DJ IM Cyber on living the dream in Prague

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IM Cyber is a DJ that many in Prague may know as being one of the pioneers of the electronic music scene. After meeting Cyber, or Ivana, I started to wonder what else there was to this story. Where does she hail from? Where does the passion and drive come from? Ivana’s story is one of incredible diversity. From spending the most sensitive years of adolescence in the monster city of Moscow, to discovering her love for music in the downtown streets of Prague, Ivana was an inspiration to interview and surely sets an example for young musicians.. or anyone with a will to succeed.

Where are you from originally?

I was born in Prague, but my mother is Russian and my father is Slovakian. They moved here before I was born. As a child, I spent lots of time in Slovakia and every winter we went to Moscow. From the age of 10-15 we moved to Moscow because my father was working in the Czechoslovakian embassy there. I knew Moscow from holidays before that, and I knew that this was different to the usual one week of fun and ice-skating. Moscow is quite a dark and unfriendly city and at that young sensitive age you feel it even more. So it wasn’t the best time of my life. But on the other hand, experiences like that form one’s personality and I think I was able to transform them into something good. I think it made me much stronger. And I fell deeply in love with Prague. Prague became a mother to me.

What was Moscow like at that time? Tell me more.

Well, we were also living in this embassy micro-world. There was a shortage of basic food and when we wanted to buy something like meat or eggs, it was a problem. I would have to stand in a line for one hour in -30 degrees. I didn’t feel safe walking in those huge streets alone; I saw lots of poverty… But thank God, you don’t see the most horrible things with children’s eyes. Many years later I watched that documentary “Vory v zakone” about the Russian mafia. It showed its evolution during that time, from the 80s till now. When seeing what was happening in Moscow during that period I was there, it made me feel really sick. Heavy stuff.

So you’re a well known DJ now, when were you first exposed to music?

My first exposure to it was with the flute. I started playing it from the age of six and after we came back from Moscow I joined a really cool flute ensemble. We travelled around, won some competitions… I was really into Vivaldi at that time. Then when I was fifteen I started to sing in a church choir. We performed Mozart’s Requiem and these kinds of great pieces, which were so intense. Imagine about 70 people singing and playing this wonderful music. Real power! I still have goosebumps talking about that. I was a first soprano, which no one would believe after hearing my voice now (laughs). This club nightlife has done its job, so maybe chanson is my future! At that point I started to listen to nu-funk and crossover music with the saxophone and I fell in love with it. My mum didn’t want me to play it. She said that I am a girl and the saxophone is not a feminine instrument at all. So I found part time jobs, earned some money and went to buy a saxophone. It was my secret, my mum didn’t know for half a year or something. I left it at my teachers place and he gave me a chance to practise in his atelier whenever I wanted.

And did that make it more exciting?

Yes! I knew I was doing something bad regarding my mum’s wishes, but also something that my heart wanted to do. A had to fight for something. And it all had that magical atmosphere, including the coffees I would drink in the club Malostranka Beseda after the lessons. I would sit there reading Kafka and felt very extraordinary being in the same space with real musicians (laughs). At 17 I became a part of a hardcore group, where all the guys were about 10 years older than me. I felt really really cool! They were like my big brothers and they took care of me… Amazing times. After that I joined Skyline, who are quite popular now. Soon after that I got acquainted with turntables, and it absolutely changed my life. They have been a part of my life journey for 16 years now.

How does it feel to be so well-known for your work here? Everyone seems to know you!

Haha, I’m going all red now! (laughs). It feels nice to go to my favourite places and feel at home, coz I spent lots of time them doing my thing. Truth is, that knowing many people can make your life easier, more comfortable and happier in some way. However, the most important thing about music to me is that it brought the best people into my life. I think music connects similar souls. It’s all about emotions and when you float on the same wavelength of music, there is a kind of probability that there are other special things that will resonate between the two of you.

Is there a person that you couldn’t have done this without?

You mean all my music journey?

