Charlotte de Witte – Exclusive Interview

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Hailing from one of the most respected homes of techno, Belgium, Charlotte de Witte is on the verge of being the next techno super star, and shes rising fast! As little as 8 years ago Charlotte began carving out a niche for herself as a DJ after being inspired from her nights out clubbing around Ghent, her passionate sets were getting her noticed and the gig/event offers started flying in.

Her attraction to the darker more emotional sounds eventually led her into production, where she has made a name for herself as a serious uncompromising producer. Today, she’s riding the crest of a wave that’s seeing her traveling back and forth across the world smashing up dance floors. This is an artist your gunna hear a lot more about. Charlotte is a our cover star and we couldn’t wait to
talk to her …

 

Mike Mannix: Thank you Charlotte for taking the time out from your busy schedule to talk to us at iconic underground magazine. You are on fire at the moment and are consistently and methodically making a name for yourself, with your uncompromising intense sound, both on the decks and in your productions! But, before we touch on your current status, I’d like you to take us back to your earlier foundations growing up in Belgium, from your family and cultural influences and how that laid the foundations for your later musical aspirations? 

Charlotte: Belgium has had a massive impact on musical culture back in the 80s and 90s with its new beat and rave music. I’m born in 1992, so I’m actually too young to have experienced it all and it was only since I started digging deeper in the history of music a couple of years ago that I started to discover how big of a force we actually were. We’re the country of Bonzai Records, R&S Records, and 2manydjs and that’s something to be proud of!

MM: With a string of RedBull Academy Awards already under your belt, can you tell us about what drives and motivates you, and is this a deeply driven belief to succeed, or was all just for fun?

C: It sounds crazy but eight years ago,

I never expected this to become my life.

After changing schools from a small community school in Evergem to a city school in Ghent, I started to discover its local nightlife and lost my heart to it. Being closely involved with music, constantly looking for new tracks and making silly mixtapes was a really fun thing to do. Safe to say that eight years later, many things have changed. It’s my full-time job for a while now so things did get way more serious but it mainly still is the thing I love doing most and what makes me happy.

MM: As an artist, do you feel you are hitting your stride right now?

C: Things are going really well but with every day that passes and every gig I play, I feel I’m getting to know myself better and better. Let’s not forget this is my second year of touring intensely so it’s still not a situation I’m really used. It’s still very new, exciting and extremely educational. 

MM: It’s well known you love the ‘darker’ sounds of techno, does that drive and need to express this side come from your earlier clubbing experiences on the dancefloor or is the primordial desire of your emotional doppelganger?

C: People coming from Hard Techno probably hate the fact I’m describing the music I play as “dark”. Describing music is such a difficult and personal thing to do. To me, the music I play definitely isn’t happy. It’s rather stripped, melancholic and moody. It’s even a bit unconventional. To me, that is what techno is.Music like that grabs my attention and attracts me. Music, where you have to look for a meaning, is much more emotional to me and reaches a deeper level.

MM: What DJ’s / Artists / Producers are behind your ever driving passion for the scene, and who would you like to work with in the studio, and how important has techno been in influencing your direction?

C: The most inspiring thing to me is actually conversation. With friends, others artists or family. Going out got me into this whole thing in the first place so of course,

listening and dancing (!) to other people’s sets has had a huge impact on my life,

but life, in general, is so very inspiring. Travelling, food (again, the food) meeting new people or just walking around in a city you haven’t been to before… Collaboration wise, I think there are a lot of very interesting artists out there who I’d love to share experiences with but in this stage of my life and career, I would mainly look for vocalists to work with. Think Lera Lynn, Bob Moses or Qtier

MM: Walk us through the usual process of when you are in the studio creating tracks like the bangers ‘Wisdom’ and ‘Voices of the Ancient’  and some of your more recent slammers ‘Heart of Mine, and ‘This’,  from the analogue outboard, midi, samples and DAW you use and why. What is key in the whole production process?

