The making of the scene
What makes a music scene, what creates and sustains it, and makes it thrive, is not only the music people, DJs, live performers, producers, record label owners, and event organizers, but also many other important actors, from party-goers who dance at events, and materially create the party space with their bodies and moves, and communicate with DJs, thus co-producing the musical event, to workers behind the scenes, bouncers, box office and cloak-room people, bartenders, stagehands, light design artists, and poster artists, also co-creating the musical event and the scene. This blog will therefore explore through interviews how all these actors make the local electronic dance music scene happen from dusk till dawn, from weekend to weekend. It will explore their roles in the scene, their cultural values and observations, their goals and motivations, their experiences and skills, their patterns of action and interaction, and the differences between them in terms of their social and cultural position. Each bi-monthly interview posted on this blog will be dedicated to one of these scene makers, alternating among them more or less equally: party-goers, workers behind the scenes, and music people.
Furthermore, the interviews will not only focus on Ankali club, but will cover the broader Prague electronic dance music scene. This is because the scene participants do not only use and operate within singular places and events, but traverse multiple ones, and the blog will do the same, by following them in their nightclubbing pursuits.
Interview with Nam and his friends
In August, I have met with some local electronic dance music regulars, to make the first interview for the new Ankali blog series, The making of the scene. I asked Nam, whom I often meet at Prague’s techno events, to bring some of his companions with him, and that’s how we ended up doing this interview with Ana, Misha, Via, Alex, Anastasios, and Nam himself. We have met twice for the interview in Nová Doba café, in Holešovice (on August 2nd and 6th). After short introductions (about the clubs and the events they like the most), the conversation immediately strayed deep into the essence of electronic dance music partying: about socializing and interacting at parties, about communicating without talking, about dancing alone and dancing in groups, about the “freedom of the body,” the anonymity in the crowd, spatial dancing patterns, and about the reasons for dancing all night and staying until the sunrise. We have also discussed Ankali and its different types of events and visitors.
Ana: 24, Czech, student.
Misha: 24, Czech/Vietnamese, student.
Via: 23, Bulgarian/Iranian, student (lives in Czechia for 4 years).
Alex: 24, Russian/Kalmyk, 3D artist (lives in Czechia since 2008). Also a producer, who creates under the moniker Wolk
Anastasios: 30, Greek (lives in Czechia since 2017).
Nam: 23, Czech/Vietnamese, works as software test engineer.
David (to Nam): I know you from parties, I see you a lot at all these clubs and parties …
Nam: Every time, every weekend, I guess …
David: And I see you also sometimes … Which parties do you usually go to?
Via: Underdog’s is my favorite. Underdog’s is 100% my favorite. No matter what they are doing.
Misha: I usually go to (RARE) parties. I was introduced to (RARE) by siblings of Nam. And we usually go with the three of them… and Ankali, and now it’s also in Fuchs2 as well.
Anastasios: I usually go to … I am checking out mostly some schemas like (RARE) or Wrong, or clubs like Ankali, and small bars like Wildt and Vlkova. And I also follow some events like outdoors, like free raves, or acid techno raves, for example, I like Mayapur, it is in Modřany, it is kind of old school. I’ve never been to Underdog’s.
Nam: The bigger ones. Like CUKR, or Harmony, sometimes Materia.fm. These three, mostly. [And from the venues:] Ankali and Fuchs2, and Underdog’s … and Altenburg.
Anastasios: Altenburg, yes, but it’s not possible anymore.
Materia.fm 19/4/2019 by Nam
David: Let’s start talking also about how did you all meet, and do you often go to parties together? How does it usually look like, the event, when you go out together? Pre-event, if you meet somewhere beforehand? Do you have some rituals, like small things that you always do together? And then what happens at the party, or after the party, etc?
Nam: I don’t usually meet before the event. I have my own things to do and people I go with, also have things to do.
David: Like what? You still do some work?
Nam: I work before, so I have to go home, take a shower, eat something, this takes time. And then I go straight to the party. So, no pre-drinks.
David: And, also the question, how did you meet, do you go often to parties together?
