A couple of months back The DJ Cookbook sat with German producer Daniela La Luz in Berlin over vegan cheesecake and cappuccinos. The Parallel label co-owner, multi-instrumentalist, producer, graphic designer and overall Renaissance woman took time out of producing her new record to discuss music and her transformation from being a carnivore to a vegan.
Q: Are you a trained musician or a DIY musician?
A: I am autodidactic, very do-it-yourself. Unfortunately, I always wanted to study music but there was never the time to do it and there were no musicians in my family at all. From a very young age I was always singing a lot. I remember in school I would sing Alanis Morrissette songs for my classmates! I bought a guitar when I was 16 years old and for three days straight all I did was play the guitar until I learned the basic chords. I needed music, I just didn’t want to believe that it was my life’s calling because like I said, I didn’t know any professional musicians who could say to me that being a musician and earning money as one was possible in life. Later on when my mother noticed that I was constantly playing in bands and rehearsing 5 times a week she would still say that music was not a job! Until one day I realized I couldn’t live without it. Hiding from it was stupid it was like imploding energy. Music is my survival, my therapy.
Q: When did the electronic music light blind you?
A: I was really young I think it was around 1993. The initial spark began when I got a tape from a school friend’s brother and it was Rotterdam techno, like hard techno and I could not stop listening to this tape. In school we were constantly listening to this tape with a Walkman! Shortly thereafter I got a tape with House and Deep House music and that was it.
Q: What is the story behind La Luz, how did the name come about?
I was on MySpace, which I think was the coolest website in comparison to Facebook even to this day. I met Riet (Riet Meert is co-owner of Parallel) on MySpace and she was called Chica La Luz. I spent many years playing in bands and I had just recently stopped playing in bands and I was looking for a new artist name because I started doing my solo project. I was using the name Electra at one point and I was never really happy with that name and Riet suggested Daniela La Luz. When Riet and I met in person it was like we saw the light. It was the next step of awareness in our lives, the magic 27!
Q: How does your music process begin, is it a lyric, a sound, an emotion, a world event?
A: It is a combination of everything. For example, when the Fukushima nuclear disaster happened I was deeply affected by it. I was watching livestreams constantly. I was so hurt by this tragic event that I created a track with a slow beat using audio bites from news reports. The track was never released but that’s an example. A broken heart can also create a good track, honest and raw emotions can make you sit down and make music.
Q: What is the concept behind the name Parallel?
A: Parallel was actually a goodbye party for Riet, she was moving from Belgium to Germany; it was a very nice party with some good DJ friends from Belgium and we decided to keep the name once she got to Germany. The name is borrowed from parallel universe, which means existing and living together at the same time in different places. In music, parallels appear as waveforms, which are an inseparable part of mathematical laws for physics in general, occurring in light, food, sound and our everyday life, simply in everything concerning nature and our world as we know it. The waveform is connecting each one of us in a parallel universe. I remember our very first design was of a very spacey grid structure of a parallel universe and to this day it is still my favorite.
Q: Do you see any parallels between music and graphic design?
A: Yes, for sure. I think, like graphic design, music and cooking it’s all the same thing. There is a process involved that is very similar to each other.
Q: When you design does the music you listen to influence the final outcome?
A: No, I don’t think so. It is more about my own vibe at that moment. I choose what to listen to before I begin to design and it is mostly not electronic music, it can be very random.
Q: What is your most and least favorite aspect of being a record label owner?
A: What I like the most is that I don’t have to make too many compromises; I mean you always have to make compromises even if you do your own project. You make compromises with yourself or with the people you work with. That’s what I love the most, to have your own direction. You can see if it works or not and this freedom is really important to me. What I like the least is doing taxes! Getting taxes done on time is my weak point.
Q: Why do you think food has suddenly begun to sneak up in the electronic music scene? Is it a change? Is it just hype or the beginning of a true social conscientious movement?
A: I think it is definitely about the change. I hope, I can’t speak for everybody but it all belongs together. This might sound a bit messy but there is a repetitive element to electronic dance music and this has a connection to spirituality and spirituality requires awareness otherwise you are locked. Maybe not everybody has reached this level of consciousness yet but you shouldn’t party on an empty stomach and then eat tons of fat to kill your hang over.
Q: When and why did you decide to change your food diet?
A: A lot of factors were involved that lead me to become a vegan. When I was a child I suffered from rheumatism so I was on a lot of medication like immunosuppressant drugs, cortisone, and I was in the hospital a lot. I had this autoimmune disease and it came back when I was 26 years old, I had this really bad lifestyle because I was a workaholic and I barely slept so I was totally in shock when I got sick again. It’s a classic situation, you go to the hospital they give you pills and you think you are all right but nobody teaches you anything as to how to deal with the disease. As a kid I’d go to the children’s hospital and all they do is feed you pills and the food is shit. It’s insane because all they would feed you was white bread and milk all day.
