"At the end, what makes it all so beautiful to me, that all the experiences like pain, happiness, heartbreaks, dreams about the future and past you can’t change in life you can take with you and transfer into the mix and for every artist it’s unique and personal"
© Inez Agnese
Julia Mira is an Estonian DJ and painter based in Amsterdam and part of the famous Red Light Radio. Julia creates through her sets a story mixing sensuality and emotions, while leaving room for imagination, dreams and mystery. A moment of euphoria at the crossroads of musical genres: early electronica, post-punk, trippy and industrial tones, dreamy ambient, sentimental italo, rave and various experiments.
We had a chance to talk to her, so enjoy your reading and check out his latest projects. Read our interview below to find out more about Julia’s wide-spanning influences, creative environment and studio methods.
Hi Julia! Where can we find you right now? How did you start off your day?
Hello guys, you can find me in my sunny appartement, where I live with my family near Amsterdam. I started my day together with my son, who waked me up as usually earlier than I wish haha
How did you first get into electronic music? Was it your first real musical love or were you a keen listener of all sounds when you were younger?
My relationship with electronic music had different curves, layers and intersections. Music entered my childhood naturally in early 90’s, thanks to my dad, who used to listen to Jean-Michel Jarre early albums, Enigma, Pink Floyd, Jeff Beck and more of the moody, instrumental, space sounds of those years. He also was a guitar player, so there were quite often the sounds of acoustic and electro guitar to hear at our home.
In general, I used to listen and enjoy lots of stuff, from everything I could soak from: Russian fairytales on vinyl I loved to listen, international music channels like MTV, VIVA, Estonian and Russian radio programmes to movie soundtracks etc.
When I first saw Windowlicker from Apex Twin on TV when I was 12 it blew my mind by it’s surreal combination of sound and imagery. I think that was the crucial moment to me haha
What were your first experiences as a DJ?
In my room in my student years when I moved from my hometown Tartu after finishing the high school to study at the university in capital of Estonia, Tallinn. When I was 20 I’ve got a small Hercules controller to mix the tracks. I could disconnect from the world for hours just by observing and enjoying to play with different genres and style combinations alone in my room. Then at around the same period my friend, who used to dj asked me to replace her at some art party. That was actually the first time that I had both the equipment and curious crowd in front of me. It turned out to be a great fun!
How did you start experimenting with electronic music?
At around 18 I had this software, called eJay and I enjoyed playing with the sounds. Then a few years later playing with FL studio and my ex-boyfriends keyboards.
When I was around 12
My first Rave happened for the first time in my life. It took place every end of the summer in my hometown, just before the start of the school. “Freedom Parade” it was called, kind of the same idea as the Love Parade in Berlin. All the main streets of the city were blocked, there was the main stage and several moving trucks with stroboscopes, half naked dancers, and hyped crowd from allover the Baltic countries, and neighbour countries like Finland and Russia, who were at the time celebrating the electronic music underground culture. This was pure magic experience to the 12-year-old me. Without using any stimulants obviously, like drugs or alcohol it was the first experience of another level of being and connecting to others. It was revolutionary for a child, who was born in Soviet Union times and raised in average family with post-Soviet mentality where society was so regulated and there were almost no place for sub cultures like that where you were allowed to stand out by the way you look.
After a few years the government decided to stop the “Freedom Parade” forever. I feel lucky still, that I could be part of that unique experience.
This is the video I found from Freedom Parade 2000, so you can have have an idea abut what it was:
How did your parents react to all this?
Well, I’m happy that they trusted me to experience this. I think, it played a big role in my life, in the perspective of looking at the world, experimenting with my boundaries, discovering new cultures and falling hopelessly in love and become inextricable curios about the electronic music scene.
© Inez Agnese
How much and in what way did Amsterdam have an impact on your music?
I moved to Amsterdam back in 2011 right after graduating from the university in Tallinn, where I studied as an interior architect. The main intention of moving to The Netherlands was to start my second study as a fine artist at the art academy - Gerrit Rietveld, since painting has always been a big part of my life.
