A MEETING WITH ANTHA - CRASH Magazine
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A MEETING WITH ANTHA

By Alice Butterlin

This interview was originally published in February, in Crash #91 

Forming one half of the duo ORTIES with her twin sister, Antha was one of the first artists to blend hardcore rap with genres as diverse as witch house, black metal and dark wave. Her radical and often misunderstood project, arriving in the early 2010s, frequently seemed lightyears ahead of its time. Today, Antha is back with a solo album – SPLEEN – composed like a medieval poem and ranging in theme from the plastic landscapes of LA to pre-Raphaelite painting. Her rap offers a brooding, provocative and raw attempt to find beauty in the banal and transcend everyday reality. With her melancholy pen, she captures the spirit of the times and transports us to her imaginary world where the sky is lined with black neon and death seems like a movie.

Let’s talk about your early days in music with the ORTIES project. Can you tell me how it all started?

It’s a project I did with my twin sister Kincy. We started recording at the time with Mickey Mossman from Démocrates D. It was super artistic. It was a bit like summer camp, we went every weekend to Aulnay-sous-Bois to record at his place for free – so it was cool! But then, it turns out he was a bit of a weirdo. I started rapping when I was seventeen and very early on I realized that in music – and particularly in rap – there are only guys and most of them are completely deranged. So we ended up getting into a bit of a fight with Mickey. At the same time, we met Tony Danza who worked for Neochrome. Neochrome had some pull at the time, and I was a fan. There was Alkpote, Seth Gueko… So we recorded several songs with Tony Danza which were pretty cool but we also had some trouble with him, too. He wanted to go in our place to meet with the record companies, it was kind of a mess. Then we met Grödash who was from the same neighborhood as us. We ended up recording the whole Sextape album at his studio in a big suburban mansion, which was almost like a squat because no one paid the rent. (laughs) It was a pivotal moment because it allowed us to put together a whole project. We went there every week until we got a good selection of tracks and that’s how ORTIES came to be.

So Sextape was the first ever ORTIES project.

We wanted to produce other tracks and mixtapes, but we ended up with a ton of different sounds and our selection turned into an album. We were happy to come up with an album right away, so we could put out something polished even though we didn’t have much money.

Then you met with the label Neochrome…

We just met Tony Danza, not the whole Neochrome team, fortunately… Alkpote wasn’t bad, he was already good enough and worth more than a thousand other people like him. (chuckles)

On that note, what was it like to feature on the track “Avale” with Alkpote in 2010?

There’s a lot to cover. (laughs) Apart from the feature, we also used to hang out with him a lot. Those were some pretty creepy parties. We spent the whole night in Evry for instance. He’s very special. Anyway, it was like a laboratory, we inspired each other a lot. Then he asked us to produce the song “Avale” featuring other female rappers. I think it’s kind of a legendary song. (laughs) The music video is horrible, the lighting is atrocious… I couldn’t wait to see it, and I was all happy. Then, all of a sudden, around midnight, the video came out. I saw my weird face and thought: “how is this even possible?” (laughs) The letdown was immediate.

And then you released Sextape?

Yeah, it first came out on cassette in Los Angeles. Jason Pearl had a small label called Living Tapes, which I don’t think is in business anymore. He had a big shop where he only sold cassettes and had notably released a Die Antwoord album. We were definitely into it, especially with an album title like “Sextape”. If there was anywhere to release that album, it was LA.

The city has a big presence in your songs.

Our touchstone for the album was Bret Easton Ellis, we just kept going back to his work. Then Sextape was released physically in February 2013, after Nuun Records reached out to us and re-released it. What’s weird is that when the album was released on cassette, a lot of people loved it. But then it was released on CD and those same people turned around and spit on us. I thought they were completely crazy. It’s absurd to have two completely different opinions about the same record. Maybe it’s because of the visuals.

Did the negative comments about your image come mainly from men?

No, actually, and that’s the worst part. There were a lot of chicks who hated us… They needed to calm down or maybe go see a shrink… Sometimes women are even more misogynistic than men.

There are already so few women in rap. So when your album came out it really offered a different perspective: rap with a lot unexpected references. People still find it hard to accept that women express their share of darkness and discomfort.

Yeah, and the wackiness pisses them off more than anything. You also summed up why I need to see a shrink, too. I still don’t get it. Even today, there are still hardly any chicks in rap, and the few female French rappers who are on the radio, I don’t like.

