Valida-ted — DJ and Producer Valida is On Fire: She’s a DJ with her own show on KCRW, and she’s a long-time event promoter in the Los Angeles area. People deep into the region’s electronic music scene know full well who Valida is; her radio presence alone has seen her local buzz expand while club nights such as Desert Nights were extremely popular. And she’s releasing her own, original music too.
It’s been a long and challenging journey for the artist who bought her first turntables in 1997. Originally from Sarajevo, Bosnia, Valida was a hardcore and punk rock fan in her youth. Her obsession with Bad Religion, Misfits, Fugazi, Descendents and Bad Brains was all-consuming and didn’t allow space for electronic music. However, after living in London for a year in 1992 and attending a rave, seeds were planted. It still took a couple of years, but a set by Doc Martin (plus an E tab) changed her world.
“I was enamored by drum & bass, jungle,” she says. “I was a junglist – still am in my heart. I’m one of the few DJs on KCRW that still spins jungle. I made a film about this – my Master’s thesis at UCLA was about drum & bass/jungle, and there’s a cool quote by Jumpin Jack Frost. He was part of the Metalheadz crew [with Goldie, etc]. We were sitting in front of the Viper Room, and I asked him to tell me the difference between drum & bass and jungle. He’s like, ‘It’s the same thing but the word jungle was off-putting for a lot of white electronic music journalists and parents.’ They wanted to take the genre and make it more accessible. Make it more palatable. I use it interchangeably.”
Valida eventually found her way to Los Angeles (via Moscow) in 1994 as she was seeking an education. Plus, of course, there was a war going on back in Bosnia.
“I never thought my career would be music – that was just something I was passionate about,” she says. “I was going to be a businessperson of some sort. When I realized there were liberal arts degrees and all these other things you can study, then I was like ‘alright.’ I found a major called World Arts & Cultures. That’s when all these doors opened.”
She refers to L.A. as a “magical place,” and things have certainly gone well for her since landing. Her sound has grown over the years as she’s evolved as a DJ and artist, though she doesn’t like to put it in a box.
“It has to be freeform, eclectic,” she says. “There was a period of time between 2002 and 2005 – if you asked who was the broken beat, two-step DJ in Los Angeles that would have been me. I was promoting those genres very heavily at my weekly party Proper. But L.A. can be really tough on imports when it comes to music and it was tough to maintain that night. We gave it a good shot for three years. I decided I needed to branch out. But yeah, now I’m all over the place.”
When mulling over her career highlights thus far, Valida mentions her Asian tour that took in Japan, the Philippines, Malaysia and Singapore.
“Another highlight was when the first song I ever produced landed in a TV show,” she says. “I can’t even describe the feeling. The song was ‘Mine to Take,’ [the show was Secret Circle] and I produce everything myself. It took me so long to make that song, probably six months. Everything had to be perfect, and I was still learning Logic. Then it got used in two TV shows. It motivated me to do more, but it had such a busy DJ schedule with KCRW then I had my weekly night with Desert Nights, it was impossible to carve out the time. I was able to make this EP now because of the pandemic.”
The new EP, Mixed Signals, is superb and the latest single is “On Fire.” It tackles themes that most of us are familiar with.
“You know when you want someone and they want to take it slow, and you’re like ‘Goddamit. OK, fine, we’ll take it slow. I don’t really want to but fine’,” she says. “I’m a Leo and when I see something I want, I just go for it. Waiting is very frustrating.”
Mixed Signals is a three-track EP, due out soon. There are remixes courtesy of Psychemagik to follow too. Again, the EP tackles familiar themes.
“For me, isolation and reminiscing,” she says. “Going back to familiar territory and regressing to my childhood. The first single ‘Do it Again’ explores my childhood obsession with sci-fi. It samples [cult British show] Blake’s 7. In Bosnia, I grew up watching that show. Servalan – what a perfect villain. It was going back to my childhood and finding comfort in things. During the pandemic, you were real careful who you talked to and touched. So thinking about past relationships. Mixed Signals – sometimes you can read the other person wrong. Communication is so key.”
Just prior to this piece coming out, Valida will have performed at Peanutbutter Wolf’s Eagle Rock bar Goldline – a venue where invited DJs can only spin the records that already line the wall. She says that it’s a “stamp of validation” to be invited to DJ there. In addition, there’s been a bit of buzz about getting her to restart Desert Nights, and she’s not completely adverse but right now wants to work on and promote her own stuff. And then there’s her KCRW show.
“My new KCRW weekly slot is every Monday night from 10 p.m. to 1 a.m. I’m super-excited about that – pre-pandemic I was on from midnight to 3 a.m.”
She’s going up in the world!
Valida-ted — DJ and Producer Valida is On Fire: Listen to Valida on KCRW. Her new single “On Fire” is out now, the Mixed Signals EP is out Oct 6, and the Psychemagik Remix is out Oct 21.
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