JakoJako is a Berlin-based musician who primarily performs live and extensively uses modular synthesis in her music.

Feature photo from Telekom Electronic Beats

Her diverse approach on the audible aesthetic that is showcased in both live performances and recordings has recently caught the attention of many and consistently continues to surprise and immerse those interested in the radiant side of contemporary electronic music. The sound of JakoJako spans all the way from techno, experimental and esoteric but rhythmical , right through to the highly melodic and emotional. Erica Synths' Eliza Aboltina met with JakoJako in Kreuzberg, just across the corner from the legendary SchneidersLaden (a shop for electronic musical instruments in Berlin, Germany) to talk about her time spent in its showroom, her electronic music learning curve while working as a nurse & how the Berlin underground community came together during the pandemic.

JakoJako will perform in an Erica Synths Garage event this Friday in Riga, Latvia.


- What have you been drawing inspiration from ?

JakoJako: Right now I am feeling very melodic. It comes from my mood. We are not going clubbing which is also why I don’t miss making techno. Of course, sometimes on the weekend when I have a day off I love to make techno and go crazy. But right now I feel like chilling - the autumn is coming… So I feel like going really sweet and just make ambient.

- Your musical output up to this point is very diverse - your release on Leisure System, all the live sets during this year - there isn’t one genre, style or approach to which it all could be pinpointed.

JakoJako: I am able to do different styles and I love to do all of them.

- But you did start with dance music, right?

JakoJako: Yes, definitely. I think melodic music was more tricky for me in the beginning because I have no musical background. I did learn to play a guitar a little, took some piano lessons a while ago but none of that has set deeply in my mind so that I could play or compose melodies like I wanted. I think that’s why I started with dance music, it was easier for me since it was already in my blood from raving. It came naturally. But now I feel like I am more skilled to realise the melodies in my mind. That’s why to me it’s also more relevant right now - I just learned it.

- For how long have you been working with music?

JakoJako: Since I live in Berlin - I moved 6 years ago. Before I was actively listening to a lot of electronic music but I never really felt that I have to do this. I always had creative hobbies - drawing for example. But I never knew that music could be my hobby. That it’s actually the real thing that I love. And when I figured out that that’s it I cut out the rest. Also there weren’t really many people making music in the village that I come from - maybe one or two people, but that wasn’t really the style that I like. So I was never surrounded with people like that. When you come to Berlin you find people that are thinking in a similar direction. It’s way easier to learn.

- How did you start to produce?

JakoJako: I had some really cheap synths - just to learn, to make one melody based on subtractive synthesis. I also borrowed or bought used. Read some books and magazines about electronic music and music production. I was watching a lot of tutorials. Once I learned how to make a track I realised I have to learn how to record it. So I took some Ableton lessons. I was working as a nurse in night shifts, studying nursing management during the day and during my night shifts I learned how to make music. There wasn’t so much to do during my shifts. I always brought a little synthesizer with me to play around, read the manuals.

And now you work at SchneidersLaden!

JakoJako: Yes, for three years! I started to work there because I wanted to learn - I was willing to have an internship, work for free. First they rejected me - the old manager said ‘'we don’t do these kinds of things’’. Then I accidentally met Schneider on the street while I was sticking up posters for a party with a friend. We started to talk and Andreas asked ‘’Do you know who I am?’’ to which I replied ‘’Sure, I know who you are. You are Schneider and I wanted to work for you but you said no’’. ''No, I didn’t! With this attitude, girl, you go there tomorrow and you’ll get this job!’’ So I worked there for a month for a little money, learned as much as I could and afterwards they asked if I wanted to stay. And yeah, now I am still working there.

The musical outcome in the first years of production was pure crap. I am still not ready yet or fully happy with my sound - I think I never will be - I think this comes only with practicing over many years. Especially finding what it is you want to do with all these millions of inspirations. I don’t know… If you hear a track and think ‘'Great idea, I could do that too’' or ‘’Ah, stimmt! I never thought about this!’' you get distracted so fast. Or when I see a texture and I think ‘'how would this sound?’’. Or going to another city... When I was in Hong Kong I saw a lot of different patterns on buildings - ‘'This house - there is pink and it has yellow windows, and this one is green - much bigger and with much bigger windows… The repetitiveness of patterns, focusing on the details or stepping back and seeing the bigger picture.’’ I start to translate that into sound. I can get so much inspiration from everything that it can be difficult to find your own style. And maybe that is why I have so many different styles - I know how to do it, everything is still fun, but maybe I am just still searching and learning.

- I believe that this is a big part of the creative process. The search shall never end…

JakoJako: Yes, like you said - if you are ever finished with the process and think that you’ve found what you will now do for the next 10 years, you are probably not a creating artist anymore, you become commercial…

- A reproduction machine…

- How has your work in SchneidersLaden influenced your creative development if in any way?

