Instantly recognisable for her shock of curly hair and her vinyl juggling skills (which, let's face it, put most of the boys' to shame) Cassy – born Catherine Britton – is nevertheless something of an unknown quantity...
Apart from basic biographical information (she was born in England to an Austrian mother and Caribbean father she moved to Austria as a child, back to England as a young adult and – via stints as a singer and actress – developed a career in DJing and production and moved to Berlin) Cassy remains largely defined by her impressive musical output.
And rightfully so, given her back catalogue of releases and remixes for labels such as Perlon, Dessous, Mental Groove, M_nus, Playhouse, Get Physical and her eponymous imprint, among others.
Yet, there must be more to her than grade A productions, the musical acumen that comes with working at Berlin's revered Hard Wax record store and a nice line in warm, intelligent electronic music which has seen her entrenched as resident at Panoramabar and guesting at the finest clubs around the world.
Who is Cassy and what makes her tick...? We put through a long distance call to the Berlin home Cassy shares with her husband Tobias Fruend – aka Pink Elln – and some very special curtains. The Voice is charmed to find Cassy smart, opinionated and quite at ease discussing ideas and life outside of the cloistered world of dance music... Read on to find out about her inspirations, why she hates hit records and what's wrong with acting…How did you discover electronic music?
Did you always want to be involved in music?
"Growing up I wanted to do something in the dramatic arts – dancing or performing or singing. It's hard to do – not because it's hard to be famous or any crap like that – more that the traditional development you had to take to succeed [in performing] was too depressing. The more time you spent with people you don't want to spend time with, the more it takes away your passion and love."
"The more time you spent with people you don't want to spend time with, the more it takes away your passion and love."
One of your online bios says you "couldn't stand" the theatre profession – why?
"There's a certain stuck-up-ness I couldn't handle. Actors believe in this system, that there's one god – the director – and he's allowed to talk to me however he wants. And that [actors] can behave however they want, and they don't have to update themselves. They are quite archaic. They aren't interested in what's happening now. They don't know anything about techno [laughs]..."
Does DJing fill a need you have to perform or do you miss singing/theatre?
"I don't miss being on a stage at all. DJing is a perfect fulfilment for me."
You only play vinyl. Why?
"Nostalgic reasons, partly. I like watching DJs play vinyl. But the sound is better too. It's more pleasant, more luxurious. I always buy the real thing, not the fake, even if it's more expensive or more hassle."
What's your record of the year?
"A good recent record is a 4x 12" on Underground Quality [Unity Kolabo EP by DJ Jus Ed]. It's mellow, trippy house, but if you can filter the trippness out it can be a dancefloor bomb. It's not the obvious hit record choice, which makes it a great record. If I know at the beginning a record is going to be a "hit" I don't like it as much. A lot of records do what the DJs are supposed to be doing in terms of the break, etc. I'm a DJ, I can do the break myself… records that follow a formula are boring."
Is DJing becoming a lost art? Are the likes of Serato and Ableton making it too easy?
"DJs can use these tools to do their own thing but a lot of people don't make it their own. Why would you do something if it wasn't you? DJs are there to entertain, not to do their own thing. I can't let myself get carried away and make everyone disappear from the dancefloor. I want to do my own thing but not be too arty or full of myself.""I want to do my own thing but not be too arty or full of myself."
Who is a person whose life or style inspires you?
"There are certain ways of living I find inspiring. I admire people who have to leave their countries for political reasons, leave everything behind, and start all over again. People who are courageous, who are brave enough to be positive even if a lot of shit has happened to them."
Have you experienced this?
"I've had a "soft" experience of it – I was born one place, lived someplace else and my parents were from somewhere else… so [you do wonder] "Where am I from? " "
What's your favourite club in your chosen home of Berlin and why?
"Panormabar/Berghain, where I'm resident. I love the long opening hours – on Fridays it's open from midnight till 12PM or 2PM the next day, maybe a little longer. On Saturdays it opens from midnight till 6PM or 8PM Sunday evening."
"I love the diversity of the people. You have the tourists who come at midnight, then you have the Berliners who come around 6-8AM morning and it's completely different then. A lot of people get up, have breakfast and come to the club. It's nice."
What's your favourite piece of technology?
"The [Roland] 808 and 909 drum machines. What makes them so interesting is that most of techno and house has been made with these two machines, so it's a sound we're familiar with. Even if you don't know the machine, you recognise it immediately and it feels like home. Plus, they have a soul, they don't always do what you want [them] to do, they have personality."
"I like things in my life that last and last and last. It's all about endurance."
You are also a singer – who's your favourite vocalist?
"I will always admire Sade because she's done what she wanted to do. She was very strong, despite the musical industry bullshit. She's beautiful and sexy but it's an attitude, she's not just a superficially pretty woman."
What's your most prized possession?
"Curtains. It sounds stupid but we have these beautiful curtains in our living room we went specifically to Stockholm to get. They're by this Austrian designer, a Jew who immigrated to Sweden before the war. The design is from the '20s but it's colourful and the pattern is so amazing it never goes out of date. My home is right in the centre of Berlin, surrounded by old buildings, by history. Tobias and I have been living here for a year now and we promised ourselves not to spend our money at Ikea, to be more imaginative. We've been putting more thought into what we surround ourselves with. It's worth getting things that last. It's why I like records – I like things in my life that last and last and last. It's all about endurance."
Like we said, Cassy is about quality – through and through. From her taste in records to her taste in home furnishings, she is a triumph of both style and substance. Her recent releases include Nil Desperandum on Perlon and she contributes vocals to Swayzak's new album Some Other Country on Studio !K7.