“Telling My Story”: Gabriella Vergilov Is The Bulgarian Techno DJ Pouring Herself Into Music

“Telling My Story”: Gabriella Vergilov Is The Bulgarian Techno DJ Pouring Herself Into Music

What made you get into DJing and self-production?

After visiting my friend in Berlin, I wanted to buy some equipment. I was with him and it was the first time I saw his studio, which looked like a spaceship with all kinds of wonderful classical instruments. He owned an 808, 909, 707, 303 and at least 10 keyboard synths, lots of pedals and a few modular synths. A few hours before arriving home, he was delivered a Roland TR-8, one of the first in Germany. So we sat on the living room couch. He brought in his laptop, plugged in a drum machine, added a Roland 303, put it on his lap and said, “Come on, try this,” and that’s when I I started to improvise. And that's what I want in my house! A few months later I ordered my tools and pretty much copied his little setup. I bought a MikroKORG with a small mic, a Roland TR-8 drum kit and a Roland 303 acid machine replica. It looks the same, it looks as evil as the real thing, just a cheap version. I immediately fell in love with synths and being able to create any sound you wanted...I was obsessed with it. Honestly, it was one of the happiest moments of my life, and I look back on it now as a pillar of my evolution as a musician and music producer. Music has given me a lot and I am grateful for these moments and for the people who introduced me to it.

Would you say you obviously started out as a DJ or producer?

I was procrastinating with the DJ. I wanted to DJ only with vinyl and do everything right. And for me, that meant knowing the “correct” technique and training at the highest level. At home, I only have turntables and no CDJs. I learned to play digitally in clubs, I never practiced but the transition was very easy, I played records for three years. But it took me a whole year to say yes to the concert. The producer was a complete natural, his knowledge of theory, rhythm, harmony and having played piano before helped a lot. I am self-taught. Literally two people came up to me, including Bjarki, to show me how to hook up my machines, plug in my sound card, do loops and use the EQ, that's it. I've never watched a tutorial, I like to learn by trial and error. I have a very intuitive and intuitive approach to music creation as well as composition. I'm very confident in how I feel right now and I'm aiming for a cinematic feel. I leave the technical part to the mixing and mastering experts. So producing it was really organic and a lot of fun.

How long after purchasing the hardware did you use your first version?

I don't remember the year, but I remember the month: it was June when my equipment arrived, and in October I already started sending music to people. New York label Thema Recordings picked a few songs and said, “Let’s free ourselves.” I had tears in my eyes when they asked me. I couldn’t believe I “deserved” this recognition. It has to do with my depression and low self-esteem for years. Low self-esteem is very common in people with melancholy, depression or ADHD, I didn't know that at the time. I have often heard my peers say: “You need to believe in yourself a little more, relax. I didn't know what that meant until I started therapy. My self-esteem has improved in healthy ways and I am grateful to finally be on the mend. However, it was a journey.

What if you said you were depressed?

I think it was when I was a kid, but about six or seven years ago I realized I wasn't in tune with my emotions when I started DJing and producing. Regarding my career, I made choices that didn't really correspond to what I wanted. I couldn't say no, because when you're emotionally challenged, you feel the extremes, like, "Oh, if it's not right, it's the end of the world." » Imposter syndrome also plays a role in preventing you from reaching your full potential. I recently realized that the choices we make truly define who we are. I made a video about this.

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You released your first album in 2016. Is that when you started mixing?

yes In 2017 I went to Berlin for a year. The plans were to involve the city as much as possible and play as much as possible. When I lived in Copenhagen, I traveled by bus, an eight-hour journey, depending on whether I finished work on Friday evening or Saturday morning, and I spent every weekend in Berlin. I met a lot of people. I also always danced in the front row when artists from Berlin came to play in Copenhagen. I've seen DJ Ben Klock at least 50 times before me. Once I got this offer: “Would you like to play at Kultur Kutxa in Copenhagen?” Ben Klock was playing in the main room, and there was me and someone else in the other room. But I refused this first concert because I didn't feel ready yet. I didn't want to make a fool of myself. I was still doing vinyl sets and the promoter wanted me to play a digital set. He was convinced that one lesson was enough to get me ready for the concert. I was happy that he believed in me, but I didn't want the pressure to be perfect and there to be no time to prepare. Many people at the scene said, “Are you crazy?!” » Shortly after, they invited me to play a big festival in Belgium with three of my favorites on the same day and on the same stage: Ben Klock, Jeff Mills and Richie Hawtin. It was my way of saying, “Look, I know what I’m doing. » It was Ben Klock who helped me at the beginning and who played my productions. He released my song “Her Beginning” on his set at Berghain. It's not a standard techno track at all, more soulful and more beautiful than house. I was scared, I cried on that dance floor. I felt like the universe was telling me to take my time, work and trust my intuition.

