Interview: Mel Pressler of Her Damit

Her Damit brings Techno lovers from across Europe to an abandoned bunker near Berlin, where industrial backdrops and dense woods make up the setting for this unique festival. Each year, the line up features a combination of local favourites and international names and, whilst it’s constantly expanding, Her Damit’s organisers claim that preserving the festival’s intimate feel is more important to them than making money through ticket sales, so they deliberately limit  the number of visitors. I asked Mel Pressler, one of the organisers, a few more questions – read on to see what she had to say.
 

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Describe Her Damit in a nutshell

The main focus is the music, followed by the light and visual effects, and the sound concept. Decoration only plays a minor supporting role for a good reason; as we always pick very unusual locations, we don’t want to cover up what they have to offer, but instead embrace it. For this reason, the lighting plays a huge role.


What does the name mean?

In the previous project, we had played with that expression in our PR (in English it would mean something like “bring it on”) over and over again. I always found it very powerful and applicable in many ways, and I liked it very much. To give my new festival this name also comes down to nostalgia, as I am a very emotional person, and it took me a very long time to get over being sad about the failure of the former project; maybe some part of me didn’t want to let go of it at that moment. However, the expression also fits perfectly to what I would like to express – I connect the name “Her Damit” with pure energy.


What provoked you to start the festival in the first place?

One could say that Her Damit is a personal continuation of another failed project with friends. It took place in Prora and, when we discovered the location a few years back, we shared a vision of a festival. We spent nearly two years with the planning and organisation, and eventually completed it. It took all our heart, soul, strength, and passion. Unfortunately, our cooperation did not function very well. When it was over, we were faced with the shards of our shared vision and also our friendship. This weighed very heavily on me—in many ways. I wanted to quit it all, never do a festival again, and leave everything behind me. However, luckily there were people close to me who pushed and motivated me so much that I pulled myself together and gathered my remaining energy once more, continuing this journey on my own. I shaped a new concept based on my very own vision and that is how Her Damit was born. Above all, I am very ambitious to break new musical ground in the German festival scene.


Her Damit caught my attention as I’m a Techno fanatic! Naturally, Germany is home to thousands of talented Techno DJs- how do you go about picking a select few for the festival?

In terms of bookings, it is a constant tightrope because everything should be perfectly balanced out: House and Techno, a mix of well-known DJs and new, up-and-coming ones. In general, I’m not only interested in booking big names,  and would prefer to go for variety. The lineups are based on an idea, some sort of a musical story I want to tell our visitors  during their timr at Her Damit. Concerning the artists, is very important to me that they understand their craft and have a “rave heart” at the right spot. Artists who have their very own fingerprint and style always impress me a lot.

 

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Photo: Marius Knieling

Could you tell us a bit more about the festival location, Freudenberg, and why you choose to host it there?

Not far from Berlin, we found a former bunker complex from the GDR times that seemed perfect for us. So we moved from the island of Rugia to Freudenberg, into “exile.” The local community and the residents of Freudenberg greeted us with open arms and what began as this “exile” location has now become our home. However, like with every move, changes came with it so it was inevitable that the festival would change, but we have adapted to the new surroundings. The bunker complex in Freudenberg reminds me very much of old rave times, hence I’m always saying that last year’s “Her Damit im Exil” was an homage to ’90’s rave culture. There was a very stripped-down concept behind it.


Besides the music, what else would make this a worthwhile trip for those coming from beyond Berlin?

You have to discover and explore Her Damit; it’s totally off the grid. The journey there is an experience in itself, as it’s very trippy, and the location is also worth a visit. Sure you can go to good clubs in Berlin every weekend, but our festival is only once a year, and from year to year, things are developing and improving. We do more than our very best to keep things muy exciting and fresh.

For more interviews with festival organisers, follow my series “Tell me about your festival” on Medium.

Composed by: Milly Day
Feature photo: Sophie Pröttel

Interview: André Janizewski of Nation of Gondwana

Nestled in a forest with a small lake roughly 60km from Berlin, Nation of Gondwana is truly a hidden gem and, though it may be a recurring hotspot for Berliners, very few people outside of Germany will have ever heard of it, despite the fact it’s been running for twenty-four years. Whilst many other German festivals are growing rapidly, NoG’s organisers choose to keep theirs small on purpose and do not speak to the press or advertise the event in any way. I was lucky enough to get a few words out of one of the organisers, André Janizewski, in this exclusive interview. Read on to find out what he has to say about Nation of Gondwana. 

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Where did the name Nation of Gondwana come from?

My partner Markus Ossevorth and I wanted to organise an open-air party in 1995, after being refused in to a party during Love Parade 1994. We decided we did not want to repeat such an embarrassing situation and our solution was to organise a party ourselves without a doorkeeper to decide who would be let in. A friend of ours came up with the name and, as we never expected to hold the open-air event time and time again, we agreed to his suggestion. Twenty-four years on, the name appears to have stuck.

