“For me, a happy tune can also be a minor key tune,” says Virginia, talking about the quality she prizes most in music. “You hardly find any super-straight major lines in my tracks. There’s always a bit of a melancholic twist — that’s what touches me when I listen to other artists, instrumentals or vocals.”
That deep hit of emotion is something you can find in all of Virginia’s work, whether she’s hypnotising the dancefloor with a DJ set, delivering soulful vocals over a deep house cut, or making her own melodic songs. A long-time resident at Berlin’s Panorama Bar and a regular feature in booths all around the world, her 2016 album ‘Fierce For The Night’ was a genre-traversing gem, while her mesmeric voice elevated club tracks by Steffi such as ‘Yours’ and ‘Reasons’ to become the classics they are today. In 2019, a collaborative album with Steffi, ‘Work A Change’, found the duo exploring electro terrain, balancing futuristic soundscapes with expressive vocals, while last year, they remixed Josh Caffe’s ‘Do You Want To Take Me Home’ into a smouldering, small hours house anthem.
When DJ Mag talks to Virginia over Zoom, she’s in a buoyant mood. Wearing a top emblazoned with a swirl of tie-dye and a Carhartt beanie hat, she tells us how much she’s loving life in Portugal. Her and Steffi now live just outside Lisbon, and the more relaxed pace there is a counterpoint to nights playing the club circuit.
“We’re about 45 minutes from the city,” she says. “It’s one of the best decisions I’ve made. The people are so nice, so helpful; the country is beautiful, the food is good. The sea is rather cold, but we started taking some surf lessons. Do you surf? After a weekend of DJing, you go into the water and you have to be so on-point with everything. It’s really cleansing. You come out and you’re like, ‘Wow!’”
In the last year, Virginia has been away from home a lot, DJing in Brazil, Morocco and Colombia, as well as across much of Europe. Panorama Bar, though, is the club with which she is most often linked, and she’s quick to praise the Berlin institution.
“I’m very thankful for my residency there,” she says. “It’s an experience for everyone, right? There’re people coming from all over to experience something really special, and I guess that’s an energy that resonates.” Another event Virginia likes to play is the Twitch party in Belfast (“one of the places I love coming back to again and again”), though she’s fond of any promotion that puts effort and care into what they do. “When people try to make something that comes from the heart, with passion, you feel that,” says Virginia. “There’s a lot of places around where people create something nice, and a safe environment. It’s very important for everyone to feel welcome — to be inclusive and open.”
“It’s about finding your own way, not copying — something that hopefully makes your vocal lines or your timbre stand out a bit. I listen to a lot of different music, and the fusion of that makes my signature”
Born and raised in Munich, Virginia’s path into music was through her voice. Singing from a young age, she recognised she had a gift, and cultivated her art. Her sister took her clubbing, and it was through tracks like Yantra’s ‘Purple Strings’, Underworld’s ‘Born Slippy’ and Adonis’ ‘No Way Back’ that she got hooked on dance music. In the late ’90s, she began to perform guest vocals for various club producers, among them Tom Novy, Butch, Jam & Spoon and Abe Duque. After singing on the Steffi track ‘Reasons’, the duo made another tune together, ‘Yours’, which became a huge underground hit in 2011. But it almost never happened.
“Steffi had this really short snippet in her trash on the computer, and said to me, ‘I threw that away’. There was this one vocal line on there, and I was like, ‘Why is this in your trashcan? Give it to me!’ Since that moment, I don’t think she ever threw away anything else, any sketches. ‘Yours’ was the best, fastest, easiest thing ever. It was basically all done in two days, but the main creative process was maybe, for each of us, an hour or two.”
Citing artists such as Sade and Tracy Chapman as vocal inspirations, you can hear influences from R&B, house and classic soul in Virginia’s voice, though she’s sought to carve a niche and create a distinctive sound of her own. “It’s about finding your own way, not copying — something that hopefully makes your vocal lines or your timbre stand out a bit,” she says. “I listen to a lot of different music, and the fusion of that makes my signature.”
After working with so many other artists, Virginia went solo in 2013, producing a series of EPs for Ostgut Ton. The ‘Loch & Hill’ EP was mostly instrumental, a set of melodic cuts that included the Detroit stabs and tough drums of ‘Neurosis’ and the acid-dunked electro of the title track, with only ‘Tangish’ putting her voice upfront. The ‘My Fantasy’ EP followed, and indicated her gift for production was as sparkling as her abilities behind the microphone. “It’s always a compromise when you work with other people,” says Virginia. “I thought, ‘Okay, I’m going to do exactly as I want’. I have to say that Steffi encouraged me a lot, saying, ‘You know what, just do it, you have so many ideas’.”
‘Fierce For The Night’, Virginia’s debut album, was a co-production with Martyn, Dexter and Steffi, mining Virginia’s appreciation for all manner of styles, from freestyle electro-funk to Sade-esque quiet storm rhythms, via ravey breakbeats and classic house basslines. “For me, music is music. I don’t mind if it’s fast or slow, or hard or fast, as long as it touches me. The album is some of the electronic genres that we all love, but somehow they’re all glued together. It has a homogenous storyline that taps into all the different electronic genres that I love and are close to my heart.”
“I played a festival last year, and I was standing in front of, like, 15,000 people. That’s rather a lot of people! I treat them the same way as a club for maybe 150 or 300 people. Put all of your energy in there, and have passion about what you do”
During the pandemic, Virginia and Steffi built their own studio, Candy Mountain, near their home, and it’s the name of their new label and creative hub.
“For us the candies are the synths and drum machines, and also we’re situated on a mountain!” says Virginia. “Steffi was the first artist on our label with her album ‘The Red Hunter’. Since Ostgut Ton doesn’t exist anymore, we were looking for a new platform, and Candy Mountain is our new home.”
There are further releases planned for the label shortly, including an EP from Tracing Xircles and Steffi’s ‘The Red Hunter Live Versions’. A new record from Virginia, made in the studio, will also surface there. For now, DJing is Virginia’s principal focus, and it’s something she approaches in the same way whether it’s for a small club room or a heaving festival crowd.
“I always try to give my best, it doesn’t matter where it is, how full or how empty,” she says. “People make the effort to invite you, so present in the best possible way and make it a nice night for the people who really wanted to be there and made the effort to come out. I played a festival last year, and I was standing in front of, like, 15,000 people. That’s rather a lot of people! I treat them the same way as a club for maybe 150 or 300 people. Put all of your energy in there, and have passion about what you do.”
Listen to The Panorama Bar resident Virginia's Ward's On Cue mix below.
D D D. '1 2 3 4 (De Pompidou Mix)' (Compilation Pro-Zak Trax, Vol.)
Savvas Ysatis 'Bullwalk' (Archiv #08)
Steve Murphy 'Fade' (Breathe Normally
Deetron, Soulmate 'Tribe One' (Tribe One)
E.BYEE. 'Gotta Live' (Out Of Phase)
Trevor Rockcliffe 'InFlux (Part II)' (Influxed EP)
Isaiah 'The Journey' (Essentials EP)
DJ Savage 'Excuses' (Traxx 2000-2002)
DJ Savage 'Rejected' (Pleistocene Future 1)
Deniro 'MPC Tracks 2'(REFLEKT014)
Blue Hour 'Straight Up' (Arsenic)
DJ Sneak 'Love' (DJ Sneak Classics)
Trevor Rockcliffe 'The Groove' (Mentor Records)
Isaiah 'Go Get It' (Isaiah)
Love Strut 'Tenzella' (Snatch! Records)