Artist interview: Leon Glock

Up-and-coming dark Techno DJ Leon Glock was selected to play at Mission Techno the weekend before last, after receiving the highest number of votes in a contest. I took this opportunity to chat with him and find out more about the contest and how it felt to kick off the festival.

Me: Hi Leon, nice to meet you!

Leon: You too!

Me: I heard that you won an award, ‘Best Techno Newcomer.’ Could you tell me a little more about that please?

Leon: Yeah, a friend of mine entered me into this contest without my knowledge and when I found out, I simply shared it and got about 350 votes together pretty fast! I never would have expected that.

Me: Wow, that’s impressive! You were the first DJ to play in the Tanszaal room- how did that feel? Were you nervous about kicking off the festival?

Leon: I was extremely nervous, yes, but after the first few tracks the nervousness dissolved pretty quickly.

Me: How did you warm the crowd up for the DJs that followed on from you?

Leon: I had to adjust musically to the DJs that were on after me, as my sound is usually harder, so I tried to play a mix of powerful, melodic and impulsive Techno, which went down pretty well.

Me: So you were pleased with your set?

Leon: Yes, I am actually quite satisfied with it. A few things could have gone better but all in all, I am very pleased.

Me: And what did you think of Mission Techno? Was it your biggest festival to date?

Leon: The Mission Techno parties are always absolutely awesome! Many different styles across several floors, the people are always in a good mood and spirits are high, which is how it should be. I’ve personally never played at such a big event; I’ve only ever been part of the crowd, so this was a really special experience.

Me: Well it was great seeing you play there! Where else will you be playing over the next few weeks?

Leon: I’m a resident of the event series Halt die Fresse! Lass mich Feiern! (Shut up! Let me party!) by Technorebellen, which takes place at the start of each month at Kontext in Wiesbaden. Other than that, I’m not playing any remarkable gigs.

Me: You’re from that part of the country aren’t you? How would you describe the Techno scene there? Is your music reflective of the scene?

Leon: Yes I come from Frankfurt, which is nearby. Unfortunately the Techno scene has become very quiet there, as the city puts a lot of obstacles in the path. But my music definitely reflects the Frankfurt sound, which sadly is slowly but surely dying out.

Me: What a shame!

Leon: I know.

Me: Is there anything else you’d like to add?

Leon: Yes, I would like to say thank you to everyone who voted for me in the contest, and especially to the Mission Techno Team – you have made a huge dream come true.

Review: Mission Techno

I talked a bit about Mission Techno in my article on the Techno scene in Germany but after last Friday, I realised no words can really do this event justice; you simple have to experience it for yourself! I was lucky enough to be invited along by MT resident, Don Basti, who picked me up from my hostel in Mannheim and together we drove to MS Connexion Complex, which is just the most remarkable venue. Located on an ancient factory site, it’s dark, eerie and industrial (just the way I like it) and houses four different rooms: Tanzsaal, where all the rougher styles of Techno could be heard, the Main Floor, which catered to Hard Techno and Hartekk fans, the “Classics” room, Stahlwerk, a new addition to the festival and finally Treibhaus, where the DJS mostly played Dark Techno.

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While Don Basti and fellow resident DJ Florian Peschel were setting things up, I explored the venue some more and assessed the line-up, so I could decide who to see play. It was a tough choice, as there were so many fantastic artists, but I decided to kick things off with Leon Glock, who had won the award, “Best Newcomer to Techno”, and who was playing in Tanzsaal. Despite the fact it was very early, several people were already on the dance floor, doing that wonderful German shuffle dance (I’ll never get tired of seeing that) and showing their appreciation for Leon. His set was the perfect start to the night, it was nicely dark and driving, but without being too full-on.

Up next in Tanzsaal was Unmensch, who I discovered recently and whose sets I’ve been listening to repeatedly on Soundcloud, as I think they’re brilliant, but seeing him live took my love of him to a whole new level – his was probably my favourite performance of the night. Not only was the music pounding, but Unmensch is one of these DJs who really knows how to interact with his audience, making him captivating to watch. The energy in the room during that set was electric, each and every person was giving it their all, which made the Berlin crowd look lazy! People in this part of Germany certainly know how to rave.