What kind of music can we expect to hear at the festival?

Techno, House, Downbeat and a little Rock ‘n’ Roll after hours.

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How would you describe the atmosphere?

Hippie-style and open-minded. The location is very close to Berlin, so all the party hats from there come out to party together. Sexual orientations and music styles merge in a Gondwana.

With NoG increasing in popularity, how do you maintain its underground feel?

We have many guests who have been with us since the 90’s and together we make sure that we keep this underground flair by not advertising in magazines or on flyers, and usually we don’t carry out interviews (this is an exception). We also have NO sponsors! And we’re limited to 8,000 guests, so we’re doing our best to keep it underground.

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Who or what has been the festival’s greatest influence over the years?

DJ Sven Dohse, a local hero who has been regularly playing the last slot of the festival for more then twenty years now. He has his own very special style and every year the dancefloor is full. We’ve had many big names there, but Sven remains the crowd-pleaser commissioner. Other than that, the village Grünefeld is a big influence; Nation of Gondwana has been held there for 20 years now, and we are working very closely with them. They sell food, do the firefighter’s work, deliver many things we need and, a weekend before the event, we put on a little party together with beers and a barbecue.

What have been the standout moments for you?

There was once a Punk Rock band instead of a house DJ behind the curtain – a big surprise for the audience! One minute, they were hating on us for the shock we put them through and the next, they were being attacked by Steampunks with flamethrowers assembled on Mad Max vehicles- an even greater shock! Haha.

What would be your top three reasons for visiting Nation of Gondwana?

Our guests, the little lake and the music.

Enticed? Visit Nation of Gondwana’s official website for more information, or join the community on Facebook.

For more interviews with festival organisers, follow my series “Tell me about your festival” on Medium.

Composed by: Milly Day
Photos by: Ringo Stephan

Review: Kiez Burn

Just over a month ago, I found myself on a bus, in a storm, heading to a plot of land roughly 112km from Berlin for a festival named Kiez Burn, which was taking place for the very first time in Germany. With the exception of Aurora, aka “Burning Argentina”, a tiny event where just 120 people were present, this was my first Burn and I was brimming with excitement and intrigue.

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The “Just Being” kiez

Despite the forecast predicting rain all weekend long, the weather significantly improved after the first night and I spent most of Friday exploring the festival site in the sunshine and dipping my toe into each of the camps to see what was going on. Just as Berlin is home to different kieze, i.e., neighbourhoods, each of which has its own character, Kiez Burn is made up of several camps, all with a unique style and focus. The camp I had applied to be part of – Just Being – offered a space for relaxation, and attracted a more conscious crowd. I was mostly drawn to it because I didn’t think it would be as wild and druggy as some of the other camps, and I was right. The people at Just Being were unbelievably kind generous; even though I hadn’t actually managed to join, as I applied too late, they willingly shared their space and all their food with me, which I was extremely grateful for. It was a group that I felt extremely comfortable and happy with, and slowly, over the course of the weekend, I was really able to fully relax and switch off (something that never normally comes easily to me).

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Camp Pyjamacakes 

Camp Pyjamcakes was another prime spot for relaxing and chatting to people. They served pancakes in their pyjamas to anyone and everyone, which I thought was such a fantastic idea, and was naturally greatly appreciated by all those that attended. It was there that I did my first workshop, which was on consent and practicing saying “no”. Seeing as consent is one of the festival’s core principles, it was great to have this reminder to take responsibility for the community by asking permission before hugging or touching anyone, and it also enabled us all to get to know one another more intimately. The intimacy level went up a few notches during the kissing workshop, which followed soon after, and consisted of everyone walking in a circle in two directions and asking permission to kiss those they wanted to. There were ten different types of kisses in total, beginning with the most innocent and least tactile – an air kiss – and progressing to a kiss on the hand, then the forehead, then the ear, a butterfly kiss, an eskimo kiss, a peck on the cheek, a peck on the mouth, a kiss on the mouth and finally, a kiss with tongues. After that, we did an activity which I can best describe as ‘kissing meditation”. Firstly, we were split into two groups: apples and mangos. Then, the apples stood in the centre of the circle with their eyes closed, while the mangoes came and kissed them in different ways, on different parts of their bodies. One minute, I would feel nothing, then all of a sudden, there would be three people kissing me on various parts of my body – it was very exciting! Interestingly enough, it was here that I met most of the people that I went on to spend time with throughout the festival, and a couple have now become good friends.

