Member Spotlight #32: Anja Schneider
DJ, producer, radio broadcaster, label boss, tireless creative force and mentor
Anja Schneider would likely reject a term as corporate and overused as “multi-hyphenate”, but that is indeed what this Berlin-based DJ, label owner, radio broadcaster, and force in the house music community is. When she’s not spinning at clubs in Berlin and festivals across Europe, Anja leads Sous Music (the label she owns and founded), and hosts her own radio show, Club Room. For our May Member Spotlight series, shesaid.so spoke with Anja about how she balances her numerous projects, her love of Nina Hagen, and why the house music scene should be more inclusive.
shesaid.so: You are a label owner, radio personality, and a DJ in your own right. How do you balance these different projects, and what challenges do you face when switching from role to role?
AS: The biggest challenge right now is to adjust to going back to travelling. Of course touring is still impossible because of the pandemic, but I have had the opportunity to travel around Germany to perform some live streams for example to celebrate the 6th anniversary of Techno ist Familiensache parties at the famous Harry Klein club in Munich and even this requires an energy I was not used to. It fees so strange to all of a sudden be studying a travel itinerary, sitting on a train for five hours and being awake beyond 10pm! After more than one year of a break it feel so strange to be doing things I did every weekend for years and years.
As far as my label, radio and DJ’ing go, for me everything comes together and I dont see each aspect as a different task or job.
In fact I would go so far as to say that having multiple projects makes me better at each part of my career.
Running a boutique label such as Sous Music helps me to stay very focused on the music I make and sign. We have to work hard for all the attention we get, and this starts with delivering consistently high quality music and maintaining an interesting and unpredictable body of work. My radio show, which I have been doing weekly for twenty years in one form or another, is perfect for keeping me connected with new talent and allows me to express the energy and enthusiasm I have for new music and new artists. The same is true with DJ’ing but I have a much wider scope to select different types of music on the radio, whereas when it comes to the club it’s all about making people dance. Which is also something I am always excited for. Especially now when we have been without this experience for so long. I miss being in clubs and hearing loud music, so much same is for DJ’ing . I cannot say which is my favourite. So as you can see, it all combines together organically and I am happy that I have the variety which each role brings while following my biggest passion, which has always been music.
shesaid.so: What do you consider some of your greatest career achievements, and why?
AS: Oh wow. I really don’t like to talk about my career. It’s not my style to talk about myself but what I am happy to say it that I feel blessed to do what I love and to have the opportunity to make a life out of it. It was never a planned thing and I am still working with a creative freedom and not to any business or marketing plans. Of course I had some ups and downs over the past twenty years and good things and bad things have happened in all this time, but I am happy that I never felt I had to adjust myself away from what came naturally and that I have remained authentic. I am thankful that I have had the chance to develop my music career to my own vision and that I am happy to still have the energy to continue this journey.
shesaid.so: What about the Berlin music scene inspires you? Is there anything about it that you would like to see change?
AS: I would say that Berlin’s creative scene in general is still very inspiring to me. It was always a city for creative people because you could make an easy living here and this meant the city was full of a special energy. Berlin is a place where crazy ideas become a reality and it’s home to a collection of people who could only exist in the unique space that they and those that came before them have created here.
Considering music specifically, there was always a special excitement in the city with new sounds, new styles, new venues etc. and this has made the music scene incredibly vibrant. The truth is that the freedoms and possibility that make this energy possible are becoming more and more under threat by the process of gentrification, which seems to be spreading more and more each year. I truly hope that Berlin can keep its special vibe even with this pressure on the spaces and people which are the centre of its creativity.
shesaid.so: How would you like to make an impact on the music industry, one that is unique to you?
AS: I do not think this is unique to me because I hear it more and more from those of my generation,
but I do feel strongly that there is a real need right now to bring the music industry, especially electronic music, back to some of the core values that were at the heart of the reason it existed in the first place.
I find the growing exclusiveness of the scene and the commercialisation of everything to be a total contradiction of the spirit from which house music was born. Our music is for everyone and this is fundamental to the growth and wellbeing of the scene. When I see the whole VIP thing, or people obsessing over image, or the cult of celebrity, or real issues over equality, diversity and inclusion it makes me very sad to wonder where it all went wrong. It would make me very happy if I could encourage people to think of these things more and make keeping our scene real a priority.
shesaid.so: Which women in the music industry are you inspired by, and why?
AS: I am inspired by the work and success of many women, both those who came before me and those who I see breaking down barriers now, but my biggest personal inspiration is Nina Hagen. Nina is a German singer, songwriter and actress who rose to prominence during the punk and new wave movements in the late 1970's and early 1980's. She did it all her own way with her own very unique theatrical style. She was strong enough to break down stereotypes and go against all the rules at a time when this was a much bigger challenge for a woman in the entertainment business than it would be where we are now, forty–fifty years later.