Sky Deep has roots in New York and LA, but she’s based in Berlin these days. An artistic superhero of sorts, Sky has an impressive resume: she is a member of the Berlin collective female:pressure; she curated Berlin’s five day Reclaim the Beats Festival, a festival with a focus on music genres created by people of color and queer people; she directed, wrote, produced, and starred in Enactone, the award-winning queer vampire porn filmed in Berlin. Last month, Sky released her highly acclaimed debut album, Time & Space, Pt. 1.
A few weeks after Time & Space, Pt. 1 was released, I chatted with Sky about life in Berlin, whether it is a good idea for Americans to drop everything and move to Berlin in light of the recent US election, and what influenced her album.
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You’ve lived in Berlin for a while now — how long has it been?
Sky Deep: I landed August 2014 on a tourist visa, and I’ve officially lived here since October 2014.
What sparked the move from the States to Berlin?
Sky Deep: It wasn’t my original intention [to move to Berlin], though in the back of my head I said “I’m up for everything, so we’ll see what happens.” I came out here for work because I’m a teaching artist too. I was teaching at a girls camp at a seminar house in the Harz Mountains. I also had an artist residency in Slovenia for one month. So I was hanging out for a couple of months, and I wanted to see what would happen if I went for a visa because it was the dead of winter, and as a New York freelancer who was gone for three months, surely there wouldn’t be any work when I got back to the States. So I thought I should keep wandering the scenes here.
What do you teach and what ages?
I work with all ages, but at that particular camp I was working with ages between 14 and 20. But I also am doing adult learning and workshops, most of which is centered around empowerment and music, and mostly sharing from my personal experiences as being a very DIY all my life.
What opportunities exist in Berlin that don’t in the US?
There’s a larger respect for artists and art in general here. People appreciate art more and it’s not just a consumable in a capitalist [sense] — it’s viewed as culture. Because of that, if you’re an unknown group here, you can make money right away — I can’t say that for LA or New York. In LA and New York, you pretty much have to pay promoters and pay bars so they can keep their liquor licenses. I was living in New York, and prices and rent were going up. In the end you’re an artist with two jobs, and you’re not living the art, and my mission was to live the art. I have an opportunity here to live the art, but also have five minutes to think, breathe, and feel who I am.
“There’s a larger respect for artists and art in general here.”
Berlin is a center for electronic music — what conditions do you think make and made conditions perfect for electronic music in Berlin?
For art in general, there’s a lot more room for exploration and experimentation out here. People aren’t going out of their way to be like everyone else. And that’s one thing I like about New York — it’s honorable to break the mold there in my opinion … I find that also here, but a few steps further.
With electronics, I’m not sure why it caught on in such a major way here, but I see the passion everywhere. It’s really cool to be over here and see all the super old technology, older technology than we’d see in the states. I’m mostly an in-the-box producer, so I don’t have the names for everything I see. But if I had those things at my fingertips, I’d play with it too. Beep and squelch to the beat — let’s do it!
“… there’s a lot more room for exploration and experimentation out here. People aren’t going out of their way to be like everyone else.”
Given the results of the recent election, many people are considering becoming expats and moving to Berlin as the Trump administration does not seem encouraging to artists, growth, etc. Would you recommend a move?
There are many challenges and the grass is not always greener. The political situation over here could easily follow suit with what happened in the states. [The German] elections are in 2017, and people are bracing themselves. Do I recommend moving and becoming an expat? I know that sounds really shiny and glitzy, but it’s not easy. There are a lot of requirements to maintain a stay over here. You can be captured by the allure of the fun bits of the city, and these romantic ideas of picking up, leaving, and throwing the middle finger to the wind. But nah, you really gotta think about that because people get mad over here, and you never know, they may want to rebuild that wall — I hope not — but there’s a resistance in the States and there’s a resistance here, so everything gonna be alright because we’re gonna take care of it.
“Do I recommend moving and becoming an expat? I know that sounds really shiny and glitzy, but it’s not easy.”
What influenced your recent album, Time & Space, Pt. 1?
I’ve always been sort of a daydreamer with my feet off the ground slightly and a believer that there is not just one existence — concurrently, there is another existence right here in my space, in your space, and in-between us.
Are you talking about a parallel universe?
Sure … dimensions if you will. In that sense, when I’m thinking and creating things, I try to meditate on myself to cross planes at least with my inner intuitions, even if I can’t see or hear something, I try to imagine what I might see or hear. And sometimes I’m trying to communicate with people who came before me, old family members, and sometimes I’m trying to communicate with whatever is out there that might be trying to reach me that I can’t hear between all the fucking chemicals that are pumped into the air in our world. But yea, it’s a communication, and I’m inspired by my family and the things that I remember from my childhood, all of which were very musical because I come from a musical family. And Funk! In general, funk resonates with me … textures resonate with me. I’m always seeking out things that move my soul and make my body move involuntarily.
“I’ve always been sort of a daydreamer with my feet off the ground slightly and a believer that there is not just one existence — concurrently, there is another existence right here in my space, in your space, and in-between us.”
What do you have any releases or shows on the horizon? Are you coming back to the States for any gigs?
I’m all but afraid to come back the States. But if I people want to pay me to come back to the States, they can [Laughs]. Right now, my primary focus is finding a booking agent. I’m doing a lot with running a label, running a festival, trying to get the festival going for next year, and my film is doing really well, so I might start traveling because of the film. So yea, I want to find somebody for bookings so I can move around the world more.
“I’m all but afraid to come back the States. But if I people want to pay me to come back to the States, they can [Laughs].”
Are you working on any music right now?
I kind of always am. Right now I’m focused a lot on building my live sets. I know that it’s customary to do at least a one hour live set, but I’d like to get to the point where I can do a full two to three hour live set because it’s so fun. I use Ableton Live and controllers, so it’s not so far of a stretch from doing my DJ sets to doing a complete live set. It’s so fun and I get to stretch my equipment. I want to stretch my gear to the limit.
What gear do you use?
I use a lot of Akai products. I have an APC40 Mark 2, an APC mini, and an MPK mini … I use those and several VSTs. And I take tracks, chop them up, and make clips packs so I can make edits while I’m DJing. So now I’m focused on doing that with my tracks and creating my own DJ tools, segues, and clip packs, and in some cases, live midi modulations for performing live with my guitar and vocals which I send to my guitar board, which is a pod HD500 by Gibson SG.
Thank you so much for taking the time to talk with me. I know you’re in Berlin, but are you doing anything for Thanksgiving?
I don’t celebrate Thanksgiving … I completely ignore most of the holidays. I definitely cannot celebrate Thanksgiving for political reasons. But I’m thankful for my friends and family every day.