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On Anetha's debut album, the French techno titan celebrates feminine energy

Bordeaux-based DJ, producer, and label/talent agency owner Anetha is known for her inventive techno tracks and all-encompassing sets, but on her debut album, she’s put her voice front and centre for the first time. Claire Francis speaks to her about celebrating motherhood, platforming new artists, and her love of fashion

Girls are fascinating. Think about that statement for a minute and it’s difficult not to feel buoyed by its playful, positive message. Which, as it turns out, is exactly what Anetha had in mind. ‘Girls Are Fascinating’ is the title of the opening track from the French DJ and producer’s debut album ‘Mothearth’, released on her own Mama Told Ya label.

“The whole album is about femininity,” Anetha says over a Zoom call from her home in Bordeaux in south-west France. “I set the concept from the very beginning. I knew what I wanted to say, so that’s why the titles are so strong. I wanted to start the album with this sentence: ‘girls are fascinating’. The build up on the track with the synthesiser drone is super epic. It sets the tone properly.”

The idea came from “a weird TikTok video of lobsters”, she continues. “Someone was talking over the top of the video, repeating the word fascinating over and over again. The video is so cool and super trippy,” she says with a laugh. In conversation, Anetha frequently uses words like “trippy”, “insane” and “super cool” to describe her music and creative inspirations. Such descriptors are fitting for an artist who has made her name with a particular kind of colourful, oddball techno. The precision and intensity of her productions are always balanced by an imaginative, tongue-in-cheek attitude.

Photo of Anetha wearing a yellow parka and black wrap-around sunglasses against a white background

“Until now, I didn’t feel really comfortable to properly use my voice. But I had my daughter two-and-a-half years ago, and I wanted to say these things now, because now I have more confidence to talk about femininity.”

On ‘Mothearth’, she threads together elements of house, drum & bass, trance, electroclash and hardcore. ‘Whistleblower’ is bright, fast, percussive techno with obligatory whistle effects, and ‘Let Me D&Be’ wraps Anetha’s silky vocal around an irresistible drum & bass rhythm. Track titles like ‘Let’s Talk About Femininity’ and ‘Sorry For Being So Sexy’, meanwhile, make no bones about her message. On the latter, Anetha delivers the line “I’m sorry for being so sexy and funny/I don’t know what’s wrong with me” over driving trance techno.

“It’s cool to have a little bit of fun on top,” she says. “Sometimes when we are talking about toxic masculinity, these topics can feel too heavy. I wanted to also be able to be funny and ironic, so for tracks like ‘Sorry For Being So Sexy’, I wanted to make fun of it. One of my inspirations is Kittin, and she has done this before in her work, which I think is perfect. Until now, I didn’t really feel like I had the power. I didn’t feel really comfortable to properly use my voice. But I had my daughter two-and-a-half years ago, and I wanted to say these things now, because now I have more confidence to talk about femininity.”

‘Mothearth’ is in many ways a celebration of motherhood. The striking album artwork is both futuristic and organic, with Anetha pictured in a billowy, flesh-toned garment and surrounded by clusters of surreal embryonic forms. “The title of the album is based on the combination of mothers and earth. It was super hard for us to find a suitable artwork, so we used the artist Elmo Mistiaen, who works with AI. What I love about his work is that he created a futuristic artwork in a way that could also be conceivable in a physical realm. The outfit on the cover is like a second skin, like something you could sleep and work in! I really love this idea of it being like a second skin, and living in this kind of bubble.

“I was also thinking about the mother. I like the idea of the circle of life — the fecundity, the pain of birth, the power of the woman and the embryos. It’s kind of a utopian future ideal, to trust in the woman. But of course, it’s my face on the album cover, because we also wanted something that signified a pop album. In a way, it’s more of a pop album than simply a techno work.”

Photo of Anetha wearing a yellow parka and black wrap-around sunglasses against a white background

Anetha’s long-awaited album is the culmination of years of forward-thinking techno releases, beginning in 2015 with her debut EP ‘Ophiuchus’ on Berlin-based label Work Them. She’s since released a score of singles, EPs and remixes on labels like Anagram and OAKS, as well as collaborating with artists like Ryan James Ford and Alex Wilcox on her own Mama Told Ya imprint, which she founded in 2019.

