Name: Anja Schneider
Occupation: DJ, producer, radio presenter
Current Release: Closer on Sous Music
If you enjoyed this interview with Anja Schneider, visit her website for more information on all of her different activities. She also has a Facebook page.
When did you start writing/producing music - and what or who were your early passions and influences? What is it about music and/or sound that drew you to it?
I had many influences when I started to get into making music. In the early days I definitely took inspiration and had a passion for Depeche Mode, The Cure and of course Kraftwerk – who blew my mind and opened up a new dimension of music knowledge for me. The first song I wrote was with my friend Sebo K back in 2004 for Pias. This was right before I started my own label Mobilee in 2005.
For most artists, originality is first preceded by a phase of learning and, often, emulating others. What was this like for you? How would you describe your own development as an artist and the transition towards your own voice? What is the relationship between copying, learning and your own creativity?
Copying is not necessarily a bad thing. Of course, I get influenced every time I learn and listen to a new or interesting artist. Electronic music at the moment is not in the state where you can always create something totally new or ground breaking. Everything is already there from the past, and that's why we have a big revival of some of the early 90’s techno and hard techno. The kids of today perhaps don't always know this I think. Everything comes back around in circles, it's a bit like fashion. Styles from the 70’s come back now and are the current trend. Its not about copying what was done then but taking some aspects of something you aspire to and interpreting it in your own way which can make something exciting and interesting.
What were your main compositional- and production-challenges in the beginning and how have they changed over time?
I actually work with a co-producer still, as I am not so nerdy and have all the skills I completely need by working alone. I also need some kind of interaction in the studio. I need advice and love a creative critic to help me constantly improve. I have a very natural flow for my own music and a clear vision of my sound which helps and is important. Sometimes it’s also good to swim against the stream and take risks – that can make you unique.
What was your first studio like? How and for what reasons has your set-up evolved over the years and what are currently some of the most important pieces of gear for you?
I love and have to work with analog synths. As I mentioned before, I work with a producer in a professional studio in Berlin, which we have really kitted out. To get involved in the process, I need to play something and show or present certain sounds.
How do you make use of technology? In terms of the feedback mechanism between technology and creativity, what do humans excel at, what do machines excel at?
Humans bring the soul and rhythm. You can never get this out of a machine. The idea of a sound comes from humans of course, and you can become inspired by sounds the machines make, but you have to feel it first. You can listen to thousands of banks pattern loops but at the end of the day, it‘s the decision made by you to choose the right one.
To be sure that you have chosen the right sound is also a process in itself. You have to be confident and leave the studio with that feeling deep down you know it‘s ready.
I could compare this to drawing a picture in some ways. You have amazing colours to use at your fingertips, but you need to know what you want to draw, and what kind of atmosphere you want to deliver. Sometimes you want to go dark, but then you are amazed by the use of pink (laughs)
Production tools, from instruments to complex software environments, contribute to the compositional process. How does this manifest itself in your work? Can you describe the co-authorship between yourself and your tools?
I work a lot with synths and different drum computers and that’s mostly the first step.
Collaborations can take on many forms. What role do they play in your approach and what are your preferred ways of engaging with other creatives through, for example, file sharing, jamming or just talking about ideas?
Bring samples, talk about music and play each other your favourite music. Be sure of what you like and find your special sound. Do not be afraid. You have to lose any fears you may have and be able to fail sometimes. Collaborations can be hard when two artists do not maybe always jam well together or have conflicting ideas of their final product. You will learn from that and will be more confident next time around.
Could you take us through a day in your life, from a possible morning routine through to your work? Do you have a fixed schedule? How do music and other aspects of your life feed back into each other - do you separate them or instead try to make them blend seamlessly?
To be honest with you, I have a very boring and fixed schedule because I am a mother! There is a routine every day, which involves first and foremost getting the kids ready for school. Once they are off, I always try to go for a run – exercise really helps relax me and my mind. Then it’s into the studio alongside some emails and general life admin in the office. There is always something to be getting ready for, whether it’s an upcoming release, your next gig or managing my label. I always try to keep it fun and enjoy even the mundane daily activities, as well as hunt for the best new music for my gigs.
Could you describe your creative process on the basis of a piece or album that's particularly dear to you, please? Where did the ideas come from, how were they transformed in your mind, what did you start with and how do you refine these beginnings into the finished work of art?
I get inspired by many different things, which I think all artists will tell you the same thing. Being on the road so much and meeting new people, experiencing new cultures and countries is enough in itself to open up so many new possibilities when it comes to transforming these into sounds in the studio. Sometimes you get to the studio, and a sound you have in your mind doesn't work, so you play around with it and see what happens. It also depends on my mood, if I am melancholic, then my track will come out with that vibe. My suggestion to anyone is to just create with whatever you have in your mind at that time, whether its happy or sad. Sometimes, you’ll create something unexpected. Be true to your feelings and then your music will have the same authenticity.
There are many descriptions of the ideal state of mind for being creative. What is it like for you? What supports this ideal state of mind and what are distractions? Are there strategies to enter into this state more easily?
There isn’t one state of mind for me that means I can be creative. Sometimes going through a very tough period of your life can bring the best out the best of anyone when going into the studio. I think this is maybe the same for many producers. Of course, ideal situations with no stress or pressure are a positive for any creative person’s agenda. Sometimes the hardest state of mind to be creative is when you just can’t switch off, your always running on overtime and then everything that comes out isn’t right, and feels wrong.
How is playing live and writing music in the studio connected? What do you achieve and draw from each experience personally? How do you see the relationship between improvisation and composition in this regard?
Its amazing to be in the studio making a track, which you then later on take to a gig and play in front of people – to see them respond to something you created yourself and dance to it. Wow, that's quite a weird feeling when you first do it. The crowd’s reaction is a massive connection for me to music and makes you feel powerful. I take this power and drive back to the studio – so yes in many ways they are connected.
Our sense of hearing shares intriguing connections to other senses. From your experience, what are some of the most inspiring overlaps between different senses - and what do they tell us about the way our senses work? What happens to sound at its outermost borders?
Good music to dance to. Good music can have such a deep connection with your soul and touches you deep inside. It can create memories and emotions from past stages of your life. Of course, if you are dancing and using your hips you’ll naturally have a smile on your face – and that's the best feeling, right?
Art can be a purpose in its own right, but it can also directly feed back into everyday life, take on a social and political role and lead to more engagement. Can you describe your approach to art and being an artist?
Actually, if I am being honest – I can’t. I do not see my life and my career as a special artist in that sense. I try every day to be honest, respectful and aware of other people to always be a better person. I take this kind of ethos and transform it into my music as a DJ and producer.
It is remarkable, in a way, that we have arrived in the 21st century with the basic concept of music still intact. Do you have a vision of music, an idea of what music could be beyond its current form?
I wish I did have a vision, but I genuinely think that no one can possibly know. I never expected electronic music last so long and to now be as popular as it is. We have to try and preserve what we have now, not to dilute the industry, and be careful to maintain this lifestyle and culture. I believe that we have to take more risks to succeed these days, and to move into the next wave of electronic music. Hopefully we will continue to last forever!