Fast, hard, intrepid techno.
Though the label has only had three releases so far (soon to be four), Intrepid Skin is the sound of modern-day techno. Few other entities can encapsulate the mixture of aggression, melody and distortion that make up today's popular techno as well as Intrepid Skin or the woman behind it, SPFDJ.
As a resident at Herrensauna, SPFDJ helped define this world: influenced by gabber but not hemmed in by it, touching on EBM without fully wearing that genre on its sleeve. It's fast, it's lithe, it's brutal and, often, lighthearted in spite of itself. This is techno that's packed with detail even at its fastest and most aggressive, like a sledgehammer with an ornately carved handle.
You'll hear guttural screams, distorted kick drums, a vocal sample talking about mechanical vaginas and even rapper Zebra Katz in this otherwise straightforward techno mix, which tells you something about SPFDJ's kaleidoscopic view of the genre. The mixing style—fast and precise—is old-school, but the approach is new-school. As she explains below, her style when it comes to some of the fastest, heaviest dance music around is nuanced and full of personality.
What have you been up to lately?
Aside from despairing about the state of the world, at the moment I've been working on things to help me stay afloat mentally and financially: some label work preparing for the release of Marcus L's new EP on my imprint Intrepid Skin and finalising my first merchandise drop, a limited number of T-shirts with my "Anal Sex slogan" that will be available later this week hopefully. If you're new to me, the print reads: "Techno, Acid, Hardcore, Trance, Anal Sex." Cheeky and in-your-face, not for everyone but that pretty much sums me up.
Usually I'd be touring a lot on the weekends but with the pandemic I'm now playing the odd show here and there depending on where the number of cases is low and what safety measures the promoters can ensure, so these days I'm hanging in my flat a lot. Luckily I'm looking after a friend's cats for a few weeks so I have some unusually cuddly feline company for a bit.
I've also kept busy with other things that I don't want to say too much about until maybe next year—let me stay a bit secretive for now haha.
How and where was the mix recorded?
At home in my flat in Neukölln, with three Pioneer-CDJ2000NXS2s and a Xone:92 mixer. These days I'm playing a lot of digital music since I started using all the cool functionalities of the CDJs. My hot cue system is quite elaborate and I'm now having fun not being tied to playing tracks in a linear fashion but instead jumping between different sections in the tracks to make transitions more interesting or smooth, and layering things on top for extra sass.
I was also picking the cats off the decks every now and then, they got very curious and attention-seeking whilst I was recording.
Can you tell us the idea behind the mix?
I went through an unusual amount of music for this podcast. I think I downloaded over 500 new tracks just in preparation for this which is pretty nuts, on top of sifting through my already existing collection. I actually had so many more tracks I wanted to squeeze in, including SKIN004 that comes out next week, but my selection for podcasts depends so much more on the flow instead of what tracks I'm most excited to play, so sometimes I'm not able to bake in my favourites (sorry to everyone who sent me sick stuff that's not in here).
In most of my other mixes I have used occasional lower energy tracks for dynamics but in this one I've focused more on going back and forth between a straighter hard groove and tracks with more drive or bounce, basically to keep the energy level up throughout without it becoming too repetitive or straining to listen to. My close friend Natalia once told me that she classifies techno into two categories, forward and sideways, depending on how people tend to move to it on the dance floor (i.e. sideways sway or forward fist-pumping), and this describes quite well what I mean with this. I alternate between sideways and forward to keep the listener's attention while keeping the momentum. This is basically how I like to play my sets usually, I don't like sticking to one or the other for too long or I get a bit bored with myself.
I think the mix also has a darker and more serious tone that reflects my state of mind this summer, with the sparse additions of more lighthearted (or at least less seriously "techno") interruptions such as Escaflowne's "NO GUD," with a vocal sample about a mechanical vagina, Shygirl's "NVR" or my own edit of Zebra Katz (who I stan by the way, please check him out).
As someone who plays relatively hard, dance floor-focused techno, has the pandemic changed the way you approach your music at all?
The pandemic has had an effect on my approach for sure, but perhaps not on the style or hardness of the music I play. I have heard people say they started listening to slower stuff when the lockdown happened but I haven't seen that in myself, I'm still into the same rough, high energy techno as before. If anything I have developed my ear a bit, I'm now paying more attention to sound design and mixdowns in my selections, in part due to not having any gigs to bring about a need for a continuous stream of fresh music or the opportunity to test tracks on a system so I've become a bit more picky.
All three releases on Intrepid Skin have been quite different, albeit still relatively tough techno. What's your approach to the label?
My proudest achievement is the work on my still small but colourful label. Most labels try to create a coherent sound across all their releases but what I'm doing is showcasing each producer and their own individual sound and personal take on the world. The releases still all fit together under an umbrella of your typical SPFDJ sound which I think is more playful than most other techno DJs, but more importantly they each have a key element of individuality and focus on the artist's own character.
I met VTSS at my first gig abroad at Brutaz in Poland and I would describe her style as drawing from both the slower and more obscure sound of Warsaw's underground and their big (now) hardcore influences, while Nene H does her own banging analogue techno with the occasional touch from her Turkish roots, Schacke with his anthemic pop infusions into a trancey Copenhagen style and Marcus L with a Korean flavour on hardcore-infused bangers. I'm always on the lookout for more personalities and stories from other corners of the world so if that's you, you're more than welcome to reach out.
What are you up to next?
I'm working on something new for next year and currently trying to convince VTSS, Nene H and Schacke to return with new EPs on my label but deservedly so they are very in-demand right now, pray for me, haha. I'm also moving forward with other new-to-the-label producers for releases, I'm waiting for fresh demos from a French producer at the moment, whose EP has been a long time coming and one that I'm really excited about—I've been playing his music for a couple of years already and I adore his persistent love for distortion. I've also recently discovered a couple of women that are on my radar that I'm hoping to meet soon. I wouldn't really feel comfortable working so closely with people I've never met or know very little about, there are so many things that could make that experience difficult and I would rather get to know them first so let's see, but their music is very exciting!