Berlin-based DJ and producer Ziúr is a master of twisting and prodding sonic elements in order to create a tactile sensory environment. She grew up a punk but now her allegiances lie with electronic music, emerging two years ago with a visceral, spiky sound that brings those two sonic worlds together. Since then, she’s released two EPs, 'Taiga' on Mexico City’s Infinite Machine and 'Deeform' on Brighton imprint Objects Limited, both packed with fierce, hard-edged club cuts. Those two records, as well as a handful of mixes for platforms like Resident Advisor, Discwoman, and The Astral Plane, demonstrate the double-edged sword that is Ziúr’s elegantly aggressive sound: “there's a lot of subtlety to whatever is really bold,” she explains.
Her debut full length 'U Feel Anything?', out October 6 as a split release via Planet Mu and Objects Limited, drags you further into Ziúr’s dystopian world of cacophonous drums, sluicing cuts of melody and white-hot vocal tracks. It’s a fully realized vision of the potentialities of club-based experimentalism, across an unpredictable expanse of twelve tracks. Her mix, below, demonstrates her eclectic tastes and inventive use of vocal stylings, with tunes from artists like The Sisters of Mercy, Cardi B, Pan Daijing, and Nina Simone.
We caught up with Ziúr while she was visiting New York at the end of the summer, a few days after she played Juliana Huxtable’s legendary Shock Value party. Read on to hear about her thoughts on the polarizing qualities of art, the emotive duality of her new LP, and why she was almost banned from a Berlin techno club. There's an exclusive mix too...
How did you find your way to club music?
I came from a punk, band-oriented background but at some point I wanted to do something different, and I started working on music with my computer in a solo project. Then a friend joined this project for a little bit, but even though it was electronic music, we were still forming as a band, in a way. The idea when I started Ziúr was to try to do something very accessible, which I failed terribly at. I mean, it is accessible to some people and I think that's really amazing too. I can filter so well with my music, it's hit and miss. Some people are so into it, which is really beautiful, and the rest I really don't care about. I don't have to make it up for anyone, I can just do my thing. I love polarizing with art, I think it's the best. The worst is if people bore me with their music. If I hate it, it's way better than to take it and fall asleep. I have the feeling my music doesn't invite people to fall asleep, either they’re hating it or they're loving it. Either way, I take [people] on a journey and demand attention; I introduce [them] to a world of me, basically.
Recently I played this solidarity party in Berlin in what was basically a techno club. My friend got me a drink while I was playing and the bartender was saying that I was "acoustically torturing" her, and then she was joking about banning me from the club. That was such a compliment, I felt so great. To be able to provoke a reaction like this, with my music, even if it's the worst ever.
It’s cool that you can have that attitude towards your art, and also have your music be well-received in the club scene. I think that speaks to the community in some ways, though "community" can be a tricky term.
Yeah, it's so funny, "community". I can never see just one side to things, I have it in my life that I've generally always seen both sides. With community, sometimes it's everything to me and sometimes I step back. I have always been part of communities, but with one foot in and one foot out. I've never done one thing fully. Back when I was doing punk shows, I was a punk. Well, I think I still am a punk for real, but then I was never punk enough to validate as such. It's so easy to wear a scene code and go through this and that, and then all of a sudden you're accepted. But to have your own stand is always more complicated. With the music right now as well, I had to work harder to get to this point, but my stand is very unique and I'm here to stay.
That stand is apparent in the fact that you're already putting out a full length, instead of a shorter release. So many club producers only ever put out SoundCloud loosies or EPs. How did that come about?
With the start of this project, I stopped promoting myself, I didn't send a single demo out to anyone. Planet Mu approached me and was like, "Hey, how about we do an album?" After I put out the EP on Infinite Machine, Lara [Rix-Martin] of Objects Limited wrote me at some point and was like, "Maybe we should do something together" and I was like, "Oh yeah, you're a woman in the music business, that's really rare, and you run a label, let's talk." I collected some mixdowns of my music and sent it to her and got a record, [Deeform]. I was in London last summer, that's where I met Mike [Paradinas, of Planet Mu] and Lara, and then Mike was like, "It would be kind of nice to do a collaborative release." And that's how this all came together.
Planet Mu has a penchant for releasing artists that put new spins on their genres. What’s it like to be a part of that lineage?
Planet Mu have constantly just been following their vision. They don't really care so much about producing a hit record, more so doing something interesting. They have an edge to their sound and they've sustained it in a way that I think is really beautiful and amazing and they're not afraid to take risks, like with the footwork stuff. Or all of a sudden they would just throw WWWINGS out there. I have the feeling they're loving something and doing it for the sake of that, and not because of any financial reasons.
What inspires you within the music making process?
It's hard to point out in a way. Sometimes it could be a certain reverb on a certain snare drum that inspires me, then I come back to it three months later when I accidentally produce a song where it fits. It could be some polyrhythmical schemes that I just pick up from somewhere, some moods that I pick up... it's very subtle in a way. I really don't like to copy-paste my music. When I write something, I don't plan shit. It's just coming out of my inner self. I'm inspired by so many things and I just want to throw them all together and I'm really impulsive and in your face in general. But I'm super gentle at the same time so I think that's also what my music describes in a way.
