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Anja Schneider took, it seems, a sort of reverse route to worldwide techno stardom. Rather than starting out in the clubs and working her way onto free-thinking European radio, she pluckily landed on the airwaves first and worried about figuring out how to mix records later.
Schneider, who grew up in Cologne, Germany, remembers the siren song of Berlin's legendary techno scene. "I came for one weekend to have a visit at the famous Planet club — this was '93 or '94," she recalls. "After this visit, I decided I had to move there. This was my city, with my music."
She toiled at an advertising agency for a few months until the pull of the dance beat proved too strong. She was enraptured by the mix broadcasts coming from famed German pirate station KISS-FM, so she headed over for a visit. "I went there and I said, 'Hello, my name is Anja, and I've just moved to Berlin. Do you need any help?'"
Still, she preferred to work behind the scenes as a marketing and programming director, and continued in those roles after she moved to a larger radio station, where she similarly built up electronic music shows. But after a few years, her boss asked if she would like her own show.
Schneider quickly overcame her shyness and soon was helming one of Berlin's hottest radio extravaganzas. She was responsible for breaking the latest and greatest techno tracks. Coveted white labels and promos poured in, as did requests for live appearances. She was hesitant. "I have so much respect for DJs that at first I was like, 'No, I can't do this,'" she says. "But when you're standing in a club and you have to do it, you start to take it seriously — especially if you have a critical audience."
That led to remix experiments and eventually to Schneider's own original tracks. The always-learning, always-evolving approach, combined with her academic and business acumen, determined the next big step: starting her own record label, Mobilee. Founded in 2005, it has already become a watermark of good taste, an imprint known for pulsing, spare beats that still push beyond the Berlin-minimal stereotypes.
"I think music in general is going back to melodies and harmonies. Minimal can be quite boring if you hear it all night," she says. "Berlin is so big and we have so much talent. Modeselektor lives here, but we also have Ricardo [Villalobos] and Richie [Hawtin], and then you also have Paul van Dyk coming from Berlin. You can't speak of one Berlin sound. Everything is possible, I think, in this city."