Written by: Matt Sloan
SpaceFest! 2016 is happening this coming weekend (December 2-3) in Gdansk, Poland and its one of the trippiest winter psych fests in the world. I checked out the line-up for this year and was presented with the opportunity to interview DJ Ola from Ola’s Kool Kitchen. Apart from providing the soundtrack for multiple clubs in London, she is also a DJ on multiple stations, including KCLA 99.3FM In LA, 107.5 Andhow.FM in New Zealand, Maximum Threshold Radio, Rock Velvet Radio, Rock Radio UK, Sword Radio UK, 365 Radio Network and The Indie Authority.
Her press info sums up her approach perfectly: “I like my music eclectic. Basically mainstream radio sucks and that’s why I do what I do. I provide a Kool alternative.”
Let’s dive in, shall we?
SEM: Ola, you are a vibrant force in the indie music world–quite an ambassador of underground music in numerous ways, from interviewing bands to introducing new music on your syndicated radio show ‘Ola’s Kool Kitchen’ to writing for various publications, to hosting your live DJ sets in clubs and festivals. The latest such event announced with your involvement is SpaceFest! 2016 in Gdansk. Can you tell us about what you will be doing there?
O: I will be DJing on Friday and Saturday, but I won’t just be playing some music. I’m here to bring joy de vivre to the experience of listening and dancing to a spectrum of alternative music. The set for this will be older, 1950’s-60’s tunes. It’s a celebration of spaced-out psych, freakbeat, mod, soul etc that’s fun. I’m not a po-faced, jaded DJ and I’m passionate about music. I want to light up the room, set souls on fire and bring it to life with the best dance party ever.
SEM: Apart from your DJ set there, SpaceFest! will feature performances by Camera (Germany), Be Forest (Italy), The Third Sound (Iceland-Germany), DIV i DED (Czech Republic), MDME SPKR (Britain), and Polish artists Rosa Vertov, Wild Books, Lonker See, and The Fruitcakes. What bands are you most looking forward to seeing at this year’s festival?
O: Unfortunately, due to the length of my sets on both days, I won’t be able to see much. I have featured DIV i DED – an interesting Czech shoegaze band – and MDME SPKR on my radio show previously. I saw MDME SPKR at Liverpool Psych Fest and they really put on a kicking show. It’s a duo with female fronted singer-bass, Lau Betti and drummer James Innes. They just filled the stage and grabbed the audience with a dirge of subterranean, thumping sonics that rocked. Lau DJ’s after me on Saturday, so regrettably I will miss them. I do totally recommend them as a must see at the Fest. Of the acts I hadn’t heard of, I really enjoyed the sounds of Rosa Vertov, an all female Polish ethereal dream-pop band, which again, I will miss because of my DJ duties.
SEM: You are super active on the music scene, so I can’t help but ask–have you ever met any of these bands in person before or seen them play live? If so, whom and where?
O: Ha Ha…I just saw this after I wrote the answer above. To elaborate, Lau and James from MDME SPKR are also friends and Lau has looked after my flat in the past.
SEM: I noticed you did a DJ set (or a few of them) at Liverpool Psych Fest this year. Is there any connection between your involvement in that festival and SpaceFest?
O: Funnily enough…yes there is a connection. I was in the green room at Liverpool Psych Fest and I got to speaking to members of Pure Phase Ensemble. I told them I enjoyed their set with Mark Gardener at the Festival. One thing led to another and I invited them to check out my set. I guess they liked what they saw ‘cause now I’m excited to be part of SpaceFest this year.
SEM: Gdansk apparently transforms into this psych-trance mecca for a few days every December due to SpaceFest. Have you yourself ever been to Poland before? Do you know anything about bands emerging from this region?
O: I’m actually Polish via my lineage. I can speak the language and have family that still resides there (my cousin from Warszawa is coming to see me at SpaceFest). I have been to Poland 3 times, in 1975, 1987 when it was part of the Eastern Soviet block and 1991 after the wall came down. I don’t know much about current music from the region, but I do like Czeslaw Nieman and Republika. One of the reasons I wanted to be a part of this festival is my background; I want to see what the alternative music scene in Poland is like and partake in it. English is not my first language and I’m a first generation U.S. citizen born to immigrant parents. I was used to hearing non-English music at home. I think this made me open as a DJ to sounds from any language and anywhere. I always say any genre, any time period, good music has no boundaries and that also applies to location. Good music is global and the indie/underground/alternative scene should be holding hands and helping each other everywhere. I always enjoy throwing a non-English tune into my show or DJ set. I’ve travelled a lot, especially in Thailand, Malaysia, Lao and Indonesia. For ages I was greatly disappointed by the music in clubs and bars in Thailand, which just seemed to be filled with commercial trash, Thai musicians doing bad covers and thumping house/techno/EDM everywhere. Only recently have I discovered the underground scene there and Malaysia. I’ve played artists from South East Asia as well as non-English European performers to try and highlight these areas and broaden people’s perspective. Once you get out of Anglo/American/Scandi zones, the difficulties facing musicians creating alternative music is even greater. Going to Poland to participate in a celebration of underground sounds is emotional as well as fulfilling my mission statement as a DJ. I’m a Space Girl and I feel like I’m coming home.
SEM: How did you initially get into DJing? Did it happen while you were still living in the USA or after you moved to London?
O: The radio show started nearly 10 years ago, 2007 when I was living in London. I got into DJing and music journalism as a result of the show.
SEM: What plans does Ola’s Kool Kitchen or just you personally have in the near future?
O: I’m more a dreamer than a planner. I’m already on FM in LA and New Zealand and my dream is to have a show on BBC 6 or more FM shows all over the world.
SEM: Anything else you’d like to share with our readers?
Yes! Don’t let anything stop you from doing what you love. Especially in creating anything non-mainstream, there will be obstacles and people constantly telling you what you can’t do. Don’t listen to them and enjoy proving them wrong. There should be no limitations to imagination and the creation of art.