Lean house and techno from one of the best in the business.
Sonja Moonear is representative of many DJs at the top level of the so-called minimal scene. She's relaxed about publicity, slick behind the decks and, perhaps most importantly, has a keen eye for the dance floor. And just like most of the others, Moonear doesn't release much music, which means she's made her way to the top by simply playing great DJ sets. Moonear cut her teeth as a DJ in Geneva around the turn of the century as a resident at the city's key club, Weetamix. Perlon chief Zip was a regular guest at the venue and, as Moonear told the fabric blog in 2013, he invited her to play in Berlin after she warmed up for him a few times. "I will never forget this moment," she said. Moonear now ranks among dance music's most in-demand selectors, with a versatile and rhythmic style that takes in a broad cross-section of house, techno and minimal.
This week's RA podcast is a colourful snapshot of Moonear's sound. Rhythmic and nicely strange, she mixes up driving minimal and vibrant house—the sound of a maestro at work. You can catch Moonear doing her thing at this year's Movement festival in Detroit, which runs May 28th to May 30th.
What have you been up to recently?
Since I entered a sabbatical year off in January this year, I finally have more time for my family, studio and travels. It gave me the opportunity to travel overseas—some places for the first time—visiting Japan, Australia and Indonesia, and to spend most of February with my daughter in South America. I do love my day job but I just had never stopped working before. I will get back to it beginning next year with a better organization, because doing everything at the same time definitely doesn't work anymore.
How and where was the mix recorded?
It was recoded in my little studio in Carouge on a pretty basic setup: two SL1210s, an old Outline Pro 405 and a Pioneer CDJ 2000 for the three digital tunes used in the mix. I use near-field monitors from Genelec, the 1032s. It's a one-take recording session because I wanted it to be simple, straight and real, so you will get a couple of shakes and wobbles now and then.
I had just moved into my new studio, so doing this mix was a good test for the room acoustics. The monitors are placed according to the gear and instruments, but not to the turntables. I had a couple of surprises. It took me months to finish the construction works, from building the ceiling and walls to installing the electrical circuit and treating the room correctly. I am now really, really happy to have this little paradise hideout to blow some proper sounds out.
Can you tell us about the idea behind the mix?
In my country we're suffering from a total lack of record stores. The closest one from my house is in Torino. I rarely use Discogs because the prices are completely stupid sometimes. So when I need a proper fix, I fly to Spacehall in Berlin in the morning and come back at night with a bag full of happiness.
So the idea behind the mix, I was just back from the market that day and wanted to put some of those vinyl together in a logical progression, so that at the end of it I/you might want to go out clubbing. After listening to it again I realised you will probably get as many different styles as the (small) number of tracks included, but that's maybe a compressed version of what I do when I go out playing, so I simply left it that way.
We're coming up to the festival season. Do you tend to approach playing festivals quite differently from your clubs sets?
I approach every single gig differently, and will always do so. I spend hours preparing my record bags each and every weekend, and always bring a lot of music with me. I also try as much as possible to have the correct information about the venues. Soundsystem, size, crowd knowledge, playtime, and, most importantly, who's also playing that night/day, because at the end I'm convinced that what counts is the overall experience of the event, not just your own little contribution. Of course you have to define and keep your own musical colour, but that one has many gradients and we (as DJs opposed to live performers) have the chance to run through them quite easily.
What are you up to next?
I am leaving this week for a two-and-a-half-week US tour together with Zip, and I'm very happy about it. Since I had lost my visa at the beginning of the year, the chances to get a new one in time were really poor. At the moment I'm mixing one of the Cocoon summer compilations, and we're currently trying to clear out some licensing issues. I am working on some remixes too, but I really can't wait to get back locked working freely on my own things.
And if I may add just one little thing: it's about attitude. It will sound very naive and probably a bit hippie too, but maybe someone will read this so I'll take the opportunity. We are living in a stingy world where everything and everyone feels the need to constantly compete and compare. At work, on the road, in the supermarket or even sometimes at home. Since a while already, I see and hear inaccurate things when playing/attending an event. This is not a place for that. It kills creativity and synergy. Let's please finally leave all this out of club. Thank you very much.