Much of the focus in the music industry is on the artist or the club, with little attention paid to the people who work behind the scenes that have just as much influence, if not more. DJB has listed the top 11 most important names in Berlin’s music scene, from producers to club owners, bookers and festival organisers, explaining their influence and how they got there. These are the people who we should take our hats off to in recognition of their hard work which has made Berlin the city it is today.
1. Dimitri Hegemann
More than just a club owner, Hegemann’s extensive work in Berlin has earned him the moniker of local Cultural Activist. His techno club Tresor, which was one of the first to open in 1991, manages to bring people from different corners of the world together and has been one of the most influential venues in Berlin. The club’s success is partially due to the fact that Hegemann was among the first to discover Detroit’s talent and bring it to Berlin. Behind Hegemann’s doors, where the likes of Derrick May, Juan Atkins and Jeff Mills are still heard, pounded the soundtrack of reunification. Hegemann is also the founder of Berlin Atonal, a five-day music and cultural festival which he continued in 2013 after taking a break in 1989. In a recent Tagesspiegel interview, he revealed that he is currently working on a cultural exchange project – Happy Locals – between Berlin and Detroit with the aim of creating a Harvard-like school for subculture where students can learn from his experience and then make their own.
2. Alexandra Linblad & Alma Ernst
Linblad and Ernst are the women that manage the likes of Âme, Henrik Schwarz and Tini at booking agency, Backroom Entertainment. In an interview with Resident Advisor, Ernst explains that the roots of her career started at 15 when she managed and booked bands. In 1994 Backroom Entertainment was then formed in the wake of a solar eclipse rave in Chile where her friend had made so many contacts that they decided to start their own agency, booking various artists via fax. Linblad joined the company in 1999 when Ernst approached her while she was working in a record store and the two have been working together ever since. Linblad and Ernst have seen the music industry progress but have always remained true to themselves by managing a diverse range of truly talented artists while developing a reputation for their particular sound.
3. Lutz Leichsenring
Lutz Leichsenring is the press officer for the Club Commission Berlin, a union for club owners and promoters. With over 120 members, the Commission is the biggest of its kind in Europe making Leichsenring an influential cultural spokesperson for the city. Leichsenring’s job for the Commission is concerned with topics such as the development of the city, GEMA and the development of electronic music. Recently Leichsenring has been concerned with the topics of Berlin’s ‘clubsterben’ and how increases in the price of property are having an effect on the club scene. Leichsenring also founded and operates Young Targets, an agency that is concerned with the distribution of jobs in the technology industry.
4. Hannes Bieger
A genius who spends 10-12 hours in his studio a day and has a true passion for his work, Hannes Biegler is one of the industry’s foremost producers and mixing engineers. He started with guitar lessons at the end of the 80s and was inspired by his dad’s British rock collection, which included the Rolling Stones, Pink Floyd and Led Zeppelin. Although his love for analog is no secret, he manages to delicately balance it with digital tuning. Most importantly, Biegler explained in an interview, that he doesn’t try to impose his own stamp on a track, but closely incorporates the artists’ vision. Having worked with some of Berlin’s most prominent labels such as Poker Flat, Life & Death, and Innervisions he is adequately labeled an exceptional talent whose output is seamless. His studio laden with comical mini-figures on the border between Kreuzberg and Mitte has produced some of Dixon and Steve Bug’s biggest deep house hits. While Bieger is mixing, tracking, overdubbing, consulting or producing gigs with artists he’ll capture their entertaining moments on film as a result of his passion for photography.
5. Juval Dieziger & Klenzendorf
Dieziger and Klezendorf are the genius’ behind Berlin’s Bar 25 – true visionaries who saw that clubbing was much more than a dark room in a warehouse. Bar 25 is the closest you'll come to Alice’s Wonderland – a playground where people could go for days on end to forget about responsibilities, meet like-minded kids and just ‘be’. The two started Bar 25 with an interim-use lease, drove a caravan that acted as a stereo system onto the property and then built a few wooden huts, creating one of Berlin’s most important urban legends. With their license up, they moved to Kater Holzig for four years and have now come full circle to their original property with Kater Blau, which is situated on the old grounds of Bar 25 having surprised investors, whom they outbid with the help of a Swiss pension fund, and won back their home. The restaurant, Fame is a continuation from the successful Kater Schmaus where you’ll be served quality meals with impressive wine. But there’s a lot more to the Kater folks than an epic party, they’ve also created the world’s most magical festival two hours from Berlin - “some place some where” – and are in the midst of opening a new urban district called Holzmarkt. This new multi-function project will home artists, creatives as well as music studios, a wellness center and a fitting random fish tank.
6. Sven Marquardt
There are few, if any, people in this world who have the power over a drunken queuing crowd like Sven Marquardt at the door of Berghain. Sven Marquardt’s strict door policy that silences people the moment they hit the metal barriers whereupon they are either ‘nein-ed’ or waved into the club have given rise to an online fascination with how to get behind the former East German power plant’s walls. When he’s not guarding Berghain’s doors, Marquardt works as a distinguished photographer – a career he started in the 80s when he shot to fame in the new wave scene in Prenzlauer Berg – for fetish or fashion labels and has recently published a memoir, Die Nacht ist Leben. Despite his hard look, laden in tattoos, black leather, piercings and rings, Marqhuardt has quite the sense of humour, and has told GQ that he once dressed up in white to mess with everybody. Whether you like him or not, he’s managed to preserve what Berghain is all about – acceptance and freedom – while managing to keep unwanted window shoppers out.
