The Techno Life – Part 1 | 1984 – 1995
Kay-Uwe lenk alias DASFAX
As a youth of the mid80s who took an increased interest in experimental music, I experienced how influential acts such as Anne Clark, New Order, Depeche Mode or Soft Cell – representatives of the electronic avant-garde of their time, parallel to mainstream music – became my favourite musical genre.
Their songs already borrowed clearly from the electronic TRACK style of the future and radiated a pioneering kind of depth, force and the bass drum marching ever straight. The British band The Cure, who created deep sound spheres and composed epic masterpieces of melancholic beauty, can also be counted among the influencers of the pre Techno era. They antedated what would later become the subject of several significant Techno tracks.
This underground-like style of music comforted us and at the same time gave us strength to harness the troubles of the everyday teenage life. We, a well-organized dancing mob with wildly positioned hair and a fashion style of martial appearance, were storming the dance floors of the villages and the surrounding small towns as soon as there were indications that the DJ would play our heroes in a half-hour mix. What followed then was watched by the other guests such as poppers (a German youth culture of the 80s), blues or heavy metal fans with shining eyes in respect for our exceptional dance style. This was followed by the ritual of the inaugurated – ; like the tribes of natural ethnicities, we celebrated a delirious dance by all means of our physical powers.
These youthful experiences laid the foundation for a continuously increasing interest in electronic music in my life. After 9th of November 1989, not only the possibilities but also the stylistic movements within electronic music changed –especially Chicago House and Acid House,
Techno Music and the very hit-dominant subgenre of Eurodance began their triumphant march across Europe. At the beginning of the 90s, I left my small hometown of Elgersburg in Thuringia since it lacked career prospects
and I first moved to my genitor in the city of Hanover which was located rather well in strategic terms regarding my later Techno excursions. Lower Saxony’s capital city already had a lot to offer in regard to electronic music. Initially I went to the New Wave club Index where EBM was booming through the sound system with full force, but I also danced in the OSHO/Baggi, the discotheque of the Indian liberty guru with an affinity for Rolls-Royce cars. At this time, I did not know yet that the gay club Men‘s Factory had opened its gates in the district Nordstadt at the Engelbosteler Damm in the basement of an office building.
I already knew the SUB, a club not far from the future home of my DJ life, located in the Passarelle passage below the main railway station at the exit to Raschplatz. Hannover as a university city had a very art-oriented audience, and there were lesbians and gays meeting in the SUB which made the club very exotic to me and which was why I liked to celebrate there, dancing to Acid Jazz and Manchester Rave by the Happy Mondays or The Charlatans. The entire interior, such as the bar and the surrounding area of the dance floor, was built of scaffolding and raw wood. My master from the hairdresser’s shop Uhlig in Hanover, where was I completing my apprenticeship as a hairdresser, recommended to me that I should definitely go to the Men’s Factory during my trips through the disco scene of Hannover.
However, on that meaningful Friday, I first went with my buddies to the club Checkers located directly at the Hannover city point Kröpcke. The bouncers let us all in, but shortly after reaching the basement club, a man in his fifties approached me. He politely introduced himself to me as the owner, handed me back the entrance fee of five Deutschmark and told me that I had to leave the club immediately. He said that he had had bad experiences with people like me. At that time, I did not know that the Checkers was a meeting point for juveniles who celebrated the open confrontation with fistfights as a Happening even though the club owner only wanted peace and quiet in his establishment. I had a stylish short haircut back then, and the owner of Checkers mistook this as a sign of my affiliation to a brutal minority group. My looks were like a mix of skinhead and sports freak styles. And yes, at that time I was listening to British Ska music like the Specials (and I still do).
My mates didn’t let themselves be mislead by my ejection, they stayed at the Checkers, and I was able to follow my gut feeling on this early Friday evening and went on a 20 minute walk to the Nordstadt district limits. The entrance to the Men’s Factory was to the right in an unassuming dark corner in front of a barred courtyard gateway. Three big strong bald-headed men in tight jeans, boots and black leather jackets examined me. No further guest was in front of or behind me. I thought at last, this is a place where I will not be discriminated because of my haircut, and I approached them valiantly. I had never been here before and I felt an intensive alternating bath of emotions which I could not discern clearly as well as the quick beer on the way to the club. As so often before, I now had to leave the fortune of the evening in the hands of the bouncer. The feeling of hope and powerlessness which many surely know.
