Close your eyes and step into an introspective journey with Hypnotic Black Magic

Hypnotic Black Magic is a DJ and event organizer based in Berlin. Originating from France, a leading Ambient-Techno DJ, event organizer, and a powerful woman figure in the scene. Apolline has been rising in the music industry through her gender and diversity-inclusive events and hypnotic dark and bright beats. Her selections will guide you on a meditative journey, where the notion of time and reality will dissolve into a state of introspective flow.

Interview and word by OZUM

Photographer: YKY (IG: @yky.g), © VIVE

Would you like to tell us about the start of your journey as a DJ? 

I started listening to electronic music when I was a teenager, around 12 years old and then started raving and listening to Techno at 15, before moving to Berlin just after my 18th birthday. I went more and more into Techno music, especially hypnotic techno, and ambient music. As I was fascinated by the scene, I decided to study music business in 2016 at SAE Berlin. At that time I was looking for an internship, and I applied to some festivals. They didn’t really have a position for me, but I continued looking for some people could learn from. One of my neighbors was working for Native Instruments and I met at a Native Sessions, a woman called Nadia Says, who became my mentor. She offered me to organize an event with her at Berghain on May 4th, 2017 and it is where everything started. I learned everything from her, from mixing visual arts and music performance to focusing on gender balance and diversity. After that, I created my own event series, Art Bei Ton, in 2018 and started organizing events with many great artists that I met throughout the years.

I was an event promoter, not a DJ, but somehow a festival taking place at Funkhaus asked me to play on the day of my birthday. I should have said no, as I didn’t know how to DJ at that time, but something pushed me to say yes and start spinning my favorite records, which were only collecting dust until then. This event was canceled at the end, but I started playing for fun some B2B with my friend Justine Perry, at some friends’ events. First at a Rave, then at OHM in Berlin and at Renate, before starting playing alone for the first time at one of my events at Griessmühle.
Then yeah, because I was organizing events, I also started putting myself at my events, always playing at the beginning, as after I always need to work a lot. Most of the crew organizing events are a big team of people when I am just doing everything alone. I can’t play, for example, in the middle of the party or at the end because these are very important moments. When I play, I always need to play for just 1-hour in the beginning. That’s actually how I got into DJing. I was collecting vinyls from all my favorite labels and my friends told me I should try, I tried, and I actually really liked it. Then I went from ambient to mixing ambient with techno and collecting more and more vinyls. Now I have a pretty nice collection. It’s an addiction, you know when you start you cannot stop, and you get more and more into it. Last month, I started playing also digital. It is of course easier and I’m happy to play the tracks from many of my friends that are not out on vinyl. The first time I actually played on CDs was in Poland at an event I organized. I just trained three times and I was like: “Okay well let’s try it out!”. It is going slowly but it is kind of going somewhere. I am excited to see the journey!

What do you love about Ambient?

This meditative state. You just close your eyes, lay down, or sit down properly and start diving into the sound. It’s very visual, just like a dream.

You can travel through different landscapes and different stories are coming up. I find it very beautiful and relaxing. But of course, there are many types of Ambient, like drone, dark ambient, or some more experimental sounds with field recording. You have some very atmospheric tracks with a lot of pads, sometimes very bright melodies on a piano, acoustic instruments, or synthesizers. There are some sounds I really like, such as sounds from nature or voices from some people talking. What I really love with Ambient is spatialization: when you close your eyes and you feel like in an empty room and you hear sounds coming from different places. This is what actually makes me travel when I enter the musical journey.

Could you tell us about ‘Art bei Ton’? 

Art bei Ton is an event series, which I created in 2018. We just reached 3 years last May and will have a special event on August 1st in Berlin to celebrate it with our friends and the public. Art Bei Ton is like a mix between French, German, and English languages, meaning ‘Art through Music’. So that is the main focus of our project. We have been doing many events, probably over 30 now. First in Berlin at Urban Spree, Arena Club, and then at Griessmühle, where we had kind of a residency with the collective Eclectique. We also did some events in Istanbul, in Paris, in Lisbon and recently in Poland as well, where we really like to work with the club Transformator in Wroclaw. I actually feel really lucky to travel to different countries and meet lots of great international people involved in the scene. It is really my passion and I hope to be able to do it more and more.

You also mentioned that you opened a club? 

Yes, we kind of opened a venue last September in Berlin, but it’s an ongoing project, so I won’t speak too much about it. The only thing I can say is that we are four queer female co-owners, and it feels really nice to work together and create something a bit different in the scene. We were able to do the opening party with Dasha Rush, Joachim Spieth, Paula Koski, and Justine Perry, and then everything closed down. It was of course the worst timing to start such a project because of the lockdown and covid restrictions, but we are very motivated and as a private space, we can do different stuff as well. It’s pretty nice.

What is your opinion about gender diversity in the music industry? 

