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Nina Interviews - Emma dj

Nina Interviews

A conversation with the artist about his new record, bloghouse, and Chief Keef.

By Henry Bruce Jones


At the age of 16, Emma dj wasn’t yet a DJ, but he was listening to bloghouse. Caught in the chaotic crossfire of DIY remixes, low-grade MP3s and the ecstatic cynicism of tastemaking music blogs vying for niche virality, the young artist and his friends had their minds blown wide open by the genre-dissolving free-for-all of late 2000s online music culture. The spirit of this omnivorousness pulses throughout the prolific producer and DJ’s entire body of work: gnarled industrial screwballs for Collapsing Market, Brothers From Different Mothers, and L.I.E.S; tongue-in-cheek club troublers with VTSS and Toma Kami; and his sprawling experimental mixtapes Godrime and g0drm2, contemporary cult classics that combine low-fi francophone raps with extremely stoned, schizzed out production.

For Emma dj in the 2000s, though, the real significance of bloghouse was found offline. Frustrated by his hometown of Helsinki, which would see stalwarts of the scene like The Bloody Beetroots and MSTRKRFT passing through only every few months to crowded clubs with draconian door policies, the artist chased the crackling energy of bloghouse to Paris. Sneaking out of his dad’s place to the legendary Social Club to see DJs like Justice, 2manydjs, and Busy P riling up hordes of Parisians on any given Thursday night, Emma dj found a living, breathing community that would go on to influence his irreverent approach to electronic music.

The Paris-based artist witnessed a different yet familiar energy growing in his city’s clubs once they opened their doors after the pandemic. It was in these rooms, playing to crowds giddy with years of pent-up energy, that the first sparks of what would become Lay2g, his new album for Danse Noire, flickered. Drawing on a wide variety of styles from across his catalog while experimenting with a host of new ones, Emma dj thinks of Lay2g as the most complete version of his sound yet. I caught up with him the day before the record’s release to talk about not being weird for the sake of it, the pitfalls of the Paris music scene, and stanning Chief Keef.      

Emma dj - Lay2g
Emma dj - Lay2gDanse Noire

  • 1Wiip Intro
  • 2RR.dnk
  • 3I Fuck With Lies
  • 4bQosYe
  • 5Ousmn
  • 63rush___E
  • 7Kd9
  • 82Used
  • 9Ilyak
  • 10Womb Core (Oxefdemi)
  • 11SkyCry™
  • 12Lay2g

Lay2g touches on almost every sound that you’ve explored across your previous projects. Were there any more specific sonic influences on the record? 

Emma dj: There wasn’t an artist or album, or even a song, that inspired me. The main influence was doing DJ shows post-COVID and seeing how different the clubbing environment was. Pre-COVID, at a big club with two rooms, you could share a bill with a house DJ, a really dark techno DJ, a deconstructed, post-club DJ—it was all mixed. I’m super open to any kind of music, but if I’m going clubbing I want to be in one zone. I don’t want it to change every two hours, my experience is always the best when it’s more singular.

Post-COVID there were a lot of young producers and DJs who were just starting out, bringing their friends along, and it created a really nice clubbing environment. Some of them didn’t even go clubbing before COVID, they weren’t of age, or just weren’t interested in it, so this was their first time in a club after being in lockdown for two years. What I heard in clubs post-COVID really reminded me of this singular energy that I used to experience when I used to go out as a teenager to an Ed Banger night, or a Steve Aoki set before he started throwing cakes at people. It was all essentially the same thing, the same sound. I’m not saying that the bloghouse sound is coming back, but the same kind of enthusiasm and singularity of nights is coming back and I really, really love that. 

What’s your personal relationship with bloghouse?

I used to be obsessed with it. I was young, maybe 16, I still lived in Helsinki, I wasn’t even DJing, but I had some friends my age who were DJing and we were super obsessed with the music blogs that were sharing this stuff. My dad lived in Paris, so I used to visit every school holiday. In Paris you can just go out in a club when you’re 15 and nobody’s going to ask for your ID. It was also such a landmark for that era of music, Ed Banger Records and other labels from that era would all play at this nightclub called Social Club. You could just go on a Thursday night and Justice would be doing a DJ set, it was crazy. I used to go to that place all the time, I loved it. I would meet all these people, I made so many friends that I’m still friends with today.

