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Anz: "If you're in a position to make things better for other people, do it"

We spoke to Anz about making 74 tracks in lockdown and the changing face of dance music

  • Words: Patrick Hinton | Photo: Joseph Burton | In association with Fred Perry & size?
  • 3 July 2020

Midway through her final year at university in Liverpool, Anz popped over to Manchester for the day and instantly fell for the city. That summer she moved on a whim and has stayed ever since, becoming immersed in Manchester’s musical landscape and growing into one the UK’s most dynamic DJs and producers.

Vitality courses through the London-born and raised artist’s output. Influence is taken from the funk and soul records she grew up hearing at home and merged with the rave sounds she first encountered in her teens via recordings of The Prodigy at Glastonbury. Contemporary club music from across the globe and old-skool sonics spanning the hardcore continuum also fuels her irrepressible tracks and sets. See her recent ‘spring/summer dubs 2020’ mix, comprising 35 original productions made within the past couple of months, for a blistering insight into both.

Anz was aware of Madchester’s rave heritage prior to moving. For the most part, though, she’s inspired by the city’s present day music scene, which carries the spirit of unity from the acid house era through a diverse and well-connected community of music enthusiasts.

Read this next: Manchester is the beating heart of new music in the UK

Last month we headed up to Manchester to celebrate the launch of Fred Perry and size?’s new Kaleidoscope collection, which pays homage to acid house with vibrant tie-dye patterns, and Anz played a set that affirmed why Manchester is still an unbeatable dance destination. It’s a next level mix made up of music by Black innovators, moving through deep house to acid breaks via UKG and rave pumpers.

We also caught up with Anz to chat about her industrious production work, summer 2020 fashion tips (simply “Keep it comfortable!”) and the changing face of dance music. Watch the set and read the Q+A below.

You set yourself a target of making 40 new tracks across the past few months and smashed that by making 74. How have you managed to be so productive and what has inspired the type of music you’ve been making?

I have a bit of a weird personality type where I have to set a task and then complete it - although it usually comes with a big period of procrastination. I guess I'd kind of reached that point where I was like: I need to make. And it happened that lockdown started just as I was getting back into the swing of making tunes.

I thought I would struggle because there's almost less of an impetus to make music if there's no clubs open - like an 'if a tree falls in a forest and no one's around to hear it' situation. But the lack of clubs and lack of having to travel for shows and work has meant that I can really focus and use all that time that I would ordinarily be using for the admin of life and channel it into making tunes.

I imagine it's kind of existential making club music at a time when all the clubs are shut - but it's still something you've found the drive to do?

Weirdly yes. Though I have always made lots of different kinds of music, and this year I’ve indulged myself a bit more in making orchestral music, jazz pieces and stuff. Knowing that it didn't matter if there was going to be a club or not almost gave me the breathing room to make non club-focused music. There was a bit more freedom with it.

Me and my friends like [2 B REAL founder] Finn have been talking about the ‘first one back’ as this kind of mythical event. Although we've all seen the socially distanced videos of people trying to have fun very far apart from each other in clubs, so I think a bit of acceptance needs to happen that the first party back isn't going to be what I think it is. But that thought is something that helps spurs me on making club tunes.

Read this next: I spent the weekend raving online and it was actually really fun

What would your dream scenario for the first proper party post-COVID be?

First and foremost, there’s a COVID vaccine in place. Then, I think probably just somewhere familiar like The White Hotel or Soup Kitchen in Manchester with loads of familiar faces. No particular line-up or specific genre or anything, just friends and family back together again.

You shared a helpful Twitter thread of tips about your production process. What do you think is the most valuable recommendation you have to help producers facing writer's block?

I'd say there's two. The most important one is that there's no sense in forcing it, and understanding that resting and taking the time away is ok. I've been in situations where I've really tried to push through a block to the point where I'm getting more and more frustrated and then that makes me even more blocked. Especially now that there's reduced pressure with no clubs and no feeling that you need to have the hottest banger to play at X night or Y event, you can try and use that reduced pressure to take time, do nothing, absorb life. Because I feel like once you've absorbed all your surroundings and taken time to just be, it makes it a lot easier coming back to music.

The second one is trying to make something bad, which I mentioned in the thread. It's probably the most surprising experiment that I've ever tried. I don't know what happens but something kicks in in your brain when you're trying to make something bad that starts injecting it with bits of you and your style or personality. It's weird, but it seems to work.

A lot of the tracks were used in your fifth annual production mix which came out recently and absolutely bangs. Can you share any further plans you’ve got coming up for them - are there releases on the way?

I've got a really big, exciting release later in the year at some point. The masters just came back last week. I probably can't say what it is yet because I don't want to jinx it even though I know it's happening. But it's absolutely mad to me.

How’s lockdown in Manchester been?

It's been interesting. I live in the city centre and for the beginning it was sort of a ghost town, it was really strange to see all these hubs of activity completely dead, which I'm sure everyone has been noticing when going for their sanctioned exercise. I get the sense that I'll maybe never see the city like it again in my lifetime which is quite a heavy feeling.

With making the 74 odd tunes, I haven't really spent that much time outside anyway so I probably couldn't tell you much more. The inside of my flat has been cool!

Does your knowledge of the history of Manchester’s rave scene/how it impacts the city inspire the music you make?

I think so. I'm more inspired by the now than the past when it comes to the city, because I'm a guest really. I consider it home but there are people who are far more qualified to speak about Manchester's impact and legacy. But it's always nice to know that you're building something in a place that's got a precedent. We have this foundation of The Haçienda and acid house and all these incredible things that have come before, so we know we're good, we know it's happened here before and it can happen here again.

What I see people doing now and what I think is so inspiring about Manchester is that there are so many different scenes and microscenes in electronic music converging and they all know each other and talk to each other. There are hubs like Boomkat, NTS, and all these different flavours of electronic music taking their own path but also building something together. That to me is the most inspiring thing about Manchester.

Is there anything you think other cities and scenes could learn from Manchester?

I don't want to send for anyone! I wouldn't be able to say exactly what's going on in other cities like Sheffield, Leeds or Liverpool or anything like that, but it has really struck me that people take the time to go to each other's nights and there's these hubs where the different scenes come and meet. People in music are constantly in contact and talking with each other, not necessarily about music, just getting to know each other but all working and building on their own things. I think it's really cool - and I'm sure other cities do that as well.

There’s been a lot of reflection and discussion inside and out of the dance music sphere recently about how to support the fight for equality and racial justice. How are you hoping to see things change in line with this movement?

I honestly don't know if I have the solutions beyond, like, people just making space for others. Making sure that if you're in a position to make things better for other people, for Black people, that you do it. If every person did that then I think we'd be in a much better space.

We're in an age where claiming ignorance is not necessarily as valid an excuse as it perhaps once was. We're all so in tune with everything that's going on and we have the resources to educate ourselves. If everyone does what they can, whatever is in their power, it's got to get better.

Read this next: Politics and dance music are intertwined and there's nothing you can do about it

Are there any changes that you’ve seen so far that are giving you hope?

I'm hopeful that a lot of people are feeling galvanised and mobilised. What I really need to see is everyone to keep on talking about it, because I guess the big worry is that people will talk for a minute and then be like 'we've done all the Black stuff now, let's move on'.

I feel positive that it's not just Black voices having to take up the fight and do all the emotional labour currently. The thing that will really cement that hope is for people to understand that it's not temporary, it's ongoing.

Anz's spring/summer dubs 2020 mix is out now

Patrick Hinton is Mixmag's Digital Features Editor, follow him on Twitter

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