CAN'T EAT PURE SUGAR
Have you ever thought about what really makes a band? Is it a front man/woman who captivates the attention of the public? Some say, the heart of the band is a person who can write moving lyrics and a catchy melody. Others say that it’s the right chemistry between its members and their collective ability to compose and play good music together.
Anna Schauberger calls her project The unused word a band. However, she is the only member of it, being simultaneously an author, composer, musician and soloist who takes an idea and builds everything around it to create a song. She also recently started DJ’ing, making a statement about her music choice by performing under the name DJ Unapologetic.
While her music could seem dark and obscure with such titles as “Thoughts at a funeral” or “29 nightmares” she herself radiates happiness, making it hard to believe that she is the very person who wrote these songs.
Anna after donating her hair to charity
Anna chooses to blend many genres, including hip-hop, neo soul and organic pop to create a fusion of different moods. She refuses to stick to one musical direction as, according to her, labels limit an artist’s freedom to create whatever they like.
I recently sat down with her to talk about music and her life.
Yulia Belinskaya: How did music come to your life?
Anna Schauberger: I was 6 years when I started to play piano. I grew up with classical music and jazz. But I think I always wanted to write music. I didn't want to be a hook bitch, this girl who just sings lalala without any message behind it. I wanted to do my own thing and not just take what the producer guy gives me. And there were only guys back then. Now it is getting a bit better, I think.
I started composing in 2005. One of my friends was working as assisting director at Graz Oper. And she said to me once: “You know music!” And I just answered: “Yeah, I know music!”. She offered me to take care of the soundtrack for the opera “Les Nègres”. Even though I had no single idea how to do it, I said yes. So it was the first time I actually produced something.
YB: Why did you start to play as a DJ?
AS: It was my childhood dream. In a kindergarten, when the nanny asked who you want to become, I wrote skateboarder and DJ. I was always listening to music under the blanket at night, so my grandma wouldn't see I am still up. I was writing all the top 40 tracks in the dark (laughs). And at the age of 30 I am finally making my dream come true!
In Czechia with fellow producers #sausagefest
YB: You mentioned the amount of men in music - do you feel that more women are coming to the field?
AS: Yes, finally. You know that in German we have different endings for males and females in a profession. Some years ago, when we had an ongoing debate about using both endings simultaneously, a lot of people wondered: “Why do we need to mention women, we should just keep it neutral”. I should confess that at that time I also thought that the endings were just something useless, but that was because I, as like many other people, didn't like change. Nevertheless, the fact that people started to use the feminine endings to describe the professions has actually achieved something. Just couple of years ago I had the feeling that women are constantly competing against each other for one single spot that is reserved for women but the inclusion of women in a language has given us confidence. We started to understand that having just one spot reserved for women is just ridiculous. We don't make the same type of music just because we are women. We want more spots.
YB: Do you have the feeling that you are treated differently because you are a woman?
AS: When I came to the label Duzz Down San in 2012 as a singer, there were only 20 guys. In this surrounding I felt like I was in a safe bubble. I’ve never been treated differently and I always get all the support. It is just like home to me.
Anna's Duzz Down San homies after the labelnight in Graz (2013)
YB: Do you think there are no prejudices anymore?
AS: Of course prejudices are still everywhere. I’m not wearing rose-tinted glasses. Some people still have the mentality that women should dress a certain way, that she has to sing and cannot DJ, rap or produce. I am probably just very lucky, because I’ve never experienced that in my circle. It is not the rule; it is still an exception.
Recently I moved to the countryside. There are so many traditional structures that are too tight to break quickly and easy. I am truly happy that I can contribute by organising workshops for young women, basically teenagers. I want them to feel safe and to be free to ask questions. They often say “Oh, if I ask the question, everybody will think that I am dumb?”. It is just really sad, but many girls still think like this. I used to be like that, but changes are happening and I am happy to show them that things are possible.
YB: So you are an inspiration for young women. What are your inspirations?
AS: Firstly, I find inspiration in social problems and inequality. I am trying to make statements with my music; I don't like empty phrases. I will never sing just “baby, baby”, I really want words to have meaning.
Another greatest source of inspiration was my depression. It was feeding me since the age of 14. When I started to feel better, I was afraid to lose my inspiration, often thinking “Please, give me back my depression. How will I make music without it?” But of course, it is not like that. My inspiration is still there.
Remembering the pain I went through I want my music to be for people who are depressed, so they can see that there is somebody who is talking about it. People are often ashamed of such feelings and suffer alone, continuing to say to everybody “I am just fine”. I would like to encourage everyone who has some kind of depression to see a therapist. It is often hard to allow yourself to get help, but things will only get better. I am making music to talk TO these people and FOR them, so they can have a voice.
YB: Do you think that your music changed after your depression?
AS: Yes. My music was always a bit gloomy and darkish, but I have really noticed that the time of only sad music is over. I am taking baby steps towards something happier. It will never be party music, I suppose, but it is getting more relaxed. And there are compositions that are much faster! They are probably still slow for you, but for me it is really fast!
In one of those moods...
YB: Can you describe your writing process?
AS: I am always on the lookout for phrases that I can use in a song. I just cannot turn it off. Every time I talk to someone or am just listening to something, my mind is always prepared to catch the interesting phrase that will make sense in a different context. A phrase already has its own melody and own rhythm so I sing or just repeat that phrase to feel the rhythm, then play a few chords. In the end phrase gives birth to a melody.
