German DJs make a splash on international dance floors | Music | DW | 27.04.2011
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German DJs make a splash on international dance floors

The mass panic and fatal stampede at the 2010 Love Parade in Duisburg were a real blow for the techno scene. But the music still lives on, and there are plenty of German DJs still sending out their beats to the world.

DJ and Love Parade creator Dr. Motte

DJ and Love Parade creator Dr. Motte

Dr. Motte is running a bit behind schedule. It may be noon, but the DJ hasn't been out of bed long. It was a late night. This time, though, not because he was playing music in a club, but because he was founding an association for electronic music with 40 other musicians and artists.

Dr. Motte, aka Matthias Roeingh, has been a DJ for the past 25 years. He may be 50 years old but hasn't lost his steam. "I love swimming in this sound and feeling the bass vibrations in my body," he said. And since it's his profession, he's allowed to crank up the volume of his favorite music in clubs without anyone giving him a hard time. "Can't do that at home - my neighbors would immediately call the police," he mused.

  Vinyl forever

Even though technology has evolved dramatically in the past two decades, Dr. Motte still plays his vinyl records, mixing songs on various players and changing the speed so that the pieces fit together well. Of course, there's no official training for becoming a DJ; everyone does it in their own style, gaining experience along the way.

A Love Parade in Zurich

Love Parades happen in different countries

"I always let myself be inspired by the DJ who's played before me, how the audience has reacted to it, what the club looks like and what kind of feeling is in the air," Dr. Motte said. But the DJ also lets his own ideas flow into what he's playing. "When you listen to what I play, you're listening to my soul."

He takes along about 300 records to a gig, even if he ends up only playing a few. He has no idea how many he actually owns.

  Love Parade took him to the top

Dr. Motte made it big by way of the Love Parade, which he established in 1989. At first, it was a small event of 150 on Berlin's Kurfuerstendamm, but within just a few years, it had become a mega techno party drawing one and a half million people. It also made Dr. Motte a household name, landing him gigs around the world.

"Germany is the world leader in sending DJs out into the world," he said. "The country tops the charts."

He's amazed that techno is still so popular in clubs around the world, even after 20 years. "German DJs are playing all over the place. It's as if electronic music had just evolved and everyone is feeling ecstatic about it," he noted.

That, even though last year's Love Parade in Duisburg saw 21 people die and 500 become injured when panic broke out during the festival. The parade-goers were crushed when the masses were forced through a tunnel.

From DJ to musician

DJ Fritz Kalkbrenner

DJ Fritz Kalkbrenner

Still, the electronic beat does on, and one of the people benefitting from the endless wave of techno popularity is 29-year-old Fritz Kalkbrenner. He considers himself more of a musician than a DJ, since he plays his own music. When he performs, he mixes various musical components together which he's produced himself. "The technology we have today makes everything a lot more flexible," he believes.

Fifteen years ago, a gig was an adventure - requiring a DJ to dismantle his entire studio at home and set it up again in a club. "Nowadays, all you need is a laptop, a sound card, a control unit, lots of cables, a pair of pants, two pairs of underwear, pair of socks, a couple of t-shirts, a passport, a toothbrush, and then you're set," Kalkbrenner said.

The musician/DJ is busy around the clock. Having released his first album last year, he was nominated for a German Echo Award this year. He's on the road nearly every weekend, playing big cities around the European continent. "You get used to it," the techno specialist quipped. "I've been playing in clubs since I was 16, so nearly half of my life."

Bright green and blue lights and people dancing at a techno club

Techno fans love a good show

With that experience has come a professional attitude, even in the nightlife world. "Sometimes I go right to bed after a gig," he admits, saying he wouldn't be able to do his job otherwise.

Global party

By touring, Kalkbrenner has realized just how universal electronic music is. There are differences between countries when it comes to nightlife, but they're minor. The Spanish and Portuguese go out quite late, for instance. The Dutch are down-to-earth ravers, and yes, in Moscow, people do indeed dance on the tables. For the most part, though, club-goers are the same wherever you go.

Old hand Dr. Motte feels about the same way. "We're a big, global, electronic music family," he said. "Whether it's in Israel, Australia, the U.S. or Mexico, people like our music. It's nice to see how close we all are."

Author: Nadine Wojcik / als

Editor: Rick Fulker

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