Connecting otherness with Don't DJ

We met Florian Meyer, known for his works under the name Don't DJ, and as a part of the Institut Für Feinmotorik and The Durian Brothers, not far from his home in Kreuzberg, where he has been living for the past five years. Before moving to Berlin, Florian studied philosophy and cognitive science in Freiburg and Karlsruhe, spent several years in Fukuoka, Japan, and grew close ties with Düsseldorf and its Salon des Amateurs.


Even though the first performances and parties of Florian took place when we were not able to walk yet, no subordination arose between us. Our conversation resembled a meeting with an old friend whom we have not seen for a while, and it seemed that even a few hours is not enough.

Florian is not inclined to divide the world into black and white. Exoticism and cultural appropriation, the connections between music and political movements, the nightlife in Berlin and beyond - there was a feeling that in everything that our conversation touched on, Florian could find a thoughtful balance.

Connecting otherness with Don't DJ

We met Florian Meyer, known for his works under the name Don't DJ, and as a part of the Institut Für Feinmotorik and The Durian Brothers, not far from his home in Kreuzberg, where he has been living for the past five years. Before moving to Berlin, Florian studied philosophy and cognitive science in Freiburg and Karlsruhe, spent several years in Fukuoka, Japan, and grew close ties with Düsseldorf and its Salon des Amateurs.


Even though the first performances and parties of Florian took place when we were not able to walk yet, no subordination arose between us. Our conversation resembled a meeting with an old friend whom we have not seen for a while, and it seemed that even a few hours is not enough.

Florian is not inclined to divide the world into black and white. Exoticism and cultural appropriation, the connections between music and political movements, the nightlife in Berlin and beyond - there was a feeling that in everything that our conversation touched on, Florian could find a thoughtful balance.

Connecting otherness with Don't DJ

We met Florian Meyer, known for his works under the name Don't DJ, and as a part of the Institut Für Feinmotorik and The Durian Brothers, not far from his home in Kreuzberg, where he has been living for the past five years. Before moving to Berlin, Florian studied philosophy and cognitive science in Freiburg and Karlsruhe, spent several years in Fukuoka, Japan, and grew close ties with Düsseldorf and its Salon des Amateurs.


Even though the first performances and parties of Florian took place when we were not able to walk yet, no subordination arose between us. Our conversation resembled a meeting with an old friend whom we have not seen for a while, and it seemed that even a few hours is not enough.

Florian is not inclined to divide the world into black and white. Exoticism and cultural appropriation, the connections between music and political movements, the nightlife in Berlin and beyond - there was a feeling that in everything that our conversation touched on, Florian could find a thoughtful balance.

Connecting otherness with Don't DJ

We met Florian Meyer, known for his works under the name Don't DJ, and as a part of the Institut Für Feinmotorik and The Durian Brothers, not far from his home in Kreuzberg, where he has been living for the past five years. Before moving to Berlin, Florian studied philosophy and cognitive science in Freiburg and Karlsruhe, spent several years in Fukuoka, Japan, and grew close ties with Düsseldorf and its Salon des Amateurs.


Even though the first performances and parties of Florian took place when we were not able to walk yet, no subordination arose between us. Our conversation resembled a meeting with an old friend whom we have not seen for a while, and it seemed that even a few hours is not enough.

Florian is not inclined to divide the world into black and white. Exoticism and cultural appropriation, the connections between music and political movements, the nightlife in Berlin and beyond - there was a feeling that in everything that our conversation touched on, Florian could find a thoughtful balance.

Connecting otherness with Don't DJ

We met Florian Meyer, known for his works under the name Don't DJ, and as a part of the Institut Für Feinmotorik and The Durian Brothers, not far from his home in Kreuzberg, where he has been living for the past five years. Before moving to Berlin, Florian studied philosophy and cognitive science in Freiburg and Karlsruhe, spent several years in Fukuoka, Japan, and grew close ties with Düsseldorf and its Salon des Amateurs.


Even though the first performances and parties of Florian took place when we were not able to walk yet, no subordination arose between us. Our conversation resembled a meeting with an old friend whom we have not seen for a while, and it seemed that even a few hours is not enough.

Florian is not inclined to divide the world into black and white. Exoticism and cultural appropriation, the connections between music and political movements, the nightlife in Berlin and beyond - there was a feeling that in everything that our conversation touched on, Florian could find a thoughtful balance.

Connecting otherness with Don't DJ

We met Florian Meyer, known for his works under the name Don't DJ, and as a part of the Institut Für Feinmotorik and The Durian Brothers, not far from his home in Kreuzberg, where he has been living for the past five years. Before moving to Berlin, Florian studied philosophy and cognitive science in Freiburg and Karlsruhe, spent several years in Fukuoka, Japan, and grew close ties with Düsseldorf and its Salon des Amateurs.


