We chat to DJ, producer, SønDER project manager, and Electronic Music Production & Performance alumna Chiara Virgili, aka Lukr Range, about creative collaboration in Berlin.
If there’s one thing we can be certain about during the pandemic, it’s that Berlin won’t lose its party spirit. Back in the ‘90s, hour zero of the city’s techno boom, people used to “run through this empty city looking for a party.” Now, as we ride out the latest blow for Berlin’s creative culture, that empty city feeling is pretty relatable. The only difference is that now techno heads are scanning through the virtual space to find an amazing live-streamed set.
SønDER is one such outlet. After gracing Griessmuehle with their first beautifully curated music and art event, in collaboration with Eclectique, the event collective was forced to keep the fire burning online. SønDER’s online showcase combines exciting electronic live sets with the visual journeys of selected VJ artists. And it gets us thinking, could the Corona era – no matter how challenging – be a creative incubator that catalyses the latest reinvention of Berlin’s music scene?
If so, DJ, producer and SønDER project manager Chiara Virgili, aka Lukr Range, could be one of its architects. Driven by the dance floor, the Electronic Music Production & Performance HE Certificate alumna’s creative spirit is as relentless as her foot-stomping sound.
We caught up with the Italian techno firestarter to chat about her vision for SønDER, her journey in electronic music and what she loves so much about collaboration.
First of all, tell us more about SøNDER. What brought the collective together and what is your vision as the project and artist manager?
The SønDER project was inspired by moments shared between students at Catalyst about music and art. I loved our group projects. It was a time to push yourself out of your own comfort zone, to try out different approaches on making music with other people, and to improve yourself.
Inspired by this, Inas, Alessandro, aka Just Dust, and I decided to create a platform to further explore, to keep artists together, and to create a community where it is possible to share ideas about art. For this reason, we have decided to create experiences in which not only DJs or live music acts participate, but also visual artists, painters, performers and installation artists. We are focused on the fusion of different artistic disciplines and the collaboration between these varied types of artists. Specifically in regards to music, we have three different concepts to give space and opportunity to different performers:
Tidal is an immersive music experience, an ambient-experimental zone.
Motion focuses on house, disco, electro, organic groove, wave, balearic, minimal, and breakbeat, as well as music inspired by these genres. There is also room for more diverse sounds such as hip hop and world music.
Vortex includes genres like techno, breakbeat, hardcore, bass music, dubstep and drum and bass.
In our parties we would like to express all of these concepts. One of our dreams is to create a SønDER stage or area at a festival to explore them.
SøNDER isn’t the only event brand you’re involved with. You’re also a resident DJ at another Catalyst student/alumni-run collective, Eclectique. What do you love the most about collaboration?
I really love collaboration between collectives. Most of all, I care about sharing and building ideas with other people and creating cool projects or concepts together. One of the most important and interesting parts of collaboration is learning strategies or work methods from other collectives. It is an effective way to grow your own projects and to strengthen the team with whom you work. It is amazing when collectives are working together towards the same goal, helping and pushing each other and finding solutions through constructive communication.
Tell us about your journey in electronic music. What was the moment you decided to study electronic music production and performance?
My journey in electronic music definitely started on the dance floor. In 2012, I was working at Ponderosa club in my hometown at an event called This Is Not. A lot of Berlin DJs were booked to play and I was always fascinated by the different performances and all the fresh beats that these artists were bringing.
In 2013, I moved to Berlin to explore the city and I fell in love with the club culture of the German capital. I was attending several clubnacht events, always looking for interesting sounds and new artists to discover. In 2017, my passion and curiosity for music pushed me to start my DJ and producer career as Lukr Range in Berlin. I was mostly motivated by the desire to create in others the same feelings which I have on the dance floor. For me, dance is therapy; it is an important opportunity to let go of stress accumulated in the mind and body.
This brought me to Catalyst to study Electronic Music Production & Performance. I wanted to improve my sound, to transmit and generate different kinds of emotions in people, to wake up feelings, and to immerse the listener in sound experiences.
