“We’ve been through that serious phase in techno, how about we have some fun now?”
Martyna Maja, also known as VTSS, is the name on everyone’s lips right now. Longtime resident of Warsaw’s cult underground party Brutaż, Red Bull Music Academy alumnus, and a fresh Discwoman signee—given such a track record, it’s no surprise she has been turning heads here, there and everywhere. The young Polish DJ is unstoppable: lately, she has relocated to Berlin, made her Berghain debut and despite her busy global tour, keeps spoiling us with one stellar release after another…
In less than half a year, her first EP on SPFDJ’s Intrepid Skin was followed by a 12” on Haven. And just like her tracks, VTSS is not slowing the tempo—she has recently been featured on Bjarki’s bbbbbb label’s release and her forthcoming EP, Identity Process, is coming out in the beginning of July. The high-energy sets of VTSS are something to behold; Martyna is equally skilled in playing mind-melting industrial techno as well as cheeky old-school classics. Glamcult caught up with the artist to discuss life on the road, social media and her anticipated Amsterdam return.
Hi Martyna! Your rise to fame is nothing short of meteoric—in the past few months, you played all over the world, from South Korea to Chile. Has being constantly on tour changed the way you DJ and create music?
During the last two months, I’ve been touring so much that I was in Berlin for probably 7 days in total, so to be fair there’s not much music being made. At the moment, I’m putting all my energy into DJing, hoping to slow down a bit and actually settle down in the city to have some more time to go back to the studio. Making music on a laptop while travelling is definitely not for me. My DJing hasn’t changed much because of touring, mostly because of a change in my “vision”: trying out new things while aiming to constantly get better at whatever I’m doing.
Happy to hear that you’re using your time well! Music for you means much more than partying: your contribution to local and global initiatives supporting women in the music industry is impressive. Unfortunately, many amazing female DJs are still tokenized, their accomplishments being judged based on physical appearance or number of Instagram followers. In a reality like this, how do you manage commercial success while staying true to yourself and promoting equality?
I’m not sure if I actually do. I’m still struggling, like everyone, I guess. It’s really hard to feel the balance in this sphere and it’s been affecting both my mental health and my private life. I believe overthinking that would make me really depressed, because the reality is what it is. I try to be as real on social media as I can, to respond to messages and be nice, but there’s just not enough hours in a day to do this. I try to stay away from the internet as much as I can (believe it or not) and just be myself when I’m online. I feel like people can relate more to me being silly and tired, like we all are, rather than appreciating pics of me at an airport with my Rimowa bag or eating dinners in fancy restaurants all over the world.
Your thrilling sets are known (and loved) for their versatility and unpredictable, genre-bending track selection. Do you think that anything can be played in a nightclub if the time and crowd are right?
I’ve never had this kind of a serious approach to music, even before all that gabber silliness started. Back when I used to run these more serious industrial techno parties in Poland, on a rather quiet night I played a Gigi D’Agostino track, which I had on an actual record. The club owner turned off the sound system, saying that I’m not going to embarrass him in his own club and that he’s not going to turn it back on until I change the track. That experience made me rebel even more and started to change my approach to music overall. I believe in balance in everything, but also, I’m not interested in making my performance a joke. However, a little fun never hurt nobody. We don’t smile enough these days anyway.
I couldn’t agree more. You mentioned gabber—you do have a soft spot for intense music genres. Projects like Gabber Eleganza or WIXAPOL S.A. have proven that old school rave music and culture are having a major revival, even among people too young to be nostalgic about them. What’s so appealing in them to you?
I think we’re living in super complicated times and, because of everyday frustrations, we’re more and more drawn to radical genres and tempos. I have never been as angry in my life as I am right now—at the state of the world, at how people behave towards each other and about my private life as well. The only way for me to let go of this anger is to just lose myself and push it harder, especially now that I see that I’m not the only one feeling that way. But also: this shit is fun. We’ve been through that serious phase in techno, how about we have some fun now?
Talking about fun: last time when you visited Amsterdam, you played at an unashamedly queer fetish party. How do you see the relationship between underground LGBTQ culture and club music?
The crowd was really nice, sweaty and vibey. I think there’s always been a super important link, but I guess I don’t feel qualified to talk about it, if that makes sense? From my perspective as a DJ, it’s always fun to play at these parties. People allow themselves to go wilder and enjoy the space and the music more than usual, because they feel safe and at “home”. I wish all spaces would make everyone feel more and more safe.
We’re beyond excited to see you return to Amsterdam. What can we expect from your set there, and at Katharsis too?
At De School, I’ll be playing a live set, so definitely something different than my usual gigs. When I play live, it tends to be a bit more complex than my DJ sets—it’s only an hour, so I try to squeeze as much in it without boring people to death. Katharsis though, I’m opening there. However, I’ve been advised by my boo SPFDJ, who played Unpolished this year, not to be fooled by the “opening” slot. “Don’t fuck around and go straight to it”—so that’s what I’m going to do.
Words by Julian Kallas
Photography by Marta Michalak
Keep up with VTSS on Instagram and get drenched in her live (!) set at De School on June 29.