clara 3000: i'm not a girl dj, i'm a dj
Vetements collaborator, Jacquemus muse and saviour of Paris' nightlife.
It's hard not to fall in love with Clara 3000; DJ, model, muse (to Simon Porte of Jacquemus no less) and wild child of Paris' reborn and rejuvenated nightlife scene. She's naturally and effortlessly cool, with tumbling brown hair and big blue eyes, and her first step into the music world came age 17, writing for music magazine Trax. Her first ever gig came soon after - opening for Justice at an underage party. As we bring out Paris Go Zones, a video showing the melting pot of talent across Paris' 20 arrondissements, we chat to Clara 3000 about her upcoming EP, fashion, Paris and rave culture.
How were you introduced to techno?
I always went to a lot of concerts, but I was not at all into electronic music, until by accident, a friend took me out. I thought I was going to a concert, but it was a club night. Inside there was this big sound, something very different from what I knew, there was an energy and I fell in love with it. I moved to Paris and did an internship for an electronic music magazine that allowed me to go out, listen to records during the day and watched DJs at night. I bought turntables, learned to mix in my room, one thing led to another and a few months later, I was working with Pedro Winter of Ed Banger. Shortly after he called me and said, "you'll do the warm-up set for Justice." I was freaking out, my knees were trembling behind the decks. I've not stopped DJing since.
Did someone teach you?
No, I just watched and learned from others.
You evolved in a very masculine world, but it's getting more feminine. How do you explain this evolution in the techno scene?
When I was a teen, I was skating, I played football, played basketball. I never put a glass ceiling on what being a girl stopped me from doing. Many girls feel like they have to censor themselves though. Most of the time, the parties are only made up of guys, and that's seen as "normal", by contrast, when there is a party with female DJs they bill it as something "special". It's changing, but I wish it would change a bit quicker.
I understand you hated the Djette label.
It's so reductive. A DJ, a Djette, what's the difference? It breaks my balls. I do it for the music, just for music; it annoys me to be treated like a little mascot, like decoration. We're here for the music. When I play, I'm going with my gut.
Do you often feel you're treated like a part of the "scenery"?
A female DJ shouldn't be that exotic. At festivals there are line-ups with 100 musicians and a single girl, I find that outrageous. But most magazines ask me what I'm wearing and don't want to talk about my music, if I wanted to talk about clothes I would have started a fashion blog.
Do you think your sexuality has had an impact in your DJ career?
Very much so. I was in my bubble and a little autistic until very late on. At that time the club music that fascinated me was that made by the label I work with now, Kill The DJ who organised parties in Paris called Pulp. Their parties were really open, full of straight people, gays, lesbians, and I quickly felt comfortable there. They stay true to the black and gay heritage of the house, which influenced me a lot. It is more than a working relationship that I have with this label, this is my family. From the very beginning when I went to their club nights I felt free to be what I want.
You could easily do what you do in London or Berlin, where the underground scene is in better health. Why stay in Paris?
Paris is not necessarily a city that inspires me more than the others but I think it has been getting in the past two years. There is a renewal, a fresh feeling in the air. Young people are doing very exciting things here at the moment. I travel all over with my work, I like it immensely, but I'm always glad to return to Paris. I have a love-hate relationship with this city but this is a place I am very attached too. I was very uprooted in my youth and Paris became my home.
Why the love-hate relationship with Paris?
Because Paris has an unbearable side! When you're a young artist and you've got desire to give voice to your generation, everyone can be very passé about it. It is a city that doesn't help you out too much.
Do you think Paris' techno scene is coming back to life?
Yes I do. There are clubs and collectives who are keeping the legacy of the rave scene alive, it's a scene that I never knew, but one that I dream of. It is a state of mind. That state of mind still exists of course, but there's something else now - and it feels good.
You said in an interview for Crack Magazine that moments of crisis can lead to interesting creative opportunities…
We live in rather disturbing political times. The periods that interest me artistically are like Weimar Germany, or the generations in Eastern Europe and Russia experienced the chaos of the 90s, there is something that inspires me in there. Thanks to the internet today, the borders are broken, it creates urgency. It makes people more positive, more creative. I feel it. I feel it in the music and those influences from the 80s and 90s. When I was little I watched a lot of dystopian films, westerns, John Carpenter movies; Total Recall, Mad Max, etc. I think I'm comfortable in that kind of menacing atmosphere - that inspires me.
You're also described as Jacquemus' muse. You tick some of the it-girl boxes (DJ, muse, etc) how do you feel about that?
Some say I am a "muse" but what I do in fashion was primarily the result of a friendship. Pierre-Ange, my friend, was friends with Simon Jacquemus. There was no plan. Simon designs for women that exist, real women, when he started he didn't have a budget, so he began by asking his friends to walk for him. I do a lot of stuff with clothing, I do show soundtracks, etc. It's a generational thing I think. We are in Paris, we have a common vision and in the end we're on the same wavelength. We're the same, simply, we're a group.
What's your relation to fashion?
It had never interested me, for my lack of knowledge likely. It seemed superficial. And it's still what I think 90% but I have passionate friends, who have an artistic approach, societal, generational fashion - that's what interests me. Fashion as a reflection, something very expressive.
I listened to your Overdrive Infinity mix before meeting you. I think you have a very experimental approach to music. You introduce sounds; screams from horror movies, the sound of flowing water, etc. What place do you allow for experimentation in your work?
For a long time I've been into musical research, it's something I've always been curious about. I love pop but I am very attracted to the strange too. I tend to look for and find interest in many different things, so my music becomes a little bit mutant-y. Like I can mix an old Beach Boys song with much more hardcore stuff, and I know it will work.
Do you approach your sets in clubs experimentally too?
The mix that you listened to was filmed in a studio so I was pretty free to do what I wanted. In nightclubs, I have to pay attention to the atmosphere, it's my job to DJ to the dancefloor.
What are your plans for the future?
I'm working on my next EP, which will be released this winter. I learned everything and did everything by myself, so it's very personal, from inside my head. I feel like it's come from my memory or that it's me psychoanalytically taking-stock of the past year. In short, I'm happy.
Text Micha Barban-Dangerfield
Photography Alice Moitié