Anthems From Mannheim’s Breakbeats-Crazy Milk! Club

Although it only lasted three years, Mannheim’s Milk! Club established a legacy that lasts to this day. Considering the pervasive presence of the U.S. army in Mannheim after World War II and the related (and equally strong) influence of American pop culture in the region, it might come as a bit of a surprise that Milk!’s sound turned out to be quite Anglophile. When it opened in 1990, its genres of choice were still a joyous, chaotic mass of many different sounds, and its resident DJs Holger “Groover” Klein (who reminisced about the club in a previous Rewind column) and Bassface Sascha took what fit their purposes best. But soon most German clubgoers started stomping to a techno beat, while a fiercely loyal crowd—known as the notorious “Milk! Posse”—liked their beats broken, their bass heavy, their pianos anthemic and their hands in the air. Thus the club embarked on a mission that laid the foundation for drum ‘n’ bass and other breakbeat styles in Germany. DJ Seebase, who joined the Posse as the club’s third resident DJ in 1992, gives us the lowdown on tracks that defined the Milk! experience. The Mannheim-native is still playing regularly at the city’s annual Time Warp raves. He’s also just re-released an early ’90s collaboration with Move D on Gerd Janson’s label Misfit Melodies.

Primal Scream, “Loaded” (Creation 1990)

“Before Milk! opened, Dirk ‘D-Man’ Mantei and Gregor ‘G.O.D.’ Dietz laid the foundation with several club events. That year, British club culture and indie converged and exploded. We couldn’t ignore it. So much of it just felt right. ‘Loaded’ represented a lot, as did Sheer Taft, Peter Hooton, Boy’s Own and Shaun Ryder. Holger Klein, one of Milk!’s residents, had a huge Screamadelica painting on the wall of his kitchen. Of course, the album also stands for the ever-grand and inimitable Andrew Weatherall, who produced it. But mostly it stands for what is said at the beginning of the song: And we wanna get loaded! And we wanna have a good time! That’s what we’re gonna do. We’re gonna have a good time! We’re gonna have a party.’ And, well, we then did just that.”

Ramjac Corporation, “Cameroon Massif!” (Irdial Discs 1990)

“Breakbeats were one of the prevalent cornerstones of Milk!, but ‘Massif’ was almost a mythical tune. It had a lot of stories and anecdotes attached to it—stories of shamans propagating ‘planetary activation’ and fabulous mornings spent on the Neckarwiese in Heidelberg with Holger’s boombox. Hip-hop was also very vital for the concept of the club. There was a part in us that adored everything from The Native Tongues to Silver Bullet and Soul II Soul in equal measures. A guest DJ appearance by Nils Hess was also a pivotal moment, but first and foremost it was Holger Klein who introduced breakbeats to Milk!. There was also a juvenile opposition to Frankfurt and its sound that was not to be underestimated.”

Rotor, “Salad Hammer” (Chill 1991)

“For me personally, Sweet Exorcist’s ‘Testone’ or ‘Clonk’ were real epiphanies. If there was something out of the whole Milk! experience I would like to feel again—romanticized as it may have become over the years—it would be the punch of the bass in that basement, those basslines and the strobe. I visited the Warp store in Sheffield in 1994, and I was so in awe I couldn’t utter a single word. I still have the tote bag. For me, this tune is essential in its rawness. And now imagine singing the shout outs from Nightmares On Wax’s ‘How Ya Doin” on top.”

Altern-8, “Infiltrate 202” (Network 1991)

“Later, Holger had a residency with Bassface Sascha at the club XS in Frankfurt and named it after the sample in this tune: ‘Bassbin’. Apart from that, everything in this track is so coherent—up to the airhorn. Euphoria was crucial, but not for the sake of it. For example, Holger and I shared a very skeptical stance towards the silliness of The Prodigy—besides their track ‘The Android’, which went rather well with this. There was a strong interaction with the crowd at Milk! that always reminded me a bit of sound system culture. It was something that developed very organically. The crowd would demand certain tunes like DJ Excel’s ‘Just When You Thought It Was Safe’, which was not exactly a merry tune. Same with 4 Hero’s ‘Mr. Kirk’s Nightmare’. But I just loved Altern-8, whether it’s this one or ‘Frequency’, or ‘Brutal-8-E’.”

QX-1, “Love Injection” (Rhythm Beat 1991)

“I didn’t separate breakbeats and house in terms of emotional or ecstatic content, and I’m pretty sure Holger didn’t either. I think this is very ecstatic. In a sense, it was later dumbed down as trance. But for me personally, house was the way. And if you want to know how important house was at the club, you can ask anyone from the Milk! Posse about M1’s ‘Feel The Drums’ or Basil Hardhaus’s ‘Hard For The D.J.’ or U.P.I.s ‘She’s A Freak’ and countless others. They’ll all have tears in their eyes, as all of those were Milk! anthems. And then there was a tape of DJ Ralphie from Riccione that cast a spell on all of us. The vibe was different, the mixing was different, and it represented something different entirely. Even though Milk! wasn’t a gay club, it paved the way for several seminal gay house parties.”

