Producer, DJ, composer and radio selector, Afrodeutsche, aka Henrietta Smith-Rolla, is a rising star in Manchester's creative circles. Having already played in staple venues such as Soup Kitchen and The White Hotel, her Drexciyan-flavoured techno and electro cuts can be heard both on some of the city's most renowned dance floors and in her monthly Black Forest NTS show. Her newest project is the all-female electronic music collaboration GRRRL, brought together by international organisation 'In Place of War' which fosters artistic creativity in areas of conflict. Also featuring the likes of Speech Debelle, Lei Di Dai and Sohini Alam, the group has played at festivals such as Greenbelt and Shambala and has an EP set to release later this year. Ahead of GRRRL's performance at east London's Archspace on 10th April, we caught up with Henrietta to glimpse an insight into the workings of both her collaborative and solo output.
When did you first start producing music? Have you always had an interest in electronic music?
I’ve always had a huge interest in music and sound. I’d performed in bands sung and played for years, but never had the confidence to produce my own work. So I had a word with myself. I began to teach myself. I’m very lucky, in that I have a wealth of support from friends who also produce.
Are there any artists who you listened to growing up that particularly inspired you to start making music?
So many! I remember the first time I realised I was into music, I was watching The Sound of Music. There’s a scene where all the children are singing, they’re in a horse drawn cart and one of them begins to sing, then another, then another… I realised they were singing the same melody and the same words but at different times - it was a round! The same melody was overlapping with another parts of the melody. I was hooked. Confused, but hooked.
I’m all about melody, so I listened to allot of artists growing up, classical stuff, the standards. I’d say all of it was inspiring, Tina Turner, Roy Orbison, Sade, Duran Duran, David Bowie, Soul 2 Soul, Chaka Khan. Basically I was listening to my mum’s records…
How did you first get involved with NTS? Is radio always something that you wanted to do?
I was at The White Hotel in Manchester and got talking to a guy wearing the most spectacular Red Dungarees. We started talking about music and he asked if I DJ’d and if I’d be up for doing a one off show for the station. I’d never thought about doing radio, but thought why not, I’ll have a go.
Your NTS show spans many different styles of music. How do you curate your tracklists?
Good question…. It tends to be about my mood. I’m not sure I have any rules, and I think that’s why I enjoy it so much. There’s usually a theme steering towards futurist thinking, usually referencing film. I try not to get to serious about it all though - you’ve gotta be able to dance to it right?
How does living in Manchester impact the music you make and listen to? Do you pay close attention to the music scene in the city?
Manchester has completely influenced the music that I make, there’s a track on the new album a friend said reminded them of Manchester. I hadn’t set out to create that specifically, but realised there is something about this city that becomes part of you…
It’s hard to describe, but I think having lived here of 13 years you can’t help but have it influence your writing. It’s an inspiring city.
I wouldn’t say I pay close attention to the music scene in Manchester, it’s so vast and diverse, it’s impossible to keep up, but I love the fact that no matter what scene exists, each scene sits comfortably beside each other, they cross over each other and are constantly moving, meaning you can dip in and out of all of them all. Manchester is a nurturing city for creatives, you have the freedom to do what you need, whatever way suits you.
What do you think of the club circuit in Manchester? Do you have any favourite parties which you’ve been to or played at?
Favorite parties in Manchester… So many! Kiss Me Again at (The Soup Kitchen) is top of the list for me. P13 (The White Hotel) another pretty special party. On Rotation (Eastern Bloc) another party with an ace vibe. And finally The Other (The Peer Hat) Really good example of how to throw a top party.
GRRRL features a line-up of very talented women with a wide-reaching array of sounds and styles. What is it like working together as a group?
It’s something I never thought I would have had the opportunity to be part of. It’s a very special collaboration and something I miss when I’m not with them. Everyone is so supremely talented. I’m learning from everyone involved, inspired by and enjoy being able to nurture and support everyone.
What music are you listening to at the moment? Are there any artists or genres who you feel particularly influence your sound today?
I tend not to listen to other artists when I’m writing, I’m a bit of a sound sponge, so find I can be heavily influenced by others work. I tend to listen to allot of film sound tracks/scores and listen to film sound design. My work has allot to do with stories and scores are there to tell the story through sound. Bernard Herman has always had a massive influence on my sound, but lately I’ve not focused on any genre, more collecting audio around me, and manipulating that to tell the story.
What else have you got planned for 2018?
I have my debut album Break Before Make out on SKAM May this year. More AFRODEUTSCHE live shows. Most importantly, more writing! Black Forest NTS monthly show. Oh and a 3 hour DJ set at the Berghain Berlin 14th June! WHAT?!!
Words: Georgia Tobin
Photography: Fe Pegani