Yes, most female rappers are still conditioned to protect themselves and not reveal too much about themselves because of the criticism they might receive. They probably don’t go far enough out of fear.

Unfortunately, women hold themselves back in rap. And then some of them use feminism just for the nice label, whereas with ORTIES it was sincere. It’s a real cause. Well, there was one thing that got on my nerves. Eventually with ORTIES, I didn’t want to be in the “feminist” box anymore. Everybody just loves to put you in that box. If it’s “feminist rap” then it’s not “real” rap any more. It’s like when people talk about “alternative rap”. It’s just rap, period. Of course we were feminists, but why do people keep putting our band in that box all the time? I think people had a kind of hang-up with our group.

How did you interpret that brutal rejection of ORTIES?

Sadly we came along just a bit too early. Kincy once said she was topless in an interview. Then a few months later, we found out that Femen always go around topless. When you think about the whole Weinstein affair, you get the feeling that it’s still hard for women to gain respect today. Who runs the world? Who runs the record companies? I never saw any chicks at meetings. You go into rap, and it’s all guys. You go into traditional French music, and it’s all guys, too. And it’s like that everywhere. Even today we have to deal with guys telling us how it is, when they don’t have to deal with a fraction of what we go through.

At the time, you were also criticized for the “trashy” nature of your lyrics, whereas rappers like Necro – whom you quote – tell stories that are just as dirty and nobody bats an eye.

Yep, when it’s Necro saying it, it’s not a problem. Same goes for Alkpote… In interviews he calls himself an anti-Zionist, praises Soral, and just because he’s a guy he can still do a feature with Philippe Katerine without any controversy. As women, if we had done even a third of what he does, we would have been burned alive by now. There’s no room for chicks in this world. It’s not rap that’s the problem, it’s the world in general. It’s a man’s world. Art created by women is just a drop in the bucket.

Some tracks on Sextape were produced by Butter Bullets. How did you meet them?

At the time Sidi Sid knew we were hanging out with Alkpote and he called us to do a feature. We introduced him to Alkpote along the way… But there’s always a problem with producers. It’s unfortunate, but in music there’s always an expiration date on relationships. You go to collaborate with someone and you know that time is short because you’ll always have a falling out. It’s because of all the egos. I resented Sid when Sextape came out because he didn’t even share it. It’s a strange environment where everyone is super critical of each other. Maybe it’s also because it’s Paris. The people we met in Belgium on my solo album are very different. In any case, it’s a self-centered environment where everyone’s always navel-gazing. Even the features should be called solos because there’s no real sharing. My sister and I stopped seeing Alkpote for several reasons, but one reason is because he asked us to rap on one of his projects. We spent the whole night in the studio with him and his stupid friends (laughs). But you go through with it, you write your lyrics, and that’s a lot of hard work. Our verse was kind of a mess, but it was a lot better than what his crew was doing. Later on, we got a message from Alkpote asking us to come back and redo our verse. He was just out of his element. I told him to fuck off. So we took those verses and turned them into the track “Plus pute que toutes les putes”. That title is actually a reference to him, one last bitchy move. (laughs)

One last question about ORTIES, you were about to release the album Nouvelle Chanson Française produced by Mirwais in 2016 when you suddenly disbanded. Can you tell us about that moment?

We just started talking to Mirwais again, but I was extremely angry with him. The song “ECLIPSE” is about him: “met a producer/my body buried under flowers”. It was a dark period, hence the latent sadness in SPLEEN. I was on the verge of shooting myself or throwing myself out the window. ORTIES is more than a music project, it’s an intense union with my twin sister. So we had to cut the cord. Kincy and I lived together for five years. Our separation was a total break, we stopped talking to each other, she insulted me and we were always fighting. It was intense. Kincy wanted to keep going with ORTIES, but only with Mirwais or not at all. I wanted us to break up, I could see that our collaboration was not working. We recorded I don’t know how many songs. I didn’t get along with him at all anymore, which was part of the reason why the project ended. Even he admits it in a way. But we still shot a video for the song “Caïds et Caïmans” with Kevin Elamrani-Lince. I could tell that Mirwais didn’t want to release it. I would have preferred him to be upfront with me and explain why he was stalling the process. I wasted four years being taken for a ride.

What was your state of mind during those four years of waiting? Were you still in art school?

I was finishing up at art school, I think. At that point I though the album was going to come out even though I was very depressed at times. We got four pages in Technikart and in Les Inrocks after we played the ultimately never released album for journalists. Now I just rely on myself, it’s better that way… Which is also quite feminist by the way. (laughs)

When ORTIES parted ways, did you immediately dive into your solo project or did it take a bit longer?

