In my recent conversations with friends I’ve come to realise that a lot of my favourite labels and artists at the moment are based in France, Austria and Switzerland. There has to be something in the water as some of the craziest but also beautiful and serene music is coming from those countries with NVST being one of those artists I’m obsessed with at the moment. Growing up in Switzerland, NVST was drawn to the illegal rave scene that was taking place across the country, attending her first free party organised by WF in Geneva and was encapsulated by this sense of rebellion and freedom that aligns with these parties as they step away from the normal model of what a clubbing experience should be. This is where NVST’s idea of creating her own ‘musical resistance’ started to speak to her, becoming completely obsessed with the scene, learning everything she could about the history before eventually organising her own illegal parties. This energy and approach to the free party scene seeps into everything NVST does from her DJ sets, radio shows, record label and productions. There’s this chaotic rebellious energy that flows through everything – never confined to one sound and style. Preserving and showcasing her native scene is something that’s important to NVST and she does this through the record label Big Science which she runs with Warzou as well as her residencies on LYL Radio and Rinse FM. Through her productions she continues to channel this energy, driven by a sense of riot and creating manifestos through her music with an incredibly extensive discography which includes a contribution to Tresor’s ‘yet’ compilation, three albums produced under her own name, an album with the Drift Institute, contributed vocals on releases by Théo Muller and Exhausted Modern and a good handful of remixes.
Most recently though, NVST released her album ‘Filled With Oil’ on Geneva-based label Les Disques Magnétiques which the press releases notes as being ‘produced as a manifesto for a different dancefloor’, leaning more into the abstract and experimental with captivating vocals on the lead track, enticing you into the world NVST is creating. To tie in with the album release, we catch up with NVST to talk about how growing up in Switzerland informed her sense of self, diving deeper into the album themes and ideas, and connecting with community.
How has growing up in Switzerland informed your sense of self and your artistry?
Once again, it’s difficult for me to answer, as I’ve recently come to realize the profound impact of systemic racism and the associated mindset prevalent in our society had on me. This played a significant role in how I felt growing up.
Growing up here was a blend of paradise and hell. I spent my childhood riding horses and playing in the breathtaking landscapes of this country. However, it was like living in a lie that puke on me as soon as I became old enough to realize this wasn’t the real life.
To be honest, my teenage years were challenging, I’ve always been quite a sensitive spirit. That’s when I started gravitating towards my own creativity; I began writing, drawing, and immersing myself in music, all of which undoubtedly saved my life. As I started going into the forest and pushing myself in various ways, I began to find a sense of self.
The rave culture and its community during that time were instrumental in helping me navigate these challenges. They provided me with a sense of legitimacy and belonging. For the longest time, I believed I was too weird to fit in, but eventually, I discovered that my weirdness was my power. I owe a great deal of this transformation to LA ZIZANYX, an incredibly talented individual in my life who has also faced hardships. He taught me that it’s completely acceptable to claim my space, and assert my right to belong.
While I’m not entirely certain if growing up in Switzerland influenced my sense of self, the people I encountered, the experiences I lived through, and my ethnic heritage certainly played a significant role in shaping me.
You grew up around animals before discovering these local illegal raves and now it seems like having a strong community of people surrounding you to collaborate and work with is something that is very important to you – why is that? What does collaborating allow you to do beyond your solo work?
I spent most of my first year on this planet hanging out with horses rather than humans; to be completely honest, it was much more peaceful that way. I also have three little brothers, so I was never alone haha — maybe that’s also part of why I like to have people around me. However, I strongly believe that community is the most essential tool to survive this sick society, especially as a BIPOC woman – community has never made more sense to me. I am also a firm believer that if the scene focused on creating a community and people saw it as an ecosystem rather than an ego-driven competition, we would undoubtedly have a much healthier scene. To me, party/club culture has
always been about community, and its significance varies from one person to another, but primarily, it’s about belonging, which is a driving force for all humans, I believe.
As I mentioned before, the people who surround me are my main source of inspiration. I see the same principle at work in collaboration – we provide each other with a higher purpose and a stronger sense of artistry when we collaborate. Moreover, the victories taste even sweeter when shared with others. I belong to an ecosystem that nourishes me, and in return, I contribute back to it. To me, it’s a perfect equilibrium, and I only wish that this balance was more widespread, and it was how we perceive everything we do as humans in life and with our surrounding.
In the press release for your latest album, ‘Filled With Oil’, it says the LP is a manifesto for a different dancefloor – what does that dancefloor look like? Why did you choose the dancefloor to focus on for this album?
It’s interesting because while writing the album, I never really had the dancefloor as my focus; I guess it just developed naturally around it. I mean, it’s also kind of my habitat and one of my favorite places on earth. It’s truly a magical place.
I’ve experienced so many emotions, shared the most communion moments, felt the most intense things on a dancefloor. I can remember so clearly those out of time moment where it feels time is suspended on a dancefloor and that’s exactly why, for me, it’s a sacred place.
With the hyper-commercialization of club culture, I feel that this place I cherish so much has been the stage for so many terrible actions – from racism to harassment to aggression, and become just another terrible capitalistic driven spaces.
