The eccentric star talks rave parents, dance and synaesthesia…
For as long as music has been an artform, expression has been intrinsically linked outputs – every element of a performance is charged with emotive energy. From the shape-shifting limbs transforming across the dancefloor, to the manipulative frequencies rattling speakers and filling the air, the club space is the release point for affection, excitement and ecstasy.
Yet, so often, the figure standing behind the decks is seemingly detached from the energy captivating the dance floor, lethargically tweaking the levels, brow furrowed and head down. These characters display an obvious disconnect between DJing and dancing, music and movement.
There’s no danger of chin stroking and passive selection when Gigi FM’s on the ones-and-twos. Professional dancer by day, intergalactic mermaid by night, the London-based selector exhibits an unparalleled connection between body, mind and music with her performances. Seeing sounds as colours, categorised by mood and temperament, Gigi links the two together, allowing atmospheres to bubble and develop by inciting excitement.
Still a self-confessed newbie to the game, the past year has seen the London-based disc-jockey rise to prominence, gaining notoriety for her industrious, transformative club soundtracks. Off the back of her recent trips to Berlin, Manchester and Milan and with upcoming performances at Wigflex Festival, Gottwood and Waterworks, we caught up with the eccentric star to talk about rave parents, dance and synaesthesia.
Whereabouts did you play in Milan?
I played in Tempio del Futuro – it’s basically a squat, so it’s very complicated. Now they’ve renovated it and it’s a proper venue, but you can’t really get in unless you bring a book or some clothing for charity. They give out a lot to the community, and the club is so sick – it’s massive, the light installation is so cool, it’s like a giant pyramid with crazy lasers. And there’s this side room with loads of books in, and these giant paintings that were made by Stanislav Tolkachev. Him and his girlfriend stayed over the summer to hang out and painted loads of canvases. They’ve got a dance studio upstairs – next time I go I wanna practice.
Is it like being in a museum?
Yes and no, because it kinda looks like a giant, old school. The people that I met that were playing with me, Tomasso and Elisa, they both live in Tempio.
I’ve been reading Join The Future and there’s a segment where A Guy Called Gerald is interviewed, and he was saying that he was a dancer originally, and that when he started producing music, he always kept that in mind, visualising people dancing.
Yea of course, movement is my life! That’s definitely something I do. I train as a dancer professionally. I’m always dancing and moving – if it’s not my feet or my hips, it’s my arms. It needs to be movement of vortexes and colours and emotions.
Dance is such and expressive thing, and playing out when you’re DJing is very expressive too. Sometimes it doesn’t come across as expressive as dance is because there’s less movement.
Well it depends what kind of DJ you are, what kind of person you are. There are a lot of DJs that dance a lot behind the decks. With dancing, even if you have a choreography, the way you’re going to express and do those dance moves, every night it’s going to be something different. It’s a body language thing, you express differently. You can do a specific arm movement 30 times in a row and it’ll be different 30 times. It’s kinda like mixing the same tunes. To me, they don’t go without the other.
It’s crazy how many DJs relate sound and music to colours.
Yeh, I visualise music as colours and didn’t realise that it was a thing until I spoke to a close friend, who also sees sounds in colours. She told me that it is called synthaseasia.
Then we started talking about music and the tune that was on was like a blue vortex with silver shooting and velvet deep blue in the bottom like a cushion. I thought everyone saw this!
Do you find that the same moods and vibes conjure up the same colours?
I dunno, cos everyone’s perception is different. Our reality is unique to our eyes. I organise my playlists like this. I’ve got x for electro, and they’re all different colours and or moods. Same for techno and other genres. They all end up being the same sort of vibe.
Doing it by colour seems intuitive in a way…
Yeh, two orange tracks might not go together, and might not be the same. It’s more about the feel and atmosphere.
How do you judge the club’s atmosphere?