Even though the first performances and parties of Florian took place when we were not able to walk yet, no subordination arose between us. Our conversation resembled a meeting with an old friend whom we have not seen for a while, and it seemed that even a few hours is not enough.

Florian is not inclined to divide the world into black and white. Exoticism and cultural appropriation, the connections between music and political movements, the nightlife in Berlin and beyond - there was a feeling that in everything that our conversation touched on, Florian could find a thoughtful balance.

Connecting otherness with Don't DJ

We met Florian Meyer, known for his works under the name Don't DJ, and as a part of the Institut Für Feinmotorik and The Durian Brothers, not far from his home in Kreuzberg, where he has been living for the past five years. Before moving to Berlin, Florian studied philosophy and cognitive science in Freiburg and Karlsruhe, spent several years in Fukuoka, Japan, and grew close ties with Düsseldorf and its Salon des Amateurs.


Even though the first performances and parties of Florian took place when we were not able to walk yet, no subordination arose between us. Our conversation resembled a meeting with an old friend whom we have not seen for a while, and it seemed that even a few hours is not enough.

Florian is not inclined to divide the world into black and white. Exoticism and cultural appropriation, the connections between music and political movements, the nightlife in Berlin and beyond - there was a feeling that in everything that our conversation touched on, Florian could find a thoughtful balance.

Let's start with your earliest musical memories.

          The earliest memory I have is Boney M - Rivers of Babylon. I just liked it when I was a child because I thought there was a magical thing between the soothing male and the female voices, which are quite strong, quite pushy.

          When I made the record called Authentic Exoticism, probably my most popular one, I have to talk a lot about exoticism, because it was the stupid idea to call it that way. I realized that there is a lot going on this early Boney M release that became а theme later on. The faces of this music are black people, mostly from the Caribbean, there were three women and one man, but they did not play it. Even in the beginning, all the voices, they faked it on stage. It was a complete fake. I don’t know too much about it, but there are some complaints about how it was one German guy called Frank Farian who exploited them. I still have the 7-inch of this single, which features those three women and the guy, half-naked, and in chains. There is a strange eroticism to it. So you have black people in chains on the record produced by a white guy who made millions on it. The male singer, or a male actor - he was harshly complaining about being ripped off. So you have a lot of these themes - cultural appropriation, racial exploitation, eroticised exoticism - already in the cover!

So now you are giving the lectures about exoticism.

          It came when I released the Authentic Exoticism record. The text inside the record caught the interest of a few festivals who have an afternoon program of talks, Unsound, for example. They invited me for a talk about the exoticism and I still like to do it. It is kind of a fun topic.

Fun?

          Yeah, for me it’s a really fun topic because it is a bit controversial, and there are very different aspects to it. This usually makes the talks and discussions very lively and you get real and immediate feedback, much different from talking about circular notation systems for example. Over the years since a term exoticism was coined, very different perspectives got assigned to it. It’s fun for me to propose a broader picture and encourage a critical reflection of that concept.

Let's start with your earliest musical memories.

          The earliest memory I have is Boney M - Rivers of Babylon. I just liked it when I was a child because I thought there was a magical thing between the soothing male and the female voices, which are quite strong, quite pushy.

          When I made the record called Authentic Exoticism, probably my most popular one, I have to talk a lot about exoticism, because it was the stupid idea to call it that way. I realized that there is a lot going on this early Boney M release that became а theme later on. The faces of this music are black people, mostly from the Caribbean, there were three women and one man, but they did not play it. Even in the beginning, all the voices, they faked it on stage. It was a complete fake. I don’t know too much about it, but there are some complaints about how it was one German guy called Frank Farian who exploited them. I still have the 7-inch of this single, which features those three women and the guy, half-naked, and in chains. There is a strange eroticism to it. So you have black people in chains on the record produced by a white guy who made millions on it. The male singer, or a male actor - he was harshly complaining about being ripped off. So you have a lot of these themes - cultural appropriation, racial exploitation, eroticised exoticism - already in the cover!

So now you are giving the lectures about exoticism.

          It came when I released the Authentic Exoticism record. The text inside the record caught the interest of a few festivals who have an afternoon program of talks, Unsound, for example. They invited me for a talk about the exoticism and I still like to do it. It is kind of a fun topic.

Fun?

          Yeah, for me it’s a really fun topic because it is a bit controversial, and there are very different aspects to it. This usually makes the talks and discussions very lively and you get real and immediate feedback, much different from talking about circular notation systems for example. Over the years since a term exoticism was coined, very different perspectives got assigned to it. It’s fun for me to propose a broader picture and encourage a critical reflection of that concept.

What perspective do you choose to cover talking about this topic?