We need to remember Club culture originated as a safe space for marginalized communities, especially for trans black women, as I said: it is truly sacred.
If this album is meant for a different dancefloor, then I hope it’s for a dancefloor where trans people are safe, where black artistry is acknowledged, and where people respect each other as they step into those spaces to feel, hear, and open any kind of portals they need for themselves.
The lead track on the album is very vocal driven, speaking of themes that align with the idea of the LP being a manifesto – where do these lyrics come from? What is your approach to writing poems/lyrics?
I feel a lot, sometimes even too much, and my emotions tend to be incredibly strong. Writing has always served as a means for me to release them – there isn’t a deliberate strategy behind crafting
lyrics; it’s more of a therapeutic process. With many of the vocals featured in my tracks, I begin by improvising and expressing all that has been troubling me. When a strong sentence emerges, I delve into its repetition until the rest of the text naturally evolves around it. It’s a highly contemplative process, albeit with a touch of intense cleansing hahaJThere is also a lot of my inspiration that I draw from books and movies; I take a base and I just adapt it to my own style.
In this case, I just think we are living through terribly dark times, it’s been a source of enormous distress at time for me, all that violence, all that hate, I think I just needed to spit it out.
What made you choose music as a way of channeling your emotions, rebellious attitude and these political ideas? What does music allow you to do that perhaps other creative formats do not?
I’ve always found it easier to communicate through music than with words. I believe words are scary because they mean a lot, and people often use them without sufficient consideration. Using sonic realms
to express my own rebellion and concern about my environment felt like a natural progression for me. I just always gravitated to music, even as a kid. I believe any medium has the potential to help anyone convey what words might struggle to express, but there’s a particular potency in how music can convey emotions—a strength that surpasses any other medium, in my opinion.
What does rebellion mean to you?
Rebellion, to me, signifies refusing to cooperate within a diseased society marred by a system that favors a chosen few solely due to factors such as race, gender, sexual orientation, wealth, or geographic origin. To be rebellious, in my view, is wanting liberation for all.
I won’t comply with a system that was constructed upon the foundations of slavery and colonialism, while deceiving me into thinking it operates on meritocracy. It’s not about conformity; it’s about striving for reparations, justice, and dignity for all.
With ‘Filled With Oil’ being your third album and fourth solo release, how do you keep your productions moving forward and innovative? What keeps you inspired and prevents you from hitting creative roadblocks?
I’m not sure if my work is consistently innovative, so thank you 🙂 I believe that enduring the profound journey of life within this warped and twisted society will unfortunately always provide me with enough inspiration to create music. I’m also angry a lot at reality so that helps tooJ
What would you say are some of the key influences behind ‘Filled With Oil’? Doesn’t just have to be music related, it could be anything from books, films, videos, art, people etc.
I think the main inspiration for this album comes from the book “1984” by George Orwell. I also had a couple of rough years where I lost two very close relatives due to substance abuse, while going through some tough times with friendships. Some things really hurted me deeply and my mental health was dangerously challenging at this period.
This album is a lot about this, coping with loss, pain. At the same time it’s also about giving disappointment a big middle finger and finding relief in releasing all that stuff I’m feeling. I’m infinitely malleable and I will always keep on choosing to thrive even in challenging time. I’ve got myself and my gears, and even if that sounds cheesy, that idea brings me a whole lot of peace.J
When you’re in between projects and you’re figuring out what the next idea is you want to explore, what is that in-between space like?
The space in between feels miserably lonely. Being unable to express myself or experiencing a lack of creativity is a unique form of torture. Over time, I’ve come to terms with the fact that contemplation is necessary for me to create. I need to feed on experience and feelings to be able to speak.
To be honest, with the increasing intensity of DJing and the extensive travel, that in-between space is now being filled… with oil. Hahaha.
Why did you choose to release this album with Les Disques Magnétiques? What is your relationship with the label?
Like any label I release solo work with, it always starts from a love story. I believe I need to sense a special connection with the person overseeing it before giving away my music. I got to know Quentin quite well during the days of COVID when we’d hanged at La Makhno, an antifa bar inside L’Usine, indulging in world rants over pizza and Amaretto Sours. There was this one instance when he requested some unreleased material to listen to. At that time, “Drum in The Bass Of Attention” had caught his attention, but I had my heart set in a Big Science tape format for this album.
After some time passed, I shared additional material with him, and he carefully handpicked the tracks that now graced this album. The process felt like a natural progression, almost fated. I mean, he’s undoubtedly a very talented curator, but still. Releasing on a Swiss label also resonated deeply with me, like a completing loop — being near to home and the surroundings that have shaped my identity, that sense of community.
What do you hope people take away from ‘Filled With Oil’ after listening to it?
That while we’re unable to prevent the decay of our own body. live, our belief will grow, and our system will shape the future. Our individual is only a cell, our ideas will live, our belief will grow, and our system will shape future. We create our human nature, and we are infinitely malleable.
‘Filled With Oil’ by NVST is out now via Les Disques Magnétiques – buy here.