Anz: The Masterplan
When I connect with Anz over video call, she’s in the familiar confines of her bright Manchester flat. So familiar that she can “count on both hands” the amount of times she’s actually left it throughout the pandemic. Today, she’s wearing big earrings imprinted with a smiley face and they reflect her warm disposition; she regularly erupts into laughter, and tells stories with a wide grin.
Her hair is long and dark, with a lilac strip framing her face. I compliment the style, which she promptly explains is a temporary solution to a failed second attempt at twists over lockdown, using hair purchased online that broke her face out in a rash. “In retrospect, Amazon is not the link for reliable braiding hair. I had a proper Britney moment and snipped off all the twists and I was looking at myself in the mirror, just going through it… So, in conclusion –” she expounds, trailing off into laughter, “sorry, I’ve been dying to tell someone!”
Jacket: Nicholas Daley
Skirt: Artist’s own
Shoes: ACW Converse, Artist’s own
Socks: Artist’s own
Meet Anz, one of the most exciting names to emerge in club culture. The fact that the last year has seen recurring lockdowns and shuttered clubs only makes her success all the more admirable. Indeed, she is one of the few artists who has actually seen a rise in her stock as a producer, DJ and freshly minted label owner. But balancing an exhausting full-time job – one she is due to leave in a few weeks – with a music career that has suddenly skyrocketed amidst the strangest of circumstances? She’s still wondering whether the rash she got was really the Amazon purchase or actually stress.
The past year alone, Anz has released an EP on the illustrious Hessle Audio, been crowned DJ Mag’s Breakthrough DJ of the Year, celebrated four years on NTS and continued her BBC Radio 1 residency alongside countless interviews, mixes and radio guest slots. She memorably released 74 tracks over the course of the first lockdown, most of which featured in her annual and highly anticipated Spring/Summer Dubs production mix which was later physicalised into a cassette bundle box. Then, in March 2021, there was the launch of her new label, OTMI Records, short for ‘Otras Mitades’, which is Spanish for ‘other halves’. The origin of the label’s name stems from a passion Anz has for Spanish; she studied the language and English Literature at university in Liverpool. Language and writing are both areas in which Anz says she excelled in growing up, alongside art and music. Even now, music, writing, art and linguistics are all important practices in constant rotation in her life.
Born and raised in London, Anz remembers music’s prominent role in her household. Her parents were into soul, funk and boogie, the routine Sunday morning cleaning often brimming with the smooth vocals of Luther Vandross or Patrice Rushen. She also fondly remembers the homespun DJ mixtapes her parents would collect from Nigerian hall parties, blaring loudly on early morning car rides to school, colouring the day with memories of weekends past.
Headwear: Artist’s own
Jacket: Nike / Artist’s own
Heading into adolescence, Anz developed an affinity for R&B and rap, one of her first CD purchases being a bootleg of Brandy’s Full Moon album, which she amusingly remembers buying out of an actual boot of a car in Nigeria. She also got her hands on Kelis’ Milkshake and Ciara’s 1, 2 Step, bought with the kind of unflinching confidence only possessed by a discerning pre-teen exploring their taste. “I got them from HMV and was like, ‘Nobody can chat to me, do not chat to me, I’ve got this covered!’”
Later on, she came across Queens of the Stone Age, Arctic Monkeys and The Prodigy. At a time when music discovery increasingly relied on file sharing and online platforms like Myspace, Tumblr and later Facebook, Anz remembers using the internet to connect the dots between different sounds and scenes. Her earlier electronic music revelations appeared in the form of France’s Ed Banger Records, Feadz and Uffie. Then came the giddy enthusiasm over labels like Hessle Audio and Swamp 81, spurring on a love for dubstep. This had a profound effect on a young, impressionable Anz, encouraging her to start producing and DJing herself.
When it comes to her creative process, she dubs her method “stacking” – where music isn’t a series of phrases, but a layering of different sounds and influences, like say, dubstep and grime. “It makes sense thinking about the music I’ve ended up making. It’s all very stacked and off-shootey and very like, ‘Oh what would happen if we did this for eight bars and then came back?’”
"Without sounding too lofty, I have a really complete vision"
Learning this, it’s easier to understand the genuine excitement that surrounds Anz as an artist. Her influences are wide-ranging and unpretentious, and you never know which side of her musicality she’ll tap into. Take how she playfully selects tracks on her widely adored appearances in the Manchester NTS booth: from wheeling Joy Division into Joy Orbison or dropping Helicopter by Bloc Party in the middle of a jungle segment, it illustrates an innate understanding of how seemingly disparate music genres can be connected. This thoughtful yet lighthearted approach is reflective of her down-to-earth nature – she’s an artist that feels like an old friend, someone you want to root for and get behind.
It was in Manchester that Anz, the artist, fully came into her own. What drew her to the city is something she describes as “intangible”, though she acknowledges two memories in particular that gave her the gut feeling to stay. One is a story she’s previously recounted, about a time she was sitting on the canal listening to dubstep, and an unshakeable feeling of belonging took over. The other was when she stepped off the train at Manchester Piccadilly station for a copywriter job interview and noticed diverse faces around her. “It seems like a really small thing but it’s really comforting to go somewhere new and think, it’s not just me, you know?”
