The Techno Life – Part 3 | 1999 – 2007
Kay-Uwe Lenk aka DJ DASFAX
At the time, a lively scene was developing in Berlin around a new subgrenre of Techno: Electroclash – as celebrated by Fischerspooner with elements from Punk, New Wave and Electro.
Clubs like the WMF or the Cookies were among the most prominent players of this new musical current with DJ Hell – who already played the hippest clubs in the 90s very successfully – and the DJ Duo Highfish and Diringer. There were also club alternatives to the well-established discotheques, for instance the Maria or the Pfefferberg clubs Subground, Pfefferbank and Anna Bar .
As the newcomer in the city, now also with a registered main residence and a decent amount of curiosity, I was driven into all the scene clubs and bars. Still, my gut instinct told me that something fundamental was missing, a feeling I knew from the early clubs where most of the guests came from the queer and gay scene. Especially in Berlin Mitte, a rather posh energy was noticeable. Without end, people were coming on to others, or they were dissing each other, and everyone seemed to behave like some mega-important person.
Champagne was served in the toilets to indulge in a decadence that ran parallel to the sellout of Berlin Mitte. From 2003 to 2008, it did not take long that many popular big clubs in Mitte were shut down. Gentrification became more and more noticeable.
But also many plans that were made shot past the pulse of the times. Occasionally, managers listened to their gut feeling, transformed their businesses and specialized in gastronomy. Only every now and then, you could dance to good Techno and House music in Berlin Mitte – for example, when organizers implemented an extraordinary line-up to mobilize the scene to come out clubbing again.
My best friends in Berlin had also been on the Rave Around Germany tour for many years in the 90s and accompanied DJ Tanith to his gigs throughout the land as his crew. I quickly became integrated into the club scene of Berlin. In autumn 1999, someone suggested to me that I should visit the gay Club Ostgut at the Ostbahnhof. The Ostgut was managed by the operators of today’s Berghain and was located at a large but not so easily accessible area. Ben de Biels Maria am Ostbahnhof was not far away, and so was the club Casino which the operators of the Suicide Club ran.
Even finding your way to the Ostgut was much more exciting than the usual walk to the Berlin Mitte parties. It led through a mixture of nowhere-land, large puddles, empty sites the size of football-fields and old warehouses of the railway company, directly in front of the track bed of the S-Bahn and train network, not far away from the East Side Gallery. These days, a new business location of the city is booming there with the majestic Mercedes Benz Arena at the centre.
Hoping in my mind that I would finally rediscover something more promising than the atmosphere of Love American Express Style in the Berlin Mitte club lounges, I concluded another bar tour with a walk to this bare uninhabited part of Friedrichshain. When I stood in the short queue in front of the Ostgut at 4 o‘clock in the morning, I was finally overcome again by that intense emotion of hope, powerlessness and the curiosity for the undiscovered adventure, just like the feeling of my first visit to the Men’s Factory club back then in Hanover.
A striking bouncer with bomber jacket and boots, longer hair and a likeable Berlin dialect which I could not really get in tune with his martial looks at first, plus a former GI (vigorous, huge and black) handled the foregrounds at the door.
I recognized the bouncer as a guest of the club Planet which in the early 90s had ignited a Techno magic of beauty, atmosphere and eccentricity with its individualistic orientation and its largely queer audience. In major contrast to other clubs from Berlin Mitte, the Ostgut was still submerged by the veil of the hidden, unknown to the mainstream. At the clubs of Mitte, masses were crowded in front of the entrance until the early hours of the morning – but only a small round of late-arriving insiders from the Techno scene cosmos of Berlin was waiting at the Ostgut queue, eager to celebrate a little dance or even more. For one thing, Techno music was played here in its rough purist style again, for example by DJ André Galluzzi .
About a year later, with the opening of the Panorama Bar and the garden, Minimal Techno and Tech House – as from the Perlon label or the compilation Famous When Dead by the label of DJ Ata – made their way to the upper level of the Ostgut and into the hearts of the dancers.
And so, the Ostgut became one of my favourite clubs until its end in 2003. During this time, cordial friendships were built which are still being maintained intimately today. After three years of intensive exploration of the scene culture, it was time for me to become a player again. I felt this inner restlessness. Too much energy had been building up, and it had to be released.
At first, I played House music and Tech House at private parties in the apartments of the city. At one of the parties in a spacious old building in Schöneberg, a DJ and staff member from the Techno club Tresor was there was well. When the party was over, René invited me to accompany him as a guest DJ at his scheduled Afterhour DJ set in the Tresor .
Most idiotically, I declined the offer since I rather wanted to get to know my future girlfriend from Hamburg on that evening. Me and her would have a lot of fun together though for a few years, and I spent a copious time in Hamburg’s Schanzenviertel (so, I had not been an idiot at all).
My efforts to get another Tresor gig through said contact were in vain. The door to the strongbox was closed again for me. Parallel to playing records, I went back to school in Berlin to deepen my skills as a hairdresser.