We are all connected

A talk with South African producer and DJ Lee Ann Roberts.

In conversation with Lee Ann Roberts. From her duality between making music and managing her label NowNow Records to some considerations about the production process and insights into her past, as well as exciting future projects like her second label night at ADE this year in October.  She’s a pioneer in the electronic music scene with a strong driving force behind her evolution.

Listen to Soundscapes vol.143, curated by Lee Ann Roberts

Looking back at your discography, I noticed a common feature in your EPs and albums, especially in “Feel”, “March of the White Fireflies” and “Alter Ego”. All of these are made of one track and three remixes of the same track. Is this a deliberate choice or a happenstance?

They were all deliberate, I feel the remixers always add a special touch and I wanted to have artists on the label who I align with and who I am inspired by. 

In the film industry there is a school of thought that suggests that 90 minutes is the perfect duration for a movie. Is there a perfect duration for a track in electronic music as well in your opinion?

I guess it depends on the way you prefer to arrange or even play, for instance I will only play parts of tracks , nowadays I see the track’s durations getting smaller and smaller especially in the Hard Techno genre. But I think 5-6 mins is a good roundoff. 

With the establishment of your label NowNow Records following the years of the pandemic, you have taken on the role of a producer alongside your DJ career. Recently, you released “Enter The Trip”, the latest EP by the English artist Danielle Ciuro. Could you tell us about the production process involved? Is the satisfaction you feel when concluding a set is the same as when you contribute to the development of artists on your label, like Danielle?

I was producing way before the pandemic but yes afterwards when shows got underway i have been managing them simultaneously. The way I approach remixes is to really listen to the track in the background for a few days and let it sink in and then I start to compose in my mind and decide which parts I want to use and from once I have those in ableton I start with drums and built it into a full arrangement from there. Totally, I feel great satisfaction to be able to give artists a platform to be able to share their music and the idea for the NowNow shows is to be able to share this with them too and have them on the lineups. It really gives me a feeling I can’t express, I’m just very passionate about creating my NowNow community and giving artists a chance to express their art. 

This year, on international Women’s Day, you were part of “Women Life Freedom”. It’s a compilation curated by Deestricted and Aida Arko aimed at raising funds and awareness about the situation in Iran and the everyday struggles faced by local women. Several months have passed since the project’s release. What have been the achieved results so far? Do you believe in the transformative power of music and its potential impact on political situations like that in Iran? 

I definitely think the power of music can make a huge impact. Music has been a powerful tool for creating awareness and influencing political situations. While music can certainly play a role in creating awareness, its ability to bring about immediate change is often limited. But I feel every bit helps to get one step closer.

Based on your experience, can you tell us something about the African techno scene?

The techno scene back home is very small, it was much bigger back in the mid 2000’s but is very dynamic and growing a little more now. I was going home once a year and was playing shows before the pandemic and then i felt most of the scene crashed after and now slowly getting back to their feet. I see some of my fellow peers have been there this year which makes me happy to see as I feel there is more of demand now & the kids want techno :)

A non-touristy place in South Africa that we absolutely must visit?

The Wilderness or Coffee Bay, Transkei is a must! 

You’ve played twice in Turin at Azimut club for the Genau parties. What kind of relationship do you have with the organization? And do you have a specific connection to Italy?

I absolutely love Matteo & Christine from Genau Turin who run their nights at Azimut, they are the most beautiful humans ever and good friends. Yes I do, I am half Italian, my gran was from Florence.

In the interview with Numero Netherlands in March, you mentioned: “I think there’s kind of a stigma in the techno scene of girls that were models. I’ve tried to hide my past, although I feel like I shouldn’t have because I was a successful model, and it got me to where I am today”. Could you further describe the stigmas, the issues or the misconceptions that exist in the techno music scene for models who also want to pursue a career as DJs?

I just feel that women who were or are models are not taken seriously in the techno scene, I mean are people born with only one talent? No! People can have many talents. Why can’t you be a good dj or producer if you were a model doesn’t make any sense. As much as people think modeling is sitting looking cute, not everyone can actually be a model no matter how they look. It’s not easy & It takes lots of discipline and real skills, it’s not as “easy” as it looks, that’s for sure. It’s also a form of art and I just feel people get judged in this scene and usually by people who have no clue about anything as usual.  I actually saw today on a post of another artist and the comments were appalling saying just a model and fake dj and all this other hate all because she looks good in the video. It’s shocking & disgusting. 

Throughout your DJ career you have explored various musical genres, from psytrance to minimal techno and to hard and acid techno. Were these transitions gradual due to influences or specific events that led to your evolution? Do you feel you have found your definitive style?

I started out playing and producing minimal but it transitioned pretty quickly into hard techno, it was only a short phase back when I lived in LA right in the beginning. Psytrance has been a part of my life for many years so that will always be in my blood and isn’t going anywhere and I feel the same with acid , it’s my signature you will rarely find a track I produce which does not have 303 line. 

Next month you will release a track on the second V/A on your label NowNow Records along with other 15 artists (Sina XX, Part Time Killer, Drazzit, Vizionn, just to name a few). Driving basslines, pounding beats and hypnotic melodies that come with us for over an hour and a half. It is an album characterized by heavenly tracks (“Sarasvati,” “Resurrection,” and “Faded in Paradise”) and infernal tracks (“Don’t Flirt With The Devil,” “Infernal,” and “Object Of My Desire”). Your track “We Are All Connected” is located right in the middle of the album. Is this due to a real connection that ties all the tracks together? What is the story behind your track?

Thats cool you spotted that as that wasn’t even intentional being right in the middle but i love that “connecting all the tracks together” The full phrase is we are all connected like tides around the world, in this humans, nature and the world are all interconnected as we all are in a way, which brings about a sense of unity and shared experiences between us all, connection is essential for our functioning on any level :)

After last year’s success, you are going to host your second label night in Amsterdam during the ADE in October. Besides you, there will be Felicie, Jacidorex, Jan Vercauteren and Nur jaber. The purpose that unites all of you is the same: to burn the dancefloor for over 8 hours. 

Yes I am so excited for our second ADE showcase, I cannot wait for this & im super happy with the lineup, it’s on fire :))

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