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M. Sylvia | Vinyl DJ, and Producer

We have a huge respect for DJs in the Women in Vinyl community.  Like a record store, DJs are a huge part in musical exploration and can also really set the mood.  Instead of Shazam they’re a real person you can go and ask what was playing, and learn more about that artist. They have to know the music inside and out no matter what the genre.

M. Syliva is a true artist, she is a Chicago based music producer, sound designer and DJ.  Characterized by the warmth of Chicago’s house roots, her style is a dark, and dubby exploring the beauty of the present moment. Spanning from minimal to techno to experimental, the main constants are a drift to the deep end and a selection to suit the mood, with prominent influences from her favorites: The Prodigy, and Loco Dice.

She is a Polish-born transplant, who grew up in Chicago absorbing its love of art, music culture, and freedom of expression. She began DJ-ing around 2006, and within a year of debuting on the Chicago dance music circuit, she gained residency at Chicago’s renowned Sound-Bar, where she’s been for the better part of a decade.  Tenets of her production involve the living feel of analog instruments and experimentation. Currently giving studio time a heavy focus, you can find her original work and remix releases on The Pool House, Pool House Black, Brain Food Recordings, and Toxic Recordings labels.

When she’s not spending time spinning records, she places great value on her connections to others, spending time with people dear to her is very important. Her friends have been her biggest supporters and fans throughout the years, so they are a constant presence and source of joy to her.  “I’m not sure if I could be doing what I am doing without them.”

How did you get into your industry / What motivated you to get into it? 

I started to DJ about sixteen years ago and that’s when I got hooked on dance music. I didn’t think I would have a music career, but years later, here I am in a studio with some of my favorite synthesizers, a pair of turntables I love, and an expanding vinyl collection.

I first started to DJ as part of a collective, NORdjs, of which I’m still a part of today. It was a platform for me to get my music out and be part of a community. As soon as I started, I felt music was the best way to express myself and that was always my biggest motivation to get going. I also loved connecting with people on the dance floor; feeling a unity with the crowd during a set is still one of my favorite feelings in life. DJing and music production are a part of my identity. I cannot imagine a life without it.

What is a day in the life like?

My day starts early and ends late. I usually work in the studio most evenings on originals or remixes, if I have a remix on my plate. I try to hit the decks once or twice a week, as well.

In your opinion what has been your favorite / the coolest thing you’ve worked on?

Luckily, I can say I’ve worked on a number of cool things, so it’s hard to pick just one. In the last few years, I have enjoyed working on creating music for labels I feel connected to and aligned with. I’ve also got to play fun sets, including at Gramaphone, Chicago’s iconic vinyl record store.

What has been / is the most difficult part of your job?

With devoting a lot of time to production, I do not have a lot of time to seek out DJ gigs at the moment. But, maybe that’s an important part of my journey.

What advice do you have for someone wanting to get into pursuing what you’re doing?

I advise anyone looking to DJ (vinyl or not), produce, or design sound to never give up if you feel that it’s a true passion. Things will get difficult as you try to work with your instruments, but don’t let that phase you.

Do a little something every day to push yourself forward and stay connected with your art, even if it’s reading a single social media post or watching a video on a pertinent topic. And, don’t be afraid to sound different. You will do best when what you do is an extension of you.

Are you a vinyl collector yourself? What drew you to it? 

Yes, I am a vinyl collector. I collect dance music for the most part, with a few of my favorite non-dance jams in the collection, as well. In my productions, I intentionally seek out that analog sound for its warmth and depth. I feel that vinyl similarly has a warmth and depth that drew me to it. 

Also, as one of my dear friends put it best, vinyl is an art of intuition. When I play records, I feel that I have to let go of my rational mind and follow how I feel. My intuition dictates when it’s time to transition, how to transition between tracks, etc. I suppose I can say that it feels like flying. It’s a wonderful feeling and part of what makes vinyl so addictive to me.

What types of things are happening in your industry / with vinyl that you’re excited or worried about? 

It’s hard not to think about environmental impacts of vinyl production. Luckily, the industry realizes it too. Though I do not have my finger on the pulse as far as the latest changes toward better environmental practices in the vinyl industry, I know that innovation is happening. I hope it continues and that all of us vinyl lovers do our best to help the industry evolve in this regard.

During this time we’re currently in, what message do you have for music and vinyl fans? How can we support you, the industry?

I think supporting your local vinyl stores is one of the most important things to do at the moment. As a vinyl DJ, where would I be without Chicago’s Gramaphone? The store and its staff actually helped shape the sound I am creating as a producer and pushed me in a new direction. When I stop by, they’ll say something like, ‘I know you liked that one record, so I thought I’d suggest this one’. Their suggestions took me on a new path as an artist. So, if possible, stop by your local vinyl store and buy a record… or a bunch. These are magical places that make artists and help evolve music forward.

Anything else you want to share? If not, tell me what you’re listening to: 

I’m closely following the work of Lady Starlight and Surgeon, both amazing artists working off synths and gear to create phenomenal music.

Find Sylvia:

Instagram: @_m.sylvia_

SoundCloud: soundcloud.com/m_sylvia

Facebook: @msylviamusic

Twitter: @m_sylvia

Website: https://ra.co/dj/m-sylvia

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