She’s modelled for Marine Serre and campaigned for climate justice. Parisian DJ Anetha shares about the impact of techno following her release last Friday on her Mama Told Ya label, Mty-terre: Contre tout, toutes et tous, la terre demeure. The compilation of 19 artists and19 tracks is pressed on four recycled vinyl records in pink clay tones marbled with squid-ink black. It’s the second grand compilation after last year’s Mty-eau: L’eau repousse les feux agressifs both exploring ecology.
Outside of techno, what other genres do you listen to? What informs your daily life from sunrise to sunset, from motherhood to partnership?
To be honest when I am home, I don’t listen to music that much. I always dig new tracks and listen to some promo every week but I also try to relax my ears. I like to listen to more chill trip hop stuff like Sevdaliza, or even more rap or pop music like Rosalía.
Are you the embodiment of Parisian techno? You're unbound by genre, and you sail the spectrum perfectly. Did this approach arise organically or is it intentional?
I feel flattered by the question but no, I don’t think I am. I’m the embodiment of myself only (laughs). Yes, Paris always had one big influence on me, but Anetha is the result of many more. As for the unbounding part, I’ll have to say it rather comes from my parents and their true love for all kinds of music. As long as I remember, they were the ones who taught me to sail in music and in this life without boundaries: a precious lesson. So I’d say that sailing through this spectrum happens organically - but it wasn’t probably always like that. When you’re young, you’re not clear-headed and you sometimes try to find your own sound. Yes you own it, but let it be free.
What is it like to be a part of the avant garde? Do you feel a sense of responsibility?
Again, thank you, but I don’t really feel I’m avant-garde. But it’s true that, whether in music or in fashion - I love pushing boundaries. And I feel my responsibility is to explore this terra incognita, pushing the limits again and again, expanding the playground for the next generations. A few months ago, I also realised how important it is to use my platform to raise awareness about environmental issues, climate change and CO2 emissions, especially in the music industry and the techno scene. With Mama loves ya, I’ve decided to be the change I wanted to see. It will always be a work in progress but progress is the keyword here. If it can inspire other people, I’ll be doing my part, and I feel responsible for that. What happens to the avant-garde if there is no future ?
You're extremely fashionable, what inspires your style? When did you develop your aesthetic? Who’s your favourite designer?
Since my childhood, I always wanted to stand out and be different. One of my biggest fear was to be like everyone else – which is funny because I was also super shy at the same time. I guess it was my way to fight this shyness. I always like eccentricity and extravaganza, I always felt attracted to a certain aesthetic. This was also true during my architecture studies. I feel also kind of close to counter-culture in general. More recently, inspiration also has come from sustainability. I did collaborate with lots of super cool designers, but right now, I think Rombaut and Marine Serre are in my top ones, as they are representing a good combination of all these aesthetics and inspirations.
If clothing was inspired by one of your MTY releases, what would it be?
It would be something comfy, organic and sustainable, in a casual colour with a twist of acid - easy to wear, ready for the club.
Should clothing be guided by music, or designed around music? What’s your take on DJing for shows, or having collections based on music?
It is certainly true that techno is since few years now becoming more and more inspiring and impacting the overall artistic scene. But to me, art has always been and will always be a matter of interdisciplinarity. Music gets inspired by design, fashion or whatever - fashion gets inspired by DJs. DJs can do soundtracks for film, dance or fashion shows. I really see no limits and I’ve always been pushing to work on interdisciplinarity myself, working hand by hand with fashion designers for example. This is actually one of the things we’re trying to also work on a lot at Mama loves ya as well: trying to get techno and electronic music of out the club.
What's peak performance for Anetha? What would be the magnum opus of techno?
To me, peak performance is when the party meets a few conditions: a good place and line-up, good lighting and sound systems, an open and ready to dance public, and the spark of magic. This is why peak performances can happen anytime, anywhere, in a club or festival, day or night time. And the best ones are when you’re not even expecting it.
From my personal peak performances, I can remember my first Berghain set, Bassiani, Dour Festival, Awakenings or Soenda. And of course my first Boiler Room. But I also have super great memories from my first set in 6B or Concrete back in the days. More recently, I love the vibe we manage to get during our Mama told ya showcases: playing with our crew in the clubs. What I love the most is always bringing the magic!
I’ve also been impressed and deeply inspired by Miss Kittin’s vibe when I started playing, or by Peter Van Hoesen’s DJ set in Concrete a few years ago. Lately, I had a blast in front of the last Zoë Mc Pherson’s live at Positive Education. And right now, even if it’s not pure techno at all, my actual quote unquote magnum opus (laughs) would be all of Sevdaliza’s work. Love her vibe and typically the way she moves into different music and artistic styles.
Europe is considered the jewel of electronic music, notably with a strong emerging artist scene. What challenges or roadblocks have you encountered in European cities? Should laws be more conducive to raves, equaling opportunities for DJs? What are the real barriers for the industry from promoter to producer?
It’s been a long road. The scene has changed a lot since I started DJing almost 10 years ago. Now Europe is the new place to be for electronic music. And it’s not only Berlin anymore. Cities like Paris, Amsterdam, London, reached a whole new level in terms of events, production, local and emerging artists. Of course, it took time, and in cities like Paris, we’re still facing some of the usual challenges: raves still have a bad reputation among authorities, it’s sometimes difficult to organise parties in warehouses or to keep some locations running. Covid also had a huge impact on the clubs and some promoters.
