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Samantha Togni: Escaping to the country side – but staying true to techno

We speak to Samantha Togni about her upbringing – feeling as a misfit in Italy, the free party movement in Italy, choice of pursuing a career within music, and of course – the push for equality within the scene and her work behind Boudica, a platform aimed to give visibility to women, trans+ and nonbinary people.

What 3 words would you use to describe yourself?

Resilient, curious, kind

Who were you as a teenager?

As a teenager, I used to live in a remote corner of Italy, where there wasn't much happening, especially in terms of arts and culture. Growing up in that environment, I quickly realised I didn't quite fit into the highly heteronormative standards of the village. Around the age of 12 or 13, I randomly found a CD of "Suffer" by Bad Religion at the local library. That album opened up a whole new world for me.

I started to get into Punk and Hardcore and being a child of Myspace that platform allowed me to get out of that village even if it was just online. I connected with other misfits across Italy who to this day are part of my close circle of friends. From the age of 14 I was travelling up and down Italy to go to shows. It still blows my mind how much ground we covered just to get to different venues, squats, to catch our favourite bands and simply be together.

I remember vividly my first gig at the legendary La Gabbia (The Cage) in Bassano, where I saw The Exploited. My parents were out of town and told me to stay at home, of course I followed the instructions by jumping on a bus and travel for 200km to go to the gig.  I will never forget the feeling in that room while we were all there soaking in sweat under one roof - it was all about belonging, freedom, community. We were part of something, without judgement or need to conform. It's this ethos that I carry with me into my work and with Boudica. My aim is to create a space where others can find acceptance, embrace their true selves and feel the same sense of liberation that I found in those early gigs.

My mum is one of my best friends now, tho I still have not told her the story but yes, we can definitely agree that I was a naughty teenager.

Was there ever a specific moment when you decided for a path within electronic music/ could you tell us about that?

The last year I spent in Italy I connected more to the free party movement and again travelled up and down Italy for my first raves in Florence, Arezzo, Turin…Raves were filled with Tekno, Frenchcore, Hardcore Techno, people and attitude were very similar from what I experienced up until then and I was hanging out in both the raves and gigs scene. It all was part of one world to me. When I was 16 I went for a Summer in London, I worked there giving out flyers and I honestly was totally hooked by the city. I was not even 18 when I moved to London, and that’s where I totally fell in love with Electronic Music. I loved those years because everyone was playing such hectic selection of music and DJs were definitely more brave.. from bass to nu-rave, house, garage, techno - there was no rules and no snobs, this said, to blend all this different stuff together there was definitely a lot of taste and research. From Punk years in Italy to free parties to London raves, I knew that music would have played a major component in my life. A few years later I was a core member of queer collective called Dirty Diana, I started DJing the opening slot and it snowballed into what is a career and this silly and amazing life I am living.

What would you do for work if music wouldn’t be an option/ and why?

Right now, I’d be drawn to something completely different—probably a return to the land, away from the city. I want to reconnect with nature and get my hands dirty. Pigs and donkeys have a special place in my heart, so I’d happily devote my life to caring for them. A life away from screens sounds pretty dreamy.To be honest with you, I am already building something related to this, me and my mum and sister share a special bond and we’re launching a vegan farmhouse in Tuscany this year.

Being plant-based for over a decade is something that's really important to me. 10+ years ago I read Jonathan Safran Foer's "Eating Animals” and have not looked back since. Building this it’s a dream we are making reality and luckily without having to give up Techno. 

Have you ever felt that music is separating women and non binary folks? If so, could you tell us what that can look like/ What you’ve noticed?

Music has historically being a reflection of societal norms, including those related to gender, with most genres and industry roles predominantly dominated by cis white males. 

Sexism is entrenched within the industry with roles such as composers, producers, being predominantly occupied by male figures. This lack of representation make it less likely for women, trans+ and non-binary folks to consider it as a career.

Sexual harassment is a real issue, especially for FLINTA* individuals within the music community. Our industry and culture needs to change completely to allow female, non-binary, trans+ people and other gender minorities people to feel safe on stage, behind the scenes and on the dancefloor.

Representation is crucial for inspiring the next generation of music. If you can’t see people that look like you in certain roles, it becomes harder to picture yourself undertaking a career in it. Leading labels, organisations, venues, and festivals need to put their money where their mouth is and offer programs, opportunities, training, and education to amplify marginalised voices and create a more equitable ecosystem. Us independent collectives can make noise but it in comparison what we can do has limitations.

It’s also important to acknowledge the progress that has been made, thanks to countless initiatives focused on diversity, inclusion and gender equity, as well as voices speaking out against sexism, sexual harassment and ageism. This has led to greater awareness and accountability within the industry. Things are slowly changing.

Why is it important to support women/ queer people/ non binary folks in this business?

Music is an art form that thrives on diverse perspectives to remain authentic. It's essential to have different voices talking about their experiences through music; imagine hearing the same story told by the same people repeatedly – it would be so dull.

