live in!”, says Dominick slowly, enunciating every word.
Pause. Long Pause. We are both pensive and quiet.
D: Religion is at the heart of all my projects. Everything in my art in one way or another is about religion.
P: Why? Why…
D: Because it’s about belief and faith or the lack of belief or the lack of faith.
P: And war?
P: But why war?
D: Because war is man’s nature in the same way that love is man’s nature. It’s just war is our story. War is the sadness of human condition. War is, as Viktor Frankl says, man’s search for meaning.
I start mumbling something inaudible. I feel infinitely sad and confused. We are talking about something I really wanted to talk about. And instead of taking over the conversation, I feel sad, and ashamed, and it really hurts.
D: But…I would debate you a little bit in the sense that a lot of what I do, it’s actually not about war, it’s about a product of war.
D: It’s about the media. It’s about MEMORIALISATION.
D: It’s about what comes out of war. It’s not really about war. It’s not about killing! Specifically with Vatican Shadow it’s about the media. It’s the product. The documentation. The iconography. Iconography has a very misunderstood position in our history. People have a hard time accepting that you can use images in more than one way. Now everything is so politicised. But it’s totally removing the metaphysical experience that we face, it’s removing the art from iconography. Which is the study of images, the worship of images. It does not necessarily advocate anything, but it is something that is real. We are bombarded with imagery especially with imagery of war, so it is more about what is behind the desire and need to consume and need to see war. It’s not necessarily about fighting or combat, it’s about what happens after, it’s about what happens next.
P: Why do you think we have all this imagery in the media and why do we consume this? Why are you so drawn to it? And yes, that’s what sells most, why?
D: Yes, it’s a product.
P: It’s horrible, it’s pure suffering and it has become a product? Why?
D: Well, there are so many studies about it. About the media and such. But my specific interest lies in memorialisation. In regards to terrorism, for example. You know, when you hear about the victims of terrorism, it is predominantly focused and categorised through deaths. But the real statistical product of terrorism is not death. It’s permanent disfigurement and injury. It’s almost unheard of that. That deaths supersede injury. So how do you memorialise injury? How do you memorialise something, that is ongoing and permanent…
P: Fear, distrust of each other it’s a product of terrorism as well…
D: Sure but only that… I mean…Boston airport… You know, I was in the Boston airport when there was the Boston attack, it was a week later, I was going through security and there was a moment of silence. And they had a logo for the attack already. This skyline of Boston, in white with the black background and the date. And I just thought ”Wow! A week later and the attack already has a logo!”. There is a book called “Branding Terrorism” which is, i dont think its a great book, but I think it’s interesting in the sense that it’s simply a document of all known terrorist organisation logos. And I think that’s an important book for no other reason, but that it visually reiterates and collates the fact that it is a product and it is a brand.
D: And our media is the provider of these products. Media in the service of terror. (Media In The Service of Terror was out on Hospital Productions (HOS472) in 2016) It is something I truly believe in. I think the media is one of the most dangerous and hypocritical institutions that we have in America. I think it’s a long overdo for a reform.
P: I think that it’s the same situation everywhere…
D: Yes, it’s everywhere, but I think American media is especially egregious because it has the arrogance of righteousness. Built into it.
P: You awfully remind me about a musician I admire so much! He’ s an English musician. You have a lot in common, but at the same time you are very different from each other. He’s also done a lot of stuff, I don’t even think I’ve listened to everything he’s done. He has been using similar imagery, he was eh…
P: I don’t really know how to put it, I don’t wanna ask if you were inspired by him…
D: Of course I was!!!!
P: Oh were you? Do you think he was using this imagery of war and conflicts the same way you were doing it? For the same reason?
D: Well, I can’t speak for him but my impression…
P: Yes exactly, your impression…
D: I think it was a highly misunderstood product and it was really about iconography, I do not believe that it was actually a political project that people kind of made it up to be. And I think there’s a lot to criticise in the sense of his not really having experienced much of the topic perhaps, but that’s also the genius of it.
P: Muslimgauze has never been to any of those places…
D: Yes, I think there’s more than enough room for fantasy. I totally reject the idea that art is only for the righteous, I think that art is simply a human necessity of expression. and if you know anything about humanity, there’s an awful lot of bad people out there and it doesn’t mean that they can’t make art. I am not saying that he was a good guy or a bad guy, I don’t know, I never met him. But I was definitely influenced by his work and, again, I think that part of the genius of this project is that it doesn’t really make any sense. And that’s why it’s compelling to this day. But beyond that, I would say that as much as I was influenced by it at one point, I would say that Vatican Shadow is the opposite of Muslimgauze. Because whether or not it was iconography, he took a position politically at least on a semantic level. Because he included dedications, you know, to certain organisations. So, Vatican is the opposite in the sense that there is no dedication to anyone on any side, that it makes no stands, if it’s iconography or not, it makes no stands within iconography. Or as a political statement, so in this sense it’s a total opposite of Muslimgauze as much as it is influenced by it. But I have a deep respect for his art and it’s incredible, on musical level, to think what he produced, when he made it, how quickly he made it and mostly without computers.
