Photo: Neil Aline (Umfang)
Emma Burgess-Olson chose the German word UMFANG as her moniker by accident, thinking she’d made it up herself. It is a fitting name however, since it not only means “extent” or, more specifically, “circumference”, but also implies inclusiveness: “umfangen” translates to “embrace” in both senses of that word. It thus accurately describes the producer and DJ’s agenda both with her Technofeminism residency at her homebase New York’s Bossa Nova Civic Club as well as what the Discwoman collective is currently pursuing internationally. Discwoman was co-founded in 2014 by Burgess-Olson, Frankie Hutchinson and Christine Tran as platform and booking agency for women, trans and genderqueer people and has since made connections all over the world. It is a hardly a surprise then that UMFANG’s surprisingly House-leaning contribution to our Groove podcast does come with a strong political statement, including both Black Power themes and sexually-charged vocal tunes with empowering messages.
In a recent interview, you have said about your debut OK that you consider it “more of a crowd-pleasing album that was kind of silly”. “Silly” seems like an oddly derogatory term to use in that context. What exactly do you mean by that?
The title track just says “OK”, it isn’t a serious emotional or political album. It was an exploration in sampling that I had never done before. It wasn’t so much about me expressing myself as it was me learning new techniques. I guess I think “silly” also means not taking itself too seriously which isn’t a bad thing in my opinion.
Apart from contributing to a four-way split release on Phinery Tapes, you have released a new EP, Riffs. What would you say is the main difference between the two? The hardware you’ve used for either seemed crucial to their production.
The Phinery Tapes tracks were more like sound collages I made on the volca sample with samples from 90s rave records. With the other collaborators in mind I felt I could be a bit more experimental and less heavy hitting. Riffs includes a few sample based tracks with rave loops but the main breakthrough was sequencing the Microkorg with the Xoxbox. I made very simple two part tracks, just drums and the microkorg melodies.
Your contribution to our Groove podcast dives deep into the 90s, including a Jaydee classic, a Sex Mania tune and the likes. Does this House-leaning mix reflect how you have been musically socialised in the midwest rave scene?
I didn’t know that much about the history of the rave scene in the Midwest, my knowledge of 90s records came about from digging in New York. I have become known for mixing fast 90s Techno records I made a house mix because I don’t usually get booked to play House sets. Playing House with overt political and Black Power themes is an important reminder of where this music came from before it was white washed. The sexual female vocal tracks are empowering to inflict on an audience. Female sexuality is mostly suppressed in mainstream culture and it’s refreshing to be faced with the reality of it in your daily life.
Discwoman has started to tour the world more extensively in the past months. How do you decide with whom you want to collaborate and is there a sort of agenda behind seeking out collaborations around the globe?
We want to work with people that are aligned with our politics and support what we do. We like to find the freaks all over. Wonderful people exist everywhere and we like to seek out small underground scenes in unexpected places. The agenda is to spread our message and expose great people. A lot of people have found us before we find them and we are lucky for that!
Meanwhile, you’re also hosting your residency Technofeminism at the Bossa Nova Civic Club in New York. Considering your increasingly full schedule, what are your plans for Technofeminism in the future?
I have been able to bring in more headliners from all around and just want to keep showcasing women that are doing big things and really unique things. Bossa Nova Civic Club is very special as it is the only full time underground techno club in New York and I want to showcase women and people that are down with the cause of showcasing women and people of color in dance music with a techno focus. I don’t get to play my residency as much now but I am happy to continue to book it and have my vision trusted by the owner.
Last but not least: Where can we see you behind the decks in the forthcoming weeks and what can we expect from you as a producer in the near future?
I’ll be in New York City until mid December then back to traveling far and wide. Europe again hopefully in the spring or summer. I am recording new tracks for a few potential projects and they will be a bit more melodic and less percussive. Excited to share more as they come to fruition.
Stream: UMFANG – Groove Podcast 82
01. Jenifa Mayanja- Unveiling You
02. Big Strick – Buckle Up!
03. Joe Claussell- 1A
04. Duke – Touch Me (Neurotic Mix)
05. Drop Out – Indigo
06. Joe Claussell – Love Drum
07. Trybe – Psychedelic Shack
08. Spenitch- I’m Blessed (Paradox Vocal)
09. Master Blasters vol 1- Project 4
10. Saint 7 – Hands On Love (Eat My Beets)
11. Victor Calderone – Give It Up
12. Wild Child – Jump to My Beat
13. Princess Di – Who’s Dick is This? (Beats-Trumental Mix)
14. Tuff City Kids- Bias
15. DJ Funk & Cencer – Sexy Body (Dance Remix)
16. Jaydee – Plastic Dreams (Shahin & Simon 97 Construction)
17. Dj Pierre & Queen Mary – Body Dance (Filter Pitch Vocal)
18. A.O. Smith – Mid 90s
19. Deepside – French