How would you say it has been for you from a production perspective and also from a DJ perspective?

As a DJ, I definitely have two Boiler Rooms . When I did it in 2019, I was the first Bulgarian woman to be booked on the platform and only the second artist from my country. The other one was in Sofia in 2021. It was crazy, I was like the Bulgarian ambassador of Boiler Room at that time and they were really happy to see me. It was the first edition in Bulgaria, so I thought it was something important for the whole scene, not just for me. From a production point of view, I think DVS1 support was very important. Since I released my music, I've been playing it non-stop. Ben Klock and Ben Sims also helped me. When some of your heroes recognize your talent, you feel like you're on the right path.

What's next for you?

I just came back from Sofia. I attended the final rave of the Quarter festival, dedicated to the city's oldest artistic and cultural district. It was exciting, they booked me for three shows which resulted in a four hour set instead of the planned two and a half hours. I was the guest of honor for the second year. I also just confirmed my first high-profile event series called GIRLS WILL BE GIRLS. This is a two-day event in late October focused on women's empowerment and mental health. There will be a women-only DJ set, an interactive brunch for those who identify as women, an open discussion, a love poetry reading, a trendy beauty cocktail corner, live music, a drag queen show And much more. Bulgaria also faces a big problem with toxic masculinity, violence against women and LGBTQI rights. It's also not particularly safe for drag queens. But it will be a safe and fun haven for everyone. I started developing the idea in 2020, and now I have finally made it happen. The support is already massive.

So when you reach a certain profile in Bulgaria, you feel able to move on.

I was bullied when I was a teenager and have been trying to protect other victims of bullying ever since. I know what it's like to be rejected and ridiculed. It's sad, but I always feel like people are very afraid of women full of pure power. I have always been true to myself and I feel like I am finally in a position where my voice is more recognized, both in Copenhagen and in Sofia. This is what I want to share with people; I haven't had much help, but you may be able to get it eventually. I want to tell people that even when you feel like the world is against you, you have to put yourself out there. No one will do it for you. I am a child of the rough culture, not just the global rough culture, but I have to deal with the mentality of my home country.

Geopolitics in the Balkans is turbulent and can make your life unpredictable. Living in an unpredictable and dysfunctional society can be very frustrating for creatives. Add to that dealing with depression from a young age, which turned into complex post-traumatic stress… and it's even more difficult when you're a woman, especially if you've been abused. This is what my next album is about, all the things that make up the perception of who we are and the feeling of love and acceptance.

So, are we looking forward to hearing your personal side on the album?

YES! I respect colleagues who want to stay away and don't want to talk about what's inside them. But when I do a DJ set and people like the songs I play, they like the story I'm telling, not just the songs. And this story would not have been possible if I had not experienced what I experienced in my life, if I had not experienced what I experienced. This includes people I know, people I've fallen in love with, my family issues, my friendships, my career, everything. All of this means that I look for a certain type of music that reflects my mood and my tastes, and that's also what I bring to the DJ. I think people connect to DJs and artists in general because we kind of base our musical performance on our personal history. But sharing can be pretty scary. A few months ago, I had a panic attack. I said to my friend: "I'm really afraid of releasing an album, and it's not the fear of failure, it's something else that I can't define." He said: “You have made very private and personal music. You're afraid because you're about to discover a part of yourself that you've never seen before, and that's a big step forward." And he was right. I believe in recording more than anything else in the world. This is me telling my story.

GIRLS WILL BE GIRLS will be in Sofia on October 27

Annabelle Ross is a freelance writer, follow her on Twitter

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