Issue #132 Mix: Aural Battle Armor

Mix: Aural Battle Armor


Shayol: Science Fiction Fantasy, no. 4 (1980). Cover detail.

Issue #132
December 2022

One thing, especially about house music, is that there’s no female representation, no feminine representation—ever. Anywhere. I’ve only seen one documentary that mentioned women being in house music. If I didn’t make the switch from house to techno—from Lady Blacktronika to Femanyst—and especially hard techno, I think I’d be doing the same three hundred Euro gigs for the rest of my life, never getting anywhere. When people ask, “Who are the top names in house music?,” no women are ever mentioned. It’s a total lack of representation, and it’s like they say: the good old boys’ network. It just keeps particular men in power, and they don’t give that power away to anybody. Or at least not to anybody who’s not a man from Detroit.

When I was doing house music, I had no love from Detroit. In the 2000s I was really into beatdown. On Myspace—before I even had a record out—I wrote that I was the first lady of beatdown because there were no women. And then this particular producer/DJ sent out an email to all kinds of producers and labels, telling them, “She’s not the first lady of beatdown”—basically telling them not to support me. All I was doing was being a fan. To get this vehement hate before I even got established in the industry at all was terrible. But I kept on persevering.

Early on in my career in house music, people were like, “Oh, we want to book her,” but then they would book some famous guy. Or maybe not famous, but they would just book a guy instead of booking me. Nothing ever got invested in me, so it was just harder to feel invested in it. In techno, after just a year or two of even just dabbling—I didn’t even know what my sound was—I was already playing in France, Nuits Sonores, places I would never have been asked to play as Lady Blacktronika. I guess my voice in techno seemed so rebellious. Suddenly, I was going places I never imagined I could go.

I made house music because I loved it. But when I listen back to that music, a lot of it is very sad—that was how I was working through my emotions. I felt like I needed to be on a different journey, sonically and emotionally.

Techno was of part of this healing effort I needed to make. I didn’t want to be singing the same sad songs for the rest of my life. Berghain also played a big part in this because I liked the intense energy in the club more than going upstairs to Panorama Bar. For me, it has to do with the freedom to be topless—being a big woman and being topless in a very masculine-centered space. That allowed me to be free because I was able to force myself to say, I belong here, too. Nobody cared downstairs [in Berghain]. But I noticed that when I would go upstairs to Panorama Bar, it was like I needed to cover myself up because people are looking at you like, what are you doing?

Techno coincided with my own personal journey towards freedom. [At Berghain] we used to talk about being upstairs or downstairs. When you go up upstairs, it’s a totally different vibe. Downstairs feels much more loose and free. I have always loved house music and I probably always will, but it doesn’t give me the cathartic relief anymore, not as much as techno does. It’s the aggressiveness, the abrasiveness, the hardness. I don’t know. But then, not all techno is equal. Some techno is much more aggressive and in your face.

I like noises. I like weird noises. Techno of an aggressive and abrasive nature has long been a source of aural battle armor against a world that’s unaccepting of queerness or otherness. Since my teens, I have embraced that aspect and found safety and an ability to live free and authentically myself through this music. I remember making a post on Facebook about why we like wiggly noises. I love “wakka wakka wakka” sounds—it just tickles my soul when I hear something like that! But I also think a lot about the horror film genre. I don’t really like horror, but in music, I like horror! It’s the darkest elements: rebelling against society and norms, the constrictive norms, or prescriptive norms. [Techno] allows me to rebel against society, and I definitely irritate my neighbors!

As a trans woman, what I also love—what I’ve noticed—is that trans women of color are finding DJing and techno as an avenue of survival as opposed to sex work. That’s been really important for me to see. I’ve been really happy to see that the girls don’t have to rely on sex work anymore—or not as much. I started out in my early twenties with sex work and being homeless—everything that would be the story of Black trans women in the ’90s and the 2000s was my story. And then I got into music, and I found another avenue. I’m glad that so many of the girls are finding this. That’s an amazing thing for me to see—that this industry is taking the girls up.

There are a few things the industry never addresses. We’re always saying, “include women,” but then we don’t say, “Well, which women?” That question never gets asked or answered. Then there’s the issue of classism. The industry loves wealth consolidation, and they like to pay people who don’t need money. But if you need money, then you have a stamp that says you’re greedy and not just hungry or in need of financial support. And a lot of [the gatekeepers in the industry] don’t get that because they haven’t come from where we come from. For me to see the girls making it makes me happy.

Music, Gender
Freedom, Black Feminism, Transgender
Return to Issue #132

Femanyst is the techo alias of Lady Blacktronika. Her mission is to make techno exciting again by focusing on it’s forgotten history.


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