Little White Earbuds Interviews Cassy

When discussing her music, Berlin-based producer/DJ Cassy Britton admits she wanted to start “as simple as possible” to leave room for improvement and details as time went on. The simplicity tying together her productions for Perlon, Beatstreet, Uzuri, her own Cassy imprint and others is absolutely captivating, locking listeners into single-minded grooves too effective to resist (and just imagine what happens when those details arrive). Her DJing style has a similarly singular drive — documented on the essential Panoramabar 01 mix — that traces stylistic links throughout the history of house music, all of which makes her one of the most in demand jockeys around. We were lucky enough to sit down with Cassy after her (absolutely cracking) debut performance in Chicago to discuss her label, an ongoing project with her husband, Tobias Freund, the Atlantic divide in dance music, and uplifting house.
(Interview by Steve Mizek)

How have you liked your time in Chicago?

Cassy: Yeah, very much.

Did you have time to go record shopping?

Yes, it was *so* great. I went to Gramaphone. It was fantastic.

Did you get much while you were there?

I think I got… (to her friend) How many records did I get? 15 to 20.

So I wanted to thank you for this [a promo of Margaret Dygas, “See You Around”], and I was just curious what it means when it says, “production and mix by Tobias” and “all music by Margaret.”

Yeah, she did the tracks, she composed and arranged them and everything. It’s a matter of, she has the home studio and it she wanted to make it sound its best so she went into Toby’s studio.

Cool, I look forward to hearing it. When we were talking at the Afterschool Special party at The Yard, you mentioned that you and Tobias were working on a new project. I was wondering if you could tell me a little bit about that.

Well, the thing is we started working on the new project three years ago. *both laugh*

So it’s only new in a sense, then.

It would be new if it would come out and people would listen to it. We have to finish it and everyone has so much going on by themselves that its’ really hard…

Do you have a lot done?

What we wanted to do is an album. It’s actually more like Toby’s project that I’m singing on.

I see. Well, I hope it comes out soon.

Yeah, I hope so, too.

What’s it like working with Tobias on records?

We never work together apart from this one projected. Sometimes I go to his studio to listen to my stuff; and sometimes I have problems with the 909, making it sound like the 808 sounds and we look at the problem sound-wise. But we never work together.

Do you two offer suggestions back and forth about each other’s music?

Yeah, yeah.

I’ve heard you were at least partially responsible for getting Tobias to make music again, or at least under his own name. Is that true?

I guess. He was doing stuff… and, you know, you do stuff and you change and you don’t know… you need reassurance. I think I just reassured him majorly; that’s probably a way of pushing, but I just reassured him that whatever he was doing was fantastic.

And that’s so true, he’s had an unbelievably good stretch lately.

Yeah, absolutely.

But of course, so have you, so you two do well together. (both laugh) Why did you choose to start Cassy the label?

I did it actually three years ago because I wanted to release music that no one else would release. (laughs)

Really, no one else would release it?

I don’t know, maybe someone would release it, but…

I suppose that was closer to when you were starting out.

Yeah, kind of. I had been producing myself for about four years, and I guess it was the second year that I thought, ‘Maybe this isn’t going to be releasable for some people, so I’m going to do something that’s completely on my own, with my own fuck ups — make mistakes publicly, try something.’

Generally your tracks are reduced to a couple parts that repeat with a few changes for however long. What about that sort of minimal groove approach really appeals to you that keep doing it, that it’s become your style?

I think… (pauses)… what I appreciate about music is the details. And of course the masters of house and techno have many brilliant details. I guess it’s just a way for me to test how I can progress. Maybe I’m going to add more later on, but I think it’s good to start out as simple as possible.

That’s an interesting theory. And your own musical style works well with the sort of tracks you play out as a DJ.

Of course. It’s a kind of reinterpretation of what I listen to.

So you’ve been playing a couple U.S. dates now, and obviously there are huge difference between the American scene and those of Europe. These days it seems the birthplace of house music doesn’t offer as much support for the scene as you’ll find all over Europe, where it’s actually somewhat popular. Do you have any thoughts on that?

Yes, the club scene is strong in Europe, of course, but in the end it’s also easier to play here [in America] because people actually get it — in a way they actually get it even more because it’s in them, they know it. In Europe you have to trick people a little bit more to play house,  especially in Germany where techno is favored.

Does it surprise you at all that house music has become more popular again in the last year or so?

No, it doesn’t at all. Maybe in the end it surprises some, because of what the music industry is like and that it [tends to] dictate crap. It doesn’t surprise me, though, because it’s the most uplifting dance music I can imagine.