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I somehow managed to tear myself away from Tanzsaal half an hour before the end of Unmensch’s set, as I really wanted to see the legend that is Talla 2xlc. It was wonderfully refreshing to hear some old school Trance, especially when it’s being spun by such a prestigious DJ, something you don’t normally get the luxury of listening to at a Techno event. Talla treated us to classics such as Push’s Universal Nation, Seven Days and One Week by B.B.E and all-time favourite Zombie Nation, beginning with those famous words from the “We are the walking dead” speech. He then played a couple more recent tracks, including his own remix of Sandstorm and Vini Vici’s remix of Free Tibet, which topped the set off nicely. The vibe in that room was very different, as the average age was considerable higher (no great surprise really) and there was a mellower feel to it, but still plenty of energy. I enjoyed seeing colour and smiles on people’s faces too- something you don’t experience much on Techno nights!

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I then decided to check out Treibhaus, the smallest room, a kind of witchlike cave with sludge green wavy walls. We managed to catch the end of Don Basti’s first set of the night, a dark techno set that he playing on behalf of Benijo, who had unfortunately fallen ill. Then Seimen Dexter came on and tore those wavy walls down! The first twenty minutes of his set were heavy and fast-paced, and I wanted to stick around to see how it progressed, but I was also keen to see George Perry, so after a short while I returned to Tanszaal. The style of Techno George was playing was deep and full of feeling and, while it was very powerful, there were harmonious elements to it as well. He reminded me a bit of Dekai, one of my favourite DJs here in Berlin, who I’ve seen many times but who always manages to surprise me. Their music is somewhat ominous; it gives you the impression of being chased by a predator. I like it when Techno can evoke such feelings in me.

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Finally, I saw Stormtrooper and Sebastian Groth play back-to-back. Now these artists both have very different styles, with Sebastian being a Techno DJ and Stormtrooper more of a Hardcore guy, so I was interested to see how they’d make it work. Initially, Sebastian played softer and slower but he sped up towards the end, and Stormtrooper slowed down, causing their styles to merge – the outcome was surprisingly good! You can read more about both artists in the interview I carried out with them after their set. Sadly, I had to leave shortly after that to catch my train back to Berlin, but my event finder and partner in crime, Brige Greene, stayed until the end to see Florian Peschel play and reported that “He ended the party with a grand finish.”

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Overall, I can safely say that the organisers of Mission Techno really excelled themselves with this festival; the venue was second-to-none, there was such an eclectic line-up, with so many different styles of Techno (and Trance!) and the crowd was unbeatable. Can’t wait to return for the next event on May 13th. Mission Techno = accomplished!

Written by: Milly Day

Artist Interview: Zahni

Alex Walter, aka Zahni, is one of Germany’s most wanted Hardtekk live acts. I had the fortune of meeting him at Mannheim’s underground Techno festival, Mission Techno, where I took the opportunity to ask him about his unique style and how it felt performing at such an event.

Me: Nice to meet you, I’m Milly.

Alex: Hi, I’m Alex.

Me: You’re from the east of Germany Alex, is that right?

Alex: Yes, that’s right.

Me: And is it true that the style of Techno in that part of the country is very different to what you hear in the west?

Alex: Yes, we call it ‘East Tekk’. It’s a reflection of a life with only machines – no woman, no CD tracks, nothing else. It’s one of the hardest sounds; only Hardcore and Speedcore are harder.

Me: Would you say your style is reflective of this type of Techno?

Alex: Yes, very much so.

Me: How did the crowd tonight respond to your set?

Alex: They actually responded very well. It’s only in the past couple of years that the crowd here have started to respect this style, as most of them are more into Hard Techno. They tend to prefer what DJs like Chris Liebing and DJ Rush play. I believe I’ve brought something new to the scene by introducing a much harder style with more bass drum and hi-hats. My first gig in West Germany was a favour from a friend, who let me play for the last half hour. After that, promoters were approaching me and asking me to play at their events, because they liked how my style differed from Hard Techno.

