Munich’s Techno Scene Is On The Rise—Locals Glaskin And La Staab Explain Why
It’s undeniable that Europe’s largest metropolises steal the attention away from their smaller counterparts. In Munich’s case, the city navigates between its role as Germany’s economic ambassador and its personal thirst for culture. As a costly city, Munich has been working hard to carve out its own creative niche. In a small—but growing—scene, producers and DJs like Glaskin (a.k.a. Ferdinand and Jonathan Bockelmann pictured above) and La Staab (a.k.a. Tobias Staab) have steadily been changing the pace of Bavaria’s capital.
As residents of Munich’s Blitz club, the three continue to propel the city’s cultural momentum. As Glaskin ready themselves for another release on Hotflush Recordings, La Staab maintains the evolution of his event production and DJ network. In the process, the three find themselves at the core of Munich’s dance music scene. But perhaps more significant than the efforts of artists like these is Blitz Club itself. The venue remains the most important catalytic ingredient to Munich’s newly thriving club culture. Telekom Electronic Beats’ Daniel Melfi got all three together to talk festivals, summer and Munich’s increasingly open-minded crowds.
[Read more: Take a trip through Munich’s most famous ’90s techno club with this fantastically retro virtual experience]
What is your connection to Blitz Club? How did you end up as residents there?
Jonathan Bockelmann: You have to go back to the roots. Two years ago, we were residents at Kong Club. It was the last year before it closed. This club was run by a few of the owners who are now runing Blitz, and we had a good connection to one of them, Brane (a.k.a. Branimir Peco ).We became close friends with him over the years. Ferdi gave drum lessons to his son, and we recently even installed Ableton for him to start producing. So it’s a friendship and not a business connection. With all our releases on Hotflush coming up and our festivals with the Kellerkind crew, everything led to the residency at Blitz.
Tobias Staab: Brane and, well actually, all of the owners have been friends of mine for a long time. Brane probably the longest, because I’ve been doing stuff with this guy since 2005, I would say. We’ve done every festival format, so many DJ gigs and so many projects together. I was DJing at Kong a lot, and before that I was DJing together with him at Die Registratur, which was a place in Munich. Glaskin guys, do you know Die Registratur, or were you too young for that?
FB: No, we know it, but we’ve only been there once, because I was 16 or 17.
JB: I was like 15 and the last gig I saw was Digitalism.
TS: So there is a long journey that Brane and I have gone on together. I was involved in conceptualizing the club from the very beginning. Brane and I were discussing a lot how to do it and how to shape the perfect club, and of course they did it themselves, in the end. But it was always the idea of how to bring an international club to Munich and how it should look, what kind of music should be played and how it should be programmed.
Were there other clubs in Munich that you held residencies at or played at frequently before Blitz?
JB: We played at MMA [Mixed Munich Arts] quite frequently. I don’t think it was a residency, though. I was just some friends who were doing the booking there, and they asked us if we’d like to play.
FB: It was on a regular basis, but we weren’t official residents. We just played there every one or two months. I think that’s it. Besides that there was no other club.
TS: Yeah, we had Die Registratur, which was a major club in my life back then. We had Kong, which was actually a bar that was too loud, but it was pretty much a club in the end. It was open until eight in the morning and we had incredible raves there, even though it was kind of small. I felt at home there, but Blitz is a different thing. After Kong closed in 2016 and until Blitz opened up, there was a gap where I was playing in clubs here and there but there was nothing where I could say, “This is my place.”
You guys were at MMA, but I always played where the clubs were run by my friends that were in the community. Then, when Blitz opened up, it was a different thing because the sound system was so much better than anything we’ve ever had in Munich. And the atmosphere was also different. From that moment on, it was really like, “Oh, I’m really enjoying it, I’m excited to play.” It’s a different way of preparing a DJ set, for instance, and how you select tracks. Sometimes it’s like listening to a track for the first time on that sound system.
What makes Blitz so unique?
FB: It’s not only the sound system. I think it’s also the space itself—it doesn’t have the typical look of a techno club. If you look for specifically at Tresor, you have that rough, basement structure of the building that looks very fucked up. Blitz Club is in a studio.
TS: It’s really like a sound studio, it’s true. You have these wooden wall panels that are carved in the best possible acoustic way. The sound is super dry. I remember when they really did the sound checks when Void [Acoustics] was there before the opening, and they played this drum n’ bass track just to test the system. I got goosebumps and thought, “Whoah! This is different.” But on the other hand, it’s the club, it’s the sound system, but it’s also the Deutsches Museum that it’s located in, which is a very important building in Munich. It’s a symbol of the city. The actual club is this wooden sound studio spaceship in the middle, but you you really can get lost in it.
