Hometown Heroes: Meet PAL Hamburg's Queen Of Darkness – Telekom Electronic Beats

Hometown Heroes: Meet PAL Hamburg’s Queen Of Darkness

Bobbie* taught herself to DJ when Hamburg's scene was "boys, boys, boys." Now she's helping to make PAL the #1 destination for darker and weirder techno.

Cologne and Hamburg have had a big influence on me musically. I started going out in Cologne, where I grew up, at a pretty young age. The music scene that I was a part of there was very much characterized by Kompakt’s minimal sound and the Total Confusion parties they threw at Studio 672. At that time, the city was called the “media capital of Germany” because of the sheer volume of radio stations, music programming and parties happening every weekend.

Being in that vibrant club atmosphere was what got me interested in buying vinyl, but funnily enough, I only bought it because I liked the way that it felt! I wasn’t trying to mix records at that time. My real inspiration to start DJing didn’t come until much later on, when I started surrounding myself with more people who were involved in music and nightlife. I continued buying records when I moved to Hamburg, but it was really because of a friend I made there, Matt Moroder, that I started to dig in record stores with the intent of DJing. At the time that I moved—early 2003—there were still no online retailers, so we would go to physical locations to buy vinyl. I became even more motivated to pursue DJing because there were so few women DJing in Hamburg. I only knew of one female resident—the rest were boys, boys, boys.

I taught myself to DJ with two belt-driven Technics knockoffs that a friend of mine was giving away. It was a very difficult system to mix on, which made it a great way for me to learn. I’ve been honing my skills on turntables for years now, and at this point, DJing feels like such an essential part of my identity. I travel with a USB stick, but vinyl has—and always will be—my preferred medium.

I became a resident at PAL when it opened in 2014. The owners knew me and wanted me to be a part of the team. Since then, I’ve been playing there about once a month. I genuinely like many different styles of music, but my sets usually end up meandering through acid, electro, techno, wave and industrial. Even though I choose from a diverse palette, the common thread between my selections is that they always return to a certain darkness and relentlessness, which I like to dissolve with melodic interludes.

PAL has helped to enrich the city’s nightlife. It’s become an important outlet for darker dance music, especially since Golden Pudel and Kraniche Bei Den Elbbrücken both closed in 2016. The absence of these venues has meant that PAL has become important in filling a musical niche, which is critical in a city that’s already so small. It’s also made a name for itself by bringing large-scale bookings that hadn’t appeared in Hamburg before. Since the club’s second floor, Moiré, was rebuilt and reopened last year, the club has been able to host even more diverse musical offerings. PAL—which is more techno-focused—and Moiré—which is more house and disco-focused—mutually reinforce each other. They always represent different yet complementary styles over the course of a night. Having a second floor has also allowed PAL’s promoters to book bigger, more internationally relevant artists on the main floor, but to still feature residents, musically demanding acts and smaller names at Moiré.

Before my residency, I actually didn’t like playing opening slots very much, but now I love to open the floor and take my time for three or four hours. It’s become really important for me to tell my story as opposed to trying to turn things up quickly by playing banging four-to-the-floor right from the start. One of my favorite records to play right now is Umwelt’s new album, Days Of Dissent, as well as anything from the labels Brokntoys, CPU, Dark Entries or Music From Memory. I buy a lot of my music at Smallville, Freiheit & Roosen and Otaku in Hamburg.

Right now I’m working on hosting a regular party series at PAL called Highly Recommended, which will feature house and techno acts. The space itself already has such an energetic vibe and such strong bookings, so it feels good to be contributing. I’m really happy to be a part of it.

Read past Hometown Heroes columns here. Keep up to date on Telekom Electronic Beats’ Clubnights at PAL here.