Dr. Rubinstein On Acid Techno, Dancing And Her Love Of Rave Culture
When talent, dedication and the stars all align, things can move quickly in the electronic music scene. And Marina Rubinstein—better known as Dr. Rubinstein—is the perfect example of someone who was at the right place at the right time. After leaving Tel Aviv for Berlin six years ago as a dedicated raver-turned-DJ, she began to immerse herself in the German capital’s famed clubbing scene and quickly made a name for herself with her acid-laden and rave-positive sets at clubs like //:aboutblank, and, a little later, at Berghain. Since then, her touring schedule has become significantly busier, taking her to major festivals like Sonar, Dekmantel and to some of the most celebrated clubs in the world. Ahead of her set at this Saturday’s Telekom Electronic Beats Clubnight at Suxul in Ingolstadt, she opens up about her thrilling journey and her unconditional love for dancing and all things acid.
The little biographical info I found about you on the net stressed your love for going out and dancing. How did you get into techno?
I am such a raver! I remember going to my first party back in Tel Aviv 13 years ago. It was an open air in an industrial area organized by Pacotek, a crew that is doing parties in Tel Aviv to this day. I was just gobsmacked by the experience. It was a real “Aha” moment for me, and I asked myself, “Can I do this for the rest of my life?” I didn’t think of becoming a DJ or anything like that. That didn’t occur to me until a couple of years later. I just loved to go out and dance. The world is so fucked up, you know. Going out for me was like finding my happy place.
What do you mean by that?
Generally speaking, the world is a pretty scary place. But if everything falls into place—the music, the way the DJ plays it, the sound, the location—being on the dance floor can change the world for a couple of hours. When everyone with you on the dance floor is suddenly equal and nobody cares about your social background, the color of your skin or your sexual orientation, and people start to smile at each other while dancing, a party can turn into a sort of paradise. Or a better place, at least. That’s what partying was and still is about for me.
How was the scene in Tel Aviv back then?
I didn’t know that much about the music at first, I just loved to go out. Two of my favorite clubs were Block, which has since moved, and Barzilay club. I always loved vinyl, but in Tel Aviv I never really had access to it. You had to order online, and shipping to Israel was pretty expensive and I never had money for that. I started buying records only after I moved to Berlin six years ago. Before that, I was playing with my laptop for a short while. I started DJing in Tel Aviv six months before I left for Berlin, even though i had been toying with the idea for another three years, but for a long time I felt too insecure to start. I come from a rather conservative background and my mom was always very invested in the idea that I should get married at a young age.
When you’re not supported—and you never hear something like “You can do it!”—you start to wonder if your dreams are really just a fantasy. I was afraid of being seen as just another girl with a a laptop pretending to be a DJ. This attitude towards women was pretty prevalent back then. Eventually, I decided to not give a fuck about comments like that. My first gig was in this bar which is now closed. It was called Salon Berlin. It was a Monday night and there were only maybe 20 people in the bar. But at the end of the night, everybody was dancing. That totally amazed me.
How did you end up in Berlin?
Some of my friends were visiting Berlin regularly and always coming back and raving about how amazing the city was. But I never had money to go. At some point, I saved up enough to make the trip, and my life has never been the same since.
I just fell in love with the city. The first time I visited Berlin, I went to Berghain, //:aboutblank, Golden Gate, Club der Visionäre and to some open air at Rummelsbucht. I was here for ten days. I rented a bike and explored the clubs on my own. Back then, you’d always get to know someone really nice and you’d hang out during the party. When I had to go back to Tel Aviv, I felt like it wasn’t enough for me anymore. So I came back 2 months later and stayed for a whole month. I did that one more time the same year and then I knew that I wanted to move to Berlin.
So everything happened really quickly.