This is actually a very important subject for me. I have experienced a lot of sexism through different jobs in the music industry, so I became really involved in fighting against discrimination and for more inclusivity. My goal is always to create more awareness on the topic, creating a better dialogue, so people would be more sensible to this subject and the scene would be safer for female and non-binary people.
Since 2017 and the beginning of the #Me-Too movement, the Art scene has changed a lot. Now people speak more openly about sexism and sexual harassment and every year it’s becoming a more safe and inclusive space, but we come from far. I mean, back in 2000-2010, there was this known sentence in the Art scene, especially in cinema, that was; ‘no blow job, no job’, implying sexual favors in exchange for some visibility, which is absolutely scandalous, but somehow wasn’t so many shocking people at that time. Since the spread of the #metoo on social media and the evolution of the discussion on this particular topic, mentalities have changed and we can see more and more feminist movements pushing the scene to be more gender-balanced.
Just looking at the few festivals happening this summer, we practically reach gender balance everywhere, and it’s definitely a huge step. It became more and more natural for people to be more inclusive and diverse, but I know that at the beginning, people weren’t understanding, and sometimes felt forced to book more female artists. Recently, I was part of a discussion on a Facebook group and I was very shocked by some comments from some guys saying that “gender-balanced is actually discriminating against men”… There is still a long way to go for mentality to evolve, especially for some more ‘conservative’ people. But it is definitely going somewhere.

Photographer: YKY (IG: @yky.g), © VIVE

With Art Bei Ton, our goal is to create a safe and inclusive environment for our international residents and for our scene. Curating gender-balanced lineups, is especially important for me, as I know how hard it is sometimes for flinta* artists to evolve in the normative music business environment. (flinta* is an inclusive word used for Female, Lesbian, Intersexual, Non-binary, Transgender, and A-gender.)
Last December, I wrote an article on Monument Magazine about this subject and I gathered a list of 55 flinta artists involved in the Hypnotic Techno scene. It was for me very important to do it, as so many guys were always saying that gender balance in this genre isn’t possible as there were not enough female artists playing this specific sub-genre of Techno. It was meant to be a reference for people to discover new artists, but it actually had an even bigger impact at the end, as many other artists contacted me, so we could connect all together. I really felt a big sisterhood movement being created and it’s very empowering.

“I think the word that we have to embrace is an inspiration. What is important about gender balance is to inspire the new generation, to inspire more FLINT artists, more diverse artists to join the scene.”

What do you think about the selection when entering a club? 

Selection is important, in a way, but having a good selector is even more important. There are lots of tourists coming to visit Berlin every day. Some of them have no idea about techno and just wanted to go to clubs. As a promoter, those people can be an issue as they don’t know how to behave. Many of them would definitely need to be bounced, as they would probably get too wasted, even aggress some people, or just basically won’t respect the basic fundamental rules of Berlin’s Nightlife. Those tourists haven’t yet been educated about our club culture but that’s something that can change. I feel like it’s important to let them discover it and experience this special vibe.
What I’ve noticed is that there is a good vibe and the number of tourists is around 20%, they
adapt to the general mood and learn how to behave. I think it’s a great social experience and I would always have this kind of balance at my events.
I understand some clubs prefer to have only regulars, but I feel like giving the chance for newcomers to discover something special is also very important. Everything comes with proportion and having a fair selection is necessary.
About discrimination at the door, it also exists, also in a club I really like and that’s a real issue that people don’t speak enough about it. Some POC friends of mine had issues with the
security and got rejected or even bounced without real reasons. Racism in Germany and also in Berlin is still present and even if it got better since the #BlackLifesMatter movement, it’s still an ongoing educational process. There are some improvements and I think every club is doing the best they can, but it’s still very important to focus on diversity and inclusivity because there is still a lot of discrimination.

How is the situation in France?

I left France 7 years ago, so I’m not totally aware of everything that is happening there, but in general, I see that there are many powerful flint DJs and promoters in France and more specifically in Paris.
They are actually really making the scene evolve in a more diverse and inclusive way, with more queer and poc artists. But at the same time, France is a very conservative country and the business is dominated by white cis heterosexual men, most of the time blocking the scene for their own contacts.
What is very hard is to get the opportunity to make an event in a club. In Paris even more than in Berlin, as everything is just based on your network. In Berlin, it’s difficult and I have experienced some discrimination, as a young French woman for people to take me seriously. I still have regularly some sound engineers not believing me when I say that ‘I’m the promoter’ and it pisses me off so much.

Do you have any advice for young emerging artists?

Of course, I always love to advise some emerging artists, because I know how hard it is to know what to do when we start. My first suggestion would be ‘Get inspired!’. Find some artists that you like and start building your own musical world.
Actually, what is important about gender balance is to inspire the new generation, to inspire more FLINT artists, more diverse artists to join the scene. It’s kind of like football, which is mostly considered a men thing. As a girl, if you want to play, some kids would say: “No, you cannot play, you are a girl!”. I personally experienced it as a kid and it was terrible. Now that there are more and more female football teams, mentally changed and a new generation of kids get more inspired. I think it is the same with every activity and with DJing as well. In the end, having more flinta and diverse artists in the scene is just to inspire the next generation. So, more and more people will say “Oh okay, they are doing it, so I can do it as well!”.
Some other advice would be to train yourself and when you have some sets that you really like, Strat playing for your friends, send them out to some podcast channels, and maybe reach out to some promoters. Over 10 messages, you might get only one answer, which can be a positive or negative answer, but people would have taken the time to hear you out and that’s a great start.
Meeting people is also very important. If you are an introvert, it’s okay, you can also meet people online, on Facebook groups, discord, and others. If you believe in what you do and you go for it, you will definitely achieve something. Just put love, hope, and good vibes into whatever you’re creating – that’s the key!

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