Ernestas Sadau is a DJ and promoter from Lithuania who currently resides in London. He is a founder of Lithuania’s electronic music festival “Sūpynės” and should already be granted as a honoured guest at his native city Utena, as he once tried to argue with me, Lithuania’s techno capital. Ernestas was a member of Minimal.lt team, cooperated whilst organizing underground warehouse parties in London, still very missed and remembered as “Wig Wag” and loves to represent himself in various alter egos. Today, he joined forces with his friend Romanas and they play as a duo Glark n Glark. “The duo with sophisticated musical taste”, as I call them, also started a series of underground dance parties in London “Digital Tsunami”. I have attended few of them and I can honestly say that the last one was very well organized party and gave me a chance to feel how Detroit sounded in the mid 80’s. I follow few dozens of DJ’s who regularly revive my musical library and Ernestas is one of them since his love for jazz, rock or techno is very similar to mine.
So, we are on the way to the cemetery, somewhere in East London. I thought that “somehow, this doesn’t surprise me. To choose a cemetery as a place for an interview? Very Ernestas style”. On the contrary, what actually stunned me, is that I caught us sharing the joys of fatherhood. My daughter does that/my boys do that…happy moments of ravers who became dads. Whilst we have stopped to get few beers, I drifted back to our last interview, two years ago, when we had an intense debate about what music is and what it is not or what is music’s purpose. It was turning into a battle and then I have named that article “Ernestas Sadau: We should only listen to music, not to talk about it”. That is why I was desperate to start the whole thing again, because I was curious to see how his ideas about music changed, matured and transformed. And to my biggest joy, after Ernestas has managed to find the biggest crucifix in the grave yard, we positioned ourselves comfortably just under it and started our conversation.
Ernestai, how would you describe yourself, what do you do?
As a DJ, towards which genre or musical style would you frame yourself?
No genre and no style. Emptiness. But if we are talking about playing records, I have a sense of what shall I play at the party. Of course, it’s not every genre that I could play. I wouldn’t be able to deal with trance music, for example. Maybe I could do one hip-hop set, no more. Possibly I could manage with house music, even if it would be more difficult for me. But techno, yes, I would be able to play it every night. So maybe, if you really want to, you can frame me as a techno DJ. Oh yeah, I could always do four-on-the-floor minimal.
Anyway, what kind of question is that, Tomas? I don’t like to categorize, frame or generalize too much, let the others do that, but not me. You know, the names of certain music genres, how they appear, make me laugh all the time. Let us take seapunk or witch house for example: If you would examine them academically, I bet you will say that this is absolute nonsense. These genre names…well, it’s just a funny topic for me. Styles, names, pinpointing or something else…who cares? What you experience personally, that’s what is important! And where to frame me? Anywhere, if this is going to be easier for you.
Experience is of the most importance? OK, but I think that if we are talking about music, it is also important to be general and it is much easier if we have names for certain music sounds or subcultural movements. Still, there is a difference between house and IDM.
Yes, of course, experience is most important. You will understand everything only through your own encounter. You can talk about the same thing from very different angles. For example, you can say that Coca-Cola is made from coca leafs and then mixed with certain materials, or that this drink is made on that particular date and is invented by this and that – and you will be right. But I would tell you something more simple and magical – just taste it. This is what life is about. Everything in life moves through experience. Words, definitions, categorizations are not necessary. The easiest way to find something in common between people is through sharing the same experience. You have to feel everything yourself. So, I can say that I do not understand musical categorizations. Maybe, grouping music or anything else into certain shelves helps some people to find somewhat in common…I don’t know.
Can we talk about “Digital Tsunami” then?
What exactly do you want to know?
I am interested to hear about your vision, the history and the concept behind it.
The simplest way to answer your question would be to say that music is the answer. Only music. But of course, how “Digital Tsunami” started, later developed and what is our future vision, I can talk about that in more detail.
Few years ago, at the radio station http://radio.audiomastering.lt/ where a DJ called Pranza was spinning records, I had my radio show called “Digital Tsunami”. That was a very decent radio platform, somewhat raw and I really enjoyed it. Later, Romanas has joined me and it seems that everything was going fine but I don’t remember exactly why we have finished with the radio stuff. In a while, at some point, we started to share a flat together in London. I was always talking about the idea of having our own radio station, but later on, we have realized that it does not make sense, since you need a lot of time, people who would be enthusiastic, servers, and other technologies. So we have decided to go with podcasts which we kind of connect with our dance parties. That is, the guest that will be playing at our party is also releasing a podcast for us.
Are podcasts still useful today?
