If mission-driven Techno had a name, it would probably be Linn Elisabet. The founder of “Acts of Rebellion”, a label dedicated to pushing the boundaries of this genre as well as societal norms, is one of the rising talents among Berlin’s vast underground scene.
In this interview, Linn Elisabet shares not only a true success story but also all the obstacles one needs to overcome on the way. With releases on respected labels like A R T S and Planet Rhythm Linn Elisabet has achieved what many upcoming producers aspire.
Besides the in-depth podcast interview, Linn Elisabet was kind enough to contribute a guest post on the topic of Intersectional Equity (see below).
Linn Elisabet on Intersectional Equity and the Importance of Taking a Stance
Intersectionality – the acknowledgement that some people experience overlapping oppression from breaking multiple societal norms.
Equity (often confused with Equality) – to achieve social justice through treating people differently dependent on need.
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My fierce colleague and dear friend Anna once said: ”Linn, remember: there is something mighty in being a trouble maker…” We express our activism slightly differently, but I sure know what she meant. Good trouble, is good trouble.Everyone deserves an empowering quotation machine like Anna on speed dial, especially when structural discrimination kicks in.
I met Anna when I was 18, at my very first record label internship. In 2015 I started my first company, providing communication for labels, managements and PR-agencies within independent pop.
In parallel I had just gotten intoAbleton Live, and my first DJ-rig in a flight case that smelled strongly of plastic. My entire, although very small apartment, was colored by the scent of this “new-CDJ-curiosity“, and I spent the nights smoking through the window while recording mixes which I listened back to the next day while I was at work, critically analyzing what I needed to improve upon when I returned to the decks in the evening.
During the weekends I fully embraced the underground warehouse culture that Stockholm had to offer. Slowly but surely my focus shifted, until the day came that I decided to put the communication part of my business behind, in benefit of my own music.
But it wasn’t only my new found voice and hunger of self-expression which was driving this decision. As for many others, the main attraction of underground dance was the culture itself. For one being used to pop culture:glamorous mingle constellations, red carpets and back stage passes, techno culture presented its face as non-hierarchal, norm-breaking and open-minded. A refuge, a safer space, and a grow-ground for exploration of self and collective purpose.
At least, that was what it wanted to be. The honey moonwasn’t long though, before the perfect facade started breaking down. As I started seeing through the veil, witnessing and experiencing the same discrimination I had faced in the pop-industry, I still naively thought: “We are in a better space now, one with policies which won’t accept this type of behavior – there will be consequences.” Little did I know how wrong I was.
The upsetting response for standing up for basic human rights was way too familiar: where discriminatory behavior was protected by hierarchal power relations and shallow credentials. And so structurally the circle of silence culture was closed. Again. And again. On a frequent basis people and organizations still get away with covert and overt racism, sexism, transphobia… – within a scene which was founded by the very people who have been pushed to the margins.
A natural refuge for many, is gathering strength in separatist and “safer spaced” rooms - where people can share and support each other’s experiences, and grow resilience when faced with the challenges of reality. In 2017 I joined Drömfakulteten (The Institution of Dreams), a studio collective for female and transgender producers housing the most inspiring musicians: HAJ300 with her Gabberesque ’no fucks’-mentality, Sissel Wincent, who made herself a career making music on a laptop she found in the trash, Maria W Horn who spent years programming her own instrument, which only she could play by writing her own code in real time.
I could draw examples from any of the 11 producers which shared the space at the time. Our basement was a mayhem created in this mayhem world. Behind hidden doors, a space where we could find a way to survive and make sense of the system, its policies and the people supporting its continuance. Discussing ways of hacking it, breaking it, living our fantasies and turning them into reality, over cheap wine and tortellini. Beyond separatism though, I strongly believethat this is a change we need to make together – as the progressive community underground dance is striving to be.
Chances are Drömfakulteten wouldn’t have existed had we notneeded it. Same goes for my label Acts of Rebellion. Started by the spark of a particular experience of sexism, it became not only a space where I had unlimited control over my art, but also a platform where I could push an intersectional agenda uncompromised by discriminatory limitations.
Of course, discrimination is much more nuanced than a short blog post can portray, and for many with the ambition of fighting it,it is difficult to know where to start. Which is why I want to share some remembrances of action, both for the ones being discriminated, and the ones who want to fight alongside us.Since the notion of intersectional equity takes more than just one ground of discrimination into account, you may count as both ally and exposed, depending on the situation.
Three Remembrances for Allies
1. Giving back to the world that gave you purpose
“I tell my students, 'When you get these jobs that you have been so brilliantly trained for, just remember that your real job is that if you are free, you need to free somebody else. If you have some power, then your job is to empower somebody else. This is not just a grab-bag candy game.” – Toni Morrison
Most of us joined the underground scene for more than just the music – it was the culture which pulled us in. Now, like previously mentioned, there is a hierarchy of its own within our scene, a system of credentials and in the end a system of power – although many fight to deny it.
But if we accept the truth, and use the power we gained by time and effort to give back to others, we might be able to maintain an environment which at the very least rises above the traditional hierarchal schemes which we wanted to escape. Take a moment to consider: What can I bring to the table in order to empower someone else? Bring it.
2. Taking authentic action
We have to stay self-critical here and review what our culture is really offering, and acknowledge that intersectional normativity and discrimination has the same choke hold on us, as it does the rest of society. The difference: underground dance desperately WANTS to be that safe space, and it is both its greatest strength and weakness.
