“Everything changed”: How Anetha is powering up her artistry - Features - Mixmag

“Everything changed”: How Anetha is powering up her artistry

Anetha's debut album combines a post-club selection of sounds with musical messaging inspired by femininity and self-empowerment. She speaks to Niamh Ingram about growing in confidence, artistic evolution, and how motherhood altered her perspective

  • Words: Niamh Ingram | Photographer: Julien Bernard | Stylist: Clélia Cazals | Design & Direction: Keenen Sutherland | Design: Tomi Tomchenko | Editor & Digital Director: Patrick Hinton | mua : Lorélen Coriton | hair: Henry Olivier | Set Design: Clara de Gobert
  • 22 April 2024

There really isn’t anyone like Anetha. Having most recently turned heads with the release of her debut album ‘Mothearth’, it feels like a remarkably defining period for the French multi-hyphenate. She’s a label-running, agency owning, forward-thinking producer and DJ (who, by the way, also has a deft hand within the fashion world). And, as long as she can help it, there truly is nothing that will get in her way.

“One of my biggest fears from my childhood was to be the same as everyone,” Anetha tells me as we sit down one afternoon, occasionally sipping from a ceramic coffee cup. Albeit over a Zoom call from different countries, our conversation felt no different to your standard café catchup. “I always wanted to be different, do strange or weird stuff, and break the boundaries,” she declares.

“I grew up in a family who wanted to break the rules. They always tried to not listen to the radio and listen by themselves and dig underground music. So they were really into electronic music since day one.”

Being raised around electro, minimal, new and post wave soundscapes, and getting a taste for parties through those her parents threw with friends, it feels as if a pathway into music was inevitable. Life has its twists and turns, though, and a six-year period of architectural study - firstly in her hometown of Bordeaux, and then later in Paris - came first. While her education took priority, it became too dominant, and she felt a lack of artistic freedom during her final year placement in an agency.

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Having affirmed to herself the importance of having a degree to fall back upon, she saw out her studies. “I don’t know why but I somehow knew that if I stopped I would not be getting back,” she explains. She spent that final year saving money - helped by living with her parents - then moved to London for a year, with the intention of learning to speak English and blossoming outwardly from her shy self.

Anetha wears: Earrings and necklace : Ambush | Top: Ottolinger | Skirt: LGNC | Ring : La Manso | Shoes: Empty Behavior

After landing her first show at Corsica Studios, Anetha returned to Paris and launched collective Blocaus with friends in the French techno scene in 2012. Collectively, the crew organised parties and released music, with Anetha starting as resident on regular warm-up duty. Needless to say, after steadily increasing the number of gigs played, she never went back to architecture. “When I figured out DJing could be a job, I really did everything in my power [to make it happen],” she says.

“My first Berghain set was an achievement because [going to Berghain] was the way I discovered techno music,” she says, citing a Ben Klock set providing a moment of epiphany. “After the first time I played in Berghain, I felt empty. I was even crying, I remember! I’d reached a goal that was really a dream for me, and now, what is next? That’s why I also pushed myself to try and produce, because I felt there was something missing in my artistic way to evolve.”

Come 2024, ‘Mothearth’ feels like a culmination of this evolution, drive and determination. It’s been a longer process than previous works, with EP releases dating back to 2016. “I’d wanted to focus on a big project for myself,” she says, though struggled to find time amid a relentless touring schedule. When she managed, the happiness it brought was second-to-none. “Sometimes it feels good to just be by yourself, to lock the door and to work there and just focus on producing.”

Anetha wears: Earrings: LGNC | Full look: Marine Serre | Shoes: Gen Frey | Rings: Ambush | Rings with straws: Vann

The album’s lead single ‘Sorry For Being So Sexy’ dropped in December; and yes, the track title is deliberately provocative. “I figured out during my career that track titles are super important.” she explains. “My track ‘Free Britney’ that I released two years ago was the moment that I noticed. It is a really deliberate message. People can really understand with a title. It’s an image,” she says.

With additional tracks on ‘Mothearth’ titled ‘Let’s talk about femininity’, ‘Whistleblower’, ‘Girls are fascinating’ and ‘Let me d&be’, to name just a few, Anetha paints mental images from the outset. Concepts including femininity, empowerment and expression are all addressed — something that previous iterations of the musician mightn’t have done.

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“Before I didn’t feel strong enough or legit enough to talk about these things,” she reflects. Feeling somewhat constrained, anxious thoughts soon followed. Was she the problem? Was she too shy, perhaps? Motherhood, though, refreshed her perspective. “I thought: ‘No, I need to speak about it. It’s super important because from the start of your career you’ve experienced all this kind of shit from the boys and guys in this industry. You need to talk about it’.” With a daughter in the world, she felt compelled to speak openly about sexism and misogyny, and also explore subjects including “accepting your body, and being free about your physique” which translate onto ‘Mothearth’.

