DJ's On Disposables | Anna Lunoe

by Paulette Ely

If you’ve had the fortune of seeing the Australian DJ/ producer/ vocalist/ radio-host, Anna Lunoe,  perform, then you are well aware of her unmatched energy. Despite constantly traveling the world to perform and raising her daughter along the way, this energy never teeters in intensity. That feat itself is simply superhuman, but whether Anna will admit to such success is a different story. 

Anna allowed for a few photos to be snapped before her Road To Hard Summer set at Academy LA, and I felt privileged to be under the supremacy of the queen of crowd control. Just like how she navigated through the in’s and out’s of the industry from Australia to America, her mixes take you through a journey of the unexpected while paving the path to that perfect drop. Coming off of the highs of HARD Summer Festival and revealing new releases all summer long, I had the chance to reflect with Anna about her imprint on the industry. Read our chat below for an inside look on the mind of one of the industries most badass boss-ladies… however humble she may be. 

You’re constantly busy and on your grind, how do you keep sane?

First of all, thank you for saying that. Everybody doesn’t feel like they do enough, right? I think that the best way to approach things for me is to do a lot of planning. If you just go in blind and have a lot of things on your plate, you go crazy. For me, done is better than perfect. I have to let things go and really give myself deadlines, and that’s really just all from years of having to turn over things at a high volume and of a high standard. Doing the best possible work that you can with the time that you have is really my goal. Sometimes I’ll look back on something and be like “Oh, that mix is alright, but it could have been amazing if I had extra time.” But, you do what you what to do.

A lot of great DJ’s come out of Australia like you did and make their mark in America as well. Of all those great DJ’s, what sets you apart?

I don’t really compete with anybody from anywhere really. I think that what sets me apart is probably my approach to dance music in general: what I find interesting about it and what I decide to elevate from it. I also think that, from what I can gather, people really resonate with my energy when I am performing. I think there’s only one version of all of us and we just have to be as uniquely ourselves and working within our strengths as much as possible. Sometimes I’ll watch a festival set and I’ll be like, “Oh, I don’t play like this.” It happened recently when I was playing a big festival in Asia, and I was after a big DJ who was playing a millions songs at once and doing the whole ‘edits on edits on edits’, and that is so their style. Sometimes it gets me nervous because I’m like, “that’s not what I do though- are they going to be bored?” I play really quick, but I don’t make edits on edits on edits as I may have done maybe five or ten years ago. My role is more to try and introduce new sounds on stage, so I’m trying to push people into different areas of dance music and I try to surprise people with an obvious track in a way they have never heard it. I feel like that’s what all DJ’s think that’s what they do- so I’m completely un-unique. I'm aware of that. I just think we all have different ears and we all have different ways of doing it, and that’s what sets me apart. It’s also the combination of genre and vocals. We’re all so different. I just don’t think that you can compete with anyone else.

Regardless of that all, you we’re one of the first monuments female DJ’s. There is no denying that this industry is so male oriented, and I know that you grew up with brothers so you have constantly been around men doing their thing and you were one of the first women to break a huge barrier. Is that something you feel you have to speak to often, or was it really just something that happened for you?

It kind of came about, but I also think it’s perspective. Maybe I was one of the first people that you were aware of, but I think that that’s a visibility thing. Obviously there hasn’t been as many as men, but there have been a lot of strong women who have really done a lot in the industry. You say I’m established, but I’ve never been on any kind of top 100 or DJ Mag. Will history even remember that I was here? In the same way that you didn't know that there was probably quite a big female DJ in the rave scene in the early nineties, how history remembers things isn’t always how they were. It’s a taste of representation as well, and I definitely hear about amazing women from the Chicago scene or amazing women who have so much to do with engineering. I’m always reading stories that people post online about women who have made incredible contributions in industries that you may not necessarily know about. I do think that DJ’s fall under that a little bit, and there have been women who have fought their way through the pack the whole way through. For me, I just kept going. I’ve spoken to Alison Wonderland about that- we just kept going when it was really hard. I think that is grit and determination. No matter who you are, that will get you there in the end. Learning from your mistakes and learning from the things that are hard and continuously pushing through it and using it for growth will get you somewhere. Nobody gets nowhere.

Do you think that this was always where you wanted to get to? Was creating electronic music what you fought your battles for and where do you feel you stand now?

