Listening to DJ Sabrina the Teenage DJ is like walking into a beloved childhood haunt – bowling alley, arcade, playground, you name it – and discovering that not only has it been well taken care of, but is also home to a new generation of joyful kiddos discovering its secrets. Grooving house beats provide a foundation for lush, masterfully-woven samples that span from classic pop tracks to tunes released within the last few years. DJ Sabrina’s tracks are lived-in, joyous anthems for dancing, crying, or dancing while crying.
Last year, we were able to talk to DJ Sabrina right before the release of her sprawling masterpiece, Charmed. This year we’re back to discuss her latest records, “The Other Realm” and “The Makin Magick II Album.” Released on the same day, these records manage to evolve DJ Sabrina’s style while also adventuring into new territory. Without further ado, DJ Sabrina the Teenage DJ!
JD: It’s been a year since you released Charmed, which I think is fair to call a breakout record for you. What was it like to see that record really take off and receive such positive attention, and has that experience affected how you approach your music, either in its creation or presentation?
DJSTTDJ: Unbelievable, I honestly never expected that album to do as well (maybe slightly better or worse than Enchanted which didn’t do very well at all, haha!) but it was perfect timing as I had wanted to make the final part of the pentalogy an important double-cassette to match Makin’ Magick, I’m so glad it was able to really feel like a big release, but it was completely unexpected! It didn’t affect my approach to making music at all (many of the tracks were made during Charmed’s release period as I never stopped making music!) but my release plan changed a bit for the year, waiting until the albums were ready to release new music as I didn’t want to disappoint any Charmed fans too soon, haha!
Now we’re here with two brand new records – the driving, hip-house-infused “The Other Realm” and the lush, melodic “The Makin Magick II Album.” Did you always plan on making two separate records this year, or was that decision something that occurred over the course of their creation?
The concept for the dance-oriented, more minimal vibe of The Other Realm had been planned (and to be released in a rave-case) from about 2 or 3 years ago, and Makin’ Magick II had been planned from before Charmed, maybe a year and a half ago? I wanted to release one earlier in the year, but I didn’t want to put anything out too close to Charmed’s success in case I disappointed anyone with the new release. I just kept working on both albums and decided to do a Bruce Springsteen and put them both out on the same day!
“Being Alone” really reminded me of Burial’s “Come Down To Us,” in that it’s couched in an extended spoken sample that asserts the value of self-understanding in spite of difficulty. And of course, both tracks are epics with gorgeous arrangements. How do you go about choosing samples for your tracks? Have you found that there’s a way that samples evolve into songs, or that songs evolve by finding their way toward the right samples?
Thank you so much! I wanted to hear stories of other people who had absolutely no friends, no life, no childhood memories with people, entirely lonely souls and I loved the musical, singing quality of the sample. I really wanted to try and create a simulation of being alone as faithfully to the subject as I could from personal experience. I think you find inner strengths and unique abilities from being entirely self-reliant and I wanted the kind of energy that a totally individual person that has never had any friends or family might have as a defense mechanism, a sort of lone, powerful energy.
You’ve said before that “The Other Realm” comes before “The Makin Magick II Album” in your discography and serves as a transition between the end of your pentalogy era (“Makin Magick” through “Charmed”) and the rebirth that is “Magick II.” “The Other Realm” also includes some of the most overt experimentation with your sound, culminating in the gorgeously hazy ambient track, “Realms.” Can we expect more ventures into new genres on your next project(s), or are you aiming to hone the melodic house music that “Magick II” continues to perfect?
I have some definite ideas for the next albums, I think The Other Realm still keeps a certain balance between rhythmic melody and abstraction and I’d love to find other ways of working with even more experimental concepts that could work well in that context.
You have a really friendly back-and-forth with fans online. How does that ongoing relationship bolster you, your music, or both?
It’s everything to me! I just love the fact that anyone wants to talk about my little songs, it’s so humbling and flattering and wonderful I wouldn’t be able to just… ignore it? I’m never too sure what happens with other artists that don’t interact with their supporters, it’s just the best possible thing to come from making music that I could ever wish for!
Your music and your artwork clearly feed into each other! Could you describe the differences in how you approach those two aspects of your work, and how they serve you as a creator?
I’ve never really thought of my songs as lo-fi (mid-fi if anything) just as I wouldn’t really think of my art being pixel-art or retro, it’s all just evoking a sense of timelessness, I think. The limitations and restrictions placed on artists in the past really helped shape sounds and looks and to me, replicating elements of those limitations are just another way of putting the observer into a certain mindset where they perceive the song or the art in a certain way. I think that’s a uniform concept among all of my work, and as long as I can keep finding more ways of doing it, I will.
Are there any releases of 2021 – musical or otherwise – that have especially impacted you, influenced your music, or both?
I thought Porter Robinson’s Nurture was very consistent, I loved doing the remix for Mirror, it was a lot of fun!
How’s that cat of yours doing?
He’s sleeping right now, lol!
Images and video courtesy of DJ Sabrina The Teenage DJ
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