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Kinky fun

The Kinky School camp was pretty much what it says on the tin; somewhere to get naughty, playful and adventurous. I didn’t spend that much time here, but I did take part in a Tantra workshop, which was definitely more amusing than arousing. To introduce ourselves, we had to go around the room each saying our name and one word to describe how we were feeling, then making the sound we make when we orgasm, which the rest of the room had to repeat afterwards (that was certainly an effective way to lower everyone’s boundaries). The rest of the workshop consisted of different exercises in pairs that were designed to make us more open and connected, but like I said, for me it was purely entertaining. Perhaps I simply wasn’t in the right zone.

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Playing around at Multi-Culti Circus

Multi-Culti Circus was the camp for music, as well as fire juggling, poi, hooping, acrobatics and other circus activities. The DJs here played an array of different styles, but my favourite had to be Marius Melange with his driving Techno. Mitte was another place I ended up spending a great deal of time at, for there was music at all hours of day and night here too and, as someone who can’t get enough of dancing, it drew me back time and time again.

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Getting creative

Other than dancing, attending workshops and basking in the sunshine, I spent my time admiring all the impressive works of art that so much time and effort had clearly gone in to. The creativity demonstrated at that place was remarkable, and all the details and little touches, from flickering lamps, to elaborately decorated signs, to an eclectic toilet soundtrack meant that I was constantly noticing new things, even on the last day of the festival. The costumes people had brought along were also highly creative, and the place was just a picture of colour when everyone got dressed and made up. If you weren’t donning a whacky costume, you were stripping off completely; there wasn’t much in between it seemed! I spent equal amounts of time doing both, but the naked moments were undeniably my favourite. On the penultimate day, after emerging hot and sweaty from the sauna (yes, there were saunas) I joined the “human carcass”, essentially a production line for washing bodies. Each person who wanted to be washed would walk between two rows of people, who were either given the role of soaping, rinsing, or drying, using their cupped hands as a squeegee to remove the water. After being “promoted” from dryer, to rinser, to soaper, it was my turn to be washed (yippee!) The first thing I got asked was “Do you have any boundaries?” to which I answered “no”, thereby giving everyone permission to wash me literally all over. That was certainly a novel experience.

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Sharing my experience of sobriety 

I decided prior to the camp that I would join a friend of mine who, like me, is teetotal, in giving a talk on being sober. I really didn’t think anyone would show up, but to my surprise a few people did, and they listened intently as we each shared our experiences of getting sober and giving up all mind-altering substances. If I was able to help or inspire even just one person, then that would make me very happy.

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Dancing in the bubbles

The last night and day of Kiez Burn were the best for me, as by that stage I had really settled in and was starting to feel truly at home. Along with a few others from Just Being, I helped prepare a Tom Kha soup for our final meal, which we sat and ate all together. The, after a short sleep, I woke up around 4am and began my morning handing out ear plugs from Welfare to those who were heading bedwards and needed to block out the pounding beats from Mitte. I spent the next few hours dancing and taking part in a kitty massage workshop, where I played the role of a cat massaging its owner, then received a deep, intense massage from him (which I very much needed). The two of us then decided to do some meditation after that and give the sauna another go, before hosing each other down with icy water to cool off. Two hours before the bus was due to leave, a 90s rave began, but nobody seemed to want to dance so I was the only person flailing my limbs around for the first half an hour or so. Gradually though, more and more people began to join me and, by around 5.30pm, Mitte was filled with colour and movement once again. Possibly the best moment of the entire weekend was when the heavens opened and it started to rain for the first time in days, just as the DJ began playing the classic I’m So Excited by The Pointer Sisters, and everyone gave it their absolute all; rarely have I seen that much energy and pure, childlike happiness contained in one space. It was absolutely incredible. Needless to say, I found it difficult to tear myself away and ended up having to run to the bus, which was about to leave without me.

Overall, Kiez Burn was a very memorable event, and it has inspired me to take part in similar events and get more involved in the community of Burners, as it was the people at the festival that made it so special – hopefully I’ll see a few familiar faces at Where the Sheep Sleep this weekend, and I’ll definitely be joining everyone at Kiez Burn 2018.

Artist interview: Lukas Freudenberger

I interviewed another of my favourite Techno DJs, Lukas Freudenberger, ahead of his new album release. Here’s what he had to say…

Me: Your new album AMPLIFIED is out now! I’ve listened to it plenty of times and love all the tracks on there- do you have a particular favourite?

Lukas: I think it would have to be “She Said”.

Me: How does this album differ from your previous releases?

Lukas: It is a very powerful release, with slower tracks, most of which are around 123 -124 BPM.

Es ist ein sehr druckvolles release, langsam produziert 123-124bpm sind die meisten tracks.

Me: I saw you play last month in Suicide Circus, which was to mark AMPLIFIED’s release. Those Ragnarök label nights are always incredible, in my opinion. How was the experience for you?