In just five years, Mama Told Ya has established a solid foundation as an incubator for emerging talent. This is highlighted by the annual compilation albums released on the label, which showcase a variety of producers making innovative, boundary-pushing examples of contemporary techno. Given the label’s esteemed position, did she feel a sense of pressure to deliver an album that lived up to that reputation? “To be honest, it wasn’t easy to say to myself ‘I’m going to do an album’. Before, I wasn’t sure that I could do it. It felt too big for me. I thought I would start with an EP, but I realised that I had a lot of things to say, and the EP format was just too short. I also wanted to show all of the different types of music that I like and that I can play.”

With the label now reaching half a decade in business, what have been some of the highlights along the way? “Every release on the label is a highlight, because every time we learn something new. For me, I learn when we do collaborative tracks with the artists we sign. I learn from them, and they learn from me. And that’s exactly what I wanted when we started the label.

“I thought, in general in this industry, that everyone was super selfish, trying to build their own career without helping others. I wanted to break that pattern, and also to learn from the new generation. It goes both ways, and it’s really important. We are super happy that people understand the compilation albums and what we wanted to achieve with them — to not produce only techno, and to be more open-minded about electronic music. It worked, and so we’re happy!”

In addition to Mama Told Ya, Anetha also heads up the talent agency Mama Loves Ya, which she launched in 2020. The agency aims to nurture its family of emerging international artists, and is also committed to sustainability. They have implemented a number of initiatives, including carbon footprint offsets, “eco-riders” when touring, and an open calendar on the MLY website, designed to minimise travel distance between bookings.

Photo of Anetha wearing a black blazer and skirt against a white background

“I was also thinking about the mother. I like the idea of the circle of life — the fecundity, the pain of birth, the power of the woman and the embryos.”

“The main reason we created the agency was because we wanted a family vibe, based in France. I wanted my own ‘family’, to build something with people that are close to me. It’s a nicer way to tour, and to be more sustainable. Before Covid, I had a kind of burnout, because I was alone on tour too much. So I reconsidered the way I wanted to tour. That’s why we built the agency, because I didn’t want to tour by myself, or with tour managers that I didn’t know.”

On top of that, Anetha has just launched Fané.e, a new digital-only label. Releases follow a seasonal schedule, with the tracks available to download and stream for a finite period. “The deadlines for vinyl are too intense,” she says. “We were also questioning it from a sustainability perspective. At one point, we reduced our vinyl pressing quantities with Mama Told Ya, because it’s just not sustainable.

“We were receiving a lot of good tracks that we couldn’t release on Mama Told Ya because it was six months-plus to wait. With Fané.e, we are releasing on digital only, but we wanted to go further by making an expiration deadline on the digital releases. We thought about some kind of ‘seasonal’ tracks. It’s thinking about a digital track as a fruit or a vegetable, and to have a deadline for consuming your tracks! It’s also a bit trippy, but we always need these kinds of values. It’s important for me to have meaning and purpose when we are doing things.”

As well as DJing, producing and managing two labels and an agency, Anetha is an artist in the truest sense. Her practice is increasingly multidisciplinary, merging the realms of music with fashion, art and architecture, the latter being her profession before she made the move to music full-time. Recently, she has developed relationships with fashion designers including Marine Serre and Rombaut.

“I’ve always been really into fashion,” she says. “I think it shows a bit about who you are. The sustainability aspect is really important to me, and I wanted to think about that when I decided who to work with. “I became close to Marine Serre, and she gave me the chance to walk in one of her shows. I built a great relationship with her, and got more involved in Fashion Week events in Paris. I also really love designers like Ottolinger and their futuristic way of creating. Fashion is a part of me, and I like to share this on my social media.

“It’s also cool because it’s different from club culture. To be honest, I felt super nervous doing the catwalk show. On stage I’m not shy. But in general, I’m not super high in the fashion world! But it was a cool experience. For me, as an artist, it’s really important to go into a different world and meet different people.”