The club consists of several spaces. You’ve got the stairs, the different bathrooms and the different bars. Sometimes I’m there with my friends and we don’t even run into each other because we’re always at different places! This is for me, part of a good club experience: if I can get lost somewhere. It’s not a box space where you basically see everyone from every part of the room.
That definitely adds to the longevity of the clubbing experience. What was interesting to me was that, although Blitz and other clubs have opened and closed, the people in the city are the same. How have they reacted to this new venue?
JB: I think that in the past, people went out to have a good time and to party. But now, through those venues in Munich like Blitz, more and more people are interested in what’s going on and who’s going to play. People want to hear new music and new acts and they’re becoming more open-minded.
TS: I think the thing about Munich, or what I’ve been working on for the last 10 years, I would say, is trying to do festivals, events and performances where the music that’s being played isn’t being played in every club. You guys know that because I’ve booked you so often. Blitz helps to establish some sort of scene. people go there and they don’t necessarily know who’s playing, but they get surprised by the sounds and by the type of music. This is definitely a big prop to the booking. They’re really doing a good job and they’re mixing things up. One time you might have a bigger DJ, but then, for instance, last time I was playing there, it was Lanark Artefax doing a live show, Actress was playing and on the other floor and Axel Boman doing an all-night-long set on the third stage.
So you can mix different types of music. Sometimes it can definitely be too challenging for people on the main floor. But it was something very new because nobody would dare to book those sounds otherwise in Munich. I’ve tried to do it in other clubs, but I never really succeeded in establishing a night that worked very well. People get in touch with music that they wouldn’t have if it weren’t for the context of the club. This is the big thing that Blitz is trying to achieve. It’s a good thing.
Is that motivating for you all as DJs, that you can think, “Yeah, I can play this and push them”?
FB: It’s completely different playing two hours at a festival versus two hours in the Blitz club. You can be more of a teacher and play a wider variety of music than you’re able to at a festival.
TS: I don’t like the word “teach” because it has this didactic dimension. I see it more as an invitation. But you know, hey, we’re playing this stuff, maybe you don’t know it, or maybe it’s difficult, but maybe there’s this moment where you feel invited to go for it and dance to it. I can really feel that the environment at Blitz gives me the opportunity to try out way more things than I could in clubs like Kong, where you really have to focus on an audience which might not be so into the music. But now, at Blitz, you can play way more difficult and abstract stuff. And people are just digging it. This is the special thing about it. I’m a big Berghain fan and I like to go there, but in nine out of ten cases, I’m so disappointed with the music. I have the feeling that there is some weird dictate that you have to play heavy techno music of a certain speed in a certain way, because this is the Berghain “sound.” In a context like Blitz Club, artists have more of an opportunity to experiment.
In Munich, is the scene growing beyond Blitz Club?
FB: I’m a member of a promoter collective of two festivals here in Munich called Back To The Woods and Schall Im Schilf. We sold out super fast and we have no commercial lineup: Red Axes, Mano Le Tough and Gerd Janson are playing, and we have a Hotflush stage with Or:la, Oliver Deutschmann and Scuba. But you won’t find a name like Richie Hawtin, Sven Väth or other commercial DJs. Last year, we sold a couple thousand tickets in about five minutes.
TS: Yeah, what you guys do there is insane. I’ve never heard of a festival selling out as fast as the festivals these guys are doing. Even with my smaller stuff, you can tell people are more used to—or are looking for—more experimental music these days. An Actress live act or an Andy Stott live set was pretty hard to digest for a Munich audience, but now I have the feeling they’ve reached the point where they could go for that. People were interested and people were coming even though it was super underground. It’s always different in Berlin, I guess, but in Munich you really have to work for events like that. It’s great that after some years, people are ready to go for things that they don’t know.
What’s the clubbing consciousness like in Munich? Is it becoming a part of the culture?
TS: You’re asking if it’s like Berlin and it’s sort of part of the lifestyle? I don’t know, actually.
FB: It’s hard to say. One fact is that there are more gay parties starting. They’re working really well. The gay community is coming to life in Munich. I think this whole community gives other people a stronger hope to do things, so it will be great to see what develops.
JB: It’s a big change.
TS: I mean, in Munich, the scene is still small compared to big cities like Barcelona, Paris and Berlin. Munich has a very small, niche thing, so sometimes you get very mixed crowds, especially with bigger DJs. You have people coming who don’t necessarily identify as part of the club scene. But then, you’re totally right, it’s so interesting that it combines these gay parties and crews. I don’t mean in a way that people are totally freaking out—it’s just some kind of freedom that you can sense when you’re there. It also has to do with the no-photo policy. In the beginning, people were thinking, “Oh you’re copying Berghain now.” Copying Berghain or not, nothing is more important than to cover people’s phones so that they’re not tempted to start taking photos. All of a sudden you have this free space. These things are happening more and more, and it wasn’t like that even 10 years ago. You have the feeling that anything could happen.