7. Mark Ernestus
Mark Ernestus is a music producer and owner of Hard Wax, the most authoritative electronic record store in Berlin. Ernestus’ musical passion is rooted in dub and reggae, as he told Red Bull Music Academy. Since it was a struggle to buy such records, Ernestus decided to import them himself and so Hard Wax was born in Kreuzberg shortly before the fall of the wall. As a direct importer of techno music from Detroit and Chicago, the record store became a pivotal part of the electronic club music scene in Berlin creating a direct connection to international artists across all genres worldwide. In 2001 Ernestus also started the monthly event, Wax Treatment, which blared the sound of dubstep and dancehall through that which it is meant to be played – Jamaican-style speakers known as Killasan, that were so iconic everyone faced them rather than the DJ. Ernestus’ numerous projects, co-founded with Moritz von Oswald, such as Chain Reaction, Main Street, Rhythm & Sound are the most influential German techno projects of the 90s.
8. Anastazja Moser & Sarah Miles
Moser and Miles are the founding team and directors of Berlin Community Radio (BCR) that broadcasts every angle from the creative scene in Berlin. The girls explained an interview that they originally started broadcasting a radio show entitled ‘Welcome To The Room’, where they invited various artists and musicians visiting Berlin, who didn’t grab anyone else’s attention, to the studio they set up at Farbfernseher. With an increase of followers, Moser and Miles grew to create ‘Berlin Community Radio’, broadcasting to those who live in Berlin, as well as those who are constantly in contact with its culture. The girls’ success has translated into both a popular Berlin and international following clearly evident when they won over 30% of the 29,000 votes for Project Future’s crowd funding prize competition. With their strong drive and motivation, Moser and Miles are constantly developing new ideas as they keep adding layers of new culture to Berlin.
9. Jonty Skrufff
You probably know Skrufff best for his residency at legendary club Sisyphos. When his DJ career started in 2004 he created a weekly radio show for the Ministry of Sound Radio before moving to Berlin in 2008 where he launched his own show, Berlin Soul. Skrufff’s work extends to his own press agency where he acts as a consultant for some of the world’s most important music conferences such as Amsterdam Dance Event (AD) and Sochi Winter Music Conference (SWMC). His witty and to-the-point music commentaries on his 80’s-looking site Skrufff.com is a clear demonstration that this guy is on it. Skrufff’s international presence combined with his broad range of expertise has led him to be acclaimed as an ‘industry guru’ and ‘dance music mogul’.
10. Mark Reeder
Manchester-born musician and producer Mark Reeder entered the Berlin scene in 1978 to feed his interest in Krautrock and experimental music. An article in the Tagesspiegel reveals that as a child he was “completely obsessed with music” and bought his first record at age four. While in Berlin, Reeder acted as the Factory Records representative for legendary bands Joy Division and ACR to eventually create his own label, MFS – ‘Masterminded for Success’, which is suspected to be a reference to the Ministerium für Staatsicherheit - the East German secret police. Reeder’s gift for uncovering hidden talents paved the way for Mick Hucknall of Simply Red and Paul van Dyk’s internationally acclaimed careers. Reed’s move to Berlin was also partially due to his fascination that the city was divided in two with each side knowing nothing about the other. Unbeknown to Reeder at the time, he managed to organize the first illegal performance of a West German band in the German Democratic Republic with the legendary ‘Die Toten Hosen’ whose music he engineered. Reeder’s movies ‘The Sound of Change – Berlin, Techno and the Fall of the Wall’ looked at the rise of techno as the soundtrack to the reunification of Germany’ while “B-Movie – Lust & Sounds in West Berlin’ is arguably the most accurate documentation of Berlin in the early 90s.
11. Matthias Roeingh aka Dr Motte
Until 1989, Mattias Roeingh led a relatively discrete life. In 1960 he was born in Spandau and tasted the scene in 1981 as a member of the Berlin underground funk band - “Toten Piloten” until he starting DJing in 1985. With experience demonstrating against the Vietnam War, Dr Motte created a peace demonstration by the Kufürstendamm of a particular type, uniting 150 people through music. “Peace, love and pancakes” was the motto of the first love parade in 1989 – peace for world peace, love for music and pancakes for the just distribution of food; ideals that are as relevant today as they were then. “I wanted to do something that would counterbalance all the negative and evil prevailing on our planet and decided that what we have to do is demonstrate for something”, he explained in an interview. Dr Motte’s initiative that grew to unite one million techno ravers from all corners to the world became as integral to Berlin as the wall once was. Eleven years ago, Dr Motte disassociated himself from the street parade because he felt it had turned into marketing gimmick, with little, if anything to do with its original principles. Today Dr Motte still works as a DJ, runs the Praxxiz label and actively campaigns against the forced removal of clubs from Berlin’s Spreeraum.