INTERVIEW: DESNA – Women in Music Series


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Debuting our series “Women in Music,” where we highlight women across borders and generations, and the ways they’re leading the charge in shaping and moving electronic dance music forward.

After performing in underground gigs and gay parties in one of the world’s most competitive (dance music) cities, New York, DESNA decided to take a leap and carve her own path. Her gamble to shun labels and hone on perfecting her craft pays off. We caught up with DESNA ahead of her Memorial Weekend performance at Gather Festival this Saturday, May 25th.

You’ve performed at many outdoor festivals including Electric Forest, GEM Fest, and Electric Daisy Carnival to name a few. This Sunday, you’ll be performing on the ‘Hemlock’ Main Stage at Gather Festival.

When playing at an open-air festival, do you find it’s a different vibe, rather than in the club? Do open-air vs. club gigs change your style, or influence the journey you take the crowd on?

DESNA: Yes in fact, they do change my style a bit. I play slightly more proggy than I would at a club because the sound doesn’t stop inside 4 walls so it translates well in open air.

Since you are performing at Gather Festival, New York in just a few days, how are you feeling about your set and do you have any special preparations for this crowd?

DESNA: I have a very special track I’m dropping that will be layered on 2 other tracks. (I’m expecting a nice reaction for that moment)!

Performing at the Hemlock Stage with you are Agoria, Amelie Lens, Maya Jane Coles and many more. Was there a set you’re particularly looking forward to seeing?

DESNA: Fjaak is a personal favorite and I have not seen Amelie perform yet so looking forward to those two.

Your sound is typically described as dark, industrial and futuristic. Do you like adapting your sets depending on the venue or do you prefer staying authentic?

DESNA: I am almost to a fault an artist that plays what I feel in the moment verses staying within a certain sound. I care more about being a good DJ than staying bounded to one style of techno. I opened for Tommy4seven last Summer and played a groovy industrial set as opposed to my recent gig at Avant Gardner on support for ANNA where I leaned a bit more melodic. I like to yield to the programming a bit while always staying true to myself. Even with this rule of thumb, I still have my own sound that is distinct from everyone else.

Taking it back to NYC, how has the city influenced you as an artist? What are three important pieces of advice you’ve learned on your musical journey?

DESNA: The gay underground scene was one of my first influences. Parties like Alegria and Victor Calderone’s events are definitely some of my earliest influences. I’ve learned that everyone has advice for what you’re doing, but you have to trust your own path more than what anyone else thinks. There is a soul energy you must sync up with inside yourself to get a career off the ground. Also, take time for yourself to be healthy and clear minded. That is the most important part of all of this.

What’s next in your agenda for this summer? Are there any events you are looking forward to attending or performing this year?

DESNA: Yes! I have some events in Florida, Avant Gardner, Philly and possibly out West in California. I am working on a collaboration at the moment with Metodi Hristov, which I’ll reveal more details when the EP is ready!

Listen to DESNA: