TIP121 – DJ Anna
When we think of Brazilian music, Bossa Nova and Samba instantly spring to mind. However, it also plays host to many regional musical styles such as Tropicalia, Pagode, Frevo and Brega, to name a few. Growing up in this melting pot of musical influences, not to mention cultural diversity has borne DJs like Drum‘n’Bass legend DJ Marky as well as DJ Patife, Gui Boratto, Fulguk and Wehbba. DJ Anna is cut from that illustrious cloth, rocking crowds in her native land since she was 15 years old, she is truly a DJs DJ. After temporarily moving to Europe in 2008, things quickly progressed with tours across the continent and beyond. She also found time to dabble in the studio making an energetic and deep hybrid of Techno and Tech House. Now signed to some of the best labels around, including Tronic, Kraftek and Toolroom, DJ Anna is embarking on a new tour taking in Dubai, India, Ukraine and England. We were fortunate enough to catch her in India to talk about her career, her take on the techno scene and the tour.
Hi Anna, wonderful to meet you, how are you today? Do big tours make you nervous?
I’m great, thanks! I don’t get nervous, but maybe a little anxious, especially if the tour goes through really different places I’ve never been before.
Can you tell us a little about the tour, where you’re going and where you are particularly excited about playing?
I’m going to India (Mumbai and New Delhi), Dubai, UK, Ukraine, Spain, Mexico, Bolivia and Nicaragua. I was very excited to play in Dubai, I’ve always wanted to go there, and playing at an open-air club right by the ocean was crazy good!
Mid-February sees you play in UK, at Factory Studios in Bristol, a venue I’ve played at myself. Will this be your first trip to the UK?
Professionally, yes. I’ve been pretty excited waiting for this party, I’ve heard the previous ones were amazing and the UK is the source for most good music that is out there, in my opinion.
You’ve certainly reached the upper echelons of the techno world now Anna, how has the scene changed in the last 12 years for you?
I believe techno has gone through a lot of changes in the past decade – it has definitely slowed down in terms of bpms, incorporated a lot of elements from many different kinds of music and became more popular overall. I can only see it evolving and I embrace the challenge of evolving together with it, I’m very open-minded musically and I’m also very motivated with how things are going.
Touring, of course, is pretty hard on the mind & body. How do you find time to relax and unwind? What do you do to de-stress? I understand you’re a good cook…
It is really hard indeed. I’m replying to this interview sitting in my hotel in India. I’ve just come down with a flu virus and been struck by a major bout of jet lag. This trip in particular has been really tough, so something that really helps to keep me going is practicing meditation, I do it twice a day for about 20 minutes and after that you feel brand new, like after a long night’s sleep. As for cooking, I did develop some skills while I was living in Europe a few years ago, but I have been a little too busy to keep doing it regularly at the moment.
Having spent so much time touring now, do you ever feel disconnected from your family and friends? How do you overcome these unique challenges?
Yes, I feel a little disconnected sometimes, especially from my family that lives upstate in Sao Paulo, I rarely get to visit them. I also just got a new dog and it really hurts being away from him. I keep asking my husband to send me pictures of him to look at while I’m travelling, but I’m not complaining, I’ve worked hard all my life to get to where I am today and sometimes we have to adapt and make some choices that might not be so easy to make. We can’t have it our way all of the time.
You started DJing at 14 years old in your father’s club – I understand it happened because you didn’t like what the DJ was playing! Was that the first time behind the decks or had you learned to mix already? What happened to the DJ? He must have been pretty mad being kicked off the decks!
Before I started playing I practiced a lot, I didn’t start in the club the very next day though. The DJ was indeed fired and he didn’t like me very much after that, but he was being lazy and always playing the same things over and over, in the same order even. It started to get boring, people started to complain as well.
I’ve read your influences include DJs like Richie Hawtin and Sven Vath, but what about Brazilian music? I expect you were around a lot of different sounds at your dad’s place. Weren’t you a fan of DJ Marky at one point?
