Lilly Palmer – The Future Is Now

Lilly Palmer – The Future Is Now

Music is freedom – Lilly Palmer chose this credo as her guiding principle early on in her still fairly young career. By freedom, she means the fact of expressing, processing or transforming feelings and, in doing so, establishing a connection with her ever-growing audience. She succeeds in this without a doubt, being considered one of the most popular artists in the republic these days. Her stylistic mix of powerful, energetic techno and melancholic, deep sounds with captivating melodies creates an unmistakable vibe, both in clubs and at festivals and digitally.

This is evidenced by impressive numbers. At the time of this interview, her Instagram account counts 904,000 followers with a reach of up to 100 million impressions. Per month. And the trend is rising fast. On Spotify, she has around 134,000 listeners. These numbers are also noticeable in other areas: in 2020, she was voted „Best Female DJ Worldwide“ at number 32 in the DJ-Mag voting. Her meteoric success is not only due to her energetic shows, but also to her productions.

Lilly Palmer’s discography lists labels such as her own – Spannung Records – as well as Senso Sounds, Off Recordings, Natura Viva, SpaceMonki and Drumcode. Palmer, who comes from the Nuremberg area, debuted on the latter imprint in December 2020 with her single „Amnesia“ as part of „Various Artists – A-Sides“. With the EP „We Control“, her first own EP will be released in April on the prestigious imprint of Adam Beyer. A single from the release will be released on 25 February.

We talked to her – about beginnings, challenges, authenticity, emotions, success and an extremely promising future.

Lilly, you were born near Nürnberg. But you also lived in Zurich for many years. Tell us about your roots and your childhood, which you experienced as part of a pastor’s family.

Indeed, I was born in a small town near Nürnberg and came to my now „emotional“ family when I was eight months old as a baby due to the death of my biological mother, first as a foster child and then later I was also adopted. In any case, my childhood was also shaped by the fact that my „new“ dad is a pastor – but perhaps not in the way you would directly imagine (laughs). I was brought up religiously, but as liberally as possible, so that my father almost became a minor celebrity among my friends. From having his own „gameroom“ in our rectory, with Playstation, Nintendo 64 and life-size displays of our favourite heroes like Lara Croft and „Resident Evil „s Alice, to his preference for pagan death metal music from Scandinavia, he was and is the coolest pastor dad you can have. My mother, on the other hand, is much more the artist and, I think, tried a bit more to pass on to me the more „serious“ cultural things of the world (laughs).

You only started DJing about six years ago. How did you get involved with music in general? When you were a child, you played piano for five years, and you discovered techno when you were 17.

At that time, it was very important to my mother that I learn at least one instrument properly, and I chose the piano. Even though it used to annoy me sometimes, I’m very happy about it now, because it taught me so much in general about music. Before I had my first experience with techno, I was a huge fan of rock and metal. AC/DC, Jethro Tull, Guns N‘ Roses and T-Rex were my favourite bands. My friends took me to a minimal techno night in Nuremberg to the „Hirsch“ and the „Rakete“, where I was totally flashed by this new world. The lights, this vibe and also how extraordinary it all seemed to me, how everyone there danced for themselves, absorbed. It left a lasting impression on me and I was almost immediately addicted to it, I just didn’t know it yet.

How do you think your environment affected your musical socialisation? In Zurich, people like Adriatique, Shiffer etc. influenced you a lot.

I think that the environment has a big influence on every artist. In Zurich it was the melancholic and very serious melodies that still give me goosebumps. In Berlin, where I later lived, it was the hard, uncompromising techno at Berghain and Tresor, which is just incredibly fun and releases an energy in me that I love and that sometimes even reminds me of the hardness of metal that I liked so much as a teenager. These two directions are like anchored in my DNA, whereas nowadays I definitely tend more towards the harder direction.

Let’s start at the beginning – in Zurich you started out in bars and small clubs.

Yes, that’s right. The decision to seriously try DJing was very difficult for me for a long time. I toyed with the idea a few times, but I only had a few real friends from the scene who would have helped me, and my boyfriend at the time was not a fan of the idea at all for reasons of jealousy. It also really bugs me in retrospect that I didn’t just not care, but actually hesitated for a long time to try it for that reason. Fortunately, after the break-up, I was finally freed from this wrong thinking. My job as a self-employed nutritionist at the time left me enough time to intensively work on the hang-up. After about eight months of practising and mainly mixing podcasts, I then had the opportunity to DJ in a bar in Zurich. At that time, it was already a small sensation for me and incredibly exciting that I now had control over the music in this small place. For about one and a half years, I was able to gain my first experiences in various bars and small clubs in Zurich. Of course, I wanted to finally play bigger gigs as soon as possible, but I knew that this development process was just absolutely necessary to understand what really makes a good DJ.