It’s interesting you say that, because I think if you’re living in cities like New York, London, Berlin or Paris, you can forget that things like that are not common everywhere. What other differences have you noticed while traveling abroad?
FB: I think it’s hard to tell what’s going on in Munich. I would say the community in Munich has to still learn something and to think with more of an open mind. That’s the difference between playing a city like Berlin or somewhere else and playing in Munich.
TS: Yeah, there is a small group of people that is really into the music. Then there’s another group of people, I would say, that’s there for the party. But the third group of people is the actual problematic group—they’re there because it’s the hip place at the moment. This is the problem in Munich; people are just following trends and following hypes. There is not a lot of subcultural identity. But we’re seeing that it’s emerging again. You have these gay scenes, these abstract-music-aficionados. You guys were two of them that I met. These are the scenes that you want to develop. There is little space in Munich because it’s super expensive to live there. So someone who has no money, who just gets out of school, who is probably interested in art or is trying to make projects or is trying to establish something—those people won’t move to Munich. Why should they? It’s impossible to live there. You have to get two jobs to survive next to whatever artistic you do. And so not much happens here. But that’s the problem that all big cities are facing.
It sounds like the best way to navigate this change is by sticking together. Is there a close community of DJs that are working with each other?
JB: Yeah. For example, there’s a compilation of a certain DJs and producers working here in Munich. It’s a compilation from a new label called RFR Records, and the first series is called “Bavarian Stallion”. People like the Zenker Brothers, DJ Hell and Jonas Friedlich will be part of it. You can say this is like a circle: those guys have been around for the last four years. This is definitely a group that sticks together.
TS: It’s a scene where everyone knows each other and people are like-minded. Like Illian Tape, or like you guys, we know each other. It’s a small scene, but everyone is kind of collaborating and appreciating each other’s work.
Are there any kind of hang out spots where there are exchanges happening, like record shops, cafes or bars?
FB: Not really. I mean, Munich is still a place where a lot of young DJs are coming to the Public Possession record store and doing some DJing from time to time. That’s one of the spots where some exchange is happening, but there isn’t much.
How did you meet each other?
JB: Through Brane, right? I think he, at some point, showed you our music? And I think that after a little while, we met at Brane’s place at one point.
FB: That was where we smoked all of his cigarettes.
TS: True, now I remember. It’s quite a rare thing. Brane showed me the music and said, “Look at these guys, look at what they’re doing.” And I thought, “Whoah, this is happening in Munich, that’s amazing. It’s something interesting and we should support this.” We got to know each other and we were really trying to find a label or a platform to get you guys in the spotlight. In the end, they made it all themselves.
FB: We all ended up at Blitz.
TS: Yeah, I guess that’s where you ended up.
FB: When we were at Brane’s place, we were talking about the residency at Kong. I’ll never forget our first night playing there. It was a house music club and we were playing that brutal 135 BPM breakbeat techno. After a half-hour the whole club was empty. We were playing to 10 people or something, but we still managed to get the residency.
TS: Everybody was impressed, I guess.
What’s on your agenda in terms of music?
JB: We will be part of a compilation on a bigger label. There will be another EP on Hotflush Recordings, with a remix by Marcel Fengler. We also contributed a track to RFR records’ “Bavarian Stallion” series.
TS: Well, I’m not producing music, so I’m preparing two festivals. One is called Panta Rhei, which is happening in Munich at the Muffathalle’s Muffatwerk. We have people like Mykki Blanco, Emptyset and Lotic playing. There is another festival called Noise Signal Silence, which is happening in Cologne in April, which will also feature very abstract, interesting stuff. Lanark Artefax is playing, for instance, as well as Emptyset. This is what I’m considering right now.
What kind of sound is flourishing in Munich right now?
JB: I think if we would have played the set that we played at Kong three or four years ago now, it would be appreciated and people would enjoy it.
FB: Super fast techno, that’s something that’s quite a thing right now. A lot of the time, we are beyond 135 BPM. It depends on the time we’re playing, but that’s a thing at the moment.
TS: Well, I never play that fast, I play a lot of breakbeat-ish stuff, which is not 4/4 and is kind of leftfield. But I can tell that people are understanding that kind of sound now. There’ve been so many times where people have stopped dancing and looked at me, like, “What the hell are you doing?” Now, you can tell that now everybody is getting into more abstract grooves, which is amazing. That is so much fun. There’s nothing more boring than serving people what they actually expected before they got to the club.
You can catch Glaskin and La Staab perform at Telekom Electronic Beats’ Clubnight next Friday at Blitz club Munich.
Read more: The 10 artists who are turning Munich into a techno powerhouse
Published March 29, 2018.