Lukas: Berlin was awesome! It was a full house that night and the guys, Holgi and Kai, are wicked. To celebrate the album with them was a truly great experience.

Berlin war genial. Einlassstop, volles haus , die jungs Holgi und Kai sind einfach nur real! Das album mit ihnen dort zu feiern war ein tolle erfahrung.

Me: Your sound has changed somewhat over the years, progressing from minimal to something much harder and darker. What has inspired those changes?

Lukas: It’s normal to develop one’s sound; doing the same thing over and over again eventually inspires you do something different, which is fun at the same time. I believe that way, you remain authentic.

Sich zu entwickeln ist normal, wenn man immer dasselbe macht dann inspiriert man sich im besten falle selbst etwas anderes zu machen… iwas was einem spass macht, dann bleibt es authentisch denk ich.

Me: Which other artists have inspired you

Lukas: At the beginning of my “career” as a Techno producer, I think the greatest influence was Björn Torwellen as his style at that time for me was simply revolutionary – he fascinated me. I’ve also always thought Cortechs was pretty awesome.

Zu beginn meiner techno und produzenten “karriere” denke ich der stärkste einfluss Björn Torwellen… einfach nur der style damals, es war für mich einfach was neues, revolutionäres und hat mich schon echt fasziniert. Cortechs fand ich auch immer fett.

Me: I see you started up your own record label, STABIL, in 2014. Is that still going?

Lukas: STABIL was on a long break, but new releases are on the horizon.

Stabil hatte ne länger auszeit. Plane aber neue releases.

Me: You’re from Köln, aren’t you? How does the Techno scene there compare to Berlin?

Lukas: I think in Köln, people tend to go out to see a particular act in one of the many Techno clubs, whereas in Berlin, people go to the clubs regardless of who is on the line-up; you go to Berghain for Berghain, as it’s always an experience no matter what. I think the thing that both cities have in common is that there’s always a Techno party to go to- you can now party any night of the week in Köln, just like in Berlin.

Denke in Köln geht man noch eher wegen einem bestimmten act in einer der vielen techno clubs… in Berlin ist es denk ich mehr oder weniger egal wer auf dem line up steht.. ins berghain geht man um ins berghain zu gehen… es ist so oder so eine erlebnis. Denke verbinden tut die beiden städte aber, dass man auch in Köln mittlerweile an eig jedem wochentag ein techno party besuchen kann, genau wie in Berlin.

Me: Will we see you back here again soon?

Lukas: I think I will be back later this year, as and my new Ragnarök friends and I have some plans…

Me: Sounds exciting! I look forward to seeing you then 🙂

Composed by: Milly Day

Artist interview: DeKai

Bavaria-born DeKai is one of my favourite German DJs and, after seeing him several times since I arrived in Berlin last September, I can safely say that he can get the crowd going like no other with that hard and pushing sound of his. After meeting  Kai face-to-face at the most recent Ragnarök label night, I took the opportunity to ask him a few questions about his move to Berlin and what the experience has been like for him so far.

Me: You’re originally from the South of the Germany aren’t you? What provoked the move to Berlin?

Kai: That was a spontaneous decision. Life in Bavaria simply bored me; no clubs, no scene and no opportunities to DJ. It was the attitudes of the people down there that pissed me off the most though, as there it’s all about having a nice house and a nice car, blah blah blah. The trigger was when my homie Martin came to me with the film “Berlin Calling” and that’s when it clicked. Four months later, I moved to Berlin.

Puh das war eine spontane Entscheidung. Es hat mich einfach gelangweilt das Leben in Bayern, keine Clubs, keine Szene und keine Perspektive was das Auflegen betroffen hat. Am meisten kotzt mich da unten die Einstellung der Menschen an, da geht’s nur darum mein Haus, mein Auto mein bla! Der Auslöser war als mein Homie Martin mit dem Film Berlin Calling zu mir gekommen ist und dann hats halt klick bei mir gemacht und 4 Monate später bin ich nach Berlin gezogen.

Me: You’ve been here for seven years or so now, is that right? What has the experience been like for you so far?

Kai: I arrived here on December 1st 2009 and since then, I feel I’ve been freed of everything and am open to so much more. The city and the people I’ve met here have really swept me off my feet! Naturally, there are many bad people too, but since arriving here at the age of 35, I’ve found it easier easier to distinguish the bad from the good, and when I have a negative experience with someone, I find it easier to just shrug it off. However, the good people around me far outweigh the bad, and they have a positive effect both on my personal life and my music. Berlin is my home and my inspiration, I love to make appearances in nightclubs and surrender myself to the night.