Such significant topics is done in strategic ways, tapping into irony and humour – particularly on ‘Sorry For Being So Sexy’. “Everyone expects something from the woman. In general they want sexy, they want them smart, and everything. And when they are too smart, and too sexy, they blame us. I was like: ‘This is so fucked up, I need to say it in a way that is funny’.” She grins when talking about the response to such a track name. “Sometimes people even think I am pretentious saying this. But it’s a joke!”

Anetha wears: Lunettes: Givenchy x Thelios | Earring: Ambush | Bra: Peng tai | Veste: Transe Paris | Top: Sankuanz | Jupe: Gen Frey | Shoes: Ottolinger | Ring: Transe Paris

Today’s strength has been a work in progress, with Anetha not always being the confident type. “I’ve built this strength up,” she notes. “You can see how I’ve changed on stage - I’m more connected - everything changed in my perspective. I am super grateful for what I am doing, so I am more open to others and more strong to speak about myself.” Conversations with other women in club culture and beyond have validated her outspoken nature on such topics and provided motivation. She smiles, reminiscing on how DJs have written to her in support of her outspokenness and her management of balancing a music career with motherhood. “People say: ‘It’s a really good example’. If I can help, it’s more meaningful.”

Now at her most confident, Anetha is not only taking a no-holds-barred approach to her musical messaging, but applying the same attitude to the sonics themselves. While dealing in the harder sounds she is associated with to communicate her thoughts, she also appreciates more gentler, experimental affairs – and on ‘Mothearth’ she departs from any genre pigeonholing altogether.

“At the beginning, I was afraid to do an album and was gonna do an EP, because it’s more usual in the techno industry,” she explains, suggesting that the concept of an album is perceived as “really weird” and not club-oriented. However, with so much to say and so many styles to showcase, a short-form body of work felt too limiting and the album format ultimately prevailed. Across ‘Mothearth’, listeners can indulge in techno, trance, hard house, experimental sounds, hyperpop and even drum ‘n’ bass – the latter a new genre in Anetha’s production armoury skillset. “It’s kind of post-club, combining all the styles,” she says. “It was really important to me to combine them all in one project.”

Sounds are not the only thing she intertwines, either. Anetha has developed a firm belief that music, as with many of the arts, is interdisciplinary, and is woven particularly closely with fashion. This was one of her key ways of standing out from the crowd from a young age, even when words, due to a lack of confidence, might have failed her. “It was important for me to be different so fashion was a way to show myself differently than others,” she says. “That’s why I wear the weirdest shoes; I like when people are questioning themselves and myself. For me it’s boring to always wear the same stuff. Before I didn’t realise that everything could be related to each other. Now I can see it with my architectural background. I feel now I can really build everything together, and for this cover photoshoot it is also the case. Everything has a message and everyone can interpret that differently, and it’s cool.”

Her involvement in the fashion world deepened in 2023, walking the runway for Marine Serre’s Heartbeat project and playing its afterparty, as well as playing an aftershow for Yves Saint Laurent. “It was a big experience, but really cool,” she wistfully recalls. Sharing her dreams to compose music for a film score or dance show, she teases a composition request landing in her inbox only days before we speak, grinning while doing so. With such mystique on the topic, I get the impression that this is very much a watch-this-space affair.

Anetha wears: Jacquemus

Anetha’s career as a whole, in fact, is modelled on such a mindset. If there’s a gap, it’ll be filled – she doesn’t enjoy empty space. Look no further than her label, Mama told ya, founded in 2019, and sublabel Fané.e founded in 2023.

While Mama told ya has been taking the techno world by storm with its 13 releases in total, including records from the labelhead herself, UFO95, Alex Wilcox, and Mac Declos - and V/A compilations featuring artists including drazzit, Elise Massoni, Boo, Peachlyfe, Zoe McPherson, Vel, LDS and Boys Noize - Fané.e follows an ephemeral approach.

Mama told ya is a beautiful label and grows super fast. But because it has physical releases the deadlines are crazy, I felt like there was a lot of music good enough to release, but there was not enough time to release it all.” She questioned contemporary consumption habits of digital music, and therefore introduced a “seasonal approach” in which with the turn of every new season comes a new release. At season’s end, the release fades – ‘fade(d)’ being the English translation of Fané - and all traces are removed from streaming services, promotional lists and so on. “It leads to less deadlines and it’s cool, it’s fresh,” she grins.

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The imprint’s debut release featured two tracks from Benjamin Damage, although is now unavailable to access. Currently available is a two-tracker from X CLUB., remaining public until June 19. And looking forward? An intimate festival-like concept has been mentioned, but any further divulgence would disrupt Fané.e’s cryptic illusion.

“I almost did burnout in 2019 before COVID from touring too much,” she recalls, as we move onto her agency Mama loves ya. “I felt really stressed. All the people were working around me and I felt that I didn’t control anything; I felt really bad. COVID came and we had a lot of time to rethink everything.” Having worked with Jules, her manager and partner of 10 years, and booking agent of six years Joy, the trio decided to launch their own agency to regain control and help other emerging artists. Mindful of the experiences Anetha went through, they intended to create a family-like atmosphere. “It’s with a small number of artists, we don’t want a big agency,” Anetha explains. “We want something organic.”

