ENFNTSTERRIBLES

10 Nov 2020
Editorials
Music

COVER STORY — Amelie Lens: Raver and Game Changer

Known as the Queen of Techno, Amelie Lens certainly is a ground-breaking superstar DJ. By bringing a whole new sound to the techno scene, she has established herself as a trailblazer in music and an idol to many. As an Antwerp-based magazine, it’s a pleasure to introduce our first digital cover with a creative from our home city. Someone who has the same mindset of uniting people: Amelie Lens.

The Belgian artist doesn’t do a lot of interviews. When Amelie is on tour, she tries to focus on her shows and wants to keep her head cool. But due to the ongoing uncertainty in the world surrounding COVID-19, Amelie is forced to do something she isn’t used to doing a lot … staying home. We used that opportunity to invite Amelie to a studio next to her birthplace for her first big shoot since she stopped modeling. We were pleasantly surprised by her laidbackness. One thing is clear: Amelie Lens is incredibly down to earth and radiates a sense of security and comfort.

Heliot Emil T-shirt. Laurence Van de Perre earrings.

First Success

The first steps are always hard, but things get easier when a lot of passion is involved. After being ignored by labels, Amelie took fate into her own hands and listened to the advice fellow DJs gave her. “They told me that I sounded too generic, and I was doing what everyone else was doing as well.” Motivated to discover her sound, she created her first EP Exhale. “The idea came from the long breakdown with my own vocals, I tried to make it hypnotizing, and then there was a harsh kick.”

“They told me that I sounded too generic, and I was doing what everyone else was doing as well”

Her newfound musical glory brought her a record deal and tons of praise by big acts from the scene, which is rare for an upcoming artist. “As a beginning artist, you get filtered out a lot. But I was lucky because a lot of people accepted my tracks and played them. As a DJ, I get a lot of demos and there are so many emails to go through that I often skip a lot and stop when I find an artist who I already know is good.” Exhale was the start of an unseen journey and launched the career of the ambitious artist that doesn’t seem to be ending anytime soon.

Lenske

Four years later, Amelie Lens isn’t signed to a label anymore but runs her own music label Lenske. She’s in charge of everything that she puts out but that isn’t always easy: “I struggle with knowing when a track is done and can keep working on a track forever. If you run your own label, you do not get a lot of feedback because you are the one in charge. I have to decide whether or not my track is finished and whether or not it’s good enough to release it. Of course, it also gives you a lot of artistic freedom. You get to do whatever you want,” she tells us.

Lenske grew and became the home of four other artists with the same passion for raves. For Amelie, Lenske goes further than just being a label. It’s most of all a group of friends that send their tracks to each other and give feedback. “I try to support them in all facets: it’s more than just releasing their music.” Amelie talks so passionately about Lenske, the label feels like a family business to us: she’s the caring and loving matriarch, encouraging and supporting every member.

Olivier Theyskens dress. Alan Crocetti ear cuff and rings. D'heygere ear cuff. Laurence Van de Perre rings.

Exhale

When she arrived at Studio 50.8 on the morning of our shoot, Amelie wore an all-black outfit with her own Exhale hoodie as an eye-catcher. But Exhale is much more than just events. It’s probably one of the most popular Techno concepts around the world. Looking back at the early stages of her techno empire, she tells us, “I had been doing modeling work for ten years when I decided to finally focus more on my music. And during that break, I wanted to start doing events. There were a lot of house and tech-house music parties back then in Belgium. So, I wanted to start bringing qualitative techno events with my dream line-ups.”

“I’ve always seen it big; it was never my ambition to just arrange a line-up and host a club show”

A couple of years later, Exhale is an extremely successful rave concept that expanded from Antwerp to many other international cities like Paris, New York, and Beirut. “I’ve always seen it big; it was never my ambition to just arrange a line-up and host a club show. I wanted to show what events were about, and that’s not only good music but also great hospitality. As soon as you walk into the club, there should be a great mood, good lightning, amazing sound, and it should also be a good location. We picked locations and cities that were important to me as an artist. It wasn’t random.”

This year was supposed to be the biggest one yet for Exhale: “We had big plans for this year, for instance, we would be hosting our own stage for two weekends at Tomorrowland. But there were also other cool plans in Waagnatie in Antwerp,” Amelie says a bit downhearted. Exhale isn’t just a side project to her, it’s something she’s heavily involved in. “For Exhale Antwerp we did the entire production ourselves; we did everything from scratch.”

Thanks to its growing success, Exhale became even more than just an extraordinary rave. It became a safe space for a flourishing amount of people; something Amelie is visibly proud of. “When we began this community, the ravers started talking and sharing things in the Facebook group and eventually, they became friends at our events. It’s so cute and amazing. So, to me, we didn’t make Exhale this big, they, the fans, made it to the success it is.” And the success doesn’t seem to be ending any time soon because everyone, including Amelie herself, appears to be hungry for more.

Arthur Avellano latex top. Alan Crocetti ear cuff. Laurence Van de Perre earring hoops.