How did the development to techno, which you have made your trademark today, go after that?

After I got more and more gigs, also in bigger clubs, I kind of automatically realised that deep house and melodic techno just didn’t match my energy 100 percent anymore when I was DJing and I had the best reactions and nights when I stepped on the gas a bit more. But I also think it has something to do with the general trend towards heavier sounds, I remember three to four years ago I found 129 bpm really fast. In the meantime, many artists have developed in a faster direction, and you notice that in the productions.

For many DJs and musicians, it remains a dream to turn their hobby into a profession with a foundation. What do you think has made the difference for you?

I think that nowadays it really depends on the perfect overall package. For me, this includes: your skills, your passion, your productions, where you live, your team behind you, your looks, your vitamin B, your marketing, your ability to function under pressure, how organised you are, whether you have that certain „something“ and above all, whether what you do and what you stand for is authentic. I think if you have the hottest techno productions in the world, but nobody notices because you can’t market them, it will probably be difficult to have a big career. But also if you look very good but your talent and skills are not enough and the promoter realises that people only come once and don’t come again, then that’s it. I would say with my career, a lot of those parts of the whole package are right and especially having a mega team behind me makes a big difference. My manager Karl, who has been one of my best friends for twelve years, shares with me the unbelievably strong will and motivation to take my, or almost „our“, career forward, and together this creates a magical energy that constantly drives us and that other people also feel and want to be a part of. I also believe that I am very good at conveying a certain feeling of freedom, fun and exuberance to my fans when I DJ.


Like many women in the scene, you are unfortunately not spared from regular strange comments. How do you personally see this topic in the still predominant male domain „DJ“?

Since the beginning of my career, I have seen it with one eye laughing and one eye crying. On the one hand, I get to feel the negative sides again and again, because as a woman you are much more insulted and judged, sometimes unfortunately also very sexist, and often there are simply nonsensical comments that I have never read among male colleagues. As a small example: I’ve already read countless times under my livestreams, which I filmed during the day in the sunlight, that the equipment wasn’t under power at all because you couldn’t see the lights on the buttons and that I had therefore pre-recorded the whole set and then moved to it in a fake way. But I’ve also had DJs or promoters who didn’t behave decently towards me, for example, I was once kissed on the mouth by a promoter right after picking me up. When I then made it clear that I didn’t want that, I wasn’t paid my money for the booking. Time for the manager’s club from Karl (laughs). On the other hand, I am also aware of the advantages of being a woman in this business: I am an exception and usually get more attention than „another man“ in this man’s world. What I don’t like at all is when I am asked for „female DJ“ nights. I want to be in the normal programme, no matter if I am a woman or a man, just depending on how good I am. Through these experiences, I’m generally more cautious in the scene about who I trust and really open up to. But I’m very happy about the friendships I’ve made in the community over the last few years, also with many DJs who I’ve always held in extremely high esteem, both humanly and musically.

Your manager seems to use to say, „I love seeing hate comments under your posts, if the hate ever stops, I’ll worry because that means what you do has become boring.“ Tell us more about that attitude.

(laughs) Yes, in the beginning, of course, hate comments were hard for me. But by now I’ve learned that you can’t please everyone, and that if you do your thing, you’ll always have someone with you who doesn’t like it. What my manager means by that is that success always brings envious people with it, so you can’t do it without hate. Today’s anonymous world on the internet also makes it much easier for some people to say mean things. I don’t take it seriously at all anymore.

In the studio, you and your friend Egbert have had quite a process. Tell us about your work together up to your now self-sufficient work.

At the beginning of every new production is the idea. Most of the time I’ve just heard new tracks that I like and we get inspired by them, or I’ve found a new plug-in or new sounds that we’re dying to try. After we have built up all the elements, we create a layout, which I then test out in the club. After that, I have some feedback that we can use to adjust and finalise the track. Egbert is the „technical genius“ who can implement my often somewhat „emotional input“ incredibly quickly. I can do a lot of it myself now, but it’s fair to say that the experience of someone like Egbert, who has been doing this for decades, is still a bit far from mine (laughs). I’ve always had a very honest approach to producing and I’ve never made a secret of the fact that I don’t produce alone, because there’s no reason for me to hide anything. I think everyone in our industry has to decide for themselves how to deal with not producing themselves and needing the help of others. I don’t want to judge, I can only say for myself that it would definitely not be okay for me not to work on my titles.

