• Josh Crowe

All I think about is music and space: An Interview with Afrodeutsche


Henrietta Smith-Rolla, known to many as Afrodeutsche is a British born Ghanaian/Russian/German composer, producer and DJ based in Manchester. Her productions cross a wide range of styles including classical solo piano, techno, house and electro, being profoundly influenced by the Drexciyan sound. Last year saw her support Aphex Twin in London, whilst playing at both Dekmantel and Sónar Barcelona, two festivals right at the forefront of electronic music. Her recent material is a collection of doomed compositions that explore feelings of identity, as she continues an ongoing search for her father whom she has never met. She successfully extrapolates a memorable symmetry between delightfully pungent beats and evocative lyrics, Afrodeutsche is an artist steeped in the spiritual elixir of electronic music's past, present and future.

Have you played in Leeds before?

Yes, I recently had a residency at the music school with Beth Orton, we were doing some mentoring with a group of women, all music artists at different levels. That was cosmic. We finished it with a performance at the Uni with women who had been making music years ago, who for so long had been frightened to make or release music, so we got them composing and performing again. I’ve also played at Love Muscle quite a few times, I absolutely love it.

Do you have a preference between festivals or shows?

I’ve only ever been a punter at a festival and I love them. I grew up in the West Country, so used to go to Glastonbury from the age of 15, breaking in when there weren’t any barriers. I think festivals can be magical. I actually wrote a track about the way sound travels at the festival. When your in your tent and the sun is going down and your hearing the stage etc. The track I made samples the ‘Can You Feel It’ track from the distance.

Is that a big aim then to start playing more festivals?

Yeah definitely that is the plan this year. I’m playing at Dimensions, Dekmantel, Sonar this year which is cosmic. I’m probably most excited to play at Sonar, only the other day I found my Sonar bag with the programme from 2003, I literally looked at it and thought it was crazy. I would have never imagined going on to play the festival, it was really bonkers. I think I'm going to take it with me.

The production is very dark at times, coming from a range of eccentric fields, when you produce do you think about how it will be received live or is it something more personal than that?

It’s a combination of the two. Before I was playing out live it was very much a personal thing. But when I first started getting asked to play live, I realised I had a lot of work to do because I ended up setting up and having a sound check. But when I started to play live I noticed I had to start doing a lot of EQ’ing and everything was in the wrong place. It was a very quick sharp lesson that was learnt from the very first time we played live. That then meant that my production had much more of an eye on a live audience. I know see it as something that is very important.

With music you’ve done for docs, films etc. Are there any other mediums you’d like to work with?

I’ve done music for TV ad's, I love having a narrative and visuals when I'm working, it helps me a lot with the personal writing. I’ll often have something in my head that is emotive, but then having a visual to work with changes the sounds you work with and the pace of the track. Because with visuals you have a certain amount of time to make a point or not make a point. When it comes to personal stuff I don’t necessarily have that narrative running through.

Do you enjoy that challenge?

Yes. I love it. I went through a spell of saying yes to things that I got offered. That’s how I ended up writing the documentaries and doing all the film stuff. I think it is really important, to be nervous, be scared. You really do learn so much through that process.

When you make songs, how important is environment and spontaneity?

I definitely get inspired by film scores. When I'm making music it’s very personal, but I really don’t make music all the time and I don’t judge myself for it. I might not make anything for a month or two months, until I really feel like I need to make music. Don’t get me wrong Im thinking the whole time about it. I’m recording things in my phone. But making songs doesn’t necessarily happen all the time.

What or who influences you outside of music?

That’s a really good question. Its just made me realise its all I think about is music… and space. I love working out how things work, If something doesn’t exist on the internet I’ll make it, or I’ll get all the components and make it. I got obsessed with OSB board and then made a studio from it. I like to make things and watch a lot of judge judy.

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BABYSTEP MAGAZINE Est. 2017