02.08.2017 | Words by:
The only snakes you've thought about recently are probably a bunch of killers from Dorne and currently dead or in the hands of Cersei Lannister. However, there's another reptile I want to talk about today, and she hails from a much colder clime: Denmark. Her name is Mama Snake, and the only things she kills are dancefloors all across Europe. Ahead of her set in De School on Friday the 4th of August, I caught up with Mama Snake – real name Sara Svanholm – to find out how she balances becoming a doctor and dj-ing, her label Ectotherm and the scene in her hometown of Copenhagen. * Hi Sara, great that you could find the time to talk with us. How are you?
– I’m doing alright these days, honestly a bit up and down since I just ended a long relationship and it’s been more difficult to cope with than expected, but luckily there’s a bunch of exciting things happening like the pleasure of playing De School for the first time on Friday and going back to Glasgow with my girls on Sunday.* First things first: where did your fascination with snakes originate?
I got the name when I lived in Barcelona after finishing high school with two friends of mine. One of them is a very clever girl with a bit of ADHD who always came up with good expressions and names for people. We were working for a club and basically partied all night and slept all day, coping with temperatures about 25 degrees is not something I, as a Scandinavian viking, am good at, so I would never get up before siesta had passed. Laying in bed all day “like a big, fat, lazy anaconda” and being the most responsible one of us spawned the name Mama Snake and it has always stuck with me, so when my long time DJ friend pushed me into it 5 years ago it was the obvious choice. I love my snakey family now, but was honestly never that much into snakes before the name was created, now you wouldn’t believe the amount of snake related stuff I receive from people on a daily basis, haha. * Haha, that's cool. On another subject: I was wondering how do you balance becoming a doctor with touring extensively around Europe?
– Obviously, it’s demanding, but both worlds represent parts of me that I care a great deal about and that I want to continue to manage however that might be. I graduate this winter and that will inevitably change my entire life quite a lot and to be honest I’m a bit scared, but I'm also looking forward to it. Being a doctor is the job I truly want. Being a DJ is my passion. Having this double life can be difficult at times but also enables me to be uncompromising in my musical interests since I don’t have to take on anything I don’t want just for sake of paying the rent. I want to continue DJing for as long as I’m able to carry a record bag, but of course the frequency will change at some point. I guess it’s going to be a learning by doing process for me these next few years, but I’m not willing to give up either.* Besides your medical and solo pursuits, you're also a part of Apeiron Crew, together with Solid Blake and Smokey. You started playing together in Copenhagen and from what I gather those parties could get pretty wild. Does the crew still have that raucous feeling of the beginning, or is it becoming more professionial these days?
– The unruliness of our dynamic will probably never go away since it’s mostly made up by our (strong) personalities, but having the privilege of travelling around playing amazing parties and events where people show up to hear us play, expecting something, means a more professional approach. When we started out we did what most unknown DJs do – play a bunch of shitty bar gigs and weird parties where we used it to practice and often get fucking hammered. That is not sustainable if you want to continue to improve and deliver a set that you can feel proud about and in general not die from hangovers every weekend. * Which tracks are you currently rinsing in every set? Why?
– Ever since I got the demos from our Ectotherms Schacke, Rune Bagge & IBON their tracks have been essential in all my sets. I have a lot of classic Mama Snake tracks, but you won’t hear me play a set without a drop of the guys' productions. I love being able to play as many tracks made by friends as possible, it feels so good to see the crowd getting down to a track made by someone you hold dear.* Could you tell us about your dj-ing style? What are you trying to achieve when playing out?
– I always try to do a bit of research about the party, the venue, the crowd and the DJs playing before and after me to get an idea of where I’m able to take it. My goal is to get the crowd to fall in love with the tracks that I’m already in love with and take them somewhere they might not expect.* You already mentioned Ectotherm, the label you run with Courtesy, who is also playing this weekend. How do you feel about it? Does running a label work like you thought it would?
– I am so, so proud of Ectotherm. It’s been such a pleasure and a dream come true to run a label with a friend, putting out music by friends and staying true to what we feel is right. There is obviously a lot of work in running a label and also many “first times” since we’ve never done it before, but it’s exciting to be able to keep moving forward and see how it grows because the music deserves the attention it’s getting. I am really excited to see what the future holds for all of us.* We've been talking a bit about clubs and playing out, but I'm also curious to hear what you listen to at home, after a long weekend of travelling and clubbing.
– I’ve been listening to the PAN compilation “Mono No Aware” on repeat since it came out, it’s so insanely good and soothing for a tired mind. The recent world music compilation on Optimo Music
is a go-to for keeping calm in the snake pit these days too. But at the end of the day the number one will always be Sade.* In a recent interview on Truants you say that you are 'definitely more picky about parties than you used to be'. How does the scene in Copenhagen stack up? Do the parties there meet your standards of good sound, no bro culture etc.?
– Copenhagen is the place to be for sure. A hidden rave haven. I don’t think the scene has ever been this interesting. It’s made up by a huge cluster of really talented DJs, passionate producers and amazing promoters, that will go a long way to throw a massive rave in some unused location. I have been to parties in other cities many times where I have caught myself thinking “There are at least 20 DJs from Copenhagen I’d rather hear play right now”. Getting rid of the bro culture and harassment in nightlife is a constant battle, but one that people here are willing to fight most of the time, which contributes to the general nice vibe of the Copenhagen parties.* Alright, that sounds dope. To wrap this interview up, what's next for Mama Snake and Apeiron Crew?
– World domination 2018. * Haha alright, I would totally support that. And finally: could you name one record that you'll definitely bring to De School?
– Not gonna give up my dirty tricks this easy, but rest assured there will be Ectotherm delights. * Thanks Sara!Mama Snake will play De School on Friday August 4 with Avalon Emerson, IBON and Courtesy. More info and tickets here.