When moving I took my controller with me without any specific plan, just to continue to enjoy my bedroom music sessions I guess. Now looking back, I realise that the most crucial and important events in my life like getting a baby, become friends with cosmic people, getting to know Red Light Radio amazing crew, making my dreams come true, all this happened to me so far in Amsterdam and it feels that there is so much more to come!
What is your music criterion?
Um..tricky to describe, because usually to me it is a matter of taste and intuition. I would say there should be always some sort of talent behind the music. The tracks should have specific, strong character. No matter what genre it is, it should sound autonomous, honest, unique, fragile, something that takes me to the place where I’ve never been before.
How would you define your sound?
I guess I would choose everything what is unexpectedly touching. Constantly looking for the tracks, which have this secret formula that makes you want to listen it over and over again.
How can you explain the existence of this increasingly present parallel between antiquity and novelty?
I’m intrigued by the fact how timeless music can be. The composition, which was written 100 years ago can have the same powerful impact on me as from the one produced recently. In that sense, music from different eras and the way it influences me doesn’t depend on the time grid and can co-exist next to each other, adding more layers and context to the mix.
Do you think DJs can ever be true artists, or how would you describe their role?
To me art is when you as an artist are reaching the highest beauty. In that sense absolutely yes! As a dj you are creating a temporary reality, taking the listeners on a journey. It’s life performance which you are creating together with everyone involved, that is always an experience, improvisation and as well as a challenge.
Are you particularly permeable to your environment, creatively speaking? If so, how does it influence your DJ focus? How does the environment, people, where you live, work and so on influence your music?
There are parallel kinds of environments, one is physical and another - virtual. I’m always curious what’s happening on the local scene, interested in the directions where the local artists are moving.
But also there are so many great inspirations over there from all over the globe, people I never met in person, but feel the connection with their music.
And of course, my friends have been always a source of inspiration to me, who are not specifically from music field of interests, could be contemporary artists, theater makers, photographers, dreamers, or parents, who are taking care of their kids.
Would you like to share a set? Can you tell us more about it? When and how was it recorded?
This one was my last time playing live on the radio and touching the equipment, actually before the start of the quarantine. There is new online radio initiative from Den Haag, called Future Intel. They broadcast from the 9th floor of former office building, where the view on the city lights is spectacular and the crew behind the station is just amazing. I played 1,5 set of my latest founds and all-time favourites.
What makes a good mix to you?
Something should just appear, without even thinking about it too much and it should exist and live its own life, saying abstractly. It should be a complete story when nothing needs to be removed or added.
© Hugo Huerta
Who or what influenced you to get into the music industry?
In my teenage years I had a dj friend, she was one of my best friends, soulmates back then, together we shared lots of magic musical moments. In our 16ies we would go to her every gig together, discovering our hometown’s underground scene, mostly hanging with other djs, going to the record shops and open airs and raves, hanging on backstages. Also my boyfriends and friends back then were almost always from the electronic music world, djs or producers. Being a part of music community gave me a feeling of “being home”. So I would say, thanks to my surrounding and my increasingly growing love to electronic music at the same time were probably those factors to me.
What have been the most influential factors on your career so far?
Every person who supported me, believed in me and encouraged to move on. My friends, my family, my dj coach, from who I learned basic mixing skills and became friends later. And a huge part of it is definitely Red Light Radio, which is as a fruitful ground for musical development as well as being a part of the community and knowing all the beautiful souls involved is just a gift to me. Also, I think, encouraging myself to be out of there and go get out of my comfort zone was very important.
How do you search for the music that you play in your sets, and how much time do you spend looking for music?
I usually go to bandcamp or boomkat to listen to new releases, youtube, soundcloud, music that my friends produce or share, records I found in the shops all this. When I dive into the search then I’m lost in time.
Where was your favorite place to play, what was your most interesting gig, and for what reason?
Every set is unique and unforgettable experience to me. It is difficult to define, but I think when we played with my partner in crime Kat at the garden De School for almost 8 hours on the second day of Dekmantel last year was epic. Just how we developed and brought all the energy on its highest at around 8 in the morning, seeing happy crowd jumping in the rays of the sunrise was quite special.
