Photo by Julian Lee Harather. Styling & hair by Hvala Ilija. Make-Up by Parnia Sarraf. Dress by Brankica Sanadrovic, Collar by Pouran Prvizi, Double Boot by Hvala Ilija.
Photo by Julian Lee Harather. Styling & hair by Hvala Ilija. Make-Up by Parnia Sarraf. Dress by Brankica Sanadrovic, Collar by Pouran Prvizi, Double Boot by Hvala Ilija.
Photo by Julian Lee Harather. Styling & hair by Hvala Ilija. Make-Up by Parnia Sarraf. Collar by Brankica Sanadrovic. Headpiece by Sassa Ann Van Wyk.
Photo by Julian Lee Harather. Styling & hair by Hvala Ilija. Make-Up by Parnia Sarraf. Hoody by Hvala Ilija, overall by Brankica Sanadrovic. Headpiece by Sassa Ann Van Wyk.
Photo by Julian Lee Harather. Styling & hair by Hvala Ilija. Make-Up by Parnia Sarraf. Left: Shirt by Jana Wieland. Corsage & trousers by Louise Stressler. Right: Corsage by Brankica Sanadrovic. Pants by Louise Stressler. Top: stylists own.

Antonia XM: Happy Slaying Demons

May 20, 2022
Text by Camilla Peeters

Writing indie songs on guitar before producing deconstructed club music, Antonia XM’s DEMONS EP marks a perfect electroacoustic meeting point.

Photo by Julian Lee Harather. Styling & hair by Hvala Ilija. Make-Up by Parnia Sarraf. Dress by Brankica Sanadrovic, Collar by Pouran Prvizi, Double Boot by Hvala Ilija.

As co-founder of Viennese label Ashida Park, producer and DJ, the release of Antonia Matschnig’s first EP is a new chapter in a daredevil story. Pop meets Gabber and monster meets bedroom. Antonia XM talks inexplicable moments of inspiration, commercial music and healing.

What are you up to at the moment?

I have a bit too much going on right now, but I am happy about it. I have a bunch of gigs, working on upcoming releases on Ashida Park and I am studying electroacoustic and experimental music in Vienna. I am also working on the soundtrack of a performance by Isa Schieche. Saturday, the day after my first live performance at Hyperreality, we are doing an evening at a jazz club called Porgy&Bess, with university. I will play a soundscape that I created. Two musicians will play live over it. The first track on the EP is only field recordings. There’s no additional instruments or samples, just guitar, voice and field recordings.

Do you do a lot of field recording?

I would like to do more. I like the process of it, because it is so separated from the production process. You don’t have to think about it. It is a good source of inspiration. It’s a big  contrast with sitting down in front of your computer and going for it. I still don’t fully understand that process of producing. Sometimes I cannot do anything for months, then I make a whole track in a day.

Photo by Julian Lee Harather. Styling & hair by Hvala Ilija. Make-Up by Parnia Sarraf. Dress by Brankica Sanadrovic, Collar by Pouran Prvizi, Double Boot by Hvala Ilija.

You just released »Demons«: your first EP. Is this influencing what you play as a DJ?

I have been thinking about that a lot actually. Not really. I have an issue with playing my own tracks for some reason. Normally I try to play some remixes of my tracks. I have a Lobsta B remix of »Flawed« for example. I started playing non-remixed pop/rap tracks as well, more than I did before. If I like a track, I am going to play it. These days I would rather play the original track, usually sped up. I used to play only the remix before, that has changed. It is hard to say, I am influenced by so much different stuff and it all comes together when I do music and when I play.

Pop is more accepted in the club scene again. Multiple people have recently told me they want to play Justin Bieber tracks in their sets. It’s amazing.

Pop has been in our scene for a long time, but now it’s extending into even the techno parties and spaces that weren’t pop-friendly before. Which I like. I have always played pop, since I started DJing. In the beginning, people would be freaked out by it. Especially because I was a woman playing pop, in a scene where the »boys« didn’t do it.

Do you feel like your position as a female DJ has also changed in recent years?

Definitely. When I started DJing in Vienna, I knew of maybe one or two non-cis-male DJs. Being a female DJ was an »alien« thing, that is how people would perceive it. At the parties I play now… we sometimes even struggle to find cis-male DJs. When people tell me that they find it crazy I am a woman who DJs, I wonder where they have lived in the past five years.

How has the reception of your single »Demons« been so far?

It has been cute. It was a bit of a shit day to release it, because it was the hottest day of the year so far and everyone was out swimming. But the feedback was really good, especially from fellow musicians. The way I produced the track, I really didn’t try to make it so it would »work« or fit in. It’s a song that is not of use for any playlist, because it has two completely different vibes. It was a nice process for me to make it, because I was basically putting all my influences from DJing, the harder and deconstructed stuff I like, in there. The beginning of the track is more towards ambient. I used a lot of field recordings that I made for a university project. The monster sounds in the beginning for example, that’s all my voice. I am really happy with the track, but I know it’s maybe not the easiest track to listen to.