This ambition sure gives us the benefit of good will. Yet if we are blinded by performativity WILLING to create safe spaces, which are not followed up by equivalent action, we might just become more ignorant and even hypocritical than anyone else.
Many organizations as well as individuals claim a so called “zero tolerance policy”, yet when the storm hits, there are neither sufficient tools nor consequences for violated boundaries. In short: we need to review our perception of “zero”, and prepare ourselves for scenarios where policy and following action are authentic, aligned, and easy to follow, in order to maintain a safe environment.
However, the authentic action can not only be taken when boundaries are crossed. Preventive actions also needs to be present, and one of them is representation.
3. Representation: Compiling a diverse roaster/workplace/line-up is not difficult
The above statement doesn’t have to be explained. Unless you already know it, only an afternoon of research will prove it. Representation is important, not only in a humane movementto give equal chances to different people and their art, but alsoto maintain the artistic progressiveness that our scene claims to hold.
If underground dance is meant to be a space for free and ground breaking expression: support it! With diverse rosters, we will get diverse stories, expressed and represented through our different backgrounds and life experiences. The argument “this is not about gender/race/sexuality ++, it is about music” doesn’t make the cut.
Who we are, no matter if we want it or not, is indeed reflected in our art. A diverse scene will also be a grow ground for empathy, which in a positive spiral will boost its own sense of unity. Inspired by Audre Lorde here: may our differences bring us together as equals.
Three Remembrances for the Exposed
1. Developing healthy boundaries
Our scene is extremely decentralized due to the huge amount of freelancers and/or small businesses, being exposed to toxicity and discrimination can be very difficult to cope with. Most of us are isolated from the protective back up of co-workers and unions. The lines between business and friendship often become blurry, to the extent that people pull the business card or the friendship card, in the moments which suits their agenda.
We also need to acknowledge that the DIY mentality (which brings a lot of lovely features to our scene) might cause trouble when an individual who takes their work very seriously, end up working with a semi-professional who is in it for the fun. Starting out, guest list and beer tickets might be worth the exposure, yet often the alcohol-payment model gets extended beyond reason.
Developing healthy boundaries in regards to how one wants their professional relationships to look like, and what actions and behaviors are accepted within them sounds like a no-brainer. However when art is on the line many of us tend to flex those boundaries in the hopes of those compromises bringing us closer to our goals.
From personal experience, this strategy will not only exhaust you, but also decrease your self-esteem and feeling of self-worth. Developing healthy boundaries will not only make your own life easier. It will also be of relief and inspiration for the people around you, as you communicate clearly who you are and where you stand. Don’t be too afraid of losing opportunity. The fact that our scene is so decentralized also means there are no single power-player which you can’t live without, which is of your benefit when you choose what people you actually like working alongside.
2. Allowing yourself to be a go-getter
Inspire yourself and other people to claim your dreams. If that is being bold enough to send demos to your favorite labels, starting your own platform, reaching out to collaborators, or beginning to actually market and charge for those more than decent masters you are doing, doesn’t matter. If you want it – go do it.
A common “tip” which is circulating in music production spheres is to stay patient and humble, but I don’t believe this tip applies to every single persons benefit. For those within the community who (due to, for instance, gender norms) are already brought up to be so “humble and patient”that they are automatically silencing themselves, tips like thisare actually very destructive.
Respect yourself, your craft and your art. Be proud of it. I am not saying one shouldn’t berealistic. Just allow yourself to trust your gut no matter if it whispers or screams the simple truth: you are enough! I know it is easier said than done, yet once one start flexing that muscle it becomes easier.
The first step outside the comfort zone, out of the internalized stories of insufficiency, is the most painful. Yet as we challenge those beliefs about ourselves, a new story starts to unfold. One where arbitrary assumptions of mediocracy dissolves into more calm and realistic notions about ones skills and goals. Which leads us to the final remembrance of this blog post.
3. Taking control over your own story
In the end, you are the only one who knows who you are and what you are capable of. It sounds cheesy but it is worth saying: don’t let anyone write that story for you. There will be situations where you’ll be gaslit, manipulated or even harassed.
There will be moments when you, despite your better judgement, believe them too. Be kind to yourself. Although a survivor attitude will help you more than a victim attitude, the experienced victimhood is real and valid. Always forgive yourself each time you forget or get led astray from your path.
By time you’ll learn how to identify and navigate through these situations and eventually move beyond. Practice and cultivate a so called ‘internal locus of control’ – you are stronger and more powerful than you might believe yourself at this moment.
As a scene, as well as a society, we constantly evolve. In many areas we have indeed come far, which is the strongest argument for the strive of taking it further: because we know we are capable. We have to believe that we can do better tomorrow, than we did yesterday. This is how we prevail.
About Linn Elisabet
Linn Elisabet’s transgressive interpretation of techno imagines a future where double-binding societal norms have been dissolved. Driven by notions of freedom and self-shaped reality, their narratives strive to hold your hand while observing the storm of life from its eye.
Having released with acclaimed labels like Planet Rhythm and A R T S, Linn launched their own imprint Acts Of Rebellion in 2020. The label expands on Elisabet’s mission: releasing alternative dance music challenging the border of genre conventions and traditional functionality, as well as the destructive policies that hold underground dance back from its original cause.
With a background in cultural activism and norm critical pedagogy, Linn lectures and leads courses in music production and music business since 2017, for local Swedish universities, as well as clients like SAE Stockholm, Ableton, Electronic Music School Berlin and Popkollo. They are also part of the council for intersectional equity at SKAP, an organization which protects and works for the benefit of Swedish composers.