Mon, 24 November 2008
Rod B. & Alvaro Garfunk bring you the Miami Underground Movement
With the release of her solo STOP EP on Minus, Magda can finally afford to take stock of a
whirlwind few years that have seen the insatiable demand for her very special blend of house and
techno carry her the length and breadth of the globe.
November 2005 and Magda’s set is reaching its climax at London’s Fabric. One moment she’s
pounding the crowd with her very own 48 Hour Crack In Your Bass, the next the hairs on the
back of 500 necks simultaneously stand to attention as the moody chords from Strafe’s all time
classic Set It Off produce a collective gasp of appreciation from the dancefloor. She’s in the
zone, unphased by the raucous response she’s generating. Virtually hidden by the racks of fx
units and monitors surrounding her, she remains a picture of calmness, dictating the play with a
It’s easy to see why she’s one of the most exciting prospects to breakthrough in recent years.
Magda makes things happen. Always has done, always will do.
Currently residing in Berlin, a relative stone’s throw from her home town of Zywiec in Poland
considering the nomadic existence of her childhood, she seems to have finally found a city that
mirrors her own attitude to life - no restrictions and certainly no compromise. It’s a philosophy
that also flows through Magda’s music particularly during her after hour sets. The ability to guide
her audience through the dark recesses of contemporary minimalism before delivering them back
safely into the light means her name is never far from the lips of discerning clubbers and fellow
Her family left Zywiec for Texas in 1984 when she was nine before finally settling in Detroit in
1986. All this traveling around from one starkly contrasting environment to another, taught her to
deal with new challenges and to adapt to new situations pretty quickly, lessons that have
subsequently helped her deal with the often hectic life of a touring DJ. Always the outsider, the
concept of ‘home’ was never as straightforward as it is for some. Sometimes though, home isn’t
a physical location, it’s a state of mind and when she first turned up at a warehouse party a
couple of blocks from where she’d grown up in the tough district of Hamtramck, she knew she’d
found it. This initial foray into the Detroit underground culminated in the mind-blowing experience
that was Spastik - Richie Hawtin’s first Plastikman PA. She was hooked.
Within a few months, armed with a cheap pair of belt drive turntables and an unquenchable thirst
for vinyl, she’d moved from one side of the shop counter to the other at the influential Record
Time store and had also persuaded the bar where she worked to put on a monthly techno night
with Claude Young and Daniel Bell. Her enthusiasm was totally infectious and they soon asked
her to warm up for them. In conversation it’s clear to see how much the lack of attitude and
unconditional support from Bell in particular has shaped Magda’s own way of doing things.
Then, inspired by her mother’s ‘dark and surreal’ art she decided to study Graphic Design in
New York state but soon realized music was the most natural medium for her self expression.
Nevertheless, this abstract influence can still be found in her music production, juxtaposing as
she does warm, thick swathes of sound with jagged little hi hat patterns, sometimes lazy,
sometimes clinical but always purposeful and expressive.
On returning to Detroit she met Richie Hawtin at one of the legendary Hot Box parties where a
mutual friend introduced her. It was the first of what turned out to be a couple of chaotic
encounters that eventually led to the invitation of a gig at Hawtin’s 13 Below night. It was there
she first met Marc Houle. Their off-beat humor quickly developed into an unshakeable
friendship and Magda was soon lodging with Marc in Windsor where their musical symbiosis
started laying the foundations for 2003’s Run Stop Restore project together with Troy
By this time she’d already cut her teeth on the main stage, regularly performing at the System
raves in Detroit and as part of the Women on Wax collective. Things don’t always go
according to plan though, and by 1999 Magda was pretty much fed up with the ‘scene politics’
that seemed directly at odds with the feelings she’d first encountered. She took a step back,
followed her heart and immersed herself in the minimal sounds scuttling out of Germany in
particular (i.e Brinkmann, Perlon, Kompakt). The resulting bootleg CD mix - Fact and Friction -
won her a new set of admirers and consolidated her growing relationship with Hawtin, opening
for him at the millennium celebration EPOK and also forming part of an enviable line up at the
Plus 8 ten year anniversary party From Our Minds To Yours. Since then she has become his
sole choice as opening DJ, accompanying him on both European and Stateside tours.