Photo of Anetha wearing a yellow parka and black wrap-around sunglasses against a white background

With the Mama Told Ya compilation albums, she has also ventured into the world of perfume. Each compilation has carried a theme, and comes accompanied by the release of a matching fragrance. “Mama Told Ya is very much about the memories of childhood. My cousin is a professional perfumer, and she said to me, ‘Tell me the perfume you like — which kind of memories, which layers you want, the one you want to stay all day on your skin’. “One of my strongest memories is of the ocean, so I wanted something, not salty exactly, but definitely of the sea. Also something related to techno, so something metallic, more strong. I love amber, and musk, and I wanted to create something unisex too.”

Anetha is thankful for the support of her family, which also includes her “new wave and electroclash inclined” parents. “The group my parents were always listening to was The Cure,” she says. “I also adore The Cure, ‘A Forest’ is the track that I think I love the most, and my dad does too. They had a lot of parties when I was young, and when I was asleep in the house at night I could hear all the music they played, like Kraftwerk, Fatboy Slim, Le Tigre, Gossip... I am super lucky they had good taste.

“When I decided to pursue music, I already had my architect degree, but they always pushed and encouraged me to do music. At the beginning, I didn’t really see the link between architecture and music. But when I started to produce, I felt the connection. I found that for me, when constructing a track, less is more. So the silence is just as important. And it’s the same in architecture — I don’t know exactly how you say it in English, but the anti-space, the invisible stuff, is just as important. “Also, when I play in a venue that is Brutalist, or full of concrete, I’m obsessed. The Stone Techno festival in Essen, Germany is like an old-school industrial site. All those big concrete and steel structures... it’s amazing. I think it’s a UNESCO site. It’s just insane.”

In many ways, Mama Told Ya and Mama Loves Ya have enabled Anetha to highlight the current health of the French techno scene. She’s watched it go from strength to strength in recent years, and is proud to be able to platform up-and-coming artists and offer them the support that was sometimes lacking when she was starting out herself. “Because I wasn’t from Berlin or London, it was difficult for me in the beginning. At that time in France the techno scene wasn’t so well-known. It didn’t feel like there was a community in France, and I wanted to build one. “Of course, I had some help, for example from Spencer Parker. He was the first one to release my music, and it helped my career a lot. I was super grateful that he put his trust in me. Later in my career I had a lot of other artists that helped me, like Amelie Lens and Kobosil, and everyone that gave me the chance to play at their label nights.”

Photo of Anetha DJing in a dark industrial space

“At the beginning, I didn’t really see the link between architecture and music. But when I started to produce, I felt the connection.”

Does she think now it’s easier to make it as a French artist, without having to relocate internationally? “The scene here is growing super fast. You can see that hard techno is really popping — there are a lot of artists from France that are super famous now. I Hate Models, Nico Moreno, they’re huge now. And they built their careers by themselves, which is cool to see. They didn’t have to move to other cities to make it happen, which is a bit different from when I started out.”

When DJ Mag is speaking to Anetha, she has just spent the weekend travelling and kicking off the tour in support of her new album. “On Friday, I was playing in Rome in Rashõmon Club, and it was super good. And on Saturday, we did a sold-out Mama Told Ya showcase in Utrecht at WAS, one of the best clubs there. It was amazing.” From now until well into the summer months, she’ll be on the road playing a host of album tour dates as well as festivals including Time Warp, Nuits Sonores, Sonar, Awakenings and Stone Techno.

Right now though, you can sense that she’s happy to be home in Bordeaux, where she lives close to her extended family. As we wrap up the call, we ask for a recommendation — for first-time visitors to the city, what are a couple of must-see things? “In the city, you have to go to Le Base Sous-Marine. It’s a sub-marine basement from the war, and now they do exhibitions inside. It’s amazing. A friend told me that you can visit the roof now too and it’s full of new ecosystems, with little fish everywhere. I want to go there, I haven’t seen it yet, actually.

“And definitely go to the beach! It’s not far, and those beaches are really huge and not so packed with people. The woods and forests around are all pine, and it’s really cool, because there are these corridors through the trees, and it smells super good. It’s beautiful.”