P: Yes, that’s super impressive, like a release every month or something like that!
D: You know, my fav stuff from him is from a very specific era, when he was working with the engineer called John Delph, who is just a mind-blowing engineer and producer!
D: Can I ask why did you turn to music? I mean as for me I would have never turned to music if it wasn’t for the feeling of…Like when I was 9 years old I realised the world was pretty frightening and I was feeling something I couldn’t express, but through music.
Dominick starts laughing
P: What? If I were feeling good I would have never had the urge to pick up things like writing or music.
P: I mean, was it something you were feeling, was there something…
D: Yeah but that’s why…I would leave it to being a son of a Vietnam vet and an NPR talk show host. It means that I grew up in two very different houses. And from an early age I learned to see both sides of the story and to appreciate those sides of the story. And to have empathy.
D: I think empathy is something that we are in a great need of right now…
I still haven’t quite fathomed what happened here, but I felt very sad, my eyes watered and I couldn’t do anything about it. I was staring at Dominick and summoning all my strength to continue.
P: Does music help you to feel better? Happier maybe?
D: Tough question. Again. I don’t enjoy what is called happy music because it puts me in a bad mood. I hate hearing people laughing in a restaurant or something, people enjoying themselves in public, it is deeply offensive to me.
P: Why? Hahaha!
A couple of minutes ago, I was about to cry, now I am bursting with laughter. And I know that now I can laugh, and no one would get offended.
D: There is nothing to laugh at! – Dominick chuckles.
Now we are both laughing.
D: There’s nothing to enjoy, just keep that shit to yourself, have some humility because…because you are violating my bad mood! – he laughs again.
P: You find reality quite disturbing, don’t you?
D: Of course!! The world is an obscene sass pool of malignancy. But…I mean….I’m not on a mission to save the world, I don’t think I have a mission to…
P: No, no, I know.
D: It’s not worth saving.
P: Do you share this dadaist idea, that art is a form of protest, I mean, they started the whole movement protesting against war…
D: No, I am an artist, I am not a protester. I understand the need and necessity for protest, it just doesn’t motivate me, I am not motivated by boycott and protests. I’m more of a fundraiser benefit kind of guy. That’s what motivates me.
P: What was the hardest moment in your music career?
D: Every day! – he laughs.
P: Right…Have you ever wondered “Omg how on earth did I get here?”
P: Have you ever thought you would be living like this, that you would be touring…
D: I knew what I wanted to do pretty early and that’s why i never really got along with my peers, because while they were busy drinking and partying and playing video games, I was trying to start a record label. I knew very early that this was what I wanted to do.
P: Hospital Productions has become very big now, have you ever thought you would get to this point?
D: Well, that’s not for me to say. You know, it’s not big to me. That’s for people to decide, but it is important to me. It’s my whole life.
P: Artists releasing music on Hospital Productions. Are they your friends, or like minded artists? Or how do you do this?
D: Everything with Hospital is a contradiction.
P: In what way?
D: I don’t accept demos. I only work with people I know for the most part. I have got accepted 3 demos total in 700 releases.
P: From whom?
D: That’s not important. But it’s not a label in a traditional sense of the word. It’s more of an ongoing document of my travels. What I mean by that is that almost everything on the label is the result of work of somebodyI know, or have known, or met. That, certainly, isn’t to say that I have 700 friends. I can count my friends on one hand. But again, it’s about experience and it could be just a mate somewhere in Atlanta, Georgia. You meet someone and you share an experience with them, and it feels like something in the moment, something that needs to be documented. Maybe that’s another form of trying to deal with my anxiety disorder, because the excitement of saying “Let’s do a record! Let’s put out a tape!” to somebody you just met, it is about a moment. Maybe it’s trying to continually hold on to moments and there’s plenty of bad decisions, and there’s plenty of releases that I…rrr eg..ret? And there’s plenty of people I worked with, that I no longer work with anymore. And they don’t work with me. And I don’t want to. And they don’t want to. It’s not like everything’s peachy. But it doesn’t really matter, it’s just about connecting, even if it is just a connection for a moment, it still has value.
P: Tadaaam! I was waiting for this one, now tell me what’s your connection to JK Flesh?