          There is one guy called Victor Segalen. He was a naval doctor in the late 19th - early 20th century. He got to China and some South-East Asian countries and was very much fascinated with other cultures. At the same time in Europe, there was this phenomenon called exoticism. People were getting excited about the new styles from different cultures and just incorporating them. I think when the term was coined it was stamped by the right, accusing people who are into exoticism of neglecting their own culture and propelling the death of it by showing too much interest in other cultures.

          Victor Segalen was pretty much pro getting into other cultures, enjoying their music and also their otherness itself. So he was against those far-right people, or let’s call them traditionalists. But he was also against some of his fellow lovers of exoticism or exotic music because he felt that if you just do it from the romantic perspective, you don’t get the whole experience. What he was after, was actually some otherness that is so fundamental to your cultural identity that it shocks your culturally and traditionally formed consciousness and shakes you with something that is so completely different. It affects you in the way that it pushes you to rethink your own identity. That’s what he was in for, and I like this perspective. Nowadays, if you use the term exoticism, it’s mostly coming from far left people that accuse people of cultural appropriation - which surely is true in some cases but the phenomenon as a whole is more complex I believe.

You mean perceiving it from the negative viewpoint?

          Yes, now this word is mostly used in a negative context. It means that you just take something from the other culture and don't care about that culture. There is something to it too, but it neglects this insight of fundamental otherness if you perceive it as such. Exploring other cultures, being fascinated by them can actually enrich your experience of yourself and the world, open yourself to new knowledge and a new picture of humankind as a whole.

It’s interesting, because there are a lot of different opinions on exoticism, especially the negative side of it.

          Yeah, it’s a complex phenomenon. I believe that some people would just walk by some place and the music is so catchy, and they go “Oh, it’s just catchy music, I wanna dance, I wanna enjoy it.” Why bother them with:

What perspective do you choose to cover talking about this topic?

          There is one guy called Victor Segalen. He was a naval doctor in the late 19th - early 20th century. He got to China and some South-East Asian countries and was very much fascinated with other cultures. At the same time in Europe, there was this phenomenon called exoticism. People were getting excited about the new styles from different cultures and just incorporating them. I think when the term was coined it was stamped by the right, accusing people who are into exoticism of neglecting their own culture and propelling the death of it by showing too much interest in other cultures.

          Victor Segalen was pretty much pro getting into other cultures, enjoying their music and also their otherness itself. So he was against those far-right people, or let’s call them traditionalists. But he was also against some of his fellow lovers of exoticism or exotic music because he felt that if you just do it from the romantic perspective, you don’t get the whole experience. What he was after, was actually some otherness that is so fundamental to your cultural identity that it shocks your culturally and traditionally formed consciousness and shakes you with something that is so completely different. It affects you in the way that it pushes you to rethink your own identity. That’s what he was in for, and I like this perspective. Nowadays, if you use the term exoticism, it’s mostly coming from far left people that accuse people of cultural appropriation - which surely is true in some cases but the phenomenon as a whole is more complex I believe.

You mean perceiving it from the negative viewpoint?

          Yes, now this word is mostly used in a negative context. It means that you just take something from the other culture and don't care about that culture. There is something to it too, but it neglects this insight of fundamental otherness if you perceive it as such. Exploring other cultures, being fascinated by them can actually enrich your experience of yourself and the world, open yourself to new knowledge and a new picture of humankind as a whole.

It’s interesting, because there are a lot of different opinions on exoticism, especially the negative side of it.

          Yeah, it’s a complex phenomenon. I believe that some people would just walk by some place and the music is so catchy, and they go “Oh, it’s just catchy music, I wanna dance, I wanna enjoy it.” Why bother them with:

“Hey, do you know what the tribe who makes this music is, and how bad their situation is, and you should know everything about it before you dance.” I mean, it has some truth to it, but there is also the truth to simply enjoying it, and feel like “Yeah, my body wants to dance. I wanna go on with it.”

“Hey, do you know what the tribe who makes this music is, and how bad their situation is, and you should know everything about it before you dance.” I mean, it has some truth to it, but there is also the truth to simply enjoying it, and feel like “Yeah, my body wants to dance. I wanna go on with it.”

But, I think sometimes people try to speculate on something that is different, say, the post-soviet thing, or African music.

          Speculation, yes. For me, it is also a complex phenomenon. I talked about it at some lectures, because people want to discuss it all the time when I speak about exoticism. One guy told me that he has some friends in Paris, who are getting rich of this. They travel around Africa and collect some records for a super low price. The records sell poorly there. It’s easy to get them for nothing, and then resell them in Paris or London for a very high price and make a living out of it. There are two aspects to it: One is that these people are using their knowledge of music, their access to means of transportation and a market to exploit a record owner in Africa who could sell the record for thousand euro to the guy in London, if he puts it out on Discogs but he doesn't know about Discogs, and that will never happen. The other aspect is that guy in Africa might throw out this record the next day because he doesn’t have any use of it anymore. Let’s assume it’s the last record of it’s kind, this guy gives it to the guy in London, and he puts it on Soulseek. Then this record is back into the world, and it’s kind of preserved, while otherwise it would have been lost for good. From this viewpoint, it’s a good thing even though it’s ambivalent.