I really like turning up before I play and feeling the ambience, the people, the motion. Who’s doing the lights. Who’s playing what. I’ve not been DJing for a long time, and for me, when I used to turn up to clubs I’d stand at the back of the dancefloor and feel the wave of the communal motion and music to get into it. I’ve never surfed, but feel like that’s a good metaphor. When you try to get up on the board, and you know when it’s your wave. I’m getting this one!
For me it’s always a bit of a ritual to come and play for other people. Take them on a journey. Make them cry, make them smile, I don’t know. I want to make them feel something. If you turn up 5 mins before it’s very difficult to feel and connect to the collective emotion of the here and now.
To judge the whole atmosphere, you don’t know how it’s transitioned across the night if you turn up just before your set. At Tiempo it was the best example. It’s a very free spirited place.
I was having a drink at the back of the dancefloor with my mate and all of a sudden everyone started clapping. We went to the front and there were these two guys on stage kissing each other, super passionate and into it. This was so cute. Their friends were very emotional. They proposed to each other, about 2 mins before I came on! I knew at this moment I had to play for the, for love. They were dancing at the front the whole of my set and during it came up to me and said they needed to tell me their story after. The connection was real. I said to them I was gonna play a special tune I never played before for them to close my set – it’s this italian opera tune about love, but the hardest techno edit. When I played it they came up on stage and performed this amazing dance together, love birds. It was so moving. Like their story, one of them is Syrian and one is Israeli and they both left their countries and family to be together. I was so emotional, I’ll never forget. If I hadn’t turned up before, and not gotten a sense of the place, of how free spirited and special it is. It’s this squat that’s welcoming of everyone. It’s still political to dance.
How was Berlin?
It was sick – I played with S Ruston B2B for 3 hours in the dark basement of Wild Renate. We turned into techno hooligans lol! She’s such a G and someone I really respect.
She’s been around for a minute and always has the best anecdotes – from the rise of the dubstep in Bristol, to the early days of Panorama Bar.
OGs always have the best stories.
Yeh – cos the OGs are the dons! It’s important to take their knowledge – love and care always.
I partied with my friends’ mum. I was playing in Sheffield last year, and my friend’s mum came to the rave and stayed until the end! She’s such a G. I know exactly where my friend gets it from. I love rave mums and dads. They’ve got good stories.
My parents are the cutest. My Dad sent me a text the other day – I’m the top fan of GIGI FM. They are very supportive and super curious about the world I live in and the music I like. It has always had such a big place in the household, we love to share musical taste together.
They love music. They got me into a lot of classical music and jazz, they love rock. My Mum loves The Smiths, David Bowie and all them OG rock bands and post-punk stuff. I think as I got into techno, I got them into it. They like the aquatic textural, chilled stuff, like Dozzy but I have also caught my dad playing a Robert Hood track casually while cooking haha.
I would love to take my parents to a festival and see how they enjoy it. That would be really fun. But yeh, my Dad loves music in general. He’ll play a Snoop Dogg tune, then a Juan Atkins track, then Miles Davis then Pinch. The living room playlists are super versatile. That’s probably why my sound is so all over the shbloob.
Do you think your parents’ taste has rubbed off on you?
My parents love music. From classical, jazz, cumbia, salsa..etc.. All those rhythms are so close to techno in a way. I remember since I was so little, always waking up and my Dad and Mum listening to music in the living room. Music’s always been around me.
When you go from city to city, playing one on the Friday and one on the Saturday, how do you manage that with what you’re gonna play?
That’s why I turn up before. Manchester was opening and I thought ‘9 to 11, I’m gonna play to no one’. I started off with jazz and post-punk stuff, and then after like half an hour, the room was starting to be busy. I started to bring it up with some slow techno, a lot of textures, very ethereal and underwater dub techno. I had 4 cdjs so it was interesting to merge stuff. One hour in and there were 1000 people in the room and I thought ‘let’s get it’! I just turn up before and check out the energy of the club, the people and just try and figure out what they want to hear and how they wanna feel.
Words: Jens Berring
Come take part in the rituals and wiggle with GiGI FM at Wigflex Festival this May.
More tickets and info here.