Then I would go back to Helsinki, where it’s minus 30 degrees and you need a fake ID to go into the club. It wasn’t the same. MSTRKRFT, or The Bloody Beetroots, or Steve Aoki, who used to be good, would play maybe once every two months and it would always be sold out. It was too hectic, it wasn’t chill. I was super frustrated by Helsinki in general, so I told my mom that I wanted to move to Paris, but she said I had to finish school, so I moved when I was like 18 or 19. 

It’s interesting that you were actually super immersed in that scene, even though you were pretty young.

It felt more like a community. You’re a teenager, you don’t necessarily get along with everybody in your high school and then you go on Myspace and you see that this person is listening to this, they’re at this club night. You had found the new homies that you’d been looking for, all through music. Some of them are people you’re just going to see at club nights, some of them are people you’re going to develop a real life relationship with. It was the first time I felt that, it was definitely true of that era. If I was a teenager today it would probably be through something like Drain Gang, I feel like it’s the same kind of thing. With that whole scene, if you go to their shows, they could all be friends.

Drain Gang is the new bloghouse?

They’re so loyal to the artist, to the label, they’re super dedicated. I just went to a Yung Lean and Bladee show a few weeks ago where they were performing their album Psykos. They have the best fans because they can do a show where there’s no trap, there’s no 808s, it’s just them with autotune and a guitar. People are there with their phones crying their eyes out. You’d think everybody wants to hear “Ginseng Strip” because it became big on TikTok again, but no, people are super into the whole experience. It’s a live band and Yung Lean is going to sing with his best friend.

I think the thing that the Drainers have in common with bloghouse enjoyers are some of the ways in which extremely online communities and aesthetics can actualise IRL. A similar thing happened with witch house. 

I love witch house. I went super crazy when King Night dropped. There’s definitely some witch house influences on the record. To be honest, if this album had been mixed by somebody else and produced in a slightly different way it could be a hyperpop album. It’s essentially more poorly produced hyperpop, which sounds kind of like witch house at certain points. It’s sitting somewhere between all these things. I don’t think Salem has ever left my playlist in 14 years, it’s always been there with me. 

Were you as involved in the witch house community online?

No, not at all. I wasn’t really on Tumblr or anything, I was on Myspace chatting to people in France while I was in Helsinki. There was a Finnish social media where I would be with my high school friends, but I never became a social media person before Instagram. It took me a long time to just download it because I didn’t really understand the concept of it. It’s really good for work, but it’s also a very toxic place, obviously. People just compare themselves to other people’s success, especially for artists, but taking all of that out it’s a really powerful tool, especially if you want to sell tickets to a show.

What is the motivation behind your new party, More Hard Feelings? 

There’s very little happening in Paris that’s interesting to me. There are a few collectives doing stuff here and there, but it’s not every weekend, we’re very limited with stuff here. I find it such a shame because there are so many talented producers, up and coming DJs, good artists, and they play shows to business school students buying overpriced drinks who don’t understand the music.

With More Hard Feelings, we’re doing exactly what we want to do, we’re basically creating the club night of our dreams. It’s super nice to do it with friends, to be able to invite people and to see that there’s genuine interest in it. I wasn’t expecting it to be that successful. We just do a reel on Instagram and that’s it, it’s sold out. The last reel we did is a ten second video with the info of the line up and address and it has more views than most of my music. It’s just for a party! It shows how up for it people are in Paris.

Is there a particular More Hard Feelings ethos?

The first two were in this old hookah smoking lounge where we added some sound and lights. We’re doing it with this design studio, Matière Noire, as well as my friends Sophie and Julia. The lights are really, really, really insane. The last one, with Varg2TM, was gabber and Drain Gang. The next one is going to be super techno. It doesn’t really have a specific genre.

What is the Paris underground, as you see it? 

I’m not really close to the club circles here. I don’t really hang out with DJs and producers, very few are my close friends. I don’t really feel attached to that scene. The people who I really fuck with musically are actually more trap producers making their own stuff, putting out their own projects that are way more experimental than the stuff that they put out for artists that they produce for. There’s this crew called Nava, they’re really good. They produce for winnterzuko and other up-and-coming French rappers who are getting a lot of recognition. Their producers do amazing music for themselves. This guy called abel31, this other guy called Vilhelm Knight. I think they’re the new sound.

