THE BIRDHOUSE 097: Louisahhh Interview

Louisa Pillott – aka Louisahhh – broke through in a big way with the 2011 Brodinski collab “Let The Beat Control Your Body”, the very first release on Bromance Records, but she’d already been putting in work as a DJ/producer/vocalist for years. Born and bred in New York City, Louisahhh honed her tough techno sound in her hometown after getting her start playing what she calls the “dance rock” of the mid-2000s.

Hard-edged as her music may be, Louisahhh calls herself “a warrior, shrieking with delight” in her artist bio – and it’s an apt description. Her love for the music and her fans is obvious from the minute you meet her or see her live, and her sense of humor is infectious while also being wonderfully weird (just check out her Instagram). Last year’s launch of RAAR Records, her imprint with frequent collaborator Maelstrom, caters to listeners who might not otherwise have a home in the dance music world; it calls itself “A techno label for punk rockers [and] a punk rock label for techno-heads.”

Louisahhh is all about making her audience feel included and part of the experience, which makes her a perfect fit for the BIRDHOUSE stage at HARD Summer next month. She’ll hit the stage along with me, Jackmaster, J.Phlip, Floating Points, Kim Ann Foxman, Madam X and Colby J. – snag your tickets here, listen to Louisahhh’s mix below and scroll on to learn more about her in the BIRDHOUSE Questionnaire.

THE REAL

How did your music career get started in earnest?

Getting fired from Turntable Lab was really helpful in forcing me to seek gigs more aggressively, and it gave me time to tour America in a Mini Cooper with Gina Turner and start working on making music with Stevie Be as NYCPARTYINFO.  

Where are you from and does it have an influence on your music?

I'm from New York City, and when I started to go out it was as an underage teenager to parties that were super unfocused musically, just wild kids dancing in bars. This cultivated my taste for "dance rock": stuff like Soulwax and Colder; stuff that was danceable and mixable but had a kind of aggressive punk feel, which is actually really close to what I am making now.   

How many times did you want to quit trying to make this your career?

I never wanted to quit. I have really limited skills. I dcoul do music, train horses or teach indoor cycling. I'm sure if I put my mind to it, I probably could figure out some other stuff, but really the only deterrent to making this a career was other people telling me it was a bad idea. I was just getting clean and sober and DJing seemed like a bad idea for a 20-year-old newly recovering drug addict.  

What was one piece of equipment that helped define your sound early on? 

Then and now, vocals and songwriting abilities have really defined me as an artist. I'm not a good producer at all [I beg to differ! –CVS], but I have good ideas and it's always seemed natural to use my voice and create a disruptive alternative to the "sexy techno female vocal". My heroes were always people like Shirley Manson, Patti Smith, Chrissie Hynde and Siouxsie Sioux, so it seemed natural to apply this more aggressive attitude to dance music.  

When you were getting started, which artists did you try to emulate (both musically and careerwise)?

The names I just mentioned kind of mapped who I wanted to be as both an artist and a woman, but there was nobody who really was doing that in dance music, so I've kind of had to forge my own path and self-define in this context. I will say that a lot of my contemporary peers are really inspiring: The Black Madonna for her outspokenness; Robert Hood for his faith, Jlin for her refusal to compromise the message in order to be entertaining. 

With Maelstrom and our label RAAR, it's been a really exciting opportunity to transform those ethos into a mission statement for our releases and our parties, to build community around transgressive ideals and hopefully push techno into a realm that's not just about being "cool" and "fun" but something bigger and more meaningful.  

When you have a tough week or a rough tour, how do you get yourself back on track?

At the core of it, I remember it's not about me getting mine. I get to do what I love for a living, to share this love generously with people around the world. Some times are way better than others, but putting stuff in perspective is really important. 

I recently watched a documentary about digging the tunnel under the River Thames in London. The guys who did this were basically having sewage rained down on them in an underground cage, and every so often the lanterns they held would ignite because of methane pockets in the muck through which they were tunneling. They were literally surrounded by actual human shit on fire for a living. Thinking about this helps me be grateful for the ridiculous good fortune I have to be able to be a DJ.  

Where and when are you at your most content/happiest?

On horseback. I recently started riding again after about four years off (I used to be a competitive show jumper). It has made an incredible difference in my life to be able to love something besides work. I really love making music and playing in front of crowds, but to have an alternate anchor that I love deeply and in which I'm required to stay entirely present is the most wonderful thing.  

Do you have any secret hobbies or hidden talents?

I mean, I guess I'm a horse whisperer. Equine telekinesis, sure. 

THE REST

Favorite and least favorite words?

"Cacophony" and "moist".   

Favorite animal?

Unicorn.

Favorite guilty pleasure food?

So much coffee that I have to lie on the floor and cry.

Favorite guilty pleasure song?

The song with which I finish this mix.

German or Detroit techno?

Gabber.  

Festival, club or illegal warehouse?

Warehouse.  

Biggie or Tupac?

Biggie.  

Star Wars or Star Trek?

William Gibson. [Unexpected, weird, great answer. –CVS]

Exercise or Netflix?

Exercise.