DJ Magda Gigs the Standard, Talks Techno

Magdalena Chojnacka was born in Poland but grew up in the original techno city, Detroit. She started DJing in 1996 and was spotted by techno star Richie Hawtin in 1999. He tapped her to open for him at clubs, festivals and tours.

DJ Magda plays the Standard downtown on Saturday night
DJ Magda plays the Standard downtown on Saturday night

It was good timing. Hawtin, a second-wave techno adherent from the nearby Canadian town of Windsor, was shaping a third incarnation for the Detroit-born sound -- "minimal." The idea, at least originally, was to strip techno to its inner core -- wobbly bass-lines, relentless cymbals, and a brooding sense of underground bacchanalia. Vocals and the sound's black rhapsody were lost in the process, at least at first. But it fit the times, and still does. Miminal is the anecdote to gushy, emotive trance, and it has taken over the super-club circuit. The tanking economy has only made this simmering sound even more apropos.

Known for her dark but groovy "minimal disco," Magda tears up clubs with a future forward mix of laptop programming and supplemental effects, loops and samples. Her vibe can be found on the 2006 mix-CD She's A Dancing Machine, and on many Minus Records productions and remixes. She also co-founded the techno label Items & Things. In 2003 Magda moved from New York to the new techno capital of Berlin to be among the third wave elite, including Hawtin, Troy Pierce, and Steve Bug.

On Sunday she performs at the Culprit Sessions party at the Standard Hotel rooftop downtown with Troy Pierce, Kenneth James Gibson, Droog and Clovis. We recently caught up with her.

LA Weekly: How did growing up in Detroit influence your sound? You soaked up some house influences, too, right?

Magda: Lots of techno growing up in Detroit. I also used to attend a great party held by Kenny Dixon, Theo Parrish and Rick Wade called Hot Box. It was there I got to listen to more leftfield house and abstract funk.

How would you describe your sound, in terms of your DJ sets?

Ghoul funk.

How has Richie Hawtin he influenced you?

We have played together so much that I have been able to see firsthand how great he is at listening to and manipulating sounds. I have also observed how, when he DJs, he is able to play with people's minds and emotions.

You moved to New York at one point but didn't seem to like it. What made you leave?

Detroit was deeply rooted in techno and a techno tradition. When I left there for New York I felt that the city's sound encapsulated everything. But there wasn't a focus, a specific scene, revolving around the sounds I liked.

You've said that people, and venues particularly, don't appreciate sound-system quality like they do in Europe. Are their any venues stateside that do get it?

It was true, but over last two years playing in U.S., I have noticed that the attention to sound has improved. Things are changing now.

Techno has become such a global phenomenon.

It is truly global. For example, we played Sao Paulo and Click Box gave me a demo after the show. A year later we saw them again and they gave some music to Troy [Pierce]. We saw their progression and, after hanging out with them, we then helped develop them as artists and they now release great music on Minus.

There seems to be a backlash against minimal now. Is it just a matter of words? The sound, whatever you call it, and its primary artists, seem to be as popular as ever.

Minimal is such a broad genre. It is more a backlash against the word rather than the music. Any time when music starts to sounds the same and becomes over saturated there will be a backlash, because it becomes stagnant.

Is Detroit still turning out influential techno?

It is and always will. It hasn't lost its particular sound. Detroit will experience another renaissance. The worse the economy gets the better the music becomes.

Can we expect any new releases from you soon?

I have a Fabric mix-CD in November.

What's next for you?

Burning Man.

Magda DJs the Culprit Sessions party Sunday with Troy Pierce, Kenneth James Gibson (live), Droog and Clovis Sunday afternoon at the Standard Hotel rooftop, 550 S. Flower St., downtown. Doors at 1 p.m. $10 before 3 p.m. with RSVP. $20 after.

Listen to a sample of She's A Dancing Machine here.

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