Named one of DJ Mag's artists to watch in 2019, DESNA has only continued to make an imprint on the world of techno. She first broke onto the scene in 2017 with a massive residency at the former Output club in Brooklyn, NY. Her unique brand of techno brings a fresh perspective to the genre, never becoming repetitive while also maintaining her futuristic industrial style.
DESNA is an amalgamation of storied influences. From her breakbeat roots in Tampa, Florida, to the gritty underground house and techno scene of New York. She's found a way to marry her influences cohesively into something that unifies the raw grit of Brooklyn with the precision and power of Berlin.
Growing up near Tampa, Florida, what was your first exposure to electronic music and how did it influence your sound today?
Breakbeats were really my first introduction to electronic music. I’d hear these cool beats on the radio (breaks originated in Tampa, FL) and we would have all these breaks remixes of pop tracks which to me always sounded better than the original.
Your career really began in 2017 when you created the DESNA alias and secured gigs in NYC. You cut your teeth playing at Verboten and Output, can you tell us about that time period? What did you learn, were there any challenges?
Yes! I had a door open for me when I played a charity event at Verboten. The director of the club heard my set and gave me his info to have a meeting. He really helped me get some momentum going there and when the venue closed, I had enough credibility to go to Output. I remember my first gig at Output. I had a four-hour opening set for Mark Knight. The place was completely packed/ sold out and it was rocking!! That was really the turning point for me. That gig gave me a taste of what it feels like to play at the best club in the world at the time, wall to wall packed. It gave me a sense of belief I could make this my profession.
What is it about vinyl that you enjoy so much and do you ever plan to bring vinyl into your live performance?
I love spinning vinyl more than playing on CDJs because you have to get into your body more. You can’t think your way through a vinyl set. The reason I don’t use records in my club performances is because the way I DJ live is a lot different (layering multiple tracks and using my drum machine) I have played records at after hours gigs which is something I’d like to do more of.
The timeframe you’ve been in New York is very interesting, the electronic and underground scene has changed tremendously. Both the clubs you came up in have new ownership and new vibes, and there are tons of new venues for better or for worse. Have you observed the scene change here and do you feel it’s in a better place than it was when you first arrived?
There are things I liked about the scene before and now. When I came here in 2010, underground was really underground. warehouse parties were so much fun and Brooklyn was still raw and untouched by corporations. Now, there is a lot more structure but I do like seeing how popular underground music has become here, being able to fill these mega venues.
Do you believe that there is still a strong underground scene in New York or has it made way for the influx of bottle service clubs and large-scale venues?
I'd say that in Brooklyn, bottle service stuff is not really a thing. That's for Manhattan and to each their own. I don't frown upon that world, it's just not my thing.
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You have cemented yourself as one to watch in the world of techno. Techno, alongside most electronic genres, gets a reputation as being this singular sound and style. We often just think of high BPMs, hammering kick drums and dark warehouses. How do you try and make your sound stand out, and do you feel that the genre as a whole is in a good place creatively?
I am making techno around solfeggio frequencies now so that is my signature you can hear in my tracks. I am making my tracks around a pure tone which was challenging at first but now I have the hang of it and the music is coming out very cool. I wanted to add value to the music I put out and wasn't sure what that really meant for me until this year. This is a way to offer healing tones in music other than meditation.
Do you have any pieces of hardware, or software plug-ins that you find yourself going to often with your music production?
I always use my TR8-S live in clubs and in my production. It comes with so many great samples and presets that it really helps my creative process on stage and in the studio.
Who do you find yourself listening to regularly, whether it’s other techno artists or other genres completely?
I listen to a lot of frequencies lately and have been studying the medicinal effects they have. My go-to for working out or partying is usually minimal techno. I love a good Ricardo set playing in the background at one of my house parties.
You recently dropped your remix of "Techno Monkey." It has such a distinct feel to it and showcases your versatility alongside tracks like Insanity and the 'From Frou EP.' How do you approach a remix versus an original track, when it comes to making your style on the track being felt?
I always try to keep the meat of the original intact and not butcher it too much while giving it my own signature (like in the drop of this particular remix). I felt that the drum pattern was a nice layer to her track that made it my own while highlighting her original.
What do you hope to accomplish in the next couple years with your career? Any venues or festivals you’re dying to play? Labels you’d love to release on?
I am going to start pushing out my frequency project in 2022. So by the end of this next year, everyone understands DESNA makes frequency techno. I'd love to play Exit, Tomorrowland, and Awakenings are probably my top 3 desires. As for labels, I've never been stuck on any labels. I just want to work with cool ones that like my work and have a nice platform.
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