As a DJ and producer, it’s also not that easy to build a proper career and to convert this passion into a sustainable and real job. Especially now that the scene is getting bigger and bigger, with lots of super cool new artists and producers emerging every day. I had to work a lot on these aspects (it’s also something we provide to emerging artists at Mama loves ya): management, legal status, publishing music, how to build and run a label, how to handle proper communications, how to build good relationships with partners like in fashion, how to not rush and accept every opportunity but to grow step by step, etc. This is also important and needs to be integrated from the start.
Is techno moving away from Berghain? Is the next phase of techno anti-industrial? Or do we need another Berghain? Does it still hold up?
I’m no psychic but I don’t think techno will move away from Berghain. We’re talking of one of the 7 wonders of the underground world here, it is unique! We may need other wonders – and actually, seeing new clubs and cities emerging, we already have! But we don’t need another Berghain. To be honest, I hope that people will learn to party more locally in the future. In this globalised world, we need to find a way back to our roots, our land.
You’ve incorporated the sounds of goa, psy trance, and acid, pillars of traditional techno. How do you decide what’s appropriate, how do you push expressive vulnerability?
This is a good question. I like to play trance and acid sometimes, yeah. Diversity and eclecticism have always been a part of me. But it’s always important to find a good balance and to adapt to the audience and party. It is also a matter of personal feeling to me, which is constantly evolving. I think it’s essential to follow your heart and instinct when playing, and not the actual vibe or trend. Recently, I’ve watched some changes in the music scene: the vibe is getting a bit harder and faster. And I’ve seen a lot of DJs playing to fit this vibe, trying to adapt but without really feeling it - with varying degrees of success. Music must come from you, express a part of you. If you only show your artist shell, and don’t express your vulnerability, I don’t think it can work.
The title of your tracks, the introductions, flow and timing are very distinctive. How do you decide what to implement under the umbrella of electronic music? How do you bring ideas to the table?
It really depends on the moment and the inspirations. Again, I’m not setting myself any limits. I give every idea that comes to me a try. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. But it is true that I always try to attach some importance to the title, and to add some distinctive items or parts in my tracks. Like a punchy baseline or an identifiable synth.
Has the aesthetic of techno become fetishised? How should we separate genres within the musical spectrum from stereotypes?
Techno is getting more and more impactful, especially among the younger generations. So of course a kind of techno aesthetic is emerging with it. But like in every other musical genres, or even artistic domains (such as fashion, architecture, painting, etc.), the spectrum of electronic music, and even of techno, is wide and multi-faceted. It’s not about a stereotyped 4x4 130 bpm anymore. From ambient to experimental, house, trance, hard-techno, or to more melancholic vibes, there is something for everyone’s taste. It's also true in terms of graphic aesthetics. Techno is not only all black anymore. This is something I tried to fight with my label Mama told ya. Every bit of artwork is super colourful and comes from a different graphic artist.
Do you think techno, or an element of the genre will ever become as valuable to musical history or culture akin to Kraftwerk, Edgard Varèse or even Daft Punk? What would be a fitting legacy for the musicians of Mama Told Ya, Possession, or even Flyance? How will the music be remembered when we're all OGs like Laurent Garnier?
Of course! And I think it already is. Techno and electronic music is already a part of musical history and culture. It was in the 90s and it’s becoming even more significant again for the past the 10 years. People probably don’t see it yet, because it’s less mainstream and reaches a smaller audience compared to Daft Punk etc., but it is impacting the underground artistic scene (like we said for example the fashion or film industry), which is indirectly impacting the global audience.
Techno is also deeply and naturally connected to protest and struggle. We saw its power during some major public and political events (of course in the US back in the day, but more recently during Tbilissi’s protests, or during public demonstrations against some laws that were infringing freedom of expression in France or Europe, and even now with lots of support coming from the scene for Ukraine). And seeing the powerful impact it has on the younger generation, I think this is only the beginning. If Mama told ya and our artists can help in building all that heritage with our releases and DJ sets, I’ll be more than happy.
Why Britney? What is it about Britney Spears that led you to create Free Britney?
To me, Britney is a symbol, a symbol of my generation. She is the symbol of oppression by the patriarchy. Like many teenagers, I adored Britney. I saw her rising from the 90s and I also saw her fall a few years ago. I was too young to understand at the time but now I see how much she was controlled by men and the media. As a female artist, I feel compassion for her, I sometimes see myself in her. Free Britney means I’ve had enough, we’ve had enough.
Could you name a director, or concept you'd like to compose music for? As a DJ and producer, but do you consider yourself a composer?
There is always a part of composition in my production. I mean, you can’t really build a track by only assembling some samples found on internet. Samples are really important in electronic music, and really fits all the ways DJs are producing, but it’s important to keep a creative process here, to test, distort, twist, warp samples, and to mix it with your own productions. If David Lynch reads this interview and wants me to build the soundtrack of his next film, I’m here! Also, I would love to compose something for a fashion show, a dance performance, or even something linked to architecture.