DJ and producer duo, label and party
How did you both get into production?
Yang: I started playing sax in bands and have always been surrounded by live music growing up - playing in big band, stage band, jazz bands, etc. As I got older and started going out more, my love for electronic music grew and I found myself leaning more towards that realm of music; so naturally began exploring production. It was a slow process at first as the whole concept of creating music without a physical instrument in front of me didn’t really make sense. I even took some time off thinking that producing wasn’t for me. But each year I’d find some time to dabble around Ableton until eventually I grew more comfortable with the software and it became more exciting. I still have a long way to go with production and definitely wouldn’t call myself a producer.
Margarita: First of all, pshh at Yang not calling herself a producer - I’ll call her one on her behalf. For me, production was something I’ve been interested in for a very long time from back when I was creating bad pop songs with my guitar on garageband as a child. I never really entered the electronic music world due to barriers to entry like money for equipment/software, though mainly due to my fear of being vulnerable in my creativity. My university exchange in London a few years ago really changed that for me - constantly being around creative people running their own labels, producing, DJ’ing, etc. When I was there I realised I wanted to learn production, but I had to wait until I had funds. The first thing I did was fiddle around but struggled to find time in-between uni and other commitments. In that sense, the first lockdown last year felt almost serendipitous despite the pain and stress - finally a time to focus on production and discover my sonic style.
Describe your creative process/es when it comes to production?
Yang: I’m still developing a workflow/process and find that I don’t really have a routine in how I go about making songs. I usually start with creating a rhythmic loop that I like and go from there. I also like to listen to some of my favourite producers tracks before beginning to produce, to get into the right headspace. Depending on my headspace that day, it can really influence what I end up creating, if anything at all.
Margarita: I really don’t know lol. Sometimes inspiration just hits and I can’t get off my laptop all day. I find that I almost always start with either a drum sample or vocals. I like to construct the atmospheres/backgrounds of my tracks with a lot of edited vocals and harmonies that are re-sampled and distorted so that you never knew they were vocals at all. It’s always a bit random when I get in my production chair because I don’t know whether I’m going to make drum and bass or dubstep or dream-pop or punk. It’s like roulette.
Yang – You play the sax and have performed around Naarm. Has your saxophone influenced your production and sound in any way?
Yang: Yeah, I used to play in a band called Cofi and Gabriel LCR’s live band. It was a lot of fun and has definitely shaped my approach to writing music. Coming from a live music background has definitely affected what sounds I tend to lean towards and my compositional techniques. I love melding live and electronic sounds together and often find it easier to write a song when I am using hardware rather than DAW.
Margarita: Yang is a fkn talented af sax player. Hit her up.
You both work together as DJs, producers, as a label and you host parties. What are the benefits and challenges of working together?
Margarita: Yang and I have very similar taste and often want the same things from a party. We especially both care about uplifting artists who are underrepresented in our music industry, particularly as we are starting to, again, see parties that book exclusively all male, het, white lineups (like, seriously?). So on that front, a lot of the creative considerations are easy to come to - we’re often on the same page. I think the biggest challenge, to be honest, is timing. Whether that be penciling in time where we can mix together, do admin, plan parties, or whatever else - it ain’t easy!
Yang: Hahah yep definitely agree that timing is probably the hardest. Aligning our schedules so that we can spend time mixing together and coordinate everything can be really difficult. Although it does help that we live together, work together and pretty much spend everyday together hahah.
Margarita: It’s so tragic that scheduling is the hardest thing even though we live together. We tend to see each other more out of the house than in the house!
How did your music journey as a duo, start off and where do you want it to go?
Yang: It started off running live music events together under Kitchen Events. Through that we realised that we have very similar tastes in music and work well together. We both started learning how to DJ at the same time so were learning and growing at the same time. Eventually we decided we might as well turn this into a duo and that’s how Strange Interactions eventually evolved.
Margarita: It all fell into place. I always tell people that Yang and I decided we wanted to start a label together pretty much as soon as we met each other. Because it really did feel like that - we hardly knew each other when Kitchen started, and as it progressed we realised we wanted to explore the electronic music side as well. That’s how Strange Interactions came about. And I couldn’t be more OVERJOYED to be working with my #1 all the time.
As a DJ the lifestyle can at times be a little hard, for example with sleep and mental health. How do you take care of yourself in this lifestyle?
Margarita: We don’t (laughs).
Yang: (laughs nervously)
Have you had any unforgettable moments in your music careers, individually and working together?
