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Ani Klang

While Ani Klang’s vicious sounds reflect her inner shadows, it's within these spaces that her catharsis occurs.

Her curiosity with the anger and frustration manifested through other artists fueled her into exploration of sound design and of herself.
The music producer-DJ does not shy away from seemingly negative emotions. Instead she embraces them to create sonic amalgamations of her human experience - often using often raw, analog industrial samples.

With 3 EP’s under her belt, the most recent being the delightfully violent EP Burn The Empire, she’s sucessfully pioneered her own take to club music; it is one that continues to defy the bounds of genre placement.  
Ani currently runs a monthly radio show Klangxiety Attack on Reform Radio, and a twitch stream - producers are able to send in their demos and have them hilariously reviewed by her. Not only has she been named a DJ to watch in 2021 by SoundCloud, she's also one of 18 rising stars by Berlin Music Commission’s annual “Listen to Berlin” compilation in 2018.

In conversation with the producer, we discuss her creative process behind her debut album, her strong affinity for controversial sound design, and much more!

* You are based in Berlin, raised in California and honed in New
York. With each place being quite distinct in terms of culture, music,
etc - how do the nuances in each of these places reflect your
approaches to your production and your everyday life?

Ani Klang: My somewhat nomadic lifestyle was not one I chose, but one I very much enjoy living. I’d like to think that each place left me with a very specific lesson but I’m not entirely sure that’s true. In general, I spend a lot of time indoors (not necessarily by choice, but all my equipment lives indoors, so that’s where I find myself most days). The few times I do go outside each day are to take a break from technology and breathe - and sometimes the raw, quotidian sounds from the environment I’m in will seep into my skull and adjust the way I’m thinking about whatever project I’m on, but in general, I’m not largely affected by where I am. Some of the most aggressive pieces I’ve made have started in the most peaceful parks in Berlin, and some of my more melodic and atmospheric music has come from my time working in loud and industrial spaces in New York. Maybe I like to create in contrast to my surroundings?

Pre-COVID, I definitely drew inspiration from every good club night I went to - but the DJ’s I saw were typically playing a collage of music from many scenes and genres. The beauty of hybrid club music is in its refusal to confine to any particular location or genre. And since quarantine, I’ve probably discovered more influential global artists than when I was actively DJing and travelling! So inspiration comes from every corner of my life, the internal as much as the external, and I’ve found it’s quite difficult to pinpoint which circumstances spark which sounds or concepts. I’m not sure why that is, but I embrace it.

* In your documentary, you describe being inspired by artists who
'were going for that shock and awe factor.' What stimulated you about those manifestations?

Ani Klang: I think what really draws me to certain artists is the attitude they have about their music - how little regard they have for how others might perceive their work. I have perpetually struggled in my artistic career to create without fear or consideration for what others may think. It’s a skill that takes years of practice. Audience critique, in my experience, is helpful maybe 10% of the time (also depends highly on the audience), but 90% of the time, it has made me feel discouraged, like I’m not doing something right. I remember showing my early work to some friends and their response was, ‘it’s cool but.. where’s the melody? The words?’ I felt confused, but I soon determined that a piece of music doesn’t need to be widely regarded as beautiful, melodic or contextually meaningful in order to classify as ‘good music.’

If we look at the history of popular music, almost every genre has, at one point, been considered horrific, demonic, ‘shrill,’ or any of the other derogatory terms used to describe sounds that are unfamiliar to the ear. We often think of classical music or piano-based music as the most ubiquitously ‘beautiful,’ but did you know the musical interval known as the tritone was once banned from churches because it sounded too ‘creepy’? A tritone is three adjacent whole steps in a sequence. It was banned because it sounded unresolved, and it was eventually deemed ‘the devil's interval.’ Now, it’s one of the most common melodic phrases in rock, jazz, and Broadway musicals. Early rock music and Doo-wop were considered noise, early house music was atonal garbage. I’ve never taken any widespread critique too seriously. In fact, if the majority of people hate a song, a genre, an artist, I’m probably more inclined to explore it - that means something interesting is there. Most people react out of fear and hatred when confronted with something unfamiliar or unusual. The future of popular music lies in these misunderstood sounds and genres.

I don’t mean to say I want to listen to someone atonally screaming for 3 hours on loop because the vast majority of people would hate that. I am, however, a little addicted to music that makes an impact - good or bad. Controversy will always stand out above the noise.

* What’s something you’ve had to develop, or learn whilst
constructing Burn The Empire?
What new or reoccurring challenges did you run into & which new or
recurring strengths did you realize you had?

Ani Klang: I learned a lot while making that record - mainly because the period of creation spanned several years and so I changed a lot in the process. I’d say the biggest takeaway was practicing patience. Creating any piece of art takes an incredible amount of patience, but the amount of work that follows the completion/release is almost as emotionally and mentally taxing as creating the work itself.

