Interview with Irakli: Channeling music from other planets

One night in a famous Berlin club, I was sitting down, chillin’ alone, a bit bored and tired. Then a guy wearing a hat sits down next to me. Couldn’t resist asking him something. The next thing I know, we get talking – from philosophy to social issues, music, and other forms of art. Turns out the guy’s name was Irakli. Five years later, every time we meet, the same thing happens – we have stimulating conversations, satisfying our thirst for knowledge. He is still the same person that impressed me with his intellect and modesty.

Irakli is a Georgia-born, Berlin-based, designer, DJ, and producer. The cherry on top of his accomplishments is the famous STAUB party, which he organizes together with Ines Manseder and Jan Henschen in Berlin. STAUB is already eight years old, and it’s undoubtedly one of the best parties in the city.

In this interview, Irakli goes into detail about his new album – Major Signals, released at Dial Records. We also spoke about STAUB, the difficulties faced by an artist in pandemic times, and how Tbilisi became one of the hottest party scenes in the world.

Photo: Iulia Alexandra Magheru

Unklar: When did you first notice your attraction towards music?

Irakli: I can’t say exactly when, but at the age of six I went to a music school and started learning piano. I began to like music in general earlier when my cousin started living at our place. He had vinyls and a tape recorder. When I was probably 4-5 years old, we were listening to Police and Pink Floyd on vinyl.

U: How was the party scene in Georgia before you left?

I: Only commercial clubs with commercial music. There was no interesting electronic dance music anywhere in Georgia when I moved.

Photo: Iulia Alexandra Magheru

U: Since a few years, Tbilisi has one of the hottest party scenes in the world. Do you know how or why this happened?

I: I think this phenomenon of Georgian club culture has to do with Georgians themselves. Because in my family, and in a lot of families, music was part of everyday life. Every time there’s a dinner party, at least ten people are singing. When my father was driving, everybody was singing in the car. So, I think this singing and dancing was a part of Georgian culture, and that’s why the party scene in Tbilisi evolved this way. Also, I think Bassiani, and the people behind this club, played a big role in developing that.

U: You’re also a designer. But then you became a music producer, DJ, and successful party organizer. How did this happen?

I: Things just happened. First, I studied architecture. Then, when I wanted to study abroad, I realized that it’s better if I study something else. Because I would get bored of doing only one thing for the rest of my life. I never planned to become a DJ, a producer, to make parties. It just happened. You buy records, and at some point it’s your birthday and you play these records. Then one of your guests enjoys your music and invites you to play at his birthday. One thing led to another…

Photo: Iulia Alexandra Magheru

U: STAUB is one of the best parties in Berlin. How did you come up with the idea? Was it yours, or the result of brainstorming with the partners?

I: There was of course brainstorming, but I think the idea of not announcing lineups was mine.

We’ve been more than six people in the beginning, then one after another they had different ideas or projects, so naturally we ended up with three people. With these three people, representing the core group, I don’t remember having any fights.

We wanted to have fun with what we are doing – that was our main focus with STAUB. It didn’t start like a commercial project and we never expected STAUB to reach this level of popularity.

U: It’s eight years now since the first STAUB, and the event is getting bigger and even better. I was always impressed by your (and your team’s) attention to detail, which is the key to any successful event. How do you think it can be improved?

I: The Staub team always felt like part of the party. In the context of ://about blank, I think it’s very important to be there as a guest at your own party.

There were a lot of decisions made not as promoters, as a company, or DJ, but as a guest. If I would go to this party what would I like to see or experience? With that you always have something to approve.

U: How difficult is it for you to survive in these times, which are hard for any artist?

I: Every weekend I was meeting sometimes more than 1000 people. This can’t be replaced with online meetings or calling someone, because there’s something missing. A lot of concepts and important ideas come when you have a face-to-face conversation over a glass of wine. Also, meeting random people at the parties and finding out how interesting they are, what they do… It’s not only about art – some people are doing really interesting things with their lives.

For one year already all of this is gone, and this is very difficult. Only from reading books or listening to music it’s hard to get inspired and get new ideas. Money is not such a big issue, because I’m a survivor. As long as I’m healthy, I can survive. But I can’t live without social interaction – this is the most important thing missing now.

U: How do you see the Berlin club scene when the pandemic will be over?

I: I think about this in terms of best/worst case scenario. Worst case scenario – clubs I love don’t survive. Then you have the new players with investors behind it, or something. I have nothing against investors if they do the right thing. But usually they don’t, because investors are not willing to make something just for the sake of art.

Photo: Iulia Alexandra Magheru

A lot of people forget that most of Berlin clubs were anti-capitalist, non-profit institutions. This changed over the years. These small clubs, which grew up by themselves, might not survive the pandemic – this would be the worst-case scenario. But this wouldn’t mean that good music would die and people won’t go out anymore. It’s possible we’ll see some alternatives, with clubs outside of Berlin. Maybe we’ll have to take the train for one hour and go in the woods or something.

Best-case scenario – people would learn from this crisis, and realize what’s important. Helping each other is a very important thing. More solidarity, coming together to find a way that works for everyone. Because when you want something, there is always a way.

Photo: Iulia Alexandra Magheru

U: You are now launching your debut album Major Signals at Dial Records. How did it come into being? Tell me some details about it.

I: For me, working on an album is not like sitting on a chair and having a specific idea of what I want to do. It’s more of an intuitive process, then things come together. The main work is actually selecting the right tracks and finding the right concept for it.

Everybody believes in something – that’s the essence of Major Signals. Some believe in God, some believe that things are not happening randomly but that there is some kind of connection.

Sometimes I’m listening to music that feels like it’s coming from another planet. Like somebody sent a signal from somewhere. And I mean it in a poetic way. In the end, music is very personal. I tried to give a direction, an abstract idea of where it comes from, and then everybody can interpret it their own way.

Major Signals is released at Dial Records, a label that inspired me a lot over the years. I remember they started when I moved to Germany. I was listening on repeat to their releases from Efdemin, Lawrence, Pantha Du Prince, Carsten Jost. Dial Records influenced me a lot. The sound itself, the tonality might be a bit friendlier than my music, but there is this connection.

U: What inspired you in the creation of the new album? And what inspires you to produce something new?

I: Anything can bring inspiration. It can be an artwork, a conversation with a neighbor, watching a documentary. When I make music, I don’t listen to somebody else’s music. Or when I do design work, I don’t watch what other designers did. I can be inspired by nature, forest, sea. It’s always something else.

Photo: Iulia Alexandra Magheru

I always lived in a city, and I’m not a person for a small city. For example, I’m a big fan of New York. The sky scrapers, all these people you don’t know where they’re coming from. And it doesn’t matter where they’re coming from. This inspires me more than nature. Hearing birds, water or wind can be very inspiring, but I think that inspiration can come from anything and everything.