It took some time. For two months I was being eaten up inside and I couldn’t stop drawing. I kept drawing women cutting off heads as a form of revenge. Two months after ORTIES broke up, I started to feel the need to record, so I wrote “FRA ANGELICO”. I was all alone at first, because I didn’t know who to reach out to. Kincy composed almost everything for the second ORTIES album, so we had fallen out of touch with producers. What made things harder was that after we quit ORTIES, people didn’t believe in it anymore or were annoyed. So I figured I would have to do it all on my own like Christine and the Queens. (laughs) I did a video for “FRA ANGELICO” right after I recorded it. Looking back, I don’t think I would have made the video because it’s not my favorite song. But it still made sense with the phrase: “The black angel brandishes his penile sword”. I also liked the idea of connecting painting with rap.

On the SPLEEN album, there is a lot of medieval imagery mixed with a bunch of futuristic elements. We also find all your familiar obsessions: Mercedes, glitter, palm trees, sunglasses.

Yeah, that’s LA in a nutshell. (laughs) I did an interview the other day and they asked me to sum it up. I told them I do “pre-Raphaelite rap”. That’s really it, especially on SPLEEN. But there’s also the fact that ORTIES was a duo, and ANTHA is just me. Even though we usually came to an agreement in the end, we still fought a lot about the theme of each song. So that time it was a joy not to have to argue with my sister for once and to just be myself with all my references – which Kincy doesn’t always share. Kincy doesn’t care about the middle ages. I’ve already read medieval poems. For me, SPLEEN is a long poem, a long medieval ballad with autotune.

That’s what makes your album so interesting. Every track is firmly rooted in the present without indulging the banality of everyday life. It’s a more romantic version of life, especially on the song track “EMERAUDE RUBIS SAPHIR”…

Yes, that song is inspired by François Villon. I borrowed his phrase: “Where are the snows of yesteryear”, taken from Ballade des dames du temps jadis. It’s an incredible poem from the Middle Ages, and it hits you in the gut when you read it. Every stanza ends with the refrain: “But where are the snows of yesteryear”. It’s crazy that a guy from the Middle Ages was already nostalgic for a faraway past. It’s beautiful.

Death is extremely present in all medieval art, and it’s not always presented in a macabre or tragic way. It’s clear that death has always played a big part in your creative work.

That reminds me of the vast medieval tapestries called millefleurs. I learned their name not that long ago by reading the book The Lady and the Unicorn by Tracy Chevalier – which I didn’t find quite as poetic as Herman Hesse’s book, Narcissus and Goldmund. But the millefleur tapestries are amazing. Just seeing words like “slay” to mean “kill” is awesome. I slayed you, fool. (laughs).

Julia Ducournau used your track “Plus pute que toutes les putes” for a scene in her movie Raw in 2017. Did that bring a lot of movie fans to your music?

Yes, of course, but I was mostly upset because it happened right when we put an end to ORTIES. It felt like a phoenix rising from the ashes. The embers were still hot but it was too late. It’s actually kind of sad. I knew that ORTIES had a future, since we had the second album. I felt like a vampire walking out into the daylight.

So it didn’t trigger your desire to launch your solo career?

No, that desire is like a volcano. I would have done it with or without Raw. SPLEEN was necessary for me. It’s not an album, it’s a confession.

All of your tracks are so cinematic in that they tell a little story. Do you always take inspiration from your daily life or do you have an active imagination?

No, I even had myself killed in 1945. (laughs)

“Les Tourments” is about suicide, right?

It’s about a latent death, at least. I don’t like the word but that track is about my depression. I’m a fan of Arthur Rimbaud. I’ve read him since I was fifteen. That album is really a collection of sung poems. I write poetry, too, but I haven’t published them yet because I still feel like they are missing something. But I think one day I’ll show them to a publisher. I bring up Rimbaud and Verlaine to show you how sacred these lyrics are for me. That album is definitely lyric-driven. We have a talent for that in France: never compromising with the lyrics… Unlike Americans who can be more clownish. In the 1990s, there was Démocrates D and their track “Le crime” which is a masterpiece in my opinion. It’s one of the best French rap songs. Mickey Mossman is absolutely out of his mind but we recorded with him because I had so much respect for him. He told me he spent several weeks perfecting the lyrics to “Le crime”. I don’t think that happens in rap anymore – except with Damso.