But, I think sometimes people try to speculate on something that is different, say, the post-soviet thing, or African music.

          Speculation, yes. For me, it is also a complex phenomenon. I talked about it at some lectures, because people want to discuss it all the time when I speak about exoticism. One guy told me that he has some friends in Paris, who are getting rich of this. They travel around Africa and collect some records for a super low price. The records sell poorly there. It’s easy to get them for nothing, and then resell them in Paris or London for a very high price and make a living out of it. There are two aspects to it: One is that these people are using their knowledge of music, their access to means of transportation and a market to exploit a record owner in Africa who could sell the record for thousand euro to the guy in London, if he puts it out on Discogs but he doesn't know about Discogs, and that will never happen. The other aspect is that guy in Africa might throw out this record the next day because he doesn’t have any use of it anymore. Let’s assume it’s the last record of it’s kind, this guy gives it to the guy in London, and he puts it on Soulseek. Then this record is back into the world, and it’s kind of preserved, while otherwise it would have been lost for good. From this viewpoint, it’s a good thing even though it’s ambivalent.

          I was present at a talk with the guy who releases stuff from Africa, Michael Braid. He goes “Yeah, I pay them decent wages,” and someone asked how much and he is like "50 euro." And people go “You pay them 50 euro for the whole recording, but you are releasing a record, selling a thousand copies, and manage to subsidize your lifestyle with having a flat and stuff in Europe! You should give them more money!” And he is, like, “I also thought so, but if I give them 50 euro, it is about 2-month wage for people who live in that village. If I give them more, it would cause a lot of envy and disrupt the social structure of the entire village. It would wreck the community. If someone suddenly gets 3 000 euros, he would be the richest guy!” It’s complex. What is he supposed to do? The easiest way to avoid that criticism would be to not engage in his documentary efforts anymore - then again he documents beautiful music that enriches a lot of minds around the world often documenting the last instrument of it’s kind or the last person who can play it.

          There is one very nice example. I’ve read somewhere that when the Osmans were trying to conquer Europe, they were stalled somewhere around Vienna. They built camps and had a daily life. They would play music that would travel across the front line and people in Vienna would pick up rhythms they hear from the other side. 

          I was present at a talk with the guy who releases stuff from Africa, Michael Braid. He goes “Yeah, I pay them decent wages,” and someone asked how much and he is like "50 euro." And people go “You pay them 50 euro for the whole recording, but you are releasing a record, selling a thousand copies, and manage to subsidize your lifestyle with having a flat and stuff in Europe! You should give them more money!” And he is, like, “I also thought so, but if I give them 50 euro, it is about 2-month wage for people who live in that village. If I give them more, it would cause a lot of envy and disrupt the social structure of the entire village. It would wreck the community. If someone suddenly gets 3 000 euros, he would be the richest guy!” It’s complex. What is he supposed to do? The easiest way to avoid that criticism would be to not engage in his documentary efforts anymore - then again he documents beautiful music that enriches a lot of minds around the world often documenting the last instrument of it’s kind or the last person who can play it.

          There is one very nice example. I’ve read somewhere that when the Osmans were trying to conquer Europe, they were stalled somewhere around Vienna. They built camps and had a daily life. They would play music that would travel across the front line and people in Vienna would pick up rhythms they hear from the other side. 

So at that point, there was a war, they were enemies, and still, musicians would pick up rhythms because they don’t have any problems with it. It was just interesting rhythms. For them, it was more important than the fact that it belonged to their enemies. I like this example because it shows that music possesses this kind of a free-traveling aspect.

So at that point, there was a war, they were enemies, and still, musicians would pick up rhythms because they don’t have any problems with it. It was just interesting rhythms. For them, it was more important than the fact that it belonged to their enemies. I like this example because it shows that music possesses this kind of a free-traveling aspect.

          I think it is a positive thing: intercultural exchange and communication. Being like: you shouldn’t play that rhythm because it’s a cultural appropriation or it belongs to the enemies. I feel that’s naive in terms of how culture works. Every single culture is based on stuff that was taken from other cultures.

Do you use this kind of inspiration in your production?

          Well, I’m really bad when it comes to producing anything I want to. I do have inspirations. I listen to something when I walk by and think “Yeah, I want to make something like that.” But then I come home, start producing, and it ends in a completely different way. Inspiration came from there, but you will not be able to track it down, because once I start working on a track, the track mostly produces its own needs after a short time. I try to do something; I start a set, but then I realize that “Well, I didn’t think about hi-hat, but it definitely needs it. It is calling for a hi-hat.” My process of producing is very much like this. I start something which is mostly influenced by sounds I heard before, but it doesn't begin to ask me for additional stuff, if there is no communication between me and that track I abandon it and try a new one.