Anastasios: I go always alone. But I meet people at parties sometimes. And basically, I met Nam this way. I noticed sometimes that he was also having similar attitude of coming alone, and so it was … [turns to other people present at the interview] and I don’t remember you guys at all, I’m sorry.
Misha: No, I don’t go out often.
Anastasios: I don’t remember faces.With the rave scene is that the socializing doesn’t happen only by hanging out together or speaking together, or smoking together. Socializing in the rave scene is also keeping the same tempo of dancing together.
David: So, sometimes there is not much talking…
Anastasios: It’s not about talking, but to demonstrate the freedom of the body. How we move there, how we interact with the music. We communicate also in other ways except like we meet before, have a drink, hang out …
Via: I agree, absolutely. Actually, I met Nam and Misha on a specific party. It was Boy Harsher in Underdog’s. I knew Misha from school. Maybe we only exchanged a couple of sentences when I met her there. And then it turned out that almost everybody I knew in Prague was involved in the event. I entered, I met people, I started socializing with them. And this was probably the only party that I’ve spent most of my time there speaking with people instead of everything else. However, I definitely agree. For me, socialization in this kind of a scene—this is … has something to do more with decoration, with ornamentation, with presentation, and with being your exquisite self there, being present at the moment, move, and on a more subliminal and more subtle level just kind of interact with people, make them notice you, make them feel your vibe, to put it in very simple and esoteric terms, if you will. Just make them feel how you vibrate, and then people will automatically come to you. That is my experience so far.
David: So, it’s more like non-verbal communication, through the body.
Via: It’s 100% non-verbal communication.
David: Is it through dancing, or how else would you describe it?
Via: It is about dancing. That’s one, of course…
David: So, how do you communicate with people through dancing? Let’s explore this a little bit.
Via: For example, if we see the organization of the audience on the dancefloor. The people who stand in the first line, in front of the stage. And those ones who kind of reside more to the back. Depends on the mood, and the current environment, you are gonna adjust. If you want to stay in the corner, and just dance your brains out—this is what I usually do when I have a really close friend with me. My former roommate, for example, of course, she was my closest friend. We’re just going to reside in one corner, dance with each other, not really minding anybody else. Alternatively, when I arrive there with a bigger crew of people—which usually happens spontaneously, there is not too much pre-drinks or any pre-kind of engagements, it’s just, “hey guys, we’re going the same way, wanna go there?”—we’re going to the stage area, and then kinda try to exchange as many high frequency vibrations with everybody around you.
[returns to the theme of organization on the dancefloor] So, we have the division of the audience. Wherever I feel I am in the middle of the audience. There is where we move, and when we are together in a way, but we try to keep our integrity—we don’t touch anybody’s aura. There is a certain boundary with the people you are surrounded with. If you are residing in the corner, somewhere in the back, that means you are gonna be having your partner, and you’re just gonna be dancing with them. It’s more of a one-on-one experience. When you are in front of the stage, you kinda have the feeling to propel to action. To move, and to have it more dynamic form of self-expression. And there is where it doesn’t matter if you get into somebody’s boundary. Actually, of course it matters, if you get into somebody’s boundary, but the boundary shrinks, in a way. This is a moment, when you establish a physical contact with people you’ve never met before. And you can just basically dance with them and kinda stir it up.
David: Ok, cool. So, let’ see if you have similar experiences. Let’s talk about the dancefloor experiences, and also you can compare different genres, different scenes, because I am sure (RARE) and Wrong are not the same as some Harmony event, or CUKR event, or different Ankali events. So, you can compare different scenes, and also, like you were saying, different areas around the dancefloor, and different types of interactions you have with friends or non-friends at parties. Anybody who wants to talk … or let’s say, if we consider Via’s experiences, sometimes you come alone, and that’s a different type of dancing, or with a friend, in couples, or with a group of people …
Misha: Yeah, I usually go with a group of friends, like, we always accidentally meet there, because that’s a certain group of people that usually go to the same events. But then people disseminate, they are not together during the party.
David: And, do you dance together?
Misha: No, we usually don’t dance together.
Nam: We dance like next to each other.
Misha: Next to each other, that’s what I mean.
Nam: We are not facing each other, but we are very close to each other.
David: For longer periods, and then you take breaks, or how does it go?
