Up next on The Shortlist – our series speaking to DJs and producers, who provide us with tunes that have defined their lives – we speak to Joyce Muniz.
The Brazil-born, Berlin-based artist released her second album, Zeitkapsel, last month; an album that’s both a call-back to her residency at Vienna’s renowned Flex Club, and a worthy tribute to her regard of music as the ultimate tool for connection. This feeling is imbibed in her by her strong spiritual upbringing and her appreciation for life, having overcome a cancer diagnosis.
In the winter of 2015, I swapped the flashy shores of Ibiza, where I was living at the time, for the ashen skies of Berlin, where I rarely recall the temperature gauge climbing above zero. I found a flat in Neukölln with a French girl who worked in cinema, and every day, regardless of the weather, I made the five-minute walk along cobbled pavements to Tempelhof, a former airport that closed in 2008. It’s a vast, flat, wide open space that’s been transformed into a communal park where people cycle, walk dogs, grow vegetables, and in summer, convene for picnics.
It doesn’t sound like much to write home about but it always emanated a kind of inexplicable magnetism for me, perhaps because I felt a stillness there that was missing from other elements of my life at the time. It was halcyon, sometimes eerily quiet and bright, and it’s where I’ve witnessed sunsets and moon-rises that will be etched in my memory forever. I hark back on that period with a certain feeling of uneasiness (Berlin is an easy city to get lost in), but whenever I think of Tempelhof I feel comforted, and for that it remains one of my favourite places in the world.
So when I was sent the track list for Joyce Muniz’s latest release, Zeitkapsel, my eyes skipped ahead when I saw that the last tune on the album was entitled ‘Tempelhof’. It’s an ode to breakbeat with a wandering bassline and intoxicating melody and it stirs the same kind of spacey awe that I used to experience while walking up and down the former runways and watching a snowstorm ominously blow in from what felt like the other side of the world.
“Tempelhof is a very special place for me,” Joyce explains from her studio in Berlin, where she lives. “Especially since Covid, when everybody was out there every day. I bought a pair of skates and started skating again after 20 years and it became like meditation. I get goosebumps just thinking about it now. I knew as soon as I wrote it that it had to be the closing track on the album, and anyone who has a connection to Tempelhof understands it. I go there whenever I’m feeling out of balance.”
It’s not unusual to seek solace from a physical space and for Joyce, who grew up surrounded by spirituality in all its forms, it’s an essential pillar of feeling grounded. Born in São Paolo, her mum studied Buddhism, her uncle was a minister of the Catholic Church, her grandmother was a pastor in the Anglican Church, and her grandfather was a Shaman. Awash with religion from a young age, it made her curious rather than dogmatic, largely because everyone was allowed their own opinion on what constituted the divine.
“We never had any fights about religion,” she affirms. “We’d sit around a table together and have fun. As a kid you don’t really understand things or have a real connection but as I got older I found a path for myself.”
She first dipped a toe into celestial waters on a trip back to Brazil with a friend a few years ago, where she discovered holistic therapies with a Shaman. But it was a year later, when she was diagnosed with uterus cancer, that her curiosity and faith really deepened.
“There’s a lot more to Shamanism than taking ayahuasca,” she laughs. “The main principle of it is to find connection with yourself; to not run away from your devils. Life is difficult and we can make excuses about why we are the way we are, but the Shaman helped me find a connection to myself. If you break a leg you go to a doctor but sometimes your soul also needs healing. I’m much lighter now that I’m able to confront my ghosts.”
After surgery and a period of respite, Joyce recovered from cancer, and she credits the experience with changing her viewpoint on life and herself.
“You see yourself a little bit differently after something like this,” she ponders. “You have to change some habits. There are so many things you don’t know and might never know, so you have to keep feeding your soul, keep working at it.”
In a sense then, Zeitkapsel, which means ‘time capsule’ in German, is a sonic summary of Joyce’s life up to this point. Spanning hip-hop and electro to d n’b and house, it’s flecked with the sounds she’s collected over the years that have funnelled into the artist and producer she is today.
“I made this album for myself,” she explains. “And I’m happy to share it with everyone now but I never put any pressure on myself to make it because one thing that I learned is that you can’t just copy something. For me, it’s so important to make something unique that never existed before.
“I think having my Brazilian background and living in Berlin now brings a really nice contrast and a different energy to my music – it’s like groove and melancholy. And I’m happy to experiment with both sides, to be honest, because this is what makes me who I am as a person and an artist.
This dichotomy of influences is rife in Joyce’s work. She moved to Austria from Brazil with her family aged 12, and so it was here that she planted roots musically.
“I have Brazilian vibes inside me but my entire connection to electronic music started in Vienna,” she says. (Her first album is entitled Made In Vienna). “When we moved here, I couldn’t really speak the language and so at parties I couldn’t interact with people. Instead, I brought music with me and I would always sit next to the sound system playing tapes and CDs. Music was my best friend and it grew from there.”
Music then, became a means of communication and that’s a skill she’s harnessed ever since, leading to a residency at the legendary Flex Club in Vienna, collaborations with the likes of Maya Jane Coles and DJ Hell, and releases on Get Physical, Permanent Vacation, Pets and Exploited. Zeitkapsel is a sum of all those parts, and goes further, incorporating what it means to be a queer woman in the best way Joyce knows how: through her art.
“I definitely use my own emotions to speak out through music,” she adds. “And life experience has taught me that I have to do my own thing. This is my job but I don’t reduce my personality to being a DJ or producer. For me, it’s much more than that.”
After a spell of upheaval that’s traversed a global pandemic and personal health anguish, with Zeitkapsel, Joyce signals the end of one chapter and the birth of another. “I’m not done,” she says with a smile. “There’s so much more to explore.” Perhaps she’ll start on familiar ground at Tempelhof, where anything and everything seems possible.
ON THE PLAYLIST
Aly-Us’ ‘Follow Me’ is the first house tune I ever heard. Back in Brazil I had a neighbour who would always play this tune while washing his car. One day I went over and asked him what it was and he gave me a mixtape — I was only 10 at the time.
‘Sweet Dreams’ by Eurythmics reminds me of my mother.
‘Back In The Days’ is one of the most important tunes from my career. I used a very famous sample from Kraftwerk and they loved it so they let me use it. The vocals are by MC Bam from the Jungle Brothers.
‘Frank Sinatra’ by Miss Kittin has so much darkness and humour at the same time. I still play it a lot in my sets.
‘Arriverderci Bella’ is from my latest album and it’s so special to me because it’s the first tune that I managed to use my own vocals on my own production.
‘You Gonna Want Me’ is such a classic tune, it’s timeless.
And finally, ‘Tempelhof’, the closing track of my current album. I wrote it for Tempelhof, the famous old airport in Berlin, which is now a lovely place where people hang out. It’s where I go now to charge my energy, and that’s the energy of this tune. Enjoy!