What makes you happy?
People I love, my son, my boyfriend, my dear friends and family. And the moments when I can connect with myself while recording a mix or making a painting. Also it could be just a smile of a stranger on the street or my purring cat or smell of the nature after rain, a melody, a good movie or poetry that touches the heart till tears.
What could you tell us about the following labels and artists?
Elena Colombi she is no doubt of the most inspiring artists to me, the way she approaches the music I find it somehow very intimate to me, very strong emotionally, deep and vibrant, very fresh and avant garde every time.
In her mixes I find this ever present emotional slightly melancholic line, which resonates quite strongly with the way I experience music.
Orpheu The Wizard is one of the artists whose eclectic, warm, euphoric selections I used to listen a lot in the difficult period in my life filling it up with hope and believe for the better days. I met Orpheu when started to work for the Red Light Radio and was absolutely charmed by his warm and kind personality.
A year ago Orpheu invited me to work with him in his new project, the first Hi-Fi bar, called Dynamic Range, in The Netherlands, with state-of-art soundsystem in the new contemporary art space, called Het Hem. We were all very excited to be part of this fantastic project, which was a given opportunity to experience the sound of the records on another level.
OKO Dj is definitely, on the list of the artists to keep an eye on. Next to her epic sets there is her strong position of supporting female artists in the music industry I admire so much and from whom I get inspired. Always excited by her manner of matching unexpected sounds together, with this anarchic attitude, never know what to expect. Her every set is surprising
What was the last record store you visited and what did you keep there?
Bordello, my friend works there, love to drop by to give a hug, to have a coffee or talk sometimes, don’t really remember which record it was. I think the last one outside of my room and before the C19 happened was one of the latest release of beloved Knekelhuis label Transition Vol.1.
How do you deal with C19 confinement with your work?
C19 has brought lots of changes also in my life, everything I was working for the past period of time has stopped, part of it is already clearly won’t survive the crisis. Which is frustrating, disturbing and bringing lots of doubts about the future. But also at the same time gives more space in my mind and time rethink, reflect on inner processes and wishes, make plans for the turbulent future.
Has this situation influenced your creative perspective? What social and musical implications do you think this situation can lead to?
Having more time staying home I see it as a luxury in a strange way. Slowing down gives me to more thoughts, makes me get back to forgotten dreams, make an inventory of life.
About the situation it’s difficult to tell, it feels like a new creative wave will raise on a global level, I’m curious to see where we are heading towards.
What tracks would you recommend us to liven up the confinement?
Jaki Whitren & John Cartwright - This Time from the 1983 and released on Emotional Rescue. Surprisingly relevant, takes my heart away and leaves me just speechless.
What advice would you give to young djs?
Young as beginning djs no matter in which age, right?
I think it’s never too late to start. I started as a young mother in the foreign country, with no network, no Dutch language. No matter how challenging and my personal situation was sometimes, music was always there with me, keeping me on the surface, not letting me drown in the problems. Discovering music on YouTube when my son was falling asleep were the happy moments and highlights of my daily life. One day I just realised that I just can’t not to follow my heart anymore and decided little by little take a small steps like signing up for dj workshop, record mixes, getting to know people from the scene, record a mix and share with the world!
It’s important to listen to yourself, while going through lots of different music from different eras and genres and develop your unique emotional connection with the tracks no matter what is hype or what everyone else plays. Then record a mix and share with the world!
At the end, what makes it all so beautiful to me, that all the experiences like pain, happiness, heartbreaks, dreams about the future and past you can’t change in life you can take with you and transfer into the mix and for every artist it’s unique and personal.
Artwork by Julia Mira, ink on paper 30x42, 2020
What projects are you working on at the moment?
Right now, I’m planning on getting back to my painting practice, collaborate with producers and labels by making the artworks for the albums. That’s one of my dreams! Meanwhile planning to find a nice studio where I can combine those two passions for music and art. Also working on few podcasts for creative platforms, which will be shared online in the coming months.