Who-Is-She : Emika (in English)

Emika by Karen Vandenberghe
Photo credit: Karen Vandenberghe
Electronic music has always been a trend. It seems like a computer beat inserted in any song can make it sound fancy and lively. This explains why artists of various genres enjoy this wonderful opportunity and practice it from track to track. But how often do we hear smart, deep electronic music — not those characterless hipster sounds? How often can electronic music evoke our imagination and make our mind blow away with it? Such artists are as good as gold, and we’ve got one to tell you about. Please welcome — Emika.

Born in Czech Republic, Ema Jolly is now a resident of Berlin. She had a lot of things to overcome and pass through herself, resulting in a deep and complicated life story expressed in her songs. She is a real talent and an unbelievably strong woman producing music on her own. However, all this doesn’t prevent this lady from being a kind-hearted and responsive person. We spoke with Emika about her forthcoming album, reasons of leaving for Berlin and her music life.

— What is the mission of your music? What message are you getting across to your listeners?
—As an artist I must create and express myself.
As a composer I want to seduce my listeners.
As a musician I want to make pleasure for the heart and soul.
As a producer and sound designer I want to create something that excites my listeners and is ’new’.
As a performer I want to feel free and be wild like an animal.
As a business woman I fight for equality.
As Ema Jolly, just a girl, I just want to make friends through music.
My mission visually is to create the image that women are music producers and they don’t need to look and behave like dudes, they can be who they are and still do technical work.

— When did you begin doing music? What period of your life was it and what was the reason?
— I was very young, around 12 years old, and I had to do it. It is my destiny. I didn’t know why, I just had to.

— When did you write your first song and what was it about?
The first music I composed was small romantic piano pieces. The first song was with a trip hop beat I made and the lyrics were about the autumn time, the orange sun, the cool breeze, and a longing for more.

What do you usually write first — music or lyrics?
Emika by Karen Vandenberghe
Emika live
During your recent gig in Saint-Petersburg in November, you presented your listeners the beautiful piano melody ‘Credit Theme’ from your debut album and said that you never play the piano in public, if we’re not mistaken. Could you explain why? By the way, do you often write piano instrumentals?
Because I was treated badly by many music teachers who made me feel like I was shit because I struggled to read music on paper. I play by ear from memory and feeling. I did all the Royal School Of Music piano exams, they were very hard, you had to be a piano soldier and perform like a robot. I think a lot of people give up playing an instrument because teachers don’t know how to have fun and be creative and they always want to focus on music theory...dots on paper and exams.

Playing the piano, is such an intimate thing for me. I like to be in a small room alone lost in my own world with no one listening or judging me. That is why I don’t play piano on stage, and I wanted to give my fans in St Petersburg a special performance because I was sick and had to cancel a show there before. So I picked the hardest thing I could think to do, and I feel so much love from my Russian fans, I thought that even if I made mistakes or had to start from the beginning of the piano piece again, they would be supportive and forgiving. So they helped me get over my fear of playing piano in public.

In your opinion, have you already found your signature sound, improving it day by day, or are you still searching?
I have my signature sound for sure, but I always experiment with it and explore new directions I can take with each song / record.

In one of your interviews last year you said there are a lot of things you plan to revolutionize within music. What does a music revolution by Emika look like?
I wasn’t interested in changing the electronic music scene, until I started to release music and be an active player. The reality, as I see it, is there is no chance for women to be free and produce music. Only the hardcore fighters break through and that’s often why the women out there look very tough and are often called ’bitches’.

As a woman in music, you have two options. Be a puppet and do what you are told, work for the machine as a slave. Or be a fighter and be on your own and learn to live in isolation. Both of these are complex and challenging. I want to change this black and white world, and bring change into the industry so that women can be natural, be themselves, present themselves however they choose, and be accepted as producers who are smart in the studio and in business.

Just look around, we have super sexed up pop-star women, and loads of male DJs, and most festival line-ups are mostly male. The famous classical composers are all male. Where are the women?
Emika Moscow gig
How did your music preferences transform over the years?
My music preferences are shaped by the whole world of music. Dubstep was underground, then it became mainstream, the same happened with jungle and drum & bass — pop music in America now often sounds like a copy of 90’s European trance music. My taste in music is always informed by quality, I know for myself what good quality music is for me, and I just continue to make my own music and be open-minded about what all other musicians are choosing to create.

What is your current inspiration?

We know difficult circumstances to be the reason of your leaving Bristol. Why did you choose Berlin for living and how did your family react?
I came to Berlin on my own for my birthday. My bank at the time in England gave me some free flights to Berlin because I had to upgrade my account. So I came here, feeling lost and broken, and discovered myself again. All the people I met here felt like my kind of people, and the streets and buildings felt so familiar, like I already knew the city from a past life or something. I decided that feeling was so great and so positive I would follow it and move here for real.

My family were shocked, and a bit frightened, their only child moving to another country. But they always support me and let me do what I want and try to help me.

The theme of struggle is traced through most of your songs — the struggle for love, for women’ rights, for creative freedom. Is your life a constant fight for something, and is this fight successful?
Yes, my life is a constant fight. I am full of love, and I don’t like fighting or causing trouble. But sometimes people come into your life and they destroy part of you, and you have to fight back. It doesn’t need to be violent, you just need to be smart and sure that you are fighting for something to be improved for more people than just yourself.

My records ’Emika’ and ’DVA’ are in the world, I made no compromises. Many young music producers from the next generation want to share their new ideas with me and discuss music. So I consider my path so far to be successful.
Emika in Moscow
Could you name the most pleasant and the most unpleasant moments in your career? The first ones that come to your mind.
The most inspiring time in my career was putting out my first album ’Emika’ and discovering that a lot of people around the world connected with my music and wanted to see me perform. I have had very little training as a performer, my goal was to work in the studio forever as a producer, not travel the world as a touring artist. I felt held up high by my audience, and through all the experiences I had doing shows and interviews and talking to fans, that is 100% what inspired my second album DVA. So really I feel like my whole project is about me and my audience together. It is not just about me. I would not be Emika without my audience, DVA is our record.

The most unpleasant is the sexism. I am often being reduced to ’just a singer’, and a lot of people don’t believe that I make the beats too.

— If not music, what else could you do in life? Do you have other talents hidden from public?
I’m hopelessly in love with my music life and commit each day to this. It means often making sacrifices but that’s the risk you have to take to be an artist.

— What about your third album? Is it already in process of production? What should your fans expect form your new record? If it’s not a secret, of course.
It’s written. I will call it Tří. If DVA is the shining light, then Tří is the dark shadow that comes with it.


The happiest event in your life?
Buying my first Apple Mac laptop with all my own money I saved for a year from working two jobs and skipping school.

What would you like to change in yourself?
I wish I didn’t wish to be skinnier.

What do you like in yourself?
My determination.

The place where you feel best of all?
Berlin, Milton Keynes, Prague.

With whom of the living people would you like to get acquainted?
David Bowie.

The country you’ve never been to, but would like to visit?

What traits of character do you appreciate most in men?

What’s your favorite activity?

If you could describe your music with a colour, which colour would it be?
— Deep purple.
Emika DVA