Do you always feel the spleen and depression you talk about on the album? Do you need it to be creative?

Yes, that album was made in a time of pain, with as much sincerity as possible. Even though I’m not as sad now, I still need it to be creative. What’s amazing in music is that once you find a melody and lyrics to go with it, there is nothing better. It’s like meditation, your entire existence is focused on that alone. That’s why I don’t understand rappers who don’t write or who never find their own melodies. What’s the point? Nothing beats the feeling of recording a track in the studio for me. Not even drawing or drugs.

You talk about the end of the world in your songs a lot. How do you feel about the future? Are you worried about it?

Honestly, I have a very negative vision of the future. Everything happening right now is really terrible. It’s better to take ecstasy and not think too much about it. Even if you want to think about it, there are so many lies going around and even the little information we get is so frightening. Bringing a kid into this world seems insane. In François Villon’s day, the world was a scary, cruel place. It was an absolute horror show with the black plague, but it seemed more poetic. More gothic, too.

But people died at a much younger age.

Yes. But what’s happening today is still very scary. From an ecological point of view it’s frightening. Actually I’m pretty torn up about it. I really like rap, but I think rap is way too capitalist. And capitalism’s what killed our beloved planet Earth. I rap because it inspires me, but deep down I know it’s a mistake. I love rap, it’s something contemporary and it’s important. But rap today supports capital. When you listen to the lyrics, it’s all money, money, money. I’m currently working on a second project right now. But I feel like it could all end in a second. Things like coronavirus just make that idea seem even more true. (laughs) I try to tell myself that humans are so small. At the same time, it’s wonderful that we’re on this Earth. Our Earth is our spaceship. But I think our planet needs more women to protect it. We’ve been screwed over too many times by all these guys. Men invented capitalism, patriarchy… In fact the word “boss” comes from the word “father”, it’s the father. We’re fucked from the get-go. It’s no coincidence that Greta Thunberg is a girl. I think we women can stop some things, or at least slow them down. That’s why you can’t talk about feminism without talking about ecology. I think women have more respect for the planet than men. If I was as famous as Booba, for example, at some point I would open my mouth and say something. Instead of doing that, he doesn’t give a damn and prefers to say that he’s going to keep driving around in his luxury car. Do you realize the impact of his words? He’s talking to countless young people! If he told them to stop drinking too much, to stop blowing their minimum wage on sneakers… The Doors were around in the 1960s and 70s, but just look at society today. I love rap, but too often rap looks like a society of morons.

How do you deal with the “obligation” to be on Instagram as an artist today?

It’s hard to draw the line between promoting your work and egotripping. But I don’t want to lecture anyone because I have an Instagram account myself. I think opening a book is better than opening that app. More importantly, I think the whole thing was set up to divert people’s attention and make them dumb and self-centered at the same time. It’s also a kind of mass surveillance, a toy given to people so they avoid reality. It’s yet another tool in the service of capitalism.

You started ORTIES more than ten years ago, long before Instagram. You’ve lived through an enormous transformation in the world, especially in music, which is now ruled by social networks.

It’s the world of illusion. I’ve had meetings with record companies and all they’re interested in is your follower count. That’s why everyone’s inflating their followers today. They know it’s a lie but they’re happy just to see their number go up. It’s an absurd world. And meanwhile koalas are dying in forest fires.

Find Antha on Spotify / Facebook / Instagram 

Vivienne Westwood – Natural floral jacquard dress
Dr. Martens X CBGB & OMFUG – Leather boots
Miu Miu – Sunglasses
Calzedonia – Fishnet tights
Carpet design by Madeleine Castaing

Ottolinger – Cotton dress
Miu Miu – Sunglasses
Stylist own fishnet bodysuit

Gucci – Jacquard dress
Agnelle – leather gloves, lace gloves
Justine Clenquet – « Ian » necklace
Stylist’s own scarf

Valentino – Poplin cotton dress
Camper – Leather «Trisha » loafers
Falke – Fishnet tights, socks
Stylist’s own choker
Carpet design by Madeleine Castaing

Vivienne Westwood – Cady Ginnie dress
Matsuda – Sunglasses
Stylist own fishnet bodysuit and choker

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Photographer: Lucas Christiansen @Tristan Godefroy
Stylist: Pauline Grosjean
Make up: Damian Garozzo @Artists Unit
Hair: Massanori Yahiro
Set Designer: Maxime Chaiblaine
Photographer assistant: Flora Aussant

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