Then my mother took me to a face-reading woman from Munich in Bavaria. This woman grew up with Bavarian Bachbauern parents; they have their own culture and they do a lot of healing with herbs and stuff. At first, I thought it was bit hocus-pocus. She reads your face and talks about what body problems you have and she gave me a food diet and told me I had to drink a lot of tea to have a good acid balance. I followed this treatment for like 2 months and I immediately saw the results but I was still too stupid at that age to stick with it so I stopped. So the older you get the sicker you become and I had also had become aware about animal rights issues. I was getting sick every winter so something had to change but I still didn’t know what.
After that a friend of mine was diagnosed with interstitial lung disease (an autoimmune disease). My friend’s doctor, who is vegan, gave him a book to read about veganism. It was because of this friend that I said ok I’m going to change my eating habits. During that same time I got a vegan-cooking book as a birthday present from my girlfriend so we decided to do a challenge. We did a 30-day challenge very slowly because going from being a carnivore to a vegan so abruptly is not good. As we did the challenge we read a lot of articles and became more aware of things not only in regards to how it affects the body but also ethical reasons. I didn’t want to eat saturated fatty acids anymore. All these factors were the initial spark. Now, my mom and my sister are also vegan.
Q: Is it hard for a German to go vegan?
A: Yes, I think so. I’ve been a vegan for almost 2 years. I’ve heard from friends of mine living in America or Australia that they are really happy and that it is quite easy there also in Asia because they have great cuisine there. Here it is sometimes difficult because you don’t have that many vegan restaurants when you are walking throughout the city or when you are traveling and you are playing somewhere. You have to do your homework before so you can have your options as to where you can go out to eat. In regards to this it is a bit difficult and in respect to having ethical discussions is also hard. I have the impression that people feel naturally offended just because of the fact that I chose to be vegan for me and not for anyone else so you have these non-verbal situations where you see people are a bit distant because of it. I don’t care anymore in the beginning I would worry all the time but now if you think it is an issue then fuck it!
Q: Has being a vegan exposed you to new tastes and flavors?
A: Yes, definitely. You know I grew up as a carnivore like most people so I’m happy that at least in my family we were always eating a lot of vegetables and fruits. During the different seasons we were always eating what was fresh for that time of the year. Like in the summer it was strawberries. We would buy like kilos of strawberries and ate them every day. Society, especially in Germany is geared towards meat being the main dish and the side dishes are just a plus and that’s how you grew up, you know what I mean? I remember as a child we would go to a Greek restaurant and I would eat Souvlaki but I always enjoyed the vegetables, the spinach, the potatoes and the salad the most but I wasn’t aware of it. Now people think it is a limitation not to eat dairy products or meat anymore. At the beginning I thought the same but now it is the other way around because my taste palette has evolved. I’m more aware now, I’m always hunting for new seasonable vegetables that are only available for a couple of days, some nice green leafy stuff, something that I’ve never tried before. It has opened me a lot because the meat limitation is gone and now I want to cover a range of tastes and flavors that benefit my nutrition.
Q: What is an herb or a spice that you can’t live without?
A: All of them! I can’t live without cardamom in my coffee. Chili, I love chili.
Q: What makes people happy?
A: That depends on the person and their personal traits. Some people are happy while being distracted all the time. Good music and good food is a form of happiness. Some people choose not to read or watch the news or not be involved in everyday issues. Good and positive events also make people happy. Perhaps aliens coming to earth and solving all our problems could make people happy!
Q: What does the future feel like to you?
A: You mean in general? That’s a difficult one! I think the future is what you’re working on now, and the now guides you so things you do, think or aim to create build that future; especially in political situations or environmental issues, which for me is number one on my list. I think awareness creates the future.
Q: House music tastes like?
A: It tastes great I love it! I would say it tastes a bit of everything. It is a combination of sweet, salty, sour, bitter. A good cook can unite all the flavors and create a new taste.
Q: Techno tastes like?
A: Techno, I would say it’s kind of the same as House. It’s always a balance between all the ingredients so maybe a little bit saltier because you sweat a lot because you are dancing harder.
Q: Acid tastes like?
A: Acid is even saltier!
Q: Dub tastes like?
A: I think it tastes the same as House too.
Q: Minimal tastes like?
A: Minimal, I don’t taste it somehow. It’s bland, it was cool but for a moment but it has no flavor.
Q: Dubstep tastes likes?
A: Dubstep can be really tasty if it’s done right. I would say it is a combination of salty and sweet.
Q: Drum and Bass tastes like?
A: Drum and Bass also tastes great, it’s salty and sweaty!