Changing her name from Janine to Jam (Rostron) then hurling out a gender-bending album livid with ideas and pertinent modern questions of equality, Planningtorock has just collided once more with our lives.
We caught up with the Berlin-based (via Bolton) siren to unpick the threads of ‘All Love’s Legal’ (review), her third riveting and innovative album.
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Exclusive: listen to the TRUST remix of 'All Love's Legal' above
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Planningtorock, ‘Human Drama’, from ‘All Love’s Legal’
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‘All Love’s Legal’ is your most politically charged album to date. What motivated this, and why now?
There are a few reasons – the last album, (2011’s) ‘W’, being one of them. I tried to deal with certain issues on the last album and the way I approached it didn’t work. I was more ambiguous, more poetic even, and I was fearful of being direct and that meant that a lot of things I was trying to talk about went under for me. I’m very happy with that record, but certain things didn’t function and it brought to me a point that made me think very hard about what making music was for me at all and what I could do with it.
So I decided to be a bit more direct, and I wrote (‘All Love’s Legal’ closer) ‘Patriarchy Over & Out’ in 2012 and set myself an exercise to write a track about a topic that touches on everybody’s lives – but rather than make anybody feel like they’re being personally attacked, I wanted to challenge patriarchy for the construct that it is. Once I’d done that and achieved a way of writing something that was challenging, but not alienating, that was like a template for the rest of the record.
Do you think that music isn’t used as a vehicle to shift opinions enough?
I think it would be exciting if it was done more, but I don’t think it should be the only thing done with music and that’s the fantastic thing about it. I need music for all kinds of things and I don’t want to always think about issues. It would be nice to see more of it, and it’s interesting to see how other people approach more political ideas and thought, but I don’t think it should be compulsory.
Are you frustrated that gender issues still need to be addressed in 2014?
It is sad and frustrating that gender issues are rampant in our society, and that is really depressing and it can be frustrating. But what is exciting is this potential for talk about these issues, and the sharing of ideas. That’s important. I’m also working out my politics with this record, which I want to work out more and more. So yes, it is frustrating, but maybe these issues are something we’ll have to deal with in our society for some time to come. So instead of getting to a place of end thought about it, [why don’t we] create a space where everyone can talk and share and push and challenge these issues.
Can you elaborate on the topic of your “vision of transnational gender equality”?
I’d been thinking about gender a lot, and I think everyone has experienced gender discrimination in some shape or form. It’s especially prominent in the music industry, where as a female producer or queer producer I’ve been making music for 10 years, so that’s a long time to have to deal with that, on and off, in different circumstances. So I’d been thinking a lot about what would happen if we didn’t have these gender limits, these gender binaries, and what if everything we do was not gendered and your ability to do something was not about your gender. So I think the ‘utopian vision’, or the nice way to think or the nice direction, diversifies gender and makes it more of a playful thing, and not a thing that can limit certain individuals in society. So I think it should become really diverse and complex and playful.
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Planningtorock, ‘Doorway’, from ‘W’
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Can you explain to our readers the background to your statement that “Western dance music is born out of black, queer music”?
That’s disco, Chicago house. These exciting developments in dance music did come out of LGBT communities and it feels like sometimes these [roots] go under [appreciated], these very important histories in dance music and music in general, because the mainstream is so dominant most of the time. It’s sort of like myself rediscovering [these things] in a way, these stories and these important roots in dance music. This is the first time I’ve made an album that is predominantly dance, and it’s something that I got really interested in.
How does your album tackle this head on?
It tackles them head on, basically (laughs). To go back to the first question, I wanted to make an album that was very direct but also inclusive at the same time so it doesn’t alienate people, everyone can own it and have their own feeling for it and have their own space in it. I even saw it as being a bit slogany when writing the titles, and I got really into it. ‘All Love’s Legal’ is just this statement, in the same way as ‘Misogyny Drop Dead’ and ‘Patriarchy Over & Out’ are really simple slogans to the point of [being] a little bit ridiculous. But I quite liked the way it injected some fun into it too, so you feel like, yes patriarchy is very serious, and yes misogyny is very serious – but do we have to think about it in a heavy space? Can we think about it and challenge it in a lighter space?
I believe your label, Human Level, is set up to help promote female talent. How will this unfold in the short term?
After this album release I intend to spend some time focusing on releasing other female and queer producers. It’s an attempt to address the imbalance of exposure that many producers have experienced. Since I started Human Level I’ve been sent a lot of music by really talented producers, and I seriously can’t believe that no one’s putting them out, so it’s a very exciting time and I’m looking forward to investing a lot more time in the label. We’ve already released an EP by rRoxymore and the idea is for her to do a triptych of EPs and then eventually a full-length. She just played a show at the (Berlin) Panorama Bar and killed it. It was amazing.
It reminded me of my experience: the minute someone believes in you and supports you, you just blossom. You need that support around you, and I’m interested in building that kind of support network between female producers because male producers do that all the time. I am, of course, talking in binary terms and it would be nice to eventually not genderise music at all. But the society in which we currently live does definitely do that, and the music industry as it stands is very binary, so that’s why I use these terminologies. So yes, I’m looking forward to supporting and releasing some really good music next year.
Was it important that ‘All Love’s Legal’ came out on Human Level rather than another label?
It was a very strategic decision. Firstly, I wanted to create a label not only to release Planningtorock but other projects – to create a new platform. ‘All Love’s Legal’ is a very important release to me. (Previous label) DFA is also a very important label to me because they’re friends. James Murphy is a close friend of mine and I do appreciate all the love and support they have always given me, but they understood that this record needed to come from my own platform.
I didn’t want it to go through any filters. I didn’t want there to be any confusion about where this record was coming from and, after all, it is all about gender. DFA is run by men – it’s three men that own it. So many record labels are run by men and men only, and so I wanted it to come through Human Level and for it to be very clear where it was coming from.
What do you hope your album achieves in terms of tackling the gender debate?
Tackling. Provoking. As I said earlier, this record is also very much about me working out my own politics as well as anything else. It’s already done this to a point – it’s started conversations between me and other people, got people talking, so that’s already exciting for me. So when I start touring it I’m going to try and sell merchandise, and there’s another point where I’ll meet people and start talking and I want to learn as much as share. I also just want people to take the record and own it, use it and do what they want with it. Once you put a record out there it’s yours but it isn’t, it’s everyone else’s, which I really love.
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Planningtorock, ‘Misogyny Drop Dead’, from ‘All Love’s Legal’
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Words: Matthew Bennett
Thanks to Leanne Mison
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