A Delicate Series of Misunderstandings

Filip Lindström interviews Jennifer Cardini

Profet's Chief Ideologue Filip Lindström gets the chance to interview long-time innovator Jennifer Cardini, about her labels Dischi Autunno and Correspondant and her journey through 24 years in the world of electronic music. Along the way, Lindström stumbles over a few misunderstandings.

Photo: Christian Werner

Imagine my surprise when calling up a French DJ and label director living in Germany, and to hear her respond to my »How are you?« in Swedish. I’m baffled and thrown off my game when Jennifer Cardini, legendary provider of dance music in various formats, speaks fluent Swedish – which she herself says is improvable.
        »Jag tror inte någon vet om det, men min mamma är svensk och min mormor bor i Sverige så jag har varit där mycket på jul och över somrar« Jennifer says (meaning briefly »I don’t think anyone knows about this, but my mother is Swedish and my grandmother lives in Sweden so I’ve been there a lot for Christmas and over the summers«) in a Swedish accent that sounds like it should be originated in southern Stockholm, featuring the characteristic long vowels that were common here in the 70’s and 80’s.
        I wonder for a second whether or not I should bust out my rugged French, shaped by long-gone school days and working as a waiter for French tourists, but I realize that I then only would be able to ask Jennifer Cardini what her name is (which I obviously already know) or if she would like milk or sugar with her coffee (which would be irrelevant to ask). I therefore decide to leave the French out of the equation and grant Jennifer’s wish of conducting the rest of the interview in English.
        I begin by speaking about Curses, the rock’n’roll crossover artist signed to Cardini’s label Dischi Autunno, who first informed me about her by saying »It was Jennifer Cardini who told me what I was doing could become an album« in my recent interview with him about his upcoming album »Romantic Fiction«.

»I don’t know if I had this input« Jennifer considers »because he came with quite a finished album. There were some editing to be done, but it was quite complete. Maybe he meant that the fact that we liked it so much made him realize that it could happen. We really thought it was special and interesting. I remember the first time I met him, there was a direct connection. We laugh a lot together, which is always a good sign.«
        »And Curses’ sound was a good fit for this label?« I say.
        When saying »this label«, I of course refer to Dischi Autunno, and that Curses may fit in more there than on Jennifer Cardini’s other label, Correspondant. Dischi Autunno puts out music directed toward a »home listening experience« and has a more loosely experimental niche when it comes to genre – covering rock or indie with an electronic twist – while Correspondant caters for the dance floor and also specializes in 12” vinyls. I personally find that Curses’ terrific debut album, set for release on October 26, has found a perfect home in Dischi Autunno.
        I tell Jennifer that I’ve seen the Curses single »Gold & Silber« placing number one on a Resident Advisor chart, thinking that it was the site’s top list for popular tracks. Gladly I congratulate her on this achievement before I rapidly find out my mistake, when learning that I haven’t paid attention when skimming through the RA information on Jennifer Cardini – the chart is in fact a listing of her personal favourite tracks at the moment.
        Naturally, I am embarrassed by the misunderstanding, shamefully looking at the list on the screen in front of me and of course seeing what I should have seen from the beginning. Swallowing the shame, I can see that me and Jennifer share a few darling artists, like Swedish label Studio Barnhus (edge-cuttingly hip in Stockholm) and Canadian singer and producer Marie Davidson. Speaking about the chart (after I’ve smoothed over my little debacle) Jennifer also mentions Höga Nord, one of my most beloved labels at the moment. This shows her wide taste, everything that she takes in, in order to dish out on her two labels and in her DJ sets.

From the ashes into the fire, I emerge myself onto yet another terrible misinterpretation just as the last one is forgotten. I have seen a post on Cardini’s Instagram saying »Looking forward to celebrating 30 years of techno tonight«, and once again I congratulate her on something I haven’t grasped.
        »Oh no,« she laughs »that’s a misunderstanding. RBMA and ARTE was celebrating 30 years of techno in Berlin. I’m not that old, I’m only celebrating 24 years.«
        »Good that we’re clearing all these misunderstandings then« I say hesitantly, unsure of my next step as I am unwilling to have it land on any of Jennifer’s toes that I haven’t already crushed. »I assume you’ve seen a lot in those 24 years« I finally continue.
        »Yes, totally.«
        »How would you say your style has changed since you started?«
        »I don’t think ‘changed’ would be the right word. Maybe ‘mutated’. It has been impacted by the changes in electronic music, but what I like in music, the minimal or melodic aspect, hasn’t really changed.«
        The »mutation« of which Jennifer speaks is the including of rock music and other genres played on real instruments, alongside her electronic material. Even better than saying her style »changed« or »mutated«, is to say that it has »grown«.
        »When I started DJing, I only wanted to play techno and now I also play disco or stuff I listened to when I was a teenager, like Ministry or Coil. So, I would say my style has become larger, but what I like in a song hasn’t really changed.«
        »And what changes have you seen in the world of electronic music?«
        »Well, the change of format and the change of technology. The biggest change is that we went from a handful of people liking this music to a full industry. When I started DJing there were no booking agencies, and only a few labels, but today there is a community. I’ve seen electronic music expanding, and now a lot of people can live off of it. In the beginning, we were insecure. We were out partying on Saturdays and we listened to records from Detroit at home, but we never thought this would be our life and our job.«
        »Were you ever discouraged by that, making you feel like giving up?«
        »Yes, I did stop for a year or two because it was too hard. I got into a normal job, but I spent all my money on buying records. So, I gave it a second try and I got more lucky. The beginning was really hard, especially as a girl at that time. I remember parties where all the guys got paid, but as the promoter thought I wouldn’t punch him in the face he said ‘Sorry, I don’t have any more money’. That was quite a challenge.«
        »Hopefully, those kinds of things don’t happen anymore?«
        »No, thank God. When you’re passionate about something, you get really hurt when this happens because you put all your love and time and heart into choosing records. That was the reason I stopped, this happened a couple of times. I continued DJing at home, then I was offered to play in clubs and in the meantime the scene became a bit more consistent. Then it worked out. I think it’s the same whatever music you make or if you’re a painter or a writer, you need a lot of courage and determination to live as an artist. Especially today, because so many people want to become artists.«

Jennifer Cardini. Photo: Christian Werner

The community that has been built around the electronic music scene since it started could offer encouragement, I say to Jennifer, which she agrees to. But, of course, even if you help each other out in such a community, there will always be rivalry in a competitive scene. The human nature can’t escape the thrill of a competition, despite a need for a helpful surrounding.
        »So, what do you think will have happened after the next 24 years of your career?«
        Jennifer lets loose one of her smoky laughs. »I don’t know. I hope I will be in a house in Greece, listening to ambient music and eating good food.«
        »How do you distribute your time, now that you have two labels and what seems to be quite a hectic touring schedule?«
        »For the moment, I’m having a lot of fun. I’m enjoying it, but I can’t say what it would be like in ten years. I wish to continue doing this for as long as possible, that’s the only thing I’m sure about.«
        To end the interview on a high note, and to avoid getting into any more misunderstandings, I conclude here by hoping that Jennifer Cardini can in fact continue to bless the world with the releases of Correspondant and Dischi Autunno, as well as her popular DJ sets all around the globe, for at least 24 more years.

October 13 2018