Photo by Julian Lee Harather. Styling & hair by Hvala Ilija. Make-Up by Parnia Sarraf. Collar by Brankica Sanadrovic. Headpiece by Sassa Ann Van Wyk.

I think you should challenge people a little. That’s a good thing. You work with a very unique type of song structure. It’s almost episodic. Where do you start your process when you set about making a track?

I will randomly have a melody or a sentence in my head, that I have to record on my phone so I won’t forget about it. Going from that, I write the full song on acoustic guitar. Almost all of my tracks are written on guitar. They start out as basic indie songs. I usually have a vision already for how to move those tracks forward. Before I start producing, I already have a vibe I want to go for. With ‘Demons’ I initially only wanted to have the vocal part in the beginning, and then have a gabber song, but in the end I decided to drop the vocals again.

You move through so many feelings in just one song. You combine harsh electronics, mixed with soft vocals and dreamy melodies. It’s an interesting connection between the two.

»Demons« is obviously a super dark track, there is this lonely vibe and a sense of frustration with the world we live in, but then you go to a rave and play the hardest track you know and you forget about all of it for a moment. There is a warmth in that. This is what the track feels like to me: forgetting all the shit for a moment at a rave, but in the end still being conscious of it.

That makes so much sense. Your lyrics are quite dark as well. Are they personal to you?

Yeah it is personal, it’s honest emotions. Everyone keeps telling me that I’m so dark after listening to my music. I feel like, yeah, because the world is a dark place right now lol. But it is super healing for me to write down all of the dark shit. In a way it helps me accept those feelings. It gives me hope. It makes me happier after all.

Photo by Julian Lee Harather. Styling & hair by Hvala Ilija. Make-Up by Parnia Sarraf. Hoody by Hvala Ilija, overall by Brankica Sanadrovic. Headpiece by Sassa Ann Van Wyk.

I was just about to ask whether your music is a healing practice to you. The lyrics are heavy hearted, but there is also an idea of moving on.

It has and is about both. It’s about acceptance. For me I think, once you accept the pain you can also move on from it – but you don’t have to.

You mentioned finding it hard to play your own tracks when DJing, how do you feel about performing live?

Scared as fuck. I have no clue how it is going to turn out, but I am looking forward to it.

How do you plan your performances?

I mostly sing. I am playing my own tracks and will do one cover on guitar, of SOPHIE’s »Just Like We Never Said Goodbye«. I wanted to play something on guitar, because that is the process of how I make music. It couldn’t be one of my own tracks, because I am already playing them in the original version. SOPHIE’s music makes sense for me to play, because it has a lot of meaning for me. She has influenced me most in production and music making. In a way it doesn’t really make sense to play her track on guitar because what makes her music so special to me is the production, yet I like it because it’s like the reverse process of what I do when I write on guitar before producing.

How did SOPHIE influence your practice?

She has been my favourite musician since forever. I remember the first time I listened to SOPHIE. I was probably 17 and was on the train. I was always on Soundcloud. I listened to a radio rip of »BIPP«. I had never heard anything like it before. It changed the way I knew music up until that point. Suddenly everything was possible. It’s interesting sound design, but it’s also extremely approachable. A lot of commercial music I don’t like, because it’s boring. SOPHIE’s music you can relate to immediately, but it’s still super interesting and weird.

Photo by Julian Lee Harather. Styling & hair by Hvala Ilija. Make-Up by Parnia Sarraf. Left: Shirt by Jana Wieland. Corsage & trousers by Louise Stressler. Right: Corsage by Brankica Sanadrovic. Pants by Louise Stressler. Top: stylists own.

Writing a good Pop song is very difficult, maybe even more difficult than writing an experimental song. How do you approach the song writing process?

It just comes to me. I don’t understand how it works or know where it’s coming from. Sometimes I start from a sentence I already have in my head and then I just start writing random words based on emotions around that. Then I put everything together.

How do you feel about singing live? It is an intimate experience that requires a lot of courage.

I used to sing a lot, before I started DJing. I used to sing at weddings for example, just with my guitar. I even studied jazz singing for a year or two. That’s such a different kind of singing, because it was never my own music. I stopped singing for a while, because all the music I was listening to was electronic. I lost inspiration for a while. Now that I’m singing again, I don’t really care anymore if it sounds good. I just do it the way I feel it. I never try to achieve anything with it. All the things I didn’t like about my voice and tried to hide when I was younger, I now let them all out.

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PW-Magazine is a bilingual online magazine for contemporary culture run by Luca Büchler and Lewon Heublein. 

PW-Magazine is supported by the Federal Chancellery of Austria and Swiss Arts Council Pro Helvetia.