Sophia Saze on Inspiration, Anomaly, and Indefatigable Entrepreneurship
Photo by Polina Osherov & Jillian Amos
Sophia Saze is a Brooklyn-based multi-media artist and musician hailing from Tbilisi, Georgia. In addition to her prowess as an art-maker, Saze also founded label Dusk & Haze through which her efforts community-based education and charity push the boundaries of what can be accomplished by the modern-day independent label.
We had the awesome opportunity to speak with Sophia after her December Teksupport set with Kollektiv Turmstrasse/Roman Flügel/Karmon around topics of inspiration, anomaly, and indefatigable entrepreneurship.
As someone who is also quite keen on repurposing formal training for new genres, I'm fascinated by your study of not just music, but also dance. Especially in dealing with a medium that is founded on inciting collective movement/energy, do you notice your dance studies playing a significant role in your multi-faceted musical life? Are they most influential with respect to a single sphere (DJ-ing more than producing, for example)?
I perceive art in a multi-sensory format, music being the driving force. Dancing created a unique sonic inclination for me, I often find myself taking pieces from it when creating music. Certainly more in production, but dance and djing electronic music go hand in hand because of the realm in which it exists (clubs, raves, etc.).
Your music is full of motives that diverge from US-born-and-raised-for-five-generations America, melodies that, for me, call forth Ashkenazi religious music from my childhood. You are Georgian-born, but did you live there up until your move to America? What motivic influences do you think have seeped into your haunting melodies?
I was born in Tbilisi, Georgia. I moved around my whole life after that, lived in 4 countries 7 cities. That created a sense of detachment, nostalgia, and rawness in me which trickles into my music. Most of my music is in minor chords. Some people find melancholia sad, but to me it's honest.
Georgian folk music has a deeper subtle influence over me. This sort of ancient but strong feeling.
**"Fall" is such a lovely anomaly... could you shed some light on its conception?
Iro (vocalist) was busking on the subway one day, he was singing a radiohead cover. I was immediately drawn to him, invited him to a studio session, and we nailed his part within a couple hours. I produced the actual beat in under a day, flow was natural. Get Physical picked it up after getting way too many demos from me, and the song went viral upon release. I didn't see it coming, but it motivated me to release other random projects from my catalog.
By the way, congrats on the recent EP release! How was this process for you, in contrast to prior releases?
Self-releasing was a nightmare initially. It worked out great in the end but at the time it was one of the most tedious and time consuming experiences. There are many aspects to ensuring a thorough release and owning up to running your own label. Despite the struggles, I'd recommend it over and over again. I'll never forget the feeling of holding my first and my own vinyl test pressings, worth all the stress.
**The artwork for Solace is absolutely gorgeous, and furthermore has quite a narrative to it. Was the artwork's symbolism/story in any way inspired by themes within the EP?
Peter Vu is a close friend and stellar illustrator. Solace's theme is surmounting struggle and the many challenges in breaking a shell to find peace. Alice's visual narrative translates that journey best, the imagery of a girl curiously opening pandora's unknown. Moving around so much in my childhood and the constant feeling of displacement alienated me into many atypical life experiences, which took nearly a decade for me to overcome, so writing this record felt very personal.
Can you talk about your collaboration with Umwelt on this EP and beyond? How did it originate, how do you foresee it continuing, and most importantly, on what grounds do you enjoy collaborating, as you are both involved not only in DJing/producing but in other arenas of electronic music (event organizing, label founding, etc.)? Do you share similar goals not only with respect to musical ideals but also its distribution, reception, and revolution?
Umwelt is one of my favorite electronic producers. His style is extremely original, not to mention his contributions to the development of electro are profound. I met him when he was playing a show here & I reached out to him after. I'm very particular about collaborations, and open only if it's truly fitting. I respect everyone's ideas, but the majority is just irrelevant to my creative ethos. I block out noise to funnel focus onto what's most sacred. With that said, I look forward to some exciting collaborations this year particularly on the audio - technology integration spectrum. I'm teaming up with some engineers to develop my live concept further.
Though I can hazard several guesses, I've got to ask - why did you decide to start a label? [This one will definitely warrant follow-up questions that will depend on your answer]
I wanted a platform which enabled me to have full independence over my music, and releasing on my own terms. Similarly, a space for other likeminded producers to also be able to express themselves fearlessly, not adhering to any genres. I want musicians to know they can submit their quirkiest work. I'm not interested in what's already been done and art shouldn't be confined to genres, nor should artists ever conform. Labels tried pushing me into their sound, I'm not one to settle.
Considering the blazing strides you've already made, I expect you're eager to step into new territories, to ignite more domains. Are there any roles and/or mediums within the electronic music scene that you have not yet explored but that you are excited to pursue?
I've been edging around a live set, but my interpretation of 'live' is more complex than just toying around with machines and Ableton Live. I'm still working on the concept in different pieces. I think it'll be my biggest milestone when it's complete, and the first spectacle which really captures the essence of all my efforts.
Thank you to Sophia for making this writeup possible! Stay tuned for Dusk&Haze's 2018 live dates, and a forthcoming WHRB collaboration...
Lana Harris DJs/writes/beyond for The Darker Side. The Darker Side has air every Saturday night 10pm-6am and Sunday night 10pm-5am.