Anna Lunoe Dishes on OWSLA Debut, Beats 1 Radio Show & Historic EDC Gig

Elizabeth De La Piedra
Anna Lunoe

When Apple Music was setting up Beats 1 radio last year, the company recruited luminaries from multiple genres to run shows. This allowed Apple to show the extent to which it was supported in the music community, while the artists involved got a platform to display their tastes and push a sonic agenda.

When it came to dance music, one of the DJs Apple enlisted was Anna Lunoe. "It was one of those magical moments where it came to me, and I didn't have to audition or try out for something," she tells Billboard Dance. "Basically what I'm doing now for Beats 1, I did seven years for free in Australia for a community station every week. So this is a really cool culmination of years of prep work, and when the opportunity arose I was ready for it."

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After a year of focusing heavily on the show and touring, Lunoe released a new single, "Radioactive," on Skrillex's OWSLA label on Wednesday (Sept. 15).

"For the first time ever, I'm ahead of the release cycle," she says. Next month, she embarks on her second Hyperhouse tour, which includes a wide variety of guests, including Nina Las Vegas, Uniiqu3, Sleepy Tom, and more. Billboard Dance caught up with Lunoe before her energetic set at Electric Zoo.

When Beats 1 started, they didn't have a lot of dance music.

Starting off, me and A-Trak were the only dance shows. [Also Disclosure.] Now they have Deadmau5, Major Lazer, Skrillex has a show, and there's the One Mix, a specialist DJ mix that is straight after my show. And the Boiler Room show. They're digging deeper into the dance music community and getting some alternative stuff as well. It's pretty well-rounded now, the dance programming. 

I love it. I'm a natural digger. I'm really curious about music and it's something I enjoy doing. So I really structure my weeks around when I'm going to dig for stuff. It is a little hard, because I have to put a deadline on it. I can't get totally carried away, otherwise my show won't get to air. I have to give myself limitations — this day you're digging, this day you have to make a radio show. Otherwise I'll just keep looking for more. You can never have heard every song on the internet, as hard as I've tried. 

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And you're sort of extending that digging tendency by bringing a rotating group of acts with you on the road?

A lot of the artists that I play on the show I've put on the tour. This is the second one; I did one last year as well. It works really nicely. It's fun to tour with people you know, friends from the community. Not to just do it alone, be alone on the plane, go to the club alone. I've done that for eight years. I don't want to tour alone anymore if I can help it. This is another way to create more of what made me love dance music: the community, the sense of DJs playing music for each other to impress each other and open minds and collaborate. I don't want it to be a superstar DJ thing where everyone just plays for one hour and then goes home. This is a community of people who are all inspired by each other. 

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How did you connect with OWSLA?

Sonny reached out to me — I met him around Coachella 2014. I'm pretty quiet when I'm home in L.A. Lots of people don't realize I live there, because when I'm home, I never go anywhere. I'm not really out in the scene or anything. But we had mutual friends in town, What So Not and Nina Las Vegas, for Coachella. They were like, "let's go out!" We met Sonny, and Nina was like, "play Sonny your new song." So I played him this song called "Bass Drum Dealer," and he really liked it. He was like, "you should compress these toms and make that the hook" — he had these ideas for the track. I was like oh yeah, cool. I was kind of intimidated. He was like, "seriously, do it, send it to me." I was like, "yeah, sure" — thinking he was just being nice. 

The next time I saw him, he was like, "did you do that thing to the track?" I was like, "not yet, I've been touring." He was like, "send it to me, I'll do it!" He took my phone, sent himself an email from my phone, wrote back — I've never experienced someone being so interested and wanting to help and see it through. He released the song and got behind it. He's releasing my next single as well. It's called "Radioactive;" we already shot the video. 

Is it hard to balance the show, touring, and making new songs?

When I got the show, I released a single right when it launched, just by chance. And then all my songs got put on the side burner while I got my head around this show — I really wanted to put in the effort to make this an excellent show. I wanted the programming to be good and forward thinking. I created the format on my own; that took headspace and time. I needed to staff up to do it, it was a lot of work, and at the same time, I was already booked for full summer touring. While that was happening I didn't get too much music out. 

But the cool thing is, I kept working on it the whole time, it was just that nothing got finished. So now "Radioactive" is finished, and I've pretty much got four more songs that I've been sneaking into my set and testing out. For the first time ever, I'm ahead of the release cycle. I'd like that on record — I'm ahead!

Your appearance at EDC Las Vegas this year turned out to be historic.

I didn't know until on the day. I'd actually flown from Australia two days before — I was there for my dad's birthday. I'd flown back into America, and I was really nervous for EDC, because I'm not really a main stage artist. My whole career I've been a side stage artist — proudly alternative and different and not trying to cater to the mainstream. It was a bit of a moment of trying to make sense of that. 

So I was stressed about doing a good job of it, and nervous about being in front of the biggest crowd that I've ever played. By the time I was finished, I think there were like 20,000 people there. Everyone's seen those pictures of an EDC stage. Its enormous, beyond comprehension how big that stage is. 

I hadn't slept for two days, and I got to the hotel, and I opened my computer, and Facebook did one of those memories things. The memory that popped up was me lying on the floor of an airport in London after a really brutal European tour from 2008. I hadn't slept for days, I was ruined, and in the photo you can't tell, but I was crying. 'Cause I was tired, and I wanted to go home. The caption is, "I just wanna go home." Seeing that photo, and then being in Vegas and looking out the window and seeing a 20 foot photo of Tiesto, I was like, "how did I end up here?"

Then my manager came in and said, "you know that you're the first girl to ever play this stage?" Someone had mentioned something like that, but I thought they meant just that weekend. So when I really understood that I was going to be first girl to do it, I wasn't nervous anymore. I just felt proud. In a weird, deep way, I knew I'd done something good enough already just by getting there and getting on that stage.