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