Anna Sonnenburg is a renowned DJ from Brisbane, with a deep love for house music and a bright future. To say Anna is a fan of the late artist known as Prince is an understatement – she is hosting a Prince Tribute Party on Saturday 16 June at the Hamilton Hotel in Brisbane.
Q. Anna, you’ve been DJing for quite a long time now. How did you get your start?
A. I bought my first set of turntables when I was around 21. I practiced almost every day for a year or two before having the confidence to start playing out.
Q. You have had a musical background since childhood, I understand you played the piano and spent many years playing the trombone in school. You were also a big fan of punk and indie rock. Can you tell us about what music meant to you in those years?
A. Music has always been a part of my life. Starting piano when I was a little girl was my first introduction to music. In a way though, playing piano and trombone felt like hard work to me and it was a real struggle to get me to practice. I hated being told to practice. And I had a love/hate relationship with the trombone. I really enjoyed being good at it, and better than the boys in the school band, but I didn’t love the trombone. I practiced every day though (thanks to my mother). With DJing though no one had to tell me to practice – that felt great to finally do something on my own accord.
During my teenage years I was really into Weezer and The Doves, my two favourite bands. I went to a lot of indie rock shows and 4ZZZ type gigs. It wasn’t until I got taken to a RudeBwoyz gig that my whole entire world got turned upside down. As soon as I walked into that gig, I felt like I had found my thing, found my kind of people and vibe. I’ve always been pretty energetic and outgoing, so I think the music matched my personality more than indie rock did, if that makes sense. I always feel that what music you like reflects your personality.
Q. I first knew you way back when you were attending the RudeBwoyz drum & bass parties in Brisbane, and then the all-star female alternative, the Junglettes. How has your taste in electronic music evolved since then, and what inspired you to start playing house and disco?
A. I still love DnB music, but I definitely don’t listen to it every day like I used to. I really got into house music through Mark.T. At 16 I was listening to a Dimitri From Paris CD though, but had no idea it was house/disco music. Cam Ashley (C:1) introduced me to Mark.T. and he played me a Mark Farina mix CD. I fell in love with that music and almost overnight started researching house and disco music and buying records to mix with. I really got into that jackin’ house sound at first, then I met my best friend Troy at the Powerhouse and from there got into all shades of house and disco music, especially the soulful side. I started going to Alhambra (closed) every weekend. I played strictly house, disco and techno/tech house for years and years. I was obsessed. It wasn’t until two years ago that I really started exploring more funk, old disco, R&B, hip hop – especially discovering samples, and in general broadened my musical style. These days I play a bit of everything and I’ve realised that’s really important to keep things interesting.
Q. It was Melbourne based Brisbane Junglette C:1 who convinced you to start DJing. Then Slynk gave you your first lesson. Who were some of your other early influences and mentors in the Brisbane scene?
A. I’ll always be grateful to Cam for saying “You should be the next Junglette. Go buy turntables.” – I can even remember the street we were walking on when she said that, it’s so vivid in my memory. Slynk gave me my first lesson, which was learning how to beat match, and it was up to me from there. Of course I got some invaluable tips from Colin Russell aka DJ Freestyle and I count Adrian Matyear as a type of mentor as well, since he gave me my first headline gig at Bar Soma (closed), even though I didn’t think I was ready. Turned out I was ready, and that really helped my confidence and got my name out there.
Q. You have also drawn inspiration from and met some big international players like Terrence Parker, Jovonn and Karizma. I bet you have some cool stories to share. How has the presence of those artists in your life affected you?
A. I actually emailed Terrence Parker after watching his YouTube clips over and over again. He emailed back straight away which was a big surprise to me. Years later I ended up supporting him when he played Brisbane and picked him up from the airport. He even remembered me from our emails. That was really cool.
Seeing Jovonn play here in Brisbane in 2016 was a huge highlight. He just killed it. We have kept in contact since then and talk on the phone quite regularly. He is just a really caring person and almost a protective type figure in my life. If it wasn’t for him, I wouldn’t have had the motivation to start saving to go over to the States and visit him.
And then of course there’s Karizma, who I have loved since I first discovered his music, and I’ve seen him DJ many times here and overseas. He is a huge inspiration to me and everyone knows how much I love him. In fact, he even knows! Meeting him and finally getting a photo was just great. He’s a beautiful guy. I think I’m realising that more and more technology these days brings fans closer to their artists, and I realise that even though these guys are big time DJs, they’re just like you and me.
Q. As an enthusiastic fan, your love for house and disco music has taken you overseas to enjoy Suncebeat Festival in Croatia, Southport Weekender in the UK, and Tokyo’s nightlife. What’s next on your itinerary?
A. NEW YORK NEW YORK!! I can’t wait to check out the clubs and parties there. I have always dreamed of visiting Cielo and it seems like there’s always something going on in that city. It will be so awesome to finally see the DJs who I watch online DJ in person.
Q. You’ve been popular as a DJ in Brisbane, playing countless gigs and securing a number of residencies – including Sazerac Bar, Platform, Eleven and Archive and Loft West End. You’ve also been playing corporate events and birthday parties. A recent gig at Cloudland was a highlight. How do you feel about the way your career has progressed, and what advice would you give to someone who wants to be a working DJ in Brisbane?
A. I actually thought that I would be playing house, disco and techno parties and had my eyes set on getting booked for those kind of gigs only. I was always used to just playing once or twice a month for specific house gigs. So now to be booked for corporate gigs and big parties and be playing almost every single weekend, it’s not what I had imagined at all, but I absolutely love it and feel so grateful. I do enjoy the challenge of mixing all different styles and playing to all different crowds. The most important goal for me and what I always wanted was to have a huge dance floor and make people dance and have a great time, and I’ve been doing that, so I’m happy.
Advice for someone who wants to be a working DJ in Brisbane: just practice, go to gigs, and support other DJs. Be professional and always keep striving to be better!
Q. If you could DJ anywhere you wish, where would that be? What does the future hold for Anna Sonnenburg?
A. Russia! Apparently the clubbing scene there is great and I’ve never been there. The future for me is discovering more great music, playing bigger and better parties (maybe even a specific house and disco party) and becoming a better DJ.
Q. You’re a huge fan of Prince, and together with DJs Limestone Cowboy and LES-BOSS, you’ve organised what should be an amazing Prince Tribute Party at the Hamilton Hotel in Brisbane on Saturday 16 June. What is it about Prince that has made you such a big fan of his for so long, and how do you plan on paying tribute to him on the night?
A. I love Prince because he’s so many different things, all in one. I love him as a person, an icon, a role model, a musician, a performer. To me, he’s the ultimate star and I love almost everything he has done. To pay tribute, we are going to put on the best possible Prince experience we can. Lights, music, visual, dancers and a room full of Prince fans. It’s going to be incredible. There will be a lot of surprises on the night too. I hope any Prince fans will come along and enjoy themselves.
Facebook Event: https://www.facebook.com/events/620083285006932/
Buy Tickets: https://events.ticketbooth.com.au/event/prince-tribute-party