Italian born DJ/producer & record label owner, Misstress Barbara (spelt with four "S's" to emphasize the 'miss' and 'stress'!) grew up in Canada, where she is currently living. She began her record label 'Relentless', named after her tireless DJ'ing style. She has since changed the name to Iturnem (Atetemun is a synonym of Relentless) due to copy right issues.
HigherFrequency caught up with her just prior to her first Japan tour.
> interview : Laura Brown (ArcTokyo)
HigherFrequency (HRFQ) : This will be your first trip to Japan, right? What are some of your impressions of Japanese culture and music?
Misstress Barbara : Yes indeed it will be my first time there. I am looking forward to it very much. My impressions from what I've heard so far about Japan is that the crowd is a very happy crowd who really look at you in the eyes and who really enjoys dancing and screaming. I have only heard good things about Japan so my impressions and expectations are only good. I don't know yet what the scene has become, since I have never been before, so I can't say what is the music they prefer nowadays, although what I've heard is that Japan used to be one of the top countries to play in for Techno Music. I hear that now they love Trance a lot, and that's certainly not what they are going to get from me, so I look forward to challenge them with the best Techno beats I can offer!
You were initially a drummer. When and how did you begin Djing?
Barbara : I began in 1996. I left the drums to become a DJ. I fell in love with the whole DJing activity by going out in clubs and parties a lot around 1994-1995, and then decided to become a DJ because that love was stronger than anything else. I am very happy I made that move!
HRFQ : Who are your biggest inspirations?
Barbara : Almost none in the Electronic Music scene: Madonna, George Michael, Stevie Wonder, The Beatles, Sade, Masters At Work, Mood II Swing, Ian Pooley.
HRFQ : Your fellow Canadians John Acquaviva and Richie Hawtin have been strong spokesmen of Final Scratch. Are you currently using it or any other new mixing technologies when you DJ?
Barbara : I have purchased the initial PRO version of Final Scratch when it was out in the beginning, in Dec. 2001. I have never used it though. I don't think that FS is the best tool for a Techno DJ. Sets easily become linear and energy-less with FS because of too much time spent in front of that screen. From the crowd perspective, when the DJ is always looking at the same place and never changing records, it does make a difference. There is automatically less movement, less energy spent on the whole set. I like to work, I like to sweat, and I don't think FS is good for a good tough proper techno set! House, Trance, yes, because anyway those guys mix every 7-8 minutes, but for a good proper techno set I don't think it's proper. Have you seen Jeff Mills on FS? Wonder why... It's a fantastic technology and I am not here to bash it! I own one, and I may use it for House sets if one day I find the time to fill it up with music. But never for Techno.
HRFQ : You are currently living in Montreal. How would you describe the music scene there?
Barbara : It's obviously not as advanced as in Europe, which is a shame, because it has been going on for many years now so if it's not part of the everyday culture then it means that it will never be. In North America in general people take Electronic Music as a way to just go crazy and party. They don't have it in their everyday life, they are not used to listen to it like in Europe for example they can have a simple little club playing Electronic Music in a Tuesday night. Here it's always the big thing, so that people can go out and do bunch of drugs, which shows that it's not about the music but about the party scene behind it. It's wrong, and it has never changed after all these years, so I don't see it changing ever. Though the scene can be fun and offer you good parties, it will never be half as fun as in Europe, and that's because in Europe they have a lot of knowledge for Electronic Music, they know it because they live with it every day, but here it's not the case.
HRFQ : Who are some of the new and exciting talents now in Canada?
Barbara : I hear Tiga is becoming hot these days. And I find Preach a very good producer, in fact I have released a few records already from him on my label ITURNEM and I will keep on releasing his stuff because he makes very good and proper Techno tracks.
HRFQ : Do you have any DJ residencies currently? If so, where?
