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On Cue: Anja Schneider

On Cue is our flagship mix series, celebrating the pivotal DJs and producers whose influence has shaped the world of electronic music, both in their local scenes and beyond. This week, DJ Mag talks to Anja Schneider about the need for new challenges, why her heart remains in the underground, and the journey ahead for her imprint, Sous Music, all accompanied by an hour of euphoric, melodic techno

When DJ Mag speaks with Anja Schneider, it’s at the very end of another huge summer, with festivals and sun-soaked clubbing destinations closing the doors on their well-trodden dancefloors for another year. As well as playing various club gigs in much-loved techno havens like Berlin and Ibiza, she’s also performed at huge festivals like Ultra in Miami this year, as well as Brunch In The Park, Amsterdam’s Loveland, and the Electric Island Labour Day finale alongside her peers Adriatique and Chris Leibing. 

“My summer has been busy - but amazing,” she tells us. “I’m not someone who always longs for summer and wishes it never leaves, as I love the winter months when the darkness and cold comes. It’s always nice to get back into those underground, sweaty clubs - I still need them as much as some Vitamin D.”

Affectionately, and accurately, dubbed as “the perpetual motion machine”, the DJ, producer, broadcaster and label boss has been an integral figure in the techno scene for over two decades, moving to Berlin in 1994 where she began working at Kiss FM and collaborating with the likes of Ellen Allien way back when. 

Schneider began to broadcast with Radio Fritz in 2000, where she would host a radio show, Dance Under The Blue Moon, until 2017, featuring guests like Booka Shade, Luciano and M.A.N.D.Y. She also began producing in the early 2000’s, and launched the highly-successful Mobilee records imprint in 2006 with early releases from Sebo K, Pan-Pot and Exercise One.

It was in 2017, when she left Radio Fritz, that Schneider made another of her most decisive career choices - to step down from the imprint she had founded. “I need creative re-charge and new challenges,” she says, explaining how the decision to leave Mobilee was centered on her desire to focus on making music again. “I had to find my musical roots and just wanted to start from scratch, with no other influences or responsibilities.”

“Mobilee, for me, was too big of a brand and it was growing so fast,” she continues. “I guess it just wasn’t what I wanted anymore. I worked with amazing artists over the years, and our team was the best, but it was too much pressure for me and too business focussed.”

Her own productions and remixes have, of course, been released on Mobilee over the years, the most recent being her groove-infused and bleep techno two-tracker, ‘Funk That’. She’s also remixed tracks on Darius Syrossian’s Do Not Sleep and Nicole Moudaber’s MOOD imprint. When it's come to releasing music from other artists, she gave an early platform the likes of Maya Jane Coles and Solomun on Mobilee sub-label, Leena Music. The drive to continue delivering intelligent and forward-thinking dance music is something Schneider has maintained throughout her career, and her departure from the label penned a new chapter and the launch of a new project, Sous Music.

Named after her mother and intended as a space to find her place in music again, Schneider designed Sous Music to explore the experiences of her career, and showcase her deep-rooted knowledge in underground music. In November 2017, the producer’s nine-track ‘SoMe’ album set the precedent for the platform, paving the way for a creative and intimate new direction. “The album was already in the making long before it came out,” Schneider says on the correlation between launching the imprint and releasing her full-length debut. “I stepped away from any rules and pressure and could do whatever I wanted, I thought this would be a great way to kick-start Sous.”

“It was what I needed to find: a new sense of creativity," she adds. "Musically it wasn’t completely different, because you can’t change your style, but it was a fresh start which triggered a lot of new ideas - which is all I felt I needed.” 

The label has since put out EPs like ‘Approaching Land’ from UK techno upstart Billy Turner, Madben’s ‘Landscape’, and Markus Suckut’s trippy two-tracker ‘6AM’. Schneider explains that picking artists for her labels is a process based on instinct and how an artist’s music makes her feel. “It’s the same as it always has been - music and artists that catch my attention and touch me with their productions,” she says. “Billy Turner is one of those outstanding artists, along with Madben and Suckut, and also Asio (aka R-Play). They’re interesting for me musically and are lovely people, but their own, personal interpretations of techno is what I love.”

Schneider’s passion for supporting talent comes from fully understanding the industry from the bottom to the very top. Early in her career, Schneider was a resident at Berlin’s prestigious Watergate club for almost two years, and regularly performed at the city’s WMF club before its untimely closure in 2010. She proclaims herself as a “club girl”, and her experiences on the underground dancefloors have contributed to her work creatively, but also ignited a passion for supporting not only lesser-known artists, but smaller clubs and venues. “That’s where I belong and where I come from,” she tells us. “They are a huge focus for me, and coming into winter now they all have killer line-ups throughout the dark nights.”

“It’s a place you can go every weekend and lose yourself," she says. "Where you know there will always be good music and you can learn and develop in so many ways. It’s a shame that the majority of clubs don’t take a great deal of risks anymore, and the club business seems to always be about the number of ticket sales. I know we all have to make money to stay in business, but the scene needs to focus on discovering new talent and the future.”

Her position in club culture as a professional has also meant Schneider has seen the scene develop and grow in many respects. Being a female titan in a male-dominated industry, she says she’s excited by the way the landscape is shifting, and how the gender-imbalance has finally started to show signs of changing. “I think that 2018 and 2019 were the year of the women,” she says. “Women are playing a ton of headline slots, running labels, doing radio shows and selling tons of records - that in itself is great.”

“I respect every woman in this business because I know how hard it is," she adds. "I think we still always have to work harder than any man in the industry. We have to do more to prove ourselves equal and receive a lot more criticism for it, especially if we do well. There is always going to be a more male-dominated vibe with this industry - but that gap is closing, and closing fast, which is only ever a good thing.”

Continuing to present herself as not just a forward-thinking DJ and producer, but as a label owner dedicated to showcasing new talent from the underground circuit, Schneider shares that Sous have a number of projects in the pipeline. With a minimal EP from the aforementioned Asio due later this month, there will also be a release from Barcelona-based artists Angioma, and a remix for one of Schneider’s “all-time favourite artists”, Ejeca.

Anja Schneider’s On Cue mix features tracks from Special Request, Sous affiliate Fort Romeau and Cromby. Weaving in and out of hypnotic synth and melodic techno soundscapes for the first part, the intensity builds with acid lines and euphoric, house-infused keys and vocal work in the latter.

Special Request ‘Arse End Of The Moon’
Fort Romeau ‘Dweller On The Threshold’
Cromby ‘Cruising’
Blue Veil ‘We Live Inside A Dream’
Itay Dailes ‘The New Acid’
Elisa Bee ‘Absorption’
Chris Liebing & Charlotte de Witte ‘Liquid Slow’
Cromby ‘Gigolo’
Jacques Greene & Cadence Weapon ‘Night Service (Fort Romeau Remix)
Deetron ‘Photon (Gerd Janson DJ Version)’
Romare ‘Gone’

Anja Schneider will play at the Beaverworks in Leeds on Halloween alongside Mafalda and Tom Trago, before performing at EGG in London on the 2nd November with Francesca Lombardo and Kyle E.

Want more? Check out our On Cue mixes with Nightwave and SPFDJ.

Amy Fielding is DJ Mag's digital staff writer. Follow here on twitter here @amebbbb.