Berlin, being the current hot spot of dance music culture, has seen a lot of producers and DJs from around the world moving there to be closer to things. Have you noticed any sort of impact from this influx?

It’s a form of concentration at the same time it’s a form of spreading out. It’s weird. People go to one point, Berlin has that sort of concentration, but everyone is from somewhere else or knows someone from somewhere else, and we all go back and forth from there.

Do you think Berlin has gained from having all these people move there?

Absolutely, absolutely. It’s gained a lot.

So when you’re not DJing or making music, what do you do for fun?

Well I love going to concerts, and I like reading and informing myself.

About the news or certain subjects?

History or literature, or…

What’s one of your favorite subjects to read about within history?

Russian history. Russia the country has had a great turn historically, so everything’s quite fresh and mad, and a lot of problems that stem from from the past.

Have you been there?

Yeah. One time in Moscow. It was great, it was just like everywhere — people appreciate uplifting house music.

You and I first started talking last year when I mistakenly propagated a rumor that you did not produce your own music, which I now know is false (and I’m still quite sorry for). I feel like situations like this one plague a number of female artists in particular. I was curious if rumors like that have affected you in any way.

When you start off, you know that you’re going to do something that’s going to be strange for a lot of people. You kind of try to behave like a man in the way that [producing music] should be natural, it should be natural for me do that because it’s natural for a man to do that. But of course, you’re thinking about it, maybe in a different way [as a] form of pressure. There is a form of pressure that you have to go against and in the end, not really care about.

Is that something you and your fellow female producers ever talk about?

No. There’s no misogynist or sexist comments I have to suffer. Of course there’s problems sometimes, but I guess that’s normal.

The question of vinyl versus digital is one that gets bigger with each year. I was curious if it matters to you what format people play?

It does matter to me because it changes the sound of the music, and even if people say it doesn’t really make a difference. It’s different quality, it’s a different form of feeling. When I have this vinyl feeling… This is how it started and I think there’s a purpose behind it.

I only ask because I personally use my laptop to DJ and I feel like, if you’re not watching the DJ and you’re just having a good time and dancing, it doesn’t really matter to me what format the DJ uses.

It doesn’t, it doesn’t.

But I will say there is a different feeling.

Maybe it’s a matter of taste in the end, but for me it that’s with records it sounds even hotter and sexier.

That’s true, you do get a warmer sound from vinyl. What’s coming up from you in the coming months?

There’s a remix for Loco Dice that will be on the album remix package. There’s another remix I’m working on at the moment. I can’t talk about it, but it has to be very good because it’s for someone I’ve admired for years who, by accident, asked me. It has to be good. And I’m working on some new tracks.

One last question: When you’re making a track, who do you have in mind? Home listeners, DJs, dancers…

I think it’s the same as with DJing — I try to stop myself [from] thinking. I try to be as organic as possible.

sma  on January 9, 2009 at 12:52 AM

good interview, steve, specially cause you touched a couple of non music subjects, which i personally always like. thanks.

Limbic  on January 9, 2009 at 1:51 AM

.. superb interview! thx
i like cassy and..
Save the Vinyl!

peace,Limbic

Krul  on January 9, 2009 at 4:25 AM

So how does the promo sound? any good? 😉

hutlock  on January 9, 2009 at 8:02 AM

Great interview. I really love Cassy’s sound, and she comes across as very thoughtful here.

Marc  on January 9, 2009 at 10:05 AM

She just might be my favorite DJ at the moment….can’t wait to see her in NYC next month! Great interview too, thanks for this.

harpomarx42  on January 9, 2009 at 3:51 PM

This was definitely worth the wait. A real cracker of an interview.
Surprised how truthful and honest you can be with such clipped responses. Also looking forward to that Loco Dice remix!

Andrey R  on January 12, 2009 at 2:06 AM

Ah Cassy! Very nice

harrison  on January 12, 2009 at 8:42 AM

i love cassy!

grandtand  on January 12, 2009 at 7:21 PM

spot on that she’s very candid about working with Tobias. admire the pair of them and also think this is a top interview.

Andrew  on January 12, 2009 at 7:28 PM

Great interview Steve! I’m still a bit sour I missed her gig here last summer… I hope she makes it back soon. I loved her quote about Americans “getting it” because it’s “in them.”

mansur  on January 14, 2009 at 7:40 AM

i think the interview was quite shallow.

Nightowl  on January 14, 2009 at 2:01 PM

highly appreciate this interview. hope that i will make it when cassy’s around the southern german part djing. but i don’t think so as the people where i live don’t “get it” as it defo isn’t in them :(. well, have to plan a trip to berlin and reading this interview again, again and again!

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