I know you’ve studied philosophy at university? Do you view music from the angle of your knowledge?

          Connection to music is very loose I would say. Music is a very free-form art. Connecting music to political movements or something is easy. Every political movement has their song, but music is very free in that context. The same song, if you change the lyrics, could also work for the opposed movement. For example, the gabber scene, which is partly radical left, partly radical right - no one cares; punk music or skinhead - it works for the far left or far right as well, it’s same chords, same pace, same rhythms. You just have to change the lyrics. Otherwise, they would hate it from the bottom of their hearts.

          So, I mean, there is no real direct connection. I wouldn't say I make this or that kind of music because it resembles an ideology or philosophy. I mean, it might be enjoyable at times, but it’s not my favorite music that comes out of there. The other way round works too - getting inspiration in philosophical thought from music. Then again, music itself does not give a fuck! Music is smarter than that!

Do you agree that music can be a powerful tool if you want to change something?

          I think it often comes down to a question whether and how far you instrumentalize the music for political means. 

          I think it is a positive thing: intercultural exchange and communication. Being like: you shouldn’t play that rhythm because it’s a cultural appropriation or it belongs to the enemies. I feel that’s naive in terms of how culture works. Every single culture is based on stuff that was taken from other cultures.

Do you use this kind of inspiration in your production?

          Well, I’m really bad when it comes to producing anything I want to. I do have inspirations. I listen to something when I walk by and think “Yeah, I want to make something like that.” But then I come home, start producing, and it ends in a completely different way. Inspiration came from there, but you will not be able to track it down, because once I start working on a track, the track mostly produces its own needs after a short time. I try to do something; I start a set, but then I realize that “Well, I didn’t think about hi-hat, but it definitely needs it. It is calling for a hi-hat.” My process of producing is very much like this. I start something which is mostly influenced by sounds I heard before, but it doesn't begin to ask me for additional stuff, if there is no communication between me and that track I abandon it and try a new one.

I know you’ve studied philosophy at university? Do you view music from the angle of your knowledge?

          Connection to music is very loose I would say. Music is a very free-form art. Connecting music to political movements or something is easy. Every political movement has their song, but music is very free in that context. The same song, if you change the lyrics, could also work for the opposed movement. For example, the gabber scene, which is partly radical left, partly radical right - no one cares; punk music or skinhead - it works for the far left or far right as well, it’s same chords, same pace, same rhythms. You just have to change the lyrics. Otherwise, they would hate it from the bottom of their hearts.

          So, I mean, there is no real direct connection. I wouldn't say I make this or that kind of music because it resembles an ideology or philosophy. I mean, it might be enjoyable at times, but it’s not my favorite music that comes out of there. The other way round works too - getting inspiration in philosophical thought from music. Then again, music itself does not give a fuck! Music is smarter than that!

Do you agree that music can be a powerful tool if you want to change something?

          I think it often comes down to a question whether and how far you instrumentalize the music for political means. 

How much does it make sense, to what extent it is unfair to the music in a way because you could also have a perspective that you could enjoy music without any knowledge of who is doing it, what are the concepts or intentions of people who made it.

How much does it make sense, to what extent it is unfair to the music in a way because you could also have a perspective that you could enjoy music without any knowledge of who is doing it, what are the concepts or intentions of people who made it.

          Maybe you diminish its potential by perceiving it through the glasses of a certain ideology. But then again, we always connect it to something, nothing comes to you without a context. We always connect it to certain youth cultures, political movements. You have these discussions very often now. For example, the club scene in Berlin, I think, is a bit avant-garde in terms of integrating women or the queer scene towards performing or having balanced line-ups at festivals. So people naturally talk about it - some feel it’s unfair, others feel it’s right about time, and it's important.

          But then again, if you come to instrumentalizing the whole thing for political means, who cares about the music anymore? How important is the music in it? I would say there are no easy solutions to it, because we live in a distinct form of society. If you want to change it, you sometimes have to take drastic measures, subjugate the music under a specific cause, which in itself is not necessarily something you like to do. On the other hand, if you go to the people who run festivals and there are only men playing you are like “Why didn’t you invite any women?” It's very easy for them to say “Yeah, well, I didn’t find any women that make good music or music that is fitting.” So that always proves a very easy argument for not getting your ass up and doing your research or showing some effort. This is the question that always comes up. How much do you want to instrumentalize music for changing society? How much is that worth to you and where do you put the limits, because at some point it can turn into the negative and produce strange results, because music is not itself connected to class, race, gender or age - it doesn’t care who produces it. If you choose to only listen to music by artists regarding a specific identity, you limit yourself a lot.

