TSC Behind The Decks | Anja Schneider
Anja Schneider is a DJ, Producer, Radio host, Label Boss, you name it she’s done it! Currently three years into her Sous Music label project, the main home for her own productions including the critically acclaimed ‘SoMe’ album, as well as creative contributions from avant-garde artists she admires, Anja continues to operate as one of electronic music’s most vital artists with a busy schedule and a weekly radio show.
Sous Music – a deeply personal project, that allows Anja the creative freedom and personal connection with her own music and that of the talent she helps to develop via the label. A steady but thoughtful flow of releases has followed, focusing on Anja’s take on house and techno, alongside music from exciting artists such as Francesca Lombardo, Billy Turner, Madben, Markus Suckut and Angioma; demonstrating Anja’s strong commitment to new outstanding new talent in the same way as her previous label Mobilee gave a platform to Maya Jane Coles, Solomun and Nicole Moudaber, long before they became the household names they are today.
As a broadcaster, Anja Schneider holds the prime-time Friday night slot at major Berlin broadcaster Radio Eins, with a weekly show ‘Club Room’. Continuing where her Fritz Radio program ‘Dance Under the Blue Moon’ left off, Anja Schneider has been responsible for introducing a generation of Berliners to electronic music since 2000. Reinforcing her status as one of the most astute tastemakers in electronic music today.
Back in February I was thrilled to prepare for my interview with one of the hardest working, and most respected DJs over the last two decades. There were so many questions I wished to ask Anja, but I think we were able to cover some exciting topics, and get a better glimpse of Anja since she started Sous Music, some of her initiatives during the pandemic and her views on the current state of electronic music, and its place in society.
Hi Anja Schneider and thank you for having me for this interview! Honoured to have you in our interview series. Where am I catching you and what have you been up to lately?
Sadly, not so much. It feels like Berlin has been in lockdown forever which is not so far from the truth. It has been the best part of a year apart from a couple of months during the summer. This winter lockdown has been hardest though because the days are so short with darkness all the time and the cold and snow making it even harder to even get outside for the shortest of time. Of course, there is much for me to do indoors. I have been constantly busy in the studio recording new music, as well a few remixes as well as my weekly radio show “Club Room”. I also made already 19 episodes of the interview series “Club Room: Backstage” which has featured many great guests such as Dave Clarke, Chris Liebing, Damian Lazarus to name just three.
Don’t forget to check out Anja Schneider’s “Club Room: Backstage”, the podcast series in which Anja is inviting DJs and music industry professionals for a “backstage” discussion.
You moved to Berlin in the early 90’s, after quitting your job in Marketing. What was it like living in Berlin in the 90’s, having the post Berlin-Wall culture, clubs like Tresor, Berghain, as well as Love Parade, and how has it all influenced you as a person and a musician?
Being in Berlin at that time was for me the realisation of a dream. I felt that something was going on and I wanted to be a part of. That was the attraction. I didn’t want to stand-by watching what was happening from the outside. I wanted to be amongst it all, experiencing everything. It is difficult to describe that feeling as it is so far removed from anything today, but being there at the beginning of techno and the whole social movement that came with the music, was so fascinating for me.
I just had to be a part of it.
The first record you bought was Bonny M – ‘Night Flight to Venus’. What was the last record you bought, and which artist do you have the most records of?
OK this is a little embarrassing, but the last record I bought was actually my own remix of Sophie Hunger “There Is Still Pain Left”, because I could only find an MP3 copy in my collection and I wanted to have a high-res file. Ha! As for the artist who I have the most records of… I don’t know, but I guess it would be Drexciya.
In late January you released a two-part EP ”SOUS022.1″ and “SOUS022.2”. Why did you go for a two-part EP, and what can we expect from it – sound, and style wise?
The project started off as the idea to make a new version of a track from my last album called ‘All I See” but then all of a sudden things snowballed from there. I had the idea to also ask two amazing new talents – BAUGRUPPE90 (who made this wonderfully dark, bass-heavy driving techno mix), and Matrefakt (who created an amazing blend of hypnotic tribal energy) – to also do remixes of ‘All I See’. I also had the inspiration to rework my track ‘Dubmisson’ (in a very 2021 breakbeat style), which was released back in 2014. With so many tracks and so many great versions I wanted to give the most space to each track so releasing them across two parts made most sense. We also made individual artwork for each track as I wanted to allow each to speak for itself and not be just another item on a long track list.
Listen to “Remixes and Reworks 2021” release by Anja Schneider, BAUGRUPPE90 and Matrefakt (Out on Sous Music)
In an interview last year you said “We as DJs are used to testing out new music in front of an audience the next weekend. I totally miss that, the reaction of the crowd.” How do you go about releasing music, when you can’t even test it with the crowd – it must be tough and frustrating to do it without that feedback?
It is certainly a different experience, but after so long you learn to adapt. The traditional process would involve me playing demos at my weekend sets and maybe sharing the finished tracks with some of my DJ friends, but now this is either not possible or is in many ways very limited. Luckily, I have much experience to fall back on so I hope I can counter the negatives by using my instincts and trusting my ears. I guess time will tell.
It’s been about 3 years since you started Sous Music. How different is it managing Sous Music, to what Mobilee records had become before you left? You said that you left Mobilee and started Sous Music because you wanted to focus only on music you liked, and wanted to play. What would you do differently this time, in order to make sure that stays this way?