Nam: It’s kind of a dance-off. When you dance so long, the first one who will say, “hey, I need to chill”, then we go chill.
David: And you interact with other dancers around?
Nam: When we are in a group, I think, rather not.
David: And you, how it’s with you?
Anastasios: I interact, but it depends.
David. You usually dance alone, or?
Anastasios: Yeah, I usually really like the vibrations from the bass. If we are talking about Ankali, my favorite place is in front, to the right.
[all laugh approvingly]
Nam: Many people have their favorite space there.
Anastasios: So, basically, with people that we are kind of having the similar place to hang out there, I think, it’s not a question if we intend to dance together. It’s happening. So, if we’re gonna look at each other, it’ happening too. Maybe, it’s something that comes from the music, to look at each other as well. So, I don’t say that I’m not gonna look at the wall, or that I’m gonna dance back to back, or whatever. I think it’s not like if we’re dancing together or not, definitely, everybody is dancing with each other then. Because, we are very close to each other. I mean, it’s not a club, you know, where people are standing with a drink, and every table is a meter away from each other. So, we dance together, yeah. How, it depends on **** and the position in the space.
Misha: It’s very individualistic.
Via's drawing: "The first one is a duet between my partner and I made in Ankali. It's an exercise at finishing each other's sentences."
Via: I definitely see that is very individualistic, but definitely I recognize some bubble formation. In a way, depends on where you are standing, of course, it depends on your mood in the night, especially when I’m going there with a bunch of people. It’s much easier for me to just split from them, knowing that I have my gang somewhere, and I can just go and have a cigarette with them. It’s much easier for me to go to the front of the stage and just interact with stranger. If I go alone, it is the fact that I’m gonna stay in the middle. Where I can … middle in any sense of the word. You’re gonna be with people, around people, in a very close proximity to them. And you’re going to interact but in a much more non-invasive way, in a much more non-inviting way. Let’s say, you are there, you share the same rhythm of the music, of course, you dance, you connect in some way…
David: Do you sometimes dance with people who are with you, also facing them, mirroring the moves?
Via: Me, doesn’t work to not do that!
Nam: Sometimes, yes.
Anastasios: Sometimes, for example, with people that I am familiar to, it’s going to be some immediate reaction. You know, you are familiar to someone, that you have sympathy towards them. It’s not that you don’t have sympathy towards others, you just know that person, you had a couple of talks with them, and yeah, you are also happy to see somebody also, and it is going to reflect in the way you are moving probably. The same, if you are not happy to see someone, for example.
David: So, you will exchange some gestures?
Anastasios: Let’s say there are some cases that you know is gonna be … The dancing and the whole thing is taking part also in the chill-out place, when you’re going for a cigarette. For example, I never dance with Nam, but we have similar preferences in music, and yes, sometimes you just see someone in the corridor, and you smile at them. It is a part of the interaction. Even if you don’t know their name.
David: And I am curious, I have my own reasons why I dance, I sometimes dance all night, and for me it’s kind of like a therapy, or release, I am curious what does dancing mean to you? And also how do you approach it, do you also have these long dances, or you do brief dancing moments, and then you also socialize a lot? How does it look, and why do you dance, basically?
Nam: For me, dancing is like expressing my feelings, and enjoying my music, and working out at the same time. Also, one major thing is communicating through dancing with others.
David: In what ways?
Nam: I’m telling them how I enjoy my music, I can read others, how they enjoy music too. And when there is someone who is just standing and looking, it kind of destroys the mood. So, I try not to look at them, try to talk with them, if they are somehow connected with me, if I know them.
David: Is it also personal expression of your identity?
Nam: My identity, my feelings towards it.
David: And sharing certain things with people? And do you usually dance for long time, or briefer moments, or all night, or two hours per night?
Nam: It’s not so simple. It depends on situation. If I’m thirsty. Or if I need to go to bathroom. These things. So, if I’m really well, I can dance for hours. But it never happens, because when you are in these clubs, you take some substances, and you need to hydrate.
David: We can get back to those things later. What about you?
Misha: I don’t go to parties so often. So, when I decide to go, I stay there quite long. I did not use to, because I had to work during the weekends, but now I don’t. It’s very therapeutic. It’s like a way to really dance and bring out my emotions.
