“I stopped DJing about four weeks ago. I couldn’t stop playing, I love it so much! It’s so much a part of my identity it was hard to say no,” says DJ, Producer and label boss, Camea Hoffman. “I was touring until the airlines told me I couldn’t fly anymore. They have a cut-off and you can’t get onto a plane when you’re seven months pregnant. I toured until the very last minute.”
We sit in Camea’s home in Wedding, away from the clubs lining the debaucherous streets of Friedrichshain-Kreuzberg where Camea can usually be found DJing. Listening to Camea’s releases, their utility on the dancefloor is immediately apparent—hypnotically lulling audiences into a groove that could last a lifetime until a new melody suddenly spits you back into the moment. But her path to this moment now, reflects her attitude and passion for the music, pregnant or not, with roots in the mid ’90s Pacific Northwest rave scene.
While studying in Northern Washington, Camea went to her first rave just across the border, in Vancouver—though admittedly with a dose of reluctance, “I was kind of against the idea of electronic music back then because I studied classical piano,” she says, “My friends would play electronic music and I’d be like ‘oh come on, you don’t even know scales or chords!’ Then we got to the party and after hearing the music and the power of all the people around me I knew. Before that, my life was going one way and then it started going in an entirely different direction.”
“Most of the techno scene was happening in the east village. We were all kind of broke, wannabe artists and DJs who lived in shoeboxes,”
Now an internationally-touring DJ living in the techno capital of the world, founder of Neverwhere Records and an expectant mother, you can certainly say that Camea’s life took a dramatic turn after that first exposure to electronic music. “A couple months later we went back [to the club in Vancouver] and I saw this female DJ from New York, DJ Jackie Christie. That was the first time I saw a woman DJ,” she says fondly, “When she got up there she played this track—if I heard it now it would probably be horrible but at the time it worked—that sampled Aretha Franklin’s ‘R.E.S.P.E.C.T’ and something about the big vocals screaming ‘R.E.S.P.E.C.T’ and how cool she looked, and how the people reacted made me think ‘I want to do that.’ And I haven’t changed my mind since. That was maybe 15 years ago now.”
It was this decisiveness that also led her to leave Seattle and move to New York, “I was playing a lot locally but I knew there wasn’t going to be a future for me if I stayed in Seattle. I had one record bag, one suitcase and I knew one person in New York. I remember getting off the train in Queens and I had no idea what I was doing.”
“New York was challenging,” she says with some apprehension, “Back then it was—and I hate to say this—but as a girl it was really hard to get booked. The promoters wanted you to come to the parties, loved the support and loved the fact that you could DJ, but it was always a boy’s club—guys getting together to throw parties.” This exclusion from the techno scene in New York is partially what led her to found Clink Records in 2005 with her friends in Brooklyn. “Most of the techno scene was happening in the east village. We were all kind of broke, wannabe artists and DJs who lived in shoeboxes,” she says with a laugh.
Some of Camea’s favorite records
“I’ve noticed that people really want to let themselves go. It’s getting a bit punk right now—it’s more aggressive. There’s a strong emotional connection between the political landscape and techno.”
The records released on Clink capitalized on a global interest in minimal techno—four to the floor rhythms with stripped back melodies that forces listeners to engage with the music both physically and cerebrally, perfect for late nights that spill into the following days. Camea’s idiosyncratic vision for the label gained her notoriety in both New York and the international techno scene, and is how she eventually ended up in Berlin.
Camea’s Berlin studio is a converted room in her home. “We haven’t had problems with the neighbors,” she says as she powers her monitors on, “yet.” She opens up an in-progress track in Ableton. The kick drum is unrelenting and the overall atmosphere of the song is decidedly visceral—more appropriate for the Berghain-floor than Panorama bar. “Lately I’m really into this fast, 132 BPM ‘booty techno’ stuff because I’ve noticed a shift in people—especially given the past elections and all these conservative politics,” she says as a metallic clanging begins to dominate the track, “I’ve noticed that people really want to let themselves go. It’s getting a bit punk right now—it’s more aggressive. There’s a strong emotional connection between the political landscape and techno.”
She’s about ten days from her due date but when she shifts from Ableton to the decks and plays us a few records, the DJ in her takes over as she surveys the mixer and turntables with eyes like a hunting eagle. But even with her established career as both a musician and within the music industry she still has to deal with the compounded oppression of not only being a woman in a male-dominated field, but a pregnant woman. “There’s still a long ways to go in terms of accepting pregnant women in a professional atmosphere,” she says, “An attitude switches. Your professional value goes down—some people can’t understand that you can split your brain between loving your job with being a mother and starting a family at the same time. I’m not done. I’m in the best part of my career right now, I’m going to keep going and I’m also going to start a family. It was really hard to deal with having to convince people that have never questioned my dedication to my career before that I’m still here.” Thinking back to when she saw DJ Jackie Christie and felt the urge to DJ to, it’s probably best if she hangs in there despite the noise.
It was an inspiring and enlightening experience speaking with you Camea. We wish you the best of luck in your personal and professional lives, though after learning how determined you are, we don’t think you’ll need it.
Camea Hoffman is an internally-renowned minimal techno DJ and Producer currently based in Berlin, Germany. She is also one of the founders of Clink Recordings (2005-2011) and the current label boss of Neverwhere Records, who has released music by artists like Tobias, Ian Pooley and Andre Kronert. You can pick up releases from Neverwhere on Beatport and stay up to date Camea’s own tunes on Soundcloud.
And for more music, you can check out the FvF Mixtapes, where some of our friends and favorite artists have cooked up special mixes exclusively for FvF.
Also be sure to check out our story on Ellen Allien, founder of BPitch Control for more on women in the techno scene.
Photography: Daniel Müller