As the focal point of the techno revolution, Berlin is bursting at the seams with DJs all working in some way under the umbrella of electronic music. Yet very few turn to Christian pop bands for inspiration.
Godly Grooves II: rare Christian music repackaged for 2011
On the 2009 compilation "Godly Grooves," Berlin DJs Arok and Scientist raided second-hand record stores, flea markets and online auction sites to build a library of dusty rarities – primarily from the 70s and 80s – from which they built their first compilation.
The mix was limited to 100 physical copies but caused a sensation in the German music press. Virtually every reviewer praised the DJs' inspired combination of religious lyrics and quirky retro compositions that throw a light onto a hitherto completely overlooked genre of German music. After two years of digging even deeper into this bizarre corner of Germany's musical past, the pair are back with "Godly Grooves II."
DJ Scientist (Guenter Stoeppel) recently spoke to Deutsche Welle about the compilation, which is being released just in time for Easter.
DW: How did you initially come up with the concept for the Godly Grooves compilation?
DJ Scientist: Arok and I are record collectors and we are always on the look-out for new, exciting, obscure records. I already had one or two Christian records. The first record I had with some kind of funky beat was by a band called Baltroweit Gruppe. I thought it was really interesting. Then by chance a friend gave me another religious record which was even more funky, and I thought, 'There must be so much music like this on religious record labels that no one knows about. We have to find this music.' And that's how Godly Grooves was born.
Was it easy to find the music to put the compilation together?
Not really, no. All of these records are really rare. We searched second-hand stores, collectors' sites, flea markets. A Christian music collector in Switzerland helped us and even sold us a couple of records, but usually it's very hard to find this kind of music. I even contacted some of the old labels to see if they still had any of these records, and in one case I bought the label's entire back catalogue. They still had all the records in their basement!
Once you had all these records together, what were you looking for musically to include on the compilation?
Arok and I come from a hip-hop background so we are looking for breaks: a funky groove, a drum beat and mostly good instrumental parts. Sometimes we only took a few seconds from these songs and put them together. So for us it was OK if only 20 seconds of a song was worth listening to because we could still use that. It's all original, German Christian music, but sometimes we only used a few seconds. Sometimes we mixed a drum beat from one record with a guitar from another. It's all original, but there was a lot of editing involved to keep it interesting.
With the majority of the bands featured now defunct and most of the musicians uncredited and unknown, the aura of mystery surrounding the music adds to the compilation's appeal
After all that digging around, are you now a dedicated fan of rare Christian funk?
Well, you have to know that most of these religious records are not funk records. Most have a pop vibe, some are more rock. But most of them are actually very cheesy and you can't really listen to them if you are into modern music. It's very strange music and not easy to listen to. So on most of the records that we have, there's only one good song out of ten.
Do any of the original artists who recorded these albums know that their music has been repackaged for a modern audience?
It's interesting that some of these bands worked as collectives. So in some cases, the individual artists were never mentioned. But we did contact some of them personally to get some of the records. Many times a label was never involved though; they released everything privately. But of course a lot of them know about the mix.
Is the Godly Grooves concept totally new or has anyone else in Germany done this before?
It's definitely totally new. Once we started Godly Grooves we found out that one famous DJ from the UK, DJ Format, released a mix called Holy Shit, but that was mostly American Christian music, and in any case, there is a lot of music from the States with a Christian slant which is actually released on regular labels. It's acceptable to the mainstream. The special thing about Godly Grooves is that this German Christian music has its own style. The music in that genre sounds like nothing else, which makes it unique. And yes, we were the first to dig this all out and put it together!
So the music itself is very niche and the concept of compiling it all is very new; did that influence your decision then to limit the number of physical copies to 100?
We wanted to do something special. Although the mix was very successful, it's still niche music. It's for a small circle of hardcore music fans, really. Although the first mix was also offered as a free download, and that became very popular with "regular people" simply for the fact that they'd never heard this kind of music before.
DJ Scientist says unless more music can be found, a third Godly Grooves mix looks highly unlikely.
Is Godly Grooves III likely to see the light of day?
We said no. Both compilations incorporate more than fifty songs, and we talked about doing some kind of "Best of" compilation featuring songs in their entirety. But as far as the compilation is concerned, by the time we did Godly Grooves II, we had already dug so deep for the music, I don't really think it’s going to be possible to find more material. But who knows. If anyone out there has some records we don’t know about...
Text: Gavin Blackburn
Editor: Rick Fulker
For more from DJ Scientist and to hear samples from the Godly Grooves II mix, check out this week's edition of Soundscape 100 by clicking on the link below.