Yes, of course. I love podcasts because it is a very simple process that is required to organize them. Also, It could be fair to say that we are driven by egoism because we are not only doing what we like – we want to become a well known platform for unknown artists, deep underground DJ’s, forgotten talents or the ones that will flourish any minute, you know. Still, one thing stays the same – music quality should be respectable. We bring into the light only those DJ’s who play at our parties, or label bosses and music producers. I don’t want just any random DJ to do a podcast for us. I am only interested in artists who play something unheard, somewhat new. Of course, all of this is very difficult to maintain. That is why we need to keep a balance between a good artist and someone young, in order for the promo to move forward.
One thing is for sure with “Digital Tsunami”: We want this to be occasional gathering. That is why, we will throw parties every two or three months. And only during the full Moon.
Only during the full Moon?
We think that the full Moon is the phase when people are peaking emotionally. It’s a time when you want to go out and to become a wolf, to let yourself out. I think that more people should start living around the Moon calendar.
So you are into mysticism?
No, I am not. But I think that the Moon is important for us because it is responsible for our unconscious actions. So, this is the history of our little tsunami.
Well, in contrast to you, I love the stories of how names of the clubs or parties materialize. And even music genres, for example such as house or techno, have a really interesting story to convey. Tell me the legend about how you picked a name “Digital Tsunami”.
First of all, I would like to say that people get wrong impressions when they interpret the word digital in relation to our offered music. They think that we are or should be 100% digitally sounding organization or something. Personally, I am tired of that digital sound that we hear today. That ‘Abletonish’ sound on top with the music software sound. You know what I am talking about, right?
We are sick of listening to the same musical ideas, performances etc. We are not hypocrites; what I mean is that we have loads of analogue music during our parties. We prefer the analogue sound instead of that well-polished same sounding software made music.
There is one more thing that we are sure of doing differently than other promoters in London – posters. I think that promoters should take posters more seriously than they are doing right now. It’s a disappointment to see very well-known names printed on stolen photographs with crap fonts. We believe that font and design are also very important elements. That is why we are devoting loads of energy when we create and hang posters. We are proud with our designer Antanas Laukai – he is a true Zen master! His ideas are closest to ours. The next poster will be painted by hand and we think that in this digital era, well, it’s going to be very interesting.
And the name, well, again a very simple story: We are named after a band from Detroit Drexciya’s track “Digital Tsunami”. But I think that at the end of the day the concept has more to do with the information, which today functions as a tsunami, because there is an overload of everything.
This is an interesting topic. I think too, that we live in the era of information bomb. I agree with you that we exist in an age where there is overload of information, music, films and even food. The whole culture is overloaded. What I have also noticed is that more people are kind of coming back to analogue sound too. I mean it is more common to see that artists use analogue technologies to make their music. Do you think that we are already choking from that digital sound which we hear today?
Yes, I agree. I also think that people should understand that “Digital Tsunami” does not mean purely digital music. What we love is that rawness of the sound. It is much closer to our hearts. Maybe it is because we listened to too much well polished music? I don’t know. Maybe it comes with age? I think that people have finally realized that many musical ideas today are the same, very similar at least. We live in this era of sameness. And that is why I think that it is more interesting to create something from nothing, using iron you know, in contrast to already available beats and samples. We just want to be original and exceptional. That is why we like analogue. Its like manifesto towards that scale of information that is available today.
But podcasts also are a part of this overload. There are so many podcasts that they start to give me headache. That’s why it is better to go and buy a vinyl and listen to what is pressed on there. And I am not trying to be a hipster here. How do you manage to get people’s attention? What is your direction? Aren’t you afraid to drown on-line or in the city such as London?
No, we are not afraid. We don’t follow any public. We think that we are the kind of people who should be followed. Again, egoism. Simple. But I know for sure that our listeners are very educated in music listening.
You have mentioned earlier that you want to work with performers or DJ’s who play music that is unheard, new and raw. How would you describe that unheard music?
Of course, that anything new for me, for somebody else, might be heard many times by now. If you want to create something new, these days, you have to do unimaginable things. That new, is something yet intangible, when you have a feeling that “hey, very very soon this is going to be big!” It is more to do with the intuition because if you listen to a lot of music you start to hear, see and feel what is unusual, which elements are worth of attention. And, many musical ideas shift back from the past. I was reading, I don’t know if I should believe it, that the music functions in some kind of cycle and various musical elements repeat themselves every 20 years or so. The ideas and their use is like a cycle. So in today’s context, maybe that’s what I mean with that word new. But with “Digital Tsunami” we try to make sure that this notion of new, as we imagine, would be publicly available, not only someplace at the house parties or bedrooms.
You are the originator of the “Sūpynės” festival which is well respected in Lithuania. Aren’t you thinking about starting a festival here, in the UK?
