Julia Govor: Military Manoeuvres

Words by: Ben Raven
Posted: 4/10/17 11:49

Russian born, NYC residing Julia Govor describes collaborating with Ricardo Villalobos and life growing up as an underage news presenter in a Russian military family.

Few DJ biogs are as action packed as Julia Govor's. The techno DJ on the rise started life as the daughter of a Russian military man in a time peppered with conflicts and sprawling folk song, singalong camp dinners. A precocious talent from a young age, she bulldozed her way onto local Russian TV before moving to New York and becoming a DJ. Now she shares stages with DJs like Jeff Mills and Richie Hawtin and has mixed this week's Ibiza Voice podcast.

What's new with you?  

I just bought a Nord Lead [synthesizer] after a recent visit to Ricardo Villalobos’ studio in Berlin. It seems like Ricardo is always in the studio. He is a very welcoming and sharing person, always inviting other musicians to visit him and even collaborate. We made a 53 minute track while I was there. I'm not sure if we will ever release it but it was a great challenge for me. I really liked how he managed to use the Lead and I fell in love with the sound. As soon as I was back in NYC I went to CTRL in Brooklyn and bought one.

Today, I am collaborating with another music producer from Holland, Jeroen Search. I have been following his great music for some time now so this collaboration is very exciting for me. I am also looking forward to playing my debut show in London at Fabric and performing in Mexico in November, and in Australia and Chile in December.

How did you record this week's Ibiza Voice podcast?

It was recorded during the last hour of my show at NeverSea festival in Romania using four CD-Js and an Allen & Heath Xone 92 mixer.

Where do you get your music from?

The most powerful music source I have is people. I am very lucky to be connected with producers from all around the world who share their unreleased material. This includes the likes of Flaminia, Volta- Face, CH40, Etapp Kyle, Exos, Henning Baer, Jeroen Search and Skudge.

Sometimes I'll even reach out to producers to see if they'll share some new work. Recently I reached out to Isabella and Yon Cook, two really wonderful producers.

Record stores can be fun too but mostly I'll just pop in for inspiration. I can find something rare and old, something I couldn't really play at gigs. In a record store I'll find music that puts me in a specific mood, and I'll take that feeling back home where I'll continue the search for new tracks: listening, sorting, and organising different moods and directions.

Tell us about your record collection?

To be a daughter of a military man is like being the daughter of a touring conductor. Every time we relocated to a new city, I had to give away everything I owned. When we moved back to Russia from Abkhazia, all of our possessions got soaked, including my mother's library containing five thousand  books. I'll never forget how my mother cried when we opened our containers to find everything damaged. Her whole life was in that library. I learned to never be attached to objects and it took 17 years to let that lesson go.

In the last four years my life has become more stable. I have a home now in NYC with my husband. We like to find tapes, CDs, records, books, gear and build our collection together.

Do any of these records tell a story about you?

I have some records that I received as gifts and those are the most priceless. I opened for Jeff Mills in 2014 in NYC and when I finished my set, he personally gifted me his EP, ‘Robot Defection.’ This really meant a lot to me.

Describe your childhood growing up in a Russian military town?

It was quite isolated from the rest of the world, but we had great access to the wonderful nature. We were located along the Black Sea in the town, Ochamchire. Not far were also mountains and forests. The port has lots of large military boats and seven buildings containing 300 families. There were military officers, sergeants, midshipmen, and their wives who also served under contract in Intelligence.

Everybody knew each other. We had a movie theater, an event/dance club, a music school, a library, and an open air gym. We even had our own bakery and now the smell of freshly baked bread makes me very nostalgic, almost brings me to tears. We celebrated all holidays together, we shared everything with each other and were one big family eating at long, full tables of food at dinner with loud music afterwards.

The Russian folk songs we sang were a big part of my childhood. Oh, and how my mom loved to sing! She has a mezzo-soprano voice and a very hysterical laugh. I grew up in this community and I learned that people are powerful. I learned how to share and support those who are in need.

During the war in 1992-93 when the Georgians and Abkhazians were in conflict, my parents were Black Sea border protectors. We gave our home to many lost families. One month we were sharing our food with Georgians, and the next month with Abkhazians. For us they were one and the same. Nationality doesn't matter when it comes to helping those in need.

How did you go from singing in a Russian military band to working for MTV?

When we moved to Russia town of Temruk in 1997, there was a woman doing commercial voice overs on the local TV channel. She would say things like, "For sale, for rent, for moving, building materials, reinforced concrete." I figured I could do it too.

So I called the local TV channel and offered my services as a TV host. I was 12 years old. The executive producer was impressed that somebody from such a small town was even able to contact them and speak to them about a job with such conviction. In two weeks, I got my own TV show called, 'Music Box,' where I talked about music. 

When I finished school I started working on the news channel where I gained great experience in editing and interviews. I moved to Moscow to study in the University of Culture and Art and I had a plan to also work for the News Channel. However they thought I looked too young and nobody believed that I could have done so much at such an early age.

I brought everything to them on Betacam tapes. In the interview with the producers, I explained: "Look! Here is my experience to see for yourselves: I jumped with a parachute for the city news, I did an interview with a criminal ex-mayor, I dismantled and reassembled the Kalashnikov gun in the military unit.... and yes I edited it all myself." They still didn't believe me! Getting the job on MTV was much easier.

Was moving from Russia to New York a big culture clash for you?

I love the opportunities available in NYC. The fact that you can meet all kinds of people and connect with almost each one of them is incredible. It is a very creative environment. Almost everyone here is doing something to survive, which can motivate you too. And even when it is very busy, you can still find a spot to just sit in peace by yourself and watch the chaos from a distance.

Listen to more from Julia Govor here.


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