JakoJako: I have a lot of interesting conversations when the shop is open. Right now it is closed so it's just boring without the humans. But working in the shop opened a lot of doors for me. Everytime I understand a new function of a module, I understand a little piece of a bigger thing - electronic music. The more you understand, the more ideas you can realise. And every piece of gear is also an inspiration, every design of every company feeds you something back. The biggest step was learning the modular, - for me at least. I know people who are very successful in the box. But somehow it doesn't feel so special to me. It doesn't feel like ''I made it!'' Making a patch from scratch and thinking that this was my idea. Working in the shop definitely had a big impact on the sound I create now. Coming into the shop an hour earlier and testing things in real life is really helping in making purchase decisions.

So when did you start to play live?

JakoJako: I think 3 years ago. It was a party called Mother Tongues done by Jessy Kert (another SchneidersLaden employee, Jessy is also one part of ZV_K who played the first Kontaktor, listen to their live set here- ed.). She told me I have to do it and I have to play live and I decided that I can. I think I played only with my Analog Rytm - and it worked. I was done in 35 minutes and I was really nervous (laughs - ed.). But it was a good experience. After the first time being able to really enjoy to play with people actively listening to it... From then on I was like ''Fuck, I want to do this! I love it, it's fun.'' Doing the stuff you do at home for yourself but on a big sound system and suddenly you can share it with other people who might whistle or go crazy, or be emotional with their eyes closed. It’s beautiful.

- Would you say that you are more focused on performing your music live than releasing it?

JakoJako: I like to do both. Often I take way too long to start to prepare a set and then I have to make fast decisions. If I am working on a production you can change a lot over and over again. There are sometimes too many possibilities. But if I have time I love to be at home and produce. - The fact that I am now focusing on music that is primarily created to listen to rather than to dance to…

-Do you think it is a temporary thing?

JakoJako: I really enjoy the fact that I do not have to play in a club environment right now. But I think that is only for now. The current setting of my eurorack case is made just for the melodies - I have three voices with layers and textures so now I use my case for rhythmical melodies. Maybe in half a year when I am rich I would buy other gear so I can do other things (laughs - ed.). Nothing is forever.

- How do you turn ideas into music? What's the technical process?

JakoJako: Depends on what I want to do. If I have time I just want to play around, I do not put pressure on myself to aim for anything. I start patching and just enjoy it, then the musical outcome is usually the best. I am surprised by myself, it's an interaction with gear - communication with the machine. I think these are the best days and the tracks that in the end actually get released. Just no pressure. I find the tracks that were created organically better just because I felt better when I was making them. When I have a certain idea, a sound in my mind - I sit in front of the machines until I get it. And it can be pretty frustrating. But these are the moments when you actually learn and it's definitely not a comfort zone.

- You have a new release coming out on Leisure System, correct?

JakoJako: Yes, we aim for the end of this year. It's going to be an EP on Leisure System. Also a few tracks on compilations.

- How did your relationship with Leisure System start?

JakoJako: In SchneidersLaden! Barker came to the shop with a friend. His friend was really curious about synths so I showed her around, explained what we do which led her to ask me whether I - as a girl - make music, she was surprised to find one in the shop. I gave her my Soundcloud link and fortunately she was staying at Barker’s place. She put the music on and it caught his attention. In a month or something he came again to buy another piece of gear and said ''By the way, I listened to your stuff on Soundcloud, I really like it''. He invited me to do an interview for a Red Bull Music radio show he was hosting with Leisure System. At the end of the interview he and Golden Medusa (a Berlin based DJ and part of Leisure System - ed.) asked me whether I want to do a release.

- What are your thoughts on how the global pandemic has affected the electronic music community?

JakoJako: First I felt relieved. I made a lot of new music. But I also start to miss the rave.

- Looks like it's going to be a long, dark autumn and winter.

JakoJako: I am lucky that I still have a safety net - my day job. My insurance, rent and food is paid, no luxury extras but I am safe. Not everybody is. I know some friends who are looking for a job right now and they were really successful musicians before, gigging every weekend. And I feel for them. That's a hard cut in the career, especially for those who just started, in 2019. I feel the same way for all the promoters, club owners and all employees of clubs, agencies… But on a positive note - because of Corona all these musicians were staying home and are a lot on the internet. I made a lot of new friends through the internet - from the scene in Berlin. I had time to reply to all these technical requests on Instagram. Usually I don’t like to do it in my free time. So I feel like the underground musician scene came really close together and I got the feeling that I know nearly all of them now.

- What can Riga expect from you on Friday?

JakoJako: I changed my set-up for travel reasons, so I will use an Octatrack and the modular system only. It will be lush. Melodic. Beatless but rhythmical. Cute, emotional, maybe girly even. Because that is how I feel right now.


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