Liv Klutse, the DJ better known as Livwutang, is relaxed as she Zooms from bed in her Brooklyn apartment. “Please don’t mind that!”, she says, laughing. “I just cannot make it to my desk right now. I’ll do it in a little bit.”
It’s only fair for Liv to be taking a rest, given she’s been one of NYC’s most booked and busy DJs this year. Her sets are a melting pot of propulsive, rumbling techno and feelgood house via pulsing West African rhythms, all of which have brought dancefloors alive all over Europe and North America, from Dekmantel and Sustain Release to Berghain and Venue MOT.
Born in Denver, Colorado, Liv had a rich musical upbringing: “My grandparents on my mum’s side are German immigrants and my dad is from Togo,” she explains. “My grandpa played the accordion and my mum’s side grew up listening to lots of classic Bavarian polka and stuff. I grew up listening to anything from classic rock to soul to that regrettable era of indie music.”
Liv’s mum would wake her and her brother up for school to the dulcet sounds of Norah Jones. Together with a strong community of Francophone, West African immigrants on her dad’s side from Benin, Senegal and Côte d’Ivoire, no musical stone was left unturned. Post-indie meltdown (think: Arcade Fire, The Antlers), when she was around 15, Liv started exploring the wonders of the YouTube algorithm. “Obviously, Majestic Casual ruled at that time, so I had a very classic intro to [electronic music] via Bonobo, Kaytranada, that kind of thing.”
When she moved to Seattle for university, Liv was freshly inspired by the city’s music scene, and she was encouraged to master the art of beatmatching by her dad, who bought her a DJ controller for Christmas. “I had my first official show in my friend’s attic in February 2018 or something,” she remembers. “Everybody was sitting down and nobody was listening to my pre-planned set of Erykah Badu and Kaytranada edits. It was very sad!”
She’s come a long way since then, having deepened her involvement with dance music following a move to New York in 2021. Liv has fond memories of her first gig at the city’s respected club Nowadays, going back-to-back with DJ Python.
“We’d only met a few hours before. At the end, I was like, I’m not sure what to play anymore! He just turned to me and went: ‘Just play that sunrise shit, yo’ in this specific cadence that I love. It was super special.” These days, Livwutang is a resident at the Nowadays, and she’s booked to play across Asia over the next few months. “I’m just elated,” she grins.
10% What kind of emotions and experiences influence your DJ sets?
If it’s a club set, I’m not necessarily trying to be as emotional about it. But by virtue of what I tend to play, especially in Europe, people end up saying that what I play is deep. They’re just my bangers! But when I play an extended set, I have a sentimental approach. A lot of stuff I tend to play like, four hours or so into a set are usually songs that remind me of people. If I have friends at a particular gig, I try to play tracks that me and them have a memory about.
20% Are there any songs that stand out?
In 2021 I played a friend’s house party by accident – it was supposed to just be for 30 minutes but I ended up playing for six hours. The last track I played was Flowerz by Armand Van Helden, and it became mine and my friend Nico’s song. But before playing it at that party, I’d read about the song in this RBMA article that mentioned a woman named Laura Gavoor, who’d worked with a lot of classic Detroit DJs. Someone said that every time they heard Flowerz, they thought of her. I thought that was so beautiful – I want there to be songs people remember me for after I pass away.
30% What song do you want to be remembered for?
I want some like emo, house association. What Is the Time, Mr. Templar? by Persuader, I play all the time. Or Sleeping Sin Seemless by Planetary Assault Systems. I also like to play Back Together by Ron Carroll and Hardsoul. There are certain tracks where people come up to me afterwards and are like, my girlfriend and I met to this song or that’s mine and my best friend’s track, which encourages me to play it more often. I love knowing what associations people might have with a song or the memories they might make to it.
40% If you were cooking to impress someone, what would you make?
I would probably make this tofu mustard green curry recipe I’ve gotten pretty decent at from this cookbook called Afro-Vegan by Bryant Terry. The other dish I’d make is my dad’s peanut stew.
50% What is the best piece of advice that you’ve ever been given?
When I was in college, there was this guy named Jasper who was a sophomore when I was a freshman. I really looked up to him because he was so himself and had a really defined style. I was talking to him once about people I wanted to be friends with in school that I was intimidated by. He said to me “be yourself, just join their ranks”. It was kind of corny but at the time it really hit and I wrote it down on an envelope.
60% If you ruled the world for a day, what would go down?
I would reinstate systems of, like, indigenous agriculture. Everyone would have to learn about interacting with the land they live on and its history, so that when the world went back to normal, we’d have all the tactics and techniques to shift the structures that are accelerating climate change. Sorry, the sociology major just jumped out!
70% Love, like, hate?
I hate unsolicited phone calls, they give me anxiety. I like voice memos. I love Ethiopian food. When I lived in Seattle, one of my resolutions was to go to every Ethiopian and Eritrean restaurant in the city.
80% What’s your dream holiday destination?
I want to go to New Zealand and take my mum there. She always says there are more sheep than people in New Zealand, and I’d like to see that for myself. Also at one point my TikTok algorithm was bringing me a lot of content from Maori people, which I was super invested in for a while. It’s so incredible that they’ve been able to preserve their culture.
90% If you could travel back in time to watch an iconic music act perform, who would it be?
I would go to Lauryn Hill’s MTV Unplugged session.
100% What’s your all-time favourite album?
The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill. It’s one of the only things that I listened to when I was like 12 or 13 that I still consistently listen to now. Every time I listen to it I’m in a different stage in my life, and the songs become more prescient and I hear the album in a different context. It’s my life companion album.