There’s a certain mystique surrounding the life of a DJ. Is it all drugs and parties, or something more sober and serious?
Two people well-placed to give us an insight into their lives are Berlin native Anja Schneider and Moroccan-born DJ Amine K. For Amine – well-known for his emotive house and techno sets and his mission to preserve Morocco’s music scene via his Moroko Loco parties – it’s all about taking revellers on a journey and stimulating them into a state of euphoria.
Similarly for Anja – who comes from an ilk of Berlin DJs more accustomed to playing for an entire night than for a mere 1.5 hour time slot – it’s about evoking a sense of happiness within the crowd. They both hold a position away from the hype machine that allows them to be true to their sound. As they prepare to appear at the Oasis festival that takes place in between the Sahara Desert and Marrakech this weekend, we speak to them about their favourite clubs and countries to play in. Word has it we should all plan a visit to Georgia.
So how did it all start for you?
Anja Schneider: I had the chance to listen to Hans Nieswant in Cologne in the late 80s, early 90s and I was immediately blown away because it was a way of presenting music I’d never heard before. At no point did I have any idea that I could do that too. I became fascinated, despite the fact I was already a big music fan. I thought more about being a radio DJ, which was my first step.
Amine K: I started DJing when I was 14. My uncle was DJing at my mum’s house parties with two tapes and a mixer, seeing the look on people’s faces when he was playing music made me realise that’s what I wanted to do. He gave me a mixer and I learnt by myself, first with hip-hop, then techno in 2006.
What were your biggest musical influences growing up?
Anja: First came Depeche Mode and The Cure, then later Nizzer EB and Front 242. Then it was Acid House.
Amine: My parents used to listen to a lot of French pop like Adamo, Jaques Brel, Edith Piaf and Aznavour, but also artists like Bob Marley, Jimi Hendrix, The Doors and all the classics from their era – music that I actually still listen to now. Later I got really into blues and hip-hop, then ended up listening to electronic music. I don’t really listen to techno outside of clubs, I’m more of a funk, hip-hop and downbeat guy.
Anja, how did growing up in Berlin shape you as an artist? Where would we find you hanging out in Berlin now?
Anja: You’re always grounded in Berlin. We come from a very rough clubbing scene where it was always honest, dark and sweaty. I’ll be honest, the last time that I went out in Berlin when I wasn’t DJing was ages ago. But I still love the club scene and of course Berghain/Panorama Bar. But I also love to lose my head at Sisyphos, or some dark underground places. Clubs aside, I’m a big foodie, so I love discovering new restaurants around the city. I recently discovered PeterPaul on Torstrasse in Mitte, which serves amazing German Tapas.
What was the first festival you played at?
Anja: Melt – one of the best festivals that’s still around in Berlin. It was a very exciting gig back in the day. The quality is so high there. I’m sure it’s the same nowadays. I also have special memories of SonneMondSterne, which was great back when I started my career.
Amine: I believe that Burning Man is everything but a festival, but I also believe that it’s the best place on earth.
What excites you about Oasis festival?
Anja: That it’s in Morocco. I have wanted to visit for years and I’m so happy to have the chance to see the country. I have to stay a bit longer to get a real impression, but I have the feeling that this will be my country! There’s also a great list of female artists which is long overdue. I’m so happy with the development. There are so many fantastically talented female artists out there that deserve a strong platform.
Amine: It’s everything that we had dreamt of for the Moroccan electronic music scene. It’s a mind-blowing event, organised by professional and passionate people. The team behind it is great, the venue is beautiful, the line-up is exquisite and the vibe is special. It’s where I do some of my best sets and it’s in Morocco! As they say, dance somewhere different.
Which places have the best emerging scene at the moment for you and why?
Anja: It’s always interesting to go to a country where you expect absolutely nothing. Georgia and the entire Eastern part of the world is always very inspiring and surprisingly good. There is a special energy and a great understanding of the music.
Amine: Morocco has definitely an amazing emerging scene, from the DJs, to the producers to the events. It’s my home and I’ve seen the electronic music scene grow here. Morocco is always the best place I play. The people react in a very emotional way here: if you give them love, they will give it back to you a hundred times. They will scream, they will shout, they will jump, they will cry, you will have an instant and honest reaction to your music. You can’t put a price on that. I would also say Kuala Lumpur, Bali, Cambodia, Beirut and Brazil. I’m sure there are many more and I can’t wait to discover those too.
How do you stay focused with life on the road?
Anja: The thought of coming home and being with my family after the gig is always in my mind.
Amine: I don’t. To be honest life on a road is tough but I love it because I don’t think, I just act! I put myself on autopilot mode and do what I have to do and enjoy it to the fullest.
Which emerging DJs are you currently backing?
Anja: Derek Plaslaiko inspires me a lot because of his positive vibrations and his amazing aura when he plays. Everything is relaxed and the world feels like it’s standing still while he is playing. Avalon Emerson because of her strength to do something different and how amazingly successful she’s been with it. You can feel how easy and careful she is with her own success and all the love that people give to her. Also, I must mention Edward for his groove.
Amine: Too many, so I’ll go with the Moroccans. I’m really digging Jaza lately. He’s young, passionate, a real goldmine when it comes to cultural music and he understands what a journey is. As for producers, there are some amazing releases from the likes of Jalil B, Mr ID or Chouaib El Assaad.
Anja Schneider’s ‘SoMe’ album is due November 3 on Sous Music. Listen to ‘All I See’, the first preview of the album here