Ich bin am 01.12.2009 hier angekommen und seitdem bin ich frei von allem und offen für vieles! Berlin und die Menschen die mir seitdem begegnet sind haben mich sowas von geflasht, klar die schlechten Menschen sind auch Massenweise hier aber da ich mit 35 Jahren erst hier angekommen bin tu ich mir etwas leichter die bösen von den guten zu unterscheiden und wenn ich mal ne negative Begegnung habe dann fällts mir einfacher den oder die wieder weiter zu schicken! Allerdings überwiegen die guten Menschen in meinem Umfeld und beeinflussen mich auch positiv sei es Mugge oder eben Lifestyle. Berlin ist meine Heimat und meine Inspiration, ich liebe es durchs Nachtleben zu tingeln und mich dem Strudel der Nacht hinzugeben 🙂

Me: How would you describe the current Dekai sound?

Kai: It’s still hard, pumping, gloomy and impulsive, but at the same time more groovy than last year. Last year, I simply fell in love with monotony, but this year I feel a change is necessary, as I don’t want to bore myself! 

Hart, pumpend, treibend, düster und mittlerweile wieder etwas grooviger als das letzte Jahr! Letztes Jahr hab ich mich halt auch hart in die Monotonie verliebt aber dieses Jahr brauch ich definitiv ne Soundveränderung ich will mich auch nicht selber langweilen!

Me: I read that you are first and foremost a Heavy Metal fan- when did you first discover Techno? Did you fall in love with it straight away?

Kai: Techno comes first for me, by a loooooooong way. I caught the bug in 1991 and from the very first beat, I felt I was right in the middle of it, as opposed to simply taking part. However, Heavy Metal was the first genre of music that really got me hooked back in the 80s, and I still enjoy listening to it today.

Also an erster Stelle kommt bei mir Techno, dann kommt laaaaaange nix und dann kommt alles andre. Angefixt wurde ich 1991 und vom ersten Beat an war ich live mittendrin statt nur dabei 🙂 Heavy Metal war allerdings die erste Musikrichtung die mich so richtig angefixt hat, damals in den 80ern und höre ich heute auch noch gerne.

Me: I also read that the cellar in Magdalena is named after you, is that true? How did that come about?

Kai: That was at the old location at the Schillingbrücke, at a ‘Herz für Hänger’ party, as I played in the basement all night long. I was there for 10 hours or so I believe, I can no longer remember. Back then, Marie made a wooden sign, which hung above the entrance until the closing night. I loved the basement, it was dark, hazy and had a fat sound system!

Also das war in der alten Location an der Schillingbrücke bei einer Herz für Hänger Party da hab ich all night long im Keller gespielt und das warn glaub ich 10 Stunden oder 12 aber so genau weis ich das nicht mehr 😀 Die Marie hat damals das Holzschild gebastelt und das hing dann überm Eingang bis zum closing. Ich liebe Keller und da wars Dunkel, Nebel und ne fette Anlage.

Me: Which artists have inspired you the most?

Kai: The first artist who really inspired me and gave me the urge to begin mixing was Günni from Ingolstadt. For the first five years, we mixed together at my place every weekend, really, every one! He passed his passion and devotion to mixing on to me, so it always pisses me off when a DJ has no bass on the decks, more rattling than clean sound, and is out of sync. Throughout my 23 years of listening to Techno, and 13 years of playing it, I have always been inspired on the dancefloors where I danced myself. Another one who has really inspired me with the whole DJ thing is Empro- when I arrived in Berlin, he was the first person I met, so I did a couple of projects with him and he taught me a lot. Even now, it’s an exciting experience having him play before or after me, as his sound and way of mixing are so unique.

Also der erste Künstler der mich so richtig inspiriert und auch das feeling für das Mixen vermittelt hat war Günni aus Ingolstadt. Wir haben die ersten 5 Jahre jedes WE bei mir gemixt, wirklich jedes! Seine Leidenschaft die er mir mitgegeben hat ist wirklich die Hingabe an das Mixen, deswegen kotzte ich ja immer so ab wenn man als DJ kein Bass am Pult und mehr scheppern als sauberen klang hat und ich synce Nicht. Im laufe meiner 23 Jahre Technokonsum und 13 Jahre selber Mixen hab ich mich eigentlich immer auf den Floors wo ich selber getanzt habe inspirieren lassen. Wer mich aber mit dem ganzen DJ Ding am meisten inspiriert hat ist Empro. Als ich in Berlin angekommen bin war er so der erste den ich näher kennengelernt habe und hab so das eine oder andre Projekt damals mit ihm gemacht und er hat mir auch viel vermittelt. Auch heute ist es für mich jedes Mal wieder ein Erlebnis wenn er vor oder nach mir spielt, seine Art zu mixen und sein Sound sind auch einzigartig.

