At the age of four Catherine Britton — aka Cassy — left Kingston-upon-Thames with her parents and jetted off to Vienna, where little did she know, 24 years later, she’d become a techno tycoon. Since then she’s spun around the globe and resided in such cities as Paris, Amsterdam and Berlin, and has now traced herself back to Vienna for a short while.
She’s imprinted even more on the techno map after this year’s successful Cocoon Ibiza residency and helming of one of the ‘Cocoon Heroes’ mix CDs (the other was mixed by Joris Voorn).
The compilation practices the techno gospel she preaches. Twisting through punchy slaps, chiming synths, deep warbling waves and a few ripples of Balearic ambience, current techno and bass heavyweights Pearson Sound, Adam Marshall, Mr. G and Paul Woolford & Psycatron are all featured.
“I have a very strong techno background and I love it, so it’s a nice chance to mix tracks or music I don’t get to put on a CD so much.” DJ Mag nabs some exclusive time with Cassy whilst she’s in NYC, DJing in-between her tight-scheduled Cocoon Ibiza residency…
Cocoon have just released your ‘Cocoon Heroes’ mix CD. How did you find the whole process?
“I was super stressed out at first, because I was travelling too much, my studio wasn’t set up and I got a new house in Vienna. In the end, it just happened quite naturally and organically, I planned out which tracks I wanted to use and it came together really well. The mixing desk is quite a primitive set-up at the moment, it took me about two months to produce, with all the planning and execution.”
How have you found your Cocoon Ibiza residency this summer and working with fellow residents Sven Väth, Gary Beck, Carl Craig, Maya Jane Coles, etc?
“It’s my fourth time playing there. Last summer I only played once, and the summer before I played twice. I’m getting to know people more and vice versa, I feel more at home, more confident, more relaxed with what I’m doing. I love playing on the dancefloor and the energy it creates. The other residents are great. Sven Väth is a very special character, who is constantly full of energy, and he really dedicates himself to what he’s doing. He’s aware of more than just the music, he’s aware of the people. So it’s interesting to hook up with him and to get to work with him. The rest of the guys are super-experienced; they’ve been there for a very long time, so they’re very supportive. They’re all so sweet and cool.”
What’s the techno music scene like in Ibiza at the moment?
“I think it’s different. Everyone is a little bit more aware of what’s going on, there are more parties and there are a lot of really talented people on the island. Every year, techno played in Ibiza gets better in my eyes. So I guess it’s very strong, even if people might not think it’s strong, or not how they expected it to be, but I have a feeling it’s more about music and less about who’s who… there’s more interesting people on the island this year than last year.”
You had quite the well-travelled upbringing. How was life as a little Cassy?
“I’d say it was very good, but it was also very particular. It was very strange; I was completely different to all the other kids in Austria, but it made me into who I am and it taught me a lot, I guess. I got to learn two languages and grew up in a completely continental European culture, so that was all very unique and special and I’m very lucky. But it was also very hard, being the only one looking different or being different or speaking another language, or with a name that didn’t sound German, you know, you can’t have it all, I guess! I had more knowledge of things than other kids, because I had already lived more by the age of four than other kids. So it’s a bit difficult levelling with the people you’re hanging out with and you always have to pretend to be someone you’re not from an early age, otherwise you’re not going to have any friends. There are many advantages and disadvantages to it, but it’s definitely interesting, as it teaches you a lot of stuff for the rest of your life.”
At what point did DJing become an aspiration for you?
“Very late, I was 28. I hung out a lot with DJs and their friends, and my DJ mentor, Electric Indigo, eventually said that I should start playing, as I’m so interested in music, and I’d get to come along to the gigs and have trips paid for. I always enjoyed playing records at parties, but I never thought that DJing could be my thing, I just never considered it and I thought that everyone who wanted to be a DJ was super cool and super annoying… especially boys! So I just got into it when I discovered how interesting it was, which helped carve the feeling for it. It took me a while to be certain if it really was for me; I really tested myself. When it became something serious, I went for it 100%.”
What was your first experience like of DJing in front of a crowd?
“My first set was in Vienna, which was extremely scary. You have so much power over people with the tracks you play. You wonder whether or not the music you play is going to make them leave the dancefloor, dance, go to the toilet, buy another drink, or kiss a girl or kiss a boy… It’s very powerful, considering how much time you have.”
Was it difficult entering the profession as a female?
“It was at times, but I’m a person who is quite confident about what I know when it comes to music. I’m quite frank and sassy, definitely a girl on top. On the one hand, it’s difficult for people to be with me, because I don’t get easily scared. But on the other hand, it’s good, because you stick to who you are and what you like doing, so I guess I have some form of natural will power. In some ways it’s made me insensitive to how men like things to be done, as I always stick to what I want to do. That’s what art, music or life is about; to be yourself and to be an individual, and not to conform to other people if you don’t want to.”
If you got the chance to, what would you say to your former DJ self?
“I guess my advice would be to stay completely open-minded, in the sense that everything is a work-in-progress. It’s about enjoying what you’re doing and being totally yourself; not for any other reasons. Even if it’s hard at times, it’s important to stick to your guns, and having the right people next to you and around you to support you, and you support them back. You’ve got to have very good friends and people you can trust so you don’t get lost in any bullshit.”
You’ve got your own label, Cassy, how’s that coming along?
“I’m actually starting on a project now, which will take a few months. I’ve got a few other people working with me too, so it won’t just be myself, which makes things easier, because I travel so much. I’ll be taking some time off to work on it. I want to produce some stuff on my own label again.”
Are there any techno labels you’d recommend?
“I really love playing stuff you can buy at the record store Hardwax, which I used to work at, in Berlin. They’ve got a lot of techno, especially English and fresh German techno, techno from Detroit… a lot of dubstep producers are now starting to produce more techno, so it’s very interesting to check out their website and see what they have to offer.”
What do you think about dubstep and bass music?
“I really love listening to it and the quality of the sound, the freshness of it and how organic it is. I get super inspired by it. There are so many great labels like Hessle Audio, Hotflush… in fact, there was a Hessle Audio compilation released last year, which I still listen to. I really love it; all the artists are so good.”
Would you say techno has changed much over the years? Could it ever go mainstream?
“I don’t think techno has changed at all. I’ve discussed this with quite a few of my colleagues, techno has always been so varied, ranging from 90bpm to 160bpm, it can be super intellectual, experimental, or raw. Techno is not about people adhering to fashionable styles; it’s unique, raw and strict in quality. It has stayed the same because of its reliability, purity and obscurity. It could be polished into something more mainstream, like Aphex Twin, who is techno in my eyes. I guess techno could also be used in a movie or in commercials, I think music that can touch people is good.”
Cassy will play back to back with Carl Craig at Cocoon Heroes, London, on 1st December alongside Sven Vath, Mathias Kaden, Onur Ozer and some very special guests yet to be announced.