Artist of the Month: Indira Paganotto
Artist of the Month: Indira PaganottoDecember 11, 2023
If DJs were seasons, Indira Paganotto would be spring. She’s bright and open and alight with optimism, chatting from her home in Gran Canaria. Although she’s fast-reaching the DJ summit, she’s totally un-jaded, opting instead to be straight-up delighted by the way things have turned out. That’s reflected in her bright smile and wide eyes as she spins the laptop round to show me her home. It’s sleek and white with a huge skylight that floods the space in sunshine. “This is like my sacred place, where no one can find me,” Indira says happily. “This is my temple.”
Arriving back to this bright home after a long weekend deep in the underbelly of Europe’s nightclubs does sound a lot like bliss.
Gran Canaria is the third largest of Spain’s Canary Islands, although it’s much closer to Western Sahara than it is to Spain. Indira Paganotto grew up on this island, which is better known for its black lava beaches than its techno scene. But that cultural isolation pushed her to hunt for it. “It was a really nice place to grow up because it was full of natural beauty and wild seas,” Indira says. “But you really had to fight to find a good party.”
Indira has cropped black hair and wears a collection of silver chains over a black t-shirt. Spiritually, she is a free-wheeling hippy, but she presents as a Berghain resident; which is a fairly air-tight summary of her productions and DJ sets, too.
Indira spearheads the psy-techno movement, a blend of psy-trance and techno that’s won over both communities in recent years to create a flourishing one of its own. Indira’s love for psy-trance was inherited from her father, who used to DJ in India on his days off from working for Doctors Without Borders.
“He worked in refugee camps in Calcutta, treating people who suffered injuries from mines,” Indira says. “He saw some really hard things in his life, but he always taught me to lead with love.”
Indira’s childhood was soundtracked by records and mixes from the Goa trance scene. “You know, like Logic Bomb, Goa Gil, Fred Disko. All the big trance artists,” Indira says. She started digging into his collection as a teenager, teaching herself how to mix on his turntables and then raiding record stores to build her own collection. This led her down a techno-shaped rabbit hole, which she hasn’t emerged from since. She started DJing at the age of 16, playing her first gig at a local venue called Moon Club in Las Palmas and became their new resident a few weeks later.
With a secure home to hone her DJ skills, Indira next turned her hand to production. Her early influences bled out of her 4:4 techno cuts, which created a distinct sound before most artists have figured out their settings. But her father wasn’t convinced music could be a viable career. It was the late ‘00s and techno wasn’t the cultural phenomenon it is today. So he encouraged her to study medicine, and that’s what she did for one year, until the magnetic pull of music became too strong to ignore.
“I dropped out of medical school and moved to Madrid when I was 18,” Indira says. “My father said if I left, he wouldn’t give me any money, but I didn’t care. I went with 180 euros in my pocket.”
Indira got a job in a coffee shop, and simultaneously met with local club owners to try and get a residency as a DJ. A month after she moved, she was a resident at Stardust, one of Madrid’s most legendary techno clubs. “That’s when I knew I’d chosen the right path,” Indira says. She took that momentum into the studio, sending tracks to her favourite producers, including Ian Pooley, one of the pioneers of tech house. They’d met in Gran Canaria a few months earlier when Indira was warming up for his set, and he’d encouraged her to send him some music. “Underground Love” came out on vinyl and digital on Pooled Music in 2012. Indira was just 21.
Back then, the plan was to slowly build her career, and allow her artistry to unfurl naturally. She married her artist boyfriend, and they bought a sprawling villa overlooking the mountains in the countryside of Madrid. They had over 2000 meters of land and a variety of animals; five dogs, chickens, a mini horse. She built herself a studio and spent the mornings neck-deep in producing. In the afternoons, they tended to their vegetables or worked on paintings, and in the evenings, they cooked for friends. “We lived like this for many years,” Indira says. “We focused on the beautiful things, the small details, like our garden, sunsets, music.”
She was fully immersed in her art, gigging around Europe when it felt right and releasing her creations on labels like Raw Trax, Get Physical and Supdub Records. “I was just playing the places I wanted to play, with no rush,” she says. “I loved psy-trance, house and techno, so I was finding my own sound.”
But as the years went by, Indira began to feel the early stirrings of discontent. Her bookings were becoming more frequent, the labels bigger, and the quiet life was starting to feel a bit too quiet. A lifelong traveler, Indira spent an unforgettable month in India, where she trekked along the Ganges River with a great friend. It felt like a spiritual awakening. She visited all the places her father used to play, worshipped at local temples and ate food with villagers along the river. When she arrived home, she started writing her Himalaya EP. The music poured out of her, and once it was finished she knew exactly where it belonged. She sent it to Charlotte de Witte, and in 2021, it was released on KNTXT.