D: Haha! Oh, that’s a whole …There’s a lifetime there!
P: You mean you know him for a long time?
D: Not really, I mean, kind of. Sure, I’ve known many other people very much longer, but it is starting to become a healthy length of relationship. But, obviously, I have known his music since day one. I can’t emphasise the importance, and respect, and love that I have for Justin on so many levels. He’s arguably invented three, maybe more, genres of music. He’s a passionate person to this day, he’s someone who’s experienced the height of the music industry many times over, and seen its collapse many times over, and appears not to have a bitter bone in his body. He’s still hungry to discover new things and he loves music. And yes, he’s my hero and he’s the only hero that I ever met, that I can say that it’s a good thing.
P: I would love to meet him! He’s my hero too!
D: Yeah, you know, he’s a really exceptional person and we can all only hope to be as disciplined and passionate as he is at his age after what he has been through. I have deep love and admiration for Justin. But I am also happy to say that I can actually call him a friend these days. He’s really a lovely guy, he has an incredible sense of humour and we get along in that regard. Yeah he’s just ….the best.
P: You said you’ve been facing a lot of hard moments…
D: Every moment is a hard moment. Every moment is hard when your fucking eyes are open.
P: So music is just a form of living it?
D: People always talk about catharsis. What I do is not catharsis. Catharsis is a release, I don’t have a release.
P: What do you have then?
D: I try to transform, but transformation is not a release, it never goes away.
P: But you are playing….
D: I don’t feel better after I played a show!
P: Ok, so you are just transforming.
D: I am just transforming energy.
P: The first time I saw you playing live was in Moscow, I think it was 16 Tons club, 7 years ago or something like that…
D: It was a bad show.
P: What? Why is that? What’s your idea of…
D: It’s not important. Sorry, go ahead. It’s your experience.
P: Yes, EXACTLY, it’s my experience! According to me, it wasn’t a bad show! But ok. So, you had this expression on your face when you were performing…
D: It was so baaaad!
I can’t help laughing.
P: So, at first I was even a bit scared, then I was… I don’t know, for some reason I liked it, and I was very moved by your performance. It changed something for me, I can’t explain. Well, look at me now, here I am, doing an interview with you. But, you know, at some point you really looked as if you were suffering or something….
D: Oh well, thank you for saying that.
P: Why? But that was definitely not what you would expect to see in a club, you know. I would love to be able to do something like this, but I can’t, that’s why I go to see you performing, because I can relate and, probably, other people can relate too. And maybe it’s another thing that they can relate to. But it doesn’t matter, you are expressing something everyone in one way or another can relate to, you are doing it for everyone. It may sound weird, but a lot of people come to SEE you, not only to listen to your music, but to see the performance, cause it’s about feeling and doing something they cannot do on their own, you know.
D: Well, that’s not for me to decide, but that’s nice to hear.
P: I mean, you know, you are taking people somewhere some of them can not get on their own, right?
D: Well, I am trying to, don’t know if it works. People decide if they are willing to go along, I am not taking anybody anywhere.
P: Yes, right. So you are saying that the Moscow show was bad, what’s a good show then?
D: I don’t know. It’s hard to say. But I can say that Berghain is a very special place to perform.
P: How are crowds different in, for example, Berghain and in a tiny low-key club…
D: Well, people can say whatever they want, but Berghain is the best club in the world, they know what they are doing. It’s psychology. Everyone is on their best behaviour, the audience really cares because it means something to be there, even if it’s just for that night. And they are a very informed audience, they are an educated audience, they are a tough audience.
P: What do you mean ‘tough’?
D: Because they know what they are there for, they know the music. It’s not easy to fool them, you have to really try and concentrate, and focus, when you are at Berghain, because there is a standard.
P: Is music a way to connect to people? Is that what you wanted?
D: You know, somebody said something really interesting in a critique of my work. They said that I had problems with intimacy and I don’t know if that’s true, but I think it was a really good criticism because I am very…you know, I don’t really go out, I stay at home almost all of the time, I am very busy and work a lot. I am careful with who I spend my time with and… As for clubs, it’s another contradiction because you want to feel connected to people, but how do you connect with every person there? You can’t. So, there’s this sort of dehumanisation potential of being really fake and being really insincere because you have to communicate with so many people at one time, how do you do that? One of the challenges about some kind of attempt at being real in an environment that is completely artificial, people watch you performing on the stage and you have to become…something.
P: Why is it artificial?
D: Because it’s contrived! It’s not spontaneous.
P: I think it’s like a tribe gathering, a ritual. Don’t you see it as a ritual?
