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Tony y Not

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Germany
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Artist Spotlight

GRay Area Spotlight: Tony y Not

Luca Rizzello

6 min read

Melding arpeggiated basslines and glowing melodies into incandescent dance music, Tony y Not - aka Mimi von Koerber - inspires pure elation through all that she produces. Her tracks, infused with the spirit of Chicago house, the richness of deep house, and the euphoria of '80s disco, have fueled unforgettable nights in New York City, Berlin, Black Rock City, and beyond. She has released through imprints like Critical Monday, Nein Records, Trampoliner, and Tächno. 

Born in Zurich, Switzerland, von Koerber's friends and family played a central role in impacting her music taste throughout her childhood. 

"My whole family is very musical," she explains. "I spent a lot of time with my sister who's just one year older than me. Being in high school, you're obviously influenced by what your friends are listening to. But I was listening to a lot of pop punk, rock stuff, and a lot of other people in my school were listening to a lot of hip-hop." 

As an 11-year-old with a keen enthusiasm to delve into new music, von Koerber was perhaps most influenced by her eldest sister, who would arrive back from New York with an array of music to share. "She came back bringing albums by The Fugees or Jamiroquai… I loved it... listening to these albums on my little Sony Walkman. So [my taste] was definitely really influenced by my older sister."

Legendary Berlin mainstay, Watergate, which stands in mesmerizing beauty overlooking the River Spree, was the location of her first rave experience back in 2012. 

"I remember being into electronic music before that, but I went there with friends and stayed there until way after sunrise. I was definitely like, 'Wow, this is so cool'… It was my first 'going-to-Berlin clubbing experience'."

Watergate's unwavering music-first culture was part of what drew her into dance music. And when she played there in 2019, it was a remarkable full-circle moment. 

In her life as a producer, von Koerber's determination for success has always been unyielding. In 2018, she was adamant about working hard on the first track she produced until it reached a standard where she was happy to release it. 

"Maybe this is just my German brain… but I was like, 'If I'm going to start something, I want to finish it'… I remember being so strict with myself."

She's honest about its imperfections but proud that it features her vocals. 

"I really liked that I used my voice. I'm a singer, which not a lot of people know. I'm currently working on an album, singing more, using my voice more." 

Becoming a successful musician is a dream that started early in life for von Koerber. "I think I always wanted to become a pop star when I was a child. I think everyone wanted that of course." 

After completing a Bachelors's and Master's Degree in New York, she began taking music more seriously. "I think once I started taking pressure off myself, and also when my Dad passed away a couple of years ago, I think my whole perspective [shifted] on what I'm supposed to do in life and on following your passion." 

After moving to New York, her connections in the city's music and events industry drew her further into the dance music sphere. 

Collective BAE, a New York women's collective, was instrumental in von Koerber's career. Their events ranging from music to poetry reading, life painting, yoga, and beyond, aim to make women feel more comfortable with self-expression. Founded by von Koerber's good friend Reem Abdou, aka DJ Dreeemy, Collective BAE was the first place to book Tony y not as a DJ.

"She brought me in and was like, 'I know you're DJing at home, but do you actually want to play in front of people?', and I was like, 'Oh my god, yes please!' So that was kind of the motivation for me… to step out there and find a voice." 

Attending music festivals was also of crucial importance. They helped spark the desire to delve into her creativity and immerse herself in the dance music experience. 

She explains how a great festival is defined by more than music. "I think festivals are about friendships, so going with a good crew, your mates, and having fun… makes the whole experience." 

Burning Man holds a particularly special place in her heart. A dedicated Burner since 2014, she's found family in her annual adventures. And naturally, it was the reason for her happiest musical moment. In 2019, von Koerber played a set on Burning Man's other-worldly Mayan Warrior art car. 

"Playing there [had definitely been] a real goal [for me] as an artist," she recalls. "All my friends behind me, all of these people in front of me… it was such a magical moment. I really, really loved it. Just thinking about it makes me so happy."

Von Koerber believes in the importance of self-expression and freedom in music. She makes a clear distinction between the role of the artist and that of the label. While she appreciates the niches labels curate, she doesn't believe artists need to follow suit.

"As an artist it's cool [to] open up a bit more to different sub-genres, or broaden it up a bit. A label is a label, a label's not a person. But an artist is a person." 

This limitless ideology translates to von Koerber's decision to release all of her future material under the same moniker, regardless of shifts in genre. "Every artist is different. I think some artists with different aliases it's cool because that's just how they present themselves. But at least for me… I like just releasing everything under one name. I think it's cool to show that you're not just stuck to one thing, you can be different, you can also work with different artists, you can collab with different people even from completely different backgrounds." 

She's become increasingly inspired by music that wouldn't work in club settings. Some believe electronic music must be either dancefloor music or ambient music for home-listening. She believes that it can transcend this boundary and breach new ground.

It doesn't need to be separated. It can also be together… the music that I'm making and working on is more synth-poppy. It's still electronic music because it's made on a computer." 

Her willingness to convey her identity, personality, successes, and struggles on social media forged a deep connection to her audience. And imbue a greater sense of humanity in her music. 

"I'm Tony y Not but I'm also Mimi, I'm just one person. I talk about my personal stuff, it's not just a "brand" that I'm representing." 

Her concern and care for others extend to the mental health implications of the pandemic. 

"We're living in a really hard time right now, at least for a lot of people… I think going inwards and focusing on self-healing and not listening too much to your outer environment is really important. My heart goes out to everyone suffering from depression and anxiety right now: stay strong, keep believing in yourself, this will not be forever, and better times are coming; just trust the process."

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