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Lotic: Visibility and power

Since landing in Berlin nine years ago, this Houston-born artist has become one of the city’s most exciting DJs, and a champion for inclusivity behind the decks. We hear about her journey to get there.

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Since landing in Berlin nine years ago, Lotic has become one of the city’s most exciting DJs, and a champion for inclusivity behind the decks. Photo: Philip Primus

While best known for lighting up dance floors around town, it wasn’t the allure of hedonism and artistic freedom that initially brought Lotic to Berlin. For the then-22-year-old experimental DJ, leaving Texas for the Hauptstadt in 2011 “felt like life and death”. Three years into Obama’s first term as president, the dangers of America’s divided politics were as pressing as they are now. For a young, black, queer person living in one of the country’s most prejudiced states, “it was just too much” for Lotic to remain in such close proximity to the racial and homophobic violence.

Gay bashings and police killings of black people were on the rise, as was nationwide support for the racist Tea Party movement. Frustratingly, no one else seemed to care enough. “I was very disappointed by how everything was being allowed to happen. Everybody was so apathetic,” she laments. When a relationship presented an opportunity to move to Berlin shortly after graduating from the University of Austin, refusing just wasn’t an option.

Not even a week after moving, Lotic met fellow American experimental artists Dan DeNorch and Michael Ladner at a party in Neukölln’s now defunct Times Bar. By 2012 the pair had founded a collective of vanguard electronic DJs named Janus, and they invited Lotic to join. Slicing beats from a mix of styles and underrepresented artists, Janus’ rowdy club nights in Chesters, a former sex club in Kreuzberg, soon gained legendary status for their rejection of Berlin’s purist techno scene. Their music could buck between hip hop, funk and industrial noise, but not everyone in the Berlin crowd was open to partying to remixes of Top 40 artists like Drake and Beyoncé. “At first people were like ‘what is this?’ They would come up to me, literally to my face, to tell me they didn’t like my set.”

Lotic has always gone against the grain with the artists she’s chosen to front and draw inspiration from in her work. Taking the time to find and play queer and underground artists of colour has invariably taken precedence, yet doing so in Berlin’s underground club scene – where supposedly ‘anything goes’ – hasn’t always been met without resistance. A black, trans woman herself, Lotic has enough first-hand experience to know that the scene’s commitment to tolerance has some way to go. “I remember the first time I wore a wig and full glam to my own Berghain party, and the sound engineer came to make a point to try turn something up or down without actually doing anything…”

Lotic also has her doubts about Berlin’s wider reputation of inclusivity: “There’s a lot of queer people, a lot of non-binary people, but I don’t feel like there’s a lot of room for feminine or trans-feminine people here… It’s as if they’ll only welcome one thing.” But that’s why, whether taking a walk on the street or mashing up tunes for a packed club, Lotic strives to live every day fully in her truth. “It’s always been about visibility” she affirms. “Visibility and power.”