Yes, you could say that. Since I was clubbing literally every weekend, I started to get to know a lot of people. One night, a woman that I knew from going out said that she’d heard that I was a DJ, too, and asked if I could send her a mix. So I did. A little later she invited me to play as a special guest at one of her parties at //:aboutblank. Somebody from the club heard my set and booked me to play New Years Eve. I think it was one of those “at the right place at the right time“ things. And I also played the right music. Back then, nobody really played ’90s acid techno and all this ravey stuff that I really like. The big techno comeback had just started and most people were into droney and very hypnotic fare.
Acid was your first love, right?
Yes, it still is. I can’t really explain why. Acid is, to me, the ultimate dance sound. You either dance or you are put off by the tweaking 303 sequences. There is not much middle ground. I don’t know, I just love it. This sound does something to your brain. Playing old tracks by Emmanuel Top or Harthouse records, for instance, kind of set me apart from most other DJs. Having my own sound definitely helped me to become recognized and to move along quickly. Since then, a lot of acid techno with a trancey feel has become pretty popular again.
You said before that you were quite insecure at first back in Tel Aviv. How did that change in Berlin? Did you find a more supportive vibe here?
There is always guys who feels the need to give me advice that I had never asked for. Things like, “Your DJ name is strange and not catchy. The music you play is too weird. If you really want to make it you have to produce. Maybe you can find someone to make tracks for you.“ I heard that a lot in Berlin, mostly by other DJs. That really pissed me off. Who are you to give me unsolicited advice? I never started any of this to become a famous DJ. As much fun as I am having now that I get to travel a lot and share my passion with so many people around the world, I never looked at DJing as a career. Sure, I’m really happy where I am now, but I never planned anything. It was a natural development.
I have a friend who had been DJing for quite some time. He supported me a lot. He was one of the main reasons why I was able to stand up to all the bullshit comments. He always told me that I had great taste in music and that I should trust myself. This kind of support is so important. If it wasn’t for him, I might have decided to actually have someone produce a track for me. If enough people tell you the same thing long enough, you end up believing it. I am very grateful for this support and I’m very happy that I never gave in.
Has your busy touring schedule changed the way you look at clubbing?
I still party quite a lot for a touring DJ. Sometimes when I hear a great DJ play I think, “Damn, I know nothing. There is so much more to learn.“ But these experiences give me a lot of energy to continue to do what I do and to become better. You know that feeling when you hear a track in a set and think, ”Why didn’t I find this track?“ It motivates me to constantly dig deeper. Apart from that, there are a lot of unwritten rules about what to do if you want to become successful in techno. Like the claimed necessity to produce and release your own music. But that’s not for me. I rarely see any other DJ on the dance floor. Sometimes I’m recognized while I’m dancing, and people often say something like, “Oh my god, it’s so cool that you’re dancing with us.” And I’m thinking, “Where else should I be dancing?”
That says a lot about how star-struck techno and DJ culture in general has become. People should not be that surprised by a DJ dancing, especially outside the booth.
If I’m not playing, you won’t ever find me in a DJ booth. It’s really not a fun place for me. I also don’t let people hang out in the booth while I play. It’s distracting to me. I’m working. I’m trying to build a special connection with the crowd, and if there are always people passing by and staring at the dance floor, it doesn’t work. If I was to dance in the first row, I would see that a bunch of people who think they are too cool for the dance floor are staring at me all the time, and I would feel uncomfortable. I don’t want people who are dancing to my set experience that.
Speaking of creating a special connection, is the idea of being a resident at a club and having a monthly—or even weekly—slot appealing to you?
No, not really. I just prefer being independent and not being tied to a party, club or label. This might make it harder, I guess, but I enjoy being on my own. In Berlin I mostly play at Berghain, which is great as it’s my favorite club and where I like to unwind on a Sunday evening when I come back from my own gigs. That’s just who I am. I can be pretty tired, but going out and dancing still gives me energy and inspiration. Sometimes I feel guilty about staying up until Monday morning. But then I say to myself, “That’s part of the job. That’s dance floor research!”