C: I mainly work with Logic. I use Ableton for podcasts or for vocal warping (think of my track Varpulis). Besides that, I’m a massive fan of everything produced by Native Instruments. I have bought their Ultimate Komplete Bundle a while ago and it still hasn’t ceased to amaze me. I also frequently use Soundtoys and Waves bundle. They’re brilliant.

In my productions, I usually start with a low end. I don’t start with loops but I instantly start layering out my track structure wise. It’s a weird way of working compared to other people but it’s a more effective one to me. I always have a very clear mind of the structure and length of the track. As soon as I have my kick, bassline (sometimes) and background textures, I start building the rest of the track. I have used many vocals in the past, my own or samples, and I actually really like working with them. I’m not good at writing melodies.  I have used a Roland TB 303 (the vintage acid machine) in ‘Closer’ and ‘Nothing’.

I really love the acid sound but I try not to overdo it.

Same as with using vocals.

MM: There are a huge amount of highly driven, motivated, innovated and very successful women in today’s global techno scene, what are your thoughts and feelings about the current debate on women in the industry? 

C: Honestly, that it is really annoying. Ever since I started eight years ago, this has been a question in every single interview. Things are changing, but I don’t think I’ll ever live a day when there won’t be hateful comments online about being a female producer and/or DJ. Or without people (incorrectly!) assuming I must have a ghost producer and I must be faking my sets. Or claiming that I must have also slept with the entire male music industry to get a couple of gigs.

People can be horrible. It’s a fucked up generation.

MM: What are your thoughts with regards to social media stats, branding, logos, and image in today’s scene, is music and production skill seemingly becoming secondary?

C: Ah, social media.. Where to begin? I love it and I hate it, but I’d say I mostly hate it. It shouldn’t be about who posts the best video or picture, but unfortunately, that’s not how the system works.

Facebook has been pissing off a lot of people lately and the constant need to put more and more and more money behind a post is sickening. It’s a bit fucked up if you ask me

but I don’t think there’s much we can do at this stage. I prefer using Instagram and Twitter but I notice that if a post with good content on Facebook isn’t reaching a single soul, I get bothered and annoyed. Which is sad.

I don’t think social media should play such a big role in bookings. In the end, good artists will stand out anyway, whether they have a social following or not. It’s a utopia to believe in but we must believe that eventually, quality survives over bullshit.

MM: If you could change anything what would it be?

C: There’s a lot of negativity online, which doesn’t lead to anything. It saddens me to see how bitter some people are. Times are difficult enough already without the constant online flow of hatred and negativity. That’s definitely something I would change if I would be in charge, but I’m not, so I just have to live with it.

MM: If you ended up trapped on a godforsaken island with only your decks, a crate of spirits and your vinyl fly case to your name, what would be the top 10 essential cuts that you must have to survive and why?

C: Ah haha the all-time favourite ten. God, where to begin. First of all, I wouldn’t necessarily take techno tracks only. A lot of good music has been created throughout the years so here follows a very random top ten of “abandoned island” artists and tracks. The tracks I would never get tired from listening to.

  1. Alan Fitzpatrick – Memories Of A Time Once Past But Long Forgotten (Reprise Strings)
  2. Qtier – Set Me On (Original Mix)
  3. Kaytranada feat. The Internet – Girl (Original Mix)
  4. Vito Gatto – Un Raccontare Un Ricordo (Original Mix)
  5. Nocow – Forgiven (Original Mix)
  6. The Foreigner – I’ve Been Waiting For A Girl Like You
  7. Amotik – Teis (Original Mix)
  8. Leonard Cohen – So Long Marianne (Original Mix)
  9. The Beatles – Eleanor Rigby (Original Mix)
  10. Djrum – Showreel Pt. 1 (Original Mix)

MM: How do you spend your downtime?