David: Maybe also a release from your week?
Misha: Yes, from stress.
Anastasios: Are you talking about endurance, like stamina?
David: Also, anything…
Anastasios: It depends on the kind of the event. I think that the accomplishment is to finish with the dancefloor, to be the last [laughs]. With not so many breaks, usually. Because, I don’t really find so much point with the breaks. If I really need a cigarette, or if I really need to talk with someone, I’m gonna take a break. But if I realize that I have no reason, if I just need some breath, and then go back, then I’m just not going to have breaks. This is the reason why I’m going there basically.
Via's drawing: "The second is an illustration of something a girl said in Ankali when I asked her "where is one to find the ego?" It "must be in her broken nail," she replied (which, as she explained, distracts her from the music by making her palpate compulsively the entire night)."
David: So, what does it mean for you then, to dance all night?
Anastasios: [takes a moment to think] Like, I was impressed by this, because when I encountered techno and rave, I was able to kind of feel my body, I was out of some difficult physical situation. Not so pleasant physical situation. So, I really enjoyed I could feel so nice to move my body, and to know how I’m moving it for hours. It’s very impressive. Like, I was impressed by myself. So, I like the whole concept of long time dancing. And very intense. So, I’m usually just taking breaks for hydration. Because, this is the purpose for me, just to feel that I can feel my body for a long time, and do moves that I can understand.
Via: For me it’s all of the above, and it’s also a networking opportunity. For me, it’s a work-out. For me, the whole rule is, be the first to come, and be the last one to pull out. Dance as much as possible. And it’s very physical. The more I can move, the more I can basically put pressure on my muscles, the better I spend my night. As such, it’s about ventilating, it’s about letting go off the tension, the pressure, the stress. It’s also about getting to know people. It’s also about thinking about them, how do they move, what do they do, what’s their presentation, both physical and in terms of their passion telling me about them. And if I can read that appropriately, then I can approach them more easily. It’s also about my attitude toward getting out of my comfort zone and interacting with kind of people that I wouldn’t necessarily interact in any other circumstance. So it becomes this kind of holistic experience, when you get to feel yourself comfortable in your own skin, you get to exercise yourself, you get to enjoy music and art, if we presume this kind of music is art, it definitely is… And then you also get to find more about yourself in a social environment, and about the other individuals around you. So, it’s everything. I basically see it as this one thing that you do for yourself, which is incredibly helpful. And if you have any attitude issues, if you have any … It’s also a moving mediation, from time to time… It’s everything. It works in that way.
David: So, for most of you, it works in this similar way? From work-out to expressing yourself, to release, therapy…
Nam: … connecting with people …
Alex [after listening from the back for a while]: Maybe not for me. Because, as a techno producer, for me it’s more like an inspiration, and enjoying the atmosphere. Usually I hate people around me. Most of them don’t know what is a personal space. These kind of people …
David: This is the same for you at all kinds of parties?
Alex: Yes, most of the parties. I really enjoy the parties, where it’s like 50 people, not like raves for 400 people.
David: What do you mean, by saying they don’t know what is a personal space?
Alex: I mean, let’s say you have a full club, and you have to push yourself to the front, to the DJ. It doesn’t matter, it depends on the sound, and the club, but usually, it’s everywhere. Most of them trying to pull to the front.
David: And then it’s too crowded.
Alex: Too crowded, yes. There is a lot of space usually in the back, but everyone has to watch a DJ, or I don’t know, show yourself. A lot of time I see people don’t just enjoy music, but they’re just dancing, then a couple of seconds they are turning around, looking for someone, or looking for eye contact. I don’t know. Enjoy your music, not connect, like … people talking, whistling … I love the scene, I love the club scene, techno club scene. But now it became something more different than it was like before, it was in the beginning, at least in Prague.
David: So, for you, what do you look for then, when you dance?
Alex: I come to the club only for music. Not to talk, to meet people. If I dance, I’m just releasing the emotions that I’m getting from the music. But I’m not trying to dance as hard as possible, I’m just trying to copy percussive sounds, or the rhythm…
David: You follow the sounds, and stuff?
Alex: Yes, yes, yes… I do it visually, I just close my eyes. Because, I don’t want to see anything.