Yes…

Well it’s not about one person, but more about the different people who you meet at your important crossroads. Some of them are real, and some of them are kind of heroes that I was inspired by. I am very grateful to all of them. Actually I really like to observe the journeys of successful people. They are great lessons for me. They show how things work and how far you can get when you do it with the right attitude. Besides that, I am very headstrong so I wouldn’t be able to follow just one person. I always need to find and build my own way. Although, other people’s advice would be better to listen to sometimes and would make everything easier. My mum could tell you a lot about that (laughs).

Do you have any advice for young DJs trying to break into the scene?

Work hard and give it its time. Pushing yourself too much and aggressively can bring you something, but not real fulfilment. Have passion, patience and a clear attitude. And stay healthy and self-confident, but humble. I think being humble is the key to long time success. How many clichés came out of my mouth just then? (laughs) But it’s all so true!

Is there a DJ gig that you’ll never forget?

Yes, when I went to the Red Bull Music Academy in Sao Paulo, Brazil about 10 years ago. I really wanted to get there and my dream came true! When I filled out the questionnaire, I was working on it for days. You know, they make it very challenging to know if you are really into music or you just want to be cool or whatever. On the deadline day I was still writing it, and I got to the Post Office 5 minutes after midnight with my package and mix CD. I asked the woman at the Post Office to change the date to the day before, but she couldn’t. I sent it anyway and a couple of days later I saw news that they had moved the deadline to a week later! And then one day I got a call to say that I was in. I was crying from happiness, one of the best moments in my life. RBMA itself was incredible, two weeks in music paradise. And the bookings I got there were just amazing. The most famous Brazilian DJ Marky saw me practising in the studio, so he invited me to play at his resident night. From there, somebody else saw me and invited me to play somewhere else… I got 6 gigs in the end, in Sao Paolo and Florianopolis. Not one will I ever forget. And again, a few people from this time will stay in my life forever, even if we don’t have many chances to see each other these days. Long distance is nothing for real friends.

That’s fantastic! How did you come up with your DJ name IM Cyber?

Well I.M. are my initials and when I was 17 I started to work as a journalist and I was thinking about the nickname and my surname Marcinova sounds like marzipan, and as I started to be more and more into electronic music, a friend of mine at high school came with “cybermarzipan”. I started to play with his idea and IM Cyber was the result. I realised later that it’s not the easiest nickname as many people don’t write it correctly. But I like that it doesn’t say that either a girl or a boy is behind the name. Fair game, isn’t it? To be honest I am not a fan of all that Miss or Lady something nicknames at all.

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Photo: IM Cyber archive

How would you describe Prague?

Mother, deep, safe, beauty, freedom, everything is possible.

What did you want to be when you were a kid?

A cosmonaut and an ice hockey player. Our neighbour had a son who was a player, he gave me all the professional equipment. When my father was watching a game on television, I would wear all of the stuff and was part of the game (laughs).

That’s really cute.

I really loved ice-skating so once when I was 12 and in Prague for holidays I was thinking that I have to get into an ice hockey team! So I called Sparta to ask if they took girls (laughs). I found this phone number in the phonebook but they told me that I was calling the football team! Thank God I couldn’t find the right number.

If you could go back in time and see anything, what would you see?

I would love to be the eyes of Leonardo DaVinci and to see the world from his perspective.

Very cool. What is your favourite word in Czech?

Rododendron.

What is your favourite word in English?

Rhododendron.

(Laughs) Nice! Which actress would play you in a movie about your life?

It would be IM Cyber drawn as a comic character.

What would be your dream gig?

With all of my friends and on the most beautiful beach for a 24 hour sunrise. We would play only the most intense melancholic and atmospheric deep house and would cry from happiness… Do you think my dream will come true? (laughs)

More information and tracks on Facebook and SoundCloud

Written by Ryan Keating-Lambert. Headline photo by Martin Schubert.

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Photo: Risto Sokolovski

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