Raving

Amelie lives and breathes techno, which translates into a massive fascination and adoration for raving. When asked whether she prefers her DJ-booth or the dance floor, she says, “There’s nothing I love more than playing music. It’s my number one favorite thing to do in the world. On top of my passion for music, there’s the dancing and the mood in the club. That feeling of freedom and equality is something special. And the fact that I can play my favorite tracks as a DJ on an incredible sound system — yeah, that’s raving multiplied by a hundred.”

“There’s nothing I love more than playing music. It’s my number one favorite thing to do in the world”

While talking about this next-level experience, she’s beaming with excitement. Raving is in her DNA, so whenever she can, Amelie heads into the crowd to join the dance floor. “At first, it’s a bit challenging because everyone wants a selfie, but after a while, they get used to it, and we all just dance together. I need to be in the audience and feel that feeling, that’s how things started for me. It’s going back to my roots.”

Techno raves are often portrayed as a gathering of individuals who use drugs and alcohol, but that image is wrong and fed by multiple prejudices according to Amelie, “Especially when I started going out a lot and became a techno DJ — at first, my family was worried, but eventually, they joined me. And, of course, there’s always drugs and alcohol at events. That’s inevitable. But it’s not the main reason why people go to techno events.” Amelie depicts techno as a scene that starts with a love for music: “Most wrong assumptions are gone already, at least with everyone close to me.”

A men’s world

The music scene is still exceedingly dominated by men, and women still have to fight against prejudices. “I noticed that, but it had a positive effect on me. It pushed me to prove myself even more and helped me become the best possible version of myself as an artist,” says Lens determined while getting made up for the next look. However, the popularity of Amelie and colleagues like Nina Kraviz or Charlotte De Witte certainly made a change. In comparison with three years ago, Amelie saw the number of submissions of demos by female techno DJs increase: “But we’re not yet where we’re supposed to be. I think the scene has too little diversity. Not only for women but all kinds of minorities in general, like the LGBTQ+ community or people of color.”

D'heygere choker and ear cuff.

When looking back at the beginning of her career, Amelie Lens notices that she was conscious of appearing overly feminine: “I usually wear oversized T-shirts and hoodies. But it also kind of grew that way. I’d feel uncomfortable wearing lipstick because I’d feel ‘too feminine’. I feel more comfortable when I look a bit boyish.” A testimony that sounds even more powerful because she’s talking about it while sitting in our makeup chair, getting ready for the next shot. “You can’t measure the talent of a woman by the amount of makeup she wears or how short her skirts are. But these ideas are still there. I notice it with a lot of female artists. They dress a bit more manly or something to fit in, and I hope that will change in the future.”

“I’d feel uncomfortable wearing lipstick because I’d feel ‘too feminine’”

This feeling didn’t vanish over the years and had an impact on the way Amelie chooses her outfit for a set. “Sometimes I buy a nice top that I really love. I take it on tour with me, I put it on, and then I just panic, thinking it’s too pretty or too sexy. I just immediately take it off and put a big men’s T-shirt on. So yeah, it goes deep.” And that didn’t only reflect in the way she dresses but also in her first stage name. “My first stage name was Renee because it’s gender-neutral. I also barely had any pictures of myself on social media, just because I didn’t want people to know I was a woman. If I look back on that, it’s just so sad. It shouldn’t be this way because that is not how I felt or how I saw myself.”

The Future

It’s truly inspiring to talk to such an ambitious and heartwarming person like the Belgian DJ-goddess that is Amelie Lens. Her passion and drive translate in every sentence that leaves her mouth, especially when she talks about her future plans. COVID-19 forced her to stay home and take a break from touring, but she’s taking the time to work on different projects. “I’m currently making music, I’ve got a few projects open, but nothing is finished yet. Normally, I start from an idea and test it out by playing it in my sets. After seeing the reaction of the crowd, I change things up again. But now I can’t test these things out, which is important to me. So, I don’t seem to succeed in finishing music.”

Despite that, she’s kept herself busy by starting with practicing sports. “I was never the sporty type, for real, I never took my bicycle or went for a run. But I wanted to feel better in my skin, become stronger and healthier. So, I started working out with a personal trainer three times a week.” Apart from that, Amelie Lens occupies herself with designing merch for Exhale and looking for new artists to sign on her label Lenske. She is also starting a new label with EXHALE with a very exciting first release coming up: “The project focuses on a new generation of artists, and all the tracks are quite strong. The first artist compilation is finished and will be released digitally on November 13th and a vinyl release is set for January.”

Heliot Emil T-shirt. Haider Ackermann skirt. Laurence Van de Perre earrings. Alan Crocetti rings.

Photography by Victor Pattyn
Photography assistant Valentin Clavairolles

Production and creative direction by ENFNTS TERRIBLES Studio — Dries Vriesacker
Styling by Kate Housh
Styling assistants Guusje Erens and Amaury Denis
Graphic design and 3D art by Diego Fabri
Makeup by Mathilde Van Hoof
Hair by Evara Collin

Interview by Maxim Meyer-Horn, assisted by Nelke Roose

Location: Studio 50.8

Special thanks to Agri Ibrahim, Markus Scholz, and Silvia Kesic.

Styling credits for the header on top: Ann Demeulemeester dress. D’heygere earrings.

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