Me: Where can we see you play this year, other than the District4 and Ragnarok label nights?

Here’s a brief summary of my upcoming bookings:

25.02. Geheimclub / Magdeburg

03.03. Kosmonaut / Berlin

04.03. Maze / Berlin

10.03. Tanzhaus West / Frankfurt

18.03. Magda in Excile @ Yaam / Berlin

31.03. Go In / Obergünzburg

01.04. Distillery / Leipzig

13.04. Kosmonaut / Berlin

21.04. 3 Jahre Ragnarøk Bahnhof Pauli / Hamburg

22.04. 3 Jahre Ragnarøk @ YAAM / Berlin

28.04 STEAM Club / Athen

05.05. Airport / Würzburg

Me: Do you have any other plans/projects for 2017?

Kai: I’m not much of a planner; I’d rather let myself drift and see where I land 🙂 The only real plan I have in life is to have a nice time with chilled people!

Ich bin nicht so der Planer, ich lass mich eigentlich lieber treiben und schauen wo ich ankomme 🙂 Den einzigen Plan den ich so richtig im Leben habe ist mit gechillten Menschen eine schöne Zeit zu haben!

Composed by: Milly Day

Artist interview: Holger Nielson

Berlin-based DJ and producer Holger Nielson, aka Holgi Star, started the record label Ragnarøk back in 2014 alongside DeKai and the pair now put on label nights every couple of months in the city (read more in my article on the German Techno scene). As an avid supporter of the label and these nights, I took the opportunity to speak to Holger and find out a little bit about him, Ragnarøk, and what the future holds.

Me: When did you move to Berlin and how did you first become involved in the Techno scene here?

Holger: I came to Berlin in 1989, when the wall was still standing. At that time, there wasn’t as big a scene as there is today; only a few clubs like Tresor, Planet and Walfisch existed, and it was all more familial. My first personal contact with the scene was when I visited Tresor for the first time and after that, there was no stopping me.

Ich bin 1989 nach Berlin gezogen, noch zu Zeiten als die Mauer noch stand. Damals gab es noch keine so große Scene so wie heute, es gab ein paar Clubs wie den Tresor, das Planet und den Walfisch und es war alles familiärer. Mein persönlicher erster Kontakt mit der Scene war, als ich zum ersten mal den Tresor besuchte, danach gab es kein halten mehr, bis heute.

Me: You already run several labels, including Kiddaz.fm, Rompecabeza and Micro.fon. What made you decide to start up Ragnarøk?

Holger: Ragnarøk came from my friendship with DeKai. We wanted to create a joint project showcasing straight up, no-frills honest Techno with neat bass and groove – that’s the Ragnarøk sound!

Ragnarøk ist aus meiner Freundschaft zu DeKai entstanden. Wir suchten ein gemeinsames Projekt mit dem wir uns verwirklichen können, ehrlicher gerader Techno ohne Schnick Schnack mit ordentlich Bass und Groove, Ragnarøk Sound eben!

Me: Alongside the work you do on these labels, you’re busy producing and playing as a resident of District4 in Arena and of course the Ragnarøk nights- how do you manage to organise your time and fit so much in?

Holger: I sometimes don’t know the answer to that myself! I honestly think it helps to have passion, as what is more beautiful than turning your hobby into a profession?

Das weiß ich manchmal selber nicht, ich denke die Leidenschaft hilft einem da und wenn wir ehrlich sind, was gibt es schöneres als sein Hobby zum Beruf gemacht zu haben.

Me: I totally agree. You work under two aliases: Holger Nielson and Holgi Star. Can you tell us a little more about each of these? How would you describe the two different sounds?

Holger: Quite simply Holgi Star stands for Tech House / Techno, Holger Nielson for straight-up Techno. Throughout my longtime DJ career as Holgi Star, a variety of sounds have been released under the brand, sounds that I always stood for. As it’s been going for almost two decades, naturally there have been many musical breaks. With Holger Nielson, I now have a name under which this will not happen; Holger Nielson stands for Techno and this will always be the case, whilst Holgi Star may be quietly experimental – musically, he can do anything!

Ganz einfach Holgi Star steht für Techhouse bis Techno, Holger Nielson für straight Techno. Durch meine langjährige DJ Karriere als Holgi Star ist unter dem Brand viel Sound veröffentlicht worden, eben immer der Sound für den ich stand, da sich das über fast 2 Jahrzehnte hingezogen hat gab es da musikalisch auch viele Brüche. Mit Holger Nielson hab ich nun einen Namen unter dem das nicht passieren wird, Holger Nielson steht für Techno und das wird immer so bleiben während Holgi Star auch ruhig experimentell sein darf, Holgi Star darf musikalisch alles!

