Anja Schneider: Room at the top
Mixmag joins Anja up on the roof
Anja was born in the small, dull, conservative town of Bergisch Gladbach, 20km from the city of Cologne ("I used to hang out outside the ice cream parlour, that was the most exciting place"). In early adulthood she worked for a big advertising company in Dusseldorf, and had her life seemingly mapped out. "I was living in Cologne and I was almost married. I worked for a huge company. But I wasn't good at it, I couldn't be myself," she recalls. A few trips to the old Capitol changed her life completely. "Berlin was so free, there was so much space. The wall had just come down – there was anarchy. Where I came from the parties ended at 4am. If you wanted to go somewhere after 4am it was always a really dark scene that you didn't want to be in. When I came to Berlin it was people like you and me who were doing afterparties; I didn't have to go to a seedy discotheque or somewhere they were selling women!" She lasted half a year at the ad agency before throwing it over and moving to Berlin in 1993 to plunge into the world of techno.
Anja didn't want to be a DJ at first, she just wanted to be involved in the scene at a time when it was changing the culture of everything from music to marketing to art and design. Ironically, her professional background helped: "I knew how to write a letter – and how to send it". At a time and place where earning a wage wasn't a priority ("I didn't think about [earning a] living, we all helped each other") her conscientious attitude served her well. Her first job in the industry was as a radio consultant. Radio and club DJing followed, and in 2005, 10 years after moving to the city, she and Ralf formed Mobilee.
Initially pigeonholed by many as a 'minimal' label, Mobilee rode out that wave to become established as a much-loved home to acts as diverse as Pan Pot and Rodriguez Jr, and is enjoying another golden moment in its tenth year, with big tracks from the likes of Rodriguez and Miss Kittin, veteran Lee Van Dowski, Ross Evans and Anja herself, and a storming compilation from newcomer Re.You in January. If all the releases are characterised by a certain warmth and attention to
detail, Anja points out that there is a deliberate policy to avoid having a Mobilee 'sound'. "I don't like it when someone sends me a track and says, 'I made it especially for your label'. I don't want clones of Anja Schneider." The only real qualification, she says, is that a track has to make her dance.
Not that it's just about the music. "We try to get people working with us who share our personality, and we try to go a long way with it, to work on a long collaboration. If there is someone whose personality doesn't fit with us it makes no sense to have them on the label. Even if they make the best music ever." The label has evolved into a management company for their artists now, and she even finds the time to help nurture artists that end up on other labels: Citizenn and Maya Jane Coles being two who she says she takes immense satisfaction in having supported early and often.
Anja's not playing today on the hotel rooftop, she's here to soak up the vibe, support her artists and perhaps most importantly continue the label's love affair with the city: if it was Berlin that changed Anja, it's Barcelona that helped shape Mobilee: a chilled, mellow counterpoint to the sometimes stark hedonism of their home base. "I prefer it to Berlin," admits an unpatriotic Ralf as he relaxes on a sofa with a drink in hand and no shoes on again. "There's so much love that goes into the events and venues. It's not like some clubs in Berlin where they just open the door, take your money and say, 'There's the DJ'. "If I didn't have my friends and family in Berlin I would be living here," says Anja, shading her eyes from the sunshine to gaze West at the fantastical spires of the Sagrada Familia.