Almost immediately, Anz planted her roots in Manchester. When the weekends came around, she would round up her friends in a mission to map out the liveliest spots within the city’s nightlife, drawn to jungle and dub parties under Anz’s persistent encouragement that they intentionally engage with the local scene. This is a prime example of how Anz approaches a task: she likes to do things in order, forgoing any shortcuts. “It’s arguably one of my most irritating traits because it means that I’m always stressed about everything because it’s got to be done properly,” she explains, reflecting on how this perfectionist mentality has bled into her music career.
Top: Telfar / Artist’s own
Trousers: SONG FOR THE MUTE
Shoes: John Lawrence Sullivan
“With the label, I was like, ‘I’m going to distribute this myself, I’m going to do the artwork myself and I’m not doing any press or PR’ – things I don’t think anyone cares if you do yourself or not, but I do.” I question whether this unrelenting work ethic stems from a need to have complete control, and she agrees that it is part of the reason. But it’s also about personal responsibility, an absolute trust that she can only place in herself. “Without sounding too lofty, I have a really complete vision.”
One might assume the sense of fulfillment that comes with accomplishing something on your own is what makes it special. But Anz explains she doesn’t stay in the present long enough to ever enjoy her achievements – it’s always on to the next. She’s driven by a constant urge to create, whether for public consumption or herself. That’s where she finds the most joy, rather than the subsequent praise which she is grateful for but won’t revel in. “I never rest. I’m really bad for that because there are so many things that I’m thinking about doing, or in the middle of doing, that it means having a rest would feel like I’m wasting time,” she reflects. “That’s my biggest question: why aren’t I making something right now?”
Anz is so engrossed in her creative practices that she struggles to see the success of her projects from an outsider perspective. “I’ve not done anything differently, but maybe people have started paying attention? It feels like there are all these eyes on me now, expecting things from me,” she laughs nervously. “It’s very nerve racking because I’m just gonna do what I always do, but I don’t know if I need to do a backflip at the beginning.”
These elevated expectations have left Anz feeling in disarray for much of the past year. Working full-time, always being on call and a mountaining inbox of requests and music submissions she regrets not being able to reply to, caused her anxiety to surge. She’s now making some overdue changes to relieve the pressure and actually start reaping the benefits. “I’m really hopeful that in not working a hundred hour weeks, I’ll start to enjoy myself a little bit,” she smiles. Importantly, as she cautiously transitions into a full-time music career (“I’m hoping it’ll be fine but I’m also like, ‘Let me just set up some job alerts just in case!’ she quips), Anz is placing emphasis on following her intuition. “My internal compass gets the final say on everything,” she says decisively. “It hasn’t steered me wrong so far.”
Jacket: Nicholas Daley
Skirt: Artist’s own
Shoes: ACW Converse, Artist’s own
Socks: Artist’s own
Her label is one of these trust-your-gut moments. Anz explains the concept as “two halves of the same orange,” a framework to explore far-ranging sonic influences. It will also allow her a channel to get her backlog of unreleased tracks out into the world – something she was initially hesitant about. “I had just been hoarding them like some weird witch, like, ‘No you can’t have it!’ But I think that for me, being very complete in what I imagine – oh my god, I am like a witch!” she sniggers at her analogy and continues, “I just thought, ‘Why can’t I do it? Why shouldn’t I do it?’”
Released in April, OTMI001 is a two-tracker from Anz that epitomises this stacking of musical interests. A-side Unravel in the Designated Zone leads with a wistful synth melody, layered atop funky bass stabs and rolling beats. The B-side, Morphing Into Brighter, is a deep and percussive rave-fuelled club trip. In the release notes, Anz writes that, “one track is about coming undone, the other is about building again.” You can hear this waning trepidation across both tracks, most evidently in their lead synth lines. Where Unravel in the Designated Zone spirals downwards, Morphing Into Brighter’s keys are more bold and assured.
"There are so many things I’m doing that means having a rest would feel like I’m wasting time. That’s my biggest question: why aren’t I making something right now?"
She’s been pleasantly surprised at how people have interpreted the A-side as joyful and optimistic, considering the restless headspace the track was made in. The luxury of hindsight has allowed Anz to also see the hope in the track, leading her closer to the vision of herself she sees on the B-side. “I hope I can do a little bit less unraveling and more rebuilding.”
With sights typically trained on the future, she’s working on a remix and new EP, both set to be announced after summer. And then, Anz is looking forward to once again retreating to her flat to work on the 2021 iteration of Spring/Summer Dubs – just don’t expect another 74 tracks. “Out of principle, I’m not meeting that bar – that was a one time only offer!” she teases.
There’s no doubt that the past year has forced us to reexamine our personal boundaries and priorities, and that hasn’t been lost on Anz. She is finally ready to bask in the moment. “I’m hoping to reconnect with the things I like to do for fun. Making music is fun, making mixes is fun,” she asserts, “but I’m talking about fun that has no purpose, just enjoyment for the sake of it. No aim, just stupid enjoyment – that’s what I wanna do.”
Find out more on anzdj.bandcamp.com