          Maybe you diminish its potential by perceiving it through the glasses of a certain ideology. But then again, we always connect it to something, nothing comes to you without a context. We always connect it to certain youth cultures, political movements. You have these discussions very often now. For example, the club scene in Berlin, I think, is a bit avant-garde in terms of integrating women or the queer scene towards performing or having balanced line-ups at festivals. So people naturally talk about it - some feel it’s unfair, others feel it’s right about time, and it's important.

          But then again, if you come to instrumentalizing the whole thing for political means, who cares about the music anymore? How important is the music in it? I would say there are no easy solutions to it, because we live in a distinct form of society. If you want to change it, you sometimes have to take drastic measures, subjugate the music under a specific cause, which in itself is not necessarily something you like to do. On the other hand, if you go to the people who run festivals and there are only men playing you are like “Why didn’t you invite any women?” It's very easy for them to say “Yeah, well, I didn’t find any women that make good music or music that is fitting.” So that always proves a very easy argument for not getting your ass up and doing your research or showing some effort. This is the question that always comes up. How much do you want to instrumentalize music for changing society? How much is that worth to you and where do you put the limits, because at some point it can turn into the negative and produce strange results, because music is not itself connected to class, race, gender or age - it doesn’t care who produces it. If you choose to only listen to music by artists regarding a specific identity, you limit yourself a lot.

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¨Type image caption here (optional)

          When I was a hardcore punk skateboard kid, we were highly politicized. It was the mid-90s, and in Germany we had a similarly strong right scene like it is today. They were attacking homes of people seeking asylum. So we formed a militant group and tried to protect the homes of asylum seekers when we knew that they are going to be attacked. At some point, the violence got a bit out of hand, in one fight mostly. Then our group was pretty big, and we had lots of discussions about it. Eventually, the group would split into one more militant group and the other group which I was the part of, started to organise punk concerts to get the youth on our side. Not to politicize them, but to offer kids something cooler than the right could. That worked well and left an imprint on that small city I lived in. Looking back it was totally worth instrumentalizing the music for our political means.

          Coming back to the political aspect, back then we would discuss a lot how we justify putting these often male punk bands on stages with everyone facing them like in church or other organizations we despised when we actually wanted to promote an egalitarian society. Then during the 90s techno was coming round and we were having these parties in huge basements. You would go there as a group of friends, and there would be other groups, and the groups would dance in circles and intermingle through the night.

          When I was a hardcore punk skateboard kid, we were highly politicized. It was the mid-90s, and in Germany we had a similarly strong right scene like it is today. They were attacking homes of people seeking asylum. So we formed a militant group and tried to protect the homes of asylum seekers when we knew that they are going to be attacked. At some point, the violence got a bit out of hand, in one fight mostly. Then our group was pretty big, and we had lots of discussions about it. Eventually, the group would split into one more militant group and the other group which I was the part of, started to organise punk concerts to get the youth on our side. Not to politicize them, but to offer kids something cooler than the right could. That worked well and left an imprint on that small city I lived in. Looking back it was totally worth instrumentalizing the music for our political means.

          Coming back to the political aspect, back then we would discuss a lot how we justify putting these often male punk bands on stages with everyone facing them like in church or other organizations we despised when we actually wanted to promote an egalitarian society. Then during the 90s techno was coming round and we were having these parties in huge basements. You would go there as a group of friends, and there would be other groups, and the groups would dance in circles and intermingle through the night.

Sometimes I would discover the DJ only after a few hours, as there was no stage, and he was tucked away at some corner. That is when we realized “Wow, it’s not important who plays music, you don’t need to see that person. It’s just about the music and having fun together. It’s not about having stardom."

Sometimes I would discover the DJ only after a few hours, as there was no stage, and he was tucked away at some corner. That is when we realized “Wow, it’s not important who plays music, you don’t need to see that person. It’s just about the music and having fun together. It’s not about having stardom."

          And if you liked the style of the DJ, you would probably go back to when he is on the lineup, but you didn’t look at him all the time. It was not that important. So for me, as a little skate-punk, ideological reasons played a role in opening up to that new subculture - also, I was intrigued by the new sounds!

So, when everything started?

          I started DJing some time before making music. I don’t really know where I played for the first time. That is a bit blurry. I think it might have been in some forest parties we did back then. Or in that concert-hang-out-space that grew out of our efforts to organize concerts. It was the mid-90s when I started DJing. Like i said: I liked it for political reasons, too.

          Well, regarding making music, I started in 1996 with the three guys from Institut Für Feinmotorik. We were all DJs, and we were hanging around, smoking dope and listening to records. You often have this situation with the turntable, when the needle will end up in a lock groove because it isn't automatically taken back. So you end up listening to the locked groove if you are too stoned and too lazy to turn over the record. We thought that the locked groove doesn’t sound so bad. You also get some rhythm out of it. So we played around with EQs, and then put all our turntables together and just played locked grooves. We felt it works, so we made two records straight away.

