Producer Spotlight: Anastasia Kristensen is
Exploring New Worlds in Her Productions
Producer Spotlight: Anastasia Kristensen is March 16, 2021
Exploring New Worlds in Her Productions
It goes without saying that 2020 was a year of major changes in the world of dance music. Dancefloors, the social and spiritual hub of the electronic music scene, have been sorely missed by ravers and DJs alike. And for Russian-born, Denmark-based DJ and producer Anastasia Kristensen, it’s meant an uncharacteristically quiet year.
From several headline gigs per weekend across the globe in 2019 to almost a year without touring, the travel restrictions put in place as a result of Covid 19 have totally changed Kristensen’s life. And while she hasn’t been headlining any festivals or club nights, she has been hard at work writing music, and designing her first sample pack for Loopmasters: Retro Future Techno.
“[Lockdown has] benefited me in a way because I don’t travel as much, so my health has kind of normalised,” she tells us from her home in Copenhagen. “That’s a positive thing, but obviously it’s been very hard to accept the fact that we don’t travel right now, and we don’t see people.”
And how has it affected you musically? Has time away from club and festival environments changed what you’re listening to and making?
I have definitely been making lots of drafts with untraditional beats, not four on the floor stuff, but I also write a lot of tracks that are club-ready — it’s a balance.
In my free time I listen to all sorts of music. I really like listening to other people’s podcasts. It’s important to stay in shape, but for obvious reasons I’m not in the same shape that I usually would be — I haven’t prepared a proper Rekordbox playlist in a very long time.
Have you been DJing much at home?
I bought CDJs when we were going into the first lockdown back in March 2020. I played a few times and recorded some mixes, but it’s not even near to what I normally do.
I’m excited to get back because I think my DJing will have evolved because of this break — I’m going to be looking at it from a new perspective.
How do you think it will have changed?
I think my taste has evolved and I’ve become a bit more aware of what I really like, and what kind of sound I prefer in my sets. But time will tell.
With a forced break from DJing, have you found yourself producing more?
I wouldn’t say I produce much more, but I’ve given myself some freedom to explore different techniques. I created a sample pack for Loopmasters which was really interesting; it’s not something I’ve done before.
I had two to three months to create it and I found that was a good amount of time to go and experiment, but it was also useful to have a deadline. You can make samples forever and the library can just grow and grow.
How did you find the process of creating a sample pack differed creatively from writing tracks?
It was a different experience because I reused a lot of samples that I made throughout the years. Some of the sounds in my sample pack come from some of the first recordings I made about six years ago. I went back and dug them out specifically for this project.
Of course it’s different to regular production because you have to focus on four to six second sounds which can be a bit frustrating. I’d end up making full loops, or find myself making a full track even though I only had to make one sound.
I’ve ended up with a lot of draft projects that will hopefully turn into full tracks.
When you go back through old projects looking for samples is it interesting to hear the progression in your sound?
I actually find it really hard to judge “my sound” because by the time tracks are released you’ve listened to them over and over again, and you can sometimes feel really sick of your own release.
However, the process of creating the sample pack became very creative and interesting. You make a lot of sounds and you can review your personality through these short samples.
What equipment do you use in your sound design process?
I used synths like Zebra and DIVA to build sounds from scratch. I also used Ambika which is really good for percussive sounds and rich, melodic stuff. I also have my own samples from different gear I’ve used over time that I would manipulate with effects
All the sounds I created ended up working very harmoniously, even though every sound came from a totally different source. There are sounds from years ago and sounds that I synthesized recently. I wanted it to have this theme of sounding modern, but with touches of late ‘80s and ‘90s.
The artist Ctrls also helped me a lot with this project. It was my first time working on a sample pack so I wanted to have a better idea of how to approach it and how to polish the sounds. He would mix down the samples for me. I always use someone to mix down my sounds — I think having a second pair of ears to listen to your productions is a professional way to approach your own work.
Let’s talk about sound design in your own music. You use breakbeats in a really interesting way, and they have an amazing sound in your tracks, do you have a specific approach to working with breakbeats?
