Exclusive interview featuring Lee Ann Roberts.

For the twelfth installment of our interview series, we introduce Lee Ann Roberts.

South African-born, Amsterdam-based Lee Ann Roberts served up plenty of fresh techno in the last 12 months. This has taken her to the top end of the Beatport Hard Techno chart and to labels like Octopus Warehouse Series as well as her own NowNow Records, in which this month (March 25, 2022) she’s releasing her new single ‘March Of The White Fireflies‘ (pre order: Beatport, pre order Vinyl: Deejay), a track that is built on earth-shattering kicks drums and run through with edgy synth lines in a dark, dystopian atmosphere. The single also got remixed by big artists like Frazi.er, Charlie Sparks and Jacidorex.

Read below the very nice Q&A interview we had with her, and find out more about her upcoming single, her label, and some very interesting aspects of her career and personal life.

Hello Lee Ann, for us it’s a pleasure having you in our interview series, thank you. First of all, how are you and where in the world are you taking this interview?

Hey guys, thank you so much for having, it’s always lovely chatting to you. I’m doing great, thank you. I hope you are too. Right now I am in my studio in Amsterdam.

What led you to start your career in the electronic music scene, how did you get involved and in what year?

It was not on the dance floors in Berlin, Amsterdam, Barcelona, Milan where I started my musical journey, but it was in my hometown in Durban, South Africa. Music has been around me my whole life. From the very early stages my boyfriend at the time was putting on the best underground events in my hometown and the country which gave me a rare insight into the industry. Then later I discovered my love for PsyTrance and was a part of the scene in Cape Town for a number of years. I had been collecting records already for ages and after being in the clubbing scene for a while I decided to take to the turntables myself. So I learned the basics at Soul Candi and then spent the next 4 years playing in my room and anywhere they would let me, ha! I always had a strong love for electronic music. This led to me having a radio show on MuthaFM in Cape Town and I guess that’s when I realized there was a career move for me to take. I then moved to Los Angeles in 2014 and studied music production twice actually, once at Garnish Music School and then I took private lessons with DJ Rap and started to create from there so I would say from 2016 officially.

Congratulations on the release of your upcoming single ‘March Of The White Fireflies’, can you tell us about the production processes and inspiration behind this track?

Thank you , this one was a long time coming. I made this track quite a while back. I wanted to make something driving but also discordant and melodic using all the different elements of my own musical experiences and personality. I’m all about drive and distortion which you can hear clearly in the kick and drums. The percussion and 303 were warped through a harmoniser and heavily compressed. I sliced the vocal up by using a hi hat pattern to trigger a noise gate and made use of a trancey string line which went through a big eventide reverb and the synth line I ran through a distortion pedal to give it that edge.

How would you describe your new track ‘March Of The White Fireflies’ in your own words?

This one is full of flavour.

Tell us about the remixers of ‘March Of The White Fireflies’, which are Frazi.er, Charlie Sparks and Jacidorex, why do you invite them and what do you have to say about their remixes?

Artists I invite to the label are artists that I am inspired by and would love to work with. The 3 are all very different , they are all fantastic, well produced and dance floor destroyers. Really happy with the outcome of this release.

Tell us something about your label ‘NowNow Records’, are there any other releases planned to come out this year that you can tell us a little about?

Yes there are indeed. We have a couple of Artists EP’s, a vinyl VA, a vinyl remix package and a few single releases with remixers. That’s all I can say for now. The schedule for this year looks wonderful. Super happy to be able to give artists a platform to showcase their music.

Tell us about some of the highs and lows of running a label and what have you learned that you can share?

I have learnt so much, things I never knew before that’s for sure, but that’s what I live for, I love discovering new things , learning new terms etc. I remember when I left my previous management who was doing most of the label admin, when I took over he said the knowledge you will learn will be priceless and it’s so true. I have learnt about contracts , publishing , copyrights and the list goes on forever. I have so much fun running the label. I can do it day in and out, I truly enjoy it. The workload has become quite high and I am looking for a label manager as when I get back on the road it will be a bit too much to juggle everything. I love finding new artists, liaising and getting each release together, the artwork, everything I’m fully involved in it all and it gets me excited. And to be able to have a platform for artists and myself to release my music , collaborate with artists that inspire me is just incredible. It’s very special for me. That for me is a high. So I guess I’m high everyday, not literally haha.