So there’s optimism, within that scene at least? 

Definitely. I feel like in the club scene here there’s a lot more jealousy, phoniness and frustration. Essentially, all these producers make music designed for clubs so they can get more shows. Even if it’s a different genre, their goal is the same. In the underground I just mentioned they don’t have the same goals, they don’t make a similar type of sound, they all have their own sound which they inspire each other with. There’s genuine support and interest in other people’s work. Being an artist is already hard enough as it is, the financial security aspect of things, the self-doubt. If you add something toxic on top of that, it’s just unbearable. I don’t want to be affiliated with that. 

Despite that, was there an intention to make these tracks more specifically focused for the dancefloor? 

That was definitely a goal. When it comes to my catalog, very little of it is actually playable at clubs. It’s too experimental, or too trap, there’s always something that doesn’t match. I really did my best to stop making one minute songs, to make it last a bit longer so it’s actually enjoyable to play for a DJ. I always take it one step too far, even on this album. It is probably the most accessible one sonically, but I still feel it’s more of a home listening album. You could put it on at a house party, or at a dinner. Some of it is probably playable in clubs. I wanted it to be like that with all the songs on Lay2g, but I think I'm just not capable of that.

I’ve never played my own music as a DJ before this, but I started playing “RR.dnk” in clubs and it was such a nice feeling to see that it didn’t empty the dancefloor. I've always hated on DJs who just play their own music. I find it so pretentious. You’re getting paid to DJ, you have a USB stick where you can put all the songs in the world, and you still decide to play your own songs that nobody really cares about. Who do you think you are? I caught myself doing that, just with one song, and it’s actually kind of a nice feeling. So I guess I’m hating less on the people playing their own songs now.

I think the track really has to bang if you’re going to do that. I’d love to hear a lot of the album in the club. I love the Drainer Jersey club tune, “llyak,” and the deep house track, “Womb Core (Oxefdemi).” I also think the title track would work really well. Is that a Chief Keef sample on the second half of the track?

No, it’s me and my friends. There is a Chief Keef sample on the album, though, on the song “2Used.” When I dropped that song I posted “guess the sample,” everybody thought it was Salem. It’s Chief Keef! Vice used to do this series of rappers and celebrities going to therapy. 

Wow. I suspect it’s aged very badly. 

It’s not good. There’s also a French version and that’s aged even more badly, it’s so cringe. I’m such a Chief Keef stan that I watched his episode, that’s where the vocal is from.

I’ve been listening to his song “Bitch Where” a lot recently. It’s unbelievable. 

Yeah, that’s one of his best songs. It’s just so epic. He made that song for his grandma, apparently. 

He’s talking about going to church and falling in love. 

I love that song. Best intro to an album ever, probably.

“Said ‘I love you’ 40 times, I was sincere.” That’s so funny, I was convinced that was Chief Keef.

I've clearly listened to him too much.

Does this album feel like the most evolved iteration of your sound on record? 

Definitely. I feel like all the stuff that I've done in the past was leading up to this. To be honest, before this album it was so easy for me to do whatever and then just call it experimental, just for the sake of it. Now I’m gathering all these sounds that I’ve made in the past, I’m heavily inspired by what’s happening today on SoundCloud and I'm trying to make my own thing out of it. Every time I’ve done something and it’s about to come out, I’m already done with it. I don’t really do interviews, I don’t repost. Lay2g is coming out tomorrow and I’m still okay with it. In that sense it feels like the most finished thing I’ve done. 

What’s really cool is that you’ve doubled down on lots of the sounds and sonic influences that you’ve explored before, but at the same time this record is much more focused and coherent. 

I feel like less is more. I used to try and put effects on everything to make it sound weird and I realized that weird isn’t always good. It’s nice when something is catchy. It can still be original, just stripped down. It’s a really hard exercise to actually strip down your stuff, if you do it a lot you feel like it’s too generic. There’s a fine balance that is really hard to find, but I’m learning more and more how to do that. If it makes sense, do it. If it doesn’t, don’t just do it to be edgy or experimental.

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