From: Ghent, Belgium
DJ style: “Techno, acid and related.”
Best known for: “Tomorrowland 2018 Main Stage/New Form live streams in lockdown.”
Fave tune of 2021: “WNDRLST ‘Vertigo’.”
Rising star DJ/producer of 2021: “Indira Paganotto.”
Charlotte de Witte is one of the most recognisable techno DJs on the planet, and in ordinary times plays hundreds of gigs a year. Rather than revelling in time off during the pandemic, though, she kept on working to expand and evolve her KNTXT empire.
This year alone there have been two new solo EPs on the label, a chart-topping remix with Enrico Sangiuliano, a historic live stream from the Italian Formula 1 race track Autodromo Internazionale del Mugello (where she also got to drive around in a Ferrari), various themed playlist hook-ups with Apple Music, and even a boutique clothing range in collaboration with Belgian activewear brand 42I54. She also briefly opened up the label for demo submissions as part of her unspoken mission to diversify techno.
“I think this year was a good opportunity to try and explore other things,” Charlotte says with a smile over Zoom. “Obviously, I couldn’t go on tours, and didn’t have so many shows, so it was really nice to stretch my arms and see what other things I could get involved with.” At this point, the Belgian shouts out the behind-the-scenes team who help bring her ideas to life. She says she gets as creative as possible with them and sees no real limits as to what can be done. “Although the music will always be the main focus, it doesn’t have to be the only focus.”
This year, that music took on a certain trance element, with her more recent ‘Asura’ EP being lit up by psychedelic influences that take her back to her roots. As a youngster, Charlotte would go to all manner of acid, hardcore and trance raves, and when she first started DJing she was all about electro. She remembers those experiences fondly, and that’s why their influence has crept into her work this year.
“My whole background is such a variety of electronic music that revolves around techno, so for me, it’s really nice to sometimes be in touch with where I come from,” she says. “I don’t think anyone making music should necessarily limit themselves because something is considered not techno enough. What the hell does that mean anyway? If you just feel like doing something, I think you should. It’s interesting to sometimes reach out to another type of electronic music that shows where you come from and show that storyline a bit.”
Her biggest tune this year was the remix of ‘Age Of Love’ by Age of Love, produced with Enrico Sangiuliano. “It’s an homage,” she says, mindful of certain corners of the internet who claim Charlotte shouldn’t have touched such a classic because it cannot be bettered. “We were just having fun in lockdown. We didn’t want to improve anything, we just wanted to pay respect with a contemporary tribute to that remix.”
After winning a DJ competition 11 years ago, aged just 16, life has been pretty much non-stop for the Ghent-born artist. She has gone from being a “next-gen” DJ Mag cover star in 2017 to now winning the Alternative Top 100 DJs poll for the second year in a row.
This award is not the only good news Charlotte has had in the last 12 months. At the end of 2020, she got engaged to Italian DJ and producer Enrico Sangiuliano. “It’s not the easiest job to combine with any type of social life,” she explains. “I mean, you’re never synchronised with anyone since you’re always away at the weekend, so it’s very tough to maintain friendships or relationships. But it looks like now it has just worked out fine.”
The idea of a small wedding somewhere in the near future, followed by a bigger celebration down the line, is what appeals to Charlotte. But it might not quite match the scale of the upcoming KNTXT parties she has just announced, with the biggest ever set to take place in her hometown of Ghent at Flanders Expo, the former home of Belgium’s legendary I Love Techno event, in February 2022.
“I just love it all,” she says of what motivates her most, having already achieved so much at a young age. “Being with sweaty bodies in the club, feeling the music, travelling, trying local foods around the world. It’s just an insanely exciting adrenaline rush.” That said, one thing she did take from the last year was that she needs to make “better decisions” to preserve her physical and mental health and ensure career longevity. “Before, I would fly from the East Coast to the West Coast of the US on consecutive days. That’s just too demanding, it’s not humane.”
Over Charlotte’s shoulder in the background is a DJ bag, packed and ready for weekend gigs in France and then Switzerland. Unlike many high-level DJs, she still checks new music for herself, every single day of the week, and reloads her SD cards with whatever she finds. “I still love doing that, but what has become more difficult these days is actually going to the club myself and enjoying the music from the dancefloor.”
While that’s a pleasure she’s missing out on herself, it’s one she provides each and every weekend for fans all over the world.