You can next catch Anna Wall at Chase The Compass Presents WORKITOUT at Work Bar alongside Ceri, Coco Cole, NINJA and CTC DJs on 29th January. Free entry and details here.
Anna Wall likes pies—the figurative kind, as she has her fingers in so many. The 27-year-old multi-hyphenate Londoner is a DJ, a radio show producer and presenter, a nightclub music curator and promoter, an A&R girl, a radio plugger; plus she produces original tracks and gets commissioned to remix others.
The self-confessed “go-getter” has put together the long-awaited second installation of Needwant Records’ ‘TRAXX, Vol. 2: My House Is Your House’ compilation—a major step for Wall, for whom DJing was a bedroom hobby with a therapeutic component.
As a teenager, Wall spent months working and saving to buy a set of turntables. Coming home to her sister’s -- where she was living at the time -- armed with essentially obsolete musical equipment, Wall was flat broke but ecstatic.
At the same time, riddled with guilt at spending every penny she had — instigated by aforementioned sister—and determined to prove this wasn’t a flash-in-the-pan phase, Wall taught herself how to DJ.
“People say I talk a lot and I’m quite a busybody,” says a refreshed Wall on the Sunday evening of a weekend getaway in Kent. “My friends were amazed when I would start DJing and get really quiet. It would encompass me and take me to another world for hours. For them, it was brilliant.”
During her time at Newcastle University studying music journalism, Wall learned how to DJ on CDJs. She also took a 12-week production and mixing course called Cold Blend set up by Generator, one of the UK’s music development agencies. At this point Wall had become one of those people who is constantly subjecting their friends to listen to them DJ in the privacy of their own home.
These same friends encouraged her to take her sets out of the house and put her on a local line-up at the Newcastle club, World Headquarters. Realising other people enjoyed her DJing as much as she was enjoying herself, Wall was hooked.
To this day, if possible, Wall’s ideal DJ set-up includes two Technics 1210s and Pioneer CDJ-2000NXS or CDJ-900NXS so she can have access to all three formats: vinyl, CDs, and USB.
The Technics are a regular request on her rider, but that doesn’t mean she gets the workable set-up required for a clean set. “I take records to every set because some of my favourite tunes are old records,” says Wall, who has an impressive knowledge of music released in the ‘90s decade, as well as the seminal record labels of the time.
“There’s so much out there, you get lost with all the music. I use USBs but sometimes you forget what you’ve got. On vinyl, every record has a story. You remember buying it in whatever country. You spent a significant amount of money on it. It’s always going to be special to you.”
The combination of learning on turntables, getting her initial introduction via hip-hop and garage vinyl, and being a DJ first has made the art of DJing essential to Wall. The key factors of technical prowess and track selection—seemingly obvious, but becoming a lost skill in today’s world of producers masquerading as DJs—is what Wall is looking for from the DJs she experiences.
For a mixed compilation, however, the approach is slightly different. No stranger to podcasts and exclusive mixes for magazines, when it came to putting together ‘TRAXX, Vol. 2: My House Is Your House’, Wall drew more from her A&R label experience—something she does for Tough Luck Records—than her DJing expertise.
“I wanted it to mirror how I would create a set, but not in a nightclub, after midnight, having a few drinks,” says Wall of the mix. “These don’t have to be the tunes of the moment. It is retrospective in a way as some of the tracks are those we feel are significant of the ‘90s revival sound that was prominent last year. It’s more a case of pinpointing the artists and records with longevity.”
Wall has hit the nail on the head with ‘TRAXX, Vol. 2: My House Is Your House’. The mix starts suddenly but flows smoothly, placing the listener firmly in a mid-‘90s house space. The names are all current but the vibe is classic. Carrying a Danny Tenaglia or David Morales torch, Wall maintains a shuffling beat and rolling groove that ebbs and flows.
Half familiar tracks from Dusky’s frisky ‘Love Taking Over,’ HNNY’s playful ‘Kela,’ and Outboxx’s jumpy ‘Planet Love’ were A&R-ed by Wall. Half exclusives to the mix like Steve Huerta’s tough ‘RomComCrime,’ Evan Iff’s marching ‘Catch19’ and Death On the Balcony’s experimental ‘Lost For Words’ balance it all out nicely.
The first volume of this mix, 2013’s ‘TRAXX: The House That Garage Built’, was released when the deep house sound was just starting to make a comeback. That mix proved to be an insight into the future. Some of the artists—Disclosure, Breach—became chart-toppers and others—Dusky, George FitzGerald, HNNY — are proving their staying power.
Toying with making mixtapes using two cassette players when she was a kid, complete with the audible clicks of the “stop” button, Wall knows firsthand about the significance of having a selection of music that goes well together. When putting together a podcast or radio mix—of which she does many—the concern is less about longevity and more an exercise in creativity and experimentation. Wall might put in a sampled intro or throw in some untried tracks that she wouldn’t risk testing out on a peak-time dancefloor.
On her SoundCloud she has a series titled ‘The Bricks That Built My House’.
These collect the inspirations that make up the stepping-stones to her musical life, from old to new. Similarly, she is a contributor to the re-launched music selection site, Tune of the Day, where she joins a diverse cast of selectors. Wall exercises her far-reaching tastes to bring choice aural morsels to the public’s attention.
But Wall is just as comfortable behind the scenes. For Needwant’s sister signature brand, Future Disco, Wall first helped with their parties on the Sunset Terrace at Space in Ibiza, happening alongside Carl Cox’s The Revolution Unites. She both worked and DJed these events. She also co-produced the live radio show broadcast from that site and carried on the role into the winter months, eventually presenting the show after Future Disco/Needwant boss Sean Brosnan passed it on to her.
Shapes nightclub in London’s Hackney Wick asked Wall to curate a periodic night for them called Wanted. For this event, the first of which occurred last winter, the next this coming summer, Wall puts together the line-up as well as promoting the party—two of her specialties.
While she may have fingers in various pies, they all feed the same mouth: Wall’s experience with club and radio promotion led her to formally establishing her own Bricks PR company in the summer of 2014, specialising in just that area. “It gives you a great understanding and a healthy structure,” says Wall of being involved in both the business and creative side of music. “Being a DJ myself, I know what people might play by being there.
It’s amazing for me to be able to go to other DJs and say, ‘I think you’ll love this, it will work in your sets’. Incredible job satisfaction, sending someone a record and hearing it played at DC-10 at the closing party in Ibiza. Or hearing a track that you sent to a DJ that’s just played it on specialist radio on Radio 1.“
Somehow Wall also finds the time to produce original music and deliver remixes. Under the moniker cassé, a collaboration between Wall and Tom Bulwer, a remix of Jack Wickham’s ‘Adeja’ is set for release on Tough Luck Records. Wall’s own track, ‘Broken’, found its way onto tastemaker music discovery service, 22Tracks’ first compilation ‘Transfer Tracks’, a free download launched during Amsterdam Dance Event 2014.
Wall finds herself in exalted company on the collection, that includes both upcoming and well-known house producers from all over the globe, including personal favorites of hers: Soul Clap and Francis Inferno Orchestra.
“I made ‘Broken’ three years ago,” says Wall, who in addition to the expected house productions is also working on cross-genre material and on collaborations that are taking her in even more far-flung directions. “It wasn’t a time constraint for me, so I waited a while to put it out and it found a lovely home.
There is a lot of music I haven’t put out yet. For me, there’s no hurry to turn everything out at once. I’m still young-ish. I feel like sometimes people are under pressure to put out records regularly to keep up. I feel like I’d rather take time to perfect my craft.”
words: LILY MOAYERI // pic: NETTI HURLEY