One of Anna's compositions with help from a mathematician Mario Weitzer
YB: You already mentioned that you are trying to be a voice of your listener. But do you actually think about your listener when you write?
AS: I suppose it only happens when a song is 80-85% complete and there are maybe some missing parts in the lyrics. Then I take a step back, because everything that happened already was unfiltered. It is here that I really try to address someone who is listening, maybe even picturing a person who I want to talk to.
YB: Would you say that you write music or that already exists somewhere and you just reproduce it?
AS: This is a very difficult question! Of course we are always recycling everything we have experienced, everything that we’ve heard but we add our personal notes, our trademarks. Even if music already exists and we are just reproducing it everyone of us would have a different approach to it and a personal way of expressing it. To be honest is does not matter that much if we are producing or reproducing it. It is just cool that music happens.
YB: What do you think about contemporary music? Where is it heading?
AS: I think there is a big gap between academic music and music that just happens. Music in academia is head-born, it does not have to be fun. Sometimes it even has to be painful (laughs). Popular music, on the other hand, is more open-minded, but sometimes chaotic. I always thought that future is in building bridges. I always imagined a perfect world where everybody is working together and nobody is judgmental about the music of others, but recently somebody told me that there is no need to build bridges, because everything is already connected by water.
YB: I heard that you use different voices in your tunes, such as “Heaven”…
AS: What you hear there is just my own voice changed with some effects. There are two things that totally changed my perception of music, firstly Fender Rhodes Piano, because everything you play on it sounds really nice and you don't have to worry about wrong notes. It is saying to you: “Just play me, please, I will forgive you for everything!” The second one was the effect device. This device can be very inspiring. Sometimes a whole song can appear because I liked some effect.
Anna's Studio in Bad Ischl
YB: Do you actually work with other musicians?
AS: Yes, but not so often. Making a song together is something totally different and very beautiful. The communication that happens when a song is being written really is priceless.
YB: Is it hard to compromise?
AS: No, because you don't have to influence other people. You are not the censorship master. You cannot say “No-no-no, if we do this together, you cannot do it like this”. The beauty of working together is learning from other people and in giving them the freedom to make this music personal.
Mastering session for the new EP in Vienna with DJ Testa
In my last project with Barbis it was exactly like this. So many ideas were not censored, but actually integrated and enjoyed, because Barbis is so open-minded. I loved how we were able to work together, because before the project started we barely knew each other. But just after the start we immediately noticed the positive effects it had on our mindsets. I know it sounds cheesy, but this project has turned us into incredibly appreciative and loving friends. I don’t think one person can actually be proud of another, which is why I’d like to say it differently: I am incredibly happy for her. She really is my sister from another mister.
YB: Can you tell me a little bit more about Barbis in Barbiland?
AS: This project resonated with me from the very beginning - a woman in a pop star business world: what are the roles and tropes immediately installed in you? I’ve always loved Pop, and always had a thing for Pop-stardom. However, one should have a critical angle, which has been satisfied by actually making musical statements within Barbis’ performance. I think her concept is really smart and daring, and I love the fact that I was able to just go wild and use any kind of cliché I’ve ever wanted to use musically.
YB: Why do you usually perform alone if you are so enthusiastic about collaboration?
AS: You caught me here, I do it alone because it is still the easiest. You don't need to ask people if they have time to play or rehearse. The freedom of making my own choices is very important right now to find the way to express myself and to establish my own music. But I collaborate a lot, I perform live together sometimes and I suppose I’d do it much more from now on.
Anna at the '30 feschesten Rapper pt1' - Photo: Niko Havranek
YB: Do you have a favourite composer?
AS: Karlheinz Stockhausen, Morton Feldman, Wolfgang Rihm. Actually, the weirder it gets the more | like it. I have problems listening to Mahler, for example. Everybody says he is genius. Of course, he is a genius, but his music is just too pretty and I cannot stand it. It is like a sugar bomb; I cannot eat pure sugar.
I also like Meredith Monk as she was experimenting with voices a lot. I like smart lyrics, like Antilopen Gang for example. You can tell they think a lot about life. German hip-hop really makes sense when you listen to these guys, especially when you compare it to gangsta music, which I cannot take seriously. There should be music for people who are unhappy, aggressive or angry, but you cannot spread hateful content. It is just no-go for me.
YB: What is music to you?
AS: Music is power: power to influence not only the mood, but a way of thinking, a way of living. I think in the beginning was the Word, meaning the choral music. My heart really melts when I listen to it. If you imagine music as a tree, choral music is its stem. In the end, it is a way of communication, communication on many different levels. If you listen carefully, you will notice that music is everywhere. You can even grab it from the air.
YB: You used to live in Vienna, but recently you’ve moved to Bad Ischl. Can you tell me why did you move?
AS: I moved because I was burnt out. Sounds are everywhere here in Vienna and I have a really sensitive hearing. Any kind of noise affects my mood and my energy level and I got tired of the overflow of sounds. I think my music demands a quiet environment and I really missed the mountains, however I like to come here to get inspired by those sounds. I am always very exhausted when I return home from Vienna. But that could also be because of the parties (laughs)
"And I really missed the mountains"
Anna has written the music for the performical BARBIS IN BABELAND which happens this weekend at WUK. She will play live as The Unused Word on 13th of May and DJ set on 14th after Barbis Ruder performance.