D: I see it is a process. A ritual is…Mmm okay, it’s like a ritual that goes half way.
P: Why half way?
D: Ritual involves a predetermined outcome. And there’s no predetermined outcome in the club. You can perform the steps of the ritual and there is no enlightenment, or conclusion, or attainment, or passage. You can do all that stuff and it fails, I don’t think it’s a ritual. It’s an expectation.
P: Ok, yes..?
D: And so, when you have an expectation, it means…It’s like nobody gives a fuck what I went through, what my day was like, nobody gives a shit what is going on in my life, and not that they should! Not that they should care, it’s just that when you walk onto a stage, you have a responsibility.
P: When I was listening to your music, I was really wondering what was behind this, or who was, where it was coming from. If I ask you, what’s going on in your life? How do you feel? You wouldn’t tell me.
D: I disagree, I do tell a lot.
P: What’s your day like? Do you have a wife or a husband? Do you have a house?
D: Haha! That’s all norm core shit.
P: See? It’s a way to learn something about someone.
D: It’s not important to my mission.
P: You just told me you didn’t have a mission.
D: No, I said I don’t have a mission to save the world.
P: Right. But you have a mission then?
P: What’s that?
D: To keep the underground alive.
P: And what’s keeping you alive? So that you could keep the underground alive?
D: Love and passion, I still love the music, I don’t like the culture but I like the music.
P: Depends on your definition of culture. Back in the days culture was a good thing and music was a part of it.
D: Sure! But I am disturbed by the hypocrisy.
P: It’s always been there.
D: Well, it doesn’t mean it’s any less disturbing, just because it’s always been there!
P: Oh well. Yes. Do you live alone?
D: No. Well…But the mission is to try and make people ask questions that they don’t know the answers to.
P: Do you want to have kids?
D: Definitely not!!!
D: Why would anyone on this earth ever want children? Unless they are afraid to die?
P: Well, some people do, you know. And you’re not afraid to die?
D: I wouldn’t say that necessarily. I mean when you are on the plane, traveling around, it’s not that much a fear of death, but a fear of violent death, it’s more fear of the process of dying rather than feeling dead. I think there’s a difference. I think the most disturbing thing about that would be the idea of time continuing. It’s weird to think about being dead, like, for one minute or for a hundred million years…But the nice thing is that with the speed of light time stops, so there is no time. I think that’s our limitation as dualistic beings who see things in linear direction. I think it’s more like a timeless experience rather than something that is ongoing. And also the fact that we are here and now proves that, in a rhetorical sense, reincarnation is possible. I don’t mean dying and being reincarnated and coming back as a cell phone. Just in the sense that death and life is, in a rhetorical sense, existence in non existence, we have already experienced non existence before we were born. So who’s to say that it can’t happen again, that we can’t be ripped from death and forced to live, and die again.
P: Do you think things happen for a reason?
D: Oh, no! There is no fucking reason.
P: Do you think we give things the meaning then?
P: Then it all does have meaning anyway.
D: I don’t think the two are codependent, I just think it’s our way of dealing with cruelty.
P: You mean cruelty in general?
D: Life is cruel. The whole premise of it is cruel, nature is cruel.
P: Have you ever been angry for being brought into this world and having been forced to deal with it, with cruelty and all? I mean, I was.
D: Of course I AM angry about it!
P: How do you cope with this anger?
P: Why music?
D: Music is a multimedia artform. Despite unbelievable conservativeness of the finite world that always shits on music and can’t ever see it as art, because it deals with a commercial product and it deals with editions, typically…But for me it’s still art, it just happens to be a multimedia art.
It’s already 2 am, time to move downstairs to the club. The club is packed and there’s a big crowd waiting for Vatican Shadow to make his appearance. I am gathering my stuff and preparing to leave the recordshop.
“Do you like Mexico?”, I am shouting from under the counter.
Dominick bursts with laughter.
D: I LOVE Mexico, but it’s unfair to say Mexico though. I haven’t seen much of the country.
P: Me neither.
D: Why are you living in Mexico now?
I try to explain what made me stay here.
We go downstairs and suddenly Dominick asks “Where in Russia?”. “I’m from Moscow”, I say.
“Oh, it’s an enchanted place!” he says. I can’t disagree.
In fact Dominick didn’t answer any of my questions. And it wasn’t really about getting answers. I am not even sure he has them. After this conversation I have more questions than I had before. And that’s what makes it a good conversation. That’s what makes it all worth it.
Cosmo Lopez has been around in the electronic music circle for quite a while. With a long history and long journey, we were curious about […]
As the world is still in a pandemic and the European cultural landscape is surrounded by a fog of the unknown we got in touch […]