Rum & Black, “Insomnia” (Shut Up And Dance Records 1991)

“I could have picked a number of Shut Up And Dance Records—like ‘Raving I’m Raving’, which without a doubt stands for one of the greatest moments I have ever experienced at a Love Parade. In 1992 we went to Berlin with our own truck. ‘Ecstasy shining down on me’ played at Wittenbergplatz. Andre, aka DJ Pussylover, was so happy that he fucked the flower beds close by—and he wasn’t even the happiest person around, if I remember correctly. But I chose Rum & Black because they’re generally criminally underrated, and the same goes for this amazing album. Take ‘Funky Emotions’ for another example. I also chose it because of the way the Twin Peaks theme was treated here. The way it complemented Moby’s ‘Go’ was very typical for the Mannheim attitude back then. We played Moby’s ‘Next Is The E’ while German techno magazine Frontpage heralded the really daft B-side track ‘Thousand’.”

YBU, “Soul Magic” (SSR 1991)

“Apart from the beatless version of ‘Strings Of Life’, ‘Soul Magic’ by YBU was probably the most important track when the lights went on again at the end of the night. Slowing down the pace at that point was probably one of the reasons of its appeal, but the track also incessantly demanded you to ‘feel it.’ It’s quite telling that nowadays you have to explain that a slow jam can be just as intense as an in-your-face track. Certainly proceedings were eclectic or somewhat balearic, but I for one didn’t even know the latter word at the time.”

The Morning Glory Seeds, “E-Motions X-Pressed” (Djax-Up-Beats 1992)

“This track stands for the back room where DJ Soundball played an insane avalanche of Detroit techno soul for a while. It was an important place. For a time it was literally the club’s chill-out area, as KLF’s seminal album was playing there nonstop for entire nights. That being said, I am sure that someone like Eddie Flashin’ Fowlkes would’ve had a ball playing there, too. In any case, rave moments like this emerged from the more contemplative and enigmatic vibe of the room.”

Nu-Matic, “Hard Times” (XL Recordings 1992)

“At this point I probably should mention classic Milk! anthems like Agents Orange’s ‘Sounds Flakey To Me’, Acen’s ‘Trip II The Moon’ or Sound Corp.’s ‘Dream Finder’ or countless other reggae- and ragga-sampling tunes were far more exciting than this Nu-Matic track. But there was a special incident with ‘Hard Times’: I think it was Holger who advised the late Mark Spoon during some after-hour for a big rave to play this. Weeks before, clubbers at Milk! had started to shout ‘Mannheim posse’ over the vocal sample ‘Hard times must be,’ and over time it turned into a bit of a ritual every time that track was played. Nowadays I don’t care that much about all this talk about togetherness, family and unity, but as the crowd at this after hour shouted ‘Mannheim posse’ at the top of their lungs, hands in the air and all in the direction of the visibly impressed Frankfurt DJ…? Good golly, that was wicked!”

Tronikhouse, “Up Tempo” (KMS 1992)

“You could say that Bassface Sascha came from Detroit techno as interpreted in Frankfurt, while Holger was more Anglophile. But that would be too simplistic. The overall aim was a certain aesthetic and energetic level that was based on different interpretations. When Underground Resistance asked ‘Are you down with the underground?’ on ‘Revolution For A Change’, it was a rhetorical question. Honestly, I can’t imagine the development of breakbeats without Reese’s basslines or Inner City. There were also links to DJ Edge’s ‘1’, which initially moves on a 4/4 beat before it becomes a typical Milk! breakbeat anthem.”

Love Revolution, “I Feel It” (Network 1992)

“When we talk about piano-led rave bangers, I could’ve also chosen tracks like Gat Decor’s ‘Passion’, Andronicus’ ‘Make You Whole’ or even Felix’s ‘Don’t You Want Me’. But as with YBU earlier, the focus on feelings was crucial for my choice of ‘I Feel It’. We celebrated nothing more than emotionality. That continued with Energy 52 or later with Cleveland City Records and explains the flaming love of the Milk! crowd for Kid Paul and Dubmission at E-Werk in Berlin and unbowed heroes like DJ Clé. I do not and will not let go of my opinion that a decent rave signal never harms the party. I also know that at times when wearing a colorful t-shirt at the club is judged as an emotional lapse, this is quite the outsider’s perspective.”