Barbara : I have never accepted any residencies anywhere. I find residencies suffocating. I can't cope with knowing that I need to go back to a place 4, 6, 8 times a year. I prefer going back to places whenever I want more than whenever they ask. The world is big and I am very busy. And when you realize that the year has only 52 Saturdays and there are many more than 52 places to go to, then you really have no time to accept residencies. But I can say that I play pretty regularly at Florida 135, best club in Spain. I play regularly for Awakenings parties in Holland, and I play regularly for Godskitchen in the UK.
HRFQ : What are your current production projects?
Barbara : Being always on the road doesn't give me much time for production. I have just released to of my new EP's on ITURNEM: In Da Mooda Da Nite and Gloria Grande which are having quite a good amount of press and sales at the moment. I don't have anything new planned for the moment except releasing other artist's music, but in September I took one month off to rest and to be in the studio so perhaps I will have more stuff towards the end of the year. I have a few remixes lined-up, of which one for Ignition Technician, UK.
HRFQ : Your Relentless label has now changed names to Iturnem. What caused the change and will the music being released change as well?
Barbara : I found out at some point 2 years ago that Ministry Of Sound had a House label called Relentless. Even though no one knew about it, and everyone who said "Relentless" thought of my label, I had no choice but to change my name because they were there first and I didn't know about them at the time I started Relentless. So I changed it for ITURNEM which is a real fun play of words for I TURN THEM, just like my artist name which takes 4 S's instead of the usual 3, MISSTRESS as in MISS STRESS. The sound of the label won't change. Nothing has changed, even the design stayed the same. It's just the name that has changed.
HRFQ : What kinds of music and artists are you focusing on for your label? Have you recently signed any new artists?
Barbara : I have not signed anyone new after Preach, but I am about to sign a guy from Eastern Europe, I won't say his name for now. And a new guy from Sweden. The music I am focusing on is always the most groovy and funky and up-beat Techno I can find around. I only sign what I play, so it has to be really energetic as I like.
HRFQ : What do you see as the future of techno music in the next coming years?
Barbara : It's really hard to say. People tend to say Techno is the less popular Electronic music around, but then you have all the Trance DJs who play more and more Techno in their sets, so perhaps they are bringing the sound back somehow. I don't know, what I know for sure though is that nothing disappears, because music is a cycle and everything eventually always comes back.
HRFQ : In Japan, there are few female Djs - both Japanese or foreign Djs playing here. It's so important for the Japanese audience to get exposure to serious female Djs. Have you ever felt outward discrimination because of being a woman, or have you been treated differently in the dance music community?
Barbara : Unfortunately I have felt the difference like never before since Japan has asked me to go there on tour. It has never been pointed so much that I am a woman like it has been in Japan. I find this is a shame because music has no gender, and playing records is not like go and work in a construction site where you get dirty and you work in the dust and where you need physical strength. It's just playing music, and it only needs feeling, so why is the difference between male and female always pointed out, when women probably have more feeling than men anyway? I am very against the noticing of this difference and I do not support it at all. Sometimes I get asked to play a women only party and I say no, exactly because I do not want to promote this mentality of difference.
HRFQ : Do you have any advice for aspiring female Djs?
Barbara : Doesn't matter if it's for aspiring female or male DJs. Just believe in what you really like and work hard to focus. The more you believe in it the more everyone else will believe in it as well and, whatever you really love and really believe in, will happen.
HRFQ : After seeing your Japan tour, many Japanese producers will want to send you demos. What is the best way for people to do so?
Barbara : That's great news because I like what comes out of Japan a lot! They can send their demos to my PO BOX. The best way is to go on the ITURNEM website and email to the label management contact in there, and they will get a response with an address of where to send their demos.
HRFQ : Any messages to the Japanese fans?
Barbara : Like Madonna says: Music makes the people come together! It is so true. I hope to see you all there and make you dance like never before! I really look forward to play there and get to know the country and get to look at your faces and in your eyes while I play. See you all there!
End of the interview
Misstress Barbara Japan Tour
8/20 (Fri) Tokyo @ Womb (Hosted by Resonant Recordings)
8/21 (Sat) Osaka @ Underlounge
8/22 (Sun) Nagoya @ Mago