Cassy spoke to Marko Kutlesa about her relationships with some of Europe's best clubs, the construction of her new album and artistic expression.
Last updated: 3rd Jun 2016
The strong feminine presence that is Cassy is one that was perhaps always destined to be involved in music. It wasn't the subject she left her native Austria to study, aged 20, when she moved briefly to London, but growing up in a guest house at which many musicians stayed and surrounded by her parents record collection, music had already left its mark.
After returning to Austria she fell in love with electronic music and was inspired and mentored by female DJs like Electric Indigo, Acid Maria and Miss Kittin. Having performed and undertaken training as a singer in her youth, Cassy's earliest high profile entrance into the world of electronic music came as a vocalist. She has since collaborated with producers such as Steve Bug, Ricardo Villalobos, Luciano, Mathew Jonson and Swayzak.
Her efforts as a DJ are nevertheless what she has become most famous for, honing her craft over the last decade and a half initially around Austria and Germany. In 2003 she moved to Berlin and after working for a time in the Hard Wax record store and gigging around the city was spotted by the people behind the city's world famous Panorama Bar/Berghain venue. She was offered a residency at the club before it broke onto to world stage and represented it as a resident DJ on the first Panorama Bar mix CD.
Since that time her profile has increased dramatically and she undertakes a busy, worldwide DJ schedule and has evolved her studio efforts into production alongside singing. She will combine these two talents on her imminent debut album Donna, some of which was recorded in Philadelphia with collaborator King Britt and the first single from which is called 'Back'. Both will be released by Aus music.
Ahead of her performance in London for Mixmag Live and Manchester for Zutekh, we ask Cassy about the album (listen to a track from it below), her love of Chaka Khan, Panorama Bar, Ibiza and the difference between Austrians and Germans.
You've been working on your debut album with King Britt. How did you connect with him?
We connected first on the internet, either e mail or Facebook. Through Josh Wink as well, I think. And then we met in Ibiza. On purpose, not randomly. We arranged to go for dinner.
Out of all the DJs and producers you've connected with, why did it end up being him that you chose to work with so closely on this album?
Because he's my brother from another mother. He's my connection. He's the person I was supposed to be working with. It's so evident, there really is no better person I should be working with.
What other artists besides him will appear on your forthcoming album?
Well, we have Lad Agabekov, who's my sound engineer but also an amazing mastering engineer. He's also a producer and he owns a label Caduceus Records. Other people are Stuart Matthewman who plays guitar on one song, Chuck Treece plays bass, Damon Bennett's on one track and Wolfgang Haffner is a drummer.
You've described the process of recording the album as exploring an alternative side of your artistic expression. In what ways does the music on the album differ from music you've released on EPs or that we might hear you DJ?
It's more songs, it's not tracks. There's an intention of having songs for an album in the way they're set up. DJ tracks would go on for six or seven minutes, these are more structured like songs.
Have you constructed these songs with the intention that you might like people to remix them in order to turn them into something more club friendly?
Yeah, definitely. Some of the parts really lend themselves well to remixes. We already have some.
You mixed the first Panorama Bar CD compilation. Did you feel any pressure to represent the club with your selection or did you decide only to represent your own sound?
Well, it was so early in the day... if someone asks me to do something like that I always feel pressure, good pressure. A responsibility. I definitely felt that, but it was early days for Panorama Bar and it doesn't really have a sound. Well, it has a vibe. I think Berghain has more of a sound. Like, when you hear a track you could say, 'that's something that would work well in Berghain'.
I don't know if there are tracks that sound like Panorama Bar tracks. Panorama Bar is more like a modern day discotheque. I mean that in the best sense, it's somewhere where you can go and dance to a lot of different types of music, it's quite open. That's a good thing, but it doesn't have a sound as such.
You don't think it's changed over time? I was under the impression that openness was more of a recent thing, that it was more house based when you first started off.
Maybe it was a bit more house based when it started. But I always had the feeling it was quite open because they always had different label nights in there, labels that were really different from each other.
People like Daniel Wang played there, there was always a connection to this type of disco and to electronic disco artists. Also, Boris, who's one of the residents, he's very influenced by what was happening in New York in the early 1990s. He can play a mix of music that's quite diverse.
Proving yourself as a DJ is sometimes not easy. Proving yourself as a woman DJ can sometimes be more difficult. But when you DJ there are often physical barriers to separate you from direct, one to one contact with people.
There isn't any barrier between you and people who come into a record store, you just have to deal with whoever comes through the door. What was the experience like proving yourself as a female record store worker to a largely male customer base?
That was really interesting. Obviously the people I was working with were so knowledgable and so experienced. We did argue a lot. We argued almost all the time. But I didn't experience anything difficult with customers, or with them having a problem with me telling them what's a nice record or not. On the contrary, it was never a problem. There would be some geeks who would go in there and just wanted to speak to whoever they could speak to. I mean, Germans can sometimes be very particular people.
You've lived in Vienna, Berlin, London and Paris. Now you have travelled to many places, where do you see yourself living in the future?
Wherever my boyfriend and my son want to live.
So, you have no ambitions for your boy to stay within the education system of any particular country?
Well, I guess we have to give him the best education that's available in the particular country. I think that if we stay in Austria I might not put him into an Austrian school, even though the school system here is really good.
You're a big Chaka Khan fan. I saw her live a couple of years ago. Have you ever seen her live? Which of her songs could you possibly play in one of your sets this summer? What are your favourite songs of her's for home listening?
No, I've never seen her live. I guess there are a couple I could play, either at the beginning or the end of a set. I have a 12” of 'I Feel For You', although it's in storage somewhere at my parents. I always play Chaka Khan at least once a week, so I have all her albums n either my phone or laptop. My favourite song is 'Tight Fit' from the Destiny album. 'Love Of A Lifetime' is also on that album.
You moved from Cocoon to Circo Loco in Ibiza. You said that you can play more open and interesting in Circo Loco. What was it about Cocoon that made you feel you could not play as open and interesting as you do at Circo Loco?
Well, I loved playing on the main floor at Cocoon, much more than I did playing on the terrace. I always had the feeling on the terrace that people were coming to listen to the person who was on after you, so you always had this long warm up set and it didn't feel like the sort of place where you could just play a normal set, like you would do at any normal club.
Not that I mind playing for the people, on the contrary, but I just felt like the main floor was easier. I had the feeling on the main floor that if you wanted to play a bit harder you could do that, which you can't do on the terrace. I guess the terrace was just not my floor.
You've held residencies at Trouw, Rex Club and Panorama Bar, three of the best clubs in Europe. Which other clubs that you have visited would you like to have a residency at?
There's one club I go to now about three or four times a year, I was there at Christmas and went back in April and I'm probably going back this summer. It's called Flash and it's in Washington D.C. I love playing there, I love the crew of people, it's one of my favourite spots to play at.
Your album may be released a little late for you to do any live festival dates this year. What plans, if any, have you made for any live performance of those tracks?
We're making plans now. We'll do them as soon as we're ready. Rushing anything is completely nonsensical. Due to circumstances it could probably have been released earlier, but that's just not what has happened. If I go live I really want to do something that feels natural, have the right people with me, find the right first performance. So it's definitely not going to be rushed.
You've played guitar and had some formal musical education. When you envisage these live shows do you see yourself as only singing or would you like to also be doing something else?
Right now I just see myself as singing or maybe having effects as well. But that's an interesting question, it's one that I've been asking myself if, in future, I'd like to play musical instruments.
When you come to record your next album would you do things differently?
Definitely. How the work progressed went very well, so I would keep some of that vibe, but ultimately it would be different because I would have such different ideas.