Everyone talks about the saturation of the music industry today, which I partially understand and can agree with. However I find it so amazing that it has become so accessible, a teenager in a remote area of the world with limited resources can create a tune using a crappy laptop, distribute it for ten bucks, and share it with the world. Music shouldn't be exclusive, it's something for everyone, especially Techno. You don't need to comprehend it fully, speak its language, or even be a good dancer – you just need an open mind and simply feel it. Not to be cliché, but it truly serves as a universal language. And if only a few can understand and speak it, it loses its ultimate purpose of connecting people, right?

By giving opportunities to women, trans+, queer and non-binary folks the industry unlocks a new world of innovative ideas and networks that can push the music world to new exciting directions.It's not just about representation; it's about reclaiming space and making sure everyone's story is heard loud and clear. We are building a future where everyone's gets the spotlight.This automatically also expands on who participates and consumes music, new audiences and markets will allow the music world to be more sustainable on a financial level allowing us all to thrive and keep on doing what we love.

Can you tell us about your drive behind Boudica?

I spent a few years teaching at this Music Academy in London, we had such a variety of people coming through but what really struck me is how young girls, trans+ and non-binary individuals, especially those from a lower socio-economic background, are made feel so invalid by a society that tells them they are not good enough or they could never fulfil their dreams and they are here just to figure out how to survive in this world. 

These people have all the rights to thrive, and this is why Boudica was born - to allow them to flourish and access opportunities and knowledge that are gate-kept or not easily accessible.

Boudica was established in 2019 as a platform for women, trans+, and non-binary folks. Shortly after its birth, we were hit by the lockdown. I had to find ways to connect with our community and continue our mission, and that’s when Boudica Music Conference was born. Even amidst the strict lockdown, I wanted to put together a series of talks between  my direct network of people working in music. It didn’t take long for it to snowball into a full conference involving the biggest music organisations in the UK and some truly inspiring individuals. 

I put this on with no budget or sponsors, pretty much without an income at that point aside from teaching, it was not easy but I wanted for this to happen. People came together despite the circumstances to discuss ways to address the gender imbalance in the industry and inspire other gender minorities sitting at home during those challenging times.

The conference is always streamed for free and available online. Prices for the in-person event are kept very low, and it's free for those who cannot afford it and students. It's crucial for us that everyone can access this information without any barriers. 

The educational aspect of Boudica is a big part of the project. We have a partnership with Pioneer DJ and have taken our DJ workshops throughout Europe alongside our talks. 

It has always been a dream of mine to have Boudica pressed on vinyl. Our label has hosted incredible talents like Jasmine Infiniti, Metáraph, and Animistic Beliefs and it continues to grow.

In the spirit of Boudica, we always try to offer new opportunities to others. We opened up a track slot on the last vinyl we pressed, and the callout was open to the world. We received hundreds of applications. The artist we picked was then also mentored by the other artists on the vinyl and myself.

At Boudica, we also love a party with our extended queer family and we are proud to call FOLD our home. This venue holds a special place in my heart and I am immensely grateful to Lasha and the team for providing us with this space and allowing us to bring our event and conference there. 

What are some names that you’d love playing B2B with?

A B2B with Peaches or Skin would be iconic

What do you do to gain inspiration when feeling uninspired?

I always block some time during the week to dedicate to music, and it’s rare that I have to stop producing  because I am not inspired. I don’t really look for inspiration, I try not to not overthink, usually starting with a kick and pushing myself to continue making music. I actually think that nowadays we are over-stimulated when talking about electronic music, with so many free tools and sounds available. I recently hard reset my computer after 10+ years. I had so much clutter on it - plugins, VSTs, etc. I packed away some of my synths that I wasn't using, and it honestly helped my workflow so much. Definitely the less is more approach helped me to get out of creative blocks.

What’s your view on the touring lifestyle that nowadays DJ’s have? / And sustaining mental health as an artist?

It’s definitely a real rollercoaster, and I've gotten better at navigating it, but I haven't mastered how to deal with it completely. On one hand, you have the buzz, the crowds, the adrenaline, and on the other hand, you constantly have to stay on top of things to maintain momentum, the sleepless nights, the travel - most of which is done alone. It does take a toll on your mental health because no matter how hard one tries, it's difficult to maintain a routine when you're constantly facing different timings and time zones.

During the week, I stick to a strict sleep routine, eat clean, and spend time with the people I love. Having a strong network around you that supports you through thick and thin is essential. I am a bit of a workaholic and spend a lot of time planning, making music, working on Boudica, etc.. However, I am becoming much better at allocating time to focus on non-music-related stuff and prioritise. Also I am a big fan of podcasts, there’s this episode of Inner Truth with Jamie Catto from Faithless and it’s so good.. highly recommend.

If you could dream - what would the electronic music scene look like in 20 years? /What would change?

I hope to see more FLINTA*-owned venues, security team and people behind  the scenes representing diverse backgrounds - from sound engineering to A&R. More grants and funds allocated specifically for minorities and more recognition for artists from working-class backgrounds. Hopefully governments would have awakened to the importance of clubs for culture and the economy.

I am very concerned for the survival of low to mid cap venues, as costs continue to go up, making it increasingly challenging for them to survive. I hope they find ways to thrive. 

I’love to to see a shift towards a more authentic and less performative environment. A scene where people feel comfortable being honest and vulnerable with each other, a genuine sense of community where we can support and care for each other. Also hoping that I don’t have to wait 20 years to see this all happening… 


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