Anetha wears: Earrings: Julia Bartsch | Coat: Diesel | Ring: La manso | Shoes: Sankuanz

With this in mind, Mama loves ya treats its roster - which houses Salome, Vel, Mac Declos, ABSL, Less Distress and Lacchesi - in a holistic manner. From management, to admin, to bookings, to royalties, and even helping artists to set up their own label, all is covered in-house. Given the impact of the pandemic on DJs and producers, mitigation is also considered, should artists find themselves in similar scenarios as per 2020: “We found out that when everything stopped, no one had revenue anymore. This is really dangerous for small profiles, so it is good if we can reach different revenue streams.”

Crucial to the project is the notion of sustainability, with that word adopting a variety of meanings. “The health of an artist is linked to sustainability. I was touring too much, super fast, no one was taking care of if I’d take the train or a flight. And in the end, taking a train isn’t only better for the planet but also for me because going to the airport is stressful. We also try to incorporate this and work with promoters more in advance to have an open calendar that they can check, and share the price of travel between the gigs.”

By using analysis from a local French company, Anetha and her crew are able to assess where emissions can be reduced across their work - think eco-riders, reducing distance between gigs, using recycled materials wherever possible and publishing a Co2 usage report - in turn doing their bit to help tackle climate change. Summarising Mama loves ya’s approach most effectively is its publicly available ‘personal 10 commitments’ which can be viewed here, including pledges to reduce single-use plastics, have neutral Co2 emissions, opt for train over plane, support local scenes, and share music revenue between artists equitably.

“It’s a benefit for everyone but you just have to think, and slow down a little bit,” Anetha explains on their efforts. “And it’s okay to say no sometimes; nobody is going to forget about you. This is something I have to figure out also!” she laughs with a sly grin.

Anetha wears: Earrings and necklace : Ambush | Top: Ottolinger | Skirt: LGNC | Ring : La Manso | Shoes: Empty Behavior

The power of saying no might be cliché, but backgrounded by scene politics in which going faster and harder is the favour, it feels ever more significant. “The electronic scene is growing super, super fast and it’s positive, but it's dangerous because the new generation has the energy to go to all the gigs. It’s like being in sports. It’s becoming a really big business industry and the reality is that it’s hard to follow this kind of busy schedule.”

To decompress, Anetha is most grateful for those around her. She credits her surrounding team who help out with Mama told ya, Mama loves ya and Fané.e for helping her avoid reaching such a state of burnout as she did five years ago. “I’m not doing this by myself; this is something I always say,” she emphasises. At her recent All Night Long at Paris’ T7 to celebrate the launch of ‘Mothearth’, this was perhaps best epitomised with her parents, brother, agent, partner and school friends all in attendance, much to Anetha’s happiness. Even those from further afield were in tow, with friends met on tour travelling from Berlin. “It was amazing. It was sold out one month before so it felt really supportive from everyone. People stayed until the end, it was crazy. Nearly 2000 of them. It was beautiful.”

“What’s evolved the most today is that artists need to be everything,” she says, returning to the subject of contemporary club culture. “You need to be taking care of social media, and everything in the same sense! It’s a lot. Now, people ask also to see a lot of inside and behind the scenes of the artists when they’re not on stage. The difficulty for me is to balance between privacy and not. It’s something that has changed a lot.”

Anetha wears: Earrings: Julia Bartsch | Coat: Diesel | Ring: La manso | Shoes: Sankuanz

And thus arises the necessity, in Anetha’s eyes, of having a secure support system and intuition to prioritise herself and those around her. “I’m not gonna lie, sometimes I say no – and Jules or Joy can relate to this — and I stay at home and see all the stories from a DJ playing the party, and I’m like: ‘hmmm’,” she says, a guilty smile creeping onto her face. Describing s feeling all too familiar to anyone experiencing FOMO - grumpy moods and all - she is swiftly brought back down to earth by the pair, who remind Anetha of her extremely valid reasons for turning down a gig. “It’s the environment and people around you that get you to think about it. It’s super hard and, of course, I think: ‘Ah, I should be doing this, and this’. We are all human, but it is cool to have time for you.”

Such time for Anetha is cathartic – and it categorically does not involve music. “I just chill. No music!” she exclaims. “Music for me is not for relaxing. It’s to give me energy, or to be super loud in the car.” Instead, she turns to gardening, cooking, or surfing. “I just started practising again. I’m back in my teenage period! It feels super good. It’s a really good reset for me, you think about nothing in the water.”

Whether she’s hammering a signature full-throttle DJ set, comfortably isolated in the studio, working on her label(s) and agency, or carving the waves on a body of water somewhere, one thing is clear. Anetha is a powerful artistic force, focused and driven on a multitude of approaches, all while unapologetically embracing her highest self. Forget any formulaic idea of techno by numbers, or conforming to genre expectation. This latest version of the French polymath is leaning into her broad, expansive and unique self in her most empowering manner yet.

'Mothearth' is out now via Mama told ya, buy it here

Niamh Ingram is Mixmag's Weekend Editor and freelance journalist, follow her on Twitter

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