The main difference is that with Sous Music I am releasing much more of my own music, because I have the time and space to do so.
The releases from other artists are more like guest appearances from artists who I admire. With Mobilee we had quite a large roster of artists who all needed to be found space on the release schedule. So, I would say things are less stressful with Sous Music and there is more chance to be creative, as there are less practical concerns.buy Sous Music's latest releases
Ever since you launched your Sous Music label, you have released some banging music, including your “SoMe” LP, and numerous EPs. Can you agree that going on this new path has been a boost in your creative freedom, and music output?
For sure. Being less concerned with the commercial performance of the label definitely allows for more experimentation, and I have very much enjoyed being able to release music from across the electronic spectrum, without worrying too much what people will think.
What’s in store for you and your label Sous Music in 2021? Any exciting upcoming releases and collaborations on Sous Music, that you’d like to mention?
The label has been super busy already this year. We stared January with a two-track EP from myself which included the tracks “Turning My Head” and “Strange Case” then came the “All I See” and “Dubmission” remix package with BAUGRUPPE90 and Matrefakt. We will release our third project at the end of February, this time a single from Matrefakt which includes a remix from myself. The label will continue to be busy through the year. As well as more of my own productions there will be EPs from new and exciting artists I have been speaking too. It’s too soon for me to give away any secrets yet though.
Listen to Anja Schneider’s release “Turning My Head/Strange Case” (Out on Sous Music)
I recently became a father, and can now relate to parents trying to make it all work. What is your recipe for being present and there for your son – Rio, but also have enough time to do what you love – music, DJing, running a label, as well as being involved with Booking United?
At the moment through the lockdown time, honestly it has been a bit too much pressure to juggle all the commitments and responsibilities. Honestly, I would love to have less time at home because homeschooling is way too much for me and not my best qualification.
According to you “One of the weaknesses of our DJ culture is that we have never organized ourselves and therefore perhaps were not taken seriously as a professional group.” Tell me about your involvement with Booking United. Why did you co-found it and get involved, and what is your end-goal?
With the pandemic we needed to have an association which is a voice for our business. We need to be heard and need to get taken serious from the politicians, because we are an enormous business factor, and we pay our taxes. We are constantly speaking with the government and working on financial support programs to try to save our scene. It’s a really a never-ending job because you have to deal with many setbacks, and the slow pace of decision making. It has been a frustrating 12 months. We are losing a lot people from our scene because they can no longer hold out.
We are failing as a society because we have to fight for our culture, which clearly does not have the respect and attention that it deserves to have. By losing our culture we are destroying our community with all of its values and vibrancy.
Listen to Anja Schneider’s “Club Room: Backstage” podcast series, with guests ‘Booking United’.
During the first lockdown, we did a series of interviews with local artists, clubs/promoters, and agents, about the consequences of Covid-19 and how they are dealing with it. We’ve seen the music communities in Spain, Germany, and other countries openly protest and demand from the local governments to provide them with more support. How do you think the governments, but also how can we help each other and improve the conditions for musicians and artists?
I think the single most important issue is that we have to be honest to our culture. We have to take care and recognise the value and significance of the arts within our society. Unless this becomes a common value shared by everyone then our culture will remain under a threat.
I read a nice quote some months ago from an artist saying that, people should value artists more, because especially during lockdown, art is essential to keeping us sane – listening to music, reading books, watching movies etc. What do you think needs to change for the general public to appreciate artists more, and give them the credit they deserve?
People need to support all creative work, and they have to understand that this is something that costs money.
Where people took work and time and heart to create something unique and special. Right now, everything is for free and nobody seems to value anything for more than 2 weeks. That is ridiculous.
When the time comes for clubbing as we once knew it to return, is there anything you’d like to see change in the electronic community? For example; etiquette when it comes to partying, making the music and its culture more accessible to the wider communities or for artists to receive more serious recognition from government agencies?
Of course, I would be happy if clubbing would be a safe place for everyone. We lost this a bit. Everyone has to feel safe in a club and be respected as they are. No matter what. That is what it’s all about in the beginning and why I feel home in a club and around the scene. We have to be back with this.
Also, it would be great if we could move away from the obsession with booking only headliners and the whole economic need to sell expensive tickets and always fill the club to capacity.
I want the clubs to be respected for what they are, and the environment they create.
I would love to see people chose to attend a venue, because they trust that they are going to hear good music, because it’s your club and you trust them. We have to take more risk. Predictability is boring.
On another note, do you think that the clubbing once we knew will be a thing of the past after the Covid-19 pandemic?
I am not sure what will happen, but I think it’s going to take some time. We may have less capacity. Maybe it’s gonna be more expensive? For sure if you look to yourself our behaviour changed, and we will be not so open and relaxed anymore.
What is the first thing you’d do when life goes back to normal again (when we can party, hug etc)?
I really miss the gigs. I need to be with people and share a vibe. And I need to go to a proper dinner. I cannot wait for going to a restaurant!
What do you hope for in 2021, and what do you wish your fans and the fans of electronic music?
I wish that we are back to a normal life as fast as is safe to do so, and that we all focus on being stronger and better than before.
Thank you for the interview Anja Schneider!
Thank you for having me!