C: That would be with family and friends in a bar, catching up on what they’ve been up to, or when the weather is bad, chilling at home and watching Netflix with my boyfriend. I’m a massive foodie, so going out for dinner is one of my favourite things to do but even at home, I always get the best food. My boyfriend is a really good cook so I’m very spoiled when it comes to food. I would love to spend more time working out since that’s something I haven’t been doing a lot lately, but it’s not easy finding something that doesn’t cost too much time and still is effective. If you have any tips, shoot!

MM: Haha I have a few ideas…. So what is the biggest challenge you’ve overcome and what did you learn from it?

C: Probably my own insecurities and learning to let go and sometimes not to care.

You should always try and focus on the positive things, always. Stay motivated, be kind to people around you and treat other people with respect.

It’s something I have really learned throughout my journey so far.

MM: Big time! What are your best stand out moments playing at an event or festival where you thought ‘fuck this is real this is amazing’?

C: Oh wow, so many times!

I actually started to cry after playing at Awakenings Festival for the first time.

I hadn’t slept all night because I had a show in Kosovo the night before and two flights to catch, so I was a bit more emotional than usual, but that to me was a truly unique moment. There’s also some footage of me playing my closing track at Rock Werchter (Push – Universal Nation, a Belgian classic) where you can actually see me thinking “shit, what is happening here, this is surreal”. But even at club shows, I often experience a very overwhelming feeling.

MM: What do you hope people will say about your contribution to techno?

C: Difficult question. I think that the biggest compliment would be that in years from now, people will still remember a night out during one of my sets as in “that was one of the best nights I’ve had”. Even though I realise that wouldn’t be thanks to the music only, it’s always a combination of factors. Or if, in years from now, people would start digging in techno music and would find my name and music, as if I would have actually had an impact on the scene. That would be amazing.

MM: How do you see the global underground Techno scene today and where do you see it evolving?

C: I think techno is becoming on the verge of being the biggest it has ever been. Thanks to the rise (and now the beginning of collapse) of EDM, people got easier access to all sorts of underground music. It’s becoming more mainstream and accepted. I think that could be something very dangerous for an underground type of music but as long as there are still innovating artists out there, things should be fine.

MM: What are you feeling and thinking right now?

C: I’m actually now on a flight from Geneva to Brussels. I just got back from a tour in South Africa so I’m thinking about the (promo) e-mails I have to check and sets I have to prepare for the rest of the weekend in Barcelona, Bergamo, and Cologne. But now I’m actually considering to just take the day off and do absolutely nothing. I’m tired as fuck.

MM: Haha I bet, whats the craziest thing to happen to you on tour or life?

C: Tough question. Many crazy things have been happening, both in a good and bad way, but it’s always hard to pick an example. Ok here’s something. When I was touring in South America last year, I had a gig in a desert in Colombia together with the guys from Baum. The airline’s company I was supposed the fly with was on strike so it was an immense hassle to get there and took forever. The road from the local airport to the festival was a dirt road, I hadn’t slept in a while and trust me, trying to sleep while driving a dirt road gives you more of a concussion rather than any sort of rest. I checked in this beautiful boutique hotel in the middle of the desert and went to the festival where about 8.000 people were dancing their asses off. It was a surreal experience to see so many people having fun all together in the middle of nowhere. It was a beautiful experience.

MM: What are your next big events, projects, and releases for 2018?

C: Summer season will be absolutely insane. I’ll be having more days with gigs than days without and I’ll be travelling to many, many countries. There are so many festivals planned this summer I could have only dreamed of playing at years ago. It’s crazy. Besides that, there are two other releases planned (one in June and one in summer) and many intercontinental tours. I’m really looking forward to heading back to Asia, Australia, and North & South America soon. Oh, and Ibiza, Ibiza season will be a very good one for me this year. These are very exciting times.

Thank you, Mike, for this interview and feature J

MM: Massive thanks Charlotte

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Mike Moggi Mannix is the Founder, Publisher, Editor, and Designer of Iconic Underground magazine

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