Me: The Ragnarøk nights are no longer taking place in Magdalena, which I’m very sad about, as I loved that venue! Will there be a new, permanent venue for these nights, or will they be held in different places each time from now on?

Holger: Yes, we’re also sad because the conditions in Magdalena, such as the sound and location, were simply perfect for us. In terms of future events, we don’t know exactly where they’ll be held, as we are still testing the waters. The last event took place at Suicide Circus and the next will be held in YAAM, then in June we will most likely be in Butzke. At the end of the year, we’ll be able to determine which venue is best for us. Only one thing is certain, which is that there’ll always be Ragnarøk events in Berlin 🙂

Ja, wir sind auch traurig darüber weil die Vorraussetzungen die wir in der Magda hatten einfach perfekt für uns waren, vom Sound und der Location her. Wie wir das in Zukunft halten wissen wir noch nicht genau, wir testen aktuell, die letzte VA war im SC, die nächste wird im YAAM sein und die im Juni dann höchstwahrscheinlich in der Butzke. Wir werden Ende 2017 mal ein Resume ziehen und kucken wo es für uns am besten wahr. Nur eins ist sicher, es wird immer Ragnarøk Veranstaltungen in Berlin geben 🙂

Me: That’s good news! I noticed the label has a very loyal following. How have you managed to establish this kind of fanbase? It is just something that’s developed over time?

Holger: Yes, we are really proud of our fans. For us, they have become a kind of substitute family, as many are now also friends of ours and support the sentiment, philosophy and spirit of Ragnarøk along with us. Ragnarøk is more than just a Techno label or event, as both Kai and I have always cared about our fans, not only welcoming them as guests at our events, but also making them part of something much bigger: a movement based on tolerance, community and celebrating good Techno.

Ja, wir sind echt stolz auf unsere Fans. Für uns ist das eine Art Ersatzfamilie geworden da viele ehemalige Fans inzwischen auch Freunde sind und mit uns den Gedanken und die Philosophy und den Spirit von Ragnarøk tragen. Ragnarøk ist mehr als nur ein Techno Label oder eine Veranstaltung. Ich denke das kam dadurch zu Stande dass sowohl Kai als auch ich uns immer sehr um unsere Fans kümmern, Ihnen das Gefühl geben nicht nur Gäste auf eine VA zu sein, sondern Teil von etwas größerem einer Bewegung die auf Toleranz, Gemeinsamkeit und dem Willen guten Techno zu feiern zielt.

Me: What does 2017 have in store for you and for Ragnarok?

Holger: We’ll see, ask again at the end of the year!

Das werden wir sehen, das kannst Du uns Ende 2017 noch mal fragen!

Me: Haha, ok then. Can you tell us which artists we can expect to see on the line-up at upcoming label nights?

Holger: We don’t want to give that information away just yet, but as always it will be a mixture of friends of the label, our hot newcomers, and DJs that are committed to our sound.

Das möchten wir noch nicht verraten, aber wie immer eine Mischung aus Freunden des Labels, unsere geilen Newcomern und DJ Größen die sich unserem Sound verpflichtet fühlen.

Me: Anything else you’d like to add?

Holger: Ragnarøk loves you all 🙂

Composed by: Milly Day

 

Next Generation Techno in Germany

Techno has been popular in Germany ever since the Berlin wall came down and the city unified to create an electronic music scene, with free underground electronic music parties popping up all over East Berlin. It became a major force in reestablishing social connections between East and West Germany, and the style – industrial, energetic and futuristic – made it the perfect soundtrack to mark a new era. Although there was still a lot of conflict between both sides of the country, everyone was extremely excited about this new movement and the possibilities it brought. Many claimed that this harder, darker sound was liberating, as it offered a release, which is why German Techno has always had its own unique and rather Gothic darkness about it. Predictably, this has changed over the years, with minimal Techno gaining popularity in the 2000s, but in recent times, acts such as Ancient Methods have brought this bleak, heavy style back to the Techno scene in cities like Cologne, Mannheim and of course, Berlin.

You’ll find this brand of Techno in the dimmest basement clubs across Germany, where people dance like it’s their last day on the planet, and it’s that power and intensity on the dancefloor that make nights out here so utterly compelling. Below are some artists representative of this scene that I’ve had the pleasure of seeing in Berlin over the past few months.

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Dekai and Holger Nielson

After seeing him three times, I can safely say that Dekai is one of the DJs that most gets the crowd going with his hard and pushing sound, which has earned him gigs at major clubs across the city. Holger Nielson can usually be found playing alongside him and, roughly three years ago, the pair started a label together called Ragnarök and began putting on nights in Berlin every couple of months. The label has a very loyal following, making the atmosphere at these nights unbeatable; as soon as one ends, I find myself getting excited about the next. Fortunately, there’s not long to wait now till their event on February 11th, which marks the release of Lukas Freudenberger’s new album and will take place at the much-loved Suicide Circus.

