The techno world has no end of exciting prospects, but even among these, the Swiss-based German DJ/producer Yeni truly stands out from the pack.
A native of Leipzig, Yeni is now firmly based in Switzerland but is an individual who’s unlikely to forget her roots any time. Indeed, she’s even recently signed to Leipzig’s premier booking agency, Times, where she shares the roster with the likes of Matthias Tanzmann and Timo Maas. This weekend is set to be a big weekend for her too, as she takes to the decks in Helsinki, 7 April alongside the likes of Slam and Ellen Allien. A DJ and producer of some repute, Yeni also helms the Cyborgs in Love label, which itself is quickly earning a reputation for its no-nonsense approach to contemporary techno. Sometimes you chat to a musician and you can’t help but feel they’re on the cusp of something great.
Yeni is without doubt one such individual, so with all this in mind we decided to put some Qs her way recently…
” I think it’s quite necessary to be present on a platform where artists can showcase their music even if it’s unsigned to a record label.”
What made you pick the moniker Yeni for your solo project?
Since my real name is Jennifer, my friends always called me Jenny but also “Jeeeeni” which gave me the idea for “YENI”. And after that I also found out that Yeni means “new” in Turkish, but that was a coincidence but an appropriate one since I started this new project.
You exhibited quite the entrepreneurial spirit at the start of your career by handing out CDs at a club when you were just 15. What advice would you give to young artists who might be afraid of approaching people like this before they even have made a name for themselves?
Yeah, looking back the approach was pretty old school, I guess. It was shortly after the tape era had ended and CDs were the new shit! So I just felt it was the best way to get my music listened to by other people. Nowadays it’s so much easier to express yourself as an artist through social media and digital platforms. I think it’s quite necessary to be present on a platform where artists can showcase their music even if it’s unsigned to a record label. It’s important to find your audience and also to develop your own style (which takes some time).
Also, another good approach when you are a newcomer and want the well-known artists to play your music (which is a great opportunity to showcase your music to a greater audience) is to send out promos to the artists themselves. You normally find their promo emails on their socials or websites. I know some examples where upcoming acts have get a great step into the business by getting played by Solomun or Pan Pot etc. Since well-known artists want to play exclusive tracks that are not charted or available in any shops, they often listen to promos and try to find rough diamonds.
You studied piano when you were younger. How would you say this has affected your music and do you see it as important for producers to know their way around an instrument?
I was never good at maths etc and the theory element in particular I struggled with, especially as music is essentially based on mathematics, also playing the piano and knowing the notes takes a lot of time and patience.
However, I was able to sign even complex operettas just by trying to listen and using my musical ear. I learned the pieces by listening to them over again and again. That’s what also helps me nowadays when I’m matching tracks without software like mixed-in-keys or by matching records where you have no digital hint of the harmonies. So coming back to the question: both (the theoretical knowledge and the experience I gained within the years) have helped me a lot when producing music. Of course, I had to learn how to use the software (I started with FL when I was a teenager, then over the last few years I’ve worked a lot with Logic and I even attended an Ableton course). You need to get the theoretical basics for making music and even if you might not get it at the beginning, you can benefit from the theoretical knowledge when bringing down your ideas. It’s most frustrating when you have an idea in your head (like a whole symphony, composition) and you don’t know how to transform it into music with the help of the machines. But it also requires a lot of work. When using synthlines for your tracks, it’s really helpful to at least know the basics of playing the piano or any other instrument.
You have been DJing internationally for several years now. Would you say that this experience has broadened your musical horizons?
It’s been a great time I remember the first sets abroad and I learned from the reactions of the people to create sets that are loved in every country and culture. That was the hardest lesson and also how to read the crowd took me quite a while. Now, after starting over with my solo project, I have an even better idea of what I want and where I belong to. I am happy for the experiences I got through the alter ego project in the past years. And I am more relaxed when on stage now also.
You’re originally from Leipzig, one of Germany’s techno centres, and you now live in Switzerland. What prompted the move and have you settled into a similar scene in Switzerland?
Leipzig is amazing for music but not for having a good income or job years ago (especially when when the financial crisis hit), so I had to move away to find a job and that’s how I came to Switzerland. I also hear people saying that you have to live in Berlin to be successful in the music scene, but I think we are so well connected through emails, socials and all these great networking events like ADE & Sonar, BPM & even some festivals like Time Warp, that it’s not necessary to live in a certain city (it might have advantages but also disadvantages). I do everything remotely. I manage my label remotely, I signed my tracks remotely and can organise ADE showcases remotely. Also, I haven’t yet found myself in the Swiss music scene beside regular bookings in the French part of the country. I can say it’s kind of a closed community which is fine for me since I have a great network to every country in the world. Since I am now with a Leipzig based booking agency, I feel even more connected to my old hometown.
Yes, you recently signed to Times Agency and you have developed a reputation as one to be watched in the future. Do you feel any pressure from this?
I already had the chance to develop a reputation with my alter ego project. I was more curious to see if I can do it again with a new project and having such great milestones after one-and-a-half years with the new project, I feel confident that it will go well in the future. I decided to not use the credits from the old project as I always need a challenge and wanted to invent myself again. I now even take it easier and I feel free and motivated. So no pressure at all. I just enjoy what I do and have no expectations at all.
You recently founded the Cyborgs In Love label. What were some challenges you faced in getting the label off the ground?
Definetely the timing. I am always so curious to learn new things and I’d never managed a label before. I just had some insights from the artist perspective but I didn’t know what would come when running my own label. I knew it would be challenging but I was ready for the experience. As per usual I had a plan in my head about how I wanted it (like the release schedule, the concept and the style) but of course it had to be adapted to what the reality was. So now I am planning much more for every release as I don’t want to follow the quantity approach but the quality philosophy. So I prefer having less releases but every release with a great story and PR behind it which requires weeks and months of work. Rob Hes who was part of a sample pack producer series we had, once said in an interview: “Yeni is really serious with the label and spending more montey than most bigger labels. So she totally deserves it.” That really gave me back a lot and I really appreciate it when my artists feel that we achieve something great together.
Who would be a dream artist for you to be able to release music from on your label?
I have some remixers in mind I would be thrilled if they would contribute work for my label like Alex Bau, Slam, Dax-J, Johannes Heil, Monoloc and also Ben Sims. So hopefully I can work with them in the future. But first I need to continue in building-up a reputation for the label and I have no time pressure.
Are we safe to expect more releases from the Cyborgs In Love label this year?
Right now we are preparing a great compilation with exclusive tracks from Drumcomplex, Gabriela Penn, Chris Hirose, Roland M. Dill and many more. And we’ve already received lovely feedback from the likes of Pan Pot, Kaiserdisco, Fuzz Mag, Noir & Luca Gaeta which really makes me proud as a “label mama”!
How would you describe the difference between releasing music on other people’s labels versus releasing music on your own label?
I am of course more free when it comes to a certain style or release dates when releasing on my own label. But it’s also important to build-up a reputation by working with other labels. For me it’s important to not only get recognised as a DJ – but also as someone who left their footprints with music.
We Are Cyborgs Vol.1 is out 04/05 on Yeni’s Cyborgs in Love label