Interview: Cassy. The Donna of Techno
“I admired them immensely. They would speak their mind, they would say what they want, dress the way they would like.”
Then, do you think within the dance music scene, women are discriminated more prominently?
No, I don’t think it’s more prominent than any other industry.
For some reason, women artists who are comfortable within their skin are still so rare to find, eg. your album is based on emotions, relationships with others. Within the techno world, this is a very feminine topic, isn’t it?
Absolutely! If men were to try this it would probably be very awful (laughing). Certainly, some men can do it, maybe the more poetic men!
If you think of all the singers that can voice their love, hurt and pain, it’s very wonderful, but I have the feeling that in the house and techno world it is not overly cool to show emotions.
You seem to be generally sensitive to the surrounding world, thus I cannot go on without asking whether you have the time to get yourself aware of the political/social scene?
Yes, absolutely! That is super important for me. Sometimes I spend too much time on the Internet looking things up.
How did your active interest into political scene develop? Was it simply your upbringing or being surrounded by artists while studying acting, or was it later on?
Well, my mom is white and my dad is black, so I was born aware. I was naturally put into a situation where I was fully aware of how shitty things can be; so being political is something that is a necessity. I just did not have the luxury to not care about anything.
Austria seems like a progressive country though…
On some levels, yes. Obviously, I was confronted with racism on a very primitive level; simply people being ignorant, not having seen or spoken to a black person and then they are confronted with one. Austrian countryside in the 70s is not the most sophisticated place you could be grow up in, and not certainly not the most multicultural, and for that matter, maybe not that interesting. Obviously, my situation was an interesting one, really annoying and detrimental at times, but it made me who I am today.
Chaka Khan is one of your idols. You named her as an influence when talking about your Essential Mix. What is it that makes you admire her? Do you identify with her in a certain way? Is it her being recognised as one of the early feminists in music?
No, I don’t really identify with her, maybe on a more transcendent level. For me, she is the best and my most favourite singer. There is no one that sings like her, the way she attacks the notes, and interprets melodies, her style and everything about her voice is incredible! This is just sheer admiration for her artistry.
The video for your track “Back” just came out. Can you dive into the message of the track? The lyrics say, “there is no point of looking back”. Isn’t there, though?
You always tend to look at what went wrong. As you say, though, “onwards and upwards!”. Especially for people who had struggled with very heavy situations, it is extremely hard not to look back to try and overcome the pain. This song is about that.
Is it important to you that listeners understand the messages exactly the way you meant them?
There is no right or wrong interpretation it’s just about tapping into certain energies in the right way.
You wrote the entire album yourself, including the lyrics and music, but there was also a cover of Prince’s “Strange Relationship”. Why did you choose this particular one?
It is about relationships. The lyrics are so brilliant! They are exactly about people who are willing to take but not willing to give. You think, “I am giving and I am doing this and that”, while you are actually just expecting and expecting.
Everyone is a control freak to a certain degree, afraid of letting go. I am definitely speaking for myself here. I feel that in our world we are brought up to be afraid, to find the right or wrong partner or the right or the wrong job. A lot of situations are driven by fear and that’s what “Strange Relationship” is about.
Was it hard to get the rights for the song?
Yeah, it was a bit tricky. Prince was so fed up with the music industry he had to go hard on everyone and take it away from every platform; you literally couldn’t find a Prince video on YouTube .
How did techno become the tool of your artistic expression amongst all the other art forms out there?
It seemed to me as the most free; the most unprecedented; the most open, and with the least rules. Techno, it can be 80 BPM; it can be 135 or 140 BPM; it can have two sounds; 50 sounds, out of all the genres, techno is just really open.
How did you prepare for your Essential Mix this year? (listen here)
Because of Prince and David Bowie dying, I was having a moment where I thought all these heroes of our past are dying and it is a different world. I was remembering how it was when I was listening to all this music and how much it meant to me. I was thinking back, and going, “wow I wish I could have these moments again!”
I thought, it is such an honour doing the Essential Mix and, if I do one, I wanted to include the music I listened to that was significant to me growing up. I went simply for representing my musical self, what really makes my heartbeat, and what I love listening to.
In your latest album you all of the singing yourself. Could you compare the two – singing and DJing?
I couldn’t say. To me, these are two totally different things. Obviously, when singing, you are more naked and that is scarier.
You’ve sung at after parties with Ricardo Villalobos, correct? That was you in your 20s?
Yes this is correct, I was in the end of my 20s, like 28-29 in Berlin, and at this time Berlin was changing from one period to the next. It was a very exciting time to be there.
You have mentioned that during those times Berlin was filled with artistic talent, surrounding you with likeminded people. Do you see a place as such now? Is it still Berlin?
Hmm, maybe it could be a place I don’t know. There are a lot of interesting things happening everywhere, but I don’t know if there is a particular scene that stands out to me.
How about Ibiza? Do you notice any changing towards the commercial side that would be harming creative incentive?
Obviously there are a lot of creative people in Ibiza but I would say it is more of a crazy place than a creative place, maybe it’s a transitional or transcendental place, but I don’t feel that people there are overly free when they perform there.
How much of the initial idealism of Techno does Ibiza still have?
Ibiza is not idealistic at all because, if you have a party going there, you have to be connected well and be an extremely good businessman. It is really hard and competitive to hold a business there to be fair, though, you could have it if more people had the balls to not care.
What is the alluring part of it?
Music! I mean it is one of the best places in the world to play music so for a DJ it is incredible. Some parties are really cool to play here because people really go to the club to see the DJ and hear that music.
Ibiza is a party island and the DJ plays a central role in that. That’s why it’s cool for the DJ to benefit from any situation where he or she can show off what they can do.
You now live in Ibiza and have recently became a mom. How has motherhood change your life with respect to your DJ career?
It changed my life completely! I feel like I’ve done certain things enough and I don’t feel like I am missing out. I am very happy to do the job I am doing, but I am focusing on myself, and my family.
‘Donna’ is NOW AVAILABLE on Aus Music