DJ Marky was the first DJ that caught my attention and brought me into electronic music. For about a year or so I was just playing Brazilian music, only after that I started playing electronic music. Marky would come often to my father’s club to perform, around 2001 and I was there all night in front of the DJ booth checking out what he was doing. To this day I still think he’s the best DJ in the world. I even played Drum’N’Bass because of him for a while. Thankfully, today we are friends and we get to hang out sometimes.
What was Sao Paolo like as a child? How much exposure to dance music did you get there? How different is the Brazilian scene compared to Europe?
I used to live in a small city about 150km from Sao Paulo, so everything I knew about music came from my father’s club. But I used to travel with him to buy records in Sao Paulo every week and he would listen to everything – Techno, House, even commercial music – he used to buy a ton of records. When I turned 16 I started to travel to Sao Paulo for some electronic music parties and then I discovered some other styles and different genres.
Are there any artists who are currently exciting you musically?
Disclousure of course, Rudimental, Rosco Sledge, Ten Walls, Paul C & Paolo Martini, Julian Jeweil, to name a few…
If you were a travel consultant, where in the city would you advise me to go – the best bars, clubs and restaurants?
Sao Paulo is really full of options, I think the best clubs in my opinion would be D-Edge, Clash, Disco, Lions, we also love to eat sushi at ‘Kosushi’, burgers at ‘Meat’, there’s just too many places to mention!
Let’s fast forward to 2008 and the move to Europe. I’ve interviewed a few South Americans who made that journey, what was your motivation?
My boyfriend moved to Europe and he invited me to join him. It was very hard for us to be apart so often, so eventually I decided to make the move. It would be good for both our relationship and for my career as well.
How was it those first few months fitting in with a new culture and people? I understand you were quite a shy person in those early days?
It was complicated, particularly due to the bureaucratic visa process. Nobody spoke English, not even our lawyer and the people where we used to live were more introspective and not very welcoming. It was tough, but after a few months I was already getting into it and loving our life style. I travelled all over Europe, it was a lot of fun!
Shortly after arriving you played some gigs following some tracks you had released, You’re now signed to some seminal dance music labels. Your tracks pretty much sum you up as a DJ, how hard was it at the beginning to make the computer recreate the sounds in your head?
In the beginning I didn’t have many ideas, I was just sitting there trying to make something decent, studying synths and all of that, but I’m lucky enough to have a husband who is a music production genius, he taught me everything that I know, so my learning curve was shorter and I didn’t have to find it all on my own, I’ve always had him to guide me through this process.
What was that studio like? What software/hardware did you use?
I was mostly working just on Ableton Live on my laptop, at home, with headphones, nothing else. But once I started getting some decent results, I’d take those projects to the studio where my husband used to work, which was a big room with proper monitors, a few synths like the Access Virus, the Roland JX-3P, and loads of plug-ins from UAD, Soundtoys, etc…
There’s a point in everyone’s musical development when you a have a blinding flash of brilliance and it seems to suddenly all make sense. What was yours and how did it make your productions suddenly much better?
I think that eventually you manage to find “your sound” after a lot of practicing and experimenting. It just comes naturally. Listening to my older productions, I don’t think they are too far from what I’m doing today, only my current ones became more polished and technically much better. It wasn’t really a sudden thing – it was a gradual process for me.
You’re remix of “Sexus” continues to do well. How does your workflow and production style alter when you work on remix projects?
Working on remixes is much easier for me because I just kind of build things on my own until I run out of ideas and get stuck. Then I dig into the original parts and viola… the track is done! I just love making remixes, it’s a lot of fun and “Sexus” had many amazing parts so I had a great time working on it.
Any new tracks set for release soon?
“Six Figures” on Kraftek is my next one. I also have a remix coming on Great Stuff and a few other goodies that I’ll be announcing pretty soon.
You’ve kindly put a mix together for us at This is Progressive, would you like to explain the story behind it?
This mix was recorded live at the D-Edge Club in Sao Paulo, one of the most popular clubs in Brazil. It was an amazing night, right after Christmas. The vibe was great and I played from 5am until 8am, nobody wanted to leave, it was definitely a night to remember!
Finally, once this tour is over, what does the rest of the year hold in store?
I have another tour in July/August, a lot of gigs in Brazil in between, and I’m planning to release my first album in the second half of the year, if it all works out well :)