The Belgian-born DJ might seem new to the techno scene, but in reality, Charlotte de Witte grew roots in the music world as a teen. The lover of unconventional music tells COOLS the value of techno music and the meanings within the genre.
It’s in the late-night hours of a warm, March night at Houston’s Gravity Midtown music venue where rising Belgian techno DJ/producer Charlotte de Witte takes the decks. Her innate musical ingenuity is on display for the audience to experience resulting in an immersive and alluring ambience. Much like a snake charmer to a cobra, Charlotte plays an array of captivating tunes—including those from her latest EPs, Heart of Mine and Brussels—moving the most stubborn wallflowers to the center of the dance floor. Dispensing the power of persuasion through music is no easy feat, yet Charlotte does this in a seemingly effortless fashion. The techno maverick took on her first gig in 2010, hence, it’s no shock that her performance is one guided by a blend of stark talent and confidence.
Charlotte’s sojourn into the world of electronic dance music began early on. She states, “Sixteen-year-old Charlotte just started going out, but not like the commercial pop places; but to more underground, cool clubs that were playing electronic music. That’s where I fell in love with the music.” She transferred from a small community school to a city school in Ghent, Belgium, subsequently discovering nightlife in Ghent. “That’s basically where everything kicked off. I started going out. I fell in love with the [electronic] music and I wanted to do something more with it.” Charlotte then mentions how Belgium’s nightlife had a massive impact on her life. “Belgium’s nightlife was huge back in the ‘80s and ‘90s with rave music. So that used to be very big. I didn’t realize that impact up until a couple of years ago. I knew it existed, but I was too young to get fully involved with the history of Belgium electronic music. For me personally, Belgium nightlife is the reason I wanted to become a DJ.”
Dark. Moody. Melancholic. These descriptors are among the words used by various writers in providing detail about Charlotte’s music. “An adjective is an adjective. That’s always so very subjective. For instance, if I were to say to my mom that my music is dark, she would be like, ‘Yeah, of course it is dark’; but if I were to say to someone who is listening to hard techno that I’m playing dark music, they say, ‘No, you’re playing very soft techno,’” she says with a chuckle.
Ultimately, Charlotte describes music as a feeling more than an actual definition. Though she adds that her production is indeed melancholic and leans more towards the dark end of the spectrum, she emphasizes the fact that it’s more about the emotive element. “You can’t really define music. [Techno] is made to make you think about the music and make you experience the music.”
We’re in the age where emotion is taken out of the equation in replacement of the ease of simply placing an artist into a genre compartment. “In the wide sense of the word, you can describe the differences between tech house and house and techno, but the borderline between all of these are so small. People always try and define techno music, but I think it’s an impossible task.”
Every producer has their “thing” when it comes to what drives the overall theme and sound of their music. For Charlotte, it’s all about the inclusion of breakable and fragile vocals amid the backdrop of hypnotic, pulsating beats—it’s her signature. “I think in general, I’m very into unconventional music. So, it doesn’t have to be too obvious or right in your face. When a voice is fragile, it has much more impact because it’s something different. That’s what I love about techno music as well. It’s not necessarily music that sounds very happy. Of course, it makes you want to dance and party because there’s a kick and much of the drum elements are in there, but it’s not pop music. It’s not made for you to feel happy necessarily. That’s what I really like about music in general or fragile voices or unconventional beats.”
The Brussels EP stems from Charlotte’s encounters in life that have subsequently affected her personality and artistry. “It doesn’t really happen on a conscious level, but more on the subconscious level. You cannot deny that just traveling to so many countries and meeting so many people—and even I’m a massive foodie, so trying foods and stuff from all over the world—must have an impact on my inspiration and the way I see things. Everywhere I go I’ve had some really beautiful moments.”
Charlotte also acknowledges my adoration of “Look Around You” by recounting her own thoughts about the song. “That’s definitely the most emotional track on that EP. I don’t play it that often because it’s not aggressive enough for my usual sets. I do play it in my opening sets or even closing sets as one of the last tracks. I don’t want to go too sentimental or mellow. Sometimes it’s important to remind people to just actually look around you and just realize it’s a beautiful life. Stop being such a negative person all of the time. It’s a beautiful life, so what’s your problem actually?”
Outside of the techno music realm, Charlotte is quite the foodie. Even her Twitter bio refers to food (“I eat my croque-monsieurs à point). “Belgian cuisine isn’t necessarily very refined. I would prefer French cuisine or Italian. I’m a big fan of Japanese food as well. If I’m home on Sunday very early, I love to go to the market and just buy lots of food and just eat all day or just go to these places where you can just sit on the terrace and you can eat all day. That’s really my thing. I love doing those things.” I can hear her smile through the speaker as she sounds off on the eats.
Gastronomy aside, Charlotte is also a chic clotheshorse. If you haven’t noticed, all-black attire is the way of the land with techno artists. “I do wear white sometimes, but it’s always black or white for several reasons. You’re sweating like a pig in the nightclubs. You know what sweat looks like on a gray t-shirt! On black or white it’s much easier. If you have some black lights – which typically doesn’t happen in techno clubs – if you’re wearing a white top, it would look ridiculous. So, really the only thing standing out is full on black. I think that’s the reason why many people – well, at least for me – in techno wear black.” Makes sense. With these facts in mind, Charlotte says that muted colors are of primary choice. She’s a fan of Off-White yet describes the label as “too colorful.” Charlotte says with a snicker, “I just love my clothes very plain and basic. ‘Boring’ as some would say.”
Though Charlotte’s career as a touring artist is fairly new (she began touring merely a year ago), she’s gained key takeaways from being on the road. “I learned not to worry especially when I’m on tour like when your flight is delayed and you miss a connection. I put things into place and not worry about it too much. Everything will be fine in the end.” She cites world travels as inspiration and meeting new people as her musical muses in her development as an artist. “Looking back at it, it all happened so fast,” Charlotte says in reflection of her current lifestyle. “It’s like I’m living life at the speed of light or something, but it’s so amazing. I think making an album now would be too soon. So, that might be coming in a couple of years.”