Yang: I think for me playing at Strawberry for the first time a couple years ago was a definite highlight. I remember thinking, back to my very first gig at the Brunswick Green where we were playing to an empty room, that one day I would play to a crowd - and that thought really hit me when I was about to go on stage at Strawberry Fields.
Margarita: First of all, that’s an adorable story. For me individually it was probably my first live gig at Colour of my solo project RITA BASS. That was only last month supporting Christy (Skinny Wizard), with Yang playing sax for me, my friend Tilly dancing and bff Rhys doing hectic visuals as well. That definitely gave me confidence as a performer, producer and vocalist and gave me an itch to perform that I think will stay with me forever. In terms of Strange Interactions, we’ve had some great moments - OTO at Geddes Lane in collaboration with Elle Shimada and Verve Zine was a huge highlight. I think the best is to come though… ;) To quote every young producer ever: “big things coming”.
What is something that appeals to you about Naarm's music and party scene?
Margarita: I love how creative Naarm is with events and performances. It’s rare to see just a DJ/band when at an event; you will also see maybe a dancer, and insane visuals, and stage decorations. Creativity exists in every part of the programming and I think it makes for more engaging, innovative and exciting parties. It’s safe to say that the people running these extraordinary events are also often fem/GNC people, queer folk & BIPOC people. They’re the ones that are taking the creativity of our city to the next step and I feel thankful everyday to be a part of it. Elle Shimada comes to mind as one of these people, as our friend and huge inspiration. Her recent curation & performance at BMF blew us AWAY. Of course Tessellate is also known for running amazing multi-disciplinary parties and from what I’ve heard from Benji on this one, it’s definitely not one to miss :’)
Yang: Yep, it's definitely the multidisciplinary aspects of the industry that I love the most. I love how keen and excited everyone is to constantly create and collaborate with one another. That energy keeps me motivated and excited about the future of this city.
What do you think the future holds for the Naarm's music and party scene?
Margarita: The future holds space for more creative and diverse parties where people are booked not to fill a quota but because of their uncompromising talent. After the period of intense reflection that was isolation, I feel as though people are coming back more aware and eager to nurture these safer spaces and diverse environments. There are also so many collectives pushing this idealised future, like WIP project, and of course so many curators and programmers out there that are reviving our community. I think some people need to be reminded that they are in a position of power curating events (particularly depending on class/etc.) and they should use this to uplift those not in such an unfortunate position. I also believe that our scene is becoming more accessible with less barriers into the electronic music world. There are many workshops and programs spearheading this, like the Push which runs free production courses for fem/GNC folk and Signal that runs similar events particularly for the LGBTQI+ community.
Yang: I think Naarm’s future is looking bright. Definitely within the community I surround myself with
, everyone seems to be constantly creating and collaborating with each other. There's
definitely an energy in the air since iso, where everyone is coming back refreshed and more inspired than ever. Not to say that it wasn’t a bumpy journey here...definitely had many ups and downs (maybe more downs than ups) But it does feel really inspiring when I look around, even on social media and seeing everyone just absolutely killing it. It’s been really nice seeing more awareness on fair representation within our industry and seeing that followed through within our community.
Tessellate is the debut of your live set together. What do you hope to bring to Tessellate on the night?
Margarita: A lot of it is up in the air because - at least I - am a very last-minute person. We may be as surprised by what we bring as you are. Musically, we’re hoping to invest in the darker sounds of Strange Interactions - gliding between drum and bass, acid, dubstep, etc. Though we also want to inject live elements to mesh together these worlds of the electronic and the live that we so love. We’ll be doing this with Yang on sax and myself on vox! Except ~wiggy~ sounds.
In line with the vision of Tessellate, we also hope to bring a full multidisciplinary experience. We are going to be collaborating with the incredible movement artist MaggZ who will be contributing her mesmerising understanding of her body to our music on stage. We will also be painted in makeup by our friend Katie - an avant-garde MUA who creates under the pseudonym Extra Sensoree. Of course our bff Rhys Newling is also gonna make the stage look suhweet - as he will be the whole night.
What sort of hardware do you use for live sets?
Margarita: At the moment we’re using a lot of MIDI connected to the laptop - so some controllers, a keyboard and push. Yang is also playing sax and I will be doing some vocals and effects.
What are some of your favourite tracks at the moment?
Margarita: Really digging the intersection between post-punk and breaks/electronic music recently. I have been rinsing ‘Gutted Honey Dew’ by Mutually Feeling recently and would love to hear some more of that. Also lots of HTRK on rotation, and I am also obsessed with the track the vocalist Jonnine Standish did with Lorraine James… that shiz gets me.