Interview: Anja Schneider
The new album “SoMe” from Anja Schneider comes at a dramatic and artistically freeing new point in the career of the Berlin electronic veteran.
Launching her new imprint Sous Music, “SoMe” represents this new post-Mobilee phase for Anja, one meant to slow the demands of the industry and the creative process down in order for a maximal inspiration. Born in Anja’s basement, the project saw Anja re-immerse herself in old D&B, Classic House, and the Berlin-bred Techno of the ‘90s with the intention to create something fresh while also paying due respect to her past.
The result, a highly personal, introspective, and free work of music, which spand 9 tracks and a multitude of style and influence. Here, with this exciting new chapter in full swing for Anja, we sat down for an open and honest conversation on her Mobilee break, as well as her move into the future with Sous Music.
“I would stand on the rooftop and wonder if I still wanted this.”
How has the transition been since leaving Mobilee, the imprint which you were so personally connected with?
It was not done spontaneously. This feeling had been more than a year coming. Of course it wasn’t easy, as Mobilee was my baby, but when you are doing this for years it starts to feel like a long term relationship. It ended up at a point where my business partner and I had different visions for the label. We were at that point where everyone wanted to go in different directions, which is absolutely normal. For me, it was more important to keep this friendship so it seemed better to just turn all of this down. The brand became so big. We rented this huge office and had many people working for us. Over the years, we lost a bit of the attention as to why we started it in the first place. I was not feeling this anymore, particularly in my artistic career. When we’d have to release a new record every two weeks, I’d keep asking myself if I even would play many of them. There was a lot of pressure to maintain.
In those early days of Mobilee, was there ever a point where you realized you evolved from a label to a brand?
At the beginning, it is something you don’t expect. Then, of course, you are happy, especially if it comes organically. Then, you end up asking if you are still doing it for the reasons you started with in the first place. Since we are all friends, who then became business partners, it felt like we lost this original relationship somehow and I was not feeling it anymore.
I guess it’s very much a personality trait. Different people and personalities react to this idea of “branding” in different ways…
…of course! With more success there are more people who come with different ideas. Once you get a lot of people coming around you it becomes a tough setting. As we grew and grew and grew, I simply couldn’t handle all the aspects of the job that I once could. It was all very hectic. I lost that passion for music, which was the reason I did this in the first place. I wanted to concentrate on the music I like. Not just music we have to release.
As you mentioned, you guys were all friends, so what was that first conversation you had with the Mobilee team where you explained that you would go your separate way?
There really wasn’t a meeting. It was a feeling that came from our Mobilee rooftop parties. I would stand on the rooftop and wonder if I still wanted this. Then, I met with everyone. I respect everyone who has worked over the years at Mobilee so I think each person needed to speak with me as individuals. I wanted to make sure that everyone who was working for me could find other opportunities. I still have the Mama gene.
How far back did the specific idea of the new label occur to you? Was it something that came in stages? Meaning, did you know the specifics about the new label before you separated from Mobilee, or was it one step at a time?
I was already working on my album before this idea came up. I didn’t want all the pressures associated with the release as I just wanted to do everything the way I wanted. I know it sounds selfish, but I just wanted it to be done the way I wanted it to be done. Then, it occurred to me, why was I not just doing it on its own imprint.
When this came up and it became quite personal. Sous is the name of my mom’s family, then I found an amazing designer who created a very organic vision for it. I am already working on new music actually as i want to focus on this. I have a big studio and we are able to provide workshops now. This is what I really enjoy doing! I don’t want to feel pressured to release a record in 4 weeks. I also want to be able to take some time off. I am a mom so I need to be able to do so.
So, speaking specifically about the album, what was the starting point?
It was the entire producing process. When I started it, I was already feeling pressure about it. I was thinking about the release immediately even before the actual music. Once I separated, I was able to give myself as much time as I wanted, and I did it. I did some crazy things that I’d normally not have been able to do, like listen to one loop for 2 weeks straight. This was quite interesting. It was the kind of freedom I needed. I needed to slow down.
You mentioned that part of what you wanted to refocus on was simply how you get the word out on your projects? What is your new promotional strategy here?
There really is no strategy [laughs]. I’m happy with the way everything has been going so far. I am an artist. I am just happy if people like my music but there is no specific strategy. When you listen to the album you notice that I haven’t changed. There were promoters out there who were a littles skeptical and wondered if I was playing different. of course not! I am always Anja Schneider and I can’t change that. I just changed the way I handle the process.
There was a huge attention when I announced I was leaving Mobilee, which is something I would have never expected before. I didn’t think it was a big deal. This was the biggest change, I think.
I did want to speak on a specific track on the album. It is the Drum & Bass inspired track – ‘WMF’. Can you just talk a bit about the inspiration here?
It started when I went into my storage and went through all my old records. This brought back many old memories of the late 90s/early 2000s when we had a big rave scene in Berlin. We had Love Parade, Mayday, and techno was everywhere. At that time, i was wondering if this was still what I wanted to do. I was a bit fed up, so explored some other scenes and ended up at a few Drum & Bass parties. I found it quite cool, which gave an alternative to all the Techno parties. I was also happy that during this time there were no phones because I still can’t dance to this music, so I’m glad no one filmed me.
‘WMF’ was a club from back in the days, which had Friday night Drum & Bass parties. It was located somewhere else every 6 months. It was really quite anarchistic.
Sounds like the kind of event that exists within a certain time period…
Do you find Berlin to still be stimulating creatively?
Always! There are a lot of things changing, like in every city. Berlin was always able to provide certain people niches to build something new. We have huge established clubs that everyone knows but there are also so many people who are the exact opposite. They don’t want to spend money or stand in line for hours. They don’t want to be with all the tourists so they create their own parties. Most of the time you don’t even know where they are but they still happen. Even I don’t know most of the time! People find their own freedom and their own space to build something new. This is what I love about Berlin!
So there is still a certain “underground” approach to creativity?
Always! There will always be an underground mentality in every creative scene. There are still many spaces that allow this. Berlin will always be special in this way.
Moving into 2018, how do you see yourself building the new imprint? Will you personally miss many of the Mobilee special events?
I won’t miss it. I did it for many years already and I just know it is time to move on. I will miss the people, but everyone is still a friend. It’s not like we separated entirely and never see each other. We still are very good friends.
Have you had any down time lately?
Around Christmas I do. My life has changed so much as my son is now in school. I am awake at 6:30am and I am beholden to the school holidays. At the moment, I am really happy though!
“SoMe” is NOW AVAILABLE on Sous Music BUY