David: And you still dance?
Alex: Yes, that’s kind of weird if you don’t. But I don’t do like crazy dance. Lie, hard movements, or aggressive movements. I just kind of shaking from the side to the side. Sometimes is really good. And I feel the energy, and I have to release at least a bit of energy. Or if I am impressed with some kick, or some melody. So, I have to somehow work … express it inside. But usually not on every track.
[after a short digression, we come back to the topic of dancing and interacting at parties]
Anastasios: I am interested in the anonymity as well, in the rave scene. That’s what I enjoy.
Alex: Yes, me too.
Anastasios: Because, there are many other places where people are hanging out, kind of. Same people … There is also much anonymity. In the rave scene, you would not find people gossiping about each other. Somebody would not even know their name in order to start talking with them.
David: So, strangers would interact more easily?
Anastasios: I don’t know. This is my impression. This is what I like. The anonymity is something very interesting for me. If you like to know someone, it’s another thing. But with the crowd there is an anonymity. It’s for me super interesting.
Neone Ravemark 5/4/2019 by Nam
David: Let’s talk a bit about Ankali and maybe compare it with other clubs. Which are your favorite clubs? How would you compare Ankali to other clubs, in terms of experience, or anything?
Alex: There are really no other clubs to be compared to Ankali. It’s more like once in three months there are other kinds of events in some abandoned warehouse. But usually there is nothing else that compares to Ankali.
David: Why not?
Nam: I would compare it to Fuchs2.
Alex: Yes, but Fuchs2, the interior, and the design of it looks… The bar is along the whole right side, so there is a lot of light going on the dancefloor. So, there is no privacy, and anonymity on the rave there. Then, what else? [thinks].
David: So, that’s why you like Ankali more?
Alex: Yes, it’s dark, you don’t see each other.
David: What else is ideal about it for you there?
Alex: What attracts me? The smoke machine, red light, and the flickering white strobes, it’s enough, and a good sound system … And the darkness. Because the club scene, and techno, it’s supposed to be dark. There are usually no lights in like proper Berlin clubs. It’s all dark.
David: And in terms of Ankali and other clubs? How would you compare them? Which ones are best for you? Or sometimes, it’s complementary—for example, I sometimes like Ankali, but at some moments, I would prefer like a warehouse. You know, it’s a different experience, for me…
Misha: Yes, and it can get quite touristic in Ankali.
Anastasios: Until some point. I don’t think people who are tourists in Ankali are staying over longer than three o’clock, or if they stay more, they’re not tourists anymore, they are enjoying it for real. And I think somebody has told me that Ankali is the gateway. It’s a place that is more open and will show this culture to more people. Even, I can see also … Even people who have no idea about the rave scene, and they’re coming to Ankali, they are not going to react like “oh, the club, it’s mine!”, ‘I’m paying, and fuck you all!” They are going into harmony with it, and get into the vibe of the club, and they are going to take something from it. It’s like teaching, showing them something. It’s not like these tourists are going to cause issues. I’ve never seen tourists causing issues there, but I’ve seen in other clubs, many times tourists getting out of control, and bullying the people who are really raving.
Alex: Ankali, last year, at least, there were a lot of people that are coming in the groups. These guys in shorts, and white T-shirts and blue T-shirts, they’re starting in groups, whistling on every drop, screaming melodies even. So, sometime really drunk people. So, in Ankali it became really common, so, that’s why, if I come and I see these people, until they are in there, the night is ruined.
Via: The ratio between men and women as well. This is one thing which is … and you have tourists—they are usually male. That’s the thing. I went there for a night which was completely occupied by tourists. However, the ratio was maybe 70% girls vs 30% boys, and that was completely different. So that also happens … it really plays a role there, because Ankali, as I saw it, the first time I went there for the Mezipatra post-party event, it was open place, open dancefloor for gay people, for straight people, and everything in between, and I was like “yes, finally, this is the place, where you can just be whatever queen or king you prefer to be!” And then Ankali kinda has its ups and downs. So, I think that is one thing that is good about it. My first impression from it was that it’s maybe the very first like all-inclusive place.
David: How is it all inclusive?
