Demons, pancakes and experimental club: a wild interview with Ani Klang
Ani Klang is a California-raised, New York-honed, Berlin-based music producer and DJ. She’s a pioneer in experimental club music, creating apocalyptic soundscapes packed with tension, mystery, and the sudden bursts of chaos. With colossal kicks leading the charge, Ani’s sound design is eyeball-crossingly intricate, with each track wrapped in layer upon layer of samples sequestered from an inspired range of sources.
It’s bold, it’s wild, it’s brutal. Imagine the sound of a very drunk Optimus Prime trying to quietly enter his flatshare and make himself a cheese toastie without waking his flatmates – staggering all over the kitchen, dropping cutlery, accidentally deploying his laser sword and jettisoning an RPG into next door’s garden. Welcome to the dark, ecstatic world of Ani Klang.
While it’s not always been smooth sailing, Ani is going from strength to strength. This year, she debuted her upcoming, unreleased EP “THIS IS NOT POLITICAL” at Berlin’s Berghain for CTM Festival’s 20th Anniversary. She’s also been selected as one of 18 rising artists on Berlin Music Commission’s annual “Listen to Berlin” compilation, and the debut episode of her ‘Klangviolence’ radio show on Reform Radio in Manchester was selected as one of the top mixes of 2018 by FACT. Her debut EP Worst of All Time was released in 2017 Infinite Machine, followed by RAPACIOUS on Knightwerk in 2019.
And now, another priceless accolade for Ani Klang’s bulging trophy cabinet: an interview with No Taste!
Let’s kick things off with a bang. What was your best ever gig?
My best gig was probably in this city called Brno in the Czech Republic, it’s a few hours outside of Prague. I played there in mid-2018 at this party called SOfT and it was absolutely insane. I didn’t really know what to expect since it was one of the first times someone hit me up and asked me to play a gig in another country, offering to pay for my travel, housing accommodation, and pay my DJ fee.
It was so fucking sick. It seemed like every weirdo under 30 in the city turned up there; it was one of the most packed shows I’d ever played. I remember playing a cut off the EP I’d released a few months prior, looking up during the main drop and seeing this raucous row of sweaty Czech people just losing their minds, head banging and dancing and throwing their arms up like they were being possessed by a demon. It’s moments like those that remind me why I make the music I do.
Do you fancy giving us a quick summary of your genre?
Ohhhh geez. What even is genre. A set of boundaries and characteristics by which to categorize a style of music?
Now listen here you little shit-
It’s the anti-genre; the miscellaneous genre. The genre that’s been reproduced by so many subsets and marriages of genres upon daughter genres upon awkward cousin genres it doesn’t even exist anymore. ‘Experimental music’ has got to be one of the vaguest terms out there, but it’s so vague it’s almost accurate. I don’t think anyone could properly define something characterized by everything it is not. Maybe I’m just a bad engineer, attempting to use vibrations to illicit emotions… Hell if I know.
Is there one track that summarises your vision?
Probably my track ‘Swirly Demons Gave Me Sleep Paralysis’ on my debut EP. It wasn’t the most popular track on my EP (for some reason, cuz I think it’s the best one) but it was one of those songs that I heard in my head before I made it. And when I did sit down to make it, it came out perfectly. And that is super hard for me to do. I’ve been obsessed with super impactful, punchy, almost machinegun-esque kick drums since I changed my artist name to Ani Klang*, and this was the first track I made where I finally felt like I had achieved what I had envisioned. I literally had a sleep-paralysis inducing nightmare and heard that exact rhythm in my head when I woke up, so I immediately started working and made the track. It was one of those ‘damn, I could have suffered but I created instead’ moments. And that’s dope.
*’klang’ is the German word for ‘sound’
What was the worst gig you ever played?