Don’t get me wrong, running a label can be complicated , it doesn’t make huge money, maybe breaks even but definitely not in the first year or 2 but I knew this. For me it’s not about the money, it’s about creating my own imprint to share and collaborate with others, creating a community of cultures. Having to plan vinyl so far in advance can become quite stressful especially when trying to make the cut off dates especially when the artwork is falling apart or the designer cant work anymore, this has happened twice and I needed to get a replacement last minute with artwork coming out terribly and me in tears. It’s not a walk in the park, it’s a lot of hours and work put into it which I love but i think some people have this illusion of having a label but don’t really know what goes into it. Hard work always pays off so if you want to start a label, going for it will be the best thing you ever do if it’s done for the right reasons and if it’s something you are passionate about.

How are the gigs plans for you this year, and how was last year in that sense, having in consideration the pandemic, any gig in particular that has marked your career that you remember?

This year is looking super so far, itching to get back to work now. Last year was tough on us all but luckily it ended quite well for me with shows throughout September to December.

What do you like/enjoy the most, Producing music or DJing?

Well that’s a tough one as they are both so different. I get to be creative and put ideas into reality which is a rewarding thing. I’m a homebody so I can create in the studio for hours on end and just have fun. With Djing I get to be creative and at the same time see how happy everyone is at that moment and that’s priceless. I get to meet so many lovely people and that rush being on stage is like no other.

How do you prepare your dj sets when djing? Do you take a lot of music on your usb/computer and improvise on the go, or you’re more a dj that goes with your tracks previously picked in a playlist?

I spend a lot of time listening to music and sourcing new tunes, I listen daily and I love just going down rabbit holes. Sometimes I get lost for a little too long. I also like to find rare tunes so sometimes this may be vinyl only which I sometimes then strip to digital. Prep is such an important part of the process, I really can’t stress this enough. I prepare my sets in record box , set my cues and loops etc. I also do this on the fly depending on how I’m going or feeling on the night and in that moment with the crowd. I also sometimes prepare my CDJ’s at home… I just go through music and see what I’m feeling. I create playlists but swap and change if i feel the crowd needs it but i have these folders already prepped in rekordbox in their divisions. And I always carry a duplicate USB just encase as you never know…

How do you manage to stay motivated to keep producing music, any tip?

We all get our dips, it’s normal. Some days the creativity just isn’t there so don’t be hard on yourself when it isn’t. Take some days and come back to the project. I am motivated and driven in general and I love being in my studio. My mind never stops with ideas so I’m always progressing with things. I moved into a new place on October 1st and this is the first time I have had my own studio space so I’ve been doing it bit by bit and I’m obsessed with it. I never want to leave haha so it’s enough for me to keep me inspired right now. Music inspires me and this is what I do, I love it!

How would you describe the sound and style in your tracks, does it fit into a specific genre, does it change?

My sound is dark, emotional, I would say quite melancholic. I’m all about distortion and heavy drums, weird synth lines, industrial undertones inspired by different cultures , african percussion, 303 lines and sometimes with an influence of dark rave. I think genres now are so widespread with many different sub genres of techno so I wouldn’t say it fits into one specific genre. I always try to create a similar feeling with my own music where I try to create an amazing few minutes of escapism…I just want to do my best to create an amazing transcendent feeling that music can give. There is a lot of bounce and heavy grooves but still quite playful which I think sums me up, It definitely changes all the time I think as artists we are always evolving and if that means this month I’m more into acid then so be it. I don’t go in with a specific sound in mind I go with what i’m feeling in the moment.

What do you like to do when you’re not in the studio or at a gig?

I love to learn, be it studying something new or just reading/googling random things. I am hugely passionate about health and fitness and the environment. I love to snowboard and surf when I’m in the places that allow it. Love a good laugh with my friends and am super obsessed with running and yoga. Love a good book & series too.

Thanks for your time, to close the interview and for curiosity, what music do you listen to besides electronic music? ¿Can you recommend some artists to follow?

I’m a huge rock fan. But during Covid and due to restricted work space in lockdown I was working full time with headphones all day non stop and my ears have become quite sore and tired. I even started getting this weird flutter every now and then. So when I’m not working I try not to listen too much, that is only now while I’m trying to heal them. I even stopped listening to music at the gym. However, I have been listening to my friend Jake Childs (a producer from Houston) meditation series which he started recently on youtube called Theta GMS which I have been listening to while I work, meditate or even while doing house chores it’s amazing!

Thank you for having me, keep well xx

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