The coronavirus put the global club scene on hold. But as Panorama Bar resident nd_baumecker explains, perhaps it was time for a reboot.
The coronavirus shut down the club scene almost overnight. How did it unfold for you?
I was supposed to play a gig at Berghain in mid-March, but it was cancelled the day before. That was the start of Corona for me. It came very quickly, and all my foreign gigs were cancelled within a week or two. I was happy when I realised I wouldn’t have to go to the airport the next weekend, but I knew it would mean no gigs until the end of the year. I decided that I wouldn’t go crazy and I simply had to live with the situation.
What’s your view on the whole club scene being put on pause?
This feels like a necessary break. I haven’t been happy with the club scene for the past few years – it needed a change. It had all become very business-oriented. I never thought about business when I started in this scene almost 30 years ago. But through my job as a booker at Berghain for nine years – I stopped four years ago for the same reason – I saw things become too business-like. I couldn’t handle the agents, the money and the pressure. Musically, the scene has also been stuck.
It’s a good thing to not fill the lineup with big names, because we all know the locals are the best DJs.
Electronic music will look very different when things get back to normal, don’t you think?
I’m sure the clubs will think twice about inviting DJs with high fees. There will be restrictions on the door, so they will have to calculate carefully, especially when it’s a smaller club with only two DJs per night. They can’t charge €70 entrance. Fine, you can do it at Ibiza’s superclubs. But it’s elitist and wouldn’t work here. The big-name DJs need to understand the clubs must save money. It would be helpful if only local DJs were booked at first, rather than flying people in from all over the world. First of all, flights will be expensive when it all starts again. Secondly, the clubs won’t have money. None of the clubs I know will have enough to pay those horrendous DJ fees. So, if DJs aren’t e xpecting lower fees, they’re on for a surprise.
With private planes, managers and four gigs a weekend, it was getting out of control for some DJs.
That wasn’t the case for me. I never wanted to become this four-gigs-per-weekend DJ, even though it would help me financially. But I know from experience that when you play all the time, only playing prime-time, your music starts to suck. This happens to a lot of DJs, and I didn’t want to become part of that. That’s why, other than the residency at Panorama Bar, I only played two or three gigs a month. It was a good way to make sure I could play a new set every time, and have time to find new records and think about my sets.
What do you hope dance music will look like when it comes back?
I hope it’s not going to be streaming. And I hope the crazy DJ fees will end. DJs must understand we need a new start, that club culture is being reborn. It will have a very slow beginning. It’s a good thing to not fill the lineup with big names, because we all know the locals are the best DJs.
Why is that?
There’s something special about the residents of clubs. Every club in Berlin has its residents, and they know the crowd best. They not only play there, but also party there. I see it at Berghain on New Year’s Eve, and during the Ostgut Ton night. It’s the best vibe when it’s only residents playing. Even if you spend a lot of money to book a headliner, there’s no guarantee it will be great. You expect something special, but it’s very mediocre. The sense of experimentation is often missing.
I don’t feel like I need to do streams to stay relevant. Judging by the low numbers of viewers on some of them, there are way too many happening.
We know clubs aren’t the most hygienic environments. How do you think the coronavirus has changed the way people view them?
Looking at the illegal parties that have happened, both in Berlin and elsewhere, I’m not sure people are worried. I didn’t see people wearing masks in those rave videos. Of course, clubs will be the last businesses to reopen. It’s going to be very hard for them to fulfil the hygiene requirements. I can only recommend wearing a mask wherever you can. But look at those illegal parties – people really don’t give a fuck. They’re young people, of course, and if I was in my twenties during this, I might be the same. But it’s definitely not good for clubs or cultural spaces if our scene doesn’t follow the rules. It’s egoistic. Let’s hope nothing happens there.
You actually played a gig in early June. How was your first experience back behind the decks?
I played a gig at the Bierhof Rüdersdorf, the beer garden next to Berghain, where they strictly followed the hygiene rules. It was nice, but this definitely wasn’t clubbing. And I don’t know what we can change to make it feel more real.
How has the lockdown affected you financially?
I can’t say exactly, because my calendar was only booked up until July, but I lost around €6000. It’s probably the same as a lot of people. I have to be careful with money. I’m not buying records at the moment, so I try to buy digital. And I occasionally order CDs from Japan. I can’t stop. A lot of people are probably losing hope, but I’m actually feeling very positive. I’m trying to get the best out of the situation, to change and work on myself. I only partied once, and that was when I did a stream for Club Quarantäne.
A lot of DJs have used this opportunity to appear on as many streams as possible, and are still trying to push their careers forward. But you’ve only played on one?
I don’t feel like I need to do streams to stay relevant. Judging by the low numbers of viewers on some of them, there are way too many happening. I’m not that kind of person. I’ve read a lot of people saying that they miss DJing a lot. I don’t.
What do you miss?
I miss the feeling of being in a club, and the crowds, but not the DJing itself. I’ll be happy when it restarts, because I’ll have new ideas and feel refreshed. I’ve already changed my whole routine – I finally have a regular sleep schedule. But I’m not rushing to be back in the spotlight. The best thing was for me to lose contact with the whole scene. During the lockdown, I’ve just focused on what I think is fresh. It’s what I’ve been doing since I started DJing. The break has let me focus on why I do this.
And why is that? What keeps you interested in DJing?
I love music so much. I like to look into the future of music. I don’t just want to stay with ’90s house and techno for the rest of my life. I need something fresh – it’s why I started doing this in the ’80s. I always tell my friends that we need a new sound. We can’t stand still, we need new rhythms. It’s easy to say that, but it’s difficult to put into practice. Hopefully this break will help.