There are so many moving parts to releasing a record - finding the right label, getting a good mastering engineer, remixes, artwork, press, promo, interviews, music videos, merchandise, etc. Trying to arrange all these elements to fit together in one cohesive package is nothing short of a painful headache. There were a lot of firsts in this release that forced me to work harder and more diligently than ever before.

I was especially tested by my ability to compartmentalize my emotions from my work - I learned this is something that also takes years of practice. The music video (which premiered on Boiler Room 4:3 (https://fourthree.boilerroom.tv/film/ani-klang-problem) is still one of my proudest accomplishments, but the process of preparing it for the world was very emotionally challenging. The dancer in the music video is my ex-girlfriend, and we broke up right before the music video went to editing. So of course, I had to sit and watch hours of footage of her dancing so I could organize the files and communicate the vision to the editor. The video came out fantastic, but I really had to learn to put my feelings aside and just focus on the video as an extension of the EP, and the dancer as just a dancer, not someone who I have a very complex relationship with.

I also learned the importance of maintaining a creative ritual and having a space that is sacred to the creation of my art. In Berlin, my studio was my bedroom. My desk was three feet away from my bed. There was no separation between work and pleasure, I was constantly living between these two extremes with no space to transition from one to the other. At my parent’s home in California (where I’m currently quarantining) I’m lucky enough to have a separate studio space around the corner from my bedroom. This separation of the office from the bedroom has been massively helpful in my creative process. I treat my studio as a dedicated space for creation and reflection. Every time I begin a session, I light a stick of incense, pace around my studio as it burns between my fingers, and I think affirming thoughts to myself to put my mind in a pleasant and meditative space, open and ready to pour itself out. I think ‘Burn the Empire’ would have been a very different record (and released much sooner) if I had the same ritualistic practice and separation of studio from home in my previous living space. But I’m still grateful I was able to learn this about myself and put it into practice every day.

While creating Burn the Empire, every day was unique. My schedule was very erratic and I had little time to contribute fresh ideas to my music. Solitude was rare in my raucous flat, and this greatly affected my ability to be vulnerable with myself. I’ve noticed it takes my mind at least an hour to fully shift into an uninhibited, mindless headspace where it can create uninterrupted. Masters can shift their mind into a trance-like state of concentration in a matter of minutes but to this day I am still practicing this aspect of mindful mindlessness in my creative process - putting all the responsibilities of the day aside and centering the mind on forming and articulating new ideas. 

*In your interview for No Taste, you were discussing your favorite gig in Czech Republic circa 2018. You described seeing a 'raucous row of sweaty Czech people just losing their minds, head banging and dancing and throwing their arms
up like they were being possessed by a demon.'
Why do you feel your music has such a strong effect on people? Do you feel your transparency about your own shadows contributes to this?

Ani Klang: To be honest, I’m not quite sure why my music has this effect on people. I’ve found the emotion my music imparts changes from listener to listener, it’s often pretty polarizing. Sonically, the high BPM, the overflow of percussive rhythms, my use of distortion and vocal samples are all factors that contribute to the energetic feeling people often describe. I’ve also heard people say it makes them angry, joyous, anxious, confused, horny, all the above.
Much of the energy and sonic choices I make in my music are derived from my internal energy that’s always pulsing and swarming due to my ADHD / anxiety disorder. I think that’s quite audible in the music.

I’ve been very open about my experiences that contribute to my anxiety and depression. Some tracks I’ve made are extremely special to me, they’ve served as a sort of digital bucket to contain all my thoughts and feelings surrounding a life event. Sometimes confronting a trauma through a musical composition makes me feel like I have control over it - like it’s mine to manipulate and warp into something that makes sense to me. A waveform is visual, malleable, a piece of something larger than a memory. Maybe it’s that indirect feeling of power over something scary that makes listeners feel the way they do.

But not every track is deeply sentimental to me - many tracks I’ve made are merely compositions, experiments, collections of sounds organized in a way that I find interesting. It’s really up to the listener to decide which compositions impact them in a significant way. As long as my music communicates something, I’m satisfied.

* I was listening to your interview on CSJ Radio, where you described
the concept behind Burn The Empire, and how you feel our art should
have the freedom to hold whichever significance we want it to have. I
really resonated with that. We are constantly pressured to empower
others or make political statements in absolutely everything we do. I
think wanting to set the world on fire is equally valid and just as
powerful, anyway.

Ani Klang: Thank you! I’m so happy that resonated with you. It’s true, the only responsibility we have as artists is to make work that is true and significant to us personally, and no one else. Like I mentioned earlier, it is very difficult to create without an audience in mind (I feel I’m always trying to stop myself from over-conceptualizing my work during interviews), but I’ve found the bulk of meaning in a piece isn’t fully obvious until after it’s completed. The meaning or ‘purpose’ of any artwork should be decided first and foremost by the artist, and the rest is just noise.