Via: The darkness. It is all about the darkness. Everybody feels kind of quite secure over there. Which is something I cannot say for any other place I’ve been to.
David: Including other techno places, like Fuchs2, Altenburg, when it still existed?
Anastasios: Altenburg was still I think some kind of Ankali. I’ve heard many people talking about Alternburg and Ankali as the same kind of place.
David: What types of events do you like the most in Ankali?
Nam: Archiv technologi. Sometimes I like Disco Církev. It’s not techno, but still fun.
David: How is it different from other events?
Nam: The music, disco [everybody laughs]. There is more lights, less smoke. And different set of people.
David: And do they interact differently and dance differently there?
Nam: Yes, there are circles of people of about 4 to 6, who go there together, and always dance together. And at techno parties it’s more separated, individualistic. Everybody is looking to the front, not in circles.
David: And is more dark?
Nam: Yes, more dark, more smoke.
David: And what other types of events do you like in Ankali?
Ana: I love (RARE).
Nam: Wrong/Worse events.
Via: Endless Illusions.
Ana: Yes, that’s safe, that’s always good. And (RARE).
[in the second part, Ana joins us and together with others contributes the following to the conversation]
David (to Ana and Nam): How do you know each other?
Ana: I met Nam at techno parties. On Komiks.
David: How long ago?
Ana: One year and a half. His brother, Linh, I also met him on Komiks.
David (to Ana and Nam): Do you often go together to parties, as a group?
David: How does that look like?
Nam: Usually, we meet at the place.
Ana: It’s good to know if there is somebody there. But we don’t speak together, we just dance. We sometimes start together, but often we meet on the place. It’s nice to know there is somebody, and then you can join this group at the end, or something. We don’t speak together on the parties, only on a cigarette pause. Just dance. It’s a different experience, we communicate only with dancing.
David: What is the most interesting or memorably common experience, when you party together?
Ana: Maybe Secret rave, last year. It was maybe most intense. It was three days in the unknown area. It was lots of fun experiences.
Nam: I think it was my first time that I stayed so long, until the sun rise. It was really good.
Ana: We always stay until sun rise.
Nam: Yes, from that time on.
Ana: From the time I have met Nam and his brother, I never leave the party during the night, always in the morning.
David: How come after meeting Nam and Linh, that you started staying longer?
Ana: [laughing] I don’t know.
David: Maybe you started experiencing the parties differently?
Ana: Maybe [laughs].
David: It is much different experience, staying until the end?
Ana: Yes, especially if you come to the city, and you see the people. Just people going to work, and you are leaving the party. I always feel I’ve been in some hell, and that I’m coming back to normal world. But I like it somehow. Because, for me it is really … I really love the feeling when I stay until the end, I feel like I took the experience 100%.
David: It’s more complete?
Ana: Yes. For me, it’s also, when I’m really tired, I still try to keep going.
David: For me also, sometimes the endings are really interesting, musically also.
Ana: Yes, I really like to see which people stayed until the end. It’s some filter for people. And when the sun is coming, and you see the people on the light, it’s a little bit scary [laughs], but it’s more close, you started speaking with people, because it’s smaller group
Nam: You feel more connected.
David: Because, finally you can also see their faces.
Ana: Yes, yes. And it’s less people.
Nam: And if you stay there until the end, it’s harder to leave, because of the people you make the connection with.
David: Because maybe previously, you are more focused on dancing, and towards the end you start …
Ana: … seeing the people, yes. And music is different in the morning. It’s no so …
Nam: Yes, definitely, music in the morning is very much more social and not for dancing.
Ana: More experimental. Not so monotonous.
David: Either more chill, or more experimental, yes. And do you also sometimes go to after parties?
Nam: I rather not, but sometimes I go.
Author and coordinator of the blog: David Verbuč (music anthropologist by occupation, and techno dancer in spare time, or maybe it’s the opposite).
You can email us to firstname.lastname@example.org, if you have any comments or questions about The making of the scene blog, or if you want to be interviewed yourself/with your friends.
You can also send us personal reflections of your experiences from Ankali or other local electronic dance music events (they can be in English or Czech language). If we will like them, we will publish them on the blog, under the rubric “Reflections from the scene.”