The new millennium brought a host of new digital technology with it, most notably Final Scratch
and when she wasn’t on the road she could be found wiling away the hours transferring Hawtin’s
vast record collection into the digital domain. At the time there were only about ten DJs using
Final Scratch and while others regarded it with suspicion, Magda was quick to see the potential,
re-editing her favorite tracks to further enhance the distinctive flavor of her sets. She shies away
slightly from the ubiquitous ‘minimal’ tag, citing Chicago Jack and Acid as equally significant
ingredients in her sound but whichever way you look at it, she is part of a movement that is
rapidly redefining electronic dance music as we know it. Turntables, laptops, samplers and efx
units now clutter her DJ booth as the wall between traditional DJing and ‘on the fly’ production
starts to crumble.
And so, the Minus train rumbles on, forging a relentless path through new, uncharted territory.
Magda however, remains refreshingly free from the burden of expectation. Genuinely surprised
by the trajectory her life has taken yet deeply aware of the responsibility she has to her growing
army of fans, she faces the future with the same wide-eyed, ‘devil may care’ attitude that has
always accompanied her from city to city, from airport to airport, from disco to disco. A lonely
existence? For some maybe but Magda knows more than most that home is where the heart is.
Berlin is a fickle friend, a city that throws up unlimited scope and unseen perils in equal
measures. A muse to some - spurring them on to new heights of creativity, a vampire’s kiss to
others - intoxicating at first, it eventually sucks them dry, leaving a hollow shell with nothing left
but dreams of what might have been. Luckily, Magda already had something of the night about
her when she arrived in 2003 and, liberated from the clutches of New York’s draconian attitude
to club culture, she took to the Berlin underground like a fish to water. The notorious Beatstreet
afterhour parties got the energy coursing through her veins once more and she immediately set
about reevaluating and redefining her relationship to the music.
An intense flurry of activity followed. Together with Troy Pierce and Marc Houle, Magda began
exploring new production possibilities, honing her turntable skills and extending her dj sets in
order to satisfy the insatiable appetites of Berlin’s club kids. The transition was by no means
straight forward, taking both time and dedication but the hybrid sound that emerged, drawing
inspiration from the twin towers of Berlin and Detroit, has gone on to capture the imagination of
clubbers the world over.
In this sense, last year’s mix compilation She’s a Dancing Machine represents the first
volume of her audio-biography and sums up the ambition that drives this diminutive figure behind
the decks. Somehow finding the time to throw down an epic 70 track, multi-layered excursion
between the 130 shows she clocked up in 2006 (never mind the afterhours) really cemented her
reputation, topping off a year that also saw her hold successful residencies at Robert Johnson
(Offenbach), Technique (Leeds) and Fuse (Brussels) plus numerous appearances at festivals
around the globe such as Lowlands, Sonar, The Detroit Music Festival and Mutek.
Yet despite reaching the enviable position of being able to choose her gigs, there is no room for
complacency. Shouldering the increasing weight of expectation she has come to expect the
unexpected, in fact adversity has often propelled her on to greater things. There’s also a sense of
duty to keep pushing the envelope and this year she’ll be expanding her set-up to incorporate
new technology in addition to the delay pedals and edits that already give her sets their
distinctive flavour. It’s a move that should blur the boundaries between studio production and live
performance even further and will no doubt help formulate ideas for her upcoming album which
promises to be another continuous exploration into deep, dark, minimal disco.
However before that there’s a string of remixes to enjoy for 2007 including Heartthrob’s Baby
Kate (Minus), Gotham Road by Ryan Crosson (Trapez) and Louderbach (Underline). It’s also
worth keeping an eye on Items and Things, the new label from Magda, Marc and Troy that’s
home to their more abstract, off the wall creations.
Someone once said‚ the only place success comes before work is in the dictionary. Well, Magda
has definitely put in the work although she’s happier leaving the definition of success to others.
The arrival is superfluous. Just like her late night musical excursions, it’s the journey that’s
important and with it the desire to maintain the high standards she sets and feed the creative
hunger within - if that’s also good enough for us, then so be it.
Special Thanks to Mr Meike Nolte,Rudy Delgado & Richie Hawtin