I don’t trust the weather here. But maybe indoor festival, yes, I was thinking about that. I was playing at indoor festival “Free Rotation” in Baskerville, Wales. It was good fun. I just love these kind of parties that are kept to closed circles of friends and are private with wonderful atmosphere. Yeah, maybe a festival in the future. Underground kind of stuff.
What is that underground then?
I was thinking about it today actually. There are people who contradict themselves by saying “oh, we are underground, we do squat parties with private invitations only and we don’t advertise publicly”. But I don’t agree with that. Someone needs to buy food; you know, organizers, performers. I think that these days, you have to use all of the available platforms including social media. It’s not a sin to say that we advertise on Facebook our event, as being underground. When you have people who follow you for years and believe in you musically, they continue to do that. But when someone who says that we are not underground, because we advertise publicly our parties, that kind of person is torturing himself. Tomas, sounds are important, music, as we talked before. That is underground.
OK, fair enough. Still, the dance market, if I can say it, is very competitive today. I wonder how do you create that circle of your followers? Why do you think people are following you and why they should follow you?
Everything comes naturally. We are not a first year in this game. People know us and they can already distinguish what to expect from us – no bullshit, to put it short. Of course, I am not living in London for a very long time yet, but I will get where I want to. To be honest with one issue, I really need support from our people who live here, because Lithuanians are in much closed circles of friends and they are a kind of shy. Maybe they feel some kind of competition, I don’t know. That’s why I want to look wider, to reach for more diverse audience. I think that this reflects in our podcasts too. It’s amazing that you can hear someone who recorded for us from Japan, or village in Argentina. It is interesting because through listening you can understand how the person lives, what he feels, what are his agendas. And that is how you get your followers.
Are you still meditating? I remember, when you gave me an interview few years ago, you was very into Zen. And you got my interest about Zen too, to some extent, by talking about it passionately and giving me a book to read.
Yes, I still meditate. And to be honest, recently, I am looking at meditation with more serious attitude than ever before. I am thinking about going to Tibet, Japan or Bhutan for at least three months to meditate, to challenge myself. I believe that people should meditate.
Why is that?
To calm down. All the ideas that float out of your mind through meditation are amazing. Through meditation you relate closely to your self and you are getting closer to your inner self. Simply, it is bacause you just get rid of the systematic bullshit that you was fed throughout your life. Meditation is necessarry for every human being. But I think that electronic music, particularly techno, is in a sense a form of meditation because there is a cycle of repeat that helps you to reach the condition of trance. Ravers are more budhists than Cristians. I can guarantee that.
“Sūpynės” festival is getting closer. Are you still there, with a Minimal.lt team?
No, I am not there, I have nothing to do with “Sūpynės” anymore. I have moved away from Minimal.lt team because I want to live in London, it is better for me here since I have more ideas that can be fulfilled. And also, I think, that festivals in Lithuania suffer – they just run out of steam. Our country is just too small to keep people interested all the time. Another problem with Lithuania is that you always have to bring hit-makers, artists that are already known World-wide. And I think that this is really boring. But I have understood this after I have lived in London for a while. If I really want, in one weekend, I can see “Sūpynės”, “Satta” and “Tundra” – that doesn’t surprise me. Lithuania craves for headliners. But as I have mentioned before, I am more interested in the artists who will flourish very soon. That’s what I like about this musical phase – to notice these kind of artists. There are just too many good DJ’s and most of the time these underground guys play much better than the superstars. The only festival that I like in Lithuania, which in my opinion is still original and interesting is STRCAMP. A little and cozy event. Hey, but what do you call a festival these days? Is festival a place where many people gather under musical umbrella? Is it necessary an outside event? How do you define a festival?
You know, it’s really strange to hear this from you. I think that you are the man who could define a festival. You have started “Sūpynės” and they are still running, better than ever though.
Yes, they are still running, and I hope that this festival will continue for a long time. People over there find friends, lots of new music, artists, and even themselves, which is really important these days. There are too many people living on the surface, people who do not think. I feel pity for them. That is why you need to meditate.
Is it possible to find yourself?
Of course, this is possible! You just need to meditate and you will reach that state when you will loose that eclecticism that you have collected throughout your life and then you will thrive – your pathway will always be straight.
Two years ago, I remember, I was asking you about the release of your album. Honestly, Ernestai, I am waiting for an album from you. I believe that from such a musical mind we could hear something interesting. Or unheard, as you say.
I have started to make music again, slowly. But I want to have more analogue stuff. I don’t want to be wasting my time in front of the computer screen. Yes, I am very much into music right now. Maybe, I hope, I will be able to make my living from it? Who knows?
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