What has changed for you since those times?

          Well, the most important factor in terms of change is that by now I can live from music. Before, I was just into listening to music and having fun doing it. Now I also see what it has done to me, in my life, and I’m quite happy to travel nearly every weekend. I love traveling and seeing different places. Mostly it’s very nice people who invite me. They want to show me the town and want to give me a good time. I always take some extra day if I go to a city I don’t know, they show me around, and I feel really blessed for that. Also making tracks is a form of expressing yourself - sometimes i get personal feedback and appreciation from people which is really humbling and encouraging, a feeling you can’t buy.

When did you move back to Berlin? Why did you decide to come back?

          It’s been five years by now. It was just a pragmatic decision at that time. My girlfriend and me, we studied in Karlsruhe. I went to Fukuoka for some time and then went back to Karlsruhe just for a few months and graduated. I felt that I needed to move to a bigger city, but I didn’t care which one. I wasn’t especially eager to go to Berlin or even stay in Germany, but money wise, it was just the easiest way. My girlfriend’s father was an old squatter. The house he lived in and also the other ones in the block were all squatted in the 80s. Eventually, they found the commune and bought the houses very cheap at that point, and we joined that commune. The rent in those places is quite low, so it was an excellent opportunity to go to the city and not pay too much. That’s how I manage to live from music now. If I had a regular rent, I would need a second job or make more accessible music. Money is still very tight, and if I make an extra coin it goes straight into my label DISK - I love putting out stuff I like with beautiful covers, but there is no way making it commercially sustainable it seems. Still, seeing those records come into existence is a very rewarding feeling for me.

          And if you liked the style of the DJ, you would probably go back to when he is on the lineup, but you didn’t look at him all the time. It was not that important. So for me, as a little skate-punk, ideological reasons played a role in opening up to that new subculture - also, I was intrigued by the new sounds!

So, when everything started?

          I started DJing some time before making music. I don’t really know where I played for the first time. That is a bit blurry. I think it might have been in some forest parties we did back then. Or in that concert-hang-out-space that grew out of our efforts to organize concerts. It was the mid-90s when I started DJing. Like i said: I liked it for political reasons, too.

          Well, regarding making music, I started in 1996 with the three guys from Institut Für Feinmotorik. We were all DJs, and we were hanging around, smoking dope and listening to records. You often have this situation with the turntable, when the needle will end up in a lock groove because it isn't automatically taken back. So you end up listening to the locked groove if you are too stoned and too lazy to turn over the record. We thought that the locked groove doesn’t sound so bad. You also get some rhythm out of it. So we played around with EQs, and then put all our turntables together and just played locked grooves. We felt it works, so we made two records straight away.

What has changed for you since those times?

          Well, the most important factor in terms of change is that by now I can live from music. Before, I was just into listening to music and having fun doing it. Now I also see what it has done to me, in my life, and I’m quite happy to travel nearly every weekend. I love traveling and seeing different places. Mostly it’s very nice people who invite me. They want to show me the town and want to give me a good time. I always take some extra day if I go to a city I don’t know, they show me around, and I feel really blessed for that. Also making tracks is a form of expressing yourself - sometimes i get personal feedback and appreciation from people which is really humbling and encouraging, a feeling you can’t buy.

When did you move back to Berlin? Why did you decide to come back?

          It’s been five years by now. It was just a pragmatic decision at that time. My girlfriend and me, we studied in Karlsruhe. I went to Fukuoka for some time and then went back to Karlsruhe just for a few months and graduated. I felt that I needed to move to a bigger city, but I didn’t care which one. I wasn’t especially eager to go to Berlin or even stay in Germany, but money wise, it was just the easiest way. My girlfriend’s father was an old squatter. The house he lived in and also the other ones in the block were all squatted in the 80s. Eventually, they found the commune and bought the houses very cheap at that point, and we joined that commune. The rent in those places is quite low, so it was an excellent opportunity to go to the city and not pay too much. That’s how I manage to live from music now. If I had a regular rent, I would need a second job or make more accessible music. Money is still very tight, and if I make an extra coin it goes straight into my label DISK - I love putting out stuff I like with beautiful covers, but there is no way making it commercially sustainable it seems. Still, seeing those records come into existence is a very rewarding feeling for me.

What do you think about Berlin nightlife now in general? It seems that now people have a rather consumer attitude to music.

          Well, there is so much complain about the tourists' scene - it is funny. Yeah, some people say it sucks or whatever, but I feel we wouldn’t have this huge club scene in Berlin if not for the tourists. I think you have to see what you get. If you want your audience to be super aware, highly politicized, superconscious people, you will end up with five friends. We have these parties in Berlin when sometimes I go to a place very early, cause I think “Wow, these two concerts are the hype, everyone wants to see it, I should be early, because it will be so crowded,” and then there is so many other stuff going on, you end up in there with only friends of the band and some friends of the promoter and you are the only paying guest. So you also have that.

