Interview: Ewa Justka

With the music of Ewa Justka, I’m not just exposed to the sounds emitted by her home-made electronic instruments. I feel rocked by the circulating voltage; blasted by the excess heat that pulses out of the mangle of wires and transistors. Ewa describes her own music as “weird acid techno”, although during those moments of euphoric recurrence and noise, these pieces thump away at the barriers of their own stylistic framework. 

On Sunday (27th August 2017), Ewa will be playing at The Audacious Art Experiment’s Rare Synergy LAN Gathering 2017: a 12-hour event at the Picture House Social in Sheffield, featuring the likes of Galaxians, Housewives, Negative Midas Touch and Trans/Human. More info here, and the Facebook event is here.

You’re playing Rare Synergy LAN Gathering 2017 at the end of this month, with 15 acts playing across three rooms over the course of 12 hours. It sounds like an intense day. Are you looking forward to it? Based on your current live setup, what can people expect?

To be honest, I’m not a big fan of this kind of long performances. I’m curious about the line up though. I play weird acid techno.

In an interview with Stray Landings, you described the premise of your live sets as being “constant crescendo, things accelerating, until it’s unbearable”. I love that. Do you have a particular interest in those experiences that push right up against what someone can withstand? 

Well all dance music is basically accelerations, drops, buildups. So that’s the influence.

You’ve played in a whole host of different spaces and circumstances. Given the visceral energy flowing through this music, do your find your performances to be in dialogue with the bodies in the space? How is your performance influenced by the behaviour of people listening; for example, if they’re able to dance or move around, or if they’re seated?

To be honest, it’s not influenced by people listening.  I would play the same intensity of sound with or without people. It’s not really a dialog. I’m just doing my own thing.

I’d love to know more about your approach for recording Acid Smut, as listening to the record really meddles with my sense of the physicality of electronic sound. Some of these noises sound like bubbles of gelatine or battery-powered carving knives – things I can touch – and even on headphones, the record feels like it’s coming at you from speakers (which, to my mind, sound far too loud and powerful for the room they’re in). What did your recording setup look like for this release? Were there any specific considerations about what sorts of sonic qualities you wanted to capture? 

I simply recorded stuff straight from the recorder, not plugged into a mixer, or anything – I just put it there, so you can hear all of the noises around, super lo-fi. I like this quality of it, but it’s not super conceptual. I just like it raw.

You make a lot of these instruments yourself. I’ve been browsing through your Etsy store today; you’ve got an excellent knack for a good name (“Optodeafener”, “The Ultimate Headbutting Machine”). When you create these instruments, do you start with a particular function in mind? Or is it a matter of experimenting as you go?

There’s lots of experimentation, but I also relay on other schematics. It’s a mixture of things. I like when things sound noisy and kicky, that’s for sure.

Have you got any instruments in the work at the moment? I heard that you were working on a neon bulb synthesiser…this one, perhaps?

Yes, so the neon synth, which basically uses obscure, pre-transistor technology was built for my final exhibition at Goldsmiths, which gonna be in September. I’m planning to make a whole series of weird neon synthesisers, with different types of neons. I’m also building a drum synth, with weird snare, delay, distortion, built in sequencer, resonance filter, so it would sound kinda acidy and gabbery.

I stumbled upon this wonderful video, in which you hook up electronics to various fruit and veg and then squeeze them to control pitch. In the description, you note that “electronic music has long been considered the opposite of organic music. We perceive the world of electricity as being fundamentally different to the world of flesh.” Do you see this assumption as problematic, and do you see your music as confronting this idea?

Ah, it’s just a little joke, kinda fun little synth, I don’t really take it too seriously. I mean I could probably write an essay about it, but I don’t think there’s a time or place for it here!

Do you have a particular space or room reserved for creating/recording/improvising with sound? If so, where is it and what does it look like?

Oh I wouldn’t be able to afford that. Everything happens in my room.

What records have you been listening to recently?

Woody McBride, Atom-X, Dj Hyperactive, basically stuff from Drop Bass Records, hardcore acid techno labels from 90s.

What else is on the horizon for you and your music? 

I’m collaborating with Roc Jimenez de Cisneros, from EVOL – we just played together in Poland, and that was super fun. We are planning to play more and more, we are also thinking about few synths to build together, for our set as well as for sale. Also, I just played with Manni Dee at Norbert Festival, my good friend and fantastic techno producer, we are also planning to play more gigs together. I was asked to release a vinyl for AnD’s label, which is super exciting, so once my exhibition is done I will get into that (poor neighbours!).