Why she’s just doing her, following her guts, striving to be the best version of herself and mixing flawless waves of creativity and passion.
One year ago on Monday, the lovely and talented German DJ TEREZA opened up the wonderful and inspiring world of Erykah Badu and weaved together her own fresh narrative, drawing from every corner of the legend’s most treasured creations to pay tribute to the Badu legacy on her glorious day of birth: February 26th. Badu herself said that “‘Baduism’ was designed to get you high, just by listening to the music.” The result from TEREZA’s unique styling is a perfectly undulating river of R&B relics brought admiringly to life, with the gentle yet poignant ebb and flow that the legend herself captured in every song. A seamless strand of Erykah Badu’s greats play flawlessly on & on, punctuated by exclusive contributions from current R&B influencers such as Masego, Noah Slee and Serious Klein.
Since this fire release almost exactly one year ago, TEREZA has received unending praise on the collaboration and has continued doing her thing the best way she knows how. She’s featured alongside international names such as Skepta, Mike Skinner, Anderson.Paak, Ryan Hemsworth and Mick Jenkins and features her own club night, “WATERS”, in cities around Germany. Now she’s out with a new mixtape called TEREZA pres. BADUOLOGY. An Ode To Erykah Badu. The Remixes., which is exactly as awesome as it sounds. We had the chance to ask TEREZA a few questions about her own creative process; specifically her relationship to music, why it’s important to stay true to yourself as a female DJ in the current climate and “why Erykah” in this exclusive interview. Hop all the way to the end to catch the deets on our exclusive Girls Are Awesome giveaway. All photos by Danny Sommerfeld.
In your sets, you blend the raw and the smooth in quite a unique way, mixing forward-thinking sounds with soulful harmonies that feel familiar in all the best ways. How did you develop this style?
I am a curious person, in terms of music but also generally in life. I started out listening to a lot of hip-hop, basically going from German rap to East coast to West coast to Southern stuff and back. But I soon realized there was more to discover. I first dug into the soul and funk that was sampled in the rap records I loved. Then I got into slow house and disco. From there, I fell in love with bass music, UK garage and all that broken beat stuff that is hard to categorize. I just always wanted to discover more and dig into new worlds. I guess what I am as a DJ today is the essence of this journey–and it is an ongoing process.
When was the first time you realized music meant more to you than to the average person?
I grew up in a household where listening to music wasn’t a thing, to be honest. It just wasn’t of any importance to anyone around me, neither my family nor my friends at the time. But I did fall for it, for some reason. I don’t really know why but I realized fairly soon that it was special and dear to me.
You grew up in smalltown Germany, just outside the city of Chemnitz. How has this shaped your love for music?
I think the biggest difference is that it took me longer to figure stuff out and [find] myself as a DJ. The majority of the music I loved just wasn’t played in the clubs around here so I always felt like I wouldn’t fit in. In the beginning I felt the urge to adapt. But it soon became clear to me that it just wasn’t for me. So maybe, in a weird way, not being surrounded by trendy clubs and super-specialized record shops actually helped me develop my own style and view on things.
You pay a lot of attention to things that many people today consider old-school, whether it’s mixing techniques or unearthing obscure stuff. Why are these things so important to you?
For me, the thing that drew me to DJing was never the desire to share my favorite music — I never thought anyone could be interested in that anyway. I was always fascinated by the technical aspect of it. I wanted to know how all of that works: the mixing, the scratching, and basically everything you can do with two turntables and a mixer. So I spent nights in our basement trying to figure out how and why two songs blend together. I think this spirit still sits with me somehow.
In the age of the producer-DJ, how do you see your role as a traditional DJ; i.e. someone who primarily picks and plays music?
I put in a lot of work to stay up to date or even a bit ahead when it comes to discovering and promoting new artists. I also spend a lot of time working on the actual craft of DJing. Everybody can be a curator nowadays, everyone can create a playlist on Spotify. And many people have excellent taste in music. But being a DJ goes beyond that. There are key qualities every DJ should have IMO – the ability to read a crowd, building a set, playing the right song at the right time, being unpredictable, and not taking yourself too [seriously]. I’m not saying producer-DJs don’t have these abilities but you just can’t compare. It’s a totally different approach when you can/must play your own stuff.
You always refused giving in to the dominant forms of club music in Germany, be it Berlin’s tech-house sound or the massively popular Deutschrap genre — even though you regularly touch both worlds? Why is that?
It sounds so heroic and rebellious but I’m just being selfish, haha. I always wanted to just do me. It can be a struggle sometimes to find the right place to fit in. But I learned it’s always best to follow your guts. What will be, will be.
