"Music is so diverse, why not celebrate it!"
Rosa Luxemburg has an honest and sincere career. Her musical selection and her good judgment have crossed borders. The DJ sets and productions of this singular artist are a powerful statement, emblematic of her unfettered approach to music. We took the opportunity to interview her.
Hey, where can we find you right now? How did you start your day?
Hey! I’m in my flat at Kottbusser Tor in Berlin. Moved here around 7 years ago and still love this city. It is so versatile! My day started pretty decently, too, thanks. Had a coffee at the window and enjoyed the arrival of spring. Because trust me, spring is a big thing here considering Berlin’s long and grey winters :)
Can you tell us a little about your experience? Where are you from / how did you get into music? Was it all internet-based?
I grew up in a small village in Switzerland. Music was always a vital part of my life. My older brother definitely had a big influence on me music-wise. Through him I found my way to Alternative Rock, Electronica & Old-school hip hop. And one night, I was listening to a show on an alternative radio station from Austria that I only could receive because I was living at the border to Austria, there I found Drum’n’Bass. I remember thinking: „This is really weird music, what is this!?“. From there it was a short way to Minimal Techno, House, and Techno. Soon after, I moved to a small city called St. Gallen, found a bunch of lovely friends with amazing taste in music, and most being pretty active in the local music scene. They introduced me to DJing. Actually, they gave me quite a push in this direction which I will always be thankful for.
To the second part of your question: It definitely was not very internet-based (I wish I’d be so young haha). It mostly went through tapes, then CDs, then (when I started to DJ) vinyl. But some years before, when I could convince my parents to finally get that bloody internet, I definitely found lots of stuff online to listen to and to expand my horizon.
But you know, these times definitely had their positive aspects. The countless afternoons in the record stores, digging for good music, really dedicating time to listen to new releases, and finding real gems that could have such an impact because not everything was so accessible. I recently told a friend about the moment, when I found the LP "Idealism“ by Digitalism in a small record store in Helsinki just when it was released in 2007. I was so excited, I remember when I flew back it felt like having gold in my luggage, like having discovered a new world. I mean I was literally nervous and could not wait to play and share it with others.
How would you define your sound?
This is difficult because I’m interested in a broad spectrum of music, but there definitely is a focus on Techno & House and their various sub-genres. And I would say a certain deepness, warmth and often rawness comes into play in all genres.
It happened more than once that someone that saw me playing one night was surprised when coming to another gig of mine. Because depending on the booking and party, I might go pretty Deep House or Nu Disco on one night, and straight techno the other night. Music is so diverse, why not celebrate it!
How has your sound evolved so far?
When I started DJing I mostly played Minimal Techno by acts like Isolée, Efdemin, Riccardo Villalobos, and Losoul just to name a few. I still love them all, still love the vinyls I bought back then. But life is a journey, at some point, I went more into Deep House and Nu Disco, from there it took me to straight Techno and House in its various forms with the music collective Family Unit I’m part of.
I’ve listened to a lot of your mixes the last year and it feels like you’ve got a very selective and perfectionist approach to what you include so was wondering where you think that you might have stemmed from? Are there any past mixes or DJs that you feel influenced that approach?
Haha yes, I’m a horrible perfectionist, trying to get rid of that actually. But I definitely would say that each set is very personal and I usually try to make a journey and to include different genres. It’s about creating an atmosphere. I guess this is also very audible in my podcast series on Soundcloud. These Podcasts are no DJ sets, I make them with Ableton Live and bring different genres together, that can go from Jazz to Downtempo, House, Drone, Techno & all kinds of random sounds from different sources. Usually, I use tracks and parts of tracks that I love but that would be difficult to include in a regular DJ set.
The second part of your question is very interesting. I actually never thought about it but there are some mixes that I was addicted to and they most likely influenced my approach to build up a set. I would say probably the biggest influence was fabric 23 - Ivan Smagghe (2005).
Other sets that had a lasting impact:
fabric 08: Radioactive Man (2003), BBC Radio 1: Radio Slave Essential Mix (2007), Nicolas Jaar Live Fall 08 (ok, that was a live set ;), Acid Pauli: Stille einfügen (2018)
As you can see all of these sets and artists are very different music-wise. However, they all create a journey and atmosphere throughout the set that literally sucks you in.
Ivan Smagghe is a good example. He definitely is one of my favorite DJs. And the last time I saw him playing I tried to analyze what was happening and it was so interesting because I realized that he played some tracks that per se did not meet 100% my style and taste. Like good tracks for sure but I would not have chosen to listen to that particular track at home or to play it in one of my sets. But the way he mixed these tracks together, the way he placed them into his set, the way he used their specific sound to create this edgy atmosphere, it made me love not only the tracks but every second of the set. It’s like in a good movie: Each scene (each track) has its purpose, there is nothing that does not have a connection to the things before and afterwards. I feel like many of his sets send you on this weird dark minimalistic disco-influenced trip. And it makes you addicted in an even weirder way. I know I am not the only one who feels this way so I am not ashamed to say it out loud :D
If a DJ manages to create this feeling, to create something new with the set itself, when the whole set almost becomes like a track of its own, for me this is magical, and outstanding.
What can you tell us about your set at HOR? What was your selection criteria? How did you get off?
This set is really special to me. I definitely wanted to play a rawer kind of techno but still make a journey as I love to do it. So I just went through my music library, actually picking my favorite tracks in a certain dark-ish, techno-ish, trippy-ish style, taking care to include tracks from a wide time-span, not only 2019, 2020 but also 2011, 1999. I think this often gives sets a wider, more interesting sound and character. From there I went on to fill up the set with some new interesting tracks to tell the story I wanted to tell.
What can you tell us about your last gig in front of people? What inspired you? What do you want to convey?
Wow, that was a special one, too, and it actually was just some days before the clubs had to close. We had a Family Unit party and I think I was supposed to play from 4-6 am. The vibe was so good that night. I could feel that the crowd really felt the music and they followed my flow which gave me such an intense feeling of freedom. I ended up playing one hour longer and even played two tracks that I always wanted to play but never found the right moment for it. That night offered it, it was perfect. I left the club with a big smile on my face. I realized once more how important the connection between DJ and audience is, it’s a precious thing and it can lead to magical moments.
We later released the set as a Family Unit podcast, it can be found here.
Are you the type of producer who can create music on the fly or do you need to be rooted in a studio?
I often have ideas on the fly, like a vocal, a bassline, or a specific sound I hear. I then make a quick voice recording on my mobile phone explaining, singing, humming, or a field recording with some written notes. But it’s always only one element. From there I need to go to the studio to see how I want to develop it.
How are you living the current situation because of COVID? Has your work affected a lot? Do you think there is hope?
Of course, there is hope. There always is :) I do think things will go back to normal at some point. The pandemic brought a lot of change - to everyone. But I feel very blessed to have a day job I love (I work for Ableton), a cozy flat that feels like home, and some more time. Even though I miss DJing and the club scene a lot, I try to use this time in a productive way. I did a lot of inner work, and lots of meditation. Additionally, I just started a 1-year training to become a counselor at a crisis hotline on a voluntary basis.
What projects are you working on at the moment?
I’m currently working on some tracks, in quite some different styles. I would say it goes from Ambient to Drone to Techno. And I am planning to soon make one of my "perfectionist“ podcasts again :D