At the Gate: An Interview with Lokier

Yoan Lokier-Rodriguez’ DJ apprenticeship has its roots in what is probably the world’s most hostile dance environment. Cutting her teeth in the illegal underground rave scene of Mexico, one of her first experiences as a DJ was taking the stage where a disgruntled audience member had just lobbed a projectile at the previous artist for an unsatisfactory mix. “Someone threw a bottle at her face! She was bleeding from her forehead and said, ‘ok it’s your turn’.“ With an education like that, it is no surprise Lokier has garnered the esteem of peers and audiences alike in the short expanse of her career. I call her up in Kent, where she will perform at Lunar festival later that week. Her voice sounds a bit muffled over the computer speakers, but it’s not the connection that’s at fault for a change. “I am actually sick right now.” If an antagonistic audience couldn’t keep her away from the decks I doubt a cold would have much effect. “I don’t really care. I’m super busy and focussed on work.” She is about to drop Gate Maters on New York label HAKT while taking up permanent residency in Barcelona for the sake of her career. “I’ve been receiving more gig offers from Europe than Mexico for a year now. I really love travelling and in Europe it’s a lot easier than in America to get around.” The Mexican scene is still small according to Yoan. “Well, it’s not small, it’s just that I’m relatively new at the scene and I’ve always been in my own world you know? I know that there’s a lot I’m missing but I didn’t go out much.“ A lot of the scene is still tied up in the same exciting and illegal underground raves, which started it all for Lokier. Those parties could host up to 3000 people, many of them minors buying alcohol, but Yoan errs on the side of caution when thinking back on those early events. “In Mexico, people don’t really respect the rules.” On her Birthday one such party lead to the arrest of a friend, followed by a year jail sentence. “We were all very scared. I was going to DJ but when I got there I saw the police and we had to run.“ The element of fun was no longer there for Yoan. She stopped playing these events and took up residencies at local bars where she could play disco without the looming threat of discontented punters launching missiles at her head. “People didn’t really care if you didn’t do a perfect mix in these bars. I started enjoying it again and when I returned to big parties I felt more comfortable too.“

As she found her feet behind the decks, it was only natural that the next step she would take would be in the direction of production. “There wasn’t a point where I said, now I’m going to do this. It was a slow process.” Haunted Songs made the first impression in 2012 with Mexican label Electrique Music responsible for introducing Lokier’s unique sound to the world. It established Lokier’s brooding tech dance style that takes its cues from various influences. “I really like a lot of different styles of music and I think that I was trying to mix it all into a single genre.” But there’s one defining characteristic to her music that sticks out amongst others. Quivering synths and menacing tones give her production aesthetic a familiar sound that can often be found in Horror films from the 70’s. “I love B-horror movies. I’m always searching for new horror movie soundtracks.” This influence is very notable on tracks like Voyage of Troubles, where Lokier’s dissonant synths create remarkably tentative atmospheres on a bed of infectious dance beats, complete with the wobble of a trembling string synth as it crashes through into the bridge. “I really love being surprised.” Her favourite movie is Susperia with the soundtrack by Italian prog-art band Goblin, and it’s these influences she weaves into her music and which have inevitably found their way onto Gate Masters. “A soundtrack is very emotional and when I try to produce I try to bring that emotion into the music. I try to use mysterious sounds, the kind you find on a soundtrack.” On the magnificent title track from the new EP she constructs a cinematic dream sequence with pulsating rhythmic arrangements in the loom of insecure Theremin synthesisers. “In dance music there’s a lot of looping and sounds repeating themselves, but in horror films there’s a lot of emotion and mystery to the music.” She combines these elements in an effort to create music that relays something of that uneasy emotive state you’ll find in the Horror genre. She uses “pauses and weird sounds” to bring that element of surprise to the dance floor and in the absence of lyrics she succeeds in creating tense atmospheres with a primary focus on perpetual movement.

 

It’s a sound that didn’t go over to well in at home according to Yoan. “My last gig in Mexico, I was playing my stuff and everybody thought it was weird.” It’s another reason Lokier has moved to Europe. “I do think there are a lot of good artists but I think they are getting recognised more outside of Mexico.” Yoan has only officially moved to Europe a week ago at the time of our call and it’s too soon to say if it will make a similar impression to that of her formative years in Mexico. Her burgeoning catalogue is now in its fourth edition with Gate Masters and with a fifth already earmarked for Nein Records later this year, Lokier seems to be going from strength to strength – even if her health might not be co-operating at the time of our call. Yoan coughs again into the receiver, but the cold seems to have no effect on her as she excitedly tells me the story of how she found the cover art for Gate Masters. I ask her if she’ll still be playing in her cold-ridden condition, and she answers the question like she never even considered the possibility. I let her get back to soothing her throat, but when I hang up I get the feeling she’ll hardly be content just sitting in her hotel room, nursing her health.