Personally, I gravitated toward club music because I began to need something more intense than what other stuff was giving me. Some people are like, "How do you even dance to that?" and I’m like, "It's just about feeling it."
Exactly. That's everything to me, emotions and feelings are everything. I don't need a guideline. Either it hits me or it doesn't. I think I'm generally capable of understanding complex situations and pulling them together, I want to see the whole thing at first. I don't start at a detail and work myself through, I try to see the whole thing first and then I work through the detail. There's two different ways of approaching life in general, it could be walking on the street and I need to know my surroundings first until I feel comfortable walking down the street. It could be music also. It's some patterns that are just apparent in my life. But also I feel especially with the album, people maybe expect it to be all club bangers. It's so much more, it goes into really beautiful melodic parts and the track that I did with Aïsha [Devi] is just fucked up.
You run a club night in Berlin, BOOHOO. Can you talk about that a bit?
We've gotten really lazy with it. The last time was in December and the next time is going to be [this] December. We started off doing it once a month, and then it was like once every second month, and then it was irregular and now it's like once a year basically. I still want to do it, we wanted to do something in September but then the venue had a summer break. The venue is called Südblock, it's at Kottbusser Tor. It's a neighbourhood space and they're doing a lot for the community, it combines so many people, a lot of the Turkish community, queer community, and all sorts of hip kids. It puts so many people in one place. It's beautiful, I love the space, I also worked there for three years as a sound and light engineer. I'm part of the family there.
Is there a certain way you go about the booking for your night?
There's no real recipe to it. What we really care about is doing a diverse line-up and booking a lot of women and people of color. The white cis dude doesn't have the best stand when it comes to our bookings. It was so funny with the bookings, sometimes even the gay dudes who came to the party were like, "Oh we heard it's a lesbian party." I'm like, that's a great rumor, but our party doesn't have a label. Even though it's getting portrayed as an “LGBTQ party who's doing stuff for the trans community” – it's like yeah, but no. We don't want any label, we're just doing our night and what is mostly important is incredible music and introducing people to new things, and also bringing people together who wouldn't ever play together. We don't just go for the hip.
That kind of LGBTQ portrayal is super tokenizing! People should just focus on artists that are making sick art and not make a big deal out of their identities.
Exactly! There are institutions in Berlin where feminism is the big trend. Like, oh, you woke up right now and all of a sudden, this is your thing. I have the feeling sometimes it's just being used as a gimmick to give a little bit more edge to their everyday lives, and it's fucking me up so hard. If you want to incorporate those artists, then don't make it an outside agenda. Just have an inside agenda and don't talk about it. You can have an agenda. We have an agenda when we book a party too, but we're not talking about it. It's not something that I feel I need to do. Same with when I said earlier that I was never a punk, but I am. Maybe I'm not looking like a punk, and I don't have the scene codes and I don't wear the T-shirt or whatever, but it's still me from the inside. It's so easy to just follow certain things. There are so many other examples too, the white savior complex, or then there's probably the feminist savior complex, the queer community savior complex, and I'm like shut up with your savior-ism!
Real! By the way, congrats on getting signed to DW Artists [Discwoman’s booking agency].
We met last year in Berlin at a Discwoman event, and it was immediate love. I feel so genuinely understood by those people. It's been so striking that they just fully get me. And I get them and I feel extremely blessed and honored that they have faith in me to be part of them and their roster. They're so relevant for me when it comes to politics, they're doing the right thing, they're outspoken, they're coming from the inside, they're supporting the right people. This phrase, "amplify each other," that they came up with, it says everything.
'U Feel Anything?' is out on October 6 via Planet Mu & Objects Limited
The album launch party takes place on September 28 at Corsica Studios in London as part of Unconscious Archives Festival
Nina Posner is Mixmag's Bass + Club Music Editor. Follow her on Twitter
The Sisters Of Mercy - This Corrosion
Ledef - Hangar Queen
Tyle x Rob Da God - Afro Circus Double Tap Remix
Ziúr - Cipher
TLC - No Scrubs
Pan Daijing - Act of The Empress皇后之作
Swan Meat & DJ Heroin - ???
Cardi B - Foreva
Laurel Halo - Syzygy
Mana - Runningman
Metaknight - Feminine ft. Shug
Kingdom × MC Alemão - Punished × Manda Pras Cachorras (Santa Muerte Edit)
Ziúr - U Feel Anything?
Violence - ...A Black Child Purloined In The Profane Dream, The Heart Of Darkness (Wholly Alien, One Drop Of White Blood)
Serpentwithfeet - Blisters
Tory Lanez - Luv AM97 Neurofunkd
Ziúr - Visionist
Anna Morgan - Grace
Fawkes - Nemesis
Antwood - The New Industry
Only Now - Bound
Mariah Carey - I Want To Know What Love Is
Nina Simone - Funkier Than a Mosquito’s Tweeter
Klein - B2k