          Of course, you would like people to get involved and to be conscious about what they are doing there, but if you can have a good party which is financed by people who don’t care, who just want to have a good party, I feel like it’s also a good thing. Sometimes you can party with people who are not completely down your alley because you all just want to have a good time - nothing wrong with that.

          I had some good parties where most of the people were tourists, and they didn’t give a shit about what kind of music was playing. It was just their time in Berlin. They didn’t know anything about the style they heard at that point, and it didn’t matter at all, because they just wanted to get drunk or have a good time and it still can be a really good party! Who knows: maybe it even has a positive impact on them and at home they start researching who was that cool girl who was djing or what was that strange political agenda they were promoting at that venue? So I don’t mind that too much, to be honest. You can have really fun parties, with people who do not care too much.

What do you think about Berlin nightlife now in general? It seems that now people have a rather consumer attitude to music.

          Well, there is so much complain about the tourists' scene - it is funny. Yeah, some people say it sucks or whatever, but I feel we wouldn’t have this huge club scene in Berlin if not for the tourists. I think you have to see what you get. If you want your audience to be super aware, highly politicized, superconscious people, you will end up with five friends. We have these parties in Berlin when sometimes I go to a place very early, cause I think “Wow, these two concerts are the hype, everyone wants to see it, I should be early, because it will be so crowded,” and then there is so many other stuff going on, you end up in there with only friends of the band and some friends of the promoter and you are the only paying guest. So you also have that.

          Of course, you would like people to get involved and to be conscious about what they are doing there, but if you can have a good party which is financed by people who don’t care, who just want to have a good party, I feel like it’s also a good thing. Sometimes you can party with people who are not completely down your alley because you all just want to have a good time - nothing wrong with that.

          I had some good parties where most of the people were tourists, and they didn’t give a shit about what kind of music was playing. It was just their time in Berlin. They didn’t know anything about the style they heard at that point, and it didn’t matter at all, because they just wanted to get drunk or have a good time and it still can be a really good party! Who knows: maybe it even has a positive impact on them and at home they start researching who was that cool girl who was djing or what was that strange political agenda they were promoting at that venue? So I don’t mind that too much, to be honest. You can have really fun parties, with people who do not care too much.

There is another aspect. Sometimes you can get a bit bored of discussions you have over and over, and you do not want to go out to have more discussions on the same topic. You just want to relax and have a fun time and don’t give a fuck. I mean, I care a lot about community life, politics and stuff like that, but sometimes you don’t give a fuck and want to have a good party with friends.

There is another aspect. Sometimes you can get a bit bored of discussions you have over and over, and you do not want to go out to have more discussions on the same topic. You just want to relax and have a fun time and don’t give a fuck. I mean, I care a lot about community life, politics and stuff like that, but sometimes you don’t give a fuck and want to have a good party with friends.

Do you remember the feeling when you last played for a “hungry” audience? Did you feel that you were doing something special for them?

          I can say that, in general, if I travel far East, people are more open and appreciative of new music, and they really dig it. They are easier to excite, compared to, say, Berlin. I mean, we have wonderful crowds in Berlin too, but there is a kind of phenomenon in Berlin that there is so much on offer, that whatever you come up with, people will always say “Yeah, I know that guy from the 70s, he did all that, I heard him playing yesterday.” There are so many opportunities to get amazing experiences, that you often have people with this kind of bored attitude, because they are kind of overfed. But if I’m playing in some places that don’t have so much to offer, especially regarding different types of music, like regular club night every week with mostly the same stuff, there people are highly appreciative, and it’s really fulfilling to play an audience like that. I always try to find a path that challenges the audience but doesn’t alienate them, when an audience is willing to go far out with you, that can make for an amazing trip.

Do you remember the feeling when you last played for a “hungry” audience? Did you feel that you were doing something special for them?

          I can say that, in general, if I travel far East, people are more open and appreciative of new music, and they really dig it. They are easier to excite, compared to, say, Berlin. I mean, we have wonderful crowds in Berlin too, but there is a kind of phenomenon in Berlin that there is so much on offer, that whatever you come up with, people will always say “Yeah, I know that guy from the 70s, he did all that, I heard him playing yesterday.” There are so many opportunities to get amazing experiences, that you often have people with this kind of bored attitude, because they are kind of overfed. But if I’m playing in some places that don’t have so much to offer, especially regarding different types of music, like regular club night every week with mostly the same stuff, there people are highly appreciative, and it’s really fulfilling to play an audience like that. I always try to find a path that challenges the audience but doesn’t alienate them, when an audience is willing to go far out with you, that can make for an amazing trip.

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Text: Maya Baklanova
Photo: Maya Baklanova

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