Hefty

Hefty is seen as the preeminent master of dark Techno, and it’s not hard to see why, as that raw, twisted and relentless sound of his is truly unique. After receiving a great amount of support from the people of Berlin and other cities in Germany and across the globe, he was inspired to create own label, aptly named Darker Sounds. I saw Hefty captivate the crowd at Magdalena at what was my first and possibly best night out in Berlin – they certainly seem to go crazy for him here!

Tommy Four Seven

Tommy Four Seven moved from his birthplace of London to Berlin after deciding it offered more opportunities for an artist of his nature, and has now firmly established himself as a name in the Techno scene here. In 2014, he launched own event series 47 at Arena Club and I had the chance to see him close the ninth installment of this night back in November, where he played straight-up Techno to a still packed dance floor. I can safely say I loved every minute of it.

VSK

Another artist that made the move to Berlin to pursue his love of DJing is VSK, whose sound ranges from dark and pounding, to a deep and more intellectual style of Techno. Fortunately for me, when I saw him play at Arena just prior to Tommy Four Seven, his set was nothing short of banging. This took me by surprise; not many DJs go straight in there with the heavy stuff, but VSK played hard, aggressive Techno from start to finish with no messing about, which works just fine in my opinion.

Ancient Methods

Ancient Methods‘ famous words “Music will tear down walls!” are indeed reflective of this producer’s powerful, industrial style of Techno, however he does something a little different to the others in that he features human elements in his productions. By intertwining semi-decipherable vocals and the occasional use of instruments with those bleak and heavy basslines, Ancient Methods creates his own special sound, which is what causes music to stand out. Although he plays in Berlin often, I’ve seen him just the once at Arena, where he warmed the crowd up nicely ahead of VSK and Tommy Four Seven’s sets.

Jan Fleck

Jan Fleck‘s passion for harder styles of music inspires him to frequently experiment with different sounds in an attempt to create something new and innovative. Consequently, he has received a great deal of attention for his tracks and DJ sets and rightly so, for when he kicked things off at the last Ragnarök label night back in December, he played what was probably the most interesting set of the night. I was absolutely blown away, so I’m very much looking forward to seeing him again tonight at Phonk!, a new concept of twin Techno nights across borders. Tonight’s event will be the debut of Phonk! and will precede a series of regular parties held in Berlin and Amsterdam throughout the year.

Like I said before, it’s not just Berlin that offers this kind of raving experience, I simply haven’t had the privilege of visiting any other German cities (yet). Throughout the country, you can hear this raw, industrial sound at a number of different festivals and events. Here are a few of my recommendations:

Mission Techno in Mannheim

The Mission Techno slogan is “Nomen est omen”, i.e. the name speaks for itself, which I guess it does, as not a whole lot more information is provided. This year sees four Mission Techno events take place at MS Connexion Complex, a sizeable venue located on a factory site that’s now over a century old in the south of Mannheim, with four different floors showcasing German Techno talent. Their first event of this year is on February 3rd, starting at 10pm and lasting a full twelve hours, so be sure to don your most comfortable raving shoes.

Darker Moods in Augsberg

Darker Moods is a series of banging Techno nights that take place at Kantine in Augsberg, in the club’s ‘schwimmbad’ (swimming pool), usually once or twice a month. The next one will be on January 27th, when Champas, Yannick Tella, Enrico Sommer and Bosedicht will each be taking to the decks to provide their audience with dark and driving Techno all night long.

MEIHT in Offenbach

MEIHT, which stands for “Mir egal ich hör Techno” (I don’t care, I hear Techno) takes place every second month at the MTW Club in Offenbach am Main. Occasionally, the organisers also join forces with promoters of similar events to put on nights in cities such as Frankfurt, Cologne and Darmstadt. The next one at MTW Club will be on January 28th and will see Colombian DJ Luix Spectrum’s debut performance in Germany.

EHCTV in Leipzig

In recent times, Leipzig’s Techno scene has started to rival that of other German cities in terms of creativity and excitement and EHCTV is a shining example of this fact. Next month, the Hard Techno event organisers are putting on an night called Pandora’s Box which carries the slogan “Accept the darkness and you will see the light”. Expect strobe lights, fog and some seriously floor-destroying tunes.

Trieb Klang in Stuttgart

Trieb Klang put on monthly events in Stuttgart, mostly at OneTableClub, where you’ll be exposed to dark Techno at its best and most brutal. Their next one, Techno Auf der Theo, the third of this particular event series, will be held on February 10th with a line-up consisting of Trieb Klang DJs Mr. Peppers, Schiggy and Michael Ott.

Written by: Milly Day