Julia Govor has no intention of following in someone else's footsteps. The petite yet spunky Russian-born DJ has carved a path for herself by pursuing the merit of her gut instinct — and so far, it's paid off.
"I haven't been to Detroit since 2010," Julia says by phone from Berlin, where she's still recovering from a weekend at the German city's most formidable nightclub, Berghain. "Detroit was my first-ever American gig; I played a Movement after-party at some street club. It was really wild and crazy."
Those were the early days of Govor's music career. The young artist was still living in Moscow, but by that point, she was already well-versed in the value of creative industry. Years before turning to the turntables, Julia was delving into music and culture as a journalist, TV host, and film producer. It was during this time that Julia first had the opportunity to come to Detroit. "My friend from Moscow told me that I should come to Movement," she says. "And at that time I was doing a big project for MTV Russia and was traveling the world to film festivals and events... I wanted to go to Movement to film the festival and get a gig."
Luckily, she did get a gig, and soon after Govor would uproot her life in Moscow for a new career in New York. After eight years of running a culture and lifestyle blog in the Russian capital where she "discovered house and techno, and things like DnB and breakbeat," Julia decided to quit the blog life strictly to pursue music. Fast-forward to the present day, and Julia has now established herself as a globe-trotting DJ, acting as a conduit for music that is universally understood, despite obstructive language barriers.
Being a fixture behind the decks doesn't mean that she takes everything too seriously though, especially when it comes to the current state of techno etiquette. "I was in Berghain on Sunday with my girlfriends and we were all wearing colorful clothes," she says. "I know the bouncer very well that works the door, and he looks at us and says, 'Wow, girls, you are wearing so many colors, it's so cool. I don't understand why all of these people wear black.'"
Govor isn't fixated on projecting an illusion of techno elite-coolness. "[At Berghain] it doesn't matter what gender you are, or what race you are, or what clothes you're wearing," she says. "But to be able to get in, people really dress up — it's punk, and it's aggressive."
It's this experience of collectively shedding society's rules and expectations that draws Govor into the music, particularly with her latest multidisciplinary project, Jujuka. The new imprint serves as a record label for Govor's unreleased catalog, but also acts as a collaborative project between artists. And by recruiting the talent of visual artist duo Le.Blue, Govor has turned Jujuka into a character in a comic series. "All of the stories created are part of my life," she says. "It's all real. Each release is a story about special moments in Jujuka's life and speaks through the drawing."
Indeed, Jujuka is a comic book hero, taking on Govor's likeness to share tales — and sometimes lessons — of nightclub culture with each new release. In one such comic, Jujuka travels through the neighborhoods of her city seeking out the music. At the first club, Jujuka is denied because of her young age. At the second she is rejected because of her lack of status and fashionable attire. Disheartened, Jujuka continues through the streets of her city, ending up in the 909 District. There, she discovers a beat-driven anthem that leads her to the basement of a random techno party. With no bouncers, no bodyguards, and no line, Jujuka finds her way into the crowded club and finally hears the music she's been seeking all along. Lost on the dance floor with her mind fixated solely on the rhythm, Jujuka eventually looks around to find out that her dancefloor comrades are aliens. Instead of feeling scared, however, she feels elated knowing that she's finally found her home.
Ultimately, this lesson is the motivation behind so much of Govor's work, a sort of independent spirit that invites listeners to tap into the universal language of music to access the space within us that allows us to feel both connected and infinite. "If the music is real — if it's universal, then you don't need to wear black, or be a DJ, or be some top model. It's accessible."
For Govor, the Jujuka imprint is still only scratching the surface of its potential. With big plans for sound installations, gallery exhibits, and more, Govor is working tirelessly to create her space to thrive in the dance music industry. "I like to hear other people's opinions, especially from people I respect, [and] not just of my music, but of the comics and the visualizations, so I'm learning so much," she says. "It makes me so excited. I'm doing something that makes me feel alive and feels inspired."
Julia Govor will perform with Andrea Ghita and Ryan Dahl from 9 p.m. to 2 a.m. on Saturday, Aug. 4 at Marble Bar; 1501 Holden St., Detroit; 313-338-3674; residentadvisor.net; Tickets are $10.
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