That’s a good question, because my perspective of myself is really shady now. I can’t really remember what I thought I could be. All I know is that I had this intention when I was 19 or 20. I remember I had to write my parents a letter because they were worried about me- I was volunteering at a radio station, and I wasn’t really making any money. I was floating around school for a couple of years, and I dropped out of University (or college, whatever it’s called here). I had a big fight with my mom and my Dad was like, “We’re just worried about you, we don’t know what you’re doing.” I remember saying, “Dad, you’ll see it. I know what I’m going to do, I just don’t know exactly what it is. I just know I’m going to be fine, I can just tell it’s coming.” I knew something was coming, I just couldn’t quite place in what area of music it would be in. I knew that I had passion and I knew that I was good at stuff. I had just started DJing at the time, and it just wasn’t DJ culture like it is now so I couldn't quite see that specifically. I just knew that I would have a place in the industry because I knew I had something. I remember my goals were very low- all I wanted was to play at the local casino. One of my friends once came to see me DJ and he was like, “Lunoe, you’re fucking great at this! You could be all over the world!” He’s a real optimistic, sweetheart guy and I was like, “You are nuts!” I could not have disagreed with him more. I genuinely thought that he was completely wrong at that point, but he was actually right. All I did was work one level at a time, cross one boundary at a time and keep going. 

Even if you don’t feel it, I think so many girls look up to you as someone who has figured it out. I’m wondering if there was a moment where it really hit you that you’re doing it and you’re doing this forever?

That’s a good question too. I would have glimpses of it where I would stumble on a moment where I got a great opportunity to wow a crowd. I remember I played an opening set on a big festival in Sydney, and I had come straight from another city and straight from the airport to go right on stage. Before I knew it, I had thousands of people in front of me. It was just crazy. What I was so surprised about was how I reacted, I just went nuts. I had no sleep, didn’t have any makeup on and I just wasn’t supposed to be feeling that together as I just thought I was doing an early set, and I just really smashed it. I thought, “Shit, okay. I have more potential than I thought.” I also did have a few bad setbacks, though. I had tours that were really damaging where I’d be on tour with bad people and they would put me down. I had to build up my confidence again. There were multiple moments as signs that I was on the right track, but by no means was it easy. I remember there was a stage in 2014 after I had been working really hard for a couple of years. It really felt like something was happening, and I remember people started to notice. A promoter that I was working with was like, “You need to keep an eye on Anna because something is happening and you’re not giving her what she needs.” At that time I was over-performing and under represented. I remember the reaction in crowds. I was like, “I’m getting this right. Something is connecting.” House music really had developed over these past years since I’ve been here. The tolerance for unique stuff, the depth in the industry, the education of the crowd- it all seemed to start clicking in around that point. I think that a lot of the people discovered me around that time, and that was 2 or 3 years after I arrived in America and I had been DJing for years, so it wasn’t overnight. 

I think it’s important that you’re speaking to that. Everyone often only share their success and not their hardships, especially with social media.

I’ve thought about social media a lot when it comes to art. With every biography I’ve ever read, it is clear that any kind of greatness has a feeling of drive due to not having options and needing to get good at something. Every band starts with a couple of kids who are so desperate to create something and get out of their crappy town. The one thing that I worry about with Instagram and social media is that it gives you this whole sense that you’re doing something when maybe you’re not actually doing anything. There are a lot of talented people who are getting caught up in the illusion of looking like they’re doing something and getting lots of likes for that. You must strip away all that stuff and make sure your art is right. I think that’s it spiritually. Maybe you will have great success from likes, but spiritually you need to figure it out. The joy of my life doesn't come from how many likes I get on Instagram, the joy of my life is following my passion and feeling like I’m achieving something that I’ve always needed to speak to.

Is there anything you can leave us with that is something that we don’t already know or can’t find about you on social media as we discussed?

I really have no agenda with what people know about me and what they don’t. For me, it’s all about my art. I just want to share good energy with people and good fun. Dance music can help them get out of their lives and their bad headspace and get them feeling happy and whole. I really don't feel like it’s important if they know a bunch about me. There are things that people know about me for sure, but there are things that they don't and that’s fine. It is what it is. 

Be sure to see catch Anna Lunoe’s superstar set energy next at San Diego’s CRSSD Festival September 28 + 29. Buy your tickets here for a an immersive weekend graced by electra-music moguls plus some sake sipping and fashion slaying.