A lengthy undertaking, de Witte approaches it all with ease.
“I’m going to go to dinner, I think, to a sushi place in the area because it’s also not too heavy. It’s quite light,” she muses over a cappuccino while sitting on the patio of a boutique hotel in the Beverly Grove neighborhood of Los Angeles. “I honestly think that with regards to stamina, it's gonna be easy, a walk in the park. And you get a lot of energy, in any case, once you’re playing.”
The Belgium techno artist has been touring for 13 years— which includes a 10-hour all-nighter in her hometown, Ghent— and recently spent her summer spinning sets around Europe and staging a New York City takeover that was comprised of two sold-out Brooklyn Mirage shows and a surprise set that shut down the Lower East Side’s Orchard Street.
“What else I really liked about that Orchard Street set was you can really see how music connects people,” she says, going on to share how a fire escape-onlooker invited a member of her team up to their apartment to take video from their bird’s-eye point of view. “It was beautiful how spontaneous [it was] and this was just 60 minutes. It was like a bomb of energy, and everybody was just accommodating and happy.”
Amassing fans for her dark and stripped-back take on techno, de Witte has become one of the most sought-after names in electronic music. Alongside her 2.7 million Instagram followers and nearly 3 million monthly streams on Spotify, the DJ and record producer became the first woman to headline the main stage of Detroit’s Movement Music Festival in May and, last year, became the first woman and techno artist to close the Tomorrowland mainstage. She also has her own techno-focused record label, KNTXT.
Following up the release of her first single on the KNTXT label, “High Street,” she released the High Street Remixes on Sept. 28, which features remixes by Astrix and Amazingblaze. The EP kicks off the last leg of de Witte’s U.S. run for her Overdrive EP, which arrived in May. After the L.A. show, she’ll touch down in Denver and San Francisco.
De Witte’s love for techno started as a 16-year-old club kid. While a student, she frequented underground clubs in Ghent and eventually started making her own mixtapes. Then and now, she considers herself an introvert despite her career as an entertainer who plays music for thousands.
Fame was never the goal. Now generally unable to go to clubs or slip into festival crowds, she struggles with the concept, but sees stardom overall as “super positive.”
“I have the honor of pushing the genre to another level,” de Witte buzzes about. “I can literally discover super talented producers, give them the platform and then change their lives basically, which is crazy. We have this guy on our label, Acid Asian. He’s from Brazil, And when I met him, he was working as a pharmacist. And now he's a full-time musician.”
Making mission-driven industry moves, de Witte’s prioritization of growing other artists proves her knack for connection. It’s something you also see in her as a performer.
“I’m quite energized on stage,” she says, which comes naturally when loud music blasts into her headphones. As the fearless leader on stage, de Witte likes to look around the crowd. It’s a way to connect with the audience and see partying antics, like people hanging from the ceiling, the grandeur of night-out outfits and flags.
It’s also a way to be sure she’s fostering a safe space, like when she watched a crowd surfer fall on his head and made sure he gave a thumbs up that he was O.K. Or the time one of her Italian superfans, who is traveling from Naples for the L.A. show, was dealing with someone being too handsy, which de Witte’s tour manager squared away.
“I think it’s just important to take care of each other and be mindful,” she says, adding that out of the near endless number of shows she’s done, “I think I can count on my two hands when something went wrong… I think, in general, people are good at taking care of each other.”
De Witte’s love for techno runs deep. Alongside live shows’ inherent euphoria and cultivated safe space, the music itself presents a chance for catharsis. “To me, I love that it's not necessarily happy. I like the fact that it's a bit more melancholic and dark. It triggers something in me that makes me reflect on it more and it makes me think about it more. I just find it way more interesting.”
Others clearly find it interesting too. According to the IMS Business Report—which assessed how valuable global electronic music is after the first full year back to business since the pandemic— techno is in the top 5 for global electronic genres and is among the harder and faster genres of electronic music that became more popular post-lockdown. In fact, on Beatport, an online music store DJs use for track resources, the top four genres are tech house, techno, house and melodic house and techno. Looking to a broader audience, as of March 2023, daily creations on TikTok under #ElectronicMusic are up 113 percent since June 2022 and on Spotify, electronic/dance music makes up 24 percent of all streamed tracks. For live shows, electronic music artists made up 39 percent of all festival bookings in 2022, compared to 33 percent in 2021.
De Witte is really excited about the L.A. all-nighter. She gets to both start and end the night: “It’s a very intimate way of DJing.”
The five-hour set allows her to “tell a really nice story,” she explains. Throughout the year, she’s been collecting tracks that wouldn’t necessarily work for a standard 90-minute or two-hour set. “There’s a lot of unreleased stuff in there,” she hints. “There’s some weird stuff with no beats. The first section will be without any kick drums.” It’s all part of the plan to work her way from 138 to 142 beats per minute.
“If I start with ambient, it's going to be very slow and mellow,” de Witte says. “At the end of the night, I'm gonna go to hardcore, potentially, which is super fast, this type of story you tell. Which is also why it's super important that I always want to push on it that people come early because it's really nice to be there from the beginning till the end so you have that whole experience.”
Be partner to de Witte in her all-nighter, and you’re in for spiritual fulfillment, so long as you two agree on the power of techno’s rawness.
“Less is more,” she affirms. “This is the magic of what emptiness can bring because techno can be super stripped, but it can still bring you into a trance.”
Photography by: Marie Wynants