In between COVID lockdowns, Charlotte invited Indira to play at a KNTXT show, and that’s where she met her current manager Alex. They connected immediately over their Italian heritage, chatting for hours. Afterwards, they agreed to start working together. “That changed my life completely,” she says. “We’re a great team because I’m really into the art side of things, and he’s really business-minded.”
As Indira’s career was beginning to blossom, she found herself living a life in Madrid that no longer represented her. And very quickly, everything changed. She spent some time living in Turkey before eventually returning to Gran Canaria. This became her new paradise, and a safe place to continue her rise to superstardom. “Sometimes you need to destroy something to re-build,” she says.
2021 was the most tumultuous year of Indira’s life, and the most successful. She had 12 different releases on increasingly prestigious labels, including OFF Recordings, Octopus Recordings and Pan-Pot’s Second State. She played alongside Nastia, Patrick Mason and on the KNTXT stage at Awakenings, clearing the way for an unstoppable 2022, when she played some of the best clubs in the world including Printworks, Shelter, fabric and Amnesia. She revisited Awakenings twice, became a staple on KNTXT line-ups worldwide, and made a permanent mark on dance music with the launch of her ARTCORE label, starting with an EP by Indira called Guns & Horses.
The label is a home for the many facets of her artistry, and that’s not just limited to music. “The name says everything,” Indira laughs. “I’m making a lot more than music – I’m directing the merchandise, the art on the covers, the photography. I’m honoured to follow this path.”
ARTCORE is also an opportunity to platform emerging artists, and continue the psy-techno legacy. The label’s second release, Darkly Yours, came from French producer La Kajofol, and combines ghostly vocals with muscular 4:4 techno. In 2023 Interactive Noise and Lil Jorck released their Dissociaxion EP, taking a spiritual approach to techno with acidic basslines and ethereal vocals all tied up in a psy-trance package.
Slowly, steadily, and with patience, Indira has built her own movement. She’s won over fans of both psy-trance and techno to create a brand new scene of her own. “ARTCORE represents our family and our community,” she says. “Anyone that wants to join is welcome. We are open to everybody. We just want to be happy, share music, and lead with love and respect.”
Now, Indira has grown into the artist she was always meant to be. Her commitment to her sound is unwavering, and her ability to form bonds through music is winning over millions of hearts. But Indira doesn’t like to refer to them as fans. “There’s no hierarchy,” she says. “These people are my community.” Instead, she calls them warriors.
Which is why her latest EP, out now via ARTCORE RECORDS, is called Heaven is for Warriors. “I feel like we can experience heaven on this earth if we really try,” Indira says. “We can choose between heaven and hell, we don’t need to wait to die. If you really fight here in life, you can be in heaven here too.”
The EP captures this concept beautifully. The first track, “Heaven is for Warriors,” opens with a magnificent, atmospheric build, combining male and female vocals to create a sense of divinity that then drops into a heavy acid-techno beat. The second track, “Requiem,” glides between psychedelia and hard techno, combining soft synths with pummelling trance in a track that summarizes all of Indira’s influences and then some. Every last aspect of the EP encapsulates the spirit of ARTCORE, right up to the artwork of a woman in a red cape riding a flaming horse through the night.
Indira will have plenty of opportunities to play out these new tracks. In December she embarks on a tour of the US, playing Austin, New York and Miami, followed by a headline show in Milan and a set at Awakenings in Amsterdam’s Gashouder. But, in between shows, she still holds space for the quiet life.
“I’m a home girl,” she says. “I love looking after my garden and hanging out with my dog. I’m not that social, I don’t go out that much.” She’s lived many lives already, and knows exactly where her priorities lie. She loves to go surfing to unwind but – and this is clearly a pattern – she tends to go big. “I surf big waves and Alex says I need to be careful I don’t get injured,” she laughs. “So at the moment I’m doing Pilates instead.”
Indira is a spiritual person, and sometimes goes with her mother to church on Sundays, more out of ritual than anything else. But she sees temples everywhere she goes – in the snow-capped peaks of the Himalayas, at home in Gran Canaria, or in the booth of Awakening’s majestic mainstage. Indira Paganotto has lots of places of worship.
But of all the admirable things about Indira, perhaps the most is her ability to be content. She seems utterly fulfilled by her art, and her steady start has laid the foundation for a long and sustainable career.
“Every day is a new day for me because I don’t have a good memory,” she laughs. “I wake up, go into my studio and it all feels fresh and new. It makes me happy every time.”
Indira Paganotto’s latest EP Heaven is for Warriors is out now via ARTCORE Records. Buy it on Beatport.
Alice Austin is a Berlin-based freelance writer from London. Find her on X.