When an artist juggles a hefty touring schedule, regular releases, and even running their own mass independent label you would think that they could lose sight of what is intrinsic in finding, making and releasing music.
A mother, Anja Schneider ran the techno and house label Mobilee for over a decade. Last year, she decided that management of a mass independent label wasn't for her. The time frames and boxes which managing a label of this caliber can create started to steer her away from her true passion of making and finding music. She has since opened Sous Music, a smaller independent label where she doesn't have the pressure of a bigger label.
The Berlin based producer played in the last Origins party, so we arranged an interview. We arrived fifteen minutes before the interview and waited, until we saw a small crowd of tech house fanatics gathering around her as the promoter was walking her into the party. She put her equipment in the DJ booth, and we proceeded with the interview. We immediately loved her vibe, as she laughed throughout, spreading her light and infectious energy as if we were just two friends chatting. People like this make the atmosphere much lighter, making it better to capture the organic conversation between two people without the pressure which recording and photography can create. And so we began.
Were there any obstacles in the beginning of your DJ career?
Of course I had problems when I started, because I wasn’t a pro directly, so of course I had a lot of really bad gigs, especially when the sound system is not right. I had to practice in my living room quite a lot; I used to be really nervous and sometimes I still am. But I think I was always kind of lucky, because there were always the really good gigs as well.
Is there something you are determined to change in the electronic music scene?
I don’t want to change anything. I just want to do what I love. You know, there was a huge influence like the EDM thing, and I have the feeling that techno now is becoming the new EDM (Laughs).
Which kind of techno though?
So the Berghain techno?
No not that! That hard techno is still really cool. There’s always changes going on and this is quite interesting and I found that last year was one of the best years in electronic music, mainly because we had so many good women DJs. Avalon Emerson, Charlotte De Witte, Amelie Lens, are all amazing, young, talented DJs and producers.
And of course Cassy and Black Madonna.
Cassy, Black Madonna and I belong to another generation. Yeah last year was really interesting, the music released was really cool, and I liked it also that the music was going in a different direction. DJs didn’t have to play in huge festivals in order to be recognized, suddenly there was a completely different underground scene that emerged and that constantly keeps growing.
What is your favorite part of this job?
It definitely isn’t traveling. Don’t get me wrong, I love to travel and to discover new countries and meet different people and I feel blessed that I get to do this, but the time wasted in the airports and on planes really starts to get annoying. I love my job but if there’s one thing that I could change it would be that.
Do you usually prepare a playlist or the flow before a set or do you improvise the whole thing live?
Never! You never know what to expect, and I just asked the promoter today if this was an outdoor party, a roof party or a club, just to have an idea of what to expect, and now that I'm here, it’s completely different than I expected.
What made you decide to leave Mobilee after all these years of success? I think this is the question you’ve been dreading.
(Laughs) You know, I was doing this for the past twelve or thirteen years, and I felt a little bit stuck. I needed a change in order to truly and fully challenge myself. I started to feel that things were starting to become too much on the business side of things. I started to focus less on my music and on being an artist, I had to have the label release every two weeks in order keep this whole thing running. I also had to feed a monster, because I had ten people working for me, I just couldn’t do this anymore, and I really felt like I needed to be free and do music, not having to worry about business plans or time schedules. I just wanted to do what I felt, and I think it’s the right decision.
But as a label boss, couldn’t you have altered the direction of the label?
Absolutely, but of course I was working with a partner and this is what a partnership becomes after twelve years, everyone has a different vision. This is actually what happened. I still love all my Mobilee people, and my artists, and everyone who worked for me.
Anja Shneider at Origins X at 1925. Photo courtesy of CairoZoom
And what about your new label Sous, how is the aesthetic and direction different than
Actually it’s not different, because I’m not changing. I’m still the same Anja Schneider that I was before and I don’t think it would be wise to completely shift. The only change I want is to give myself complete freedom and to do things by myself, exactly the way I want them, without a big company behind me. That’s the only difference.
In your interview with XLR8R, you mentioned how “the more one delves into the music business, the more they get away from music,” (laughs) and that was one of the reasons behind your departure from Mobilee. Does that entail shifting your sound?
I have so many friends who started their label from passion like I did, and then suddenly you have a manager for this and you have a manger for this and soon you have a manager to check your music, check your demos. Hello! What the fuck?! This is why we did this. And this was the main reason.
Have you heard about Resident Advisor cancelling their top DJs poll?
Of course, I heard about the cancellation and I love it! Since the beginning of my career, I’ve always hated polls, it was a really wise decision. People need to listen by themselves and find out what they actually like.
Do you think this will change the scene?
Resident Advisor can’t change the scene even if they wanted to. It created a scene that had the people that weren’t that into this music and its culture. Some people look at Resident Advisor, and they probably didn’t have a clue who the first 10 DJs are. Maybe they just went there because they thought it was cool.
How have your experiences been while playing in Egypt?
I really loved it actually, it was really crazy.