Probably when I was first starting out – this was maybe in 2015. I was underage so I usually had to get to the venues before the parties started so the bouncers wouldn’t kick me out. I was booked to play this thing called the ‘pancakes and booze art show’ (free pancakes, booze, and art; it was just as disorganized as it sounds). I played the same party a year earlier and had a great experience so I decided to play again, free of charge. I was scheduled to play at 2am or something and arrived at around 7pm (so I wouldn’t get bounced for my lack of age appropriate ID), so I basically had to stand around for 7 hours waiting to play. sure enough, the crowd started slowly wandering out of the club around 11-12.
I asked the DJ before me if I could go on earlier (since he’d already been playing for like 3+ hours) and he told me to ask the booker. I asked the booker and they said they didn’t know and I had to talk to someone else who couldn’t be found anywhere etc (as I said, extremely disorganized). So I kept waiting and waiting. It finally gets to be 2am and the venue is basically empty. I figured fuck it, I’m here, might as well play for the clean-up crew. I hopped on the stage and played for about 20 minutes while the clean-up crew took down all the art and put the booze away. My one friend who showed up took a few photos and left after 5 minutes. The sound guy cut me off without warning. I tried to give him my card in case he knew of another gig but he told me to keep it. I left at 2:30am penniless, sober and heart broken. I cried in my Uber home.
Ever nearly quit?
Never. It gets discouraging as hell sometimes, and can cause some of the most intense emotional pain I’ve ever felt. But I’ve never seriously considered giving this up. It’s not the only thing I’m good at, it’s not all I know how to do, but it’s the only thing I really want to do. Even if it ruins me, I will always do this.
Do you have any words for someone starting out?
This is possibly the toughest, riskiest career choice out there (besides Australian snake wrangler or Alaskan deep-sea fisherman, perhaps). There are A LOT of electronic musicians out there. If you’re planning on making basic minimal techno or bro-approved deep house… don’t bother. If you want to make something interesting that no one’s ever heard before, by all means, go for it. But it’s a constant struggle for the ego, body and soul trying to reinvent the electronic wheel. Have fun with it, but proceed with caution.
How much does your musical style spill into other aspects of your life? Or is it vice versa?
It’s more vice versa. I’m a pretty chill and friendly person, and when people hear my music for the first time they’re usually like ‘damn girl you’ve got some demons.’ And I do, everyone does. But once I make a piece of music I’m really happy with, I definitely feel this cathartic release and overwhelming sense of joy, like whatever was bothering me is finally off my plate and resolved. My anxiety disorder, depression and general OCD definitely play a large role in what I’m drawn to sonically. It’s always oddly soothing to make something really furious and dark and gritty when I’m feeling irked; it almost has a neutralizing effect. I hope other people have a similar experience when they listen.
What about booze and nefarious substances and whatnot – do they have a role to play in your music?
Definitely. When I create I’m almost always sober but I do try to keep my audience in mind – mainly when I’m constructing a DJ set. I know certain emotional, more ambient-leaning tracks of mine aren’t gonna make an entire room full of drunk people jump and that’s okay with me. But I also know some of my aggressive clubby tracks likely aren’t going to be listened to by a sober person in the morning while they’re pouring their tea. So I try to balance those moods when create new music or prepare a set – so they can be appreciated by a plethora of people in a range of mental states.
I also wouldn’t ever want to create music that NEEDS to be heard by someone fucked up in order for it to make sense. There are looooads of sober people in the experimental club scene and I respect the shit out of them. I’m not one of them, but at the end of the day, it’s all about making smart choices and coming together to celebrate the existence of this ridiculous community, whatever that may look like.
Lastly, what do you want people to experience at your gigs?
Joy, ecstasy, anger, anxiety – an odd hybrid of all four.
Add ‘enormous kebab’ to the end of that and you’ve got the exact emotional progression of my average Saturday night.
Cheers Ani. Ly x
Follow Ani Klang’s Soundcloud and her Twitch stream – every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday @ 5pmCT/11pmGMT you can tune in and chill as she works on outlandish new beats and quaffs worrying amounts of tea.