I actually have a custom-made library from about 10 years ago, they’re pretty rare drums. I don’t remember exactly where they came from, it was someone who made them from scratch over three or four years and sold them on the internet, it was literally a website that looked like it was from the ‘98 era or something.
I stumbled upon that library, bought the samples and I’ve been using them on and off ever since. I’ve also created and programmed a few for my sample pack.
I really like breakbeats because they can switch up the energy of an EP or set, if you just have constant four on the floor it can get a bit boring.
How do you approach the EP writing process?
My process is pretty much the same from year to year. I usually have a bank of tracks, then I’ll go back to finish certain tracks. I’ll polish and rearrange them and maybe add some details for the EP, then I’ll discuss them with the label and sort out the order of the tracks.
There was a time when I was preparing an EP and then I decided to say no because I wasn’t actually feeling it, so that can happen too.
It can be a long process to form an EP, and sometimes you don’t even end up with one, but it’s been interesting and a good learning process for me so far. I’m excited for everything that’s yet to come.
You’ve also recently curated the Rewire & Acquire V/A charity compilation which featured 19 different artists, and raised money for equalitynow.org. Is curating releases something you would like to do more of in the future?
I would love to for sure! I just really think that it needs the right time and the right kind of platform. Making your own label is a lot of work and there are many approaches.
I wanted to do this one because I was really involved with the charity and I had so many friends showing me their work. It kind of merged into this idea doing something with several purposes — contributing to a good cause but also showcasing tracks from friends. Some of them do not have many releases and some of them do. I thought it was a good way to combine known and less known names together.
It’s gone really well. We’ve raised over €1200 in the first two months and it’s inspired me to plan something similar for this year or next year.
I’m very responsible about this process. I don’t want to just throw more digital tracks out there. I think everything has to be well-curated and have a certain meaning with good production and good masters.
I think this one took a good two months even though it’s just digital and I have people around me to master it. I had to say no thank you to a few artists unfortunately as there were going to be too many tracks and I’d rather wait for part two. I definitely want to do more A&R — let’s see how that’s going to turn out in the future.
Most of the tracks on there are quite dancefloor oriented, but the second track, “Sunflower Seeds and Spit,” is a spoken-word piece with ambient instrumentation. What’s the story behind that?
S Ruston and caner taker wrote about their struggles as immigrants and the abuses they received, which fits well with the overall idea of the compilation. That’s why it comes early in the compilation.
You also have a track on the compilation called “What Colour.” It’s a little different to your past releases, how did you approach writing that?
For my own production, I wanted to do something different compared to what I usually produce. I don’t want to pin myself to one style, and using my own platform was a very good way to release something that might surprise people. I could see that track was really popular among friends and German listeners.
Do you see your DJing and producing as two separate artforms, or are they linked in your eyes?
It’s kind of both. When I was traveling and touring I thought more about making DJ-friendly tracks, and I still do that. However, it’s been really nice to feel less pressure and expectation because of the pandemic. Making music can be totally separate from the dancefloor and DJing, but as a DJ it’s also great to see producers thinking about DJs in the way they produce and structure their tracks.
It’s important for producers, and for DJs who are digging for music, to not just stay in your bubble but to see what else is out there. Dig old records and see how people were making music in the past, or look for artists from different continents because there might be a different culture around producing electronic music. It’s really important to not just stick to what’s conventional or work within a formula just because it works.
That’s what I love about podcasts. I love to discover what my friends and people I don’t know anything about have been doing. I also really love independent blogs and digging for something that’s not necessarily been put up on a track-selling website. That’s how I try to keep up my knowledge and curiosity now that everything is closed and we can’t travel or go to small local shops or meet local artists. Thanks to the Internet there’s a lot to discover still.
Are there any artists or labels you have been particularly liking the music of lately?
I always really like what Timedance put out, they have some really interesting releases. Quest?onmarc has sent me some of her unreleased tracks and I’m really excited for her to have them released, I think they’re really dope. I’ve also been digging some of the early 2000s to late ‘90s Pete Lazonby. I discovered him not so long ago and it’s some of the quirkiest dancefloor music, more like intelligent dance music meets dancefloor. I like it a lot.