Acts of Rebellion

A talk with Linn Elisabet.

Linn Elisabet is a Berlin-based producer, DJ, singer, and live performer. Led by their own ethereal vocals, raw broken beats, and immersive sound design, their contemporary and transgressive interpretation of techno strives to reimagine possibility and desire. With a classically trained past in cello and church choirs, it is a given where their reverberant soundscape has its roots. Linn Elisabet has released acclaimed works on labels such as ARTS, Tommy Four Seven’s label 47 and Unitas Multiplex, as well as their own imprint Acts of Rebellion. Named after their hi-fi-nerd father’s favorite stereo brand, DJ and producer Linn Elisabet talks with us about the importance of exploring identity through musical practice. They share with us their “palette of audial fantasy” in this diverse playlist.

Listen to Soundscapes vol.134, curated by Linn Elisabet.

What is your first memory with music? The first song you remember, the first instrument you played, the first concert you went to.

As a kid I lived in a small fishing village by the Swedish west coast. Living just by the ocean, we had these beautiful rock formations literally by our doorstep. One of them I claimed as my “singer’s rock”. I don’t remember what I was singing while standing there, probably ABBA, but I remember this rock as my first stage. Music was supposed to be my first name, as I was named after my hi-fi-nerd father’s favorite stereo brand. When I couldn’t sleep, he would rock me to Massive Attack’s Unfinished Sympathy playing from wooden Linn Katan speakers. Once I got older and he realised I was only listening to Smurf Hits, he took me to a record store and let me choose some CDs with “real music” to cultivate my taste. I remember choosing Avril Lavigne, Green Day, and a Cassie single with like ten remixes of Me & U… I also remember my mother dancing and singing in the living room to Destiny’s Child’s Survivor, embodying what I came to associate with a strong woman. She was the one who took me to open day at the local music school, where I held a cello for the first time… Those are some of my first strong memories with music.

What do you enjoy the most, live playing, DJ or recording in the studio?

Before I used to see myself more as a producer than a DJ, but now I feel like they pour into each other in a way that makes them inseparable. To me they’re different sides to the same process – giving and taking inspiration and energy from one another.

Was being a musician, an artist, and a producer something you always wanted to do?

Considering the singer’s-rock-story, I should say yes. However, I was shy and careful as a child, and I also suffered from severe stage fright. In choir and orchestra practice, I had to force myself to perform solos while everyone else seemed to gravitate towards the spotlight. I remember I was ashamed and even scared of my creative energy at times, so I resorted to hiding in the anonymity of the collective. That I’d become an artist one day was hard to predict back then. Eventually I found electronic music, which allowed me to start un-censoring those sides of myself that I was ashamed of. My stage fright is now dissolved because even if I DJ, I feel like I am one with the collective. The experience of a club night is something we all shape together – dancers as DJs. I always was, and always wanted to be, a musician. But being an artist wasn’t an obvious path for me.

I know you graduated last year with a Master of Arts Degree. Why is it so important for you to keep learning and studying?

Learning new things about the world and myself is one of my greatest joys. Although I think our current educational system needs to be reformed, I always enjoyed spending time in learning environments where my world view is challenged. Studying a Master’s or a PhD also offers the opportunity to contribute to the field of research. For me it is motivating to fill gaps of knowledge that might enrichen our society’s understanding of minorities. This was why I chose to research how gender-diverse musicians might explore identity through their musical practice.

I understand your masters was related to researching music as gender-affirming practice. Can you tell us more about how this has influenced your music?

The embodiment aspect of Music as Gender-affirming Practice is inherent to me. The euphoria I experience when musicking is manifesting itself through the relief of my constantly tense body relaxing. Resonating. Being freed for a moment. The music itself doesn’t necessarily have to do much with gender. But the tension does, and the music helps to relieve it.  Then there’s also this aspect of creating a fantasy and materialising it as reality for the world to interact with. Reaching for the impossible within, translating it into a world of sound that touches real bodies including my own on the dance floor. Highly inspired by Salomé Voegelin, I have come to sense sounds as an extended part of my body. If you ever have the chance to read her work please do, it was a game changer for me in the ways I experience music.  I feel all these notions are audible in the 47034 EP which was composed alongside my research. There’s no censorship in this music: just the purest reflection of myself being.

I believe the name for your record label Acts of Rebellion speaks by itself. But when and why was it born? Was there something in particular going on in your life that made you start your own label?

The fuse that lit the fire for Acts of Rebellion was one of many unprofessional experiences I’ve had in the industry. At this point creating a space that was free from discrimination and harassment to release my music in became a necessity.

By starting Acts of Rebellion, I could focus a hundred percent on the joy of making and releasing music and maintain full control of who I let into my creative sphere. Acts of Rebellion and everyone who have been involved so far have given me so much energy and love to keep composing from. It continues to remind me of how being a musician is supposed to be, and for that I am forever thankful.

What does it mean to be a producer? Do you still feel there is a bigger difficulty for women, non-binary people and dissidences to insert themselves in the music industry? Or do you think this gap has really changed?

Since I entered the industry, I can see how parts of it have improved for some groups of norm breakers, but the injustices are far from resolved across the board. With more conservative politics rising once again, I can’t say that I am not worried for the future. I think I speak for many saying that we get exhausted by this fight, and evidently such emotional labor takes away from our mental bandwidth to operate as musicians. Sometimes it feels like a relay, where we must take turns fighting for what we believe in, and then allow ourselves to recover for a while. Therefore, it is important that the fight is taken equally by those not directly affected by it, in any way they possibly can.

How is your music digging process? How do you consume and select the music for your sets and also the music that inspires you to create your own tracks?

Musically I can be considered a total drama queen. I like symphony-like music: grandiose, cinematic, full of conflicting emotions. The type of music that scores the part of the movie when you stand on top of a building screaming your heart out, the suspended moment of desire before a first kiss, or the moment of a protagonist’s “becoming”. Sometimes I find new music through artists and labels that I am following on Bandcamp, sometimes unexpectedly while in a store or watching a movie. I also find new music made by clients and students when mastering and teaching.  The music I engage with can be of any genre, and if I cannot find a way to blend it into my sets, I certainly take inspiration from it when producing. I make the music I wish that there was more of, that I want to play in the club, but also that I want to accompany me in everyday life, reflecting that vulnerable yet powerful storm that is part of me.

You studied cello and also formed part of church choirs. This influence can be seen in your reverberant and ethereal vocals. When did you decide to shift (but not losing these tools) from these practices into a sound that is closer to techno music.

Going to my first rave in 2015 started a chain of events that led me to where I am at musically today. Almost immediately after this experience I borrowed some money to buy my first DJ-rig and Ableton Live, spending all nights playing around and smoking through the window of my tiny studio apartment. I recorded everything and listened back to it at work the day after, figuring what to improve on during the next session. At first, I didn’t use my vocals in my productions at all. At some point though, I was frustrated by not knowing how to play the piano and so I intuitively started making melodic sketches by singing in my headset mic. I meant to replace them with pads eventually, but realised they sounded really interesting and unique in the context of techno. Taking inspiration from vocalists such as Julianna Barwick, I got myself a proper microphone and effect pedals, and begun to make it my signature alongside tougher percussion and sound design. Today I cannot imagine making music without it.

What can we expect from Linn in 2023? More seminars? More gigs? More releases?

All of the above, I am thrilled to uncover some long-awaited milestones. One of them is of course my EP on 47. I’ve worked towards releasing on this label since I started producing, and so it is highly significant to me on many levels. There is also a very special Acts of Rebellion release planned for the end of the year – stay tuned!

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