A good attitude. What are your favourite tools in terms of software and hardware?

We actually only produce with software, Egbert is a big fan of FL Studio, because for him it’s the fastest way to work compared to other DAWs. For leads, for example, we like to use the Tyrell N6 and Repro. Bazille for the analogue feel, Omnisphere for the spherical and ambient sounds, and of course a lot of effects VSTs, like Valhalla Vintage and Valhalla Room Reverb, Fabfilter Pro Q, L, Saturn, Waves J37 Tape, Standard Clip and the FL Studio stock plug-in Maximus. I record all the vocals in my tracks myself, and in the studio we use the Adam A7X speakers and also the „SUBPAC“ to feel the low frequencies more.

With „Spannung“ you also run your own label, in November „Temptation“ was released there. What is the philosophy there and what do you have planned for 2022?

I had the idea of starting my own label for a long time, but I didn’t have the time to really sit down and think about the concept – and then Corona came along. That was the perfect time for me to bring „Spannung“ to life. I chose the name „Spannung“ because on the one hand it stands for the build-up of tension in a DJ set, with all the ups and downs that you build in and want to keep the tension with, and at the same time it also stands for the meaning of „electric tension“, which for me fits very well with electronic music and techno. So far I have only released my own tracks and tracks by Egbert including a remix for the Warp Brothers. My current philosophy is to only release singles so that each carefully selected track gets full attention. We currently have three releases planned for 2022. A new one from me, an amazing single from the Warp Brothers and a track from Egbert called „NRG“. And I can only promise you one thing, this number is so good that I can hardly wait for the release. In addition, I’m also ready to bring new artists on board. Two new releases from new acts on „Spannung“ would fit well into the release policy. These can be established names as well as newcomers with that certain something in their sound that has to fit me and „Spannung“. If I can’t play an act in my sets, then I can’t sign them.

Social media is an important tool to be successful nowadays. In our first interview in spring 2020, you told us how essential Instagram and the like are for you. How has the topic developed in the last two years – especially in view of the pandemic?

The pandemic has made social media even more important. For us artists, the internet was one of the last ways to stay in touch with our fans, and many clubs have also tried to bridge this time with livestreams. I also enjoy social media, but it can’t replace the real experience of a rave with the bass in your belly and the sweat from the ceiling.

The Covid-19 pandemic has been dragging on for two years now, how have you generally dealt with it? Some artists have been very productive and inspired, others have buried their heads in the sand.

The first two months were the hardest for me. This uncertainty and radical change in my life – from 100 to zero – was very exhausting and frightening. At some point I realised it probably won’t get better quickly and I have to move on somehow. Then I started to focus completely on producing livestreams, twelve in total, and was able to gain a lot of attention on social media as a result. Producing all my livestreams was an exciting adventure, which gave me a lot and hopefully my fans too. The rest of the time was spent mostly in the studio developing my sound and working with my manager to strategise what options we have and how we’ll react when things start up again or not. That’s why we came through the pandemic quite well and were in a very good position when the scene relaunched.

You have a release coming out on Drumcode these days, and a whole EP in a few weeks. Tell us about your connection to Adam and also a bit more about the release.

I get along very well with Adam and his team, especially through the Drumcode events we were able to get to know each other even better after the first release „Amnesia“ on the Drumcode „A-Sides Vol. 10“ one and a half years ago. When I played „We Control“ over the festival summer 21, it quickly became clear that this track had left the most impact with the fans, I’ve never had so many requests for a track ID as with „We Control“. The EP is, I think, very eclectic. „Plasma“ is harder, faster and ravier, „Don’t look back“ is very energetic and cheeky and „Resistance“ is more mysterious and for me the classic Drumcode sound. I’m definitely super excited for the pre-release of „We Control“ on Spotify on 25 February and the full EP release on 8 April!

Let’s talk about your life outside of music – you now live in the Netherlands, like to be in nature and go kiting.

Exactly, four years ago I moved from Switzerland to the Netherlands and now I live in a small coastal town between Amsterdam and The Hague. The proximity to nature and especially the sea are the perfect contrast to the hectic DJ life at the weekend. I would actually like to live even more secluded, preferably on the edge of a forest somewhere with my own little animal farm.

What are your general plans for 2022 – the year of hope? Both professionally and privately.

If this darn virus doesn’t get in my way again, then this will certainly be the best year of my career, many of the most famous festivals are confirmed, which I’m not allowed to reveal yet, of course, but it will be great. Privately, I hope to spend a little more time with my parents, maybe they’ll come along to a few gigs – a priest in a techno club, that would be something … (laughs).