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Bij Sint-Jacobs 13
9000 Gent

Daily from 17:00 till late

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Emily Jeanne

While reminiscing and looking back in time are not among her favorite activities, words came easy. With only a handful of questions needed, this talk and interview unfolded pleasantly, touching upon a love for music, willpower, her heritage and an allergy to pigeonholing. Please take your time to meet Ghent’s very own Emily Jeanne.

︎︎︎ Soundcloud
︎︎︎ Spotify Playlist

How did you get involved in the electronic music scene?
I took my first steps about a decade ago. Back then I had access to the CDJs at a small club in Ghent where my brother, Thang, was a resident for a while. My first gigs were also there, after locking myself in the club for hours and hours to get familiar playing a sound system. These first explorations were in the realms of minimal & grittier house music. Gradually I started developing a deeper interest towards techno, experimental and bass music.

During my studies I went abroad. First to Paris, later Vietnam - where I played The Observatory for the first time in September 2014. Later I did an internship at !K7 Distribution, in Berlin. The city proved to be an inspiring environment for me in all its facets. Friends at work were playing records, and I was able to delve deeper into discovering so much stuff that was fresh and exciting to me. Obviously being in Berlin I also had the chance to visit clubs like Berghain or Stadtbad, and things really began to click for me.

“ Producing certainly didn’t come easily at first. It cost me blood, sweat and an occasional tear to steer things in the direction I wanted. ”

Also while in Berlin I met my boyfriend Guy, who encouraged me to produce my own music. Producing certainly didn’t come easily at first. I felt very overwhelmed by all the options and was lacking any musical training. It cost me blood, sweat and an occasional tear to steer things in the direction I wanted. While it took some time, things smoothed out and I started to discover my own voice. The thing is, it was never my intention to pursue a career as a dj. Finding music, listening to music & making music is an outlet for me.

A few years ago I moved back to Belgium - mere months before the pandemic started. At that point I wasn’t playing out yet, and this forced hiatus wasn’t helpful of course. My first album was set to be released in June 2020 - the worst possible timing. It had taken a lot of effort and time to learn how to craft tracks and now without an opportunity to hear my music on a proper sound system it all seemed rather pointless.

Although it’s just been a few since then, so much has changed. I used to look back a lot - often questioning and analyzing stuff from the past. But these days I’ve tried to change my mindset and live in the now.

— I read somewhere that swimming also helps you ground. Yoga seems to do the trick as well. Do physical activities play an important role in your life?
Growing up, I wasn’t that into sports - except dancing of course. Now, a little bit more. I’m quite a physical person: I need to move. To me, the mind and body are so closely connected. When I’m nervous, those feelings often find an exit through motion. Dancing during a night out rekindles the excitement. Slower movements, like stretching, help me relax and unwind.

“ I used to look back a lot - often questioning and analyzing stuff from the past. But these days I’ve tried to change my mindset and live in the now. ”

— Working in nightlife can be very demanding for your body and often seems difficult to square with living a healthy lifestyle. How does it work out for you?
I keep my alcohol intake to a minimum. I don’t tolerate it very well. I think the use of substances of any kind end up being the most draining and detrimental aspects of a career in nightlife. Then, of course, the lack of sleep is heavy but I try to rest properly before a gig and keep a healthy schedule during the week.

— You’re half-Vietnamese. How does your heritage influence you and your career?
It’s been on my mind a lot recently. First off: I am allergic to being pigeonholed and I can’t stand people trying to identify me when, in fact, I am not easily identifiable.

From an early age onwards it became abundantly clear that I’m a person of color. Often comparing myself to girls around me and noticing differences in appearance. It was hard finding my identity. My mother is Vietnamese and she raised me in a Vietnamese way. As a child you sense that you’re somehow different. "Go back to your country" is a phrase I have been told at times. But then while studying in Vietnam, I couldn't help but feel disappointed as I felt like they thought of me as a tourist - which is also true of course. We’re all just passing by.

During my childhood, I spent a lot of time alone. I didn’t really fit in and did not have a lot of friends. At the same time, that made me gravitate towards music. Not just any music; non-conformist, non-typical music, as that expressed - musically - how I felt - emotionally. Feeling like the odd one out, I started looking for other non-conformist companions in different contexts, such as gay parties. There, people could be and behave like themselves, without being judged. Eye opening experiences for me. I started to realise my identity revolved around music, not my heritage.

“ There’s a clear parallel between being of mixed blood and recently switching my musical output a little. I don’t identify with just one ‘label’, be it a nationality or musical genre. If that makes any sense. It does to me. ”

When Meakusma announced that I would play their 2022 edition, friends of mine asked me - with the best intentions - what I would play there, in a non-club context. Then it dawned on me; people have already tagged me as a techno DJ, in reality my palette has always been way broader. That gig turned out to be a turning point - It made me realize: I don’t want to be put in a box. I’m not interested in genres or labels. Genres are so restricting and feel like a strange construct in my opinion.

Lately I played a couple of back to back sets with the likes of Nosedrip, Mika Oki and Sara Dziri. It’s always a little thrilling - Mika, for instance, I only met a couple of minutes before we went on - but I like a good musical challenge. It’s kind of beautiful when you think of it: two artists colliding and bringing forth a unified whole.

Talking about challenges: how do you perceive your residency in Funke?
I feel a lot of trust from the team: I’m given the freedom to curate a lineup without restriction. Funke is intimate and small-scale which is perfect because I don’t necessarily want to book big names. I want to focus on the music, not feeling like you have to sell X amount of tickets to fill a big room. Even when 30 people are dancing in Funke, it’s super vibey.

A couple of weeks back I played a terrace session there. Someone came up to me, telling me he was curious to see what I would play in that context after having seen me a couple of times during club nights. How nice is that? People having faith in the fact that it will be good, no matter the expectations. 

— Do you have a specific ritual, going into the night?
I need to learn to write my USB sticks sooner. Sometimes it takes longer than you’d think because I always end up adding more tracks to my playlists till the last minute. So in a way, that’s my ritual: stressing out and leaving one usb stick in my laptop because it’s still writing & I have to leave. Learning to let go is also important; not focusing on everything that could go wrong.

“ Feelings often find an exit through motion. Dancing during a night out rekindles the excitement. Slower movements, like stretching, help me relax and unwind. “

— What feels like your natural habitat? What’s your happy place?
Of course my studio. But now I’m also thinking: my mother’s lap, my yoga mat or the park with my dogs. Your happy place, you make it yourself. As long as I have music and inner peace I can feel content almost anywhere. So I guess that’s a lot of places.

— What made you happy the past couple of months?
Over the last year or so I visited many fantastic places. Recently, for example, I toured Asia for the first time. There’s so much beauty in connecting with locals, but at the same time I realized how privileged we are to live in the global hub of the electronic landscape.

The scenes outside Europe over there are small and fragile. I can imagine it is difficult to run a nightclub in a lot of places. To build an audience & scene takes a huge amount of passion and effort. I really admire that & it makes me realise how fortunate I am to be doing what I’m doing and to be invited to those places.

This summer I was able to play really diverse sets. One week I was doing straighter techno stuff, next week an ambient set. A few weeks later I ended a set with drum ’n bass. It’s good to confound people’s expectations; it keeps me searching and feeling inspired.

What are you looking forward to in the next couple of months?
Actually, I look forward to what I described in the previous question: visiting more inspiring cities & scenes.

On a musical level, I’m looking forward to having some more time in the studio and to keep pushing myself.

Interview with Emily Jeanne + words by Hans Empereur