Me: So would you say most Germans now appreciate this style of yours?

Alex: Mostly, yes. Outside of Germany it’s a different story; I have performed in Luxembourg and Amsterdam, where I actually slowed the BPM down to 160/170, but still people just stood there looking gobsmacked. However, I will never change for money or fame and if people don’t like my music, it’s their problem, not mine! I have enough loyal fans who have come here tonight to see me play, even though this event costs almost twice as much as the ones I usually perform at. The dancefloor was full during my set.

Me: That’s great! Was it your first time playing here?

Alex: At Mission Techno, yes, but I’ve played at MS Connexion before. I recently switched agencies and am now with The Act, who have more contacts all across Germany.

Me: So what do you think of Mission Techno?

Alex: I think it’s one of the best gigs in terms of sound and lighting.

Me: Would you come back and play here again?

Alex: Yes, for sure!

Composed by: Milly Day

Artist Interview: Sebastian Groth & Stormtrooper

Last weekend, I had the pleasure of watching Sebastian Groth and Peter Nitschke, aka Stormtrooper, play alongside one another at Mission Techno in Mannheim. Now, it’s not often you see a Dark Techno DJ go back-to-back with one that plays Hardcore, however this seemingly incompatible duo somehow made it work. After their set, I took them both aside for an interview, and what an entertaining interview it turned out to be…

Me: Hi, lovely to meet you both. I’m Milly.

Peter: Hi Milly, I’m Peter and this is Sebastian. His English is not so good, so I’ll be doing most of the answering!

Me: Happy to do it that way, or you could be the translator? Anyway, let’s get started! Is this your first time playing at Mission Techno?

Sebastian: I’ve played here about fifteen times! I think I must be Mission Techno’s favourite DJ…

Peter: Don’t listen to him. It’s not the first time for either of us, but we hadn’t played in that room (Tanzsaal) until today.

Me: So you’ve played together here before?

Peter: Yeah, it’s our second time playing together at Mission Techno.

Me: Whose idea was it to go back-to-back?

(They exchange glances)

Peter: Good question! I’m not really sure. We just agreed at a festival once that we should do music together – that was our birth hour I guess.

Me: Which festival was that?

Peter: NatureOne. If you haven’t been, I highly recommend it!

Me: How long ago were you there?

Peter: Well, our idea to collaborate came about three years ago. Ever since then, we’ve been like a married couple, haha. Sebastian is the man, the lazy one, and I’m the woman in the relationship.

Me: Haha! So your relationship both on and off stage is pretty good then?

Peter: It is, yes. Is there such thing as a heterosexual relationship between guys?

Me: Yep, that’s called a bromance. You certainly seem to work well together behind the decks too, however your styles are quite different, aren’t they?

Sebastian: Yup.

Peter: Just “yup”? That’s not much of an answer! Yeah, Sebastian is more Techno, whereas I’m more of a Hardcore guy. When we play together, we meet halfway, using Techno elements with a hard, pounding bass drum. Sebastian has to speed up a little, whereas I slow down.

(They begin bickering)

Me: I can see what you mean about behaving like a married couple! I’ll wrap things up. How has this year’s Mission Techno been for you?

Peter: This year’s event has been really good, with all the different styles of Techno, which were well split. You got to hear rougher styles of Techno in the room we were playing in. Events like this work well when the crowd have a choice of what to listen to.

Me: Indeed! There was even some old school Trance here tonight.

Peter: Yes, and that’s great! I would like to hear more Trance at festivals, rather than this generic-sounding EDM. NatureOne ought to take a leaf out of Mission Techno’s book.

Me: The last track you played caught my attention – what was its name?

Peter: That track is one of my own, it’s called ‘Bavarian Barbarian’ and uses traditional Bavarian folk music.

Me: Brilliant! Techno and Bavarian folk eh, why on earth not. So will I be seeing you both here next year?

Sebastian: Think so.

Peter: Totally!!!

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