Before COVID-19, you did the rounds of Berlin’s most cherished techno clubs as a DJ and event organiser. How has the pandemic changed your approach to performance and events, and what’s your outlook on the future of the city’s techno culture?
Due to the pandemic and the difficult conditions to organise a safe party for our community, we made the hard decision to organise online-only events. Our online showcase editions present live-set acts performing simultaneously with visual artists or performers. We had to make some compromises due to COVID and this was our best solution to keep our brand alive.
This whole situation has been a sharp and fast learning experience for all of us working in the music industry in Berlin. I feel like some mistakes have been made along the way while navigating the disaster of Corona – trying to survive both financially and within the spirit of what makes clubbing in Berlin so great and special. I include ourselves in this as it was difficult for us as a collective to know in what way was best to act and develop SønDER as the pandemic unfolded.
I also feel that, as a community, we are all struggling and it is important that all participants in the industry help each other – from artists and event managers, to clubs and booking agents. Not only this, but clubgoers should also be aware that the increased ticket prices are a result of the financial uncertainty and restrictions. There may be some people trying to take advantage of the situation, but I believe and hope that people involved in the scene have their hearts in the right place.
If we adopt this collective spirit, we can avoid Berlin techno becoming a form of partying that is exclusive to the rich, like it has in so many other countries. I hope that when this is all over, the ticket costs return to their pre-pandemic amounts, keeping the people and roots of techno that make it special alive. That being said, I am afraid the costs will stay high as there will be fierce competition to recover the money lost in 2020, which is also understandable.
We’ve noticed that you often use your friends’ tracks – including students and tutors at Catalyst – in your mixes. What do you think makes your community stand out musically?
I really like to play my friends' music or tracks made by artists who I really love and respect. It is a way to celebrate their creativity and our friendship or connection. It is an amazing sensation to play a track by people who are part of your life, especially when you have a big sound system and the artists are dancing in front of you. I love how this creates a magical moment and a cool connection. It is really important for me to promote the music of people I know. It is a way to thank them for creating such cool music.
Thanks, I’m really happy that you like our project. In February, Monica Montanari, aka Tiger Lily, part of the Synthetic Velvet crew, contacted me asking if I would like to take part in a project with a visual artist chosen by them. As a result, I met Reedfloorian, with whom I found a good harmony in working together. Synthetic Velvet asked us to express together our personal concept of the golden hour – the moment of the day just before the sun sets or after it rises, when the light is redder and softer than usual.
Reedfloorian and I worked on this project during the first lockdown period in Berlin. We were inspired by the absurd situation brought on by the pandemic. We tried to figure out what would be the best way to connect this with the concept of the golden hour, in order to explain the great darkness we've been passing through during such an unusual and critical global issue.
Our video is a story about the fight between nature and humanity: the destruction of nature followed by its rebellion, reclaiming the earth in its golden hour.
Looking back on your time as a Catalyst student, was there any particular moment, event, class, tutor or collaboration that really catalysed your journey in music?
My whole year at Catalyst was a rich journey through music. Absolutely, some teachers have been fundamental to my growth. I have learned a lot from them and some of them are among my favorite artists. I respect them a lot.
Certainly the most difficult phase – but also the one that most spurred me on to overcome my limits – was the exam in which I had to perform a live set. It was my first ever live performance. I will never forget that moment full of adrenaline and enthusiasm. It was a wonderful experience, so much so that I am currently preparing a live set for next year.
What can we look forward to from you next?
At the moment I am working on a project with Synthezia, who is our resident visual artist at SønDER. We decided to create an audio music video as a protest against the abortion law that was recently passed in Poland.
Above: Still from upcoming Synthezia and Lukr Range collaboration
I was recently in Warsaw for the demo against this law. It was a very powerful and very constructive experience. In Polond the situation is very critical with regards to women's rights and the goverment’s campaign against queer the community. There, the police adopt a repressive method that is too rigid and the state supports these methods.
Our project will be published in a few weeks. Regarding women's rights, I recommend watching Erotica 2022, a film which talks about how women are treated in Polish society.