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Music & clubs

Ziúr: “Without music, I would have gone completely crazy.”

This experimental producer makes some of the most cutting-edge music in Berlin. We find out how she’s spent the past few months.

Image for Ziúr: “Without music, I would have gone completely crazy.”

Ziúr is an experimental club producer based in Berlin. Her new album, Antifate, lands on May 7. Photo: Mai Nestor

Ziúr is one of those artists that you didn’t know you needed in your life. Pure, principled and punk as hell, Ziúr’s new album, Antifate, is the latest chapter in the story of a proper stalwart of Berlin’s experimental scene.

How did you make Antifate?

It came together really quickly. I wrote this whole album in two months, but it turned out to be the most natural thing I’ve ever written. I got rid of a lot of expectations and just wrote whatever needed to come out. I’ve never been good at following the rules. It’s almost like I’m allergic to them. Back in the 1990s, when Kurt Cobain died, suddenly everyone was listening to Nirvana and, sure, they’re a great band, but I started to hate them because it had stopped being something real and became a trend.

Is it unusual for you to work so fast?

Part of it is the timing. I’ve written so much music this year because there is nothing else to do. Without music, I would have gone completely crazy. But the timeline isn’t always the same. Last October, I was working on a project with Juliana Huxtable and Theresa Baumgartner called Off Licence. It was a 45-minute performance that took me three weeks, working at maximum intensity. Then there was the EP I wrote in one day. Then there was another album I produced for another person and, all of a sudden, I had created something like five albums in one year.

Image for Ziúr: “Without music, I would have gone completely crazy.”

Active in Berlin since 2006, Ziúr is known for an intense, high-energy sound that’s made her one of the scene’s most distinctive artists. Alongside promoting the queer club night Boo Hoo, a self- dubbed “asshole-free zone”, Ziúr has ties to Janus and Creamcake, two crews that made Berlin a hotspot for forward-thinking club music.  Photo: Matt Lambert

How do you stay so motivated?

I don’t. Right now, I’m sitting here and I have absolutely nothing to  do. Some days I don’t even make it out of bed. That’s why challenges, like the EP I made in one day, are so good. Okay, sure, I was pissed off and thinking, “God, why am I doing this?” But I knew that I needed to complete it. Yes, it was kind of stupid, but it was also fun and it helps that I don’t look back. I know artists that have like 300 drafts of the same thing, but I don’t obsess over the details. I’d much rather move on to a brand new track.

Has that mentality always been part of your creative process?

Yes and no. One thing that has changed is the accessibility to tools and it’s really amazing how far we’ve come. If you wanted to record your band back in the ’80s or ’90s, it was fucking hard. Right now, you can basically have a whole recording studio built into the most shitty little computer. I like it when people just experiment and let creativity take over.

I’ve been doing this for a long time, but I still don’t know which note is which on my keyboard. There’s this amazing accessibility, but that goes both ways. There’s also the technology out there for you to become famous on social media before you even make one fucking song. I don’t like that, that’s for sure.

Do you prefer music to be more challenging?

I guess so, but when I write music, I want it to be trippy and I want to be challenged by what I create. Truthfully, I’m never going to be a really successful artist, because my music is way too challenging. And that’s fine, honestly. I’m okay with it because the other scenario is that I would be completely bored. It also means the people who like my music are mainly cute and not jerks. What is all the success in the world for if I’m just playing it for a factory full of nasty dudes? I don’t feel comfortable in those scenarios and I don’t want to go there with my life or my music.

Do you feel the need to go against the grain?

As an artist, I do have a bratty personality, but I don’t want to do something different just for the sake of it. I just think we can only be free if we figure out that we’re all different, and first you have to break down all the stigmas and boxes and categories. Celebrating differences is the way to unity.

There’s technology out there for you to become famous on social media before you even make one fucking song.

It’s a simple concept, so why do you think it gets lost so often?

It’s always presented as us versus them. I’m 100 percent against that, but it’s everywhere. When I first moved to Berlin, one of the only people I knew lived in a squat. I was there like three times a week and we would cook dinner and stuff, but, still, people wouldn’t say hi to me in the hallway. I would sit at the dinner table and I wouldn’t be included in conversations because I wasn’t punk enough or because I didn’t have a crusty outlook or whatever.

I mean, come on, you’re missing an opportunity there. I moved in these subcultural spaces a lot and it drained all my energy. I was supposed to be in a space where alternative ideas were encouraged but there were still all these structures working against you. I’m here in a squat and people are making me feel like I have to wear a certain type of T-shirt or whatever to just be one of them.

How have those social circles changed?

It’s different for me now, and I’m super thankful. Just to be able to know so many insane weirdos from all over the world is so beautiful. Personally, I think it’s really important to give everything that you are right from the start. Yes, you’ll get burned many times and it never stops being painful, but you should never lose that openness towards something new.

Society has a fear of rejection that manifests itself in so many horrible ways. You have thousands of people in Dresden marching against refugees because they think that they’re going to lose their fucking German national identity or some bullshit. These people are challenged by the simplest things and they would rather burn down the whole house than give it to someone in need. It’s like they don’t know that you can learn from each other.

How do you manage those ideas in your art?

Progressive ideas have always been suppressed. You have to question the prevailing ideas because, when you do, you question the people in control of those ideas. You question their relevance and the power that

they have over you. Everything is in constant motion and if you’re in denial of that, then you’ve already lost. So you have to be constantly moving to keep challenging the narrative. Your art is like a power position. It can be a challenge, it can be critical, but it can also be a place of healing. When I’m just laying around with my friends and loved ones, art is not a fantasy. It’s a very real situation that we’re in and, in some ways, it’s the most real of them all.