It’s been almost exactly a year since you released your Erykah Badu homage-mixtape, BADUOLOGY. Looking back, what did and does the project mean to you?
I am really happy about the whole project and thankful for the exclusive contributions I got from all these amazing producers. It took a while to get everything together and create a product I was satisfied with. But as soon as it came out I felt and still feel pure joy. The feedback was overwhelming and even now, a year later, I get messages from all over the world saying how much people love the mix. I still can’t believe it. Last Sunday, I announced the release of a vinyl EP with some of my favorite remixes which will come out soon. That’s like the icing on the cake.
What is it that’s so special about Erykah?
It’s not just her voice and her understanding of music that I admire. Erykah is a true character and a role model for various generations. You can’t put her in a box – she creates her own and instantly breaks out of them. Her music is so uncompromising, brave, real, with so much love for detail in all its simplicity. Even after 25 years in the business, she is still relevant and has a relentless desire to evolve, without trying to get buddy-buddy with younger generations. She stays true to herself. If she hasn’t anything to say, she simply won’t release any new music. It all comes so naturally, it seems.
Who would be your next choice for such a tribute mixtape?
Hahaha. I get this question quite often. Of course, I already thought about doing another one but it hasn’t come naturally so far, so I decided to leave it for now and focus on something else. I don’t want to be seen as that tribute-mix DJ either.
Over the past twelve months, there’s been lots of discussion in the electronic music scene about gender inequality, discrimination and sexism. Do you feel there’s substantial progress in this regard?
I’m not sure if festivals heavily promoting an all-female line-up leads to actual, healthy change. But one thing is for sure: awareness has grown – not only in the electronic music scene but in society in general. More men are expressing their solidarity. More females and female-identifying people become visible and recognized, so there are more role models to look up to. I really only hope this will lead to substantial and sustainable change.
How do you manage to not let these things carry you away?
Well, I just try to stay as positive as I can. I get so many messages lately that women find inspiring what I do. That leaves me proud and confused at the same time but most importantly, it motivates me to be an even better DJ version of myself with every show I play. I think that’s exactly the best thing I can do – keep on pushing, just be out there, show that there are females who do this kind of supposedly “male” stuff very well, you know?
Besides DJing, you run your own night WATERS. What’s the philosophy behind that?
WATERS is my opportunity to create a night how I imagine one. The artwork, the promotion, and the talent booking of course sit completely with me. I love to present fairly unknown artists and DJs. I want people to discover when they come to my parties – and it works! We started in Hamburg and Stuttgart almost two years ago, and I am quite proud that we were able to expand to Munich, Cologne and occasionally Berlin since.
Soundcloud has always been an important resource for you. With the rise of conventional streaming and the shake-ups the company has been going through recently, do you find it harder to discover good stuff on there?
It has definitely become harder. I know many producers who have left the platform, and that’s a pity because I really like the DIY vibe on there. Artists can create a piece of music and just put it out there within a minute. If people like it, they repost it, so it spreads naturally. That is a beautiful thing. This whole Soundcloud era has led to artists like Kaytranada, stwo or the Soulection movement blowing up globally. That seems to be over now. But nevertheless, there still is good stuff on there.
How do you find inspiration and energy outside the daily routine of checking and sharing new music?
It’s weird but I feel inspired the most when I’m on the road, e.g. bombing down the autobahn or looking outside the window on the train. It gets me out of the rather desk job-ish routine I usually have. I guess I’m more of a nature person. I enjoy city life and everything it has to offer, but I need the countryside. This might sound super corny but I love to open the window and see the horizon while hearing nothing but the birds singing. I love water, especially when I can swim in it. Blue sky, sun, forest. It’s all about the right balance for me.
When was the last time you felt everything was just perfect in a club?
It was actually last Saturday. I played in a cool, small club in the South of Germany and between 3 to 5 o’clock in the morning, I felt like I was one with the crowd and my turntables. It wasn’t my brain that selected the songs but my feelings, and I absolutely felt I was in the right place at the right time. S/o to the people that stayed with me to the very end and let me do my thing.
Stay tuned for TEREZA’s WATERS parties throughout this year, radio guest mixes and festival lineups for more of her tasty stylings. Also, hop over to our Insta for a chance to win two exclusive vinyl copies of her Erykah Badu-inspired genius: Tereza pres. BADUOLOGY. An Ode To Erykah Badu. The Remixes. — coming soon. You don’t want to miss it!