Determined, I asked the threesome: Men´s Factory? It was silence which surrounded the situation and, subjectively perceived, the longest twenty seconds of the twenty years of my life so far. I felt their Body-Mind-Scan within the depths of my soul and I thought … what the fuck is going on. A deep warm voice broke through the silence, and the first bouncer said: Come closer so that I can check you out. My pulse was racing at 160! They curiously examined me, their bouncer image typically hard in the first instance, and they recognized immediately that I was a new face. After a short checkup of my pockets, they wished me a lot of fun (with an amused undertone) and advised me to watch my card of drinks. Pumped up with adrenaline from all the excitement, I entered the stairs leading down, towards the booming Techno beat which increasingly became perceivable.
I arrived downstairs in a long, dimly lit black corridor with steel sheets mounted on the left and right walls for placing drinks and ashtrays, with flyers everywhere. Completely decorated in black, the club was constructed like a rectangle. Inside, there was the pub section, and at the upper end of the club, there was the bar to the right and the dance floor in front of the upper bar. Dancing in general is like a breath of fresh air for body and soul – of which there was a high concentration at this place. It was not about focusing on a person or coming on to someone – but it was rather the first time that I consciously felt the perception and reflected that liberal thought which lies behind the experience of the Techno club (movement).
The scene developed in a very versatile manner with a constant openness to new guests. New friendships were made, and people went together to other discos as well even when the DJ played only a small round of House or Techno music. DJs Marc and Jens (RIP) played New Beat and Techno from Belgium, for instance the politically motivated gloomy track “Dominator“ by Human Resource. The dancers were inflamed – „… there is no other, wanna kiss myself”. As if I was being led by an invisible hand, I let myself fall into the twinkling nebulous aura of this new music. Hymn-like chords like the ones by Quadrophonia propelled the club night to the next level of euphoria.
And suddenly a break. The movements of the dancers calmed down at the decreasing pace of the ongoing track. The track finalized with the Off switch to speed zero, and the machine smoke cleared up slowly. Only now I could see the guests more clearly. Their faces were beaming with happiness. Some hugged and whispered. The clear voice of a woman lightened up the atmosphere which had been dark and magical until then. Hammond organs set in. A House-style melancholic track began –Gypsy Woman by Crystal Waters Voguing, as celebrated by Madonna in her song Vogue on MTV, was a dance style that I found quite impressive, and I still do. It was an unforgettable moment filled with magic and beauty.
The Men´s Factory look in the days of the beginning was yet dominated largely by the Fetish style of patent leather and fashion by Jean Paul Gaultier. The guests were very much dressed in a sexually explicit manner. Naked skin, the odour of poppers, sweat and heavy perfume made me feel with all my senses the new place of my desire, the TECHNO CLUB. On a Friday night, 70% of the customers at the Men’s Factory were gay men, 20% were women and 10% were guys like me who followed their instincts or a good lead to celebrate their new music. On Saturdays, the Men´s Factory was a pure gay club. Within half a year, the number of guests doubled. Faces from the establishments of my old nightlife also got wind of it, and a type of new customer mad for dancing hit the dance floor – the English soldier, then stationed in Celle. The Second Summer of Love had already taken place on the meadows of England in 1988 and also in clubs such as the Haçienda in Manchester and The Shoom in London.
These people from England brought the Piano Break Beat, the Happy Hardcore, the Ravestyle and a new fashion look to the Men’s Factory – jelly bag caps, Stüssy caps and workwear in XXL. At the same time, the founding period of electronic music parties in Hanover began. In the “Weltspiele”, a former cinema directly in Hanover’s inner city mile, parties took place like the Ravesyndrome by Asem Shama and Axel Bartsch as well as the parties of my long-standing friends Sylvio Koelbel and Peter Wondolek in the Ernst Winter Hall of the Hanomag (a former production facility for steam locomotives). The Cyberhouse, a giant factory building of the Hanomag where a huge tent had been erected, became the largest Techno temple in the greater Hanover area.
The club Future at the Steintor ; was notorious for its Sunday Afterhours; where new DJs were given the chance to stand up to a party-crazed audience. The producer Jens Strüver had one of his first DJ gigs at the Future. Near the train station and opposite a car park, the club Trance made a name for itself across the borders of Hanover. However, Hanover was not the epitome of all things, and we travelled through Techno Land Germany for many years. Whether it was in Berlin at the Planet, the Walfisch or the E-Werk whether it was in Kassel at the Aufschwung Ost, or at the Unit in Hamburg, the Ostertor Club in Bremen or the Frankfurt clubs Omen and Dorian Gray – they were all among my weekend stations, and I got to know the versatile currents of Techno culture and its musical facets.
Each of the clubs was captivating with its distinctive features such as sound, interior design and that which is the most important and fundamental factor – its guests, the clubbers*.